new blog


A Quintessential English Gentleman

On his 85th birthday, a modest tribute to David Gentleman, a very British illustrator whose prodigious talents embrace design, lithography, engraving and painting. 

gentleman7sisters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'You seem to be able to move easily between design and illustration. At one moment you’re doing a stamp or poster that has to represent an idea; at another you’re drawing buildings or figures in a landscape.' John L Walters, Eye magazine of graphic design and visual culture.

 

I first discovered the world of David Gentleman way back in the late sixties and was captivated. Its delicate precision, its wistfulness, wit and whimsy, palpably express something of the magic and mythology of these Isles. The foursquare foundations of the architecture we cannot forsake, the core of steel in our purpose, the dream we still cherish of a rural paradise, idyllic mansions and thatched cottages, rose-mantled.

The son of Glaswegian artists, Gentleman was born in London and attended St Albans School of Art and, later, following National Service, the Royal College of Art where he studied graphic design. But a leaning toward illustration soon took over and he joined another course under the tutelage of Edward Bawden and John Nash, later venturing into wood engraving, watercolour painting and lithography. His commissions have been wide-ranging and have included clients such as the Royal Mint, the National Trust, Shell and a New Penguin Shakespeare Series. He has designed commemorative postage stamps, and for the Highway Code, plus logos for organisations such as British Steel and the Bodleian Library, and is the artist famed for the striking mural of medieval craftsmen at Charing Cross.

Though Gentleman is widely travelled, as his work testifies, he loves London and has spent most of his life in Camden. One of his favourite views is from the crown of Primrose Hill, though he is no admirer of The Shard and rather resents the despoliation of the skyline.

“It’s not about London. It’s just a poke in the eye from the money men, isn’t it? Proof that they can do anything they want.”

It became manifestly clear his sense of honour and fair play was outraged by the Blair government's decision to wade into the Iraq war. This produced the controversial and hard-hitting 'Bliar' poster splashed with red ink. If it seemed uncharacteristic of an artist identified with all that is traditional in British culture, it was heartfelt and spoke for a broad spectrum of the population.

Gentleman's gifts are wide-ranging, distinctive, unique, and have captured for posterity a spirit of nostalgia for a way of life that is passing, which has formed and inspired us. I wish him a very happy birthday and congratulate him on all the achievements of his fourscore and five years. I hope he is celebrating in grand style!

gentlemanlittlemoretonhall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

 

gentlemanhardwickhall

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

gentlemanendellstreet

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endell Street, Covent Garden, London

gentlemanellenkeeleyshop

Ellen Keeley's Shop, Neal Street, Covent Garden begun by refugees of the Irish Potato Famine

gentlemankelmscotthousechiswick

Kelmscott House, Chiswick

gentlemansnapemaltings

Snape Maltings, Suffolk

gentlemancamdencrescentbath

Camden Crescent, Bath

gentlemancanalsydneygardensbath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney Gardens, Bath

gentlemanheninghamhall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heningham Hall (Heveningham) Suffolk

 

Images ©DavidGentleman, courtesy of Tate Britain where they can be viewed by appointment.

(Only a fraction of his eclectic repertoire appears above.)

Bolting The Door With A Boiled Carrot

brightonpav.holland

 Excerpt from THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Second Book in the Berkeley Series

 

Over the teacups, the ladies discuss their menfolk and ponder some vexing issues.

 

It stood close to the shore, a miracle of restrained classicism,
amid chenille lawns, hibiscus, oleander and bougainvillea. The
exterior betrayed no sign of the Byzantine excess with which it
was later ‘beautified’. John Nash’s piped onion domes and
pinnacles connoting far-flung empires, which the Reverend
Sidney Smith was to liken to St Paul’s having gone to sea and
pupped, had yet to be conceived.

But to enter the Pavilion was to wander into a fable, its
atmosphere secluded from the world outside. Tales of
Samarkand and Ming Mandarins, Flying Carpets and Indian
Moghuls were easily evoked and seemed to bear witness to
Britain’s expanding global trade, despite wars and rumours of
wars.

meissenteaset

All the Berkeley children ventured within these walls from
time to time, but Henry, Moreton, Grantley and little Mary liked
especially to romp with the younger FitzClarences, Dorothy
Jordan’s children by William, Duke of Clarence. Mrs Fitzherbert
was a close neighbour on the Steine and would bring Minnie
Seymour to join their nursery games with spinning tops and
pebbles, or play hide-and-seek and put on gloved puppet shows.

