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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.42 'Punch' Sambourne cartoon 3

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Linley Sambourne’s last caricature of Darwin, ‘Man is But a Worm’, was published in Punch’s Almanac for 1882 on 6 December 1881, only four months before Darwin’s death. Like Sambourne’s ‘Punch’s Fancy Portraits. No. 54. Charles Robert Darwin, LL.D., F.R.S.’ of October 1881, it is an affectionate and whimsical portrayal of a man now venerated as a sage, and honoured for the modest simplicity of his life; Sambourne sent a copy of it to Darwin himself. The idea for it may have come from a series of caricatures by Charles Henry Bennett, The Origin of Species. Dedicated by Natural Selection to Charles Darwin. This had appeared in the Illustrated Times in 1863, and was afterwards republished in Bennett’s Character Sketches of c.1872. Bennett showed household goods and animals gradually morphing into human types of an analogous character, and the humans seem to complete a cycle of mutations by their association with objects which morph back into man’s primitive progenitors. In Sambourne’s drawing, however, there is, despite the curling movement, a one-way anti-clockwise process of evolution, starting from primaeval ‘CHAOS’ at bottom left and culminating in the figure of Darwin himself. Keeping step with ‘Time’s Meter’ – an apt choice of theme for an almanac – Darwin’s favourite worms evolve into monkeys with long, prehensile tails, then into anthropoid apes, then a hominid and a caveman, and finally a flashy Victorian man about town, who doffs his top hat to Darwin. The latter, draped like an ancient philosopher, has an air of reflective world-weariness. The dial behind him is inscribed ‘[thou]sands of centuries’. 

  • physical location Cambridge University Library. Numerous copies exist. 

  • accession or collection number T992.b.1 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image Linley Sambourne; signed bottom right, ‘SAMBOURNE INV. DEL.’ 

  • date of creation November-December 1881 

  • computer-readable date 1881-11-01 to 1881-12-5 

  • medium and material wood engraving from Sambourne’s drawing 

  • references and bibliography Punch’s Almanac for 1882, issued 6 December 1881 (unpaginated). Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. Volume II of a Biography (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), pp. 378, 490. Jonathan Smith, Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 272-4. 


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