The tenth of September, 2012: Breeding Of The Weasel

We recently found ourselves in the repository of good things that is Alnwick’s Barter Books. There are many things to like about it: the little train that runs along the tops of the bookshelves; the panopticon-style layout of the fiction section; the tasty rarebit served in the buffet; the automotive contortions you have to enact in order to get in and out of the carpark (all right, I didn’t technically enjoy that part, but I did feel obscurely improved by the experience).

But the main thing about Barter Books, the important thing, is that there is a great number of books there. The children’s section is a treasure-trove of technicolour-jacketed derring-do (although, as so often, there was a dismaying lack of Willard Price). There are beguiling, mouldered rarities kept behind glass. There are raffishly orange Penguin spines by the hundred.

I came away, inevitably, with a bagful, including the marvellous Penguin 1965 Connoiseur’s SF (Pohl, Vonnegut, Ballard, and so on – I’ll say something more about this pocketful of wonderfulness another time) and Nabokov’s The Eye in Panther (1968), featuring some great press quotes on the jacket: ‘Nabokov is the natural successor to Chekov’ (Tribune); ‘The likeness between Nabokov and Pasternak… jumped to my eye more than ever before here. And Nabokov’s superiority jumped as much as ever’ (Guardian – hear, hear, whatever the Nobel Prize committee might say).

Also in the bagful was Yorkshireman H. Mortimer Batten’s Habits And Character Of British Wild Animals (W & R Chambers, 1928) (yes, Waugh fans, we’re very much in the territory of feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole). It’s a book that, for me, has two extremely charming features.

One is Batten’s propensity – one he shared with most natural history writers of his day, and earlier days – for making scathing moral judgments on the personal character of the creatures he’s writing about. The rat, in particular, really gets his back up: ‘In the following it is proposed to deal only with the less commonly known habits and characteristics of this odious and universally detested creature,’ he says, barely able to even contemplate the beast without his bile rising.

The other is the illustration, which is byWarwick Reynolds (1880-1926) and is extraordinary: I don’t recall seeing anything like it in a natural history guide from the period. It’s surprisingly dramatic, full of movement and action, and rendered in ravishingly thick layers of pencil-lead. Here’s the brown hare:

And here’s the fox:

I’m damned, however, if I can find much out about the fantastic Mr Reynolds. All I know is that he was an English artist and animal painter (and he also painted this chap. Who is he? Why, he’s Colonel John MacFarlane, of course – and I’m damned if I know anything about him, either). He’s listed alongside E. H. Shepard (of Pooh fame) and W. Heath Robinson in this Bonzo profile of ‘Famous Artists and Writers’ from 1924 – so I also know that he had a gravedigger’s face and a pudding-bowl haircut. And he drew for The Strand (pdf), too (a week rarely goes by without me giving thanks for the good people of Archive.org and their indefatigable scanners). He was only forty-six when he died.

It’s rather  sad, of course, that so interesting an artist is so little remembered. But, on the other hand, there are worse fates than to be found, slightly the worse for wear and with your binding coming loose, in an under-explored corner of a Northumberland bookshop.

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19 responses to “The tenth of September, 2012: Breeding Of The Weasel

  1. Pingback: The twelfth of September, 2012: a two and three zeros | Clutterbuck

  2. Thanks’s for pointing me towards that photograph of Warwick in the Bonzo profile – I have not seen that one before. For some information about Warwick then please read the following.

    As you said, Warwick was born in 1880, in London. His father, also Warwick Reynolds (1832-1896) was also a notable illustrator in Victorian times who was classed as a ‘black and white artist’, who specialised in illustration of newspapers, journals, periodicals and books. He also fancied himself at one time as a writer and wrote several short stories and a novel [An episode in the life of Mr. Eusebius Holliberry] – a la Charles Dickens – which was published but I have been unable to track an available copy down. His movements were noted in the newspapers and he socialised with many of the artistic, theatrical talent and literati of the day. As you will discover on reading art was the family business or profession. Warwick Snr, through his mother Sophia Tidey, was the nephew of two other notable artists of the Victorian era, Alfred Tidey and Henry Fryer Tidey. That is not to say that there was no artistic talent elsewhere in the Reynolds family and so it would be incorrect to assume that this came from Tidey genes; Warwick Snr’s cousin Frederick George Reynolds (1828-1921) was a landscape and still life painter; his son, also Frederick George Reynolds (1880-1932) emigrated to Australia in 1899 and is a noted landscape and figurative artist.

