For the final installment of their short series of articles about Gabriel Shire Tregear, Mike and Daphne Tregear present a fascinating biographical sketch of their ancestor’s life and major works.
Gabriel Shire Tregear (also spelled Gabriel Shear Tregear); Printseller
In the Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Volume XI, M. Dorothy George writes:
From about 1833 the printshops (Marks, Tregear, Spooner, and Hodgson) produced degenerate coloured etchings or lithographs, such as Spoonersʼ ʻFunny Charactersʼ or Tregearʼs ʻBlack Jokesʼ (on negroes), which seems to be ancestors of the comic postcard. Such things have an interest for the social historian; they have little to do with ʻpolitical and personal satiresʼ, or with comic art, which was chieﬂy represented by George Cruikshankʼs illustrations, notably My Sketch Book (1834-6) and the Comic Almanack (1835-6).
HB [the artist John Doyle] had given caricature a new look, and from 1831 his imitators were at least as numerous as those of [William] Heath had been in 1829. In 1832 and 1833 there are none of Heathʼs coloured etchings; in 1834 he did a few for Tregear, a decline indeed from the years when McLean was his ʻsole publisherʼ.
Gabriel Shire Tregear represents the movement towards cheaper prints; he was also an engraver.
So, in the British Museum world of Dorothy George, Tregear was deﬁnitely well below the salt although 31 Tregear prints are included in the 1954 volume of the BM catalogue, of which seven are not overtly political.
It is possible that Tregearʼs need to satisfy the cheaper end of the market was a decision made for him. He was born in 1801 or 1802 and died aged 39 in 1841. His parents (Henry and Elizabeth) are believed to have relocated from Truro, Cornwall, to London after 1800 (Henry Tregear is described in a family will of 1801 to be ʻlate of Truroʼ). In 1821, aged 19, Gabriel Tregear is married by licence to Ann McLean, the sister of the printseller and publisher Thomas McLean who had premises in Hay Market and concentrated on catering to an upmarket clientele in Londonʼs West End with exclusive products. While Thomas McLean may not have wished his sister to starve, a brother-in-law who encroached on his livelihood would not have been welcome. Tregear later kept a good distance away from the McLean printshop both geographically and in terms of the focus of the business. The authors have not found any documentary evidence of how Gabriel Tregear, the son of a Cornish carpenter with no obvious connections, came to acquire the skills to draw and colour various kinds of prints and attach himself to the McLean family; however, society at that time provided plenty of examples of talented individuals who were successful, rose in society and came to public notice.
Tregearʼs publishing career began slowly. In 1823 he published the third edition of Spilsburyʼs ʻPicturesque Scenery in the Holy Land and Syriaʼ (Thomas McLean had published the second edition) from an address in Southwark, the ﬁrst time his name appears professionally. In 1826 Tregearʼs occupation was still print colourer at his childrenʼs baptism and he had moved back north of the river Thames to Drury Lane. Also that year he published his own material from St Peterʼs Alley, Cornhill. In 1827 and 1828 he published prints from 104 St Martins Lane. An advertisement from the Royal Cornwall Gazette from 28th July 1827 shows him perhaps using his Cornish roots to advantage, advertising a coloured engraving priced 10s. 6d. of Cornwall and Devonshire wrestling and stressing at the bottom that ʻThe County Colours, Arms, Mottos, &c. are admirably displayed.ʼ Another Cornish-themed print shows ʻJames Polkinghorn, The celebrated Cornish Wrestler and Champion of the Worldʼ (left). This lithograph shows Polkinghorn standing facing to the left with his arms extended as if waiting for an opponent’s move. He is wearing a shirt, open at the collar, knee breeches and stockings. James Polkinghorn was the landlord of the Red Lion Inn at St. Columb Major, Cornwall. He has been described as ʻhaving a neck like a bull, dark curling sideburns, piercing eyes and a determined jawʼ. On the 26th October 1826 he fought a match against the champion of Devon, Abraham Cann, and won. As well as sporting prints, Tregear has a line in theatrical prints. One lithograph shows ʻMiss Kelly as Lisette in the Sergeant’s Wifeʼ (below right); Frances Maria Kelly had particular success when she appeared as the Sergeant’s Wife at the English Opera House, The Strand, during the 1827-8 season.
