“I venture to prophesy that, when the history of the Victorian Era come to be written in true perspective, the most faithful mirror and record of representative men and the spirit of their times will be sought and found in Vanity Fair”
(Leslie Ward, Forty Years of Spy, page 331)
First published in November 1868, the society journal Vanity Fair was the essential representation of Victorian high society, a paper written by and for the Establishment.
What not only set Vanity Fair apart from its competitors, but changed the way in which caricature was viewed and received, was the lithographically reproduced portraits of members of Victorian society that appeared in its pages each week. The first of these portraits, by Carlo Pellegrini (who signed as ‘Ape’), was published in January 1869 and were the first of over 2,300 caricatures to appear in Vanity Fair’s pages until its closure in 1914. Those who were featured were the leading politicians of the day, statesman and diplomats, noblemen, judges, sportsmen and royalty. It became a mark of honour, even a social necessity, to appear in Vanity Fair.