The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Phil May Album, by Phil May This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Phil May Album Author: Phil May Release Date: October 16, 2011 [EBook #37767] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE PHIL MAY ALBUM *** Produced by Chris Curnow, Linda Hamilton, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
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|BLOWING A CLOUD||2|
|A QUESTION OF HOSE||18|
|"NOT GOLDEN, BUT GILDED"||20|
|THE TEMPTATION OF ANTHONY||21|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE QUEEN AND MRS. MARTHA RICKS||22|
|ON THE BRAIN: H.R.H. AND STIGGINS||24|
|THE NOBLE ART||25|
|ON THE BRAIN: H.R.H. THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE||26|
|PRO BONO PUBLICO||27|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE DUKE OF FIFE||28|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE GERMAN EMPEROR||30|
|AT A PROVINCIAL BANQUET||31|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE DUC D'ORLEANS||32|
|ALL THE DIFFERENCE||33|
|THREE MEN IN A BOOT||34|
|A FRIEND IN NEED||35|
|LIKE A BIRD||35|
|ON THE BRAIN: MRS. ANNIE BESANT||36|
|AN UPRIGHT COURSE||37|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. HENRY GEORGE||38|
|A BENEVOLENT CONNOISSEUR||39|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR CHARLES EWAN SMITH||40|
|ON THE SANDS||41|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. GEORGE GROSSMITH||42|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. ARTHUR ROBERTS||44|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR GEORGE NEWNES||46|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR GEORGE DIBBS||48|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. HORACE SEDGER||50|
|FRENCH, AS SHE IS SPOKE||51|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE MARQUIS OF QUEENSBERRY||52|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. W. T. STEAD||54|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. WILLIAM MORRIS||56|
|BRITONS IN PARIS||57|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR HENRY PARKES||58|
|READY FOR THE BALL||59|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE MARQUIS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA||60|
|BEFORE HIS FRIENDS||61|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR AUGUSTUS HARRIS||62|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR EDWARD LAWSON||64|
|"OH, LISTEN TO MY TALE OF 'WO'"||65|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. RUDYARD KIPLING||66|
|THE NEW JEW||67|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR WILLIAM V. HARCOURT, M.P.||68|
|THE VICTIM OF CIRCUMSTANCES||69|
|ON THE BRAIN: M. ERNEST RENAN||70|
|A PAIR OF SOILED KIDS||71|
|ON THE BRAIN: LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL||72|
|THE CAPE MAIL||73|
|ON THE BRAIN: LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN||74|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. H. M. STANLEY||76|
|ON THE BRAIN: LORD ALINGTON||78|
|A HOWLING SWELL||79|
|ON THE BRAIN: RT. HON. A. J. BALFOUR, M.P.||80|
|AN IDLE FELLOW||81|
|ON THE BRAIN: MADAME ADELINA PATTI||82|
|A GOOD PLACE||83|
|A PLEASANT PROSPECT||83|
|ON THE BRAIN: RIGHT HON. W. E. GLADSTONE||84|
|ON THE SANDS||85|
|ON THE BRAIN: THE RIGHT HON. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN, M.P.||86|
|ON THE BRAIN: M EMILE ZOLA||88|
|AT THE RIDING SCHOOL||89|
|ON THE BRAIN: LORD TENNYSON||90|
|A PROMINENT FEATURE||91|
|ON THE BRAIN: SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE, M.P.||92|
|FORCE OF HABIT||93|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. ALBERT CHEVALIER||94|
|THE UNKINDEST CUT||95|
|PUTTING IT PLAINLY||95|
|A SONG AND A SINGER||99|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. BEERBOHM TREE||100|
|A NASTY ONE||101|
|ON THE BRAIN: GENERAL BOOTH||102|
|THE ACCENT ON THE PEG||103|
|ON THE BRAIN: AN EX-LORD MAYOR||104|
|THE WRONG SHOP||105|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. G. A. SALA||106|
|GOING THE PACE||107|
|A POSER FOR GRAN'PA||107|
|A PRIOR ENGAGEMENT||107|
|THE NORTH POLE||108|
|THE CONSUMING PASSION||111|
|THE DOWN TRAIN||111|
|ON THE BRAIN: MR. PUNCH||112|
