Ben Tally Ho was the pen name of Henry Thomas Alken, Sr. (1785-1851). He was a fine huntsman who convincingly portrayed the details of the hunt. At a time when most British sporting artists somewhat repetitiously painted well-seated, immobile riders surrounded by their dogs prior to a hunt, Alken produced simple, yet active caricatures. We stumbled upon him in our brief journey across the Atlantic to learn more about the artist of Not Yet Caught
Alken was the most famous of four generations of artists. The first was his grandfather, a carver; the second, his father, an engraver and architects. The third generation included two brothers as well as himself, all sporting artists. His two sons, also sporting artists, comprised the fourth generation.
Alken portrayed not only hunting, but all the popular sports of the late 18th and early 19th centuries: shooting, racing, bull- and bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and fishing. Under his illustrations, he penned commentary. As an example, “You must have no more fellow-feeling in fox-hunting than you have in your political career.” (How to Qualify for a Meltonian, 1819, quoted in Diana Donald, Picturing Animals in Britain: 1750-1850, Yale University Press, 2007, 288).
Alken’s fame faded quickly after he published a flurry of books with titles such as Qualified Horses and Unqualified Riders, 1815, and Some Do, Some Don’t, It’s all a Notion, 1817. The public wearied of his type of humor. He died nearly destitute.
From the 1815 book, Qualified Horses and Unqualified Riders published by S. & J. Fuller, London. More works by Alken can be found at British Sporting Arts Trust, Newmarket, Suffolk, England.