Caricature and its Publics
In mid-nineteenth-century France extravagant claims were often made about the
efﬁcacy of caricature as a political weapon. In Duclerc’s and Pagnerre’s Dictionnaire
politique of , Charles Blanc wrote:
La caricature est le plus puissant moyen de discréditer, dans l’esprit du peuple, les mauvais
gouvernements. C’est le plus rude châtiment qu’on puisse inﬂiger à leur injustice ou à leur
bassesse. Elle a fait plus que les rendre odieux, elle les rend méprisables: aussi voyez comme
on la redoute, comme on la surveille. Il n’est rien que les comédiens ordinaires de la scène
politique aient plus en horreur que le crayon de la caricature.
Conﬁdence in the power of caricature was fostered by the widespread belief
that the French were both especially gifted satirists and peculiarly susceptible to
ridicule, and by the fact that it was taken to be a distinctly democratic institu-
tion. Champﬂeury considered that caricature was, along with the press, ‘le cri des
citoyens’, a political voice for the disfranchised. Caricaturists, he believed, acted
as interpreters for the masses: ‘Ceux que ceux-ci ne peuvent exprimer est traduit
par les hommes dont la mission consiste à mettre en lumière les sentiments intimes
du peuple.’ They performed this function by crystallizing the people’s hopes and
antipathies into convenient symbols. ‘Symbolisateurs sans le savoir’, caricaturists,
it was thought, manufactured a language in which (in Michelet’s words) ‘le peuple
puisse parler au peuple’. Philipon himself made a similar claim about the popular
nature of caricature in September . In the ﬁnal issue of La Caricature he argued
that he and his artists had produced their work ‘sous l’inspiration du peuple dont
nous n’étions en quelque sorte que les sécrétaires et les peintres’.
In Armand Carrel praised Philipon for his work as a republican propagand-
ist: ‘Philipon, en se bornant à s’inspirer les artistes qui l’entouraient, était devenu
lui-même le plus ingénieux, le plus inépuisable, le plus lumineux propagateur
d’idées qui ait fait encore agi sur aucun peuple en parlant aux yeux.’ Comparing
Philipon’s role under the July Monarchy to Béranger’s under the Restoration, the
Dictionnaire politique, encyclopédie du langage et de la science politique rédigé par une réunion de
députés, de publicistes et de journalistes (), .
Champﬂeury, Histoire de la caricature moderne (), p. vii. Ibid., p. xix.
Caricature and its Publics
republican leader suggested that the political importance of caricature lay, like that
of popular song, in its ability to reach the illiterate and semi-literate masses.
The governments of the s shared Carrel’s belief in the mass appeal of carica-
ture. They were concerned about the effect which it had upon the uneducated and
susceptible crowd. In August the Minister of Justice justiﬁed the reintroduc-
tion of censorship for lithographs and for plays on the grounds that the constitu-
tion only guaranteed the right to publish opinions. Caricatures and theatrical
performances were, according to Persil, more than mere opinions; they did not
seek to address rational individuals in intelligent debate, but to manipulate the
emotions of the crowd:
Qu’un auteur se contente de faire imprimer sa pièce, il ne pourra être assujetti à aucune
mesure préventative; que le déssinateur écrive sa pensée, qu’il le publie par la voie de
l’impression, et que de cette manière il s’addresse à l’intelligence, il ne rencontrera aucun
obstacle. C’est dans ce sens qu’on dit que la censure ne pourra jamais être rétablie. Mais
lorsque les opinions sont converties en actes, lorsque, par la représentation d’une pièce ou
l’exposition d’un dessin, on s’addresse aux hommes réunis, on parle à leurs yeux; il y a plus
que la manifestation d’une opinion, il y a un fait, une mise en action, une vie, dont ne
s’occupe pas l’article sept de la Charte, et qu’il conﬁe par cela même à la haute direction des
It was this ability to ‘speak to the eyes’ of a popular audience which the minister
feared and the journalist appreciated. Visual images, taken to appeal to the instincts
rather than the intelligence, were therefore held to be more effective propaganda
than the written word.
To assess how far these contemporary views about caricature were justiﬁed, we
need to investigate its public. Ascertaining the number of prints produced, the
price for which they sold, and the places in which they were available will enable us
to reach approximate conclusions about the size and nature of its audience and
thus to gain a greater understanding of its political role in the s.
The political caricatures published by La Maison Aubert fall into two categories. A
small number were considered too poor or too inﬂammatory to be included in the
newspapers, and were published independently on single sheets of paper. The
caricatures which appeared in La Caricature were not sold separately, but those
appearing in black and white in Le Charivari were often also available on single
sheets of better-quality paper, sometimes coloured. Although no records showing
Le National, Aug. .
Le Moniteur universel, Aug. (emphasis in the original). For an account of the parliamentary
debates on the September Laws and the reimposition of censorship, see Robert Justin Goldstein,
Censorship of Political Caricature in Nineteenth-Century France (Kent, Ohio, ), –.
‘Les caricatures ont un . . . avantage, elles parlent pour ainsi dire à l’instinct, et les journaux ne
s’adressent qu’à l’intelligence’, Le Conservateur littéraire ( June ).
Caricature and its Publics
the number of copies of caricatures published in this way have survived, it is safe to
assume that the print-runs were small. Philipon and Daumier’s phenomenally
successful ‘Robert Macaire’ caricatures, which appeared in Le Charivari from
to , were reprinted in a separate edition of just , copies, many of which
went unsold: Philipon was still trying to sell off the last copies in . Clearly the
print-runs for less popular lithographs will have been considerably smaller. The
average print-run for a political caricature published by La Maison Aubert was
probably well under ,. The price of single prints ranged from centimes
for popular editions printed on poor-quality paper to 4 francs for high-quality,
coloured prints. The usual price for a single, uncoloured caricature was franc.
These prices did not put buying an occasional caricature beyond the means of the
better-paid artisans in Paris. Philipon and Aubert maintained commercial relations
with a number of provincial and foreign printsellers with whom they exchanged
stocks, but many of the independently published political prints probably went no
further than Aubert’s windows. The vast majority of Philipon’s political carica-
tures, however, appeared in his newspapers and were therefore distributed much
Newspapers were expensive commodities in the s. They were not normally
sold by the issue and, since the standard price for an annual subscription to a
Parisian daily newspaper was francs, a personal subscription was a luxury few
middle-class families could afford. Philipon’s newspapers were comparatively
cheap. An annual subscription to Le Charivari cost Parisian readers francs;
provincial readers, for whom the administration had to pay postage, paid an extra
francs. Subscriptions were available for three- and six-month periods at propor-
tionally reduced prices, and Parisians were given the additional option of subscrib-
ing for just one month at a cost of francs. At francs a year, Le Charivari was the
cheapest daily newspaper in Paris. Since the price also included lithographs,
Philipon was justiﬁed in lauding the good value of his brainchild. La Caricature
cost francs a year for Parisian and provincial subscribers alike, an average price
for an ordinary weekly newspaper, but as it provided its subscribers with
lithographs annually, many of which were coloured, it too was attractively priced.
Philipon advertised subscriptions to La Caricature as the cheapest manner of
acquiring a collection of caricatures.
Both La Caricature and Le Charivari were exceptionally good value for the
connoisseur of ﬁne prints, but despite the relative modesty of their prices they
are unlikely to have appealed to a broader cross-section of society than their
non-illustrated rivals. As satirical newspapers, they relied heavily on their readers’
Roger Passeron, Daumier (Secaucus, ), ; Philipon, ‘L’Abdication de Daumier I’, Le Journal
amusant, Sept. .
See the advertisements for La Maison Aubert’s lithographs in La Caricature. The most expensive
print the company sold was a portrait of Louis-Napoleon on horseback which cost francs cen-
times; the cheapest was a reprint of Philipon’s pears which cost just centimes. In series of twelve
prints were sold for and francs; in the prices fell and La Maison Aubert advertised many
lithographs for centimes. In September Philipon bought up all the unsold caricatures on the
July Revolution and sold them for centimes each.
Caricature and its Publics
knowledge of the events and personalities they lampooned, knowledge best picked
up by reading the serious press: Philipon’s caricatures portrayed a world turned
upside down, and they can have had little appeal to those with no knowledge of the
world. Middle-class families just prosperous enough to subscribe to one newspaper
are unlikely to have chosen a satirical journal. A political broadsheet was a more
useful introduction to politics and a less ambiguous statement of personal status
and political position. Those who received Le Charivari or La Caricature almost
certainly subscribed to one or more other newspapers as well. They therefore
needed to have not just the or francs necessary to invest in one of Philipon’s
publications, nor simply the francs required to receive a standard newspaper,
but at least , , or francs in order to receive both.
