Category Archives: 18th Century

Kensington Church Street – slowly up the hill

Kensington Church Street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Kensington, and as essential to the identity of Kensington as the High Street. So given that we have plenty of pictures of it in the collection it’s surprising that there hasn’t been a post on it before. Well perhaps I’ve overlooked it, as people sometimes do, thinking of it as just the winding street which takes you up the hill to Notting Hill Gate, where North Kensington begins. That’s quite a steep hill in parts (steeper as I’ve gotten older), so I’ve nearly always got the 52 or the 28 or the 27 or their variations over the years. But we’ll take it in stages this time. This view, more than a hundred years old, is still recognizeable.

 

There’s the Civet Cat on the corner. There’s no pub there now (it’s been a bank in its time and even a pizza restaurant) but the sign depicting the eponymous cat is still there. The blurred person on the left must have been an early riser because this has always been a busy spot.

 

 

A 1980 view. Where was the photographer standing? Somewhere safe I hope. See the security bars on the ground floor windows?

It was possibly a little safer back in 1912. safe enough for that guy on the left to be sitting down.

 

 

That canopy was about to be removed, hence the photograph, taken on June 4th that year. Number 6 was not a place for refreshment or theatrical performances but was in fact the Kensington Trunk Stores. (For all your trunking needs). The building next door at number 8 was the Prince of Wales public house (Mrs Jane Evans licensee) , and beyond that, Lockhart’s Cocoa Rooms, the Edwardian equivalent of a Starbucks or a Costa.

This end of the street was dominated by St Mary Abbots Church which towered over the terrace of house while seeming to brush against it.

 

 

The buildings in that terrace are actually older than the church, (numbers 1-5 were built in 1760) which is the version completed in the 1890s (see Isabel’s post here for a thorough account of the church itself)

There have been some alterations to the house but the old structures remain. Compare the view with this one from 1949.

 

 

(courtesy of the National Monuments Record)

And a closer view from 1964.

 

 

Mother and daughter looking in the window of number 13 (Robinson Joshua, linen drapers).

A few years later the daughter might be looking here, a few doors up the street at 19/21.

 

 

The picture below is one of my favourites and was taken by our friend Albert Argent Archer.

 

 

The print is from a glass negative and contains many fascinating details. I could almost write an entire post about this one image, with it’s multiplicity of advertising posters for Pear’s Soap, Nestle and Rowntree products (and Birds, of custard fame – the “Rhubard Girl”). One of the Nestle ads is I’m sure by John Hassall. And then the theatre posters – the “Pink Lady”, “The Monk and the Woman” and most familiar, “Ben-Hur”, an adpatation of the novel by Lew Wallace.

Further down the side street you can see, already boarded up a “Fish Dinner and Supper Bar”. Spare a glance for the two semi-visible boys with a tricycle working for Armfield and Sons, Chemical Cleaners. And right on the corner a hunched up man in a coat peering round the corner.

If you can’t see them all, try another, lighter version of the print:

 

 

You can also follow the shops heading south to the High Street: at number 28, James Turner (laundry receiving office), Edmund William Evans (photographer) the Belgravia Dairy Company (an urban dairy), the Kensington Restaurant (proprietor  Agostino de Maria) at number 20.

Speaking of which,let’s take a quick look inside.

 

A comfortable spot, for lunch or dinner.

Followed by  Mrs Rose Schofield (corsetiere), Davis and Son (dyers and cleaners), the National Telephone Company (for making public calls), Kenyon J H (funeral furnishers) which takes us back to Lockhart’s Cocoa Rooms

A similar view from 1961. The view is not as sharp as the earlier picture but there is another selection of posters.

 

 

And the chemists at 26-28 offers “Toilet Requisites” a phrase you don’t hear much nowadays, redolent of 1970s sit-coms. (In my mind I hear the words being uttered by John Cleese, with a repetition of the final syllable)

As we move up the street you can see the line of boards covered with posters continues. The church’s spire, one of the largest of its day, towers over the street.

 

 

In the style of our Secret Life of Postcards series, a close up:

 

 

The young woman on the left making her way deliberately..somewhere. It’s almost possible to make out her features, and wonder what she was up to that day. Beside her, a man looks into the window of James Keen (furniture  warehouse) and behind her the Misses Dodson and Green have a Catholic repository. The other name visible is Giandoni (confectioner and restaurant).

On the east side of the street was the Kensington Barracks, built in the 1850s on the site of the former Kensington Palace Forcing Gardens.

 

 

A view showing the interior, still dominated by the church.

 

 

Although we haven’t got very far up the street, I hope you won’t mind if we digress a little here. The barracks closed in 1972. At one point it was proposed to move the Russian Embassy onto the site but that attracted a degree of controversy and didn’t happen. I discovered this alternative plan dating from 1978.

