Some of Life’s Darkest Moments

« This kind of accuracy, continued long enough, can ruin a man who is constructed as I am. I want to be pretty. I want to eliminate facts and fill up the gap with charm. » — Samuel Clemens, writing to a friend of a pen sketch sent to him by young admirer H.T. Webster

I had originally set out to write (and I may yet) of pioneering newspaper cartoonist (and honorary Southpaw*) Harold Tucker “Webby” Webster‘s most famous feature, The Timid Soul (starring Caspar Milquetoast, his contribution to the English language), but I noticed that Atlas Obscura had beaten me to the punch, and quite honourably at that.

Thankfully, it’s fair to say that Webster (1885-1952) had plenty more arrows in his quiver. According to a 1945 Time Magazine profile of the artist (who was even featured on the cover!):

« H. T. Webster has learned to slice and serve his generous chunks of U.S. life methodically. Caspar (The Timid Soul) appears Sundays and Mondays. The pitilessly fanatic and bad-mannered bridge players run Fridays. Boyhood’s lovingly elaborated triumphs (The Thrill That Comes Once in a Lifetime) and defeats (Life’s Darkest Moment) appear on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Thursdays bring How to Torture Your Husband (or Wife). On Wednesdays, in The Unseen Audience**, he pokes a sharp-pointed stick at radio—which of all mixed blessings most needs satirizing, and gets it least. Webster, in fact, is possibly radio’s most effective critic. »

Honestly, they’d each be rewarding choices, but I’ve opted, on this occasion, to draw from the cool, sombre well of Life’s Darkest Moment.

A glimpse at the infancy of spam.
Up here in Canada, we recently had a bit of a furore over a sanctimonious (yet deceitful) fusspot spearheading the destruction of a bunch of graphic novels. Oh, and speaking of Robert Louis Stevenson, tomorrow’s his birthday, number one hundred and seventy one!
Then as now, one can generally rely on the news to be dire.
Another entry in our collection of Legendary Cartoonists With a Great Tousled Head o’ Hair.
And just so you don’t conclude that Webster’s work was all about, and just about ‘poking gentle fun at life’s little foibles‘, here’s what has to be the darkest, most brutally scathing political cartoon*** I’ve ever seen come out of the mainstream US press (circa 1946!). Incidentally, Webster was a Republican. The original art of this masterpiece resides in the permanent collection of The Library of Congress, right where it belongs.

-RG

*For many years no one but his close friends knew of an acute arthritis which in 1927 cost him the use of his right hand. In three months he trained himself not only to write, but to draw, left-handed.” — Philo Calhoun in Biographical Sketch, The Best of H.T. Webster (1953, Simon and Schuster).

**In 1948, The Unseen Audience won him a Peabody Award for distinguished service to radio!

***He “… returned to Chicago, where he spent three years drawing front-page political cartoons for the Chicago Inter-Ocean, prompting one politician to introduce a bill in the state legislature forbidding unflattering cartoons.” (it didn’t pass.)

2 thoughts on “Some of Life’s Darkest Moments

  1. Chris J November 14, 2021 / 02:04

    very interesting piece..had no idea about this guy though his work looks quite familiar. Thanks.

    Like

    • gasp65 November 14, 2021 / 18:04

      Thanks for dropping by, Chris — and for the kind words! Thanks to his long, successful career, Webster’s style influenced a lot of other artists, hence the familiarity. Or maybe you *have* seen his work, who’s to say? 😉

      Like

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