    Sophia died in 1840 and Warwick Snr was sent to the boarding school run by his grandfather, John Tidey, in Worthing, Sussex. It was probably John Tidey who taught Warwick Snr the rudiments of art and drawing. In turn Warwick Snr passed these skills and knowledge onto his sons Warwick, Percy Tidey Reynolds, Sidney Basil Reynolds and Ernest Reynolds. There was another son, Horace Henry, who chose the Civil Service over art as a career.

    Warwick started young and was drawn to animals from a young age. He spent much of the time in his formative years at London Zoo, studying and drawing the animals. He was probably the youngest recipient of the artist permit that allowed him to do so. Father and sons undertook book illustration and all worked prolifically for the multitude of newpapers and periodicals of the time, such as the Illustrated London News, Sketch, Punch, etc. Ernest sadly died young in 1899, adjudged death by misadventure by a coroner, following an evening of theatrical entertainment held in the family home at 11 Gibson Square. On rising in the early hours following some imbibing the night before he reached to drink from a bottle that was found to contain sulphate of mercury, used in a lighting effect for the theatricals earlier. He sadly died two days later. The father and remaining sons continued in ‘the family business’ although Warwick did concede in later life that his family had originally wanted him to join the Civil Service as well, possibly to secure a steady income and respectable position. Warwick Jnr was later notably affiliated with the Amalgamated Press publications which operated from Fleetway House in Farringdon street. The family also undertook commercial or advertisng work; one notable campaign in the 1920s by Sidney Basil – known as Basil – was for Nugget Boot Polish. This featured the face of a smiling, chubby boy. The model for this was Basil’s son, also called Basil Reynolds (1916-2001) who became a notable cartoonist, working on a number of publications as well as for Disney. Basil’s other 2 sons were artists and illustrators but sadly both died young from tuberculosis. Basil Jnr was a great appreciator of his uncle Warwick’s work and made it his business to collect drawings by the artist; these were found in the contents of his studio which were auctioned by Bonhams in 2005, a few years after his death.

    Surprisingly Warwick Jnr found it difficult to secure sufficient, steady work in London at one time and in the early 1900s headed to Glasgow as he had secured a position with the Daily Record, a Scottish daily natonal newspaper. He continued to illustrate books, most notably children’s books. One day he visited the home of Malcolm Kincaid, a respected master printer – at that time for Blackie’s – to discuss the printing requirements for some illustrations. Warwick met Mary Kincaid, the printer’s eldest daughter, and they married in 1906 with Warwick now permanently settling in his adopted city of Glasgow. Aside from a brief sojourn in Paris circa 1908, to study art and produce muliple pastel drawings (mainly of street scenes), Warwick continued to meet what was now a growing demand for his illustrative book work. Warwick and Mary had 4 children but sadly the firstborn daughter died very young and both parents were devastated when the only son, also Warwick, died aged 12 of tubercular meningitis in 1919. The boy Warwick had shown early artistic promise and his father set him frequent artistic challenges which he met. The resultant drawings were cherished by the parents following his loss and still remain within the family. Of the 2 remaining daughters, one, Jean, was artistic and later studied at the Glasgow School of Art some years after her father’s death, the income from his prolific output enabling her to do so. Warwick Reynolds died of asthma and cardiac failure on 15 Dec 1926 and is buried in the city’s Lambhill Cemetery.

  3. I found your article as I wondered who Colonel John MacFarlane was myself. He was a decorated soldier, grain merchant and Glasgow Councillor. See:
    http://www.clanmacfarlanegenealogy.info/genealogy/TNGWebsite/getperson.php?personID=I8257&tree=CC

  4. Typo correction: Ernest died in 1889.

  5. Hi Joanna. Thanks so much for the comments – fascinating stuff. Do you have a personal connection with Reynolds?
    I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a copy of Warwick Sr’s novella…

    • Great-grandfather. Thanks also for your comments. I have thought about writing an article on Wiki but never seem to get round to it……maybe some day…

      • Hi
        Wow just been reading all this . I am the grandaughter of Basil Reynolds.

      • John Wigmans (Netherlands)

        Hello Heidi,

        Do you happen to have a photo of your grandfathet Basil Hope Reynolds from around 1956/57?

