Oxford DNB 2018

From May 2018, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB) offers biographies of 60,557 men and women who have shaped the British past, contained in 62,810 articles. 11,525 biographies include a portrait image of the subject—researched in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Discover a full list of new and updated subjects and Reference Groups added in this update.

Cartoonists and illustrators

In this update we extend the dictionary’s coverage of nineteenth -and twentieth- century cartoonists and illustrators, with twenty-one new entries, selected and curated (and in some cases written) by Dr Mark Bryant, the acclaimed cartoon historian and author of numerous biographies and reference works in this field.

Many of the newly included cartoonists had strong connections with Punch (joining such luminaries as Henry Mayhew, Mark Lemon, Sir John Tenniel, E.V. Knox, and Kenneth Bird, already included in the dictionary). Frederick Henry Townsend (1868-1920) joined the Punch 'table' in 1905, and was the magazine's first-ever art editor, after a prolific career illustrating for other publications including the Illustrated London News. He was perhaps best known for his First World War cartoons, including the famous 'Bravo, Belgium!' cartoon published on 12 August 1914. His successor as art editor, Francis (Frank) Reynolds (1876-1953), was also remembered for his First World War anti-German pictures, such as 'Study of a Prussian Household Having its Morning Hate' (24 February 1915). After the war he became 'a commentator on Suburbia, who brought fresh humour to the old ideas of the "little man"'; he also published many cartoons about golf and created two strips for The Sketch. George Frederick Arthur Belcher (1875-1947) drew regularly for Punch from 1911 to 1941; initially, based in London, he was ‘a good-natured if occasionally patronising observer’ of ‘the lower rungs of society’, but after he moved to rural Surrey his subjects became ‘farmers, farm hands, and elderly retired ladies dealing with their servant problems’. It was said that he sometimes missed the point of the joke he was illustrating, but ‘making a good drawing would have been his top priority and if that meant sketching a background which ruined the joke, so be it’.

(Albert) Bernard Hollowood (1910-1981) was an economist by training and profession, with a sideline as a pocket cartoonist; these interests came together in his editorship of Punch from 1957 to 1968 when he broadened the coverage, particularly in politics and financial affairs. As editor, succeeding Malcolm Muggeridge, he 'inherited a shambles and bequeathed a roaring success'; as a cartoonist, 'the limitations of [his] draughtsmanship ... distracted some attention from the brilliance of his ideas'. Canadian-born Russell Partridge Brockbank (1913-1979) had a passion for motor cars: indeed, he had to leave Chelsea School of Art when his father withdrew his funding, having seen a Pathé news clip of his son rescuing a driver from his burning car at Brands Hatch when he should have been at college. Motoring and aviation became the staples of his work as a cartoonist; 'you must make cars lean forward a bit', he advised, 'and get their wheels off the ground if you want to give an impression of speed'. As art editor of Punch from 1949 to 1960 he introduced colour covers. He was succeeded in this post by William Coltman Hewison (1925-2002), who served until the magazine's closure in 1992. Hewison was subsequently theatre caricaturist for The Times, and (like most of those in this update) also illustrated many books. It was said of him that his 'pen lines have the suppleness and power of a rhino whip and sometimes the burred edge and hard spikiness of barbed wire'.

Alfred Edmeades Bestall (1892-1986) conceived a childhood ambition to draw for Punch, and he eventually contributed 112 cartoons between 1922 and 1935; but he became by far better known from 1935 as the illustrator of Rupert Bear, for the Daily Express. Taking over from Mary Tourtel, the originator of the character (already included in the dictionary), he contributed 273 weekly strips to the paper over the next thirty years, as well as endpapers for the immensely popular Rupert Annuals, introduced in 1936. George Ernest Studdy (1878-1948) was best known for one animal character, 'Bonzo', whose exploits in The Sketch from 1922 soon multiplied into toys, figures, books, some twenty-six films (King George V and Queen Mary attended the premiere of the first, in 1924, the first time a reigning monarch had attended a premiere in a public cinema), and his image was used to sell 'everything from tobacco, cars, soap, and polish to confectionery and pickles'. (Clarence) Lawson Wood (1878-1957) was also primarily associated with one character, 'Gran'pop', an elderly ape created in 1932 and an instant success. Syndicated around the world (Wood was a pioneer in retaining copyright in all his works), sketches were transmitted to the United States by 'telephotography', and a particularly lucrative sideline was wooden toys, made in Lawson's own factory. Harry Hargreaves (1922-2004) contributed cartoons to Blighty and various air force magazines while on active service in the Second World War, but his most celebrated cartoon was 'The Bird' – 'a mischievous, scruffy, nondescript small bird' who first appeared in Punch in 1958 and was later syndicated worldwide; he was adopted as mascot by the Army Air Corps, and for two years, 1985-7, appeared in colour (as 'Early Bird') on TV-am. Hargreaves was credited by his Punch colleague Alexander Frater with being 'one of the few artists extant who can make a garden sparrow look thoroughly, rotten drunk'. Eric George Fraser (1902-1983) achieved perhaps an even greater feat, by making a gas flame look anthropomorphic: 'Mr Therm', created for the Gas, Light and Coke Company around 1931, lasted more than thirty years, resulted in numerous merchandising spin-offs, and had both a ship and a train named after him. Fraser was also a distinguished designer and illustrator whose work included numerous highly-regarded book illustrations for the Folio Society; murals for the Festival of Britain; and 'advertisements, posters, publicity material, record covers, stationery, menu cards, greetings cards, calendars, stained-glass windows, altar cloths, pub signs, coins, and postage stamps'.