 

 

A harmless but unexciting artist’s impression of shops and offices, mostly imaginary.

There really was a branch of Our Price records on that corner. While attempting to confirm that fact I looked at the 1976 Kelly’s Directory and saw that Revolution Cassettes was there before Our Price. This stirred a memory. Was that the old name for Our Price? Wikipedia came to the rescue. It seems that the company started out as Tape Revolution and specialized in Music Cassettes and 8 track Cartridges before adopting the more familiar name in 1978.

The barracks were ultimately replaced in the late 1980s by a retail/ office development which created a central space called Lancer Square.

 

 

The only image I found was one from the developers brochure which includes architect’s model and  a little cartoon of a typical Kensington shopper of the 80s. (Big hair, big shoulders – a bulkier look than the next decade) I can remember going to a leaving meal in one of the restaurants at one point but apart from that not being much of a visitor to Lancer Square.

The last time I passed by the spot was on the way to another farewell meal, this time at Wagamama. I took the opportunity to take a quick snap of what was left of Lancer Square, which barely lasted longer than its original lease.

 

 

It’s always odd when something rises and falls entirely within your own personal timeline. Building work on the site is taking place behind another set of boards. They seem to be keeping the Lancer Square name.

The first leg of our latest journey hasn’t taken us far, and we may be pausing to allow some movement backward in time, but this is a good pace for summer. Here at the Library, a bit of data entry is going on, a bit of stock movement, and in the basement some immersive theatre. We’ll make our way slowly up the hill and see what we find on the way.

Advertisements

Thomson and Railton: all aboard!

As promised a short while ago, this week’s post returns to our friends the book illustrators Hugh Thomson and Herbert Railton who combined in the 1880s at the early stages of both their careers (Thomson was born in 1860, Railton in 1857)  to provide dozens of pictures for W. Outram Tristram’s nostalgic look at the days of stagecoach travel, “Coaching days and coaching ways”. (1888). The Victorians and the Edwardians were just as nostalgic for the colourful past as we are today. Have a look here at some period drama, or at any of the posts on the Chelsea Pageant.

The author and his “able illustrators” make a good combination. Thomson was good at people, creating light-hearted scenes of rural and small town life, but his work was often combined with some fairly pedestrian views of town and country, as in some of the volumes in the Highways and Byways series about British counties to which he contributed. (We’ve seen his London volume,where his are the only pictures worth looking at. ) In this book he had a partner who was his equal. Railton’s strength was atmospheric views of places, whether parks and rural views or dark inns and alleys.

A typical Thomson scene, in which a young woman gathers her wits and her headgear after a coaching mishap:

(“A snapped pole” from the Brighton Road chapter.)

And a typically spooky view by Railton of a narrow cobbled street with shady corners, quiet for the moment as two cats have an encounter.

 

I was a bit mean to Mr Tristram when I wrote about his later book Moated Houses (entirely illustrated by Railton), calling his writing style pompous, rambling and obscure. Which it is, but I have to admit that Coaching days is a rather easier read. It’s anecdotal, and still verbose but that kind of works with this subject. The book is a set of essays originally published in the English Illustrated Magazine between October 1887- and July 1888, making it into book form late in 1888. This is a time of looking back from a new industrial, high speed society to a semi-rural past, before the railways covered the country, when the only means of long distance transport was the coach. A network of routes criss crossed the country served by coaches large and small, speedy and slow. Coaching inns were the nodes of this network, linking the cities with the small towns and villages, taking people on business and pleasure.

Mr Tristram says: “I shall show our ancestors…busy at those nothings which make travelled life – eating, drinking, flirting, quarelling, delivering up their purses, grumbling over their bills…I shall picture these worthies in all sorts of positions – on the road and off of it, snowed up, in peril from the great waters, waiting for the stage coaches etc, alighting at the inns – those inns for which England was once famous, with their broad corridors, their snug bars, their four-poster beds hung with silk, their sheets smelling of lavender, their choice cookery, their claret equal to the best that could be drunk in London.”

And that’s what he does, wandering through time and space like a modern travel writer, or even a psycho-geographer. (I use that term too much, I know.) His two collaborators go with him. (The three were acquainted from other assignments for the EIM.)

Mr Railton did people as well as cats, but they were often depicted engaged in lonely pursuits, adding some scale or proportion to views like this one.

 


 

Here we’re in Chester (as I was a couple of weeks ago) from the chapter called the Holyhead Road. Then as now the Rows  (early multi level shopping) were the characteristic feature of the city, enjoyed by travellers and guide books.

