Frank Chesworth and the “Clarion” Series of Omar Khayyam Postcards

Prefatory Note: As in other parts of this site, further information about the illustrations is given in the Gallery Notes below. In the text references to illustrations are given in this format: Gallery, Fig.1. Clicking on Gallery takes the reader to the Gallery Note on the illustration, from where the illustration can then be accessed. Clicking on the Fig.1 takes the reader directly to the illustration itself, by-passing the Gallery Notes. As in other sections of this archive, the illustrations can be browsed here.Since there appears to be no monograph on the artist and illustrator Frank Chesworth, I have included more illustrations of his work than I might otherwise have done.

Frank Chesworth (his full name was Francis John Chesworth) appears never to have illustrated an edition of The Rubaiyat, merely to have produced paintings for use in the “Clarion” series of Omar Khayyam postcards. There appear to have been six different postcards, all of which are shown here as Gallery Figs.1, 2, 3, 4. 5 & 6. He also produced a “Clarion” series devoted to “Songs from Shakespeare”, which are very similar in style and layout, two examples of which are shown as Gallery, Figs.7 & 8 Though it does not say so on the cards, both series were first published by the socialist newspaper The Clarion “just in time for Christmas” in 1904, the advertisement for them being worthy of reproduction here as Gallery, Fig.9a. The wording of the advert isn’t very clear, but what seems to have happened is that both the Omar and Shakespeare series consisted of six different designs, and each of the six designs was sold in a “picture envelope” containing six copies of the same design, the envelope presumably bearing the same design. The advert continued, with the references to Christmas suitably changed, on into the New Year of 1905, ceasing after February. In the run up to Christmas of 1905, though, they were advertised again, this time in conjunction with an Omar Khayyam calendar, also by Frank Chesworth (Gallery, Fig.9b) This advert seems to confirm that there were indeed only six different Omar postcard designs, though how these related to the calendar is unclear, as I have never seen a copy of it. At any rate, only the six different Omar cards illustrated here are known, though why they are numbered 21 to 26 inclusive in the “Clarion” series “Omar Khayyam” isn’t clear at the time of writing! (The numbers may, of course, simply represent their place in the broader series of cards, on various subjects, published by the newspaper in the course of time, for in addition to the Shakespeare cards, one of which is no.12, they had earlier published at least one series of socialist postcards.). The Omar cards were clearly in use for some years, for the date of the postmark on the back of Fig.4 is 1909, and I have come across one postmarked 1911. The association between Omar and the socialist newspaper will become clear as we go on.

Though Chesworth never illustrated an edition of The Rubaiyat, he did illustrate an edition of Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities (John Long, London, 1906: Gallery, Fig.10) and, with Sydney Starr, an edition of E. Leuty Collins’s novel, little known today, Hadasseh: from Captivity to the Persian Throne (T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1891: Gallery, Fig.11). Of particular interest here, though, is his association with The Clarion newspaper and its principal founder, Robert Blatchford, for he designed the cover for Blatchford’s My Favourite Books (Clarion Press, London, 1900: Gallery, Fig.12); he designed the cover, title page and contents page of Blatchford’s A Book about Books (Clarion Press, London, 1903: Gallery, Figs.13, 14 & 15); and, on a different front, did the frontispiece and two other illustrations for Blatchford’s book of short stories, Tales for the Marines (Clarion Press, London, 1904; Gallery, Fig.16.) On yet another front, he illustrated Blatchford’s book of verse for children, The Dolly Ballads (Clarion Press, London, 1907.) (1) In fact, for anyone interested in a broad sample of Chesworth’s art-work, The Dolly Ballads is something of a treasure trove, for which reason I give six examples of his illustrations here (Gallery, Figs.17, 18, 19, 20, 21 & 22.) As Harry Lowerison said in the “Bookseller’s Row” column of The Clarion on December 20th 1907:

“I did not know that Chesworth could do such work. At times he is as sweet and simple as Kate Greenaway, at times as weird and grotesque as Arthur Rackham. And throughout the book his humour is amazing.” (p.2)

One suspects, then, that Chesworth enjoyed illustrating this book as much as Blatchford enjoyed writing the verses! (Dolly, incidentally, was one of Blatchford’s daughters.) Fortunately, Blatchford has left an account of the genesis of the book and the involvement of Chesworth in it. It appeared in The Clarion on December 6th, 1907:

“I wrote those ballads for the pleasure of writing them. They are, as nearly as possible, a true report of certain stories told by Dolly, at the age of four. I have cast them into verses; but have kept as closely as I could to the actual words of the child. The sayings are Dolly’s sayings; the language is Dolly’s language; the interpolated questions and irrelevances are Dolly’s own. I wrote the ballads about twelve years ago; and I cannot write any more unless some good friend will lend me a baby. Dolly has disregarded the advice given to her in a letter by Mark Twain, and has grown up.

