Deep in the recesses of the British Library sits a long oval dining table of plain deal, its battered surface deeply scored with crudely carved initials. This unprepossessing piece of furniture was once the most famous table in London: the legendary Punch Table, where the staff of the most successful and influential comic magazine the English-speaking world has ever seen gathered every week for decades. Based on extensive research among unpublished letters, diaries, minute books, and business records, The Punch Brotherhood takes the reader inside this Victorian institution, bringing to life the tightly-knit community of writers, artists, and proprietors who gathered around the Punch Table, and their tumultuous, uninhibited conversations, spiced with jokes and gossip. Highlighting the role of talk in the understanding of nineteenth-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 ground-breaking 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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