By contrast, this view of the high street in Bath is teeming with people by Railton’s standards. In the chapter on the Bath Road Tristram follows various literary figures on their journeys, including Miss Fanny Burney and Mrs Thrale who went there in 1780. Miss Burney found the “houses elegant, the streets beautiful, the prospects enchanting..” She and Mrs Thrale found lodgings on the South Parade “It was deliciously situated. We have meadows, hills, Prior Park, the soft-flowing Avon, whatever Nature has to offer, I think, always in our view.” Something for the 18th century trip adviser.

 

 

Thomson sticks with the action, whether mundane, as below where four men make a meal of packing while a woman does the fetching and carrying,

 

 

clandestine, as a young lady has a private word with a gentleman, (Some long distance relationships must have been created in this communication network.)

 

 

or frantic, as in this case, simply titled “Eloped”, which tells you all you need to know.

 

Some of the coaches were noted for the tremendous speed with which they travelled. (Some of them were called “rockets” because of their great pace.) Thomson’ horses were much liked by readers and critics. One said: “he showed perhaps more mastery of the horse in action than of the feminine charm that was later to be so conspicuous a feature of his work”

And his sense of drama was well developed already. Sometimes speed and conditions combined to create minor (and major) disasters along the way.

 

 

“In a snow drift”. Horse and man in a tricky situation.

Along the way, Tristram takes in some local colour. Below, that old standby the haunted room, encountered on the Bath road but the exact nature of the haunting is not specified. It is though made for Railton’s atmospheric skills.

 

 

As is this view of the Mote (Moat) House at Ightham, on the Dover road.

 

 

Mr Tristram had some supernatural fantasies about Ightham recorded in Moated Houses which I transcribed in my first post about Railton (link above).

He had plenty of examples of the dark corners of small cities.

 

College Hall, Exeter. Below, architecture is combined with water as it so often is in his work.

 

The Old Hospital, Canterbury. Is the street totally waterlogged or are we seeing the play of light on puddles of water observed by Railton?

As well as the action, Thomson was good on the longeurs of coach travel. There must have been quiet times at the inns between arrivals and departures.

Here a mixed group is waiting for the coach.

 

Railton too looked at quiet moments in the courtyards of  inns

 

 

(The George, St Albans. A girl pulls a toy vehicle along.)

Thomson, always good at depicting lounging, slouching and hanging around shows some useful inactivity during the down time at an inn.

 

 

And some people hoping to get some down time. At many times of the day travellers come to their journey’s end.

 

 

 

While some others are waiting, patiently or otherwise, like we wait for a bus.

 

 

When the coach does come it’s time for someone to cry out: “all aboard!”.

 

 

 

Squeeze in the carriage, or next to the driver, savour the restlessness of the horses, as eager to be off as the passengers and let’s go!

 

Postscript

As I hinted last time I thought I would take a couple of weeks off blogging. Time off is always good preparation for more time off so forgive me if this post is going out later than usual. My colleague Isabel pointed out that I’ve been doing weekly posts for nearly six years. Who would have guessed when I started? At some point late in this year we will reach a million page views. Not bad, I think.

By way of compensation for the hiatus there are more pictures than usual. If you’re yet to take time off, have a good one when you do. I’ll try and get back in the saddle.

 


Mr Railton returns

After a lengthy gap, we’re back with the artist and book illustrator Herbert Railton. I recently bought a copy of a book which combines three interesting characters: Railton, and blog favourite Hugh Thomson who both created illustrations for “Coaching days and coaching ways” (1893) by the entertainingly named W. Outram Tristram. It was he who wrote the final book Railton worked on, the fascinating, “Moated houses”, which was featured in the first post about him. I’m sure I’ll come back to the Railton/Thomson team-up in a future post but first I want to look at Railton’s Kensington connection.

One of his other projects was an illustrated edition of Leigh Hunt’s “The Old Court Suburb” (1855 / 1902) a rambling historical account of Kensington. Railton did most of the topographical pictures in the book. The Library possesses many of his original sketches for this project.

I have to say at this stage that Railton’s delicate and almost impressionistic pictures can be hard to scan. It is often easier to use the published versions, which have firmer lines. In this post I’ll use some of each. I’m concentrating on one location, Holland Park and Holland House.

If you’ve never encountered Railton’s work before this is a quite characteristic piece. The house is solid and rendered in some detail but at the same time it’s a little vague, glimpsed through some kind of summer haze, the foliage blending into the architecture. The one below is actually called “A peep at Holland House”

The house is even more indistinct. The focus of the picture is the sculpture of an urn, like a funery urn at the edge of the hedge frame.

If you know the park you’ll recognize the summer ball room turret, but perhaps not the wild trees and hedges which threaten to overwhelm it.

In the context of Hunt’s book, Railton’s illustrations work well in contrast to those of the other two artists, Claude Shepperson and Edmund J Sullivan, who were given the task of doing pictures of people from Kensington’s past.

 

Chloe and Delia admiring the flowers.

A bit of courtly behaviour.

After which the ladies and gentlemen could go on to some picturesque spots in the grounds, such as the famous sundial.


(Some of the originals are on this coloured paper. I don’t think it’s any kind of age-related deterioration but it does add a pleasingly antique feel to the pictures).

Lord Camelford, memorialised with a Roman altar, perished in a duel conducted in the grounds. There is a view of the wild looking site of his death in the first post.

We can head back to the house via the Dutch Garden.

And see some more details

The Oriel front, and the Terrace.

Even when Holland House was a private house, the grounds had visitors who might not be guests of the family. After their tour they might stroll to a nearby tavern, like this conveniently located hostelry.

See how once again Railton brings the picture to a point with some birds, in this case some fairly free range chickens.

When he wrote the Old Court Suburb, Hunt was also not far away ftom the house.


Edwardes Square (The name is from the family name of the first Baron Kensington. The square was laid out in 1811.) is just down the road . Here is another view.

Two girls stroll along next to the garden railings. Railton could manage figures well enough but he was sparing in his use of them.

When the illustrated edition of Hunt’s book was published, tourists were an established part of London life.

Note the editor, our old friend Austin Dobson, the go-to guy for scholarly introductions in those days.

Railton’s fellow illustrator Mr Edmund J Sullivan put a lady visitor (dressed in the fashions of the 1850s) in a couple of his pictures  who doesn’t seem too happy.

Here she looks like she’d like to sit down if the sign permitted.

(Is she bracing her back with her right hand, completely ignoring the guide book in her left, and waiting for her companion to get on with it so they can get to the gift shop?)

And here she (or a similar lady) looks a little melancholy, perhaps remembering those she mourns herself.

These two pictures have intrigued me since I first looked at the book, so forgive me for letting Mr Sullivan squeeze a few pictures into Mr Railton’s post. I wish he’d been able to develop the theme as an interesting contrast with the  topographical pictures but Railton was the headline act on this bill.

Postscript

Posthumous apologies to Claude Shepperson I suppose for not including any of his pictures in the post. Unfortunately, they’re a bit dull. By contrast, I’d like to see more of Edmund Sullivan’s’ work.


18th century escapades – Lady Walpole’s curious grotto

Whenever I start to write about the paintings of Marianne Rush I have a tendency to wander off into fantasy. As I recently had a very pleasant meeting with a distant relative of the lady I feel an obligation to anchor this post in reality as far as possible. So let’s be clear. The picture below is not a painting by Rush, (we’ll get to her later) although there’s something about the trees and the foliage in the foreground which reminds me of her work. This is a black and white photograph of a water colour by another artist (possibly unknown) of “Mrs Aufrere’s house in the Stableyard, Chelsea”, about 1780. It shows the entrance to the Coal Creek, a kind of canal which ran a short distance into the grounds to the west of the Royal Hospital, and on the corner, the Octagon Summer House.

The house which may be visible in the distance used to be called Walpole House, and had been one of the residences of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (but don’t get him confused with the previous Earl of Orford, Edward Russell, who had been Walpole’s mentor and whose title died out. Walpole took the title himself as a tribute to his old friend). Walpole is regarded as the first Prime Minister and the longest serving in that role. (He is the father of Horace Walpole, author of the Castle of Otranto, the first “Gothic” novel and builder of an extraordinary house, Strawberry Hill  in Twickenham which fortunately you can read about elsewhere) Walpole and his first wife Catherine (Horace’s mother) used the house and garden for entertaining and filled both with extravagant collection of furniture, decorations and exotic trees and plants.

I have here next to me a small pamphlet entitled…. well, instead of copying all that out let’s use the medium of the digital image.

There’s that word “curious”. The final line refers to a separate sale of “exoticks”. Regretfully we don’t have a copy of that. The exoticks, were the many plants and small trees which had grown in the garden, along with exotic fruit like pineapples, which were popular and expensive items for the leisured classes of the day.

Walpole died in 1745, hence the sale. His wife had died in 1737. Without intending to malign either of them, it seems that though the marriage had begun as a happy one, the two had gone their own way in its latter years. Walpole also had children by his mistress Maria , who became his wife after Catherine’s death.

I had no trouble finding images of Sir Robert. Here he is looking as grand as possible

Although we have a print showing Lady Walpole it proved slightly harder to find. Fortunately there are other images of her online. She was famed as a great beauty, but not as notorious as a slightly later celebrity.

The sale catalogue backs up the notion that the Walpoles enjoyed an extravagant and sumptuous lifestyle.