Now, as to the book. I had the ballads by me for years, until one day it occurred to me that Frank Chesworth would illustrate them very well. I wanted Chesworth to have a chance to get better known, and I made the suggestion to him that he should illustrate the ballads.... Chesworth took the ballads, and kept them nearly two years before he began the drawings. Then he got interested and worked very hard, and before I knew what he was about he had handed over the pictures to the CLARION. So we decided to publish the book ourselves. And then came Chesworth’s sad and untimely death.

Well, I think the drawings are beautiful, and that they realise very remarkably the spirit of the text....And I know that Frank Chesworth’s mother could find a use for any royalties the book might pay. And so I am anxious to sell this book, as I never was to sell a book before.” (p.10)

As regards Chesworth’s “sad and untimely death”, it transpires that he died as a result of cutting his throat with a razor, “whilst in a state of unsound mind,” in January 1906, aged only 38 (see note 7 below), and so he did not live to see the publication of The Dolly Ballads. In fact, Blatchford had written an obituary of him, published in The Clarion on January 12th 1906 (Gallery, Fig.23), a short extract from which is worth repeating here as indicative of Chesworth’s humour:

“Many a time, in the little homely gatherings at our house he has delighted us with his inimitable recitations, for he was a born actor as well as a born artist; many a time he has set us laughing with his droll fancies, the last of which was a scheme for reforming the world by a series of designs for artistic uniforms for policemen, postmen, soldiers and railway porters.”

Getting back to Chesworth’s book illustration, he also illustrated Edward Francis Fay’s rather quirky book Unsentimental Journeys (Clarion Press, London, 1907)(1), this too being published only after his death. Three characteristic examples of his illustrations are shown here (Gallery, Figs.24, 25 & 26.) Fay, I should add, was a key associate of Blatchford on The Clarion, and the man who introduced Blatchford to the delights of Omar, as we shall see presently.

Chesworth’s Omar Khayyam cards are not the best illustrations of The Rubaiyat on the market, it is true, and one wonders if he was one of those artists whose work in black and white far outstrips their work in colour. At any rate, his illustrations for The Dolly Ballads and Unsentimental Journeys make much more of an impression than the postcards. He was certainly a talented illustrator.

Chesworth also produced illustrations, cartoons and caricatures for a variety of magazines and journals such as The Sketch (Gallery, Figs.27 & 34), The Pall Mall Magazine (Gallery, Figs.28 & 29) and The English Illustrated Magazine (Gallery, Figs.30, 31 & 32) and Black and White (Gallery, Fig.33.) He appears to have had a particular fondness for caricatures on a theatrical theme, producing a series entitled “Curtains Caricatured” for The Sketch in 1905, Part V of the series, which featured in the issue of April 19th of that year, being devoted to “Opera: Typical Finales as seen by the Comic Artist.” (Gallery, Fig.34) Though many of his caricatures are of people now largely forgotten, except to historians of the theatre and the music-hall, some are still well known today, such as Sir Arthur Sullivan (Gallery, Fig.35) and Dan Leno (Gallery, Fig.36.) His caricature of Sir Henry Irving was used on the cover of The Times Literary Supplement on January 25th, 2013, this having originally featured in The Critic in 1899.(Gallery, Fig.37)

On a completely different front, Chesworth also designed a poster for the Surrey Bicycle Club’s spring race meeting on April 20th 1895! (Gallery, Fig.38) [If this seems odd, one should remember the huge popularity that cycling had in the 1890s and the early 1900s. Recall Richard le Gallienne’s comments on its effects on the social mores of the time, quoted in chapter 13 of the main essay, and note the Clarion cycling clubs mentioned below.]

Turning now to look at The Clarion itself, this was a weekly socialist newspaper, launched and funded mainly by the journalists Robert Blatchford and Alexander M. Thompson, with some input from Blatchford’s brother Montagu, in Manchester, in 1891. It was supported, though not financially, by Edward Francis Fay (who was consistently broke, and of whom more below) and by William Palmer (this last becoming the paper’s resident artist.) (2a) By 1895, though, The Clarion had moved its main office to Fleet Street in London, hence the London address for the publications of the Clarion Press mentioned above (2b.).

The newspaper was not solely political, for it advertised itself as “an illustrated weekly journal of Literature, Politics, Fiction, Philosophy, Theatricals, Pastimes, Criticism, and everything else.” (2c) In fact, swathes of what later appeared in some of the books published by the Clarion Press appeared originally in serialised form in the newspaper. In addition, associated with the newspaper were a large number of clubs and societies bearing the Clarion tag: “Clarion Scouts, Clarion Cycling Clubs, Clarion Choirs, Clarion Handicraft Guilds, Clarion Holiday Camps.” (2d) In addition, there were Clarion Ramblers Clubs, which, like the cycling clubs, resulted in a jolly picnic or two over the years.(3) The Clarion, then, had a broad-based popular appeal, helped by the fact that the likes of Blatchford and Fay had an easy-to-read ‘popular’ style.

