Linton- Life in the Collections
John Leech & W.J. Linton:
43) The Anti-Graham Envelope.
London 1844 /ca. 1890
A second reprint of the popular illustrated envelope by J.B. Moens. It was printed in facsimile manner on woven paper.
“The politician who suffered most from Punch (...) was the most unpopular of a long line of unpopular Home secretaries, Sir James Graham. (...) His capital offence was directing the opening of certain of Mazzini’s letters in consequence of the statements made to our Government by that of Naples, to the effect that plots were being carried out – of which the brilliant and popular Italian refugee was the centre – to excite an insurrection in Italy. ‘The British Government,’ reported the House of Commons Committee of Inquiry afterwards appointed, ‘issued a warrant to open and detain M. Mazzini’s letters. Such informations deduced from these letters as appeared to the British Government calculated to frustrate this attempt was communicated to a foreign Power.´ Thereupon Mr. Duncombe, M.P., upon the complaints of Mazzini, W.J. Linton and others, that their letters had been secretly opened, charged Sir James Graham with the violation of correspondence (June 14th, 1844), and though not at first eliciting much information, succeeded in obtaining the appointment of a Committee, though a ‘secret’ one; and Lord Radnor effected the same object in the Lords. The result was favourable to the Minister; but the popular feeling roused by it was intense, and Punch, up in arms at once at this supposed violation of the rights of the subject, fanned the excitement he shared. He immediately published, on July 6th, the most offensive attack he could devise. This consisted in the famous Anti-Graham Envelope (...) drawn by John Leech – a sort of burlesque of the Mulready envelope – and (...) afterwards appropriately engraved by Mr. W.J. Linton, whose share in the agitation was a considerable one. The circulation attained by this envelope was very wide, and although I have not ascertained that many were actually passed through the General Post Office, it certainly brought a flood of bitter ridicule on the unfortunate Minister.” (M. H. Spielmann, The History of Punch, 1895)
The original prepaid Mulready envelope was the world’s first postal stationery, issued in 1840, at the same time as the first postage stamp. It had been decorated by the painter William Mulready with a representation of Britannia at the centre top, sending out her winged emissaries to all corners of the British Empire. Leech and Linton turned this document of Imperial pride into the vision of a total surveillance state with the detested minister as “Big Brother” Britannia, who sends out his winged flock of clerks to violate people’s privacy. The Anti-Graham envelope followed a favoured radical strategy of using fake documents and bogus money as means of criticism and propaganda with the coinage of Thomas Spence and the Bank Restriction Note of George Cruikshank as the most popular examples. For Linton, it was a first encounter with the art of creative forgery.