Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The Colossal Dwarf

The original Exploits of Engelbrecht was illustrated by James Boswell -- a man who should be even more famous than the other James Boswell (the biographer). I once came across a Boswell exhibition by accident while killing time in London. Boswell's satirical work is second to none, his grotesques as moving as those of Mervyn Peake, his elaborations no less intricate than Heath Robinson's. A New Zealander by birth, he spent most of his life in England, eventually becoming the art editor of Lilliput magazine, perhaps the finest ever Fleet Street publication.

When Richardson's Engelbrecht stories were collected in book form by Phoenix House in 1950, Boswell's illustrations graced its pages. Richardson was mercifully vague with descriptive details of his characters and it was left to Boswell to depict the dwarf in all his diminutive glory. Each of Boswell's illustrations for the book is a clever parody of a work by a different famous artist. Here we see parodies of Hieronymous Bosch and John Martin.

Although Boswell depicted the dwarf in many bizarre and hilarious situations, he never drew the other members of the Surrealist Sportsman's Club -- the Old Id, Chippy de Zoete, Tommy Prenderghast, Lizard Bayliss, etc. That's a shame. Whoever first owned my copy of the Exploits of Engelbrecht obviously felt a need to fill in the gaps. The flyleaf contains his (or her?) pencil sketches of seven other members, including the narrator A.N. Other.

When I was writing Engelbrecht Again! I used these crude drawings as the basis for the way I visualised the relevant characters. The Old Id is shown in profile with only one leg visible -- that's why I made him a monopod. I have no idea who that amateur artist was. I can't even read the signed name clearly. It might be Rownal Gray -- something like that. I mention my gratitude to this unknown person in my essay on why I wrote my Engelbrecht novel -- an essay that is now an afterword in the book itself.
I believe that Engelbrecht Again! is on its way to the printers any day now, maybe tomorrow. More than eight years have I waited for it to be published. I was 33 when I wrote it. Now I'm 42. Tempus? Fugit!

Engelbrecht is at the printers!

Tom English
Dead Letter Press
Can't wait...
Glad the LHC didn't destroy the world before my book was published!
Skin of the teeth and whatnot...
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