As regards Omar, it would appear that it was Fay – one of the most colourful characters of the group, who was “generally drunk, was scornful of democracy, and swore like Squire Western” (2e) - who ‘discovered’ FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat towards the end of 1888 (in pre-Clarion days, then), and introduced Robert Blatchford to it:

“Blatchford already knew and loved Job and Ecclesiastes, The kindred Omar went straight to his heart. From the Rubaiyat he drew several titles for his books and the opening sentence of his autobiography. As the years passed his writing became increasingly saturated with it.” (2f)

The opening sentence of chapter 1 of Blatchford’s autobiography, My Eighty Years (Cassell & Co., London, 1931), is indeed, as Thompson indicates, taken from Omar:

“On St. Patrick's Day of 1851 the eternal Saki, engaged at his own good pleasure pouring out ‘millions of bubbles like us,’ poured out me.”

In fact, Blatchford refers to or quotes The Rubaiyat no less than ten times in his autobiography. (5a) Thus, for example, looking back on the friends of his youth, he writes:

“When I think of those lovable young creatures and of all that I have been and done and suffered since we held hands together along the flowery way I am reminded of that verse of Omar's :

Look to the blowing Rose about us – ‘Lo
Laughing,’ she says, ‘into the world I blow.
At once the silken tassel of my purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the garden throw.’” (p.59)

Elsewhere, more light-heartedly, he tells us how at one time his bank balance had melted away “like snow upon the desert's dusty face.” (p.192) And, at the very end of the book, in a chapter titled “Looking Backward”, he makes a double allusion to Omar thus:

“Though I still regard the religions and politics of the world with a sad but respectful astonishment, I remember that if the mills of the gods grind slowly they grind uncommon small.

When you and I beyond the veil have passed,
Oh, but the long, long time the world shall last
Which of our coming and departure heeds
As the sea's self should heed a pebble cast.

Shall I close with Tiny Tim’s benediction: ‘God bless everybody’? Or shall I, being of harder grain and coarser clay, say, ‘God bless everybody, except----’? Well, be it as God wills. Tamam!” (p.274-5)

As with The Rubaiyat, that “Tamam” marks the very end of the book.

To the foregoing examples we might add that Saki’s Bowl (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1928) was one of Blatchford’s many books made up of articles originally published in The Clarion, and, in addition, with a title based on Omar (4). It quotes The Rubaiyat no less than ten times (5b), adorns its title page with, “The Eternal Saki from his bowl has poured millions of bubbles like us and will pour”, and has as the title of one of its chapters, “In the Cause of Bahram v. the Wild Ass.”

This last merits some explanation. The chapter is about the existence of the soul and the possibility of life after death. Earlier in life Blatchford had been a materialist and anti-Church agnostic, publishing a serialised critique of Christianity in The Clarion in 1903 which was published in (edited) book form, by the Clarion Press later that same year, under the title God and My Neighbour. The articles and the book stirred up considerable controversy at the time, one notable opponent of Blatchford being G.K. Chesterton (2g). It was only later in life, following the death of his wife, Sally, in 1921, and some alleged communications with her spirit, that he became a convert to Spiritualism.(2h) His book More Things in Heaven and Earth: Adventures in Quest of a Soul (Methuen & Co., London, 1925) is devoted to the subject (6). By the time Saki’s Bowl was put together he had come to regard God and My Neighbour as being written “with what seems to me now excessive vehemence” (p.297), though he could still state, “I am an agnostic” (p.300). Blatchford, like Omar, was not so much anti-God as anti-organised religion (2i).

But getting back to Blatchford’s quotations from Omar in Saki’s Bowl The following is of particular interest as regards “Fortune’s fickle humour” (p.31), a topic discussed in some detail in the notes on verse 14. Blatchford wrote:

“Henry Morgan, seeing perhaps, no chance of a regular career in politics, took to piracy on the high seas, was knighted, made a Governor, and died peacefully in his bed; whereas Admiral Byng was court-martialled and shot for failing to get near enough to a hostile fleet which took pains to keep far enough away from him....Strange are the vagaries of those awful beings who rain influence and adjudge the prize. The worldly hope men set their hearts upon turns ashes, or it prospers, and anon, like snow upon the desert’s dusty face, lighting a little hour or two, is gone. A friend of mine (9) elected for his patriotism and without being consulted, to the Committee of the Navy League, was kicked out a few days later because a peer, a lady of title, and a mere mister, did not approve of his theological opinions. Yet he went home tranquilly, refrained from biting his children, ate a hearty supper, and read Chiozza Money in bed” (p.34-5)

It was presumably Blatchford’s fondness for both Omar and Shakespeare (2j) which led to the Clarion series of postcards, though the circumstances surrounding how the project came about, and how Chesworth came to be associated with Blatchford in the first place, remain unclear. Little seems to be on record about Chesworth the man beyond what is given here (7), and his association with Blatchford did not find a place in My Eighty Years.

