The Departure The Bassoon with a French
Horn Accompanyment
Miseries of
Beef à la Mode Bath Races

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827) was a superb draughtsman and a master watercolorist, whose delicately tinted landscapes were often reproduced in aquatint. He excelled in the depiction of the English countryside and helped to launch the vogue for picturesque rural scenery which he burlesqued in the bestselling Tour of Doctor Syntax (1812). He dashed off hundreds of prints ridiculing the manners of all walks of life - servants, scholars, soldiers, politicians, clergymen, tradesmen, sportsmen, actors, dancers, flirts, and fops. A jocose spectre leads mortals of all ranks and conditions off to a fitting end in Rowlandson's masterpiece The English Dance of Death, issued in parts between 1814 and 1816 with verses by William Combe, who also wrote the text for the Tour of Doctor Syntax. Altogether, the Princeton University Library has more than nine hundred volumes with Rowlandson illustrations and about two thousand prints, most of which are the gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895. For more information about Princeton's holdings, one can consult E. D. H. Johnson, "Special Collections at Princeton. V. The Works of Thomas Rowlandson," Princeton University Library Chronicle 2 (1940): 7-20.

Humor is a fragile commodity because much of it is based on things of the moment. The staying power of Rowlandson, or any cartoonist, is predicated on the ability to build humorous conceptions on universal ideas. Rowlandson's comic art is still fresh and funny in our era because the pokes fun at human nature, which barely changes one century to the next.