The Avenger, not the octopus: Fred Rose's other map of 1877
I was delighted to have the opportunity to purchase a scarce map by Fred Rose, one which offers a few insights into Rose’s intentions when he created his most well-known map, his Serio-Comic War Map for the Year 1877.The latter famously depicts Russia as an inhuman octopus menacing its neighbours, but I had never appreciated that it forms one of a pair: The Avenger, an Allegorical War Map for the Year 1877 also takes the Great Eastern Crisis as its inspiration, but this time Rose takes the part of the Russians: I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. Rose was similarly even-handed a couple of years later when he produced a pair of caricature maps for the General Election of 1880, one pro Gladstone, the other pro Disraeli. One can only speculate as to what Rose’s own politics were. I now discover that the same was true of the approach taken by Rose - backed, of course, by his publisher, G.W. Bacon - in covering the Great Eastern Crisis. If the number of surviving examples is anything to go by, though, it was the image of Russia as a rapacious octopus which caught the public mood, not this image of Russia as a winged ‘Avenger’, ‘an allegorical figure of Progress’ (bearing a suspicious resemblance to Tsar Alexander II). The figure wears a medallion commemorating the emancipation of the serfs (1861) and is driving a sword into the belly of the Turk, the blade of which bears the inscription ‘protection to the oppressed’. Rose is referring to the Bulgarian atrocities, generally referred to now as the April Uprising, which formed the main pretext for Russian intervention in 1877. England is depicted as George and the Dragon, actively involved in the struggle to settle the Eastern Question; Scotland, meanwhile, has time to catch up on the works of Sir Walter Scott … Recently unified Italy is presented in devilish form. The Pope, having lost his temporal power, is in flight. The Turk, portrayed as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ in this version of Rose’s map, is clutching his aching head. Greece, sensing an opportunity, is looking at the motto ‘God helps those who help themselves’. As usual Rose includes a legend to explain the symbolism, just in case any of his readers were in doubt about what was going on in any corner of the map. The British Library’s example has explanatory text in English and German - for a wider audience - but here it is in English only Edited to add (01/15): There have been some great leaps forward in the last month or so. We finally know which of the 232 possible Fred Roses did so much to popularise the genre of cartoon map-making in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century. In December Laurence Worms introduced us to Frederick W. Rose (1849-1915). All of a sudden we knew that our Fred was a well-travelled, well-connected civil servant, author of a couple of sensationalist novels and (unusually for the period and circumstances) the petitioner in a fairly acrimonious divorce (his wife had a penchant for cartoonists, it seems). He died soon after losing his two younger sons early in the Great War. As Laurence observes, “it was the final bitter twist of Rose’s life – that a man who had made so light of the interplay of the Great Powers in his caricature maps should immediately lose two sons when the game ended and Europe began to unravel”. It then transpired that Rod Barron had also been working on Fred Rose, and had reached the same conclusions. In fact, Rod’s researches are even further advanced (a summary appears in ABA Newsletter 384): he will be creating a website, and he is working on a book. The implications are significant. While we thought that Rose might be a jobbing lithographic printer (one possible candidate) it was entirely plausible, likely even, that Rose had created pairs of maps for G.W. Bacon, such as the pair drawn for the 1880 election. Rod has already demonstrated that ‘Nemesis’, author of the anti-Disraeli ‘King Jingo’ map, was probably Alfred Robbins. In keeping with his political allegiances Rose created only the anti-Gladstone half of the pair. Rod also believes that Rose’s ‘octopus’ map and the ‘Avenger’ above, are also by different hands. As ever, we have much more to learn, and it’s going to be great fun finding out.