From St Martins Lane he moved to premises in Cheapside, then as now one of the busiest streets in the City of London. From 1828 until 1835 he occupied number 123 on the northwestern corner of Cheapside and Wood Street in one of the four shops built on the old churchyard of St Peter Westcheap. This building has since been demolished and the shop next door has been renumbered 123-124. The John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, has a lithograph drawn by Tregear of his shop at this address in 1829 (See also http://www.fotolibra.com/gallery/509178/wood-street-cheapside-london/ for an image drawn in the 1870s).
Tregearʼs shop front would have looked like any other with prints displayed in the windows providing a free spectacle for pedestrians. Crowded pavements outside print shops were a nuisance to the authorities and the growing popularity of Tregearʼs windows brought him into conﬂict with them. The Times of 7th May 1832 reports:
On Saturday morning, about 11 oʼclock, as a boy named William Gunton, son of a watch- spring-maker, No. 3 City-gardens, was standing at the corner of Wood-street, looking at a caricature-shop window, a wagon in passing caught his arm between the stump (put up by the city for protection) and nearly severed it from the body. He was immediately taken to St. Bartholomewʼs Hospital, and the arm was amputated. There is every possibility of his recovery. The corner of Wood-street is rendered exceedingly dangerous by the exhibition of caricatures, as it invariably induces a crowd to assemble round the shop. On the Saturday previous, a gentleman named Bragge nearly lost his life, within a few yards of the same spot, and numerous robberies are continually occurring.
Further troubles caused by the crowds outside his shop were reported a month later in The Times. A case was heard at Guildhall concerning a man charged with assaulting a police ofﬁcer stationed outside Tregearʼs print shop, his friend who then tried to rescue him, and another man charged with trying to excite the crowd against the police there.
At the last sessions, the print-shop in Cheapside, at the corner of Wood-street, was indicted by the city as a nuisance, and a verdict was obtained, but the judgement was deferred till the next session, to give Mr. Tregear an opportunity of abating the nuisance. Not having done this, however, those who have the direction of the city police have stationed four men and a serjeant about the windows, who compel persons who stop to gaze at the pictures to keep moving. On the other, hand Mr. Tregear stands at his door, and tells those that are interrupted by the police that they have a right to stay, and altercations ensue.
The report later states:
Mr. Walters, a solicitor, who attended on the part of Mr. Tregear said, that the stationing of the policemen around the house, to prevent anyone from stopping for a moment at the window, was a monstrous invasion of the rights of the subject, as respected the public, who were driven from the window, and the citizen, whose trade was ruined by the driving away of his customers. It was a fact, that Mr. Tregear used to take 60l. [£60] a week, but since his house had been surrounded with policemen, he had taken only 10s. a day. Mr. Tregear had in fact abated the nuisance, by diminishing the number of prints displayed in his window. His show was formerly of the value of 100l. [£100]; it was now worth but 14s., and was smaller than that of any other print shop in the city. The power assumed by the police was most dangerous, as it was as applicable to a haberdasher, or any other tradesman whose show of bargains might attract a crowd, as to a print shop.
The case was dismissed. Two years later The Times reported on the case of Richard Carlile, a bookseller, who had hung efﬁgies of a bishop and a broker in the window of his book shop thereby causing an obstruction when a crowd assembled:
Some conversation arose whether the complaint was within the magistratesʼ jurisdiction, as in the case of Tregear, the caricature vender, in Cheapside, who was indicted for occasioning an obstruction of the footway, by exhibiting his pictures, the Recorder had so strong a conviction of the illegality of the proceeding, that although the jury convicted him, he was not called up for judgement. It was remarked, upon this occasion, that, upon the same principle on which this conviction was founded, the beautiful daughter of a pastrycook, at the west end of the town, who attracted a mob about her fatherʼs window, might have been indicted as a nuisance.