Have a look at the contents of ” the taffetty bedroom

Fabric wall coverings were popular with those who could afford them.

The contents of the “worsted damask bed chamber”:

The senior servants’ rooms were less ornate, although they had the basics, and probably wouldn’t have complained about the “feather beds”.

 

Also listed is “the red room in the garden

That would be one for the 18th century version of World of Interiors.

When writing this post I’ve relied heavily on an article on Walpole House written by the late David Le Lay for the Chelsea Society Annual Report in 2013. David and I spent an hour or so one afternoon examining prints of the Royal Hospital looking for a glimpse of the House on the western side. This print by Maurer seems to offer a view.

You can see the summer house again, on the extreme right, and to the left a single storey building with a row of windows which might be the Orangery.  The house itself could be behind that. A close -up helps a little.

But let’s not worry too much about the elusive house. According to an early volume of the Survey of London the house couldn’t be seen from the river.

With the garden buildings in mind let’s turn at last to Marianne Rush.

She calls this the “Green House”, not a glass house as we would think of today, although some doubts creep in here. The building in the pictures looks a little like the Orangery, which still exists. But the architect, Vanburgh,  favoured round headed windows. At any rate it was a building containing many plants and fruit trees, with paintings and objects, and space for entertaining.

According to Thomas Faulkner in his History of Chelsea (1829) “Lady Walpole took great delight in improving these gardens and spared no expense in procuring natural and artificial curiosities from foreign parts. Her grotto exited much of the attention of the curious at that time.” 

“During the King’s absence in Germany one summer Queen Caroline frequently honoured Lady Walpole with a visit, and dined in the green-house, which was laid out with choice flowers and plants, and hung with some of the fine paintings which were afterwards removed by the Earl of Orford.”

In August 1729 the Walpoles entertained the Queen and several other dukes and princesses. ” A kitchen was built on purpose in the stable yards…with above 20 places for fires etc. The Fruit for the Dessert was collected for a week previous from all Quarter of the Town…there were several Barges of fine Musick playing all the Time. After which they returned to the Green House where the illustrious company were entertained with a Ball and afterwards supp’d in the same place.” According to the Monthly Chronicles, quoted by Alfred Beaver in his book Memorials of Old Chelsea. An exaggerated account? Well you wouldn’t get all that in here:

It’s not clear whether Marianne ever actually saw some of the buildings she painted but she seems to have been quite careful in her work and if she never actually saw the Ranelagh Rotunda for example she would have been familiar with it from prints and engravings. We give her the benefit of the doubt.

The grotto is a little more problematic. Here is Marianne’s painting. Look carefully.

Is that something like a Hindu deity beside the urns? Maybe not.

As David Le Lay and others who have written about it (I also looked at an article in a 2004 periodical called Follies) have said, it’s not quite clear where the grotto actually was. There are some half-buried arches on the grounds but they don’t look much like Rush’s picture and it’s hard to imagine the grotto in its heyday when it was much celebrated and compared favourably with Queen Caroline’s own grotto. There were even some verses in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1734.

[Scan from Faulkner, which was clearer and didn’t obscure the name W-lp-le.]

 

 

And rival Grotto Caroline.” Decorating your grotto with shells was a bit of a thing back then. I looked at an article in Country Life for 1944 (February, when there was still some time before D-Day to think about grottos) showing some examples, which mentions Lady Walpole’s grotto, but of course had no pictures.

There are no signs of any shell decorations in Rush’s interior.

So perhaps this view is speculative, or just imaginary, although Rush did like that trope of 18th century water-colourists, the empty room.

The summer house too looks  quite deserted, apart from that bust. She’s taken care with that glimpse of the view outside and the light entering the small room. Can I  see a hint of the windmill on the south bank?

Rush’s view of the exterior is a useful point at which to stop, as it provides the opposite point of view from our first picture, and does seem to look like other views of the summer house. There’s the windmill again. (There really was one – it appears in several prints.)

Marianne got this one right so perhaps she knew more than us. But. as I’ve found, an aura of mystery still clings to her and her paintings. And I like that, as you’ve probably realised.

Postscript

I have used the Rush pictures before in one or two of the imaginative posts I used to write when I started the blog so it’s good to get back to seeing them as views of reality. When they were first acquired by the library in the 1920s it was because they provided a valuable look at a whole series of buildings which no longer existed. I am still very taken with their visionary qualities though, and it seems quite appropriate that we’re not quite sure about Lady Walpole’s grotto. We were high on word count and low on pictures this week so I’m going to find a furnished summer house and lie down now. Oh, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to say this but as this is a complicated business I should add that any errors are mine and are not attributable to any of the sources I’ve used.

This post is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Marianne Rush herself and David Le Lay, a friend of Chelsea.


