Two amusingly illustrated letters from the artist Philip Burne Jones demonstrating his anxieties over the war
Two charming & amusing illustrated autograph letters by the artist Philip Burne-Jones [1861-1926] evidencing his reaction to the 1914-18 war. The first of one page to 'Dear Harley' [Vaughan Harley [1864-1923] was a heart specialist with a practice in Harley Street]. The note showing a pen and ink self portrait holding a glass and bottle, the latter labelled 'shake the bottle'. Underneath he has written 'I sent my latest photograph - as above - to the War Office, but they say it's not the sort of recruit that would be welcome.' signing with his initials. The second letter of three pages features sketches of a Zeppelin over St. Paul's, a nervous self-portrait and a soldier-cat. Dated Oct 15th 1914. To 'Mrs Harley' [Mary, 1869-1936]. Burne-Jones writes; “They say war brings out the noblest qualities in man. It only makes me cross and nervy & fussed & anxious & giddy & frightened my sideboard in the drawing-room is beginning to assume the appearance of a chemist's shop...[which Burne-Jones has illustrated in a charming pen and ink sketch]. While other & better men are risking and laying down their lives by the thousand, I sit quaking at home, reading the latest war editions & doing all I can to safeguard my worthless existence an object of scorn to gods and men. The dark streets at night terrify me. The search lights at Hyde Park Corner gives me a fit. The only thing I like to drink is valerian and bromide. You couldn't want a creature like this to dine with you? Of course a jolly evening with you and your Vaughan would be a joy to me.....do telephone to me & I will come limping along! ….[in a PS he writes with accompanying small drawing] “My cat has enlisted but I hadn't the courage to follow its example.” Three pages, vgc, only a couple of pale spots of foxing to the folds. To the first page, he has sketched himself reading a newspaper headlined 'War' with a prescription and syringe at his feet and his sideboard full of bottles of tonics. Ranks of German soldiers to top RH corner and a Zeppelin caught in a searchlight over St Paul's top LH corner. A lovely insight into the mind and humour of Burne-Jones, son of Edward, in whose shadow he spent most of his artistic career.
Author Philip Burne Jones
Illustrator Philip Burne Jones