Let us now back-track a little and return to Fay. His book Unsentimental Journeys was made up of articles he had written for The Clarion based on journeys around Britain made, it seems, at the suggestion of Blatchford himself, who thought they would make good copy for the newspaper (8a). In actual fact, by the time the book appeared in 1907 (the book itself is undated – but see note 1 below), Fay had been dead for several years – he died of typhoid fever at the early age of 42 in 1896, his resistance to it not helped any by his long-term fondness for the demon drink and an over–indulgence in food, in conjunction with diabetes (2k; 8b). To give the flavour of Fay’s quirky style – matched, apparently, by the way he spoke (2l) – as well as to link up again with Chesworth’s all–too–little–known illustrations (Gallery, Figs.24, 25 & 26), and the socialist context of all this, I here quote a section of Fay’s Western Tour, and his sojourn in an inn at “Fat E’sam”, where, “I couldn’t get anything to eat, and had to content myself with twelve eggs, two boxes of sardines, and two bottles of claret..” (p.120) Fay went on, in an episode illustrated by Chesworth (Fig.25):

In the matter of Scripture readings the country innkeeper is strikingly successful. In my Fat E’sam bedchamber there were three illuminated Scripture texts:

“Despise not the chastening of the Lord.”

“Christ is our Shepherd.”

“Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

I went to sleep and dreamed that I was in a Christian country.


Instead of which they fried the chop for breakfast in a frying pan!


I found the station in the hands of a ragged, wizened army of fearsome beings with earthy complexions and garments which seemed a second skin. They possessed bundles – such bundles.

I asked a porter wherefore it might ben (sic), and he told me they were the hop pickers returning to the Black Country.

They were the most “hopeless misery” I have ever seen. Even the London East Ender possesses a certain desperate chirpiness in affliction. But the Black Country army are quite broken in spirit. No cheery spark illumines their hopeless squalor and dull, apathetic misery. How these poor creatures have been sinned against.

And as I saw and marked, behold a Parson – and such a Parson – stepped by them to the first–class booking office. He must have been either a Minor Canon or Rural Dean: a portly shepherd, with three double chins, and a lofty mien which indicated that he considered himself the quintessence of importance. And he passed on his way to his comfortable carriage.

And my Scripture texts came into my mind:

“Christ is our Shepherd!”

“Bear ye one another’s burdens!”

As Mark Twain says, “You never can bet anything on dreams.” (p.120–2 — the asterisks are present in the original.)

Fay’s early death profoundly affected Blatchford. He wrote of him (using Fay’s pen-name “The Bounder”):

Tomorrow we shall have to stand by and see The Bounder lowered into the grave. I dread the ordeal. I know how painful it will be. We were such friends....Do you know how he loved Omar Khayyam? These were his favourite stanzas:-

Yon rising moon, that looks for us again –
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same garden – and for one in vain!

And when like her, oh, Saki, you shall pass
Among the guests star–scattered on the grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one – turn down an empty glass!

The good old Bounder’s glass is empty. It was a big glass, and a full one, charged with the best of wine, and he drained it with infinite zest. God bless him! (8c)

Even in 1909, in a Souvenir and Program for the Socialist Re-union and Carnival, held in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on March 27th of that year, there was printed (on p.13): “In Loving and Cheerful Memories of Edward Francis Fay, The Bounder, our Bounder”, and, underneath it:

And when thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests star–scattered on the grass,
And on thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one – turn down an empty glass.

Finally, let us return to Blatchford’s A Book about Books. One of its chapters is titled “Of Holy Living and Dying” and, as that title suggests, it deals with the well known works of the 17th century divine Jeremy Taylor, as discussed in Appendix 12a. Blatchford admired the style of Holy Dying as “always good, and often beautiful” (p.153) but thought its philosophy “weak and fretful” and its doctrine “obnoxious to manhood and wholesome living.” (p.167) As for the fire–and–brimstone Hell that awaited the sinful after death, the fear of which struck terror into little children and literally blighted innocent people’s lives, and in which Taylor was a firm believer, Blatchford wrote: “it seems impossible that any sane man could ever have accepted a doctrine so merciless and unreasonable.” (p.175) Blatchford closed his chapter thus:

“Let us take every honest joy our life can yield, and make the most of all, and be thankful for all. Let us be as good as we can, and as happy as we may, and let us do our utmost to bring goodness and happiness within the reach of all, and let us leave the rest to the lords of life and death. But to mope and snivel all our lives because all our efforts and pains and joys must end in sleep, seems to me a cowardly and a foolish teaching. As old Omar says –

And if the wine you drink, the lip you press,
Ends in what all begins and ends in – yes;
Think, then, you are to-day what yesterday
You were – To-morrow you shall not be less.

So when that angel of the darker drink
At last shall find you by the river brink,
And, offering his cup, invite your soul
Forth to your lips to quaff – you shall not shrink.

