Roehampton academic in conversation with Private Eye’s Ian Hislop

Dr Mary L. Shannon from the Department of English and Creative Writing met Ian Hislop in his Private Eye office to discuss press freedom, the importance of images in the Romantic and early Victorian period and his new radio play, ‘Trial by Laughter’.

Posted: 9 May 2016

Dr Shannon spoke to Ian Hislop on behalf of The Romantic Illustration Network (RIN), a research network based at the University of Roehampton, which aims to restore to view the importance of visual images and illustrations during the Romantic period and across the 18th and 19th centuries (1750-1850).

Dr Shannon said: “As Editor of Private Eye, which is Briton’s best known satirical and current affairs magazine, I was really interested in hearing Ian’s perspective of how he thought images and texts worked together, especially in the Romantic period, which is when William Hone was on trial.

“I was also fascinated to find out that Private Eye is still using the same formula that was being used by William Hone and George Cruikshank, who created satirical prints sold in Hone’s shop as well as illustrations for many of Hone’s satirical pamphlets. Ian termed this the ‘double effect’: a large central image that draws the person in, accompanied by humorous text that is meant to get people thinking about the status quo.”

The pair also discussed Ian Hislop’s new radio play, which he wrote with long-term collaborator Nick Newman, a satirical cartoonist for The Sunday Times and Private Eye. ‘Trial by Laughter’ is a comedy-based drama which focuses on the trial of William Hone, a bookseller, publisher, satirist and advocate of free speech in Britain. Hone was put on trial in 1817 for impious blasphemy and seditious libel; his crime was satirising both the government and the monarchy. He won his court battle against government censorship and it marked a turning point in the fight for British press freedom. ‘Trial by Laughter’ uses real transcripts taken from the trial, as well as satirical prints drawn by Cruikshank. Cruikshank went on to illustrate Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist.

Listen to the Dr Shannon’s full interview with Ian Hislop.

The Romantic Illustration Network brings together scholars working on poetry, the printed book and painting in the period 1750 to 1850 to share research and to develop new models for understanding the relationship between word and image in the period.

Dr Mary Shannon is a Research Fellow in the Department of English and Creative Writing. She is an expert in print and visual culture in the early Victorian period.

Study English Literature at Roehampton.

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