The colourful and comic history of the satirical British printmakers of the 1790s and 1800s is set to be explored in historian and ‘History Hit’ TikToker, Alice Loxton. UK and Commonwealth rights were acquired by Clare Bullock at Icon Books from Caroline Hardman, to Scoundrels: Scandal and Satire in Georgian London. Publication is set for Spring 2023.
Alice said:’I’m thrilled to be working with Icon Books to bring the scoundrels of the golden age of British satire back into the limelight. The likes of James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson are some of the most innovative, witty creatives in British history. They could change the world in an image, and in many ways we are still the children of Gillray. I’m delighted to have Clare and the team at Icon working with me to uncover the best jokes in Georgian Britain.’
Clare said: ‘As we have discovered over the past few years, times of political upheaval offer ample opportunities for humour. In Scoundrels, Alice Loxton shows us that this great tradition of British satire is rooted in the period when Gillray and his gang reappraised power with a razor-sharp wit and irreverence. Alice’s writing fizzes with energy, and she brings the period to life in a fresh and vivid light. I’m so excited to be working with such a bright young talent on a book that will be an essential read for those who look to humour to get them through challenging times.’
Led by the printmakers James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and Isaac Cruikshank, Piccadilly Mad Men addresses an entire network of print sellers, printmakers, publishers, booksellers and customers who were the living, breathing heart of this fluid group – some were loners, most were introspective depressives, all drank heavily, and many died from alcohol poisoning.
Yet from dimly lit taverns, drenched in alcohol, coffee and the stench of Georgian London, the YBAs of the turn of the 19th century produced some of the most wacky, impactful creative output Britain has ever seen.
Combining scathing wit, prolific daring and absurdism worthy of Dali, print makers could change the world with an image. The sole reason we think of Napoleon as a short man, is down to the work of James Gillray. According to Napoleon, a Gillray print was more effective than a dozen British generals.
With their pulse on the national mood, this network captured and articulated British humour, setting the precedent for how we laugh today. A direct line can be drawn from Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas, to The Two Ronnies, to Spitting Image and Private Eye. And the idea of John Bull, the symbol of Britain which we see in Churchill and Boris Johnson, was cultivated and certified in the printshop windows of Old Bond Street.
We are still the children of these crazy creatives.
Alice Loxton is a historian and presenter with a passion for communicating the past in a creative way. She holds an MA in History (Dissertation on James Gillray) from the University of Edinburgh and works as a Presenter for Dan Snow’s History Hit, where she writes, edits and produces documentaries for the History Hit TV channel. She has also launched the History Hit TikTok account, acquiring over 20,000 followers in three months. She has written, produced and performed her own Edinburgh show and is the founder of the award-winning, satirical, student history magazine, The Plague.
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