Archery and Caricature
Part 2 of 3
It is proposed to deal more in this article with what are intended to be caricatures or satirical prints than with those which are so by accident. It is a pretty well established fact that the more popular a sport or craze is, the more satire is vented upon it, the more caricatures are found on the subject, and the more numerous the number of copies of each which are to be obtained. Though archery has at various periods experienced waves of popularity, it has never been since its disuse in war the sport of the masses, and consequently its votaries have been comparatively few in number. Now, as it is true that the more popular a sport is, the more caricatures are to be found about it, so also we find that unless a sport is very widespread, the older caricatures about it have become very scarce and difficult to procure. This seems to be especially the case with respect to archery caricatures, as a long and careful search has, in most cases, resulted in the finding of only one copy of those published more than fifty years ago to which reference is made. One or two of the archery caricatures published at the end of the last century are somewhat personal, and owing to the coarseness prevalent at that period are best left undescribed.
The first caricature it is proposed to notice is the "Graces of Archery, or Elegant Airs, Attitudes, and Lady Traps," of which a cut is given on the opposite page. It was published in 1794, and is a caricature in the true sense of the word, as while real details are faithfully and carefully kept, the comic side is exaggerated, though not unduly. It is drawn by Ansel, consists of ten separate figures, each having a legend below it, a set of verses being underneath, and it is a skit on one of the Blackheath meetings. Any one attending a public meeting at the present time would be able to recognise, after allowing for the pardonable exaggeration, the fidelity of many of the attitudes represented. The first figure, which has under it "The skill of Tell," shows us a veteran archer "plastered," as the modern term appears to be, with medals and bugles which he has won, which probably accounts for his curious position, as he would find it difficult if he stood in the ordinary way to clear his string. The second figure "The strength of Ulyses" (sic) shows the perils of overdrawing, and from both this and several of the others we learn that it was apparently customary in the last century to tuck the bow case into the belt, giving an appearance suggestive of the prehensile caudal appendage of our supposed ancestors. The third and fifth ("The grace of Apollo" and "The line of Beauty") are slightly exaggerated representations of by no means uncommon types of shooters of the present day. The fourth and sixth ("As bold as Robin" and "There's a leg") give us somewhat self-satisfied individuals not unfrequently met with, while the seventh and eighth ("Does that there fellow want to be shot there?" and "This way, Ladies)" represent the irate and mild archer disturbed by spectators, who are either walking behind or too close to the target; finally the last figure ("In the Bull's-eye") shows us that the refreshment tent then, as now, formed an important part of the day's proceedings. The verses at the foot of this interesting print are—
Lo, hese are the yeomen, and these are the bowmen,
And if thou wilt be one of the train,
Take quiver and bow, and feathers also,
And coat of the brightest of green.
Such a beautiful sight must the ladies delight;
Who then will not enter the list ?
They may talk of Big Ben, and such sort of men,
You are more than a match for their fist!
The skill of Tell you perhaps may excel,
Or the grace of Apollo improve;
Should this be the case, 'tis a duce to an ace,
But yon conquer the heart of your love.
To Blackheath then repair, the resort of the fair,
To view attitudes, figures, and graces,
Where bold archers let fly to hit the bullseye,
Or the eyes in their visitors' faces!
The day being spent, and no grub in the tent,
Then hie to the man on the hill.
Free from danger and fright, you may spend all the day
In eating and drinking your fill!