Sometimes Mrs Fitzherbert arrived ever so discreetly and it was
whispered that there was a secret passage from her house into
the royal apartments. While the womenfolk discussed linctus
and dancing lessons, weaning and morning wear at one end of
the Long Gallery, the gentlemen mixed whist and politics at the
other, else went on a tour of inspection of the new domed Riding
School and stables which equalled anything those Habsburgs in
Vienna could boast.

hoppnermariafitzherbert

 Maria Fitzherbert

Mary found a soul-mate in Maria Fitzherbert and also enjoyed
the gentle society of her sister, Lady Haggerstone. Dora Jordan
was always sparky company, a good sport who could handle
any situation with pithy humour. The Duke must have been in
stitches half the night! It occurred to Mary that these three ladies
were Catholic-bred and therefore inclined to be in tune with her
own upbringing.

One afternoon, when the Prince had gone racing up to London
because the King had some bee in his bagwig about the
education of the Princess Charlotte, leaving his brothers William
and Frederick in residence, these women found themselves
taking tea together. Mrs Fitzherbert (‘a fine doorful of a woman’,
as Dora described her behind the scenes) confessed her dismay
at the tussle with Isabella Hertford’s lawyers over the wardship
of Minnie.

“It was her mother’s dying wish that the infant be entrusted to
my care.”

“How painful it must be, ma’am, to think of losing her now,”
said Mary.

“Indeed, but I think Prinny has prevailed with Isabella and we
might reach an amicable settlement, though I could wish he had
asserted a little less charm! Thankfully,” Maria added at a
discreet volume, “the liaison quickly waned, for it is
insupportable to share one’s beloved with a third person, do you
not think?”

“We women are forgiving creatures,” sighed Frances
Haggerstone. “We must turn the other way with good grace, or
grow vexed and shrewish.”

“Why, faith!” cried Dora, “be hanged to that! I’d lace his port
with jalap of an evening. He’d be sure to spend the night in the
closet!”

The four women chuckled together. “I think that might be
accounted treason,” demurred Maria.

“His grandfather died in the closet, though not of an overdose
of jalap, I’m thinking!”

romneymrsjordanthecountrygirl

Dorothy Jordan

Mrs Fitzherbert sat back in her Sheraton chair and rested her

saucer against her ample bosom which nicely fielded spills from
the bone china cup hovering somewhere above it. “Yes, we must
overlook the peccadilloes of our better halves. But His Highness
did promise the Pope that he was a reformed man, else I should
not have been able return to him.”

“You might as well whistle a jig to a milestone if you expect
fidelity from Adam’s sons,” reflected Dora.

“Dear Maria, you were nothing short of saintly in making way
for the Princess Caroline when Prinny sought to do his duty,”
said her sister.

“And we all know what a disaster that was! When I think of
that poor child shut up at Windsor with hardly a glimpse of her
parents, I cannot help but compare her situation with the
freedom enjoyed by my own dearest Minnie.”

The group fell dutifully silent. They all believed that Princess
Charlotte and Minnie Seymour were half-sisters and that it was
not their prerogative to comment.

“Ah, no man ever wore a scarf as warm as his daughter’s arm
around his neck,” claimed Dora. “His Hoighness can’t be blamed
for wanting the little Princess removed from Blackheath. The
goings-on!”

“I can only think them exaggerated,” Mary remarked. “Would
our future Queen behave in such a wanton manner?”

“You are a good-hearted creature, Lady Berkeley, but make no
mistake where the lady of Brunswick is concerned there’s no
smoke without a conflagration.”

“What about the choild?” offered the actress for mutual

consideration. “He sleeps in her bedchamber, they say. She
didn’t find him under a gooseberry bush, now.”

“At least she doesn’t call him Master Guelph,” Lady
Haggerstone commented. “She has a dozen others housed
nearby who live by her industry in the vegetable plot.”

