Rehearsal for Opening Day, by Harry Furniss, illustrating the "Essence of Parliament" series by Henry William Lucy (1843-1924) in Punch. The picture purports to be a sketch of parliamentary proceedings "taken on the spot" to illustrate an extract from the diary of "Toby M. " [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


Here, the Speaker (the balletic figure in black, Arthur Wellesley Peel, 1st Viscount Peel, 1829-1912) is in very "high spirits" indeed, but the Lord Chancellor (Stanley Hardinge Giffard, 1st Earl of Halsbury, 1823-1921) at the top really lords it over everyone else, showing a stout leg (see Matthew; Rubin). Arms outstretched, Gladstone points at the Lord Chancellor from the upper left. Having just returned from a trip to Florence, he is not in his usual garb, but still has the high collar that Furniss likes to bestow on him. The Scottish thistle and the Irish shamrock feature prominently on either side of the circle, their supporters looking pugnacious.

The "extract" is of course satirical. "Toby" records the Lord Chancellor as saying to him, "I approach opening of Session with easy conscience, Dear TOBY,"

Haven't held office more than two years, and can lay my hand on my heart and say there's not an uncle, a cousin, or an aunt that I haven't seen comfortably provided for. Can I do anything for you, old hoy? Like to be a Registrar, County Court Judge, or anything else in unobtrusive but comfortably-salaried way? Think it over and drop me a line.

Having satirised Hardinge Giffard, Henry Lucy turns to an inflated "Grandolph" — i. e., Randolph Churchill (1849-95), Winston Churchill's father — who "walks gloomily around" and rather quails in front of Arthur Balfour (1848-95): the two had differences of opinion over Ireland. There is still a holiday atmosphere though, and at the bottom of the circle a rant is unceremoniously consigned to oblivion. A row of Bobbies stand in readiness in the left-hand corner of the foreground, suggesting the possibility of ructions to come.

Image capture and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Related Material


Grimsditch, H. B., rev. H. C. G. Matthew. "Lucy, Sir Henry William (1843–1924), journalist." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 19 April 2015.

Matthew, H. C. G. "Peel, Arthur Wellesley, first Viscount Peel (1829–1912), speaker of the House of Commons." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web, 19 April 2015.

"Rehearsal for Opening Day" in the "Essence of Parliament." Punch, Vol. XCIV (1888), 11 Feb. 1888: 71. Internet Archive. Contributed by Robarts Library, University of Toronto. Web. 19 April 2015.

Rubin, G. R. "Giffard, Hardinge Stanley, first earl of Halsbury (1823–1921)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web, 19 April 2015.

Created 20 April 2015

Last modified 26 January 2020