The cartoon, Britannia Lays a Wreath on
Lincoln’s Bier, appeared in Punch on May 6, 1865, and with Tom Taylor’s fine
tribute in verse quoted elsewhere made atonement for the grudging treatment that
journal had accorded Mr. Lincoln through four troubled years, not, however, with
the whole-hearted assent of some of the men responsible for the policy of Punch.
Layard in his biography of Shirley Brooks affords us an informing glance behind
the Punch curtain, in the late April of 1865.
He makes it clear that its editorial staff
was divided as to Tom Taylor’s verses, Shirley Brooks vainly leading the
opposition to their publication. In support of this contention, Layard prints
the following entry from Brooks’ diary:
“Dined Punch. All there. Let out my views
against some verses on Lincoln in which T. T. (Tom Taylor) had not only made
P. eat humble pie, but swallow dish and all.”
In the end Punch ate what Brooks termed
humble pie, and, looking back across the years, a later generation on both sides
of the sea must regard its act as an honorable and manly one.