        Kind regards,

        John

      • Hello John Wigmans – many apologies for not replying to your email of last year. I couldn’t have helped you at the time in your quest for a photograph of Basil but I should have said. That said, I think it is great that Heidi has appeared (hello cousin!!!) and she will probably be able to assist. I would also LOVE to see what Basil and his family looked like as well…I only have the Nugget Boot Polish boy! I know my great-grandfather Warwick was very close to his brother Sidney Basil (nearest in age, both married Scots and I think Sidney Basil was witness at my great-grandparents marriage) and Basil himself used to visit my grandmother from time to time.

      • Hi Joanna,

        Thanks for your kind reply. Can I ask you for the source(s) of you very first post, October 21, 2012?
        My main topic of research is Basil Hope Reynolds, esp. when he was the art editor of the nursery comics Playhour, Jack&Jill and Tiny Tots, all published by the Amalgamated Press. That was from February 1956 till August/September 1957; hence my question for a photo from this period. Around August/September 1957 he became editor of Tiny Tots, till February, 1959.
        My sources are the volumes of Mickey Mouse Weekly 1936-1956, Playhour 1956-1958, Tiny Tots 1956-1959, Express Weekly 1955-1961. And I have found very useful information in The Collectors’ Digest and The Story Paper Collector, 1957-1961. Basil’s ‘autobiography’ was helpful too. Of course I have consulted lots of other magazines, websites and people who have worked with him.
        But now for that elusive photo….

        Thanks and kind regards,
        John

        P.S. Can you please check and correct the ‘family-tree’ I posted on December 16, 2015?

  6. ashley reynolds

    hello joanna slack, my name is ashley reynolds, my grandfather leslie tidy reynolds was the son of percy tidy reynolds brother of warwick reynolds,i would like to find out more details of my reletives .i have collected some of warwicks books etc

    • Hello Ashley,
      You must be my 3rd cousin then! I am surprised and thrilled to hear from a descendent of one of Warwick’s brothers. I have read at some point that Percy Tidey Reynolds researched the family tree way back although I don’t have a copy of this. I have many of Warwick’s books myself, you can collect some of his father’s also [not so many available though]. I haven’t seen much of Percy’s work although there is a poster available from many poster websites that is of a cartoon that Percy did in 1916 imagining what the new fangled ‘tanks’ looked like, i.e. as used for the first time in the Battle of the Somme. From memory it was a cartoon undertaken for Punch magazine. Can be viewed at link below. I have a copy myself.
      http://www.allposters.co.uk/-st/Percy-T-Reynolds-Posters_c88929_.htm
      I have a family tree on Ancestry.co.uk. I will need to see how we may exchange email addresses so that you can either access my tree or we can exchange information. Can Clutterbuck’s Curator assist or advise?

      • ashley reynolds

        wow hello 3rd cousin .i have a copy of percys famiy tree that Joyce Reynolds gave me.joyce was leslies sister

  7. also a relative – 3x great grandmother was warwick’s mothers cousin – it was great to find about the books – just got a copy of it and the illustrations are brilliant – thanks you so much for alerting me to this. If, as above, I can be put in touch with Joanna – that would be great – but many thanks anyway and keep up the good work

  8. Hello Ashley,
    Great to hear from you again. Your latest information is very interesting! I knew Leslie had a sister called Joyce.
    Did yourself, and Elizabeth, receive an email from the curator, Richard Smyth, 25 Mar 13 containing my email address? It would probably be better to communciate via email. I do not know your email address so it would be necessary for yourself and Elizabeth to contact me first, if you wish.
    Regards, Joanna

    • ashley reynolds

      NO JOANNA HAVE NOT RECEIVED DETAILS OF YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS
      REGARDS ASHLEY

      • Joanna Slack

        Something must have gone wrong there….I think Richard can see all our email addresses so he was the go between. Richard – can you possibly assist again? Regards, Joanna

  9. Hi Ashley and/or Joanna,

    Can you please check and correct the following details?
    This is, I believe, a part of the Reynolds family in three generations:
    -Sidney Basil R. (1884-1941), married 1907 to Margaret Mary L Mann, parents of -Basil Hope R. (1916-2001), married 1940 to Mollie Irene Bush (1917-2001), parents of -Christopher John R. (1946-1995), only child.
    Is there a photo of Basil Hope Reynolds from around 1956/57?

    Thanks.

    Kind regards from The Netherlands,

    John Wigmans

  10. Could anyone clarify if a Mrs George Frederick Reynolds who is buried in Ladywell cemetery -SE London is the wife of the artist GFR? As the broken family headstone only notes above?

    Regards

    Mike Guilfoyle
    Vice-Chair : Friends of Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries.

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