Sidney Conrad (George) Strube (1891-1956), although of German descent, was a fierce English patriot whose 'ideas, indeed his whole character, echoed the nature of the Daily Express ... under Lord Beaverbrook', and whose 'Little Man' character, forever coping stoically with the modern world, made him at one point arguably 'the most popular cartoonist in the world'. John Millar Watt (1895-1975) created the first national daily paper comic strip for the Daily Sketch in 1921, with 'Pop': Watt handed over to Gordon Hogg in 1949, but the strip continued until 1960. Dressed for 'the City', with an overbearing wife and four lively children, 'Pop was endlessly put upon but rarely worsted'. The 'average Briton's idea of the average Briton' according to Kenneth Bird, he was a favourite of the King and Winston Churchill, and during the Second World War duly went into a variety of uniforms. The 'Two Types' series created by William John Philpin Jones (Jon) (1913-1992) – a pair of roguish-looking Desert Rat officers dressed in an unconventional assortment of non-regulation military kit – first appeared in Eighth Army News in 1944, and, according to General Sir Bernard Freyberg, were 'worth by themselves a division of troops to the Allied Forces in Italy'. After the war Jones created the equally popular 'Sporting Types', as well as topical pocket cartoons for the Daily Mail; he aimed for 'something that is funny, biting but not vindictive'.

A gentle humour also underpinned the caricatures of Powys Arthur Lenthall Evans (Quiz) (1899-1981), whose portraits of leading theatrical and literary figures were marked by 'a quiet joy and drollery', and occasionally 'an unsettling honesty'. He published numerous collections and exhibited frequently, and shared with Edmond Xavier Kapp (1890-1978) the distinction of being claimed by Max Beerbohm as his artistic heir. Kapp's caricatures had 'more appeal to the imagination than the sense of humour', and were described as 'an example of truth as distinct from accuracy'. Unusually, he did not draw in a consistent or instantly recognisable style: instead he 'responded differently to each subject, varying style and technique, from aggressive boldness to a rare delicacy, in order to pin down character and personality'. He later drew portraits of diplomats for the League of Nations, and during the Second World War, as an official war artist, drew 'Life Under London', sketches of the inhabitants of Underground stations being used as air-raid shelters during the Blitz. Robert Stewart (Bob) Sherriffs (1906-1960) illustrated The Recognition of Operational Aircraft during the war, but his career as an official war artist was book-ended by long stints as an cartoonist and caricaturist, including for the Radio Times and Punch, and by book illustration, notably highly 'orientalised' images for Marlowe's The Life and Death of Tamburlaine the Great (1937) and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1947).

Attupurathu Matthew Abraham (Abu) (1924-2002), born in Travancore, southern India, drew '"flat" in the two-dimensional Oriental tradition of mural paintings and patterns', but found his 'sense of humour was very close to the English one'. He made a memorable impact as The Observer's first-ever staff political cartoonist from 1956 to 1966, and also at The Guardian and Tribune. He later returned to India, where he was a notable opponent of Indira Gandhi's 'Emergency' and an advocate for human rights. An even more transnational life was that of Walter Trier (1890-1951): born in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, of Jewish descent, he moved to Berlin, where during the First World War he produced humorous war propaganda for the German side. A successful career in book illustration – notably of Erich Kästner's classic, Emil und Die Detektive (1929) – was cut short by the rise of the Nazis, who branded his work 'degenerate'. Moving to England in 1936, he was cover artist and cartoonist for the influential monthly magazine Lilliput, and during the Second World War contributed propaganda for the British side. He took British citizenship in 1947 but almost immediately emigrated to Canada, where he built his own home, worked in commercial advertising, and amassed a renowned collection of toys. He is joined in this release by two cartoonists and illustrators from New Zealand. Harry Rountree (1878-1950) was particularly noted for his golf cartoons for Punch (his house in Dormer's Wells was next to a golf club and he was a keen player), his whimsical, anthropomorphic animal drawings, and his illustrations for children's books including notably Aesop's Fables (1924 and 1934). In later life he retired to St Ives, where for many years his caricatures of local personalities adorned the walls of the Sloop Inn. (Capel) John Kent (1937-2003) was best known for his cartoon strip 'Varoomshka' in The Guardian from 1969 to 1979, featuring 'an innocent blonde beauty, usually scantily dressed, asking simple questions of wily politicians in the Wilson/Heath/Callaghan era'. He also had a long-running series of strips in Private Eye, including 'Grocer Heath and His Pals', 'Fifth Form at St Maggie's', and 'John Major's Big Top'. Parallel with his Guardian strip he penned an anti-Labour one, 'The Lefties', for the Daily Mail from 1974, illustrating his belief that his job 'was not to be partisan, but to knock the party in power, since ... most politicians were probably up to no good'.

