Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ronald Searle the Great Part 2

Article by JM
Read our other Ronald Searle articles.

The terrific years of St. Trinian’s and St. Custards

After a first part dedicated to Searle’s war drawings and to some samples of his press works, let us talk about his books.

Searle’s first cartoon book was published by Macdonald in 1948.

On the title page, Searle drew himself in company of his already well known schoolgirls.

Although this book is titled: Hurrah for St. Trinian’s and other lapses, it contains only 14 St. Trinian’s cartoons on the 87 gathered here. Obviously, the author knows these characters of young pests are popular. The book gets an undeniable success: 50,000 copies are sold.

The following period is particularly active for Searle: up to the middle of the 50s he edits four cartoon books, he collaborates to six books and he illustrates over fifteen books.

His second cartoon book is launched by the same publisher in 1949. It is again successful: in two years, there are seven reprints.

The female approach with masculine sidelights deals with the better (?) half of mankind, with adult women as well as Searle’s young and always awful schoolgirls.

His third cartoon book is published in 1949, again by Macdonald.

As announced by its title, this Back to the slaughterhouse and other ugly moments shows a very black ambience. This book too is partly devoted to the famous infamous schoolgirls.

In 1952, Searle illustrates a Timothy Shy novel that takes place in the mythic St. Trinian’s boarding school.

Since 1946, many cartoons, featuring Searle’s scandalous schoolgirls, are edited in Lilliput magazine every month, and some of these cartoons are published abroad, in the press as well as in book form.

Searle’s book Weil noch das Lämpchen glüht, published by Diogenes Verlag in Zürich in 1952, reprints in German some British cartoons from his first three books. There are several reprints; the last one is made as a pocket book (picture here above).

Souls in torment, his fourth British cartoon book, is published by Perpetua in 1953. This publishing company is founded by Kaye Webb – a long time editor of Lilliput magazine, then wife of Ronald Searle. This book contains a miscellany of themes, such as music, fine arts, literature... and, of course, the heinous but very famous schoolgirls.

On the left, the cartoon shows Searle visiting St. Trinian’s, dressed as an undertaker!

In fact, this book marks an important turning point: although the successful St. Trinian’s girls became part of the British folklore, their animator arrives at the conclusion he doesn’t want to be a prisoner of his creatures. So the publisher warns she is editing the last hours of that infamous, irresistible brood of impenitent characters, known as Searle’s Schoolgirls. Their creator has thought it best to dispose of them before they shattered foundations more fundamental than those of St. Trinian’s. This, she realises, will be positively their last appearance in book form.

Here Searle announces his decision to definitely close this long cartoons series.

Edited soon after Souls in torment, the book Médisances, is published by Robert Delpire in Paris in 1953. It reprints in French some British cartoons from Searle’s first four books. Of course, there are some cartoons of the devilish schoolgirls.

Still digging into the vein of British school life, but on the schoolboys side this time, Searle collaborates to two books written by Geoffrey Williams, whose main character is Nigel Molesworth, a pupil of the unlikely St. Custards school.

How to be topp, subtitled ‘A guide to sukcess for tiny pupils’, is the first of these books dedicated to schoolboys. It was published by Max Parish in 1954 and it was re-issued several times up to 1959.

In association with Searle, Geoffrey Williams’ second book was edited in 1958 by the same publisher, and then it was republished as a soft cover book by May Fair Books in 1968.

Finally, to complete St. Trinian’s girls’ saga, Searle and his wife devoted themselves to a sort of encyclopaedia that was published by Pepetua in 1959.
With the collaboration of several authors, this book details, in about fifty pages, the genesis of this corpus of cartoons, their resounding in British culture, as well as the creations they inspired (such as a film and several songs). In addition, there are about 125 cartoons (some of them never published in a book).

This hardcover first edition was republished as a paperback by Penguin Books in 1961.

Here is the tragic cartoon of the apocalyptic end of the St. Trinian’s story

Goodbye bloody girls; R.I.P.! But see you soon, you readers of this blog: we are very far from the end of the sumptuous list of Searle’s books.


etc said...

Wonderful, thank you...

Matt J said...

Excellent! Comprehensive study- looking forward to the next parts . . .

docnad said...

Great job! Keep it up!

Jan said...