I recommend Holy Dying, then, for two reasons – first, because it is beautifully written; and secondly, because we cannot read it without feeling thankful that a religion so dreadful, and a philosophy so timorous, as those of Jeremy Taylor’s day, can no longer cast their chill and gloom upon our children’s young and happy lives, and that we are surely, if slowly, learning to care more for the happiness of our fellow–creatures, and to wail and tremble less for our own salvation.” (p.180-1)

As a coda to the foregoing, on the subject of Omar and Socialism, some readers may be interested to know that an article titled “Omar Khayyam: the Poet of Socialist Philosophy,” by Olaf Bloch, appeared in The Social Democrat in April 1905 (vol.IX, No.4, p.210-218.) Bloch wrote:

“To grasp at to–day, to use it to the uttermost, to pay but little heed to the hereafter, this is the only possible philosophy for a thoughtful being....It is the essential of every conception of the universe that has freed itself from the shackles of outworn creeds and the restraints of useless customs that bind and kill like some of those curious clinging plants which grow in foreign lands. The philosophy of the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ – the basis of all Socialism – it moves us unconsciously whether we like it or no.” (p.210)


Note 1. Though the undated first edition of this is sometimes said to have been published in 1905, it was actually published in November 1907, as is shown by advertisements in The Clarion at around that time. This edition – the one used here – ran to 158 pages, and was profusely illustrated by Chesworth. (The later edition of 1911 was in a smaller format, ran to 75 pages, and was sparsely illustrated in comparison, having had the bulk of the illustrations to the first edition edited out.) Fay’s undated book, Unsentimental Journeys, was published at the same time as the first edition of The Dolly Ballads, the two being advertised together on publication (Gallery, Fig.9c) and recommended together as “beautiful presents” in the run up to Christmas, 1907. (Gallery, Fig.9d)

Note 2. Laurence Thompson, Robert Blatchford (1951).(Laurence Thompson was the son of The Clarion’s co–founder, Alexander M. Thompson.) a) p.81; b) p.141; c) p.114; d) p.130; e) p.36; f) p.61-2; g) p.170-2; h) p.231; i) p.169; j) p.128; k) p.143; l) p.38;

Note 3. For example, a number of year–books for the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers, dating from the period of the First World War up to the 1960s, are preserved at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. The library also has a scrapbook of old photographs of some of the picnics associated with the various clubs.

Note 4. Another, less interesting, book by Blatchford with a title drawn from Omar was Shadow Shapes (William Blackwood & Sons Ltd., Edinburgh and London, 1931). Subtitled “A Sheaf of Human Documents” it was a collection of short stories published in the Press between 1886 and 1931. There is only one mention of Omar in it, in a short story entitled “Ashes to Ashes” (p.139-152). The story is told by a Mr M’Ginnis (Blatchford’s mouthpiece) and centres on the funeral of one Horatio T. Harkness, whose demise has been covered in the previous story in the book. M’Ginnis / Blatchford begins by saying that at his own funeral he wants “no wreaths, no barbarous embellishments, no epitaph, no pitiful pomp, no futile tears”, for once dead, “what avails it to make wry mouths over the empty squib–case ? Away with the old discarded bones to the oven or the pit; I have no further interest in them....My bones? I care not if they be fed to the jackals or the sharks.” Then he adds:

I cannot sympathise with Omar in his wish to be laid “by some not unfrequented garden side.” It is the one weak note in the old tent–maker’s lusty and sweet song.

I never visit the graves of friends. Why should I? My friend is not hidden in that hole. He is in the starry fields of heaven, or engulfed in the soundless seas of nothingness from whence he came. I will strew no flowers in his dust. They were better bestowed upon the child in the slum court or the sick man in the hospital. (p.140)

This last sentence, of course, serves to remind us that though Blatchford was a great fan of Omar (except over this issue!) he was, first and foremost, a socialist reformer. His story “Shantytown” (p.36-45), for example, is a fictionalised account of a visit to the wretched slums within a stone’s throw of ‘civilised’ London.

Note 5a: The other quotations from Omar in My Eighty Years are:

i) “Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript” (p.34);
ii) “Those who have drunk their cup a round or two before” (p.55);
iii) “The bird is on the wing” (p.60);
iv) “He that tossed us down into the field &etc” (p.61)
v) “Each morn a thousand roses brings &etc” (p.155)

In addition, talking of the days of his youth, specifically the year 1855, he says that, “The literary world of that day did not know Mark Twain, Anatole France, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Swinburne, Morris, Kipling, Henry James, or Omar Khayyam.” (p.11)

Note 5b: The other quotations from Omar in Saki’s Bowl are:

i) “The Eternal Saki from his bowl &etc” (p.85, as well as the title page);
ii) “The moving finger writes &etc” (p.114);
iii) “If the soul can fling the dust aside &etc” (p.119);
iv) “When all the tavern is prepared within &etc” (p.136);
v) “that angel of the darker drink” (p.139 & p.152);
vi) “I often wonder what the vintners buy &etc” (p.187);
vii) “drained their cup a round or two before &etc” (p.211);
viii) “Oh, Thou who man of baser earth didst make &etc” (p.297)

Note 6: It is an interesting example of the interconnectedness of Omarian things that the medium at one of whose séances Robert Blatchford believed he had actually heard his late wife’s voice, was conducted by Mrs Gladys Osborne Leonard. (More Things, p.86ff, particularly p.92-3.) She was the medium who had conducted the famous séances with Sir Oliver Lodge and his wife, purportedly putting them in touch with their dead son, Raymond, who had been killed in action early in the First World War. The results were published in Lodge’s book Raymond, or Life and Death (1916), a book which was very popular at the time. The evidential value of the spirit messages was severely criticised, though, by (amongst others) Edward Clodd, who in addition to being a founder member of the Omar Khayyam Club and its third president in 1895, was an agnostic, a firm supporter of Darwin, for some years a chairman of the Rationalist Press Association, and an ardent opponent of Spiritualism. Though tolerant towards those who held sincerely to their Christian faith, Clodd was notably aggressive towards the Spiritualists. In his anti–Spiritualist book The Question (1917), in chapter VIII (titled “Mrs Leonard and Others”), he wrote that such ‘communications’ from the spirit world “need no assumption of the supernormal to explain them” and that mediums like Mrs Leonard are “either dreamy neurotics or humbugs” (p.232) Blatchford, though, was convinced of his wife’s survival of bodily death: “I suggest that the theory that my wife was present with Mrs Leonard and a theory that covers all the facts and that it is the only theory that does cover all the facts.”(More Things, p.100-1.) For those interested in the psychology of Blatchford’s U–turn from materialist to spiritualist, the following is telling:

“And then a heavy blow fell. My wife died.

And I found, to my surprise, that I did not believe she was dead. I could not feel that she was dead: that she had ceased to be. I could only believe that though her body had ceased to be to live she was alive.” (More Things, p.70-1.)

Note 7: There is nothing about him in Brigid Peppin and Lucy Micklethwait’s Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: the 20th Century (1983) nor in Alan Horne’s Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators (1994). One of the few references to him that I have found is in Simon Houfe’s Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists (1996 ed), p.91, which says simply that he was a “Prolific illustrator in the 1890s”, and that he contributed to: “The Sketch [1894]; The New Budget [1895]; The Sporting and Dramatic News [1895]; Pick-Me-Up [1896]; Illustrated Bits; The Pall Mall Magazine.” Chesworth also gets fleeting references in James Thorpe’s English Illustration: the Nineties (1935). Thus he tells us that Chesworth produced “some hunting drawings” for the Christmas 1895 issue of The Sporting and Dramatic News (Thorpe p.65); that he first contributed to The Sketch in 1894 (Thorpe p.85); and that he did the theatrical drawings for ‘The Call Boy’ in Illustrated Bits (Thorpe p.121 – no date or details given.)

Book sources being unforthcoming as to any details of the artist’s life, Michael Behrend, using family history websites, has discovered that Chesworth was born in West Derby, Liverpool, in 1867. The 1891 census lists him as an artist, living with his older brother, Edwin, and his parents in Camberwell, London. By the time of the 1901 census he was listed as an artist and photographer, still living in Camberwell with his brother, but now with his widowed mother, his father having died in 1898. As mentioned earlier, Frank Chesworth died, as a result of self-inflicted injuries, in Camberwell Infirmary, on 8th January1906, at the tragically early age of 38. His death certificate lists the cause of death thus: “Dementia Broncho pneumonia accelerated by loss of blood from a wound in the throat inflicted by himself with a razor on 29th Decr whilst in a state of unsound mind.” (Bronchial pneumonia is apparently often associated with advanced dementia.)

Note 8: The Bounder, the Story of a Man by his Friend (Walter Scott Ltd., London, 1900.) Fay’s pen-name was the Bounder and his Friend was, of course, Robert Blatchford, whose pen-name was Nunquam. a) pp. 53, 58, 59 &etc; b) p.98ff; c) p.105;

Note 9: Apparently Blatchford himself - see My Eighty Years p.228.

Gallery Notes

Fig.1 – No. 21 of the Clarion series “Omar Khayyam”, illustrating verse 12 of the fourth edition.

Fig.2 – No.22 of the Clarion series “Omar Khayyam”, illustrating verse 1 of the first edition.

Fig.3 – No.23 of the Clarion series “Omar Khayyam”, illustrating verse 37 of the first edition

Fig.4 – No.24 of the Clarion series “Omar Khayyam”, illustrating verse 27 of the first edition.

Fig.5 – No.25 of the Clarion series “Omar Khayyam”, illustrating verse 45 of the first edition.

Fig.6 – No.26 of the Clarion series “Omar Khayyam”, illustrating verse 11 of the fourth edition.

Fig.7 – No. 12 of the Clarion Series “Songs from Shakespeare”, illustrating “O mistress mine &etc.” (“Twelfth Night”, Act 2, Scene 3.)

Fig.8 – No. ? of the Clarion Series “Songs from Shakespeare”, illustrating “Take, O take, those lips away &etc” (“Measure for Measure.” Act 4, Scene 1.), [This card has been mounted on a backing sheet, so its series number is not visible.]

