Byline: CHRISTOPHER HUDSON
PUNCH turned up his toes just six years ago, but already the magazine seems a distant memory.
Several recent editors tried to dust him down and make him more like Private Eye, but it never worked. So why is The Best Of Punch Cartoons (Prion, [pounds sterling]30) such a success? It works as a fascinating insight into the changing face of British humour and as a social history of Britain from the 1840s to the 1990s, as seen through the work of cartoonists, ranging from John Leech, Tenniel, Shepard and H. M. Bateman to Thelwell, Searle, Honeysett and Mike Williams.
The cartoons mirror their age, lightening the gloom. Some of them, naturally, have lost their humour, but many are timeless, such as Paul Crum's two hippos in a pool, one musing: 'I keep thinking it's Tuesday.' This will be a cherishable present, even if it won't fit in a Christmas stocking.
Punch could easily have been chosen as one of the Icons Of England (Think Books, [pounds sterling]20), but the book is produced for the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the 70 contributors are writing about the sights and sounds of the countryside its trees, crags, moors, hills, ruins, monuments and pub signs.
As George Alagiah writes, the country-side is not so much another place as another state of mind, and the lovingly photographed settings bear this out.
WENDY COPE praises water meadows while Robert Macfarlane is fascinating about …