Reference Groups

Three reference group articles are included in this update. A millenarian movement, the French Prophets (act. 1706-c.1750), appeared in England in 1706, when three Camisards – members of a radical Calvinist minority within the Huguenot community – found refuge in London after fleeing persecution in France. They presented themselves as non-sectarian, emphasizing religious experience over liturgy in preparation for the impending millennium, and attracted supporters from a range of denominations. Their charismatic, open-air assemblies paved the way for the evangelical awakening of the 1730s. The term Lake Poets (act. c.1797-1840) appeared in print in 1812 as a label applied to the first generation of Romantic poets, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. Their collaborative network had been publicly attacked as a ‘school’ since the 1790s, and their identification with the Lake District was used by hostile reviewers to portray them as an isolated Jacobin coterie, who disregarded social hierarchy through their poetry of ‘low and rustic life’. By the 1820s, however, the label lost its negative charge. The Ladies’ Dining Society (act. 1890-1914) was an informal and exclusive club established by the wives of Cambridge University dons in the period when the first women’s colleges were founded at Cambridge, and when a growing number of women’s associations and clubs came into being in Britain. Originally comprising eleven women, it was established for the purposes both of sociability and discussion. As well as their scholarly interests, some members were active in civic life, in the fields of social welfare and the suffrage campaign. Although it finally dissolved during the First World War, the memory of the friendships and intellectual debate which it engendered was sustained by the recollections of its surviving members.

Likenesses: women's lives

Portrait images have been added to nineteen articles on women’s lives. The Jacobite courtier Winifred Strickland, Lady Strickland (1645-1725), who assembled an important private collection of portraits of the exiled Stuarts in France, was herself the subject of a portrait by the court painter Willem Wissing. Lady Grisell Baillie (1665-1746), became a heroine of the Scottish covenanting movement, sheltering her father in hiding after the Rye House plot. By contrast, the parricide Mary Blandy (1718/19-1752) was hanged in Oxford for the murder of her father, whose oatmeal she had allegedly poisoned, and her notoriety (and possible innocence) caused her to be the subject of contemporary portraits. In 1768 the flower painter Mary Moser (1744-1819), was one of only two women among the thirty-six founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts, whose 250th anniversary is celebrated this year. The apparent ability of the fasting woman of Tutbury, Ann Moore (b. 1761) to survive for significant periods of time on small amounts of liquids, attracted wide attention and imagery. The journalist and writer on art Elizabeth Rigby, later Elizabeth Eastlake, Lady Eastlake (1809-1893), was photographed by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson during her residence in Edinburgh in the 1840s. The articles on the novelist Dinah Maria Craik (1826-1887) and the religious poet and hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), and the novelist Rhoda Broughton (1840-1920) all now have portrait images. The daughter of Charles Darwin and subject of a memorial essay by him, Anne Elizabeth [Annie] Darwin (1841-1851) was photographed at the age of eight, not long before her early death. The artist and designer Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896) posed to her future second husband James McNeill Whistler for his Harmony in Red: Lamplight.

This year is the centenary of the legislation (1918) which permitted women to sit in the House of Commons. Likenesses of seven women who subsequently sat as Members of Parliament are added in this update: Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, duchess of Atholl (1874-1960); Margaret Wintringham (1879-1955); Janet Laurel Adamson (1882-1962); Mavis Constance Tate (1893-1947); Lucy Annie Middleton (1894-1983); and (Margaret) Patricia Hornsby-Smith, Baroness Hornsby-Smith (1914-1985). The Life Peerages Act of 1958, whose sixtieth anniversary is also marked this year, allowed women to sit in the House of Lords. Created a life peer in 1971, (Beatrice) Nancy Seear, Baroness Seear (1913-1997), sponsored an Anti-Discrimination Bill in the House of Lords in 1973, which was a precursor to the Sex Discrimination legislation of 1975.

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