Deep in the recesses of the British Library sits a long oval dining table of plain deal, its battered surface scored with initials carved around the edge. This unprepossessing piece of furniture was once the most famous table in London: the Punch table where the staff of the most successful and influential comic magazine the English-speaking world has ever seen gathered every week. Based on extensive research among unpublished letters, diaries, minute books, and business records, “The Punch Brotherhood” takes the reader inside this Victorian institution, and brings to life the tightly-knit community of writers, artists, and proprietors who gathered around the famous Punch table, and their uninhibited conversations, spiced with jokes and gossip. Highlighting the role of talk in the understanding of 19th-century print culture, and shedding new light on the careers of literary giants Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray and of the many lesser authors who laboured in their shadow, this groundbreaking study vividly demonstrates how oral culture permeated and shaped the realm of print, from the dining tables of exclusive men’s clubs to the alleyways of Fleet Street.
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