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Home > Archery and Caricature
Archery and Caricature
Part 3 of 3

There does not appear to have been any caricature on archery published for many years after, as the next we find was issued in 1829. It is called the "March of Archery," and represents in the foreground a gentleman in a red coat, shooting in a cramped attitude at a small target a short distance off. The skill of himself and his brother archers who stand round does not seem to have been great, as four arrows only are shown in the target, and these are all in the white, but on the other hand an unfortunate dog, who presumably was too inquisitive, is depicted as lying dead in front of the target, transfixed by an arrow. In the background all sorts of catastrophes are taking place. One unfortunate spectator has received an arrow in his eye, while two archers, one of whom is shot in the side, are struggling, the owner of the arrow being apparently anxious to retrieve it, while the wounded archer is bent on revenging himself. A group of ladies are tumbling over one another in their endeavours to get away, while an archer hurriedly advances with outstretched hand in a conciliatory manner, who, from his pained look, seems to be the shooter who has hit the unlucky spectator in the eye.

Four years later "The Robin Hood Family, or Archery in 1833" was published, which gives us a family party consisting of a father, mother, and several children, all attired in Robin Hood and Maid Marian costumes, apparently bent on having a day's archery, the signpost bearing the direction "To Shooter's Hill." The children, who are behind their parents, are determined not to waste time, and are carefully shooting at each other and everything else within reach, while the younger ones, who are being dragged in a go-cart by a fat servant, are, somewhat to his discomfort, making a butt of him. A small coloured print, "The Bad Archer," was published about this time, and seems to refer, from the verses underneath, to an unskilful tailor who shot at a crow and killed his own pig. Several other prints, such as "Shooting Stars," "Teaching the young idea how to shoot," were also published, but none of these have any pretence to accuracy as to details, of which the "Graces of Archery" has a monopoly, till we come to the caricatures by John Leech, whose archery experiences were probably picked up at his friend Dean Hole's.

The first of Leech's archery caricatures, and also the best, is said to have been founded on an incident that happened at Dean Hole's. It is the one which was subsequently enlarged and reproduced in colours,and is called "The Fair Toxophilites." An elderly lady, dressed in the voluminous skirts of the period, is shown sitting down by a tent, and her daughter comes running up to her, and says, "O mamma! I'm so delighted, I have just made the best gold and won the beautiful bracelet given by Captain Raffles." Her sister (a disappointed competitor), who is standing by, retorts: "Well, Constance, I think you had best not say much about it, you know it was a fluke, for you told me you always shot with your eyes shut, as you feel so very nervous!" The expression of the faces, and especially that of the stout elderly gentleman walking between the targets with a lady in the background, is inimitable. Leech's next archery print appeared in 1859, and is called the "Royal Knickerbocker Archers." It represents a group of girls (such as he alone could draw) at target practice, and suggests their probable rivalry to the volunteers, who were then being enrolled. This was followed by one or two more of no especial merit. Since Leech's time a few more or less feeble attempts have been made to produce humorous prints as regards archery, but they have been unconsciously but successfully rivalled by most of the illustrations intended as bonâ fide representations of the sport.

H. W.

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