Ludwig Bemelmans was an Austrian-born writer and illustrator of children’s books and adult novels (notably the Madeline series: six were published, the first in 1939).
Lesley Blanch often commissioned his work for British Vogue when she was there working as features editor. Here is one of his humorous, self deprecating letters to her: a wonderfully evocative, idiosyncratic missive.
Note his description of the offices of Victor Gollancz, the publisher and humanitarian who published Ford Madox Ford, George Orwell, Elizabeth Bowen, Daphne du Maurier and Franz Kafka. Gollancz’s wife, Ruth, was an artist who had studied at the Slade School of Art with Lesley Blanch under Henry Tonks.
Writing letters is becoming a lost art outstripped by emailing, tweeting and the artsy instagraming of personal photos posted for public consumption. Image, image, image: but there’s nothing quite as rich and rewarding as private letter-writing for truly getting to know each other, well out of the spotlight, wherever you may be.
Beaton and Blanch first met in London at British Vogue in the 1940s where she was features editor; again in Hollywood in the 1950s; and they remained lifelong friends.
Panto has been a unique feature of the British Christmas season for centuries – even when Britain was at War – until the Covid 19 pandemic forced theatres to close their doors. A few months ago hundreds of protesters – including about half-a-dozen pantomime dames – gathered in Westminster to protest against the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although you can’t see a performance in person, Peter Duncan has responded to the lack of pantomimes around this Christmas in British theatres by filming a production of Jack And The Beanstalk.
To get in the mood, this feature by Lesley Blanch, originally published in British Vogue in December 1943, brings alive the joyful fun and fantasy of this very British tradition.
It’s always On the Road to the Middle of Next Week: unless it’s Nowhere in Particular, with Past Events casting their Shadows before. It’s the Enchanted Cavern, the Flying Palace, the Wicked Wood, the Widow Twankey’s Kitchen, or the Fairies’ Home in the Heart of the Rose . . . It’s the Pork-Butcher’s Shop, It’s the Magic Transformation Scene, It’s the Harlequinade — in short, it’s the Christmas Pantomime.