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Sketches from a Young Country

Sketches from a Young Country: The Images of Grip Magazine

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 215
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  • Book Info
    Sketches from a Young Country
    Book Description:

    The satires and cartoons of Grip magazine, especially the drawing of John Bengough, provide a revealing glimpse into Canadian political and social life in the early years of confederation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7999-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. 1 The Texture of the Times
    (pp. 3-25)

    In the first few decades of Confederation, Canadians made few visual images of themselves. In compensation, they left for their grandchildren a wealth of splendid word pictures. The scenes thus passed to us show Louis Kiel fighting for his life in a Regina courtroom and John A. Macdonald manoeuvring for political survival in the Commons. They show George Brown, the tyrannical Scots publisher of the TorontoGlobe, leaning back in his editorial chair, long legs extended and eyes fixed on his oversized boots as he lectured fellow journalists about the good effects of an occasional hanging (‘Eh, mon, but hangin’s...

  7. 2 Bengough, Thompson, and Grip
    (pp. 26-39)

    Gripwas very much a product of the imagination of John Bengough. It is hardly possible to think of it as other than a reflection of his talent and beliefs. But at times it must also be seen as a blend of Bengough and T. Phillips Thompson. Thompson not only helped start the magazine, but he shaped its mature, perhaps finest, years - and helped kill it.

    Unfortunately, it is often difficult to say for certain which work was Thompson’s or when and how he shaped the overall tone of the magazine. There is no doubt that at times he...

  8. 3 Politics: The Seventies
    (pp. 40-78)

    The life ofGripmagazine coincided roughly with the final two decades of the Macdonald era, lasting only a few years past the Old Chieftain’s death in 1891. These decades were, for a later generation, the best known of Macdonald’s years, extending from the Pacific Scandal to the ‘Empire vs continentalism’ election of March 1891. Throughout most of this period, especially the first and last parts of it, Bengough showed a persistent if often subtle hostility to the prime minister and his Tory government. While he claimed to strive for balance and to welcome openings for a clear crack at...

  9. 4 Politics: The Eighties
    (pp. 79-115)

    In its second decade,Gripearned its enduring reputation as a Gritleaning organ. It moved perceptibly from a position of moderate party support in the election of 1882 (when Tory hopes of its neutrality were dashed) to a clear backing of the Grits in the election of 1887 and outspoken advocacy in the ‘loyalty’ election of 1891. In that last campaign (the Liberals’ fourth loss in a row), the extent of the magazine’s commitment showed vividly in commentary and poems that ridiculed Macdonald’s ‘Old Flag, Old Policy’ campaign and his warnings that the Liberals’ free trade platform amounted to annexationism:...

  10. 5 Grip and the Press Wars
    (pp. 116-129)

    Throughout the 1880s,Grip’s political slant emerged most clearly in its handling of a kind of politics that has long since disappeared: the surrogate battles among party journalists. In this arena the magazine had a unique place, both in defining the quirks and slants of various publications and in making their publishers and editors into public figures.

    This role has proved especially helpful to a later generation in view of the tradition of so-called impersonal journalism that was still more or less in operation at the time. The tradition decreed that journalists should write anonymously the message of their publishers...

  11. 6 Race and Creed
    (pp. 130-152)

    In Canada’s great race and creed battle of the late 1880s,Gripgenerally bent with the prevailing Protestant winds. Its cartoons are valuable mainly in the way they reveal the wave of unreason that pervaded the country after Louis Riel’s second rebellion in 1885. As well, they show something of the intricacy of party infighting that was generated by the troubles over race and religion.

    AlthoughGripin its early years had reflected Toronto’s well-known biases, it had done so in a notably mild way, considering its editor’s conditioning. As a youth in the Ontario heartland, Bengough had been exposed...

  12. 7 Opening of the West
    (pp. 153-164)

    The peak period of John Bengough’s career was also the time of the opening of the West. It was the time of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Winnipeg boom, the settlers’ disturbances, the establishment of Regina. It was the time of the North-West Mounted Police, the Northwest Rebellion, the tension between Ottawa and British Columbia, and the Manitoba schools crisis. Like most of his fellow easterners, Bengough was fascinated by the West, though not necessarily knowledgeable about it. He was impressed by its huge potential, its mystery and challenge, though he was dismayed at times by its cruelty. Among his...

  13. 8 The Radical Times
    (pp. 165-178)

    At the end of the 1880s and the start of the 1890s,Gripincreasingly showed the influence of T. Phillips Thompson, who was now a veteran and embittered radical far removed from his beginnings as a homely humorist. His work made a profound difference to the magazine, probably helping to give it its finest years - but also contributing to its collapse. Thompson had not only worked withGripon and off from its birth but had sent in material even when he was away in the United States or Britain soaking up radical ideas. The beginning of his period...

  14. 9 Imperialism and Independence
    (pp. 179-192)

    Few trends inGripcan be traced as clearly as the anti-imperial tone, which shows up early in the magazine’s career, fades out of sight, and then reemerges strongly in its late years, presumably under Phillips Thompson’s influence. Its most extreme examples occur after Thompson returned as associate editor in 1890 and especially after he succeeded Bengough as editor in mid-1892. While the extremes are aberrational, they are interesting as a minority view that would probably not have been tolerated only a few years later. There is, for instance, a decidedly spiteful touch in an 1893 parody of the poem...

  15. 10 Gripʼs Social Conscience
    (pp. 193-221)

    When seen through the values of another age,Grip’s, cartoons and verses on social issues are arguably more flawed than the general body of its political material. In Bengough’s cartoons, women are artificial - often abstract representations of ideals, rather than portraits or caricatures. His farmers are stereotypical hayseeds. His workers are honest toilers or drunks. His capitalists are bloated cigar-smoking tyrants. His Aboriginal people are ‘noble redmen’ or victims.

    However, these patterns must be seen in context. In part they arise from the satirist’s need to simplify, to make an instant point, to choose well-known concepts. In part they...

  16. 11 Conclusion: ʻA Lesser Craftʼ
    (pp. 222-238)

    John Bengough rarely achieved true depth in his drawing. One exception is the cartoon called ‘The Last of the Paragraphers,’ which was published in 1890, near the end ofGrip’s most interesting period. This drawing is distinctive partly because it taps into Bengough’s personal experience in dealing with the freelancers who shuffled or blustered their way into his office to offer their satirical poems, jokes, and sketches. It is also unusual in the way it penetrates surface appearances to suggest the subject’s feelings. Indeed, it may well reflect Bengough’s own emotions as he adapted to a changing world. From a...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 239-260)
  18. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 261-262)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-268)
  20. Index
    (pp. 269-275)