Twenty-nine manuscript postcards.

London, 1912–c. 1920?.

29 postcards (each c. 88 x 138 mm), rectos illustrated with hand-drawn cartoons in ink and wash with occasional highlighting/correcting in correction fluid, of which 28 in black and white, 1 with muted watercolours, nearly all initialled ‘PSH’, versos pre-printed in green; some soiling, a little light foxing to a couple of cards, but else excellently preserved; 5 postcards sent to Miss M.A. Potter and signed ‘PSH’, postmarked London 1912 and with green King George V halfpenny stamps.


US $486€445

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Twenty-nine manuscript postcards.

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A rare, personal, and comic snapshot into London life and English humour in the first quarter of the twentieth-century.

The illustrations, all drawn in cartoonish style, are clearly intended to be humorous in nature; many of the postcards feature ‘Punch’-style cartoons on a variety of themes, some mock landlords and pawnbrokers, others bank tellers, some marriages. Ten are titled ‘Play Titles Travestied’ and feature the names of contemporary plays and musicals with a comical reimagining of the title’s meaning. These may have been inspired by Alfred Teele’s similarly titled contemporary series in the journal ‘Pick Me Up’, though the theme does not seem to be unique to Teele. One postcard includes a portrait of Prime Minister Henry Herbert Asquith. ‘PSH’ is particularly fond of word-play, like this short exchange between judge and prisoner, titled ‘Handy’:

The Judge: “What is your trade?”
Prisoner: “I’m a locksmith, yer honour.”
Judge: “And what were you doing in the jewellers shop?”
Prisoner: “Well, when the policeman came in I was making a bolt for the door.”

Five of the postcards have been sent, postmarked London EC and Stockwell and dated between March and July 1912, to a Miss M.A. Potter in East Putney. The short messages imply a familiarity between the two, and frequently reference dates or times when PSH will be home and the two can meet. The postcards also include complaints of loneliness, anecdotes about painting landscapes and a friendly wager on the Boat Race – ‘Pair of gloves to a tie on the boatrace? I don’t think I stand much chance, but I am “game”’ – as well as more mundane messages about working overtime, the prospect of taking a holiday together in August and the dates Miss Potter should try and get off work, and the complexities of fixing Miss Potter’s bicycle. The final postcard sent is dated 5 July 1912 (though others, unsent, seem to have been drawn after 1912 as they reference plays staged later in the decade); perhaps PSH switched his correspondence to letters, or perhaps their August holiday was less than successful.

[H6367 MI – rev. SD]

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