TIM BOBBIN – the “Lancashire Hogarth”
John Collier (pseudonym Tim Bobbin) was born at Urmston, near Manchester, in 1708, son of John and Mary Collier. He was the third of nine children. His father was a curate and schoolteacher, first in Eccles and later at Hollinfare in Warrington. Such clerical posts were very poorly paid, and Collier junior’s later attacks on corrupt clergy probably originated in the family’s poverty when he was a child.
John Collier senior lost his sight suddenly around 1722, and the burden of supporting the family then fell upon his wife and children. At the age of fourteen John was apprenticed to a weaver, but after about a year he left and became an itinerant schoolteacher. In 1729 he took the post of Usher at Milnrow School near Rochdale, and in 1739, the year his father died, he became headmaster. In 1744 he married Mary Clay. They had nine children, three of whom became painters. They lived at Milnrow until their deaths in 1786, Mary in April and John in July. John Collier was therefore an almost exact contemporary of Dr Johnson (1709 – 1785).
His published works consist of writings and illustrations mainly humorous and often satirical. His first work was his View of the Lancashire Dialect, published under the name of Tim Bobbin about 1746, relating in dialogue a series of comic episodes illustrated by naïve engravings. It ran to several editions during his lifetime. He wrote other dialogues, stories, poems and essays as well as producing paintings; one of his specialities seems to have been painting inn-signs, an occupation for which his love of inns and ale-houses would have made him especially well-suited.
But his most popular and enduring work was The Human Passions Delineated, first published in 1773, at the core of which is a series of 38 etched caricatures printed two to a page with accompanying verses, some of social and some of political comment. An example is shown below. A second edition was published by Robert Collier, Bobbin’s grandson, in Rochdale, dated 1809 on the title-page and 1810 on the cover, and a deluxe but abridged edition in landscape format with the caricatures one to a page, re-engraved and nearly always coloured, also dated 1810. There were two issues of this re-engraved edition, both printed on Whatman paper, the first watermarked 1805/6, the second 1825. The second issue is perhaps the more common of the two. Apart from the watermarks, the two issues are indistinguishable. There was also a lithographic facsimile of the original 1773 edition published byJohn Heywood in Manchester in at least two issues, the first of which probably appeared in 1858.
The Works of Tim Bobbin Esq. in Prose and Verse, with a Memoir of the Author by John Corry, published in 1862, also by Heywood, is a collection of his works excluding The Passions.