now, Mr. Whistler, what about Black and White Art?" said an interviewer. "Black and White Art," said Mr. Whistler, "is summed up in two words—Phil May!" Nor is this merely a New School of Art paradox. It is one which is held by artists of all grades alike, and even by the art editor who professes to know and supply what the public likes. That a youth who never had a lesson in drawing in his life should have earned such a reputation between the ages of seventeen and thirty, and should have gone above men as honoured in their profession as Sir John Tenniel and Mr. George du Maurier, and on a level with Charles Keene, Mr. Abbey and Mr. Gibson, is enough to make Mr. May's art extremely interesting. But his art is not nearly so instructive as Mr. May himself; he is a human document to the hand of the realist, and the student of heredity—if ever there was one. He has been interviewed in a sketchy fashion by the journalistic Mrs. Mangnall innumerable times; the high-art magazines have added him to their lists of "Our Graphic Humorists," "Black and White Artists," and "How Caricaturists Draw." The world is familiar with his own grotesque sketches of himself, and, whether he is attired in riding breeches, a straw hat perched on the back of his head, as he drives a coster's cart, or is being flung out of a cab, his long cigar and his hair cut in a bang straight across his forehead, are unchangeable and unmistakeable. The public no doubt thinks that this is only one of Phil May's jokes at his own expense, for the bold Rabelaisian roundness of his humour suggests a man the very reverse of the lean and hungry Cassius. But Phil May's humour does not consist of making fat people thin, thin people fat, exaggerating features, putting big heads upon little legs, and such methods of distortion as we have so often seen resorted to. This we learn from a glance at his home, which is his studio life.
Mr. May's artistic treasures are none of them the old masters of a millionaire, but purely personal household gods, each with a little story of a friendship, a reminiscence of hard-up times, or some personal taste. The volumes in the old oak book-case are not first editions, but they show a fine appreciation for the best literature, and even the blue china is not wired and hung-up. The drawing-board seems to act as an address-book, and the grandfather's clock by the fireplace in its old age has given up making a nuisance of itself by repeating "For ever, never." The mantelpiece is peopled with little Japanese dolls, little bronzes and brasses, and figures carved in yellow ivory. These, with a few plaster casts of arms and legs which hang on the walls, a line of Japanese prints put around the ceiling "to try an effect," a few Japanese lanterns hanging from the roof, some Japanese lay-figures in armour standing round the walls, and a few sketches, are about all the decoration of this long sky-lit room. But most important of all is the index to as remarkable a story as was ever told by a successful man, a story which has never been told before. It is only an old mug. The substance is earthenware, the decoration obviously pseudo-oriental, and the design and glaze nothing marvellous. It clearly comes from the English potteries, but it has no mark, and it is certainly not Chelsea, Derby, Yarmouth, Bristol, Lowestoft, or any of the rarer and higher-priced wares. The hand of Wedgwood, Voyez, or Elers is not seen in its design, and, indeed, it is difficult precisely to locate its origin. And yet, it should now take its place in Chaffers and Church who know it not. Our dilemma is solved by Mr. May himself, who seems, in his usual casual modest way, to have attached no importance to it, and who, from subsequent inquiries, has only a very superficial knowledge which would not satisfy a ceramic maniac, to say nothing of a family historian. "That mug was made," says Mr. May, "by my grandfather. I don't know much more about him than he knows about me; but if you are interested in china, you may care for some details which may help you to hunt it up. He was a potter in the Midlands—if you want to be particular, at Snead, in Staffordshire—and, I believe, was fairly well off; for the design, which is that of a hunt, was made to commemorate his becoming the master of the local hounds. If you say that his name is not given in any of the handbooks, I am sure you are right; but all I know is, the firm, whatever it was called, came to grief owing to the war—and I can't tell you what war; but it was not the China war." Here the student of heredity will discern the rude germ of the artistic temperament which has so developed in the third generation. It was in the interests of the hereditary artistic strain that Mr. May was induced to tell the story. He is not so impressed as are many people with the necessity of having a grandfather, and knows no more about him than is related above. Mr. May's father was apprenticed as an engineer to George Stephenson, and worked in the drawing office of the great engineer at Newcastle, where he met his wife. She was a Miss Macarthy, and her father was Eugène Macarthy, who belonged to an old theatrical family connected with the management of the New Theatre, Wolverhampton. An old bill on satin struck to commemorate a "Bespeak" performance, "under the distinguished patronage of Lord Wrottesley," gives Eugène Macarthy as playing Lord Tinsel in The Hunchback, and Jenkins, in Gretna Green; or, The Biter Bit, on Friday, May 9th, 1845. In this bill Mr. James Bennett was the Master Walter; H. Lacy the Modus; Mrs. W. Rignold the Julia, and Miss Fanny Wallack, Helen.
