Brighton Party Politics 1884: a Liberal Jonah and the Tory Whale

This curious cartoon was published by The Brightonian on 1 March 1884. Entitled, The Political Jonah: A Fishy Transaction it shows a man falling from the ‘good’ ship of the Liberal Party into the choppy seas of ‘Election’. The large whale of Toryism appears to be about to catch the man, while a monocled sun looks on. What’s going on here?

A Political Jonah, 1884
A Political Jonah, 1884

The cartoon refers to the case of William Thackeray Marriott, MP for Brighton from 1880-1893. Born in Manchester in 1834, Thackeray began his career in the church. He appears to have held an interest in the life of the working classes, having founded the Hulme Athenaeum in 1858, one of the first working men’s clubs in England. In the 1860s he switched to a career in law, and became a successful barrister. In 1880 he was elected as the Liberal MP for Brighton.

However, Marriott’s enthusiasm for the Liberal party waned, and he began to publicly criticise both the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, and the President of the Board of Trade, Joseph Chamberlain. He resigned his seat in 1884, and stood again as the Conservative candidate. He was re-elected and held the seat until 1893.

The cartoon suggests that Marriott has been thrown from the ship, and hints that he was forced from the Liberal Party. The monocled sun is a depiction of Joseph Chamberlain, grandly looking down upon the scene. Although the Tory whale’s lips are sealed in the picture, Marriott thrived as a Conservative MP. In addition to holding the seat for a further nine years, he was appointed a judge in 1885 and knighted in 1888.

Kevin Bacon
Digital Development Officer

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