Gentle reader; you may recall my first foray under this heading in which I promised a second rumination on the British cartoonists of the 20th century. I have been somewhat lax in following up this train of thought but an incidental posting by our very own and highly esteemed Judas Was Paid on this Tuesday last got the latent imagination fired up once more. JwP wrote: “Do not ask me to define British values as if there were never any such thing. Of course there are British values. For most people they are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of the nation that they would struggle to say precisely what they are. They are like the air we breath, invisible yet ever present, intangible yet essential to our health and well being. They have shaped our character as a community of people, given us fine and noble institutions, ensured peaceful co-existence, made possible the education of our young, the tending of our sick, the supporting of our elderly and so much more.” This snippet got me a-thinking and, at last I put pen to paper (figuratively speaking).
Pont, Fougasse, Langdon, Bateman, Low. Names that are in danger of passing over the edge of living memory and sliding down into the labyrinth of historical footnotes but which may be still be recognised by the older readers amongst us. They were cartoonists flourishing in the first half of the 20th century and whose work appeared in such magazines as Punch, Lilliput and The Strand – sadly, periodicals that are all now defunct. For this little essay I will leave David Low to one side as his work was more overtly political and I wanted to concentrate on the more “domestic work” of the others listed above which in varied styles and in differing ways subtly portrayed the British character to which JwP alluded.
Of the four, Graham Laidler (“Pont”) was perhaps the subtlest in getting under the skin of what constituted the British Character and he produced a number of cartoons with that exact title. I especially enjoy the one showing at the head of this piece which, although drawn in the 30’s, has more than a relevance today to the shunning of the pseudo-intellectual Left (Will Self, Toynbee, Owen Jones and assorted other Beeboid teat-suckers) by an increasing number of people who are now finding other sources than the MSM for their news and opinions. Pont died in 1940 of polio at the age of 32 but not before producing some striking cartoons on the early “Phoney” stages of the war. The same war was to produce grand work from two other artists – Fougasse (Kenneth Bird) and David Langdon.
Fougasse, a veteran of the First World war – his name is taken from a specific type of landmine which almost did for him at Gallipoli – worked on a similar theme to Pont but now he is best remembered for his WW2 posters, “Careless Talks Costs Lives”.
The legs in the luggage racks would have been immediately recognisable to readers of the day – and probably to quite a few here – as those of Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering.
David Langdon was born in 1918 and died as recently as 2011. He, too, was adept at depicting the stoical nature of the British Character. His 1941 book of cartoons entitled “Home Front Lines” shows us in so many more ways than any heavily researched historical tome just what it was like to be British and under blitz conditions in those early years of the war. Bearing in mind that, in 1941, the tide of war had yet to turn in the Allies favour it is heartening to see the insouciant behaviour of ordinary people in extraordinary times. Langdon was most famous for his London Transport posters of “Billy Brown” who dispensed wise words for the passing crowds.
|Note the gas mask strung over the shoulder|
H.M.Bateman was of the generation before Langdon, having been born in 1887, and he is perhaps more famous than the other three cartoonists here. His famed “The Man Who…” series of drawings depicting social faux pas which horrify onlookers are rightly reproduced time and again. Here is one that is less well-known reproduced from a 1921 Punch magazine (and having taken the waters at both Bath and Leamington I can fully appreciate the wonder at anyone actually enjoying such a purgatory).
Bateman, like the others, was also a WW2 poster cartoonist. This is one of a number in which the “waster” is rightly rebuked.
A casual and let’s say, unsympathetic, reader of this site might readily dismiss such meanderings as above as pure nostalgia, a hankering for a Britain that has rightly (they would argue) disappeared. And indeed, for the most part it has. Rightly? Well, I think there are many here who would say that these simple cartoons go to the heart of what it is to be British. As JwP correctly asserts “For most people they are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of the nation that they would struggle to say precisely what they are.” It is an indefinable and indefatigable fire that has never been quenched and the signs are that it may, just may, reclaim the heart of this once great Nation.
(Fellow Deplorables – a badge I now wear with pride – I shall be incommunicado for a couple of weeks on the good ship Queen Victoria as we sail the Mediterranean from Rome to Venice. The internet service on board is slow in the extreme and extortionately expensive so I take the opportunity to do other things than stare at the screen. Weird, I know, but I think there may be other diversions to keep me occupied en route. Much will happen while I am away so please talk amongst yourselves in the meantime. Return October 2nd.)