Friday, April 17, 2009

The Big City or The New Mayhew

Searle's "London" book, used as a starting point Henry Mayhew's 'London Labour and London Poor'. Above is the artwork for the original edition released through Searle's own publishing outfit Perpetua.

The sketch below, in blue ink on the title-page, illustrates an elderly man up a ladder, pasting up a poster (the printed book title), inscribed "Embellished by Ronald for Jean, the right hand of Perpetua."
(From the collection of the late Jean Ellsmoor, who acted as Searle's secretary from 1956 to 1977.)
(The Big City or the New Mayhew, FIRST EDITION, AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION COPY, WITH ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATION, on the title-page, inscribed by author and illustrator, illustrations, publisher's cloth, dust-jacket, 4to, Perpetua, 1958)

'Alex Atkinson came up with the notion of inhabiting the style of Henry Mayhew, one of the Victorian founders of Punch, and producing a modern equivalent of his London Labour and the London Poor. There being less outright shocking squalor in mid-Fifties London-less interesting squalor, perhaps-Atkinson concentrated instead on a class more characteristic of the age: those pathetically defiant strugglers of inner-suburban bedsitter-land, where ambition finally learns to die . . .

. . . With few but striking exceptions, such as a most wondrously innocuous vicar, Searle's character-studies have in common a projecting lower lip that tells of stubborness giving way slowly to misery . . .

. . . The 'New Mayhew' pieces, later to be collected by Perpetua under the title The Big City, operate right on the line between humour and melancholy; textually and graphically, they tread it with a delicacy that now seems to belong as securely to the long-ago as Mayhew himself. To be made to laugh at the 'type', and yet feel sorry for the reality it stands for, is more than one expects from such a book'.

Ronald Searle by Russell Davies

A moving picture girl/page 25 The Big City/Budding actress' 

Punch, 2 May 1956.

Alex Atkinson and Ronald Searle, The Big City: or The New Mayhew, Perpetua Books, London, 1958, p25 

'Encyclopaedia Salesman'

Punch, 23 May 1956.

The Big City: or The New Mayhew, Perpetua Books, London, 1958, p.41

'The exile' 
pen and black ink and grey wash 

Punch & The Big City, London, 1958, p. 54

'A seller of ice-cream, nuts, etc.' 
pen and brown ink and brown wash

The Big City: of the New Mayhew, Perpetua Books, London, 1958, p. 81
Punch, 15 February 1958 issue.

'An Actress of Advancing Years'

(Thanks to Elliot Elam for contributing scans)


Mateo said...

Hi Matt,
while surfing around the net I've found some great copies of Mighty Searle's works.

Here is the link -

and here also -

And man... I'm glad that You've created this blog. Ronald Searle is a great artist [I think like that about many 'golden age' cartoonists :D] and very inspirational. Thanks! :)

Cheers, Mateo.

Peter said...

Thanks for posting these ones, Matt and thanks to the contributor who scanned them for you. This book is a personal favourite.

Some of the samples appear to be scanned from the original artwork. The colours of the beautiful dustjacket are an improvement on the copy I own and it's great to see the personalised title page too.

Elliot said...

A pleasure! (as always)

JoeyCee said...

Thgis stuff i what i like best from Searle...they are semi-realistic, yet cartoony so he is good