Visual Interpretations

69.  Christopher Pearse Cranch.  Caricature sketch of a rotund man proclaiming “They are content to be brushed like flies from the path of a great person,” [1838?].

Cranch, Christopher Pearse

Ink on paper.  Joel Myerson Collection of Nineteenth-Century American Literature, University of South Carolina.

Christopher Pearse Cranch published in The Dial, helped to edit The Western Messenger (the Transcendentalists’ magazine in the Ohio Valley), published numerous books of poetry, translated Virgil, became a painter in the tradition of the Hudson River School, and wrote literature for children.  A talented artist, his caricatures of Transcendentalism—and especially of Emerson’s writings—are still effective today.  He collected many of them into what he called “The New Philosophy Scrapbook,” reproduced in F. DeWolfe Miller’s Christopher Pearse Cranch and His Caricatures of New England Transcendentalism (Harvard, 1951). 

This drawing quotes from Emerson’s “American Scholar” address and is similar to one printed by Miller (Miller’s item 13). 

Joel Myerson’s comments reflect the excitement of  his acquisition of Cranch drawings: “I purchased all three drawings in 1990 at the famous H. Bradley Martin sale at Sotheby’s.  A friend had sent me the American literature sections of the nine-volume sale catalogue and under children’s literature was a copy of The Last of the Huggermuggers described as having drawings by Cranch’s daughter laid in.  My friend faxed me copies of these caricatures and I knew I had to have them.  Madeleine Stern offered to bid for me—and in typically generous fashion—waived her fee, and I authorized her to bid up to $7000, by far the most I had ever paid for anything except a house.  Fortunately, it seems few people actually checked out the drawings, for I was able to bring them in for $700.”


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