As well as being a dangerous place to linger, printshop windows also acquired a reputation for places where the pedestrians were likely to be targeted by pickpockets or gropers. In December 1827 Vincent Tregear, one of Gabrielʼs nephews, was indecently assaulted outside a Drury Lane printshop, with the perpetrator being duly imprisoned.
Tregear advertised his wares in The Times and The Morning Chronicle as well as other newspapers. These advertisements are useful when attempting to date a print which has no publication date printed on it (the case for over two-thirds of the authorsʼ collection). With no advertisement available, an approximate guide is the address given for Tregearʼs print shop, although in many cases the address is simply given as Cheapside. The margins of Tregear prints offer the occasional useful snippet, e.g. the 1832 print ʻJust Come From Grass!ʼ has references to ʻTregear’s Humorous Catalogueʼ and ʻBeware of Imitationsʼ and to the right a listing of some of the prints and print series which Tregear has for sale for 1 shilling each. These are: Leaseholder; Living Cheap; Compliments of the Season; Chip of the Old Block; Matrimony; Tragedy and Comedy; Humorous Scraps (6 plates); Tenant at Will; Keeping the Peace; Tregear’s Flights of Humour 16 plates; Black Jokes 12 plates. Thereʼs another tantalizing reference to ʻTregear’s Catalogue of Humourous Printsʼ in the margin of ʻThe Robin Hood Family of Archers of 1833ʼ of which no trace has surfaced.
Tregearʼs location on the busy thoroughfare of Cheapside put him in an ideal position to advertise his printshop as a poste restante address, just as Samuel Fores was described as doing in the Print Shop Windowʼs blog entry of 15th June 2014, and as a location for selling wares unrelated to prints and pictures. For example, The Times of 7th January 1839 shows Fores did not have a monopoly on dodgy medicinal supplies:
TOOTH-ACHE, 57 Pall-mall, and 96, Cheapside. TRACYʼs newly discovered SPECIFIC is mild, innocuous, and soothing, and immediately removes the most acute suffering and destroys all sensitiveness in the nerve without the least pain or injury to the teeth, and now renders the painful operation of extraction unnecessary, by effecting not a temporary but a permanent cure. This wonderful preparation is sold in bottles, price 4s. 6d. and 7s. each, stamp included, at 57, Pall-mall, and at Mr. Tregearʼs, printseller and publisher, 96, Cheapside.
Tregear embraced all aspects of the humorous arts, including the nudge-nudge-wink-wink variety. An 1829 lithograph entitled ʻA Literary Lady displaying her Allbumʼ (above) has the second ʻlʼ in allbum deliberately crossed out. The scene is a stylish drawing room with a young woman, who is holding a book and a fan, with a soldier in the foreground. The woman is wearing a dress with a very large bustle to the rear and a low-cut bodice. The soldier is positively leering at her and obviously referring to her derrière. Another example is ʻMad_m V_____s Legsʼ (left) in which the head and shoulders of two fashionable young men are dreaming with their heads in the clouds. Between them, on a ﬂoating board, is the ﬁgure of a woman from the hips down wearing a skirt which stops above the knees. On the 3rd of January 1831 Lucia Elizabetta Vestris, proprietress and manager of the Royal Olympic Theatre, opened her tenure with a show which included Vestris playing Pandora in a set named Olympic Revels. The comeliness of Vestris’s legs was the source of much commentary in newspapers of the time.
Optical illusions which allowed a picture to work in two ways remained popular. The ʻBefore Marriage/After Marriageʼ (right) lithograph contain the heads of a man and a woman facing one another with a happy expression, then unhappy faces consequent on marriage.
As mentioned above, Tregear published many series, of which ʻFlights of Humourʼ appears to be the longest, running to 95 prints at least. Number 18 (left) shows a large publican in white apron and waistcoat taking a ﬁghting stance with clenched ﬁsts with the caption ʻAs much Punch as you like for Threepenceʼ.
Few of the printers used were named on Tregearʼs print; of those that were, Lefevre & Kohler (52 Newman Street) were often used. As a publisher he was dependent on good working relationships with the printers and artists he used. These relationships were not always smooth ones. In 1832 Tregear sued Auguste Ducôté, a lithographic printer, for printing from one of Tregearʼs lithographic stones stored with him without permission and selling these copies. The case did not appear to go to court, and the authors have not seen any examples of the print which was the subject of the litigation.
