The Whirligig, by D’Egville

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I was surprised and delighted to come across this little gem recently on a certain well known online auction site. It is a set of three caricatures by ‘D’Egville’, entitled Whirligig. They have been cut from an unknown newspaper or magazine and according to the person selling them they date to around 1928.

The first sketch features a Lady Askwith, with the caption ‘You can’t be too kind to maids’:

Lady Askwith small

N.B., this is not the better known Lady Asquith, wife of the British Prime Minister rather, according to thepeerage.com, she is Ellen (née Peel), Lady Askwith CBE, who died in 1962. She was a writer, sub-editor and war worker; former wife of Henry Graham, and later wife of 1st Baron Askwith. Although apparently a noted socialite, other sources reveal her to be most unpleasant individual – a fully signed up member of the eugenics socity who spoke out strongly against the keeping alive of children from ‘weak minded mothers’.

The second features Miss May Edgington, with the caption ‘Marriage is not a brilliant joke’:

May Edginton small

According to Wikipedia, May Edginton (originally Helen Marion Edginton, 1883 – 1957) was an English writer of over 50 popular novels which often portrayed escapes or solutions for heroines in unhappy domestic situations.

But it was the third cartoon which most interested me. It features our very own HV Morton striding through the crowds, hat on head, cigarette in mouth with socks and suspenders proudly and quite surreally on display, an indication of how familiar Morton would have been to a popular readership at the time and how much a part of everyday life and culture he was. The caption reads ‘The world should be delivered from the horror of trousers’:

HV Morton small

It took quite some time to track down details of the artist himself but I hope you agree it was time well spent, d’Egville is a most interesting character:

Alan Hervey d’Egville FRGS FCI (1891-1951) was a cartoonist, caricaturist, illustrator and writer, the son of Louis d’Egville of the Academy of Dramatic Art who taught dancing and deportment to royalty.

Educated in Berkhamsted (Hertfordshire, England) and in France, Germany and Spain, he studied motoring at Daimler, Paris and taught the tango at his father’s academy before working as private secretary to the chairman of Rolls-Royce. He later subscribed to Percy Bradshaw’s Press Art School.

Enlisting as an interpreter on the outbreak of World War I, he transferred to the Intelligence Department, later becoming Chief Intelligence Officer, 4th Corps and being mentioned in dispatches. After the war he attended art school and went on to write travelogues and to publish his humorous sketches and caricatures widely in Europe and the US including in Bystander, Pan, Sketch, Passing Show, Men Only, London Opinion, Tatler, Le Rire, Humorist, Punch, and others. During World War II he joined the security service, rising to the rank of Major. Following the cessation of hostilities he continued to publish in a variety of journals as well as writing scripts for Fox films, illustrating books, and working in advertising as a commercial artist. He was an enthusiastic skier and much of his work dealt with this subject.

(Sources: “Biographical Sketches of Cartoonists & Illustrators in the Swann Collection” By Sara Duke and “The Dictionary of 20th-century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists” By Mark Bryant).

Although the caricatures are amusing in their own way I’m afraid I havent a clue as to the significance of the ‘Whirligig‘ title or the meaning of the various bizarre captions. In a nutshell, I don’t get it! Although in all likelihood they had obvious and probably hilarious significance to a 1920’s audience their meaning is totally lost today. I am not aware that Morton ever advocated a society without trousers, even in jest! If anyone is able to enlighten me I would be most grateful.

With best wishes,

Niall Taylor

(Originally circulated as HVM Society Snippets – No.225 on 3 June 2018).

4 Comments

Filed under Connections, HV Morton in the media

4 responses to “The Whirligig, by D’Egville

  1. peterdron

    Hello Niall,

    That is interesting. D’Egville had a similar illustrative style (especially the script design in the cartoons) to his slightly older contemporary Cyril Bird (pen name ‘Fougasse’).

    What does this mean:

    Educated in Berkhamsted (Hertfordshire, England) and in France, Germany and Spain, he studied motoring at Daimler, Paris…

    How does one study motoring? And why in Paris?

    Best wishes,

    Peter D

    • I agree, he does have a familiar style, I’m sure I’ve seem work by him or others like him previously, I have a feeling it was in older editions of Punch, but I can’t be sure. As for studying motoring, I’ve checked and this is a quote from both the biographies mentioned in the text, that he “studied motoring at Daimler in Paris”, in 1912 to be precise. What it means I confess I don’t know, I took it to mean the developing automobile industry – design, marketing and so on, but now that you mention it, it is a strange turn of phrase, maybe it just sounded better than ‘he was a car salesman’!

  2. Peter

    A delightful piece, Niall. But, darn it, I won’t rest until I – or someone else – tracks down the source of the quote from Morton! One of his books, or an article, on Scotland surely? Excellent cartoon sketch of HV incidentally.

    • I agree, it is pretty frustrating. Someone suggested it might be a reflection of his disaproving attitude to women wearing trousers, but nothing specific has come to light. I’ll keep my eyes peeled!

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