GRIEVE, Thomas (1799-1882); TELBIN, William (1812-1873); MARSHALL, Charles (1806-1890)
[GOLD RUSH] “The Overland Mail to India, frequently the route to Australia, by parties wishing to avoid a long sea voyage”. Broadside for Grieve and Telbin’s moving panorama The Overland Mail, exhibited by Charles Marshall at the Greenwich Lecture Hall, London, October 1853.
Deptford-Bridge, Greenwich : William Flashman, printer, . Broadside, 740 x 240 mm, recto only in black ink in various fonts; old horizontal fold, left hand edge a little roughened on upper section and closely trimmed on the lower half; otherwise in very good condition.
The so-called Overland Route to India – and, by extension, to the Australian colonies – was pioneered by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company from 1850. It established itself as a popular alternative for travellers joining the Australian gold rushes. (Construction on the Suez Canal would not commence until 1859, and the Canal was not opened until 1869). We can locate no other example of this broadside advertising an exhibition of a moving panorama illustrating the Overland Route
Thomas Grieve (1799–1882) and William Telbin (1812-1873) were two of London’s most in-demand scene-painters, whose work had graced many theatre and opera productions in Drury Lane and Covent Garden in the 1830s and 40s. In the 1850s, together with another artist, John Absolon, they produced a number of celebrated moving panoramas (or dioramas), beginning with The Overland Mail, and following on with The Campaigns of Wellington (1852), The Crimean War, and The Arctic Regions. These were magnificent spectacles – in many ways the forerunners of modern cinema – and were hugely popular with the public. Moving panoramas were very much the en vogue form of mass entertainment in London in the mid-nineteenth century.
Grieve and Telbin’s The Overland Mail to India and Australia had opened at the Gallery of Illustration in Regent’s Street in the summer of 1850, and had remained on view there until 1853. The broadside we offer here was produced for a one-night only presentation on the south side of the Thames at Greenwich’s Lecture Hall, on Monday 10 October 1853. Billed as “An Intellectual Evening”, the event featured three entertainments: Mr. Frederick Grafton’s Discourse on the Heavens, illustrated with thirty large moveable transparent subjects; part second, Mr. Lovegrove’s Diorama of Sacred, Classic, Alpine, and Arctic Scenery; and part third, The Overland Mail, painted by Grieve, Telbin and Absalon. The advertised exhibitor of this last spectacle was none other than Charles Marshall, Esq. (1806-1890), another scene-painter extraordinaire whose entrepreneurial spirit had led him – as early as 1840 – to open the Kineorama in Pall Mall, a venue dedicated to the staging of moving panoramas. A true innovator in his field, Marshall is acknowledged as the originator of transformational scenes in the theatre, and is credited with introducing limelight on the stage.
The scenes in The Overland Mail were painted by Grieve, Telbin and Absalon after works by David Roberts (1796-1864) and other travelling artists, described on the broadside as “Gentlemen connected with the Oriental and Peninsular Mail Company”. They depicted an entire journey from Southampton to Calcutta, including views of The Needle Rocks, the Bay of Biscay, Trafalgar Bay, Gibraltar, Algiers, Malta, Alexandria, Cairo, crossing the desert (the “overland” section of the journey), Suez, The Red Sea, Jeddah, Mocha, Aden, Ceylon, and Madras.
The moving panorama was also issued in book form in several editions between 1850 and 1853, and as a board game, probably sold as a souvenir at the Gallery of Illustration.