Thomson and Goldsmith

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve developed something of an obsession with the Irish artist and book illustrator Hugh Thomson and I’ve featured his work in a large number of posts since I first came across the 1903 edition of Fanny Burney’s novel Evelina and was fascinated by the illustrations. Since then we’ve looked at some of his “big books” – Quality Street, the Admirable Crichton (JM Barrie), School for Scandal (Sheridan), As you like it (Shakespeare), as well as the Highways and Byways series (London), and his illustrations to the poetry of his friend Austin Dobson. As a fan of his work I’ve graduated from looking through the Library’s collection, borrowing books from my colleagues at Westminster and even buying a few (relatively) cheap editions on Ebay. This post won’t be  the last time you’ll hear about Thomson but the book featured today is the last of the “big books” that I really wanted to see. It’s the 1905 edition of Oliver Goldsmith’s celebrated comedy “She stoops to conquer”.

006-a1s1-tell-me-constance-how-do-i-look-this-evening

Kate and Constance, protagonists of the main story and the sub plot respectively. “Tell me Constance, how do I look this evening?” How Kate looks is one of the themes of the play. She dresses modestly to please her father, fashionably to please herself and she adopts the dress and persona of a maid to win the heart of Mr Marlow, her father’s choice of husband.

Marlow is a little diffident with young women of his own class but rather more relaxed with women he perceives to be lower class. Here is Kate with Mr Hardcastle.

016a-a3s1-well-my-dear-i-see-you-have-changed-your-dress-as-i-bid-you

“Well my dear I see you have changed your dress as I bid you.”

Below, she asks for the maid Pimple’s view of the outfit.

018-a3s1-tell-me-pimple-how-do-you-like-ny-present-dress

“Tell me Pimple, how do you like my present dress?” Note the bundle of keys to indicate her role as housekeeper.

As a fashionable young lady her attitude to Mr Marlow is quite combative and he seems a little intimidated.

012-a2s1-you-were-going-to-observe-sir

“You were about to observe, Sir?”

He loosens up when he thinks she is a maid.

019-a3s1-never-saw-a-more-sprightly-malicious-eye

“(I) never saw such a sprightly malicious eye.”

I should add that her stepbrother Tony Lumpkin has convinced Marlow and his friend Hastings that they are staying at an inn when they come to the Hardcastle house. Kate is playing up to this, even though she thinks Tony is an idiot. (Which he is.)

007a-a1s2-i-loves-to-hear-him-sing

His mother intends that he should marry Kate’s friend Constance but he prefers the barmaid at the local inn where he carouses with some low companions. (That may be her serving the drinks.)

Mr Marlow’s behaviour gets a little out of hand.

020b-and-why-not-now-my-angel

And there are, inevitably, tears shed.

021-a4s1-by-heaven-she-weeps

“By Heavens she weeps”. Mr Marlow learns his lesson.

Tony takes some stick from Constance.

013a-a2s1-what-do-you-follow-me-for-cousin-con

But he does help her to get together with the man she loves, Marlow’s friend Hastings, after a subterfuge over some jewelry, leaving himself unencumbered by his mother’s expectations.

023a-a4s1-and-you-you-great-ill-fashioned-oaf

The confusion over the house is resolved by the arrival of Marlow’s father.

024-a5s1-and-how-did-he-behave-madam

Kate and Marlow are in love.

025-a5s1-does-this-look-like-security

So it all works out. This is a comedy of manners so you can expect a pleasant denouement. I can’t help wondering about how it would look if it was staged in the costumes of a later era, when Mr Marlow’s  liking for a woman dressed as a maid would have different connotations, but don’t let me drag 21st century tropes into this. Let’s leave them in an idyllic, idealised version of the 18th century, courtesy of the 20th century eye of Hugh Thomson. It’s fitting that we should come back to the home of Evelina. It was probably Thomson’s favourite period, and it seemed to be much liked by his contemporaries.

020a-a3s1-keep-up-the-spirit-of-the-place

 

Hugh Thomson himself was not entirely happy with the finished book. He was “bitterly disappointed with the way in which the prints have been killed by the colouring and strength of the border framing them.”   (One reason why I always crop pictures, but the plates look fine to me.) The critics didn’t really notice: “it was clearly ordained from the beginning of time that Goldsmith’s comedy should be illustrated by Mr Hugh Thomson.” and “in the whole of his career Hugh Thomson’s art was never more advanced and developed than at the present time.”

I can’t leave out this picture, another of Thomson’s  favourite subjects, young women moping around, this time with a book.