The archival information concerning the circulation ﬁgures of newspapers in
this period comes from two sources. In response to an inquiry from the Minister of
Justice, the Directeur de l’Administration des Postes periodically drew up a table of
the number of copies of Parisian newspapers which were sent through the post, and
therefore of the presumed number of subscribers in the provinces. The second
source emanates from the Bureau des Timbres in the Ministry of the Interior. In
these statistics the total number of subscribers is estimated from the amount of
stamped paper they applied for in a month. Unfortunately, both series are more
complete for the later years of the July Monarchy and there are no ﬁgures for the
period –; the ﬁrst statistics to have survived concern April and May .
Thus, for the ﬁrst years of the life of La Caricature we have only the ﬁgures that
the newspaper itself gave for its circulation. On February Philipon apolo-
gized for the lack of coloured prints, explaining that the unexpected success of the
newspaper and the time required to colour lithographs by hand had forced
him to include fewer than he had originally intended. One month later he apolo-
gized again; the second series of Grandville’s ‘Carnaval politique’ had to be delayed
for a week to allow his staff to colour the copies required. In June he
informed his readers that the difﬁculty of colouring copies meant that
another series of Grandville lithographs had to be postponed. In August
dilatory subscribers were encouraged to re-subscribe swiftly if they wanted top-
quality prints. The ﬁrst print-run was now ‘mille à douze cents exemplaires’ and
the lithographic stones were becoming worn. In March Philipon expressed the
difﬁculty he was having in preparing nearly , coloured lithographs. These
ﬁgures are, of course, a little dubious. Philipon probably talked up the success of
his newspaper on the grounds that success breeds success. Moreover, although the
ﬁgures for the total print-run of the lithographs were probably close to the total
number of newspapers printed (lithographs from La Caricature not being sold
separately), we know that Philipon kept a number of complete collections in
For an analysis of these archives, see J.-P. Aguet, ‘Le Tirage des quotidiens de Paris sous la
Monarchie de Juillet’, Revue Suisse d’histoire (), –.
La Caricature, Feb., Mar., June, Aug. , and Mar. .
Caricature and its Publics
reserve. It is therefore likely that the ﬁgures exaggerate the number of subscribers
La Caricature had in its early years. Its increasing success, however, is beyond
doubt. On June the newspaper contained a message for new subscribers
applying for back issues. The reserve stock had already been sold out, but a second
edition of copies of the ﬁrst fourteen issues was under way. By June , then,
La Caricature must have had a circulation signiﬁcantly larger than that for which
Philipon had initially catered, although it was probably closer to , than to
,. Le Charivari did not advertise its success in the same way. The only informa-
tion available on the newspaper’s circulation in its ﬁrst year is the ambitious ﬁgure
of , put forward by Brisson and Ribeyre in .
The ﬁrst surviving statistics reveal that Le Charivari dispatched copies
through the post to its subscribers outside Paris in April and the same number
in May. In the same months, and copies of La Caricature were sent to provin-
cial subscribers. The next set of ﬁgures charts the number of copies sent through
the post from June to October , thus registering the effect of Fieschi’s
attempted regicide on the newspapers’ circulations. In July Le Charivari had
a very healthy provincial subscribers. The chaos in the newspaper’s ofﬁces in
the aftermath of the Fieschi massacre caused this number to drop dramatically to
in August. With both Philipon and Desnoyers in hiding, it is highly likely that
many copies were simply never dispatched. In any case, the obvious ministerial
hostility towards Le Charivari caused public conﬁdence in the newspaper’s survival
to waver (subscribers stood no chance of receiving compensation for the three
months they paid in advance if the newspaper folded), and only copies were
sent to provincial subscribers in September. Although Le Charivari did survive the
September Laws, its subscribers were not satisﬁed with its new, emasculated form.
From in November , the number of provincial subscribers fell away to just
in October . La Caricature also felt the effects of Fieschi’s machine infernale,
even before the September Laws forced Philipon to abandon it. The number of
provincial subscribers fell from in June to in August; only copies of
the ﬁnal issue were dispatched through the post on September .
The long-term ﬁnancial success of Le Charivari owed, however, a great deal to
the September Laws. The reintroduction of censorship for caricature provided an
ideal opportunity for the newspaper to jettison the ideological baggage which
Philipon’s republican engagement had forced upon it. With political caricature
rendered impossible, it could become the non-political variety act it had originally
purported to be, and thus appeal to a more diverse readership. The success of
the non-partisan version of Le Charivari is recorded in the statistics on the total
See his letter to Rosalje, July , reproduced in L. Carteret, Le Trésor du bibliophile roman-
tique et moderne – (), iii. .
In June La Caricature had only subscribers in the provinces; La Gazette des tribunaux,
Jules Brisson and Félix Ribeyre, Les Grands journaux de France (), .
AN, BB a, dr. .
AN, BB a, dr. , and BB a, dr. .
Caricature and its Publics
circulations of Paris newspapers estimated by weight of stamped paper ordered. In
January the newspaper had still not adjusted to the new conditions imposed
by the September Laws: the Ministry of the Interior estimated that the newspaper
had only subscribers. From then on the situation improved. The circulation
rose to in February, , in April, and , in May . By February
Le Charivari had , subscribers. Between January and November its
circulation ﬂuctuated between , and , subscribers.
One cannot accurately extrapolate the total circulations of the newspapers from
the number of their provincial subscribers. For the ten months between Septem-
ber and July records survive showing both the number of copies of
Le Charivari sent through the post and its total estimated circulation by weight
of stamped paper. A comparison of these sources suggests that just under half
(. per cent) of the total subscriptions came from outside Paris. On the surviving
register of subscribers for July , however, over two-thirds (. per cent) of the
subscriptions came from the provinces. Using these two percentages to calculate
upper and lower limits, we can estimate that Le Charivari had between , and
, subscribers in April and May . In the autumn of the ﬁgure would
have fallen to between and ,. Applying the same calculation to La
Caricature, we arrive at a total circulation of between and , in April
, falling to between and in June .
These circulations are certainly small, but by the standards of the day they
were quite respectable. Le Charivari and La Caricature were easily the most
successful of the satirical newspapers. While they had and provincial
subscribers respectively in April , Le Corsaire had , Brid’Oison and Le
Figaro . In the same period the leading republican newspaper, Le National, had
only , provincial subscribers and La Tribune only . In terms of circulation,
Le Charivari occupied a position halfway between the petite presse and the grands
The chance survival of a subscription list, seized from the Hôtel Colbert by the
police on the evening of July , enables us to build up a much more concrete
picture of Le Charivari ’s readership in the ﬁrst six months of . In July Le
Charivari had , subscribers: in Paris, in the departments, and seventy-
ﬁve outside France. Outside the capital, the largest number of subscriptions came
from the Île-de-France, Normandy, the north, north-east, and south-east of the
country (see Map ). Thirty-eight copies were sent to the department of the Seine-
AN, BB a, dr. and BB a, dr. .
AN, BB a, dr.
These ﬁgures are much lower than the Prefect of Police’s estimation of Philipon’s newspapers’
circulations. In a memo to the Minister of the Interior in May , the Prefect reported that ,
copies of La Caricature were printed each week and , copies of Le Charivari were printed every
day. The Prefect of Police’s ﬁgure for Le Charivari is plausible—advertising the contract to supply
Le Charivari with paper in January , Philipon speciﬁed that he required , sheets in the news-
paper’s format each day—but his ﬁgure for La Caricature is far fetched.
AN, BB a, dr. .
AN, CC , ‘Papiers saisies dans le bureau du journal Le Charivari suivant notre procès-verbal
du juillet ’.
Caricature and its Publics
et-Oise, thirty-seven and twenty-four to the Norman departments of the Seine-
Inférieure and the Eure. In what is now the Rhône-Alpes, the department of the
Rhône had sixty subscribers and neighbouring Isère twenty-four. Le Charivari was
most successful in the more prosperous regions of France; Brittany, the centre and
the south-west were under-represented. After Paris, the cities which received the
largest number of copies were Lyons (with twenty), Marseilles, Bordeaux, and
Metz (with twelve), Nimes (with ten), and Strasbourg, Grenoble, Toulouse, and
Le Havre (with nine). Fifteen copies went to Belgium, fourteen to Switzerland,
twelve to Holland and twenty to Austria, Prussia, and other German states. Italy
had four subscribers, one of whom was the king of Sardinia. Spain had just two:
the Minister of Finances and Don Francisco de Paula Antonio, Infant d’Espagne.