Mr. May's father was unlucky in life. He started a brass-foundry, but, as your host puts it, his partner cleared off with all the brass; and a consulting-engineer business was not much more satisfactory. Mr. Phil May was born in 1864, shortly after the collapse of the brass-foundry, at Wortley, an outlying manufacturing district of Leeds. His father died when he was nine years old, and his schooldays, as he tells you, commenced early in the School Board era. At that time the new officials were very alert, so he had one year's scholastic education. He was a little delicate fellow, and was made a butt of by the other boys; and he was the victim of many practical jokes.
"My artistic career," Mr. May tells you, "may be said to have begun when I was about twelve, at which time the Grand Theatre, Leeds, opened. The local scene-painter was a man called Fox, a brother of Charles Fox, and I became acquainted with his son, who helped to mix the distemper. Young Fox and other boys called Ford, Sammy Stead, and I used to rehearse pantomimes. Our stage was a back street, and our scenery was designed with a stick in the gutter; but we omitted nothing. The star-traps were all marked out, and we made our descents by flinging ourselves on our faces in the muddy road. I was always a sprite, and carried 'The Book of Fate,' which had a prominent place in all our pantomimes."
Mr. May used to sketch sections of other people's designs of costumes for use in the ward-robe room, and eventually got to designing comic dresses and suggestions for masks and make-ups in the property-room. This brought him orders for actor's portraits, for which he received at first a shilling, and later five shillings. Remuneration bred independence, and he took to living with three or four other boys, their lodgings costing five shillings a week. After a year or two of this life, the late Fred Stimpson, who had a travelling burlesque company, engaged May to play small parts and do six sketches every week to serve as window-bills in the various small towns they visited. His remuneration was twelve shillings a week, and on this he lived for two or more years. After that, about 1873, he got an engagement to draw for a small local comic journal, called The Yorkshire Gossip, which died after four weeks. In 1882 Mr. May was engaged to design the dresses for the Leeds pantomime, and flushed with success, or sickened with the squalid hand-to-hand life he had led since he was a boy—he was then a full-grown man of seventeen—he made up his mind to burn his boats and come to London, and there he became a tragedian. His finances consisted of one sovereign. Fifteen shillings and five-pence halfpenny bought him a third-class ticket, and vanity and temptation cost him four shillings and sixpence at the Gaiety Bar. "But what," he adds, "did it all matter? I was in London—the lap of luxury. I remembered my aunt, Mrs. Hanner, who had married again, an actor called Fred Morton, and I looked them up at St. John Street Road, Islington." Mr. May does not think they were very glad to see him; but they took him in, gave him food and a night's lodging, and next day his new uncle, after showing him the sights of London, put him in the Leeds train. He got out, however, at the next station and walked back. Chance led him towards Clapham way. It was winter and he tried to get work, till he was too tired to walk and too cold and hungry to speak. He begged the broken dry biscuits at the public-houses; he quenched his thirst at the street fountains. The best bit of luck he had was when he induced a child on the Suspension Bridge to part with his bread and bacon in exchange for a walking-stick. He led a terrible life of privation, and by night slept in the Park, on the Embankment, or in a cart in the Market near the stage-door of the Princess's Theatre. He was too proud to go to his relations or to Mr. Wilson Barrett. The first bit of real luck he had was in meeting with the keeper of a photograph shop near Charing Cross. He took May's drawing of Irving, Toole and Bancroft, and published it. It was a partnership arrangement, and the publisher lost about £5 in the venture. But though he was nearly as hard up as Mr. May was, when he had any money, he used often to take him to a shop near the old Pavilion and give him a dinner of beef à la mode. "It was good!" Mr. May tells you. A Mr. Rising who played at the Comedy Theatre, introduced Mr. May to Lionel Brough, who purchased the original sketch of Irving, Bancroft