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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Sam Lockhart as "Big Dick"?

Is this picture taken from the 1889 performance Sam Lockhart gave in front of Queen Victoria with his "Royal Elephants" Jock and Jenny? My father seems to think so. This real illustration has been reproduced, as the trend has been for some time now, and captioned with a cheeky joke.

The trainer riding the elephant is not depicted in the usual way contemporary newspaper artists drew Sam Lockhart. Photos and illustrations I have seen of Sam and his brother George, who is a main character in my book "The Legend of Salt and Sauce", show them with classic thick but neat moustaches. The character riding the "One Eyed Jumbo" clearly has a beard. I have no evidence either to suggest that Sam rode any of his elephants. However, there are plenty of examples given in my book of artists of the period and decades afterwards of artists straying way off the mark in their depiction of characters and incidents.

So who are the characters in the picture? Who was the elephant, the trainer and the spectators? Is that a rather youthful depiction of Queen Victoria, Prince Edward (to be Edward VII), Princess Alexandra et al? We know that the Victorian and later Edwardian family were all regular visitors to the circus who saw many of George and Sam's performances.

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