“An admirable use of her time and energy,” said Mary. “To
alleviate a little of the nation’s poverty is not to be despised.”

The chatter went on in this vein for a good hour when the
Countess of Berkeley begged leave of the party and took her
fledglings off.

“Such an agreeable woman,” Lady Haggerstone remarked.

“Who would have thought her a chambermaid?”

“Hence her empathy with the destitute, Fanny.”

“I can’t think what she’s doing with that old rogue, Berkeley,”
declared Dora. “I reckon she bolted her door with a boiled
carrot!”

“Much as you did, my dear, with William,” said Maria,
looking down her long amiable nose.

sheewilliamdukeofclarence

 William, Duke of Clarence

"Now if anyone's a reformed character, it is the Earl,”observed Lady Haggerstone.

“His wife has woven quite a spell about him.”

The subject of the Berkeley Peerage was not aired since Mrs
Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales had aroused scandal of a
similar kind.

“How well Lord Dursley fills his father’s old shoes,” Dora
said. “That one was dealt a double dose of Original Sin, to be
sure. All the eligible mamas-in-law are locking up their
daughters.”

“Not with boiled carrots one trusts.”

Lady Haggerstone shook her head. “Mr Fox was saying the
other day that if only the silly fellow had not been expelled from
Eton, something might be made of him. He has many
accomplishments which would be of service to himself and the
nation.”

“He speaks several languages with great fluency,” Maria said.

“Aye,” said Dora, “twill be of the bruiser, the pickpocket and
the highwayman. He’s made a fine art of it!”

boxing18thcentury

Hide And Seek



Why do the charmed play hide and seek

and flee the story in the wings,

as if disporting on the stage

could set alight the curtain fringe?


Illusion's limelight's highly prized

and channelled sentiment extolled

If structured context cramps the style,

another's script makes players bold


The play's the thing, so says the Bard,

our psyche's lineaments laid bare

We revel in the story told

and all vicarious life is there


The Safety Curtain functions well

as acts meet their appointed ends

Perplexing shadows haunt the wings

Beyond, the brave face skylit lands


So who'll forsake bewitching masks

and don his natural God-given role

and tread the existential boards

and free the glittering eyelets' soul?





Rocking The Dynasty



2015 - the Chinese Year of the sheep and the goat...


The Second Book spans the years 1799 - 1811 which ushered in the Regency era.


'The plot rides the heart-stopping ups and downs of a remarkable marriage and reveals how the tightrope between truth and illusion can swiftly turn into a hangman's noose.'

You've heard the term 'berk'. It conveys idiocy, doltishness, an agent of reckless escapades and madcap follies. But do you know its origins? A contraction of 'berserk' or 'berserker', perhaps? Well, 'berserker' is derived from the Viking and a noted raider, Harding the Dane, was the forefather of the family in this saga, but 'Berk' is a diminution of 'Berkeley' and, according to legend, was first attributed to the sons of Mary Cole, 5th Countess of Berkeley, protagonist of the Berkeley Series.

Mary gave birth to eight sons (seven living) and five daughters (three living). Among them were a distinguished Admiral, Maurice Frederick Fitzhardinge Berkeley, several MPs, a glorified gamekeeper, a tearaway officer in the 10th Royal Hussars, the Prince of Wales' Regiment. Harriette Wilson, upper class courtesan of the day, who liberated funds from a battery of illustrious figures on the understanding that they were firmly edited from her wickedly mischievous memoirs, described this last, Augustus, as 'a young savage' on account of his volatile temper and crude imagination, but appears to have found sight of his banker's drafts as welcome as the Duke of Wellington's.

However, the apple of Mary's eye was 'Fitz', the eldest son, a hard-drinking blade, around whose rightful heritage a furore swirled for decades, both before and after the 1811 Peerage Trial. He came to inhabit a half-world encompassing theatrical, cultured and country pursuits. He enjoyed the society of servants, celebrated beauties, hostesses, wives, widows, maids and mummers, never knowing quite where he belonged, a hostage to his chequered ancestry and the ineptitude of his noble parent. He was to feature in a number of court cases of the 19th century for whippings, firearms offences, divorce proceedings and breach of marriage contract.

