Humorous manuscript correspondence (13 letters) from 'Fred' [Frederick Clarke], writing from Dalston, East End of London, c.1910, to his friend 'Ted' [Edward Parkes?], with 63 pages featuring outstanding coloured pen cartoons and other flourishes.
12mo, 64 pp, on 16 bifoliums, loosely housed in a contemporary blue-cloth binder. Eleven of the thirteen letters signed, ten of them 'your sincere friend Fred', the other two being incomplete; some of the illustrations signed 'F. C.', and one 'F. Clarke'. Fair, on aged paper. A delightful, imaginative and striking correspondence, illustrated in coloured pen by an accomplished amateur cartoonist. Suitable for display. Clearly and neatly written, with each page filled to the edge (no margins) with a combination of Pooterish text and energetic illustrations [also a la W.W. Jacobs]. In various letters the initial 'DEAR TED' is made up of naked male figures, smoke from a cigar, logs, flowers. One letter describes 'the great event namely the Coronation [of George V in 1910]': 'It is impossible to discribe [sic] the difference that has taken place in the city. The Bank, Royal Exchange Mansion House etc so dirty & grey on other occasions now at night look like fairy palaces. There are 5000 lamps alone on the Bank'. Other clues include references to mutual friends Harry [Fox], Erne, Tom [Giblin?] and Sam, and to 'Mrs. Parkes', who appears to be the recipient's mother or wife. An eight-page letter is characteristic: headed with an illustrated sign reading 'Our Fire-work night', with two laughing demons lighting a barrel of gunpowder with torches. The pictures are admirably suited to the text, as the captions indicate: 'PARADING THE STREETS' (a man dressed as a schoolboy pushing a cart with a guy down a street with a Hovis baker named Sheaf & Co and a comedy policeman with truncheon drawn), 'OUR FIRE-WORK MANUFACTURING DEPT.', 'HARRY AFTER THE EXPLOSION', 'HARRY CONVALESCING IN THE PARK' (in a pram pushed by a matron), 'OUR PALATIAL DOMICILE CATCHES FIRE', 'LOCAL FIRE BRIGADE TO THE RESCUE' (steam-driven fire engine wtih two galloping horses), 'HARRY SOARS GRACEFULLY THROUGH THE LANDING WINDOW' and 'IN THE HOSPITAL WARD PEACE AT LAST'. The letter begins, in a style characteristic of the whole correspondence: 'I really must tell you all about it. Terrible don't express it. You see it was all through Harry. The other night he mounted a box and addressed the bhoys [sic] in the following eloquent terms. "Lads" he exclaimed. "I think you will all admit that it is a sacred duty". Hear! Hear! we all shouted although we had not the faintest idea of what he was talking about. "Yes" continued Harry I think it is incumbent upon every citizen, every member of this great metropolis to manifest his delight at the overthrough of that arch-villain who so atrociously [sic] & diabolically strove to blow to pieces the noble, the magnificent, & the historic Houses of Parliament, by the expenditure of some of the superfluous cash which fellows are burdened with nowadays on some of the choice & wonderful varieties of the harmless? firework, I say - but at this point Harry was interrupted.' Another eight-page letter describes a seaside summer holiday in 'Wumpleton on the Wump', with scenes of couples kissing on the promenade, an old fisherman, a crowded beach with bathing hut, 'a gorgeously attired flunkey'. There is also an illustration of the landlady of a boarding house: 'A woman answered our summons at least, I suppose it was a woman. [...] What is it you want? she asked us in a voice like a fog-horn. [...] Her face! I never did see the like not even in Chips where they are noted for their ability in drawing funny faces. First of all, her eyes, they were round & large, one of them having a desire to look in opposite direction to the other & the other bloodshot & watery. Her nose was large & red and her mouth was screwed up at one corner, her upper lip was decorated with a hirsute adornment, that would have been the pride & envy of any young man & her auricular appendages looked like two large cabbages only they were red instead of green. To set off this beautiful? face Mrs Scradduck (for that was the lady's name) was dressed in such vivid colours & in such frightful contrast as to fairly shriek at each other in their inharmony. We took the rooms.' In another letter a man and woman are seen driving in a green motor-car: 'We have heard from Harry Green, that you have been taking the servant out for drives, but as you did not mention what you drove, the charming miss in, we have come to the conclusion that it was a motor-car. I have endeavoured, by means of this rough sketch, to shew you how we imagine you along the old country lanes, doing your 80 miles an hour, more or less, to the evident terror of the stray fowls, dogs, etc.' Other illustrations and themes include: the 'Wadhurst Carnival (A Phantasm)', Erne's new job pulling a Truman's Stout barrow, a merry-go-round, weightlifter, motor cars and circus acts, a man shaving, a diver, omnibus, rowboat, galloping donkey and rider, policeman, horse and jockey, man tumbling off bicycle. An image of a black man with accordion serenading a white woman at her window accompanies the following: 'I tell you first of all procure a nigger's suit & hat after which, black your face. you'll find a little soot will bring about the desired effect after you have attired yourself something like the sketch steal out at sundown or twilight to your lady-loves abode & sing in a deep rich voice the following lines [short poem follows]'. Another image shows a grotesque black man in clown's suit 'giving a little entertainment as a nigger minstrel'.