Nicolas Bentley

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Nicolas Clerihew Bentley (14 June 1907 – 14 August 1978) was a British author and illustrator, best known for his humorous cartoon drawings in books and magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. The son of Edmund Clerihew Bentley (inventor of the clerihew verse form), he was given the name Nicholas, but opted to change the spelling.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley, who generally published under the names E. C. Bentley or E. Clerihew Bentley, was a popular English novelist and humorist, and inventor of the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics.

A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem's subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light, or revealing something unknown or spurious about them. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and metre are irregular. Bentley invented the clerihew in school and then popularized it in books. One of his best known is this (1905):

Contents

Early career

Nicholas Clerihew Bentley was born on 14 June 1907 at Highgate in London. He was educated at University College School where he left at the age of 17, having decided that his academic abilities would not take him to university. He then enrolled at Heatherleys School of Fine Art, a prestigious private college, but left after a few months. After leaving Heatherley's, Bentley worked without pay as a clown in a circus. When this job ended, he was a film extra; and during the General Strike of 1926 he worked on the London Underground. [1]

Highgate area of North London, England

Highgate is a suburban area of north London at the north-eastern corner of Hampstead Heath, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north north-west of Charing Cross.

University College School Camden, Greater London, NW3

University College School, generally known as UCS Hampstead, is an independent day school in Frognal, northwest London, England. The school was founded in 1830 by University College London and inherited many of that institution's progressive and secular views.

London Underground rapid transit system in London, United Kingdom

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Professional illustration

It was at this time that Bentley sold his first drawing to his godfather, G. K. Chesterton. He had a commission to draw illustrations for a trade newspaper called Man and his clothes in 1928, and his first regular job as an illustrator was in the publicity department of Shell. Bentley worked for Shell for three years, but disliked working in advertising. In 1930, Hilaire Belloc (who was a friend of his father) invited him to illustrate his book New Cautionary Tales. The good critical reception of this book and its illustrations allowed him to go freelance. [1]

G. K. Chesterton English mystery novelist and Christian apologist

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG, was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox". Time magazine has observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out."

Royal Dutch Shell Anglo-Dutch oil company

Royal Dutch Shell plc, commonly known as Shell, is a British-Dutch oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdom. It is one of the six oil and gas "supermajors" and the fifth-largest company in the world measured by 2018 revenues. Shell was first in the 2013 Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies; in that year its revenues were equivalent to 84% of the Dutch national $556 billion GDP.

Hilaire Belloc writer

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc was an Anglo-French writer and historian. He was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, sailor, satirist, man of letters, soldier and political activist. His Catholic faith had a strong impact on his works. He was President of the Oxford Union and later MP for Salford from 1906 to 1910. He was a noted disputant, with a number of long-running feuds, but also widely regarded as a humane and sympathetic man. Belloc became a naturalised British subject in 1902, while retaining his French citizenship.

Publishing career

As well as becoming a freelance artist, writer and journalist, Bentley also followed a career in publishing. From 1950 he was director of Andre Deutsch. He later worked as an editor for Mitchell Beazley Ltd; for Sunday Times Publications from 1962 to 1963; and for Thomas Nelson from 1963 to 1967. [2]

Author

During the 1930s Bentley illustrated works ranging from J. B. Morton to Damon Runyon. His most famous drawings were to illustrate T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats , but he illustrated more than 70 books in the course of a long career. He customarily used the byline "Nicolas Bentley drew the pictures". His favourite illustration work was for his own books and he considered himself primarily an author. One of his best-known books, Ready Refusals, or, The White Liar's Engagement Book gives a quotation for every day of the year, drawn from a surprisingly wide range of sources, together with an appropriate illustration. He also wrote and illustrated Golden Sovereigns – and some of lesser value – from Boadicea to Elizabeth II (1970), a humorous book about the English/British monarchy.

John Cameron Andrieu Bingham Michael Morton, better known by his preferred abbreviation J. B. Morton was an English humorous writer noted for authoring a column called "By the Way" under the pen name 'Beachcomber' in the Daily Express from 1924 to 1975.

Damon Runyon American writer

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T. S. Eliot English author

Thomas Stearns Eliot,, "one of the twentieth century's major poets" was also an essayist, publisher, playwright, and literary and social critic. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States, to a prominent Boston Brahmin family, he moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25, settling, working, and marrying there. He became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39, renouncing his American passport.

Marriage

On 17 October 1934, he married Barbara Hastings (1908–1989), a writer of children's books and the daughter of Sir Patrick Gardiner Hastings; they had one child, Arabella, in 1943. [1]

Patrick Hastings British politician

Sir Patrick Gardiner Hastings, was a British barrister and politician noted for his long and highly successful career as a barrister and his short stint as Attorney General. He was educated at Charterhouse School until 1896, when his family moved to continental Europe. There he learnt to shoot and ride horses, allowing him to join the Suffolk Imperial Yeomanry after the outbreak of the Second Boer War. After demobilisation he worked briefly as an apprentice to an engineer in Wales before moving to London to become a barrister. Hastings joined the Middle Temple as a student on 4 November 1901, and after two years of saving money for the call to the Bar he finally qualified as a barrister on 15 June 1904.

Post-war work

Bentley had enrolled as an auxiliary fireman in 1938 and served in the London Fire Brigade during the Second World War. He illustrated How to be an Alien (1946) by George Mikes.

After the war he took a few regular cartooning jobs, including on Time and Tide (1952–54) and drawing pocket cartoons for the Daily Mail from 1958. He gave this job up in 1962, complaining that it put too much strain on him. In later life he was the illustrator for Auberon Waugh's Diary in Private Eye and contributed other cartoons to the magazine.

He moved to Downhead, near Shepton Mallet in Somerset. [1] He died on 14 August 1978, in the Royal United Hospital, Bath, Somerset. [1]

His autobiography, A Version of the Truth, was published in 1960. On his death, Auberon Waugh wrote in Private Eye: "Nick was a gentle, modest, humorous man, with none of the usual characteristics of the highly individual genius which inspired his quiet professionalism and supreme technical ability."[ citation needed ]

Books written and illustrated (selected)


Books illustrated (selected)

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 McLean, Ruari (2004). "Oxford DNB article: Bentley, Nicolas Clerihew (subscription needed)". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  2. Horne, Alan (1999). The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators. Antique Collectors' Club. pp. 100–101.

Further reading