From an early age, he knew how to manipulate his mother. She was no sop, but nursed a sore conscience for her part in striving to 'make right' the cruel deceit practised upon her by the Earl. Such were the twists of destiny, that a fake marriage proved impossible to disavow. Despite that the Countess had retrieved the family estates from ruin, something no mistress (and seldom a woman) would have attempted, the House of Lords was disinclined to believe her testimony and she was forced to flee the country in the thick of the Napoleonic Wars, on the advice of the Prince Regent, with a jail sentence, and possibly worse, hanging over her head.













Synopsis...

When the Earl of Berkeley narrowly escapes death in a duel at Arundel Castle, he realises the outcome is not what his opponent intended. His wife has been compromised by a deadly foe, Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, brother of the Prince of Wales.

After a long spell of seclusion, the Countess is launched upon the beau monde. The couple strive to subdue gossip caused by the failure of the 1799 Pedigree Trial to recognise their first marriage. A careful strategy must be adopted to ensure their eldest son succeeds to his father's honours.

The blood of kings and tradesmen runs in Fitz's veins and he struggles with a conflicted identity. In many minds, his courtesy title, Lord Dursley, is far from fixed, whilst his reputation for philandering is every bit as robust as Lord Berkeley's. Equally at home in Green Room, boudoir or barn, his proudest conquest is The Fair Greek from Smyrna, bewitching wife of the English Consul in Egypt.

Dursley's beautiful and tiresome Mama dare not put a foot wrong. The Prince of Wales is courting her favours and her watchful spouse well understands that safeguarding her virtue may exact penalties as surely as risking her good name.

Among other intrigues, Lady Berkeley finds herself caught up in the Delicate Investigation of Princess Caroline, banished wife of the throne's heir. A scandal involving risqué conduct and an adopted child brings the Princess into disrepute, a scenario exploited by her husband who wishes to divorce her. One of his chief spies, Lady Charlotte Douglas, grew up in Gloucester and is familiar with Mary Cole's past. She tells how a distinguished barrister once enjoyed a liaison with the Countess at a time she vows she was married.

The Earl's demise after a tragic accident means his widow must confront the House of Lords Committee of Privileges alone. Witnesses are summoned from every stratum of society and her history taken apart. Rogues emerge to stake a claim upon the Berkeley fortunes and romantics to set the record straight. The aristocracy closes ranks. Royal promises are broken and allies melt away as the lengthy hearing wends its sensational course before Cumberland inflicts the coup de grâce.

It seems the only emblem of true loyalty is a Jacobite white rose.



Sovereign Grace



Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.'
Thomas Carlyle


Some reflections on the evolution of the British Monarchy on the 366th anniversary of the execution of Charles I


“What Britain needs,” a Jewish friend once said, “is a benevolent dictator.”

I confess I was amused by the idealism of this oxymoron, thinking of the less bloodthirsty Old Testament kings who stood in God's stead and often did it their way. But he was articulating the cry of a child for a parent. 

Whatever one feels about the principle of Monarchy, and whether individual monarchs are saints or villains – mostly they're just  ordinary mortals coping with an invidious task in high relief - I believe we know instinctively that we are made to honour it. A Constitutional Monarchy, based on long tradition, is probably as good as it gets. This has to  some extent been eroded in Britain, but what is largely below the waterline is the stabilising influence it still has on society. Some political theories might well appear just and logical, but they don't take into account human nature and human needs.

It provides no solution that those at the top must have their incomes protected because they are the movers and shakers and the benefits will somehow percolate downwards. The cherished moneymakers who provide the highest revenue, it is argued, are those who will be keeping the country afloat. Not, apparently, if the wife lives in Monaco.

Grants to local government are equally likely to be administered in favour of vested interests, so that money is funnelled  into private pockets. The trouble with outright democracy is that, while it may spare us the tyrants, election sifts down to the least abhorred, rather than the most revered and respected. 

As a counterweight, we need an impartial hierarchy which is there to promote, throughout the globe, the good of every law-abiding citizen of the nation - and even to mediate the fate of those who aren't! Rather than the reverse, it gives us status and colours our aspirations. It is the last link with our heritage in a post-Christian society. And if this framework revives our long-lost humility, then we are ennobled by that process. In this finely-balanced symbiosis, we are its servants and it is ours.