015a-a2s1-i-have-seen-her-and-sister-cry-over-a-book-for-an-hour-together

“I have seen her and sister cry over a book for an hour together”

Postscript

Oddly enough I can remember studying this one at school. I recall nothing of the lessons except a class read through. This was usually an embarrassing moment in an all boys school and relieved at not getting one of the female roles I momentarily threw off my usual diffidence and read the character of the servant Diggory in my impression of the voice of Arthur Mullard (anyone remember him?) to a certain amount of amusement from my classmates and weary tolerance from the English teacher.

000c-title-page

You’ve already seen a number of links to other posts featuring Thomson’s work. There’s just one more for you which overlaps with this one and several others but it has enough unrepeated images to interest the completists. As I said I can’t promise this is the last of Thomson (if I ever buy a copy of his version of the Merry Wives of Windsor you can be sure of seeing that one), but it’s very nearly the end. Of course there’s still Cranford, Peg Woffington, Scenes from Clerical Life, not to mention all of Jane Austen’s novels. And Goldsmith’s novel The Vicar of Wakefield. I was hoping to have a look at Norma Clarke’s new book “Brothers of the quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street” before publishing this post but the library hasn’t got it yet and I’m waiting for some more information on the post I originally intended for this week so Mr Thomson has jumped in to help out

One of the pleasures of writing a blog is to follow the things that interest you as far as you can in the hope that readers will also be interested. You can’t hope to make other people interested in a topic without being interested in it yourself. Expect a flurry of posts about book illustration in the near future but If you’re not as fascinated by the subject as I am don’t worry. plenty of other things will be coming along soon. That’s why I enjoy my day job. You never know what questions you will be asked today.


Thomson and Sheridan

004 heading

The 1911 edition of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s A School for Scandal  was one of the first of a series of classics illustrated by Hugh Thomson  in a larger format. Preceded by the Merry Wives of Windsor (1910), it was followed by She stoops to conquer (1912) [pictures from both here] , Quality Street (1913) and the Admirable Crichton (1914). Although intermittently troubled by illness during this period Thomson had hit a sweet spot, and was peaking in his art.

School for Scandal took Thomson back to his favourite time and place, 18th century London, which he had explored before in his illustrations to Fanny Burney’s Evelina. This time he was back in colour:

002a frontispiece Lady Teazle

This picture of Lady Teazle disembarking from a sedan chair caused a minor controversy when it was suggested by a reader that the custom on arrival was for the attendants to lift up the hinged lid of the chair to accommodate tall hairstyles, big wigs and hats. Thomson responded that Lady Teazle,” a very impulsive young woman, stooped and issued in one movement as soon as the chair was set down.” And furthermore, he was well aware of the hinged roofs, as shown in this 1892 illustration to Austin Dobson’s The Ballad of Beau Brocade.

The old sedan chair from the Ballad of BB

The earlier work looks sketchy by comparison with the subtle depiction of costume and facial expression in the later book.

006a strong tea and scandal

Thomson had come into his “comic” style. By which I mean his graphic style, light and comedic, reminiscent of a comic strip or a modern graphic novel. The Edwardian version of the 18th century, the antique filtered through the modern. (Just as steampunk style filters Edwardian and Victorian fashion and design through a 21st century sensiblity.)

Or whatever you like. Maybe they’re just entertaining illustrations, and Thomson had found his favourite subject matter. Attractive young women, ridiculous young men with a smattering of eccentric older players, all of them better dressed than they have a right to be, in an accurate but romantic version of period fashion.

021 But I leave my character behind me - Copy

The School for Scandal is a play of course, not a novel like Evelina so I couldn’t quite ignore the actual story (there was a nagging feeling that I’d seen it performed once at the National Theatre but that could have been some other play of the period featuring fops and gossips,) although I did let most of it sink into the background. All I really needed to know, courtesy of Thomson, was that it featured sneaking around on dark staircases,

009 So I slipped out and ran hither - Copy

a bit of public hilarity,

012 fit of laughter - Copy

some cardplay (an innocent young woman up against a practised and probably unscrupulous player-

020 Maria sits down to piquet - Copy

She looks like she’s holding too many cards to manage. You can’t make out the cards in his hand but he’s got a dozen of them. It’s piquet of course, a game I’ve only ever read about.),

some polite  flirtation (with a bit of fan work),

025a There - my note of hand will do as well

and a little reminiscence about days gone by.

026 Sophy laughed at me for thinking of marrying - Copy

Note the lapdog on the sofa compared with the more robust spaniel in this picture.

Thomson  often illustrates things that aren’t actually in the action, like this:

014 Fairly quarrelled before the bells had done ringingA great portrait of a bit of early marital discord worked up from a couple of sentences. It’s a flashback in fact, pretty cinematic for 1911.

He can also do the stagey farce stuff.

031 Hung I perceive with maps - Copy

Lady Teazle hiding behind a screen illustrated with maps.

