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Tom and Jerry: older than you think…

12/04/2009

Snuff box showing Tom and Jerry et Logic au Bal Vauxhall, coloured print engraved by IR & G Cruickshank, 1820-30

Popular 19th century journalist Pierce Egan was famous for his stories about two fictional characters, Jerry Hawthorn and Corinthian Tom, who were ‘men about town’. The stories focused on the wealthy pairs rowdy adventures and were so popular that the expression “Tom and Jerryism” became a byword in Regency London for boisterous behaviour. Tom and Jerry’s brawling spirit was revived in a form more familiar to most of us with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s naming of their famous cartoon cat and mouse arch-enemies.

The raucous scene on this snuff box depicts a scene from Egan’s satirical journal, Life in London in which much Tom and Jerryism is occuring in Vauxhall, a notorious London public garden where spectacular shows, including fireworks, were held amidst much drinking and partying (but no sticks of dynamite, mousetraps or deliberate flooding).

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