It is sometimes said in jest that America and Britain are one people divided by a common language. But penetrate a little deeper into the psyche of nationhood and it becomes clear that while tremendous friendship, goodwill, co-operation and esteem prevail, what separates is more than tweaks of the lexicon. It's a matter of history and geography, our respective positions on the atlas and how the interaction of both has forged diverse ways of thinking and being in striving towards fair and civilised cultures. The Atlantic is easier to bridge than at any time in the past, but it is still a thousand leagues of water.

Two years ago, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's Coronation on June 2nd, 1953. What the 2012 Diamond Jubilee (marking the Accession) showed beyond a shadow of doubt was how loved and revered she is, how thankful we are for the blessings of our heritage, how, when all the carping about privilege and the flirting with extreme fringes of democracy are done, we recognise what has given us a frame of reference through troubled decades. We know who we are. Thankfulness is better than pride. Pride has to do with Empire and all its conceits. We are struggling with many of the sins of Empire at present. It has all come home to roost.

Our Monarch is a mirror. She reflects back the better part of our human nature. Queen Elizabeth II is no Gloriana. She has understood what humility means and nicely judged her stance through some harsh challenges, very aware of dark forces behind the scenes. As a Constitutional Monarch, she has toed a strong and delicate line. When the Divine Right of Kings was questioned in the seventeenth century, it led to the execution of Charles I. It was an idealistic notion, open to abuse on the part of monarchs and subjects alike, and widely misinterpreted. To make the concept viable in moral as well as legal terms, humility is called for on both sides. The buck stops with the Sovereign. The exalted are here to serve in God's stead, a tall order with myriad random forces at large, one that demands respect for the position itself and constant prayer for the wisest outcome when human frailty takes over.

The Commonwealth and Cromwell's Protectorate, after Charles I's death in 1649, proved neither popular nor practicable. Folk didn't take to having a commoner decide their fate and the experiment failed. The Restoration of 1660 heralded times that have never looked back, whatever modifications have been made. It's the easiest thing in the world to tear down icons, demolish old structures, whitewash church walls of their painted saints and martyrs, not so easy to lay foundations among the rubble and build a whole new regime.

Perhaps contrarily, we don't go in for role models and heroes in Britain. The notion is alien to us. Fandom doesn't have quite the same charge as it does in the States. We buy the products of celebrity to enhance our lives; we embed those we admire in the culture, but while fashions and attitudes may filter through, we take our idols with a pinch of salt. It seems there is something else already in situ within our makeup.

Across the ocean, we see space and the freedom to move and be, an enviable pioneering spirit, a people determined to pool resources and 'fork lightning' from the ruins of religious purges and ideological persecution. A generous people keen to delight in the success of others rather than cut them down to size and look for feet of clay. They have belief in opportunity, a Dream that anything is possible by dint of hard work... And, occasionally, we glimpse a people cloven from their deepest roots, living on the outer crust of history, hankering for the old countries, the inherited beliefs.

I look back to the fifties, the decade in which the Coronation took place, and smile at how younger generations view it. No, my earliest memories are not especially gilded, or bathed in nostalgia, but it was an era of citizenship, relative safety and unlocked doors. The corner shop, the linchpin of community, had not yet lost out to supermarkets. (Ironically, it is largely being restored by immigrant cultures.) Education was the watchword and degrees matched the needs of the workplace in a way they seldom do nowadays. People travelled a lot. They travelled widely in the course of their week. Infrastructure was well-oiled. Of course, the population was only half the size, maybe less if some estimates are right. Since then, technology and transport have created more haste and congestion, less speed. A letter dropped in the post to someone in the next town may now go a hundred miles out of its way before delivery.

So what is prosperity? Isn't it anything that intimates heaven, the goal behind every goal and the subliminal purpose of all striving? It is our Queen doing her best to hold the self-serving, power-hungry wolves at bay, tending her flock as faithfully as a shepherdess.

It is our Monarch imaging God's love for humanity and in that every Continent has an equal share.




My poem in honour of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee