The title of this post isn’t strictly accurate since only one of the books I consider here is devoted to things Scottish. However, I read all three while in Scotland, and all three of the books include line drawing illustrations.
Punch on Scotland ed. Miles Kington. London: Punch Publications-Robsons
Miles Kington in his introduction explains that since the “volume consists largely of English attitudes to the Scots, I shall have to tread carefully” (vii). I shall endeavour to follow Kington’s example. Kington includes pieces by Stanley Baxter, Chic Murray, Duncan Campbell, Bill Tidy, Alan Coren, J. B. Naismith, Ronald Searle among others.
In his introduction he points out that “the trouble about . . .stripping away of clichés is that what is left underneath is a declaration that the Scots are not so very different from other people, and there’s the humour in that? Luckily, the Scots are different from other people. Ask any Scot. Better still, as several Scots. They will tell you in great detail what is special about Scotland. Unfortunately, their answers will differ greatly depending on whether they come from Edinburgh or Glasgow, the town or country, the Highlands or Lowlands depending on whether they are exiled or stay-at-homes, Puritan or liberal, mad or indifferent about football, nationalist or internationalist, drunk or sober.
Leave the Scots alone and they splinter immediately; the only thing that unites them deeply is the auld enemy, England” (vii-viii).
He ends by saying that he hopes his “book contributes a little to the great tradition of misunderstanding which has always bound our two great countries” (ix).
I enjoyed this book. The drawings and articles range from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth. Being a collection of short works, it is an excellent book to read when one isn’t sure if one will have to time to engage with the entire volume.
St. John, John. To the War with Waugh. Introd. Christopher Hollis. Illus.
Peter MacKarell. [London: Whittington Press 1973] London: Lee Cooper,
I read this book more because of my interest in Waugh than for anything else, but then I was caught. It is quite brief, so again I was pretty sure I could finish it before I had to move on. I did and I enjoyed the book immensely.
John St. John comes across as a very likeable person. He tells us that at the beginning of the war he “decided to volunteer, . . . because it seemed the best way of avoiding being shoved into the infantry or something equally tedious or and dangerous (1). He goes on to say, “Among the softer options I applied for was one described in the advertisement as a ‘marine naval base.’ This had a comfortable and tolerably safe ring and I have always enjoyed shipping and ports” (2).
St. John finds himself in the Royal Marines. After his initial training near Aldershot, where he meets novelist and fellow officer Evelyn Waugh, St. John was posted to Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland, and was shipped out to take part in the raid on Dakar but “despite joining such a hazardous-sounding unit . . . never fired a short in action (54).
He tells us that during their early training “in an elderly brother sort of way Evelyn seemed to like me because he also took me to a small Italian restaurant still open on the front (13-14). They got on well despite Waugh’s rather right-wing politics. St. John claims, “I might have been a Nazi spy—in fact I wasn’t, having at that time an affection for the revolutionary Left (4).
The book is further enlivened by Peter MacKarell’s line drawing illustrations. All in all, an enjoyable and informative read. St. John’s book reveals the sources for Waugh’s Men at Arms books and reminds us that “Waugh’s novels are a splendid antidote to the glamorized, lying versions of the war that are now the mode. They provide the truest as well as the funniest guide to what it was really like” (56).
The last book I read, perhaps engaged with or looked at are more appropriate descriptors, in Scotland was a collection by Ronald Searle.
This book is a collection of Searle’s drawings some of which originally appeared in such publications as Punch, Holiday, Life, Sportes Illustrated, Réalités, and Le Canard enchâiné.
It includes caricatures of such figures political as Harold MacMillan as Britannia, and figures literary such as Alan Sillitoe squalid in singlet typing in a brass bed, C. P. Snow in cap and gown, Muriel Spark as a spider in her web, and Samuel Becket scrawny chest bare, bowler hatted under am umbrella frame beside a dustbin from which a woman’s legs protrude. Ionesco and Robert Graves are among others upon whom Searle turns his ironic eye and steely pen. Then there are his impressions of Paris and Berlin and the United States. What more can I say? A joy.