Charles Jameson Grant is credited for the design (with Tregear) and the drawing of the splendid ʻBattle Royal Between the Whig National School Boys & the Tory Charity Crabsʼ (right) of 1832. The Whigs on the right of the image, holding the banner of ʻReformʼ (which is held on a pole surmounted by a Phrygian bonnet), are in battle with the Tories on the left. The Tories are led by Wellington, Cumberland and Ellenborough. The Whigs are led by Grey, Brougham and Cobbett. Bricks, cudgels and brooms are all being used as weapons. Other ﬂags are being held which include ʻRotten Borough Placeʼ, ʻKings College Divisionʼ, ʻNewcastle Divisionʼ, ʻDeagle Baring Divisionʼ. The print is considering the position in 1832 where Grey is manoeuvring to force the Reform Bill through Parliament and showing the intense feeling of unrest in the country. On the bottom of the print is written ʻthe only Shop in the World for Caricatures of Real Wit and Humorʼ.
In 1833, or soon after, Tregear quarrelled bitterly with the C J Grant. Grantʼs ʻThe Political Drama. No. 110ʼ contains the following sentence on the bottom right of the print: ʻC. J. G. takes this opportunity of informing the inhabitants of Paris, and itʼs vicinity, that he has no connexion in his capacity as artist with one Gabriel Shire Tregear, publisher, of London, for some time past, and solemnly prays he may never againʼ. Prior to this dispute Grant had been credited as artist with many of the political prints published from 123 Cheapside, and on some of the ʻTregearʼs Flights of Humourʼ, ʻPolitical Dramaʼ and ʻTregearʼs Burstyʼrsidesʼ series. Some other artists were also given credit on his early work, including Henry Alken, Robert Seymour and Isaac Robert Cruikshank. Others were credited only by their initials and often not at all.
W. Newman is credited as the artist on ʻFrontispiece To Useful Knowledgeʼ of 1833 (above). The sheet has 25 small engravings tightly grouped together and while the title would suggest that each is going to illustrate some useful fact, the reverse is the case. Each panel is a pun, a play on words. The centre piece is a caricature of Lord Brougham. The whole thing is conceived as a wry comment on the political and educational movement which is trying to bring information and knowledge to the working classes. It looks very similar to the mock frontispieces done by C J Grant, done partly to make fun of the ʻscrapsʼ phenomenon as well as the worthy politicians like Lord Brougham. However, Tregear would have done well from his prints intended to be cut out and placed in scrap books as well; ʻTregearʼs Scraps 5ʼ from 1830 is one such.
Two further images deserve their own blog entries. ʻThe Italian Boyʼ (left) was the subject of extensive coverage in the newspapers in November and December 1831. Four men, Bishop, May, Williams and Shields, were accused of the murder of a young boy, believed to be an Italian beggar, in order to sell the body for dissection. This case inﬂuenced the subsequent passing of the Anatomy Act 1832, which expanded the legal supply of medical cadavers to eliminate the incentive for such behaviour. ʻTregearʼs Black Jokesʼ were described in an advertisement as ʻbeing a Series of Laughable Caricatures on the March of Manners Amongst the Blacksʼ. Number 3 (below right) shows a marriage scene in which a priest is reciting the marriage vows. All of the characters are black and dressed in fashionable clothes. Each character is making a remark about the couple. This print is racist; the tenor of the print is to deride the ceremony and to use the mode of speech to denigrate black people. ʻBlack Jokesʼ had a similar theme to ʻLife in Philadelphiaʼ, Tregear having stolen the idea from American artist Edward Williams Clay.
Although he continued to occupy 123 Cheapside until 1835, some of Tregearʼs advertisements show he used both 123 and 119 Cheapside in 1831. At some time during the 1830s he also appears to collaborate with other printsellers occupying 90 Cheapside; this address was used for the 1834 publication of ʻFemale emigrationʼ, a splendid hand- coloured lithograph describing the perils faced by women moving to the colonies (in the collection of the National Library of Australia, see http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an6589607).
