William Horace de Vere Cole (1881-1936 ): A Man of Few Parts

February, 1910.  Herbert Cholmondeley of the Foreign Office arrived at Paddington Station with a delegation of Emperor of Abyssinia in England on an official business.  He approached the stationmaster-  it seemed the dignitaries had planned a visit to HMS Dreadnought, pride of the British navy, down in Weymouth.  Would the station master be able to arrange a private car for the honored guests?  He could,  and he did.   Once arrived at their destination, the princes were greeted by an honor guard, and the national anthem of Zanzibar was played.  The foreign visitors were allowed to inspect the fleet and even bestowed military honors on some of the officers.   Mr. Chomondeley translated for the exotics,  and regretted that they could not stay for lunch for religious reasons. Continue reading

Geoffrey Willans, 1911-1958: As Any Ful Kno

If you know Lennon, you’re going to know McCartney, and if you don’t know Morecambe,  it’s pretty much a given you won’t know Wise.  There are precious few joint operations where, despite equal status on the playbill, one partner is a household name and the other an obscurity,  especially when the work itself remains vital.

Willans falls into that category.  The name alone draws a blank even from people who know and love his work.  Understandable, if tragic.

For one thing, he died relatively young.  For another, his partner was then young Ronald Searle; Searle who illustrated Willan’s greatest creation, Nigel Molesworth, the Curse of St. Custards. Continue reading

Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, 1842-1885; “Play up! play up! and play the game!”

Just look at him! Was there ever such a portrait of easeful upper class twittery?  The vague smile, the languid self drapery, the unfocussed eyes, the half-forgotten cigarette, the mirror polished but virtually useless cuirass on the floor, the opera buffa hat on the second couch, the man’s complete obliviousness to himself and his surroundings.  The subject could have stepped straight of a Wodehouse novel, if Wodehouse had ever written about soldiers.

Once again, it’s a case for not making snap judgements. Continue reading