Appendix 2: Contemporary Comments

The newspapers in 1839-40 often devoted space to reviewing the contents of the monthly and quarterly periodicals. Fraser's being one of the major periodicals, it was usually (but not always) one of the publications discussed, and in these discussions Catherine was sometimes mentioned, though never for more than a line or two. Except for the Spectator comment (reprinted in Tillotson and Hawes 17), the following comments on Catherine were not reprinted until they were included in my 1992 dissertation and in the 1999 Michigan edition.

The Morning Post

June 3, 1839 (6): "The story of 'Catherine,' with the illustration, we take to be from the pen of the author of the 'Yellowplush Correspondence,' who adopts the soubriquet of 'Ikey Solomons, jun.,' and under that designation will doubtless transport his readers."

July 6 (6): Catherine continues "in its usual strain of graphic and sarcastic drollery, and has a humorous illustration."

August 8 (3): Catherine continues and includes "a capital pen-and-ink lithograph."

November 2 (3): "The amusing story of 'Catherine' is continued with unabated spirit . . ."

January 6, 1840 (3): Without mentioning Catherine specifically, the Post says that the January issue of Fraser's is amusing.

February 4 (6): "There are several capital miscellaneous articles in the work, of which 'Catherine: A Story,' is the best; although a criticism on Ainsworth's 'Jack Sheppard' appears to be from the same hand."

The Observer

May 5, 1839 (3): No specific mention of Catherine, but a description of the May issue of Fraser's as being "rather heavy" with "not a single humourous paper in the number."

June 2 (3): Catherine "is not without humour, though the writer often fails in his efforts to say something clever."

June 30 (2): No specific reference to Catherine but a comment that the July issue of Fraser's is, as a whole, dull.

November 3 (3): Says the November installment of Catherine is "a continuation of a very interesting and well-told tale."

February 2, 1840 (3): "'Catherine' is intended as a piece of irony on the Jack Sheppard class of literature, but is not likely to cut deep."

The Court Journal

August 3, 1839 (508): "Accompanied by a most ludicrous illustration, worthy of the pencil of George Cruikshank; the story of 'Catherine,' by Ikey Solomons, jun., is carried on, in its accustomed show-up style, for a period of seven years."1

Sunday Times

May 5, 1839 (3): "'Katherine' is the story of a bar-maid, in a style such as might be expected from an ambitious imitator of Ikey Solomons."

June 9 (3): "Catherine proceeds in the same style as it commenced."

February 9, 1840 (3): "Catherine, now concluded, is low, as usual."


January 4, 1840 (17): ". . . the story of 'Catherine,' with its strong, coarse, literal painting of men and manners in the profligate classes of the profligate times of Queen Anne, advances to its close."

The Sun

May 1, 1839 (555): "Catherine, a story, is a clever tale, of the quizzical order; it is, however, too long."2

June 1 (582): "'Catherine, a story' is here and there enlivened by a gleam of humour, and in its dialogues is easy and natural. The engraving illustrative of the tale is a very grotesque production."

November 1: "'Catherine, A Story' contains some clever points; but it is wanting in general interest."


Note: What the Journal is calling "ludicrous" here is the scene depicted in the illustration (Macshane presenting young Tom to the Hayeses), not the style of Thackeray's drawing; there is a similar use of the word in Catherine itself (see the passage in Chapter 9 in which Father O'Flaherty talks of "a most ludicrous, spicy description"); the "show-up style" means a style that exposes something to ridicule (see the 1989 OED under "show," meaning 39.a); the seven years referred to are the seven years leapt over in the August installment of Catherine (Chapter 7). Back

"Quizzical" here means playful, mocking, or satirical. Back

Published @ COVE

March 2022