Six comical observations of human foibles by Thomas Rowlandson, from a series of 49 plates inspired by James Beresford’s Miseries of Human Life (1806), a book with a similar format of colorful illustrations and humorous captions.
Rowlandson was an English caricaturist, watercolourist, draughtsman and engraver, most of whose drawings were gently humorous records of urban and rustic life, full of lively incidental details.
Ackermann & Co. was a prominent British print publisher. Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) pioneered lithography in Britain, publishing many fine illustrated volumes, magazines and music. He also took out patents relating to waterproofing and axles. The business continued as Arthur Ackermann and Son until the 1990s.
Miseries of Human Life — Introductory Dialogue
A man in bed with an illness is confined to a room crowded with his large family hovering over him and women busy with washing and cooking. Caption: “Sickness befriends temperance, by the simplicity of diet which it introduces — it wards off the varied injuries of the open air, by requiring the party to inhale a thousand times over the cherishing squabble and safely [treasured?] atmosphere of a chamber.”
Miseries of Travelling — 6 Dialogue
Elegantly dressed dinner party guests laugh at an unfortunate visitor, whose plight is described in the caption: “Starting for a long Ride, on a dinner engagement without a great Coat, in a mist, a mizzle, a drizzle, a rain, a torrent — on arriving at the house at last, completely drenched, you have to beg the favour of making yourself look like a full or empty sack, by wearing your host’s clothes, he being either a Dwarf or a Giant, and you the contrary.”
Miseries of Reading and Writing — 8 Dialogue
A young woman has fallen asleep in the study while recording her private thoughts and her elderly guardian reacts in shock to what she has written. Caption: “As you are writing dreamily by the fire, on rousing and recollecting yourself, find your Guardian in possession of your secret thoughts, which he never ceases to upbraid you of.”
Miseries Domestic — 10 Dialogue
Chaotic domestic scene where two elderly women call out in horror and one jumps up with a spool of thread in her hand as a man sits down upon the cat that had been resting on his chair. Caption: “[?] sitting plump on an unsuspected cat in your chair.”
Miseries Miscellaneous — 12 Dialogue
A woman speaks to a disheveled man, red faced and apparently inebriated, while another woman looks through the doorway at two departing elderly gentlemen. Caption reads: “The misery of sending a verbal message of the almost [?] by an ass, who, you plainly perceive, will [?] has [?] forgotten [?] been saying.”
While the band plays and couples dance in the background, three older men, one of whom is quite overweight, face three women. Caption reads: “Being overpersuaded to stand up in a country dance, when you know or what is equally bad, conceive that a bear would eclipse you in grace and agility.” One of the delights of Rowlandson’s style is the incidental comic detail in the background, in this case the partygoers on the sidelines.
Ackermann & Co. was a prominent British publisher and printseller. The firm was founded by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834), publishing as R. Ackermann from 1795 to 1829. Ackermann was born in Germany and came to England in the 1780s. He pioneered lithography in Britain (though frequently working with color-printed etchings and aquatints), and became a leading publisher of fine colorplate books, decorative prints and magazines, as well as sheet music of the Regency period. In 1797, Ackermann relocated the business premises to 101 Strand, which were known by 1798 as “The Repository of Arts,” also the title of a periodical with a large number of prints that he published from 1809 to 1828. As suggested by the full title of the publication, Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, the subject matter of the Repository was wide ranging. Among the most influential and popular images in the series were studies of Regency decorative arts, interior design and fashion, as well as various city and country views. Ackermann was a major patron of British artists and designers, notably the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), whose works were featured in the famous set of London interiors and exteriors entitled Microcosm of London (R. Ackermann, London, 1808-10). Ackermann also manufactured and sold art supplies. In 1829, Rudolph transferred the business to three of his sons, who traded as Ackermann & Co. from 1829 to 1859. The business continued until the end of the 20th Century, last operating as Arthur Ackermann and Son (with offices in the 20th Century in London, Paris, Chicago and New York).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 January 2005. http://www.devon.gov.uk/etched?_IXP_=1&_IXR=111144 (4 May 2007).
“Rudolph Ackermann.” National Portrait Gallery. May 2007. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp06540 (4 May 2007).