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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.34 'Punch', Sambourne cartoon 1

Linley Sambourne’s cartoon in Punch, a ‘Suggested Illustration’ for Darwin’s forthcoming book on The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants (1875) is another playful transformation of the author into an ape or monkey. However, it differs from the caricatures in the Hornet and Fun a few years earlier, where Darwin’s head was simply joined to an ape’s body. Here the metamorphosis is more complete: Darwin’s likeness to a small and perhaps cuddly monkey is strengthened by the close placing of his eyes, his shaggy head, and the apparent naturalness and ease of his perch in a tree. The caption suggests facetiously that the ‘movements’ and ‘habits’ referred to in the title of Darwin’s new book are those of the author, not of the plants themselves: the ‘Doctor’ is evidently ‘ready to avow his connection with his quadrumanous ancestors – the tree-climbing Anthropoids’. Sambourne is known to have read Darwin’s books, and fantasies of animal–human hybridity are common, indeed obsessive, among his book illustrations and Punch cartoons, including the satires on women’s fashions. More broadly, his drawings reflected a new awareness on the part of Darwin’s readers that Origin and its sequels were establishing for the first time the essential unity of all life forms. A writer in the Gardeners’ Chronicle in March 1875 remarked that Darwin had ‘invested plants and animals with a history, a biography, a genealogy, which at once conferred an interest and a dignity on them’. He had shown by his close observations of nature ‘the manifold and intricate way in which living beings are tied together’. Less pleasantly, the notion of a ‘missing link’ between humans and apes was exploited by a showman called Guillermo Antonio Farini, whose real name was William Leonard Hunt. In the 1880s he exhibited in London a young girl named Krao, who had been born with hypertrichosis, as ‘Living Proof of Darwin’s Theory of the Descent of Man’. A handbill for the display of Krao apparently showed Darwin himself hovering over this supposed vindication of his theories. 

  • physical location Darwin archive, Cambridge University Library. Numerous copies exist. 

  • accession or collection number DAR 140.4.15 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image Linley Sambourne 

  • date of creation December 1875 

  • computer-readable date 1875-12-01 to 1875-12-10 

  • medium and material wood engraving from a signed drawing by Sambourne 

  • references and bibliography Punch vol. 69 (11 December 1875), p. 242. Gardeners’ Chronicle (6 March 1875), pp. 308-9. Jonathan Smith, Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 234-5. Janet Browne, ‘Darwin in caricature’: a study in the popularization and dissemination of evolutionary theory’, in Barbara Larson and Fae Brauer (eds), The Art of Evolution: Darwin, Darwinisms, and Visual Culture (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press and University Press of New England, 2009), pp. 18-39 (p.23). Leonee Ormond, Linley Sambourne. Illustrator and Punch Cartoonist (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2010), pp. 95, 167-8. Nadja Durbach, Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010), pp. 92, 101.  


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