The Six Ologies is an exceptionally rare volume of six small lithographs that was produced by the amateur caricaturist Edward Stanley (1779 – 1849) sometime during the late 1820s or 1830s. Stanley was a clergyman and second son of a baronet, and is known to have produced only three works graphic satire in his lifetime – The Six Ologies and two other pieces entitled Bustle’s Banquet and Dinner of the Dogs – none of which appears among any of the major public or institutional collections of early nineteenth-century British prints.
The series was published and anonymously and can only be attributed to Stanley’s hand thanks to the work of two Edwardian biographers who published a collected volume of his letters in 1907. The lack of a publication line and relatively poor quality of the binding suggests that it may have been produced in conjunction with a minor provincial publisher who was operating within the vicinity of Stanley’s parish at Alderley in Cheshire. This would explain why copies were never acquired by either the British Museum or the Library of Congress, whose holdings are based on the acquisitions of wealthy London-based collectors.
The designs themselves owe something to the works of more famous contemporary caricaturists such as Henry Heath, Robert Seymour and C.J. Grant, who often produced runs of prints in which the image offered a visual pun on a word or well-known quotation. Henry Heath’s Arithmetic series (1827) for example, contains a darkly humorous image of group of sailors being decapitated by a flying cannonball under the heading Subtraction. Stanley’s humour is gentler and more becoming of a clergyman, with the prints in the Ologies series dealing in the humour of contrast, the plainly absurd and the anthropomorphic pun. Demonology for example, imagines a supernatural imp has taken up residence in the small cast iron stove that bore its name. While the scruffy character in Anthology invites the viewer to marvel at the single weedy specimen which constitutes his ‘collection’ of prize flowers.
Stanley’s elevation to the post of Bishop of Norwich in 1837 presumably put paid to his flirtation with the slightly salubrious world of the satirical printshop. His works today would probably not even merit a footnote in the most obscure history of early nineteenth-century caricature, but they do provide the enthusiast with an interesting and unusual remind of the important role which the gentleman amateur played in shaping and sustaining the market for satirical prints.