Friday, September 17, 2010

William Reynolds

William Reynolds was a British cartoonist and illustrator of the 1870’s. Boyhood’s Battles originally appeared in The Boys’ Standard in 1877 and was reprinted in Boys’ Leisure Hour in 1886. Reynolds was a regular contributor of caption strips to Funny Folks and Judy. The Spring-Heeled Jack strip is from James Henderson’s Funny Folks, 26 Oct 1878, based on newspaper accounts of the haunting of a military barracks at Aldershot.

Below are two illustrations for On the Queen’s Service: A Tale of Many Lands, by J. J. G. Bradley (James Skipp Borlase) from Hogarth House in the eighties. On the Queen’s Service first appearance was in the Boys’ Standard in 1875 and it was reprinted in the Boys’ Leisure Hour in 1884.

Following are the notes I took when I had a chance to read On the Queen’s Service, the story of a Victorian James Bond:

On The Queen’s Service: A Tale Of Many Lands is a story told in the first person by Lieutenant Harry Dunbar, who, in 1855, is charged with delivering dispatches to Constantinople, by way of Mont Cenis, Turin, Milan, Trieste, and the Adriatic. He starts off in January from England and travels by train, coach and horseback. He meets a mysterious Frenchman, Louis Foucalt on board the train, and Foucalt saves his life three times. Foucalt has a double in Count Eugene Potacki, a wicked Pole working for the Russians. Actually the amiable Foucalt disappears and Dunbar runs into many villainous people with the same face. Maybe Foucalt has a triple or a friple. The action takes place at a frenetic pace in the Crimean at Sebastopol, the Caucasian Mountains, and in one memorable incident he crashes a balloon on top of Mount Ararat, where he spies Noah’s Ark, sitting frozen in snow on the mountaintop. There are horrors and gore aplenty as Dunbar is dispatched from battlefields to besieged cities. In Kars the inhabitants are reduced to eating cats and live rats.

Dunbar follows a seductive veiled Turkish woman; ‘ “-- I was very far from being an anchorite.” He is surrounded by a harem of beauties, all suspiciously plump and healthy looking. Of course “- in short, monsieur, you were enticed hither to be killed and eaten.” “Eaten!” I exclaimed, a thrill of the most intense horror causing my very hair to bristle on my head. “Yes, eaten, monsieur. Would you not sacrifice yourself for our sakes? Fie, fie, where is your chivalry as a soldier?” Every member of the beautiful troupe had gathered around me now, each one with a drawn dagger in her hand.’

Luckily a cannonball flies through the window and cuts the seductress in two, solving the women’s food problem for the moment. Dunbar makes his way back to headquarters and “absolutely fainted away.”

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