IN “BLACK AND WHITE”

Posted by Admin on Monday, 25th July 2011, 12:17

Few things are more evocative of the past than are old magazines. It was with pleasurable anticipation, therefore, that I borrowed several recently discovered copies of Black and White, dated 1901. When our local weekly paper was obtainable at a penny, this journal sold at sixpence. It was 14½” x 11” had thirty-two pages, and beneath the title a large picture occupied the remainder of the front cover. In 1901 it was celebrating its 10th anniversary, and in a congratulatory letter Arthur W. Pinero wrote that as a pictorial record of current events it held its own against all rivals. Others who expressed their appreciation were Edward German, Anthony Pope, and Sir Henry Irving. After looking at its many illustrations, one agreed with the playwright. It was also evident that in choosing its material the Black and White gave preference to great personages and grand occasions. Those lent to me showed Lord Curzon and a vice-regal party at the Elephant Keddah (‘Enclosure’ to non-Anglo-Indians) at Mysore; Queen Wilhelmina’s wedding to Prince Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin; and her coronation in Amsterdam. There were photographs of the Princess of the Asturias and Prince Carlos of Caserta, whose impending marriage was expected to trigger a Spanish revolution. Also given were portraits of the late King of Milan and his widow, Queen Natalie. A caption stated that the king’s foreign policy had kept other European monarchs on tenterhooks. He was, I learnt, the grandson of a swineherd.

A half of one edition was devoted to Lord Roberts of Kandahar and Waterford, whose recent exploits in Africa had made him the hero of the hour. Among numerous illustrations were two of local interest. In one, escorted by Princess Henry of Battenburg, he could be seen disembarking at Trinity Wharf, East Cowes. The other (an artist’s impression) recorded a scene at Osborne House in which the teetotal, non-smoking warrior knelt before Queen Victoria to receive an earldom and the Garter. The musical setting by Joseph Gillott of Rudyard Kipling’s tribute, Bobs, was also included.

Turning for a moment from the exalted to the commercial, it was interesting to note that some of the commodities then advertised are still available at grocers and chemists. Even in those days, 105 years ago, advertising space took up one-fifth of the magazine. The Royal Mail Line, incidentally, was offering a sixty-five day cruise in the West Indies at a pound a day.

In addition to its preoccupation with topicalities, the Black and White concerned itself with the Arts – especially with painting and the theatre. Reproductions from the Tate, the Walker, and other art galleries were a regular feature. I was pleased to see once again that favourite of my boyhood, And When Did You Last See Your Father? by W. F. Yeames, R.A. Two theatrical advertisements announced that Mr Tree was appearing in Stephen Phillips’ Herod at Her Majesty’s, and that a new ballet, Seaside, was being performed at the Leicester Square Empire. Ivor Guest, in his biography of Adeline Genée, has written that in this ballet the young ballerina “performed a cosmopolitan dance with unfailing grace and dexterity”. Scenes from Henry the Fifth and Twelfth Night were illustrated by Cyrus C. Cuneo, whose fine-point draughtsmanship was at that time in great demand. A photograph of Phyllis Rankin recalled the delights of Florodora, and another taken in 1898 admirably portrayed the dynamic personality of Ellen Terry.

Two more drawings by Cuneo appeared in a short story – a featherweight Society comedy of the kind so popular with Victorian and Edwardian editors. A story was a weekly item – sometimes humorous, and sometimes melodramatic. I enjoyed Corban, a serio-comic Dartmoor tale by Eden Phillpotts. There were articles on Rodin and Confucius, and nearly every issue contained poetry, most of which was pleasant but not particularly significant or memorable.

For the ladies, two or three pages were filled with Dame Fashion’s Diary – innocuous chit-chat of what Aunt Dorothea would be wearing at Nice or Cannes; some genteel book-reviewing; and an occasional comment on current plays. No edition failed to present its photographs of statuesque models displaying long floral creations by Paquin, voluminous tea-gowns, and elaborate dinner frocks of velvet and lace that for sheer artistic effect must have been out of this world.

Of particular interest to me were the pages allocated to Queen Victoria and Osborne House, for my grandmother was employed on the Royal Estate where she served as housekeeper to the Munshi at Arthur Cottage. Max Couper’s drawing of the Queen on her deathbed, with nineteen people sharing a harrowing experience in what I recall as a not very large room, reminded me that my grandmother had been privileged to see Her Late Majesty lying there. For the three issues subsequent to the Queen’s death on January 22nd the Black and White abounded in relevant and often rare photographs. There were pictures of the Queen at all ages, including an unusual one of her on horseback with John Brown holding the bridle. The great change in her appearance when at the age of forty-two she lost her beloved Albert was singularly noticeable. One excellent full-page picture depicted the last gathering of her descendants at Coburg in 1894. In another photograph the old Queen could be seen on her last public drive, when, in December 1900, she went to an Irish Exhibition at the Windsor Town Hall. Evidence of Victoria’s skill as an artist was given by a couple of her etchings – one of herself nursing her fist child, and one of Prince Albert.

Extensive coverage, of course, was given to the funeral preparations, the procession itself, and to the dead queen’s departure to the mainland. There were numerous shots of Edward the Seventh accompanied by Wilhelm the Second. One picture showed King Edward greeting the German Emperor at Charing Cross Station. Its caption read: “An earnest welcome to the great-hearted Kaiser.” Autres temps, autres moeurs!

Scenes which evaded the press photographers were captured by James Greig, to whose facile pencil we were indebted for a record of two of Queen Victoria’s personal friends signing the register in the Lodge at Osborne. He also sketched the after-dark reading to pressmen at the Prince of Wales’ Gate of the last bulletin which told them their vigil was over.

Another item of historic interest was a complete portrait gallery of the representatives of foreign powers present at the funeral. This included the Czarewitch, the King of Portugal, Mohamed Ali of Egypt, the Duke of Sparta, the King of Greece, Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia, the Crown Prince of Denmark, the Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway, the King of the Belgians, Duc d’Aosta of Italy, the Grand Duke of Hesse, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, and, of course, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Germany.

A view taken from an upstairs window gave the readers a splendid picture of the royal mourners in the cortège as it made its solemn way towards the East Cowes waterfront. Between rows of Guardsmen the uniformed monarchs and princes preceded a group of ladies, all of whom were clothed from head to foot in black, with the majority veiled beyond recognition. From the width of the road and the general aspect of the place I was reasonably sure that the procession was at the bottom of York Avenue, in which case a grandstand visible in the top left hand corner was erected by my grandfather. Unfortunately that part of the picture was out of focus, otherwise an aunt of mine, now deceased, might have been picked out among the fifty or so people that occupied it.

The final stages of the Isle of Wight’s connection with the ceremony were represented by a miscellany of photographs and drawings, some of which showed the regalia being lifted from the coffin after its arrival at Trinity Wharf, and the coffin being carried to the royal yacht, Alberta, that was to convey it across the Solent. In a double-page water-colour S. M. Lawrence had drawn the three royal yachts, Alberta, Victoria and Albert, and Osborne, all of them paddle-driven, with the German Emperor’s Hollenzollern, in line astern. His Majesty’s ships Hood and Rattlesnake, with decks fully manned, were respectively to port and starboard – just two of the many naval vessels that were assembled to honour the passing of a great queen.

T. C. Hudson

© T. C. Hudson.
This article may not be reproduced without prior permission of the author.

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