Brutum Fulmen.

Item Description

George Du Maurier. Woodblock engraving. Punch. October 22, 1870.

In this caricature by George Du Maurier, an upper class man attempts to discipline children of lower stature. We can infer their social classes from the colloquial language used in their dialogue, the distinctive attire of the characters, and their postures. The children disregard the man’s threat because the police officer in the background of the caricature is their father.
This situation highlights the social conflicts of British society in the Victorian era, and satirizes the law enforcement’s role in keeping the peace between the social classes. This situation directly relates to the title of this piece, Brutum Fulmen—a Latin phrase meaning “empty threat,” which is exactly what the old man’s warning to the children becomes. Many policemen in this time came from the lower and working classes, and especially in the metropole, many lived in the area they policed. Using all this, Du Maurier satirized the resultant corruption of law enforcement, and the perceived irreconcilability of class differences. A similar theme is also seen in the American Gilded Age, reflected in the above image, Legalized Plunderers.