The father of modern caricature, bitterness among literary lights, and a view of personal technology: newsletter, Nov. 30, 2018

December 3, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,984) on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.



The theme of writing — good writing, I hope — permeates all of my newsletters, but this week you may notice another: caricature. I have tried this art form from time to time with varying degrees of success. This week I have tried to exercise my caricature muscles, both mental and physical, and have decided to foist the results on my poor newsletter readers.

If these things tempt you to unsubscribe, please hold off for a bit. I’ll try to get better.

Not great news from the apiary this week: We had four hives going into the fall, and now we’re down to two. Two of the hives died probably because the queens died. Why that happened is anyone’s guess. But this is not an unusual situation in the beekeeping world these days. Now the hope is that these two remaining hives — which appear strong at the moment — will survive the winter and create swarms this spring.

Meanwhile, I hope that your week has been a good one — one of gratitude, honor, and kindness — and that your weekend is filled with joy.

Under the newsletter’s hood: This newsletter was sent to 3,001 subscribers and had a 31.7 percent open rate; 12 people unsubscribed.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.

James Gillray: puncturing the pompous with caricature

Caricature is fairly common today (even amateurs like me try their hand at it), but in the late 18th century, it was a newly developing form of art, as well as social and political communication. And no one was better at it — or set a higher standard for others of his time and those who came after him — than James Gillray.

Gillray was born in 1756, and between 1775 and 1810 he produced an estimated 1,000 prints that were brimming with political and social satire, puncturing the pompous and leveling the haughty. He was highly popular with the general public and fiercely despised and feared in many political quarters.

No escaped Gillray’s devastating pen, even King George III. Especially, King George III (picture).

Gillray took aim early and often at the King and those around him. He would attend Parliament sessions, become enraged, appalled, or simply amused at what he saw and heard, and then retire to his studio to produce a print on a “breaking news” basis. Because his prints were often posted on the walls outside the shop where they were printed, crowds would gather to view his latest work.

His works were not only good take-downs and highly evolved satires, but they were good art. They were colorful and detailed, and by themselves they give us a window on what 18th century England looked like.

If you want to know more about Gillray and his work, there is no better place to start that Jim Sherry‘s excellent website: You’ll find a lot of his prints there as well as much biographical information and an explanation of his methods.

Another excellent website is Matthew Crowther‘s The Printshop Window – Caricature & Graphic Satire in the Long Eighteenth-Century.

Gillray showed us how to do it 200 years ago, and we have been trying to be as good as he was ever since.

And my attempt to try to be as good — with Gillray himself.

Every library needs a group of committed friends

Public libraries deliver far more value to a community than the dollars they represent in a county or city’s budget, and smart local officials recognize that. So does the public.

That’s why many communities have formed independent foundations and organizations to support their local libraries.

A recent blog post on the Internation City/County Management Association website (Advancing Community Goals: The Evolving Role of the Public Library | icma.orgcites a national survey conducted by the Public Libraries Association and the Aspen Institute shows that more than half the jurisdictions that maintain libraries have such organizations. These groups have become integral to the financial stability of the libraries and help the library stay connected with the communities they serve.

If your community library does not have such a group, consider getting together an informal “friends of the local library” group and starting something that will evolve into a permanent support organization.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Bret Harte: object of Twain’s praise and derision

Bret Harte probably deserves a higher station than the one he occupies in the pantheon of American letters. A big part of the reason he doesn’t have it lies with his one-time friend, Mark Twain.

Twain had known Harte from their days in the West when Harte achieved national fame in writing about the tall tales of the miners and mining towns they built. Stories such as “The Luck of Roaring Camp”  (you can read it here at Project Gutenberg or hear it here at LibriVox) and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and poems like “Plain Language from Truthful Jones” entertained all of America and brought Harte a good deal of fame. 

Harte’s contributions to American literature are important because his writing represented a complete break with the stranglehold that English literature had on American writing through the first half of the 19th century. Harte not only wrote himself, but he encouraged other writers, particularly the young Samuel Clemons, aka Mark Twain, in their writing.

Harte and Twain became the best of friends, with Twain giving Harte generous credit for his encouragement. Twain told Thomas Aldrich Bailey in 1871, that, “Harte had trained and schooled him so patiently until he changed me from an awkward utterer of grotesquenesss to a writer of paragraphs and chapters that have found a certain favor in the eyes of even  some of the very decentest people in the land.” (Quotation from the New Netherland Institute biography of Bret Harte)

Both writers eventually moved back to the Atlantic shore to continue their writing, and they even collaborated on a stage play, which turned out to be less than successful. Harte’s writing could not sustain its initial popularity, while Twain’s popularity grew exponentially. Eventually, their friendship dissipated with Twain delivering increasingly harsh judgments on Harte’s writing and his character. Exactly what precipitated the falling-out is not known, although scholars and friends have speculated about it.

Twain wrote that Harte was “a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, . . . he is brim full of treachery.” For his part, Harte never responded directly to Twain’s name-calling and bullying.

After moving East, money problems caught up with Harte so that he accepted a consulate position at first in Germany and eventually became the U.S. Consulate in Glasgow, Scotland. He continued to write and amassed a long list of novels, short stories, and poems, but he never achieved the stature that he sought for his work.

He died in 1902 in England after living for 24 years abroad and never returning to America.

Four years after his death, Twain — by then an embittered old man — published his autobiography in which he continued his harsh criticism of Harte. It was a hatred that diminished Twain, but he could never let go of it.

Points and Clicks, Nov. 30, 2018

Technology: Slow down and be mindful

The New York Times personal tech columnist is leaving after five years to take another position at the Times. Farhad Manjoo has been the “State of the Art” columnist since 2014. He is the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.   He has written a final column that is full of advice, insight and wisdom. For instance, look at the company, not just the product it makes. “. . . I found Facebook’s new video-chatting machine, Portal, to be very good, but I’ll never buy it. Besides Facebook’s dependence on targeted ads, the company has repeatedly breached its users’ trust, not to mention the casual disregard it has shown for larger ideas like democracy. Portal is nice, but it’s not that nice.”

His column is How to Survive the Next Era of Tech (Slow Down and Be Mindful) – The New York Times, and it is well worth the time to read it.

Battle simulations

My good friend and faithful newsletter reader Dan C. sent me this link to a very cool site that has animated and annotated battle simulations for many famous European and American battles. On the American side there are Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II battles. If you are into this kind of thing, you’ll learn a lot: History Animated.

Recently on

The long life of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”The deaths of Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, foretold

Route 66: the road and the television show

Good journalism saves lives


Ann H.: Thank you for saying what I know a lot of people think about Facebook (last week’s newsletter). I have never signed up to it as I feel it is open to misuse and outright manipulation as well as a platform for trolls, bullies etc. If they don’t get into living in the real world it will be a rudderless cash generator for faceless people. I know it can do a lot of good but it needs regulation now before it is too late.


Finally . . .

This week’s drawing (graphite): Bret Harte (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do. Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778) 

Helping those in need — in California, especially

Raging fires in California have killed dozens of people at this writing, and they’re still not under control. They have spread untold misery and disruption around the state. These people need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: A writer who didn’t want to be edited, the ‘real’ Moriarty, and your good words: newsletter, Nov. 23, 2018



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