The Early Years
For someone who was to eventually make a living out of drawing,
Edward Linley Sambourne received relatively little artistic
training. He received some early instructions from his father’s
sister, Jane Barr, who was a talented amateur watercolourist. When
he was 16 he spent three months at South Kensington School of Art,
which he later said taught him nothing. In the late 1860s having
decided being an artist was his calling, Sambourne briefly attended
the evening life classes in the Langham Chambers, Portland Place.
Here students drew from the draped model in one week, and the
undraped the next. There was however no teacher.
In 1861 Sambourne was apprenticed to John Penn & Son, marine
engineers, London. Initially he worked under the founder’s son,
John Penn Jr but was promoted to the drawing office when his
employer discovered his talent and aptitude for art. For a pastime,
Sambourne drew caricatures and his chance to break from the
monotony of draft drawing came in 1867, when a fellow employee
Alfred German Reed showed one of Sambourne’s drawings to his father
Thomas German Reed the theatrical manager who in turn showed it to
his friend Mark Lemon, editor of Punch.
Lemon must have been suitably impressed as his first
drawing appeared in Punch on 27 April 1867. This was a decorated
initial letter ‘T’, showing the radical politician John Bright
charging a medieval
From then on Sambourne was employed on a
casual basis by Lemon to supply the decorated initial letters that
stood at the head of articles and vignettes in Punch. Between
1867-1874 Sambourne contributed 350 initial letters. From 1874
Sambourne began to take on a greater number of larger drawings and
was asked to join the staff on a regular basis. This was a major
turning point in Sambourne’s life. As this regular salary coupled
with a bequest from his Aunt Jane enabled him to marry Marion
Herapath, the eldest daughter of a successful stockbroker.