Fig.9a – The advertisement featured in The Clarion in the run–up to Christmas 1904. The Clarion was a large format newspaper and the original advertisement occupied a single column. With slight alterations to the wording, the advert continued to appear in the paper in the first couple of months of 1905.

Fig.9b – The advertisement featured in The Clarion in the run-up to Christmas 1905, the postcards now being advertised in conjunction with Chesworth’s Omar Khayyam Calendar.

Fig.9c – This advertisement for the newly issued Dolly Ballads and Unsentimental Journeys began to appear in The Clarion at the end of November 1907. Note the comment at the end of the Dolly Ballads write-up: “Poor Frank Chesworth did some of his best work for this volume.”

Fig.9d – This advertisement featured in The Clarion in the run-up to Christmas 1907. The illustration accompanies a verse in Dolly Ballad VI.

Fig.10 – One of 16 illustrations done by Cheworth for the now rarely encountered edition of Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities (1906), this one facing p.310.

Fig.11 – Chesworth’s frontispiece for E. Leuty Collins’s novel, Hadasseh: from Captivity to the Persian Throne (1891).

Fig.12 – Chesworth’s cover for Blatchford’s My Favourite Books (1900). His ‘signature’ is at the lower left, and, lest there be any doubt (he isn’t named in the book itself), Chesworth was named as the designer in adverts for the book in The Clarion prior to its publication in 1900.

Fig.13 – Chesworth’s cover for Blatchford’s A Book about Books (1900). Again, his ‘signature’ is at the lower left.

Fig.14 – Chesworth’s title-page for A Book about Books.

Fig.15 – Chesworth’s contents–page for A Book about Books.

Fig.16 – The frontispiece of Robert Blatchford’s book of short stories, Tales for the Marines (1904). Blatchford had actually served in the army for several years (Thompson, as note 2 above, p.9), and, as the Foreword to the book explains, his stories were “cuffers” – tales of the type to be told in the barrack–room after lights out – hence the ‘ripping yarns’ style of the illustrations. The frontispiece relates to the second story in the book, “The Mousetrap”. Compare Fig.30 below.

Fig.17 – Title–page of The Dolly Ballads (1907 edition)

Fig.18 – Full page illustration at the beginning of “Dolly Ballad III – Exciting Scene in Suburbia.”

Fig.19 – A verse from “Dolly Ballad III”, with its accompanying illustration. The image of Father Time with his forelock, scythe and hourglass, is interesting, but note the little cartoon bird to the lower right, with the tiny frolicking sheep (?) and the upside-down musical note, giving a child–like addition to an otherwise serious theme. For the Scythe of Time and Time’s Forelock, see Appendix 14c. See also Fig.26 below.

Fig.20 – Full page illustration at the beginning of “Dolly Ballad IV – Dolly’s Future.” This is quite a surreal image, reminiscent of some illustrations of Alice in Wonderland.

Fig.21 – A verse from “Dolly Ballad IV”, with its accompanying illustration. This is standard children’s book stuff.

Fig.22 – Another verse from “Dolly Ballad IV”, with its accompanying illustration. Again, standard children’s book stuff, with an interesting use of the initial letter A.

Fig.23 – Robert Blatchford’s obituary of Frank Chesworth, as published in The Clarion on January 12th, 1906 (p.5). Unfortunately the obituary gives us little information about Chesworth’s life and artistic training, and indeed – though perhaps not surprisingly – the details of Chesworth’s suicide are not mentioned.

Fig.24 – The Contents–page of Fay’s Unsentimental Journeys (1907). Note the Jester Puppeteer at the top (cf Fig.26 below), pulling the strings controlling the various characters depicted, all of which – even the cow at the bottom right – were encountered by Fay on his journeys. [For the curious, one of Fay’s aims on his travels was to leave sticky labels along the way advertising The Clarion and its editor, Robert Blatchford, whose pen–name was Nunquam. At one point (p.14) he plastered an unfortunate cow with labels, the name Nunquam being clearly visible in Chesworth’s illustration.]

Fig.25Unsentimental Journeys: a full page illustration to “A Western Tour”, titled “Bear ye one another’s burdens” (facing p.114). The portly and aloof–looking Parson, with ‘halo’, and carrying a small packaged present, contrasts neatly with the heavy burdens borne by the miners and labourers (?) in the background. The relevant text from Fay (p.120–2), centred on the illuminated scriptural texts he saw in his bedroom at an inn in “Fat E’sam” is quoted above.

Fig.26 – A tailpiece miniature illustration on the last page of Unsentimental Journeys (p.214). It follows the quotation of the curious epitaph of one John Bowf “from off his tombstone in the Norwich bury hole”, which Fay renders in modern terms thus:

All shall we hence,
Whither nor when
May no man ken
But God above.
For other things we shall care,
Hence we shall fare
Full poor and bare.
Thus said John Bowf.