032 Lady Teazle - couldn't I steal off - Copy

Peeping out, trying to sneak away unobserved.

034 One day when I called here - Copy

Getting caught in flagrante. Look at that arm behind her.

035 Lady Teazle, by all that's wonderful - Copy

Unsuccessfully attempting to brazen it out, feeling ashamed.

038 See, she is in tears

Tears before bedtime,

and finally some kind of resolution, bidding a farewell to the school for scandal.

041 Make my respects to the scandalous college - Copy

I’ve noticed that the illustrations aren’t as frequent as the book enters the final stretch, something I’ve observed before. Thomson had great respect for the authors of the works he illustrated. (J M Barrie certainly appreciated Thomson’s work –“I delighted particularly in his pictures for Quality Street, and it is the figures he created that I see in that street now, with himself walking among them, uuderstanding them better than the people of today, perhaps understood better by them.” ) But I suspect that the creation of a lively and entertaining set of images was his main purpose. As I’ve said before, for this reader the pictures are what matters most. They tell a perfectly good story by themselves.

 

Postscript

I don’t have to thank anyone for providing a copy of the book this time. I bought a relatively cheap copy, a bit tatty, but complete. Thomson’s versions of As you like it and She stoops to conquer aren’t quite so easy to get. But I’m on the lookout. I like my obsessions.

Next week with any luck we should be back in living memory with a set of photos curated by my colleague Isabel.

Does this design remind you of the images on the lower part of the screens?

001 cover

Oh, and Lady Teazle didn’t get to do the prologue. Here she is now.

005 prologue

Oh, that’s a long speech, Lady T. Maybe next time…


Christmas days – The return of the villainous cherub

My first post featuring the Cherub hasn’t proved to be one of my most popular pieces. Possibly too whimsical, or just a bit weird. But the search never really ends and when I found him again twice in as many weeks it seemed that I couldn’t avoid laying him before you again in one of these short posts for Christmas.

This is the usual idea of a cherub:

title from Ballad a la mode 2 - Copy

As drawn by Bernard Partridge for a volume of poetry by Austin Dobson. A chubby little chap with wings and a toy bow and arrow, doing Cupid’s work.

My cherub looked like this:

William Cecil Lord Burleigh 1738 with villainous cherub and dog B301

The portrait of William Cecil, Elizabeth’s spymaster is not for me the point of this engraving. The amoral child clutching his caduceus and his demon dog grasping a key are the real subject matter.

I looked for further occurences and found this:

John Pym 307

The same sinister boy sitting underneath the bland features of Sir John Pym up to no good at all with his flashes of lightning and his new friend the predatory goose. He is about to make a magical gesture of some sort I’m sure.

And as I say I’ve found him again so I can bring together all four of his appearances in this post.

Ann of Cleves 760A - Copy

There he is, skulking beneath Ann of Cleeves (a Chelsea resident – the Flanders mare as Henry VIII called her), his hand on the crown while he looks to see who is watching him. His insect wings are like those of Partridge’s cherub but instead of helping him with Love’s work they give him the power of flight so he can make off with the crown.

There is a final metamorphosis to see.

 

Charles Howard Earl of Northampton Lord Hugh Admiral and Lord of the Manor of Chelsea 762 - Copy - Copy

This is possibly the most sinister verision yet. His lower limbs have become tentacles and he has acquired a tail, along with a trident for further mischief. He reaches for another crown as if about to imitate the Deep Ones and snatch it away, heading for the abyssal depths.

I’ve referenced Lovecraft, but we could also be reminded of Robert Aickman and the inhabitants of the dark church in his story the Cicerones. You could imagine the engravings as actual sculptures hiding in the dark corners of an ecclesiastically dubious place of worship awaiting the unwary traveller.

But I’ve read a lot of that sort of thing and now my mind makes me lean in that direction. No doubt there are perfectly rational explanations for all of the Cherub’s manifestations.

 

Further Christmas reading:

M R James – Lost hearts / Casting the runes (to name but two, in Collected Ghost Stories and many others)

H P Lovecraft – The shadow over Innsmouth (in several Lovecraft collections)

Robert Aickman – The Cicerones (currently in print in the collection The Unsettled Dust. Also made into an unsettling short film by Jeremy Dyson starring Mark Gatiss – find it on YouTube)

Clive Barker – Anything from the Books of Blood (still the most startling debut in horror fiction)

Clark Ashton Smith – Anything you can find really.

 

To re-inforce the Christmas spirit, these short posts will be accompanied by seasonal greetings from a number of soft toys. Today with HP Lovecraft in mind Happy Christmas from the Great Cthulhu and the less well known Great Old One, Little Cthulhu.

DSC_5802

See you tomorrow.


%d bloggers like this: