For as long as I can remember, Spy Prints have been a tradition in our family. I didn’t always know or understand what they really were other than funny pictures of men in top hats. As I got older and my mother explained the significance of these prints, I grew to have a real appreciation for them, and have started a collection of my own.
Spy Prints were published in Vanity Fair from 1873-1911 by Leslie Ward. Vanity Fair was subtitled “A Weekly Show of Political, Social and Literary Wares“. It was founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles, who aimed to expose the contemporary vanities of Victorian society. The first issue was published in London on 7 November 1868, offering articles on fashion, current events, the theatre, books, social events and the latest scandals, serial fiction, word games and other trivia.
Leslie Ward grew up one of 8 children, and his parents were both well-known history painters, his mother especially coming from a line of painters and engravers. Ward grew up around the great artists and writers that his parents often entertained, including Charles Dickens! He started caricaturing as a school boy using teachers and peers as subjects. The details of Ward’s life and accomplishments goes on and on but for our purposes we’ll forgo that.
The “characteristic portraits” (as Ward referred to them) are humorous caricatures of famous men and women of the day, prints that remain Vanity Fair’s great legacy. Spy, the pen name for Ward, and Carlo Pellegrini, another artist, used the pen names of “Ape” or “Singe” or “JTJ,” and he was the other artist whose work appears most commonly inVanity Fair prints. Max Beerbohm, Thomas Nast, and James Montgomery Flagg also contributed.
If you search online for Vanity Fair/Spy Prints you will most likely find a wide range of prints from categories like politicians, athletes, clergy, ambassadors, businessmen, photographers, musicians and so on. The unique style of these prints is what makes them so wonderful. Every single print is different and unique, some resembling the caricature style while others have a look all their own.
Today’s Spy Print highlight is of Mr. H.W. Lucy or Henry Lucy. He was a journalist and “humorist”, born on December 5th, 1842 near Liverpool, England. He worked as a clerk, was a published poet, and wrote for multiple local publications. He moved to Paris in 1869 and married his wife Emily Anne in 1873.
Henry wrote a weekly column called “The Essence of Parliament” for Punch magazine for 35 years under the name Toby, M.P. Mr. Lucy wrote for a number of well-known circulars and was known for his flair for politics and parliamentary affairs, which eventually brought him to his height of popularity in his profession.
+ Henry was knighted in 1909, the first lobby correspondent to be seen as the social equal of the politicians in the Commons whom he reported.+ His London home was at 42 Ashley Gardens, and he was a member of the National Liberal Club.
+ He died of bronchitis at Whitethorn, his country house at Hillside Street, Hythe, Kent in 1924, aged 81. His death was reportedly a result of frequent trips to the orphanage, where he got it by giving CPR to a sickly child…whom he saved.
+ Sir Henry Lucy left a huge sum of money, over £250,000, and was probably the wealthiest Victorian journalist who was not also a newspaper proprietor.
+ In 1935, his widow Lady Lucy donated £1,000 to found the Sir Henry Lucy Scholarship at Merchant Taylors’ School, Crosby.
+ There are several portraits of Sir Henry Lucy at the National Portrait Gallery, including one by John Singer Sargent.
According to my friend wiki “Lucy’s lasting memorial is in the volumes he compiled from his Punch parliamentary sketches: A Diary of Two Parliaments (2 vols., 1885–6); A Diary of the Salisbury Parliament, 1886–1892 (1892); A Diary of the Home Rule Parliament, 1892–1895 (1896); A Diary of the Unionist Parliament, 1895–1900 (1901); and The Balfourian Parliament, 1900–1905 (1906). These amount to a history of the Commons in its heyday, and have been extensively mined by historians.”