With Your Crown On: Auden’s Light Verse

My first name, Wystan,
Rhymes with Tristan,
But – O dear! – I do hope
I’m not quite such a dope.

W. H. Auden, Academic Graffiti
Illustration to Auden’s clerihew on himself in Academic Graffiti

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Lear, Smith and Feet-off-the-ground

But first, Reader, I will give you a word of warning.  This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand…. And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation.  So put it down.  Leave it alone.  It was a mistake that you made to get this book.  You could not know. (Stevie Smith, Novel on Yellow Paper)

Today I’ve been thinking about feet in Edward Lear‘s illustrations.

Lear, Old Man of Whitehaven
Edward Lear, ‘There was an old man of Whitehaven/Who danced a quadrille with a raven…’

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‘What would you do about that?’: Stevie Smith and James Thurber

In a review for the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post in 1958, John Betjeman wrote, ‘Stevie Smith is a delightful poet and writer; her sketchbook “Some Are More Human Than Others” (Gaberbocchus, 18s) owes much to Thurber.’

Betjeman wasn’t alone in comparing Smith’s doodle-art to James Thurber (1894-1961), who contributed stories and drawings to the New Yorker from 1930 to 1950. Like Smith, Thurber drew mobile, dynamic figures in pen and ink. His people are sketchy, distorted, holding themselves at insistent but unsettling angles.

Thurber drawing - 'Two best falls out of three - Okay, Mr Montague?'
Note: tilted backs and arms; unevenly thick legs; one sketchy, flopping lock of hair…

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