Osbert Lancaster

For a man who tried to work as little as possible, Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986), the cartoonist and author of popular humorous books satirising society and architecture, achieved a great deal. After requiring an extra year to complete his studies at Oxford, he left with a distinctly unremarkable fourth class degree and from there went on to fail the law exams he needed to work as a barrister. Whilst he was a failure in both his academic and professional career, he did eventually become very successful in making people laugh.

In 1936 he joined the Daily Express as their cartoonist and for the next forty years he produced -without too much strenuous effort on his part – an estimated 10,000 cartoons that gently mocked and parodied the Upper classes. There he became known as the pioneer of the Pocket Cartoon: a topical single-panel single-column drawing, which was then widely imitated by other newspapers.

Described by his headmaster at school as "irretrievably gauche," over the years Lancaster cultivated his personality and demeanor into that of a slightly outmoded, upper class Edwardian gentleman, of the kind he poked fun of in his cartoons. This led one acquaintance to remark that "the mask has become the face."

The books in the photographs are from two first editions of his comical books on architecture, published by John Murray in the late 1940s.

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Love in the Time of Cholera is an epic saga chronicling the loves of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. It begins with the innocent and clandestine love affair of their youth. Fermina abruptly ends the romance after returning from a prolonged trip away she realises that her love for Florentino was something of an illusion. Her rejection of the hopelessly romantic and slightly awkward Florentino is followed by her marriage to the more pragmatic and self-assured Dr Urbino. The novel then follows the next fifty years of their lives: Fermina’s marriage and Florentinos many strange affairs with other women, before, finally their romance is rekindled in old age.

Cholera, a word that denotes both disease and passion, is a metaphor for the physical and emotional ravages of love. Almost akin to a form of seasickness, Fermina and Florentino on their voyages through life experience many forms of love, its loss and its recapture, before finally setting off into unchartered waters.

Marquez, who had to wait fourteen years to marry his own wife, was inspired to write the story based on own experience and those of his parents. However, whilst this served as material for the earlier parts of the novel, the love that blossoms in later life was inspired by a newspaper story about the death of two Americans, who were almost 80 years old, who met every year in Acapulco. They were out in a boat one day and were murdered by the boatman with his oars. García Márquez remarked that "Through their death, the story of their secret romance became known. I was fascinated by them. They were each married to other people."

The book in the photographs is a first English translation, published by Jonathan Cape in 1998.

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The Unorthodoxy of Orwell’s Animal Farm

'At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it.'

The quote above is an extract from Orwell’s essay The Freedom of the Press, his proposed preface to Animal Farm. In it he describes the difficulty he faced in 1943 in getting the novel accepted due to the self-censorship being exercised by publishers, at that time, of anything that was critical of WW2 allies, the USSR under Stalin. It was initially rejected by four publishers, including T.S. Eliot at Faber, on the grounds of political insensitivity rather than literary merit. Orwell argues in his essay that this form of voluntary censorship that conceals views against the prevailing orthodoxy of opinion could be as dangerous to freedom of speech as direct political intervention.

As Orwell also here contends, yesterday’s unorthodox expressions can become today’s accepted opinion. So this proved true for Animal Farm. By the time the novel was eventually published in 1945 criticism of the USSR was becoming more vocal, contributing to the novel’s instant success. Curiously, although there was space in the proofs for a preface in the first edition, none appeared and Orwell’s essay did not surface until 1972 when it was printed in The Times Literary Supplement.

The book in the photographs was published by The Folio Society in 1984 and was illustrated by Quentin Blake. It does not contain a preface.

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Edward Gordon Craig

It may not be immediately obvious, but the abstract pictures in the photographs dating from the early 1900s and created by Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966) are, in fact, designs for the theatre.

Craig began his career in the theatre as an actor, following in the formidable footsteps of his mother, the leading Shakespearian actress of her day, Dame Ellen Terry. To her dismay, he eventually abandoned acting in favour of theatre design and theoretical writing. However, it was in these areas that he would make a more lasting impression.

The fashion for theatre design in the early twentieth century was for elaborate and extravagant sets that tried to mimic reality. In contrast, Craig produced simple, yet striking, designs that were more symbolist and poetic in nature. One key element he used to achieve this effect was his use of lighting. Rather than using footlights, he placed the lighting in the ceiling. Another of his great innovations was to create a screen that changed and unfolded before the eyes of the spectator. As one commentator remarked he had "the power of conjuring up from nothing, before your eyes, that which amazes you."

In 1905 Craig published the influential booklet The Art of Theatre that was written in the form of a "Dialogue between a Director and a Playgoer." In this he argued that all aspects of a production should be guided by one man, the director, and that theatre should be considered an art form on the same level as painting, poetry and music. He also went on to found The Mask, the first theatrical journal of its time.

Despite Craig’s forward thinking ideas and breath taking designs, his work was embraced more widely in Europe than in Britain. His inability to compromise or work on any production in which he was not given full artistic control meant that he had great difficulty he securing funding for any of his projects and so, from the age of forty and for a further fifty years until his death, he produced little of note.

The book in the photographs was published in 1948 as part of the King Penguin Books series.

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