A rather less glamorous Mr Anderson of East Dulwich was the only English sub-
scriber. The register reveals, therefore, that Philipon’s newspaper reached most
large provincial towns, but that Paris contained by far the greatest concentration
In cases the register records, in addition to the address, some information
about the profession or social status of the subscribers. Eighty-six subscribers had
an aristocratic title and the names of forty-seven more contained an aristocratic
particle, suggesting that roughly per cent of the subscribers were more or less
noble—a ﬁgure smaller than the wealth and continuing inﬂuence of the nobility
in this period might lead us to expect. In forty-one cases the register records that
the subscriber was involved in commerce (twenty-four of these classed themselves
as ‘négociants’; only four gave themselves the humbler title of ‘marchand’). Twenty-
two subscribers were involved in industry, including Eugène Perier in Grenoble
and Victor Moët in Epernay. Fifty-six members of the legal profession subscribed,
the majority of whom were ‘notaires’, as well as twenty-three doctors and nine
pharmacists. Thirteen subscribers recorded that they held a position in local
government (including ﬁve mayors), and twelve army ofﬁcers took the newspaper.
Fifty-two subscribers described themselves vaguely as ‘propriétaires’, but the
number of subscribers living off investments in land was certainly much larger.
The evidence of the register indicates that the subscribers to Le Charivari formed a
fairly representative cross-section of the notables of Orléanist France, with a slight
under-representation of the aristocracy in favour of the bourgeoisie, and in partic-
ular the highly politicized middle-class intellectuals from the liberal professions.
This can be conﬁrmed by studying the pattern of personal subscriptions
(subscriptions from individuals rather than public establishments) within Paris.
Map shows the geographical distribution of the personal subscriptions to Le
Charivari across the capital’s forty-eight ‘quartiers’. Paris divides neatly into two.
The richer sections of the Parisian population lived on the west of the city, and
there, as one would expect, we ﬁnd the vast majority of subscriptions. The working-
class districts on the north-east and east of the city received very few copies.
Belgium also had its own pirated version of Le Charivari; see J. Hellemans, ‘La Réimpression des
revues françaises en Belgique (–)’, in F. Mourreau (ed.), Les Presses grises. La Contrefaçon du
livre (XVI–XIX siècles) (), .
Caricature and its Publics
Within fashionable Paris, the greatest number of subscribers lived in the luxury
quartiers on the Right Bank which had been developed during the construction
boom of the s. Le Charivari was delivered to twenty-two homes in the quartier
de la Chaussée D’Antin and to nineteen in the quartier de la Place Vendôme.
Contemporaries perceived this area, whose physical and symbolic centre was the
Bourse, as the home of successful parvenus. Balzac installed his bankers there.
Philipon, recognizing that his best clients lived in the surrounding streets, moved
La Maison Aubert to the Place de la Bourse in . But if Le Charivari appealed
above all to new money, it was also prized, to a lesser extent, in the Faubourg Saint-
Germain, the home of the aristocracy since the eighteenth century and a hotbed of
legitimism in the s. Nine copies were delivered to homes in the quartier de la
See the very interesting ‘plan démographique’ in N. W. Stevenson, Paris dans la Comédie
humaine de Balzac (). The author classiﬁes the quartier de la Chaussée d’Antin as the home of
‘nouveaux riches, banquiers, artistes, courtisanes’. Flaubert characterized the area in a similar manner;
see Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Le Paris de L’Education sentimentale’, in Les règles de l’art (), –.
Caricature and its Publics
Monnaie and eight to families in the quartier du Faubourg Saint-Germain itself.
Philipon’s newspaper had, therefore, a broad appeal among the monied élite of the
July Monarchy; in Paris it was bought above all by ‘new men’, the denizens of a
self-conﬁdent bourgeoisie, but it conserved, even in , some attraction for the
embittered Carlists on the Left Bank.
Buying a newspaper was an option reserved for the wealthier members of the
wealthy elite. But it would be wrong to conclude from the miniscule circulation
ﬁgures that the press in general, and Philipon’s newspapers in particular with the
caricatures they contained, only penetrated the highest echelons of French society.
Circulation ﬁgures bore no resemblance to a newspaper’s actual readership: a
single copy could have any number of readers, and most regular readers of the press
in the s will never have bought a newspaper. To begin with, newspapers tended
to circulate. Once read by the subscriber, they were passed on to friends and
family or circulated within Parisian apartment blocks. Readers were not unduly
worried about having fresh news. In November the Journal des débats
denounced the trade in second-hand newspapers, re-wrapped and sent to the
provinces once they had been read in Paris. It was common for people to club
together to share the cost of a subscription, either informally or by subscribing to
cercles or literary societies. But more importantly, the press was available in cafés
and cabinets de lecture—lending libraries-cum-reading rooms—in Paris and the
larger provincial towns. In April the Prefect of Police estimated that individual
copies of Le Constitutionnel had up to readers in these establishments.
Cabinets de lecture were a cultural phenomenon of paramount importance, the
most signiﬁcant institution for the distribution and consumption of the written
word. They varied enormously in character, from open-air stalls which handled
only the press to large establishments with thousands of books in stock. Customers
could read in the cabinet itself or take the newspapers or books home. The tariffs
were reasonable. The price for reading a newspaper on the premises was normally
centimes, sou; for reading all the newspapers in one session the price was
centimes, while taking the books or newspapers home was slightly more
expensive. Back-issues of newspapers were available at special rates. A monthly
subscription enabling one to read all the newspapers, novels, and other works in
stock normally cost francs, although sometimes as much as . Thus, for under
For examples of the presence of caricatures in aristocratic salons, see Marie d’Agoult, Mémoires,
souvenirs et journaux (), i. , and Stendhal, Lucien Leuwen (), i. .
Le Journal des débats, Nov. .
AN, F , , B.
On the cabinets de lecture, see Claude Pichois, ‘Pour une sociologie des faits littéraires: Les cabi-
nets de lecture à Paris durant la première moitié du dix-neuvième siècle’, Annales (July–September
); and Francoise Parent-Lardeur, Lire à Paris au temps de Balzac, les cabinets de lecture à Paris
– (), repackaged as Les cabinets de lecture, la lecture publique à Paris sous la Restauration
F. Parent-Lardeur, Lire à Paris, –. C. Pichois, ‘Pour une sociologie . . .’, gives the prices for
monthly subscriptions between and as up to francs.
Caricature and its Publics
half the price of a direct subscription to a single newspaper, the clientele of cabinets
de lecture could read them all. Lewis Cass, an American visitor to Paris in , was
surprised but charmed by the cabinets de lecture. He observed that it was often
difﬁcult to distinguish them from cafés:
It is in the cafés and reading rooms, and similar places of public resort, that all the journals
of the day are to be found. These places are frequented by regular subscribers as well as by
other persons. They pay two sous—a little less than two cents each; and for this sum the
readers can remain in the reading rooms as long as they please, and peruse at their leisure all
the papers of the day. There are places where, in addition to this mental enjoyment, more
substantial comfort is sold, in the guise of a cheap meagre red wine; and there the lounger
seats himself, with his favourite journal and his glass of vin ordinaire, and seems to laugh at
the world, while he assuages his carnal and mental appetite at the same time.
Cabinets de lecture, cafés, and cercles were a mixed blessing for the press. They
increased the newspapers’ readership by making them affordable to a wider
public, but at the same time they appropriated their revenues. The low prices they
offered discouraged the public from subscribing directly with the newspapers’
In the provinces, bookshops and cabinets de lecture and cafés took Le
Charivari, and the members of seventy-six cercles, casinos, and sociétés littéraires
clubbed together to subscribe. They were found overwhelmingly in cities and
larger towns. An extremely modest number of copies delivered to a town could still
have a signiﬁcant audience when they were sent to such public establishments.
Only nine copies of Le Charivari were dispatched to Grenoble, yet the Grenoblois
could read the newspaper at the café run by M. Rafﬁn, chez Gérard the limonadier,
in the Cercle de la rue Neuve, or at one of the four bookshops which subscribed.
In Metz, which received twelve copies in total, Le Charivari was available for hire
at Mlle Gellé’s cabinet de lecture, at the Café Français, the Café Turc, the Café
Cornet, the Café Lafosse, and the Café Heaume. The members of the Cercle
Constitutionnel also had a copy at their disposal. The establishments where the
Parisian newspapers could be found were the centre of local political life, and in
periods of political instability they were crowded with people looking for the latest
news. Diagnosing the ‘politicomanie’ sweeping France in , Sylvian Eymard
isolated a compulsive desire for news as its most striking symptom:
L’arrivée du courrier est toujours pour chacun de nous le moment de la journée le plus
important et le plus impatiemment attendu. Magistrat, artisan, curé, bonne femme, écolier,
tout le monde est affamé de nouvelles. On assiège les cercles, les cabinets de lecture et autres
lieux où se lisent les feuilles publics, comme jadis on assiègeait les tavernes et les cabarets.
Les journaux arrivent-ils? On se précipite sur la table qu’ils surchargent; on les mêle, on les
fouille, on se les arrache. Heureux ceux qui peuvent s’en saisir les premiers, ne fût-ce que du
Mayeux ou du Globe! Tandis qu’une troupe désappointé et furétante les envie du coin de
l’oeil et les retient plusieurs heures à l’avance.
[Lewis Cass], France, its King, Court and Government (New York, ), .
Sylvain Eymard, La Politicomanie, ou la folie actuellement régnante en France (), .
Caricature and its Publics
Subscribing cafés, cercles, and cabinets de lecture made Philipon’s newspapers
accessible to the culturally and politically active sections of the French urban
population, particularly in the north and south-east of the country. The size and
nature of the politically aware population varied from city to city; infamously and,
for the authorities, dangerously large in Paris, it could be reduced to only a hand-
ful of committed activists in smaller provincial towns. Provincial cafés and cabinets
de lecture had a more pronounced political colour than their Parisian counterparts.
They were the principal meeting places for political discussion; to choose one was
to choose a political afﬁliation. The same men often constituted the membership
of the local branch of the Association pour la défense de la presse patriote, the clien-
tele of the radical café, and the readers of (and sometimes the contributors to) the
local republican newspaper, if there was one.
From December until April Philipon published the results of the
national subscription he had organized to help pay Le Charivari’s ﬁnes. The sub-
scription lists tell us something about his readership in these provincial establish-
ments. The individual donations were often small, but the subscribers were clearly
middle class. Prominent among them were lawyers, ofﬁcers in the regular army
and the National Guard, and students. Several subscribers speciﬁed that they were
électeurs. The lists suggest, therefore, that the bulk of Philipon’s readership in
provincial towns was made up of middle-class radicals and republicans. There are,
however, examples of more popular republican societies which subscribed to
Philipon’s newspapers. The Société de la Légalité in Fourqalquier, which subscribed
to La Caricature, was described in a police report as ‘formée en grande partie des
artisans’. In addition, the republican societies occasionally organized public read-
ings of the press in an attempt to extend their inﬂuence over the working classes.
In Paris, Le Charivari was available in ﬁve cercles, cafés, and ﬁfty-one cabinets
de lecture. Two important phenomena emerge from studying the geographical
distribution of these establishments (see Map ). The ﬁrst is the number of cafés
In Strasbourg the republicans met at the Café Faucher. They formalized their association in
by founding the Cercle patriotique. It had members in December and subscribed to Parisian
newspapers including La Caricature and Le Charivari; Félix Ponteil, L’Opposition politique à
Strasbourg sous la Monarchie de Juillet (), . In Nîmes the Association pour la défense de la presse
patriote met in the Café Lafayette, which subscribed to Le Charivari. In Dijon the Cercle patriotique,
though a private society, met in a room off the Café des Mille Colonnes, which also subscribed to Le
Charivari in . See Gabriel Perreux, Au temps des sociétés secrètes. La propagande républicaine
– (), , ; and AN, CC , Register of subscribers to Le Charivari.
Le Charivari, , , , , Dec. and , , , Jan. . The contributors to the col-
lection made at Bonnard’s café in Saint-Marcellin were two avocats, four avoués, a rentier, a huissier, a
doctor, and a silversmith.
AN, F , , Rapports de Gendarmerie, –.
In Rouen the local branch of the Association pour la défense de la presse patriote founded a ‘cabinet
littéraire gratuite où tous les journaux, toutes les brochures, toutes les gravures politiques, seront mises à
la disposition des ouvriers et où, deux fois par semaine, des membres feront des lectures pour ceux qui
ne pourraient proﬁter de ces publications eux-mêmes’ (my emphasis). The newspapers made available
included La Caricature and Le Charivari. A similar system functioned in Poitiers. Most of the
provincial branches of the Association seem, however, to have been closed societies for wealthy
Caricature and its Publics
and cabinets de lecture in the Latin Quarter which subscribed to Philipon’s news-
paper. Le Charivari was available in fourteen cafés and six cabinets de lecture in the
Quartier de l’École de Médecine. In the Quartier de la Sorbonne, seven cafés and
two cabinets de lecture subscribed. This concentration of outlets for Le Charivari
indicates that Philipon had an important audience among the relatively impover-
ished but highly politicized student population. The second phenomenon is the
proliferation of subscribing cafés and cabinets de lecture around the Palais-Royal
and along the boulevards. Philipon’s caricatures were widely available in these
culturally signiﬁcant places, among the theatres, promenades, and restaurants.
These were spaces which the rich frequented, but not exclusively.
In the early s the Palais-Royal still preserved something of the atmosphere it
had acquired before and during the ﬁrst revolution. Its cafés and cabinets de lecture
were still the most important centres of information and political debate in the
city. The casinos and prostitutes which gave its arcades their unique ﬂavour were
not ﬂushed out until . Contemporaries contrasted the atmosphere of the
Palais-Royal with that of the Tuileries gardens. The Tuileries were associated with
the aristocracy, the Palais-Royal and its commercial arcades with the bourgeoisie.
Caricature and its Publics
An anonymous article published in Vert-Vert in declared that since the July
Revolution the Tuileries had been eclipsed by the ‘soleil populaire’ of the Palais-
Royal. The author drew an extremely signiﬁcant comparison between the Tuileries
and the Opéra, on the one hand, and the Palais-Royal and the Théâtre de la Porte-
Saint-Martin, on the other. In the former, one found a ‘foule désoeuvrée, titrée,
élégante, riche, privilégiée, délicate et blasée’, in short, the exclusive aristocracy
which had prospered under the Restoration. In the latter the company was more
mixed, ‘ici, grands et petits, belle compagnie, peuple, enﬁn tout le monde’. The
Palais-Royal and the Porte-Saint-Martin were perceived as ‘democratic’ spaces in
which the victors of July could celebrate their return to the public arena.
The boulevards, where the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin and the other
popular theatres were situated, were also areas of mixed company. Aristocratic
society had appropriated the Boulevard des Italiens for its own use, and fashionable
establishments there (including Tortoni’s) did subscribe to Le Charivari. But
Philipon’s newspaper was available in more popular establishments further to the
east on the Boulevard Poissonière and the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, and three
cafés and two cabinets de lecture on the socially heterogeneous Boulevard du Temple
also subscribed. This was the centre of popular leisure in Paris, with a permanent
Françoise Parent-Lardeur, in her study of the cabinets de lecture in Paris from
to , concludes that their clientele was mainly middle class, but adds that:
Jamais peut-être par la suite, le peuple parisien n’aura été davantage en contact avec la chose
écrite. Elle était là, à portée de main, bradée sur les bords de la Seine, sur les trottoirs des bou-
quinistes, mêlée aux rubans des modistes, étalée aux dévantures des cabinets de lecture et à la
portée de quiconque possédait quelques centimes et quelques loisirs à consacrer à la lecture.
Although only a fraction of the working class had either the resources or the leisure
to read, the early s did see a rapid growth in the number of newspapers and
publishing ventures aimed at the working classes, and the ﬁrst tentative attempts
by workers to ﬁnd their own voice. There was within the aristocracy of labour
‘une large frange instruite et éclairée qui se fera l’interprête des aspirations ouvrières
après ’. There were enough of these men reading newspapers to give heart
(and credibility) to the republicans and to frighten the authorities.
Vert-Vert, July .
See Paul d’Ariste, La Vie et le monde du Boulevard (–). Nestor Roqueplan (); Gustave
Claudin, Mes souvenirs, les boulevards de à (); Jean Valmy-Baysse, La Curieuse Aventure
des boulevards extérieurs (); Anne Martin-Fugier, La Vie élégante ou la formation de Tout-Paris,
See Pierre Gascar, Le Boulevard du Crime ().
F. Parent-Lardeur, Lire à Paris, .
On the ﬂowering of books aimed at the working class, see Noë Richter, La Lecture et ses institu-
tions, – (Bassac, ). For working-class expression, see A. Faure et J. Rancière, La Parole
ouvrière, – ().
Richter, La Lecture, .
‘Il est triste à voir à quel point le goût de la lecture des journaux, et des mauvais journaux surtout,
est passé dans le peuple, l’écrivain a vu avec peine aujourd’hui même en parcourant les faubourgs,
Caricature and its Publics
In his memoirs, Martin Nadaud, the mason who became a deputy under the
Second Republic and eventually a senator under the Third, describing the heated
atmosphere in Paris in December , wrote:
Nous ne faisons pas un pas sans être arrêtés par des crieurs des journaux. D’autres crieurs
nous présentaient à chaque instant des caricatures drôlatiques de Louis-Philippe; on
s’arrachait des mains celles qui le représentaient à genoux, les mains jointes devant le bour-
reau de la Pologne, l’empéreur de Russie. D’autres seulement risibles nous le montraient
comme une grosse poire molle.
Nadaud was clearly slightly confused, since he remembered seeing Louis-Philippe
depicted as a pear one year before Philipon drew his famous caricature.
Nevertheless, his evidence is interesting in that it suggests that caricatures were sold
on the streets in the same manner as pamphlets and newspapers aimed at the work-
ing class. Philipon did produce at least one caricature designed speciﬁcally for sale
on the streets. ‘Aux Prolétaires!’, a caricature by Daumier with texts by Philipon
and Altaroche on its reverse, appeared in October in the midst of the contro-
versy over the popular press. It cost sous ( centimes), and was sold to celebrate
the republicans’ apparent success in safeguarding their most precious means of
proselytizing among the common people. Philipon addressed the workers: ‘Nous
avons calculé le prix de cette petite caricature de manière à nous couvrir seulement
nos frais. Nous ne voulons que constater à notre manière le triomphe de la presse à
bon marché dont la patriotique persévérance de quelques courageux citoyens vient
enﬁn de vous assurés la jouissance.’ ‘Aux Prolétaires!’ followed the normal route
for pamphlets aimed at the masses. After being hawked on the streets of Paris it was
taken into the provinces. Two crieurs publics, carrying it and ﬁve other republican
pamphlets, were intercepted in Melun on November . The caricature was
conﬁscated but later returned to the hawkers, who went on to sell it in Lyons. ‘Aux
Prolétaires!’ is the only caricature of its kind to have survived, however, and the fact
that Philipon felt obliged to explain its purpose indicates that caricatures were not
commonly distributed in this manner.
But if caricatures were only exceptionally sold on the streets, they could always
be seen there. In the months immediately following the July Revolution caricatures
were posted up in the streets, where they attracted considerable attention and
formed the nuclei of seditious gatherings. A law of December put an end
to this ‘dangerous’ situation by expressly forbidding the posting of lithographs,
engravings, and posters in public spaces. It could not, however, prevent printsellers
and other merchants from displaying caricatures on their private premises. In
Vert-Vert noted the proliferation of places in which caricatures could be seen:
plusiers ouvriers lisant attentivement le journal Le Siècle et Le Bon sens, véritables poisons pour ces indi-
vidus’, Gisquet, Prefect of Police, Apr. , AN, F . In October Heine observed that
‘le jardin et les arcades du Palais-Royal fourmillent d’ouvriers qui se lisent les journaux d’une mine très
grave’, Lutèce (), –.
Martin Nadaud, Léonard, maçon de la Creuse (), .
‘Aux Prolétaires!’ (Paris, ), BN, Lb , .
AN, F , Rapports de Gendarmerie, –.
Caricature and its Publics
‘A Paris, la caricature s’est fait déesse, et a vu de nombreux autels élevés en son
honneur au théâtre, à la ville, au café, dans les passages, les salons, les ateliers de
peintres, les magasins de modistes, sous le péristyle des palais et sur les bornes de la
rue.’ Exhibited in this fashion, Philipon’s productions were accessible even to
those who did not frequent the cafés and cabinets de lecture where his newspapers
were available; it is this casual audience that is the hardest to identify.
Caricatures published by Aubert were placed in the ﬁrst instance in the shop’s
windows; even caricatures destined for La Caricature were initially exhibited there.
La Maison Aubert became a place of pilgrimage for fans of caricature, lured by the
prospect of seeing the latest productions. Philipon tried to stimulate this curios-
ity by exhibiting a new caricature every day. The window displays were normally
diverse, a section of political prints, a section of caricatures de moeurs, and assorted
portraits and fashion plates. On occasion, however, Philipon orchestrated a coup de
théâtre by covering his windows with umpteen copies of a single caricature. The
shop’s position in the Passage Véro-Dodat, just to the west of the Palais-Royal, sug-
gests that the primary audience for the caricatures was predominantly bourgeois.
Elegant ﬂâneurs appreciated the gallery’s sumptuous decoration and its boutiques
selling luxury goods. A lithograph by Philipon and Traviès, published in La
Caricature in December , depicts the crowd outside the shop and thus gives an
idea of the audience Philipon hoped to attract. The large majority of the twenty-
two men shown are bourgeois, recognizable by their frock coats and top hats.
There are only four workers among the crowd, but it is signiﬁcant that the focus
of attention is a working man and that it is his reﬂections on Philipon’s drawing
of the pear which form the print’s caption. Women are conspicuously under-
represented (and both the women depicted appear to be gazing at the fashion
plates in Aubert’s windows), but this probably says less about the actual appeal of
caricature to women than about Philipon’s desire to portray caricature as a serious
(masculine) political practice rather than a frivolous (feminine) pastime.
Vert-Vert, Mar. .
See the article by Altaroche in Le Charivari, May , and Thackeray, The Paris Sketch Book
(; London, ), .
‘Le jour de l’éxposition de Venard Valentin [placed in the stocks for having punched a National
Guardsman], des centaines d’éxemplaires d’une seule caricature remplacaient la variété des dessins
qui encombre d’ordinaire les vastes carreaux du magasin d’Aubert. Cette caricature intitulée,
“Récompense nationale”, représente un jeune patriote attaché au pilori des voleurs’, La Caricature,
For an analysis of the public in the Passage Véro-Dodat, see James Cuno, ‘Charles Philipon, La
Maison Aubert and the Business of Caricature in Paris, –’, Art Journal ( Winter ), .
For an interesting account of the emergence of the print-shop as a respectable bourgeois haunt see
the same author’s ‘Charles Philipon and la Maison Aubert: The Business, Politics and Public of
Caricature in Paris, –’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Harvard University, , ch. .
La Caricature, Dec. . On other occasions Philipon stressed the importance of working-
class elements in the crowd outside La Maison Aubert; see La Caricature, Mar. . The police do
not seem to have been overly concerned about the crowds outside Aubert’s, which suggest that the
‘dangerous classes’ did not congregate there in mass. The only police report I know of (unearthed
by James Cuno) concerns a group of soldiers who were spotted laughing at a caricature of the king,
AN, F , Rapports de Gendarmerie.
Caricature and its Publics
Philipon’s productions were also sold by stallholders on the boulevards and by
the bouquinistes along the banks of the Seine. Caricatures were displayed in shop
windows to attract customers, and the cabinets de lecture which subscribed to La
Caricature and Le Charivari often posted up the caricatures they contained in the
windows or on their walls. In January the owner of the cabinet de lecture at
Rue des Filles Saint-Thomas appeared in court for having had Philipon’s ‘Armes
du Grand Poulot’ among the caricatures on the walls of his establishment.
By making La Caricature and Le Charivari available at a reasonable price, and
by exhibiting the caricatures they contained to the crowds in the street, cafés and
cabinets de lecture gave Philipon’s caricatures an audience and an inﬂuence far
greater than their small print-runs would seem to warrant. Tracing the origins of
the Paris Commune of back to the revolutionary disturbances of the early
s, Maxime du Camp blamed these establishments for the irresponsible
manner in which they disseminated Philipon’s dangerous satire:
Le Charivari de cette époque exércait une très réelle inﬂuence sur l’opinion publique, non
point par sa rédaction qui ne dépassait guère la raillerie courante familière à tous les petits
journaux, mais par ses estampes qui étaient fort recherchées et restaient facilement dans le
souvenir. Le tirage du Charivari était cependant des plus restreints; des documents authen-
tiques le portent à ; mais le journal était sur la table des cafés à la disposition de tous les
oisifs, et les cabinets de lecture, bien plus nombreux alors qu’aujourd’hui, avaient soin d’en
exposer la gravure à leur vitrine; chacun s’arrêtait à la regarder et à la commenter. Des
qu’une satire un peu vive du gouvernment avait été crayonné par Le Charivari, on peut dire
que toute la population à Paris en avait connaissance en moins de vingt quatre heures.
In the capital, then, Philipon’s caricatures were accessible to all those who par-
ticipated in the city’s cultural and political life by frequenting politically sensitive
areas like the boulevards, the quais, and the Palais-Royal. This politically active
population extended beyond the wealthy elite and included the lower middle
classes, as well as the more educated artisans and workers. A revealing illustration
of the role of these privileged public spaces in the democratization of politics
and culture in the aftermath of the July Revolution can be found in the memoirs
of Augustin Challamel, failed playwright and sometime art critic. Born into a
Fanny Trollope was not impressed by the portraits of the ‘prévenus d’avril’ published by Aubert
and serialized in Le Charivari, when she saw them pinned up along the Quai Voltaire, ‘this ﬁve sous
gallery of fame’; Paris and the Parisians in (; Gloucester, ), . The printsellers under the
arcades of the Institut are visible in William Parrott’s painting of Le Quai Conti (), now in the
Musée Carnavalet, Inv. P.. Some cabinets de lecture also sold Philipon’s caricatures. Philipon
offered them a discount on the prints they bought for resale; see Le Charivari, Jan. .
Alfred de Musset described the interior of a cabinet de lecture in : ‘la table est surchargée des
gazettes de la semaine; d’assidus abonnés y promenent avec ardeur leurs lunettes de diverses couleurs;
sur les carreaux dansent plus de caricatures grotesques qu’il y avait sur la table d’Hoffmann . . .’, Le
Temps, Mar. .
Le Corsaire, Jan. . See the account of the police raid in La Quotidienne, Jan. . Mme
Dubuisson, the owner of the cabinet de lecture in the Rue Louis-le-Grand, was arrested in August
for refusing to relinquish her copies of Philipon’s newspapers during a police raid; Le Charivari,
Maxime du Camp, Les Ancêtres de la Commune. L’attentat Fieschi (), , n. .
Caricature and its Publics
lower-middle-class family, Challamel entered ‘Les Dieux Pierrots’, a draper’s shop
on the Rue de la Huchette, as a simple shop assistant. Every Sunday he and his
fellow shop assistants spent their leisure hours walking the boulevards and seeing
two or three plays performed at the Théâtre de l’Ambigu or the Théâtre de la Porte
Saint-Martin. Their interest in politics made them regular visitors to the Palais-
Royal, where, in the crowded garden and the arcades that enclose it, among the
cafés, the cabinets de lecture, and the bookshops, opinions were formed on the
issues of the day. While they could not always afford to buy the latest publications,
they absorbed, as if by osmosis, a dose of heated debate:
les actualités, les questions brûlantes, les procès politiques, nous faisaient courir au Palais-
Royal, et si nous n’achètions pas toutes les publications nouvelles, nous en lisions avide-
ment les titres, aﬁn de nous tenir au courant de la polémique générale, comme des passants
affamés qui réspirent avec délices l’odeur de la cuisine des restaurants.
Challamel was a regular visitor to the print-shops of Paris, not normally entering
them but standing outside to enjoy the prints on show in the windows. He refers
to the ‘Père Boblet’, who owned a print-shop on the Quai des Augustins and whose
politics were strongly legitimist, and he devotes a long section to Philipon and his
newspapers, which he appreciated principally for their caricatures. He would join
the crowd outside La Maison Aubert to see them:
il fallut se bousculer, presque s’étouffer devant la boutique du marchand de gravures
Aubert, située au coin de la rue de Bouloi et du passage Véro-Dodat. Petits et grands,
hommes ou femmes, personne ne manquait de s’y arrêter pour regarder en riant la satire
déssinée, nouvellement éclose au cerveau d’un artiste habile.
When they were particularly struck by a caricature, Challamel’s colleagues would
occasionally buy a copy. Competition was sometimes ﬁerce: Challemel remem-
bered one of his friends spending two weeks looking in vain for a second-hand
copy of the th issue of La Caricature with its article by Philipon and its ‘La Liberté
au poteau’ by Décamps (Plate ).
Caricatures were occasionally exhibited in the same way in provincial cafés and
cabinets de lecture. In Agen, for example, the local gendarmerie felt obliged to raid
a cabinet de lecture in August to remove the caricatures from Le Charivari
which were displayed in its windows, ‘considérant que l’exposition des caricatures
ou se trouvent mêlée d’une manière plus ou moins apparente la personne du Roi
. . . peut surtout dans un moment où les esprits sont encore sous l’impression
irritante de l’horrible attentat du juillet donna lieu à des désordres qu’il importe
a prévenir’. The republican Réunion in Carcassonne displayed its politics by
exhibiting ‘des emblèmes ridicules et insultants’, and the masonic lodge in Le Mans
Augustin Challamel, Souvenirs d’un hugolâtre: La génération de (), .
Ibid. –. Literary evidence for the presence of ‘gens du peuple’ outside printsellers’ windows
can be found in the ﬁrst scene of Sewrin and Tousez’s vaudeville Le Lithographe, ou les scènes populaires
Challamel, Sourenirs d’un hugolâtre.
AN, BB , , , Aug. .
Caricature and its Publics
was decorated with caricatures from Philipon’s newspapers. Similarly, the Société
de la Légalité in Fourcalquier commemorated the fourth anniversary of the July
Revolution by displaying two caricatures in its windows. In an incident in
Loudéac in Brittany, a member of the local Union Patriotique was arrested for
leaning out of the club’s meeting room and reading out articles from La Caricature
to a crowd in the street. These were isolated instances, however. Caricature was in
general much less visible in provincial towns than in the capital; it only penetrated
as far as did Philipon’s newspapers, which themselves penetrated no further than
the rest of the press. In the provinces, caricature was enjoyed by small groups of
initiates who valued Philipon’s newspapers, crumpled and slightly out of date as
they were, for their faint ﬂavour of ‘la vie parisienne’.
An analysis of the caricatures themselves suggests that the political authorities were
unnecessarily afraid of the impact that they had on the masses, even in Paris.
Comparing the relative merits of the pen and the pencil as political weapons,
Françisque Sarcey wrote:
Je dirai presque que le crayon est une arme mieux trempée et qui frappe avec plus de force.
Le pamphlet ne s’adresse qu’à l’esprit; il faut encore, pour le comprendre et le goûter, un
certain dégré d’instruction, d’attention tout au moins. La caricature entre dans les yeux et
remue ce qu’il y a de plus sensible en nous, l’imagination. Elle est intelligible à tous; elle
nous arrête au passage . . . et nous force à la regarder aux vitrines où elle est suspendue.
Nobody would deny the impact which visual images have upon our imagination,
but Sarcey’s faith in the immediate intelligibility of caricature, shared by the politi-
cians of the s, was certainly misguided. Caricatures need to be read quite as
much as do conventional texts; many of those who saw Philipon’s caricatures will
have been unable to decipher them.
In Philipon noted that ‘la caricature a son langage particulier’. He saw
his role as a pedagogical one, and his newspapers as an attempt to introduce the
Perreux, Au temps des sociétés secrètes, ; André Bouton, Les Luttes ardentes des franc-maçons
manceaux pour l’établissement de la république, – (Le Mans, ), .
One of the caricatures was ‘Le temps l’amène, patience, patience’, a double-sized plate by
Grandville and Desperet from La Caricature, Mar. . The other appears to have been a home-
made variation on themes from several of Philipon’s caricatures, but the document is torn, making an
exact identiﬁcation impossible; AN, F .
La Caricature, Apr. . On the Union patriotique in Loudéac see Georges Weill, Histoire du
parti républicain en France – (; Geneva, ), .
‘. . . la presse est inaccessible au peuple, à celui des petites villes où l’artisan n’entre pas dans le seul
cabinet de lecture de la cité, à celui des bourgades où il n’y a pas de cercle de lecture, à celui surtout des
campagnes où il n’y a ni cercle, ni cabinet de lecture, ni cafés, ni journaux’, Edouard Bucquet, Le
Journal du Peuple, prospectus.
Cited in Philippe Roberts-Jones, De Daumier à Lautrec. Essai sur l’histoire de la caricature
française entre et (), p. xi.
La Caricature, July .
Caricature and its Publics
French to the language of graphic satire. In April he stressed the novelty of
La Caricature a fait comprendre en France l’inﬂuence que les artistes ont acquise depuis
longtemps en Angleterre. La puissance de ce genre d’opposition était inconnue avant la
révolution de Juillet, parce que la censure, abolie pour la presse typographique éxistait tou-
jours pour les estampes et les lithographies. Nous avons donc révelé ce pouvoir, en frappant
d’une arme jusqu’alors ignorée les ennemis de nos libertés ou les déserteurs et les traînards
de notre camp.
Eighteen months later, in Le Charivari’s prospectus, he wrote: ‘Quand nous
fondâmes La Caricature, nous avions le pressentiment que cette langue, toute nou-
velle en France, mais si appropriée au caractère national, serait bientôt populaire
chez nous, comme, depuis longtemps déjà elle l’était chez nos libres voisins. Le suc-
cès a dépassé nos espérances.’
Behind this optimistic façade, however, Philipon was frustrated by the pub-
lic’s incomprehension of his caricatures. In May , in response to letters from
subscribers complaining that they could not understand the prints, Philipon
reluctantly promised to include fuller explanations in La Caricature. His frustra-
tion at having to translate the caricatures into words surfaced in the explanation
which he wrote to accompany one of Grandville’s prints in November :
Depuis deux ans, nous travaillons à rendre intelligible en France le langage moqueur de la
charge, ce langage si riche, si puissant et si varié. Comme tous les novateurs nous avons ren-
contré de grands obstacles. . . . Que signiﬁent ces jambes placées à des lettres? Que signiﬁent
ces corps? vont nous demander ceux qui ne connaissent pas la licence caricaturale des Anglais.
. . . à Londres, la caricature est un dévergondement de formes, une personniﬁcation folle
que les penseurs savent faire servir à rendre, et à populariser leurs idées, quelque abstraites
ou quelque profondes qu’elles soient. Heureux artistes! On se donne, chez eux, la peine de
chercher ce qu’ils ont voulu dire, on dépouille la charge de son exagération; on comprend
le mot écrit à rebours. En France nous sommes enchainés par les bornes étroites du positif.
Le thème le plus familier, le nez d’Argout, la poire quasi-nature, ne seront plus reconnus si
nous les alongeons d’un misérable pouce, si nous les aplatissons encore un peu...
From the public’s inability or unwillingness to understand allegorical composi-
tions, Philipon was at times tempted to conclude that caricature could only ever
appeal to an artistic elite. In May he tried to explain the unpopularity of Henri
Monnier’s lithographic work, and the reasons he gave could have applied to all his
artists: ‘Il s’adresse . . . à tous les hommes assez forts et assez puissants pour voir plus
loin que ne voient les autres, pour mépriser les autres, pour n’être jamais bourgeois...
Or, ces hommes sont rares, et plus Monnier s’élève, moins il est populaire.’
Quite apart from a familiarity with the conventions of graphic satire, a good
education and a high level of cultural and political awareness were required to
decipher many of Philipon’s caricatures adequately. In stylistic terms, the caricatures
Ibid., Apr. .
Le Charivari, prospectus, Oct. .
La Caricature, May .
Ibid., Nov. .
Ibid., May .
Caricature and its Publics
of the s were certainly commodities of elite culture. Philipon sponsored
the production of aesthetically sophisticated caricatures which conformed to the
expectations of the print-buying public, and which were far removed from the
grotesque, naive style of the French revolutionary caricatures. Certainly, Philipon’s
caricatures did contain many themes borrowed from popular culture, the scenes
of carnival inversion, the obsession with bodily deformations, and the animal
metaphors, for example; but the sexual and scatological themes characteristic
of popular culture and still present in the graphic satire of had all but dis-
appeared in La Caricature and Le Charivari. Some of the caricatures did make
reference to popular songs and fables included in the bibliothèque bleue, but many
more contained references to Molière and La Fontaine, or to classical literature and
mythology. La Caricature and Le Charivari also contained many parodies of paint-
ings and sculptures which can only have been fully appreciated by readers with a
good knowledge of the masterpieces of western art. Much of Philipon’s production
was clearly aimed at a highly literate audience, and was for that reason only par-
tially accessible to those with only a rudimentary education.
For a full appreciation of Philipon’s caricatures readers needed more than a
formal education; they needed to frequent the cultural capitals within the capital
in order to recognize the numerous allusions to contemporary operas, melo-
dramas, and vaudevilles which the newspapers contained. Only visitors to the
annual Salons can have understood the parodies of contemporary paintings in La
Caricature and Le Charivari. The caricatures constantly referred to and played
off written texts, both the text of Philipon’s own newspapers and that of other
newspapers and pamphlets. They were, therefore, best consumed in the cabinets de
lecture where readers had the rest of the press at their disposal. The conservative
politicians and pamphleteers who believed that caricature was addressed particu-
larly to the illiterate misjudged the nature of the genre. Philipon’s caricatures were
not propaganda posters with clear, simple visual images and unambiguous slogans.
They were complicated, playful images which tested their readers’ wit and know-
ledge. For this reason, caricature functioned as a complement to other forms of
political discourse within the politically aware pays légal, rather than as an import-
ant means of communication with the uninitiated masses of the pays réel.
This is conﬁrmed by studying the diffusion of Philipon’s most successful inven-
tion: the pear as a symbol for Louis-Philippe. The simplicity of its design, the ease
with which it lent itself to becoming a verbal insult or pun, and the number of
times the symbol was repeated in the prints made the pear the most widely known
and widely used lexical item in Philipon’s caricatural language. Pear jokes were
common in the Parisian press; in Philipon’s newspapers, obviously, but also in
other republican newspapers like La Tribune and Le Corsaire and in the legitimist
newspapers La Quotidienne, La Mode, Les Cancans, and Brid’Oison. References to
the pear also appeared in pamphlets and vaudevilles; the image turned up in a
multitude of different guises. In Buchez-Hilton, a wax merchant from the Rue
Saint-Denis, began trading under the sign of ‘La Poire molle’. He sold wax pears,
of course, but also other pear-shaped objects, such as canes with gold-plated,
Caricature and its Publics
pyriform handles. An elaborate allegorical display of cardboard pears perched on
moneybags and on various ‘objets représentant tout ce qu’il y a de plus dégoûtant’
was exhibited in his windows. Accused of lèse-majesté, Buchez-Hilton was brought
before the Cour d’Assises. Reporting on the trial, La Mode found it amusing that
the public prosecutor successfully excluded the public from the courtroom on
the grounds that the evidence he had to produce ‘était de nature à compromettre
l’ordre public’. After all, the public were continually exposed to the pear, not only
in greengrocers and in printsellers’ windows, but in the form of grafﬁti. The
newspaper estimated that four to ﬁve hundred thousand pears were daubed on the
walls of the capital.
Philipon was delighted by the proliferation of pyriform grafﬁti, which he inter-
preted as evidence of the unpopularity of the government and of the popularity of
his caricatures with the working classes. In La Caricature he gloated over ‘l’inva-
sion de la poire’: ‘le pépin que nous avons semé dans un moment de colère, a poussé
dru. Tous les climats paraissent lui convenir.’ He claimed that pears were appear-
ing on walls all over France: the mayor of Auxerre had, for example, been forced to
put up a notice ‘Défense de déposer ici aucune espèce d’immondices, ni aucune
espèce de poires.’ Philipon claimed that erasing the pears had become a full-time
occupation for the police, and that the phenomenon had reached such proportions
that ministers gauged their popularity by the number of pears on the walls, ‘tant
qu’il y a que l’administration commence à s’inquiéter de cette espèce de charivari
tacite que reçoit sur tous les pans de murailles la monarchie populaire’. In
Le Petit Poucet estimated that the pear had become the most common piece of
grafﬁti in France, outnumbering traditional favourites such as Bouginier’s nose or
Philipon’s pear (and the other symbols he created) reached the provinces either
directly, through La Caricature and Le Charivari, or indirectly, through local news-
papers which echoed the language of the Parisian press. In Lyons, a city with which
Philipon maintained close links, the jokes from his newspapers reached a wide
audience under the aegis of the local satirical newspaper, La Glaneuse. Philipon
took a paternal interest in La Glaneuse, which he considered as performing the
same role in Lyons that his newspapers performed in the capital. La Glaneuse was
not illustrated, but Philipon, at the request of her editors, commissioned a vignette
‘La Poire en cour d’assises’, La Mode, vol. , no. (), pp. –.
Philipon was not alone in seeing grafﬁti as an expression of working-class mentalities. The
romantic period saw a new interest in grafﬁti and other popular art forms—see A. Sheon, ‘The
Discovery of Grafﬁti’, Art Journal (Fall )—and grafﬁti were routinely scrutinized in the s for
the light which they could shed on popular political attitudes. On January La Charge asked:
‘Qui n’a pas examiné, machinalement ou par un acte de volonté, dans ses courses à travers la ville, les
dessins souvent bizarres, trop souvent sales et ignobles, qui tapissent les murailles? L’oeil repoussé,
pour l’ordinaire, par un motif sur lequel il n’est pas nécessaire d’appuyer, ou par un autre qui se lie à la
politique, est quelquefois appelé par des saillies populaires fort originales, si elles ne sont pas de bon
goût . . . par des manifestations d’opinions susceptibles à donner, à l’observateur, une idée de la situ-
ation morale des esprits dans une certaine classe de la société, qui n’est pas la moins nombreuse.’
La Caricature, Nov. . See also Le Corsaire, Jan. .
Le Petit Poucet, (), .
Caricature and its Publics
from Grandville to serve as its masthead. La Glaneuse reproduced articles from
La Caricature and Le Charivari and borrowed much of their satire for its own pro-
ductions. On November it published an article attacking Thiers, whom
it called, following Philipon’s newspapers, ‘le nouveau Petit Poucet’. The article
contained a pen-portrait of Louis-Philippe which could have come straight from
the pages of La Caricature. The king was described as:
un prince avare, hypocrite et méchant, qui avait les épaules larges, les mains longues, les
doigts crochus et la tête en poire, ornée d’un énorme faux-toupet. L’appetit de ce monar-
que était tel, qu’il mangeait à lui seul plus de cent mille de ses sujets. Surnommé l’ogre gros,
gras et bête, parce qu’il était tout cela, il mettait son bonheur à mentir, sa jouissance à
tromper, et sa passion dominante était un amour excessif de l’or.
