Smokin’ Hot Literary Characters

Back in the day when cigarette smoking was cool (and some physicians actually prescribed cigarette smoking to their patients!) tobacco companies invested heavily in advertising.

One of the most successful and effective methods for spreading the word about cigarettes was through printed cigarette cards.

Issued between 1885 and the beginning of World War II, pictorial cards were extremely popular with consumers. Each cigarette pack included a collectible card and a bit of history, which might have helped smokers justify wasting their money and health on the wicked weed.

In England, John Player & Sons (a branch of The Imperial Tobacco Company) was arguably the most popular producer of collectible cards. They typically issued their cards in sets and encouraged consumers to collect them all.

The company issued hundreds of different sets, some containing as many as 50 individual cards. The most popular sets featured images of royalty, with collectible sets depicting kings and queens, coronations, castles, and highlighted events from a particular monarch’s reign.

While not quite as popular, the company also issued about a dozen sets dedicated to literary characters. Dickens was very popular; Thackeray and Scott had their own sets, too.

 

The images in this post give a sampling of characters from books published in 1766 to the mid-1800s. Some of the artwork was produced by major artists, including H. M. (Henry Matthew) Brock, British illustrator of Jane Austen’s novels.

I like these particular images, because they coincide with the way I imagined the characters in my head when I read the books.

An added bonus: the Cliffs-Notes-style descriptions of the books on the reverse side of the cards, which gave just enough information about the characters and the plots for smokers to converse intelligently about classic novels while they smoked themselves to death.

My favorite cards are the three characters from Vanity Fair: Becky Sharp, Jos Sedley, and Lady Southdown.

What do you think: Are the characters portrayed on these cards as you imagined they would look?

I’m Giving Away Books!

Shame on Santa. He brought me new books for Christmas, but neglected to bring the shelves to put them on.

That means I have to get rid of some of my existing books to make room for my new treasures.

If you’re a book-lover living in the U.S., and you’re interested in history and all things English, I’d love to send you one of my research books FOR FREE!

All you have to do is promise to give it a good home.

Here are the books I’m giving away this month:

The London Mob; Violence and Disorder in Eighteenth-Century England, by Robert Shoemaker

About the book: By 1700 London was the largest city in Europe, with over 500,000 inhabitants. Weakly policed, its streets saw regular outbreaks of rioting by a mob easily stirred by economic grievances, politics or religion. If the mob vented its anger more often on property than people, eighteenth-century Londers frequently came to blows over personal disputes in a society where men and women were quick to defend their honour. Slanging matches easily turned to fisticuffs and slights on honour were avenged in duels. In this world, where the detection and prosecution of crime was the part of the business of the citizen, punishment was public and expected to be endorsed by crowds. The London Mob draws a fascinating portrait of the public life of the modern world’s first great city. This is a hardback book with original dust cover.

Heroines, by Norma Lorre Goodrich

About the book: Norma Lorre Goodrich, world-renowned Arthurian scholar and historian, turns her attention to female heroes whose valor, fortitude, fearlessness, brilliance and fame have defined and defied women’s roles throughout the ages. She traces the core archetypes of women in ancient history, shows how the stories have descended through the ages, and examines the historical truths behind the myths. From legendary “Good” women to Amazons, fallen women to Joan of Arc, Goodrich examines the female legends on which today’s grand operas, classic novels, and beloved movies are based. This is a hardback book with original dust cover.

Mrs. Keppel and Her Daughter, by Diana Souhami

About the book: Alice Keppel, the married lover of Queen Victoria’s eldest son and great-grandmother to Camilla Parker-Bowles, was a key figure in Edwardian society. Hers was the acceptable face of adultery; discretion was her hallmark. It was her art to be the king’s mistress, all the while lauding the Royal Family and the institution of marriage. Formidable and manipulative, her attentions to the king brought her wealth, power, and status.

Her daughter Violet Trefusis had a long and tempestuous affair with author and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West, during which Vita left her husband and two sons to travel the world with Violet.

From memoirs, diaries, and letters, this is a fascinating portrayal of two strong women, their complicated relationship, and the duplicity and double-standards of the world in which they lived. This is a hardback book with original dust cover.

The Man Who Would Be King, the Life of Philippe D’Orleans, Regent of France, by Christine Pevitt

About the book: When Louis XIV, the Sun King, died in 1715, his five-year-old great-grandson succeeded him as King Louis XV. But real power passed to the new Regent, the man who became the de facto ruler of France, Philippe, duc d’Orleans. This biography examines the character of a man whose scandalous reputation has almost overwhelmed his many extraordinary qualities. He earned a reputation as a philanderer and a rake, but he was also intelligent, diligent, loyal, and brave. At a time when Europe was enjoying the dawn of the Enlightenment, Philippe d’Orleans established France as the very center of the intellectual and artistic ferment. This is a hardback book with original dust cover.

If you reside in the USA and would like to have one of these hardback books, leave a comment below, telling me which title you want.

If none of these titles sound like your cup of tea, please check back regularly. I’ll have more research books to give away in the next week or two!