In 1834 he signed a 21-year lease for 96 Cheapside from where he operated until his death in 1841. This printshop was at the northeastern junction of Cheapside and Lawrence Lane; this southern end of Lawrence Lane has been removed since. Towards the second half of the 1830s Tregear advertised fewer prints and more music; it appears that the demand for comic and sporting prints was falling. However new prints were published, particularly of the grand occasions that the accession, coronation and marriage of Queen Victoria warranted; one lithograph depicts a delicate and respectful portrait of the new queen ʻVictoria the Firstʼ. The publishing of series continued; ʻFancy Sketchesʼ, ʻFlowers of Lovelinessʼ, ʻFlowers of Uglinessʼ, ʻIllustrations of Popular Songsʼ, ʻMerry Thoughtsʼ, ʻTregearʼs Flights of Humourʼ, ʻTregearʼs Rum Jokesʼ, ʻTregearʼs Sea Songsʼ, ʻTrip to Margateʼ, ʻWho Are Youʼ, ʻTregearʼs Headsʼ, ʻTregearʼs Sea Songsʼ, ʻTregearʼs Humorous Scrapsʼ, ʻFancy Sketchesʼ, ʻTregearʼs Rum Jokesʼ, and ʻSchool of Designʼ all began or continued their series at 96 Cheapside. They must have been good money-spinners.
On 21st February, 1841, Gabriel Shear Tregear died at 18 Goulden Terrace, Islington, of inﬂuenza aged 39. He was buried in the burial ground of St. Martin in the Fields in Camden Town. His estate was valued for probate at £600.
His widow continued to operate the business in partnership with Thomas Crump Lewis after his death under the Tregear & Lewis name, also selling musical instruments. Bankruptcy forced its closure in 1844 after the pair fell out spectacularly and knocked each other over the head with a number of violins.
Ann Tregear brought up the children in much reduced circumstances, and continued to get her name in The Times with further displays of bad temper. Of their thirteen children, ﬁve girls and a boy reached adulthood. The boy, Gabriel Tregear, was sponsored by the city and sent to Christʼs Hospital school in Hertford. In May 1864, having accused his wife of inﬁdelity with their lodger (and clearly mentally disturbed) Gabriel Tregear shot himself dead in front of her aged 23. The girls were well enough educated to make their way as governesses and school teachers; two never married and lived to be 89 and 95. Another girl, Caroline Victoria Tregear, married and later emigrated to the United States with her husband where they lived an impoverished life. In old age she gave an interview to a journalist which appeared in newspapers in which she described the circumstances of her upbringing and her relationship with Charles Dickens. She described life in Cheapside:
The great London emporium was a perfect exhibition in itself. My father, sir, was a famous publisher. Sir Edwin Landseer was a great friend of my father and a frequent visitor to his house. It was a noted rendezvous of all the great wits, artists and authors of London. Thackeray, Tennyson, Mark Lemmon, Hood, Thornton Hunt, Edmund Yates, Brontaire OʼBrien, Ernest Jones, Carlyle and men of that literary ilk.
She then goes on to describe a close relationship with Charles Dickens as a child and playing chess with him when aged 16 (about the same time Dickens met and fell in love with the 18 year old Ellen Ternan). While she has no doubt exaggerated the wealth and status of the family while she was a child and the extent of the family connections with the famous, which may have been more in the nature of purely business dealings, the basic facts of the family life bear scrutiny. This is as close as the authors can get to any accounts of Gabriel Tregear as a person.
Given that Tregear was prone to disputes (an assault charge in 1827, suing Auguste DuCôté in 1832 and a public falling out with C J Grant in about 1833), it doesnʼt sound like he was an easy person to get along with, but thatʼs as much as can be said. Maybe a graphologist could determine something from his signature (shown at the top of this article). Unfortunately, no veriﬁable images of him have come to light, but as the personiﬁcation of a man whose career was to bring joy into peopleʼs lives, you may care to look at the engraved frontispiece of ‘Tregear’s Scraps’ and gaze at the face of the man who looks back at us from above the title…