The newspaper was prosecuted for offence to the king, and the trial, which took
place before the Cour d’Assises of the department of the Rhône on May ,
received national attention. Dupont, the best-known republican lawyer in Paris,
travelled to Lyons to represent La Glaneuse. An account of his successful defence
was published in pamphlet form by the Association pour la défense de la presse patri-
ote and distributed to their branches across the country. Dupont set out to prove
that the prince described in the article was not Louis-Philippe by ironically refer-
ring to the king’s many ﬁne qualities. To crown his argument, he asked the court to
consider a bust of Louis-Philippe (as it happens, there was no bust of the king in
the courtroom) and to decide for themselves if it looked like a pear. At this point
there were distubances in the public and the president of the court called Dupont
to order. Dupont replied (to more laughter):
Que voulez-vous, M. le Président? Le meilleur moyen de prouver que l’article incriminé ne
s’applique pas à Louis-Philippe, n’est-ce pas de prouver que Sa Majesté n’a pas une tête en
poire? et le meilleur moyen de prouver cette forme négative au sujet de cette tête royale,
n’est-ce pas à appeler les regards et l’attention de MM. les jurés sur le buste auguste de notre
Roi? Toutefois, quoiqu’il n’y ait pas, ou plutôt parce qu’il n’y a pas de buste en cette
enceinte, je soutiens que la tête de Sa Majesté n’a pas la forme d’une poire. Je dis plus, je dis
que si l’on s’en rapporte aux bustes les plus ofﬁciels, à ceux commandés par la liste civile, Sa
Majesté a une tête d’homme de génie. En effet, la tête de Sa Majesté a plutôt l’air d’une poire
renversée; c’est un beau front large, un front vraiment royal.
The success of Dupont’s speech in the public galleries suggests that Philipon’s
invention was widely known among the political classes in Lyons. The close ties
between Philipon and Lyons made the situation in France’s second largest city
exceptional, however. There is very little archival evidence to support the claims
that pear grafﬁti were a national phenomenon (though it is not clear whether this
is due to the absence of pears or to the authorities’ lack of interest in them). The
procureur-général in Orléans reported that the symbol had appeared in his town on
May : ‘On a dessiné avec du crayon rouge sur les murs et les portes des poires
de diverses grandeurs, au-dessous étaient écrits les mots “voleur”, “poire molle”,
Association pour la liberté individuelle et de la liberté de la presse. Procès de La Glaneuse, journal
républicain de Lyon ().
Caricature and its Publics
“vive la République”, “la République ou la mort”.’ On the following day he wrote
to Paris again to report that the pears had reappeared and that the police had not
yet removed them. He was, however, the only local ofﬁcial to report such sight-
ings. In June Le Charivari joked about the over-reaction of the commissaire de
police in Marseilles to the pyriform grafﬁti in the city. The sudden appearance of
pears had, however, coincided exactly with Philipon’s brief visit to the city. It seems
that Marseilles had no home-grown pears, at least not before .
A clue to the actual extent of the pear phenomenon can be found in La Tribune’s
review of La Physiologie de la poire, a rather laboured book full of political-
horticultural puns published in . The newspaper took the opportunity to
discuss the pear and its public: ‘Il y a de ces petites énigmes de convention, dont
personne ne prend souci de dire le mot, parce que tout le monde le connait. Tout
le monde sait ce que c’est que la ...’ Everyone knew that the pear stood for
Louis-Philippe, it claimed. But on closer examination, ‘everyone’ turns out to be a
rather limited set of Parisians in the know:
quand je dis tout le monde, je veux dire vous et moi, les gens qui lisent éxactement les jour-
naux, les petits surtout, ce sont souvent les meilleurs, et plus particulièrement ce charmant
recueil, où l’esprit lithographié lutte avec l’esprit imprimé, La Caricature enﬁn, de notre
ami Philipon, qui à bon droit pouvait se qualiﬁer le grand ‘protopirographe’ de France.
Mais supposez un honnête savant venu d’Upsal ou de Goettingue, ou même simplement de
la rue des Fossés-Saint-Victor, ou de la rue Saint-Louis-en-Île, tombant tout à coup au
milieu de notre civilisation parisienne, que dirait-il, bon Dieu? Quelles sont ces poires qu’il
retrouve partout, qui gravées, qui lithographiées, qui lithochromisées; puis des poires dans
tous les petits journaux, des poires en sucre, en plâtre, en albâtre, en cire; des poires que la
craie, le charbon ou la sanguine ont pendues à tous les coins des rues, sur les dévantures de
toutes les boutiques?
Like caricature, the pear was essentially a Parisian phenomenon. Outside Paris,
those who wished to express their afﬁnity with the sophisticated but suspect
culture of the capital would gather and giggle conspiratorially around the pear, and
they were surely pleased that few of their compatriots could understand the joke.
Even within Paris the pear was not ubiquitous. Pyriform grafﬁti were concentrated
in the areas of the city that formed the hub of what La Tribune called ‘la civilisation
parisienne’. Visiting Paris in , Fanny Trollope found most pears in the Latin
Quarter, and considered the grafﬁti as a symptom of adolescent revolt:
Being arrived at the quartier Latin, we amused ourselves by speculating on the propensity
manifested by very young men, who were still subjected to restraint, for the overthrow of
everything that denotes authority or threatens discipline. . . . Pears of every size and form,
with scratches signifying eyes, nose and mouth, were to be seen in all directions: which being
interpreted, denotes the contempt of the juvenile students for the reigning monarch.
From time to time ministerial funds paid for the distribution of right-thinking
pamphlets designed for a mass audience and priced at or sous. In order to make
AN, BB , , .
Le Charivari, June .
La Tribune, Nov. .
Trollope, Paris and the Parisions, .
Caricature and its Publics
the pamphlets more attractive to a working class little inclined to support the
government, their pious messages were disguised behind titles which borrowed
the terminology of the opposition. In , for example, a hagiography of Louis-
Philippe was entitled Histoire d’un roi fabriqué entre la poire et le fromage. Clearly
the author believed that he could entice and fool a popular audience by referring to
the pear. In the same way, Jules Berrier played on the popularity of the pear to
attract attention for his anti-republican pamphlet of , Les Tyrans sans sceptre.
His pamphlet featured a crude wood-engraving representing a group of repub-
licans brandishing daggers under two enormous pears. Martin Nadaud and
his friends in the building trade understood and enjoyed the pear. For men
like Augustin Challamel, petit bourgeois and successful artisans in the capital,
commenting on caricatures could provide an outlet for political expression. The
evidence suggests, therefore, that the working class in Paris was broadly familiar
with the pear. Yet even the pear, by far the most successful of the symbols Philipon
created, was too complex an image to have real mass appeal. The sentimental por-
traits of the young Henri V which the legitimists distributed, and the Napoleonic
lithographs by Charlet, Bellangé, Raffet, and others were probably more effect-
ive as propaganda. These images were truly able to reach the masses, even in the
countryside where Philipon’s productions were completely unknown.
Philipon’s pretensions and the authorities’ fears notwithstanding, caricature did
not reach, and therefore could not inﬂuence, the vast mass of the French popula-
tion. It did not penetrate into the countryside and, like the newspaper press as a
whole, only interested the politically active urban population. Caricature was not
an important means of initiation into the world of national politics; in a sense,
Philipon preached to the converted. But this did not in fact reduce his political
inﬂuence very much. His caricatures were appreciated in cafés and cercles in every
city and most smaller provincial towns; these were the points at which public
opinion was formed, and, in providing these inﬂuential groups with a common
vocabulary of protest, La Caricature and Le Charivari helped to consolidate a
national network of dissenting societies. Analysing the structure of politics under
the July Monarchy, the absence of national political parties and of mass political
participation, Maurice Agulhon has argued that ‘la politique organisée, ce n’est
encore rien d’autre que l’établissement d’une liasion entre ses sociétés, cercles,
réunions, groupe d’habitués de cafés, etc. Le rassemblement politique massif
d’hommes (d’individus) n’existe pas . . . Un parti (avant la lettre) ne groupe pas des
hommes individuels mais des cercles.’ In these circumstances, and given the
overwhelming political dominance of Paris, where his caricatures were most
widely disseminated, Philipon’s graphic satires could wield an important inﬂuence
without breaking the boundaries of the political world.
Histoire d’un roi fabriqué entre la poire et le fromage ().
Jules Berrier, Les tyrans sans sceptre. Étrennes républicaines à la France de Juillet ().
Nadaud, Léonard, .
See Bernard Ménager, Les Napoléon du peuple (), .
M. Agulhon, Le Cercle dans la France bourgeoise, –. Étude d’une mutation de sociabilité