‘Alfred Crowquill’ was the pseudonym of the Forrester brothers, Charles Robert (1803–50) and Alfred Henry (1804–72), who between them wrote and illustrated a wide variety of satirical articles, comedy picture books, albums and books for children. Printed in colour and in black and white with illustrations reproduced in the form of wood-engravings, etchings and lithographs, and issued in cheap and sometimes ephemeral formats, their publications were tremendously popular. The eccentric name was a selling point heavily promoted in advertisements, and their work was historically significant for the ways in which it blurred the distinction between the tastes of the middle and working classes; valued as the source of light relief at the fireside, the Crowquill ‘brand’ was guaranteed to amuse even the sternest of consumers. A book by this unusual partnership was ubiquitous in the nursery, the parlour and even the kitchen and the maid’s bedroom.

In the brothers’ own time their publications were compared with the comic imprints of George Cruikshank, Richard Doyle and John Leech. Working within an evolving comedic tradition, the Forresters’ books made an important contribution to the development of visual puns, the representation of the grotesque, social satire, comic irony, caricature and arch humour. Rarely more than a footnote in histories of the period, the range and complexity of this work is under-appreciated. — Simon Cooke

Biographical and Critical Information


Primary Sources: Books and Periodicals

Combe, William. The Tour of Doctor Syntax. London: Ackermann & Tegg, 1854. Illustrated by Crowquill.

Crowquill, Alfred.Absurdities in Prose and Verse. London: Thomas Hurst, 1827.

Crowquill, Alfred [contributions to]. Bentley’s Miscellany. London: Richard Bentley, 1842–50.

Crowquill, Alfred [contributions to]. Bon Gaultier’s [T. Martin’s] Book of Ballads. With contributions by Doyle and Leech. London: W. Orr, 1849, 1851 and later editions.

Crowquill, Alfred. The Careless Chicken by Krakemsides. London: Grant & Griffith, n.d. [1853].

Crowquill, Alfred. Faust. London: King, 1834.

Crowquill, Alfred [contributions to]. The Illustrated London News. London: ILN, 1842–1870.

Crowquill, Alfred [contributions to].Merry Pictures by the Comic Hands of H. K. Browne, Crowquill, Doyle, etc . London: Kent, 1857.

Crowquill, Alfred. Pickwick Abroad.London: Tegg, 1838.

Crowquill, Alfred. Pictures Picked from The Pickwick Papers. London: Ackermann, 1837.

Crowquill, Alfred [contributions to]. Punch. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1842–44.

Crowquill. The Tournament. London: Thomas McLean, 1838.

Cruikshank, George. Omnibus. London: Tilt, 1842–43.

Cruikshank, George. Table Book. London: Bell, 1845.

Doyle, Richard.Manners and Customs of Ye Englyshe.With text by Perceval Leigh.London: Bradbury & Evans [1849].

Original art work in Museum Collections

The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, has an album of drawings for book illustration and other designs. An album of drawings for the ceramics maker, Samuel Alcock & Co, Stafford, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Art Museum, New York, the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York has a collection of 72 graphite and watercolour designs for a range of books, including yellowbacks and other material. The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, has Crowquil’s Ceramics, drawings and prints in several collections

Secondary sources

Buchanan-Brown, John. Early Victorian Illustrated Books. London: British Library & Delware: Oak Knoll Press, 2005.

Everitt, Graham. English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. London: Sonnenschein, 1893.

Graves, Algernon. A Dictionary of Artists. 1901; rpt. Bath: Kingsmead, 1970.

Grego, Joseph. Pictorial Pickwickians: Charles Dickens and His Illustrators. London: Chapman & Hall, 1899.

Houfe, Simon. ‘Forrest, Alfred Henry [Alfred Crowquill]’ (1804–1872), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Online version, accessed 14 April 2017.

King, Edmund. Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings, 1830–1880. London: The British Library & Newcastle: The Oak Knoll Press, 2003.

Kitton, F. G. Dickens and His Illustrators. London: Redway, 1900.

‘Notes on Books.’ Notes & Queries n.s 114 (6 March 1858): 199.

‘Obituary: A. H. Forrester.’ Publishers’ Circular and Booksellers’ Record (1 June 1872): 340.

Obituary: Charles Robert Forrester.’ The Gentleman’s Magazine 33 (May 1850): 545–6.

Praz, Mario.An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration from Pompeii to Art Nouveau. London : Thames & Hudson, 1964.

Ray, Gordon, N. The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914. NY: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1976.

Zipes, Jack. Victorian Fairy Tales. New York: Routledge, 1987.

Last modified 6 June 20177