The Comic Almanack, May - Beating The Bounds

George Cruikshank

English, 1792 - 1878

The Comic Almanack, May - Beating the Bounds, 1837

  • Not On View

Etching on paper

Dimensions: 4 9/16 × 7 1/4 in. (11.6 × 18.4 cm)
Image: 3 1/4 × 5 in. (8.3 × 12.7 cm)

Gift of Grayce Scholt, 2010.32

The Comic Almanack was begun as a popular printed publication in 1835. Known for its humor, as well as biting commentary on modern society, the Almanack was the perfect venue for a satirist. Depicted here is what now seems like an odd custom, but is actually still practiced in some parishes of England. Beating the Bounds captures an annual event for which the old and young men of a community would walk around the boundaries of the parish, in order to defend the parish's borders. Since property markers were rather easily encroached, it was considered important for members of the community to remain vigilant about preserving its assets. The event also took on a religious component, since parish clergy members accompanied the young and old on their tour of the city's boundaries, in order to bless the community. The blessing would ensure a good growing season, and gave the ritual a festive quality. Cruikshank possibly focuses upon the beginning of the process, where townspeople, both official and unofficial, have just set out on their walk. The sense of frenzy amongst the young boys, as well as sly looks of the older gentlemen, suggest that the custom of physically beating the boys, so that they remembered the boundaries, may have been practiced in this particular community.

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