Recently, I got a nice up-close look at “The Plum-Pudding in Danger”, one of the most famous/important editorial cartoons in the English speaking world.
To personify this humorous design with license, we might say, to use the school boy’s phrase, these two were “deep dogs at pudding,” and took special care to leave little in the dish worth having, for those who were to sit down to their leavings. Billy looks at Boney’s carving tool, and opening his eyes with amazement, says to himself, -O! O! Mr. Greedygut! To be sure he is helping himself to a slice where the plums are found to be thickest. But the other, determined to he a match for him, slips in his cocteau, and very modestly divides the pudding in half, where ’tis richest in spice and sweetmeats, and with a look that seems to imply there is yet enough for ” cut and come again.”
A plum-pudding has been compared to many things, and not unaptly, amongst others, to a civilized nation, The sweet-meats being assigned to the king and his courtiers; the plums and currants to the law; the eggs to the church ; the nutmeg to the army, and the brandy to the navy: the suet to trade, with here and there a plum for a fat alderman; the sight and smell alone for genius and taste, and the scrapings of the pudding-bag for the labouring poor.
On looking upon these two dividers of the smoking orb, and associating with the print, the circumstances of the times that gave rise to it, we can scarcely believe that the whole was not a dream; or that the events, now that the world is at peace again, were of much more importance, with all the mighty deeds of the one in the cabinet and the other in the field, which divided the world, than the dividing a plum-pudding: yet, have the satellites of each, flattered these champions with the never ceasing plaudits of posterity, or in other words, with the unfading glory of immortality.
This book (1805) was on display at: Breaking the News Exhibit (Closes Aug 21, 2022) at the British Library, London.