and Toole for £2 2s., and introduced him to a little paper called Society, for which he did some drawings. But between these periods Mr. May suffered long spells of penury, when he would have been glad to have taken up his position with a handkerchief full of broken chalks and drawn on the pavement. At last a drawing of Mr. Bancroft in Society brought him an introduction to Mr. Edward Russell, who introduced him to the management of the St. Stephen's Review. It was not then an illustrated paper, but a Christmas Number was being issued. The illustrations were already arranged for, so there was nothing for him to do. The disappointment, or long privation—for he was only eighteen at the time—or both, brought on an illness, and he returned to Leeds. A telegram from Mr. Russell brought him to London. The illustrations for the Christmas Number would not do, and Mr. May was asked to do them all himself—cartoon, illustrations, cover, and initials—in a week! He hired a room in a small hotel near the Princess's, and worked day and night, finished the whole thing, and was paid. He remained in his humble lodgings till his money was gone, and he used, as he says, to "go out for breakfast and dinner," which meant walking about for appearances' sake. The proprietor of the hotel in question, who was also a waiter at a club, found him out, and when he came home at three or four in the morning used to dig him out to share his supper; and when, through sheer shame, May confessed he could not pay him, he insisted on his remaining in his house. Mr. Brough introduced Mr. May to Alias the costumier, who engaged him as designer of the Nell Gwynne dresses, and kept him on to design pictures for a book, The Juvenile Shakespeare, on which they were to collaborate; but it came to nothing. Then the St. Stephen's started illustrations, and he was employed by it till an agent came from Australia to discover an artist for the Sydney Bulletin. Mr. May seized the opportunity of going to the antipodes, and went. The fine air, the warm climate, and the regular food made, as he tells you, a man of him; but it was the starvation, he adds, which made him the artist he is.
The rest of Mr. Phil May's story has been told before, and is not interesting, being one long series of successes, which culminated in his winning the blue ribbon of black-and-white art, an appointment on Punch, which leaves him free to draw for any other paper that appreciates his art and can pay his prices.
The story of his early life and struggles is not exceeded in interest, perhaps, by that of anybody except that of Henri Murger or that of Honoré de Balzac. The hard life he once led has left his features somewhat hard, but it has not soured his disposition. There is nothing of the cynic in him. He is still careless of everything but his art, generous to a fault not only with his money, but with his lavish praises of the work of those who aspire to be his rivals. High and low, everybody speaks of him as "dear old Phil," and the applause, even of princes, has not made him a snob. His talents and his temptations would have made many a boy of more severe training a pickpocket, burglar, or a gaol bird, as François Villon was. It made Phil May an artist, and his story is one to be remembered as an encouragement instead of a warning.
Of the one hundred and twenty drawings collected in this volume, there is little to say, for they speak for themselves. For some of them, I am indebted to Mr. Louis Meyer of 13a Pall Mall, who has enabled me to complete the series of drawings done at a time when Phil May was, as I have described him above, a poor, struggling artist. Youth and enthusiasm, made these drawings bolder than most of his later work, and the lack of pence, when every line meant pennies, made them more elaborately finished than those which of late he has made us accustomed to. But though everyone is satisfied with his present work, I can only trust that the artistic majority will think with me that he has never done better than these drawings which are here collected. That at least is why I have published them.
AUGUSTUS M. MOORE
Native: "Well, yer see, mum, I was once in a very 'igh persition, my missus used to do all the washin' for the Royal Hotel."
ON THE BRAIN
She: "It must be a dreadful thing to become old and ugly. I should much prefer to die young."
He: "You'll have to hurry up then!"
"Have you heard that Jones has given up 'booze'?"
"No, I wouldn't believe it."
"But he has, and he's dead."