« It’s no good trying to teach people who need to be taught. » — Aleister Crowley
You may have happened across our earlier post on that astounding but tragically short-lived touche-à-tout, Gerard Hoffnung (1925-59). Well, here’s a look at another facet of the man’s work, crafted this time in tandem with, of all people, the definitive-but ambivalent biographer of opprobrious occultist and Ozzy song subjectAleister Crowley, namely the intriguing John Symonds (1914-2006). Come to think of it, the affiliation makes impeccable sense, and it proceeds swimmingly.
In an era where it often seems that those rare adults who yet read do so at toddler-ish levels, it’s easy to forget how many so-called children’s books of yore had plenty to offer the refined adult mind. Here, then, are some highlights from Messrs. Hoffnung and Symonds’ 1955 opus, The Isle of Cats.
As a bonus, for the finale, here’s the poster Hoffnung was commissioned to illustrate for the classic, Brexit-anticipating 1949 Ealing Studios comedy Passport to Pimlico. [ watch the trailer! ]
« Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. » – Groucho Marx
Today, we salute the remarkably versatile and woefully short-lived Gerard Hoffnung (born in 1925, died in 1959 of a brain haemorrhage, aged 34): cartoonist, illustrator, educator, musician, raconteur… and voracious reader, ça va de soit.
While he’s perhaps most fondly recalled for his music and his music-related cartooning, I hold in special regard a slender volume of his gentle celebration of the act and art of reading, Hoffnung’s Constant Readers, from which I offer you the following samples.
Born and raised in Berlin, teenage Gerard was sent to England in 1938 to flee the encroaching tide of Nazism. He was a lifelong (however brief the life) doodler, and most of his thousand-plus drawings (in a style bearing a touch of his noted compatriot Wilhelm Busch‘s influence) were carefully preserved. For such a short life and career, this irrepressible fellow left behind an outstanding discography and bibliography.
His devoted widow, Annetta Hoffnung, née Perceval (they wed in 1952), attended unflaggingly to his memory during the nearly sixty years that she outlived him by (she passed away in 2018); the website she created to celebrate and promote his work remains active, and there you’ll find a fuller biography. Thank you, madam.