Chesworth’s use of the image of Death / Father Time and the representation of the deceased as a Jester is interesting, recalling Gordon Ross’s usage of the jester figure (Gallery 2B, Folder 2.) Compare also the figure of Father Time in Fig.19 above and the Jester-puppeteer in Fig.24 above. It is this illustration which Blatchford mentions in his obituary (Fig.23) as being “doubly pathetic”, in that both Fay and Chesworth – both ‘jesters’ – were dead by the time the book was published.

Fig.27 – A cartoon by Chesworth published in The Sketch, August 26th 1903 (p.205). The caption reads: “Algernon: It’s perfickly sick’nin’! I wish to goodness they wouldn’t be always thinkin’ about washin’ us!”

Fig 28 – A cartoon by Chesworth published in The Pall Mall Magazine, November 1894 (p.529), as one of a series under the general heading of “The Humours of the Month”. On the following page was printed this lengthy guide for readers, needed even more today than it was then:

“The following notes may enable our readers to unravel the mysteries of the month as depicted by our artist.

The renunciation of St Nicotine invites a holocaust of a leading novelist’s cherished briars.

Alas for the babes in the board schools! – the approaching School Board Election will decide their fate.

Whilst an Alderman of the City of London is borne along in triumph on a car drawn by tame turtles, he surveys with complacency the struggle of his mortal foes on the County Council to maintain their seats.

Mr Cecil Rhoden (sic), in South Africa, is engaged in proving to ocular demonstration that the native is an inferior article; whilst the late Prime Minister draws cheques on his popularity and thereby steadily decreases his balance.

John Bull might exclaim, with Pilate, ‘What is truth ?’ when confronted by the rival antagonists in the East.”

“The Humours of the Month” series seems to have run each month from June 1894 to December 1898, with Chesworth pretty much dominating it until December 1895. After that he seems to have dropped out, and the series was continued on a fairly irregular basis, with contributions from other artists, until December 1898.

Fig.29 – Another cartoon by Chesworth published in The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1895 (p.59), seemingly his last contribution to the series “The Humours of the Month”. On the following page was printed the following guide for readers:

“Yule–tide has brought the Authors together round the festive board. At the head of the table the host has just invited them to fill their glasses and drink to a toast he has very much at heart – ‘Another thousand a year to those who live by the pen.’

The attention of not a few is, however, distracted by the diversion afforded by the clever jester who wears the cap and bells.

From Poets’ corner comes the music of sweet sounds, though the minor bards scarcely sing in unison.

The members of the Press have for the time being taken back seats, but they have their eyes on the proceedings, and from their elevated position command the situation.”

Here again, then, we have the figure of the Jester, already encountered in Fig.24 & Fig.26 above.

Fig.30 – An illustration by Chesworth for “Missis Muldoon – an African War Story” by A.G. Hales, published in The English Illustrated Magazine in November 1901 (p.115.) Chesworth here is in a ‘Boy’s Own Paper’ mode – compare Fig.16 above.

Fig.31 – An illustration by Chesworth for “The adventures of Aga Mirza: No.II – The Black Panther” by Aquila Kempster, published in The English Illustrated Magazine in August 1902 (p.455). Chesworth here is in ‘Oriental’ mode.

Fig.32 – An illustration by Chesworth for “The adventures of Aga Mirza: No.IV – Out of his Class” by Aquila Kempster, published The English Illustrated Magazine in October 1902 (p.81) Chesworth here is in ‘Fashionable English’ mode.

Fig.33 – Chesworth’s “March Blasts”, which appeared in Black and White, in March 1895. The print presumably carries a social message - the Busker standing in the gutter and being offered money by a well–to–do little girl, whose mother does not even deem to notice him.

Fig.34 – Chesworth’s “Curtains Caricatured: V. – Opera – Typical Finales as seen by the Comic Artist” published in The Sketch, April 19, 1905. This is a fine example of Chesworth’s humour, with even the stabbed man and the background Sun joining in the chorus, and with an octopus–like conductor furiously doing his stuff in the foreground!

Fig.35 – Chesworth’s caricature of Sir Arthur Sullivan, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is dated 1899.

Fig.36 – Chesworth’s caricature of Dan Leno, which was used in Dan Leno, Hys Booke, “written by himself” (though “probably ghosted for him by T.C. Elder” according to the Dictionary of National Biography), published by Greening & Co., London, in 1899 (5th edition, p.63.) It appeared originally in the publication Illustrated Bits (at a date not given.)

Fig.37 – Chesworth’s caricature of Sir Henry Irving on the cover of The Times Literary Supplement for January 25th, 2013. It appeared originally in The Critic in 1899.

Fig.38 – Chesworth’s poster for the Surrey Bicycle Club’s spring race meeting, April 20, 1895.

The above illustrations can be browsed by clicking here.


The Clarion Series of Omar Khayyam postcards are quite rare, and I have only two of them myself (nos. 22 & 24.) For images of the others I must thank Roger Paas and Joan Lambert.


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