The true meaning of toys?

img_0700
Penguin Books Image The Toy Makers

“A secret has been revealed, and I finally understand the meaning of toys, something my papa learnt long before me. When you are young, what you want out of toys is to feel grown up. You play with toys and cast yourself an adult, and imagine life the way it’s going to be.”

Yet, when you are grown, that changes; now, what you want out of toys is to feel young again. You want to be back there, in a place that did not hurt or harm you, in a pocket of time built out of memory and love. You want things in miniature, where they can be better understood: battles and houses, picnic baskets and sailing boats too.

Boyhood and adulthood – any toy maker worth his craft has to find a place to sit , somewhere between the two. It’s only in these borderlands that the very best toys are made.”

The Toymakers, a novel by Robert Dinsdale (Penguin, 2018), p. 256/7

My current reading  – half way through – is The Toymakers, a fantasy / magic realism book set in a magical winter toy shop in Edwardian London up to and into the First World War.

The book blurb aims for the Harry Potter market – “If There were a toy shop on Diagon Alley it would be the Toymakers” – and I can imagine the film makers who made the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies would enjoy recreating this world in CGI.

Here in the Emporium,  a refugee European Toymaker  Papa Jack and his two sons Emil and Kaspar Godman  compete in both love and Toys, including “The Long War” fought between brothers through their alive (clockwork?) handmade toy soldiers.

The  realism part of the magic realism steps up a pace when the First World War breaks out, Emporium staff join up, white feathers are handed out and at first, toy soldiers became the patriotic gift to give to small boys.

img_0702

But what would happen as the war ground on? I often  feel this looking at this WW1 era magazine scrap in my eclectic and chaotic collection

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/toys-from-the-scrapheap/

We all know what happened in reality to William Britain’s toy soldiers and their post war shift to more civilian Toys like farms, Wild West, gardens and railway figures.

Set at a time when H.G. Wells was writing Floor Games and Little Wars, those charming touchstones or portkeys to a vanished toy past, I would not be surprised if Mr. H.G. Wells turns up …

Links to  the Penguin books site featuring and extract and an interview with the author on the magic of toys and how the book came to be written.

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/111/1113668/the-toymakers/9781785036354.html

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2018/robert-dinsdale-magic-of-toys.html

and some reader reviews.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34846987-the-toymakers

I will post a fuller review when I have finished reading both this and rereading of Pauline Clarke’s 1960s book, the Bronte toy soldier inspired The Return of The Twelves.

And now for some simple wooden Christmas magic …

IMG_0665
Boom! Some new battered Toy Soldiers and cannon from my Christmas gifts. Magic!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 6 January 2019.

Advertisements

“That more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books”

 

IMG_4059
Nice field gun! I wonder if this Mademoiselle Strategie was “that sort of intelligent girl” that H.G. Wells had in mind who would enjoy playing his Little Wars ? Xavier Sager  postcard, “Strategy” c. or pre WW1.

 

“Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books” is the long and unusual title of H.G. Wells famous book that started modern war gaming back in 1913.

H.G. Wells had an eye for intelligent girls or ladies, such as Amber Reeves, a pioneering feminist Socialist student at Cambridge University  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Reeves with whom Wells had a child outside marriage in 1909. Wells called Amber  “Dusa”, a shortened form of his pet name (!) for her of Medusa.

Wells proved himself to be more than just the father of modern war gaming!

The years before Floor Games (1911), an account of floor games with his two sons,   led onto the “Sandgate Cannonade” of Little Wars (1913) were certainly busy ones for Wells, personally and professionally.

I wonder if this Xavier Sager designed Strategie / Strategy postcard girl  is “the sort of intelligent girl who likes boys games and books” that Wells had in mind? It’s certainly a nice field gun shooting at what looks like tiny men or toy soldiers.

I came across this curious “Little Wars” style postcard online attached to a completely unrelated foreign language medical website about heart disease.

I was puzzled – Any reason why it was on a medical website?

It’s an interesting little card from somewhere in the early 1900s through to WW1. Look carefully and you will see that the ammunition for her toy gun is hearts!

What Strategy is it that she proposes?

Why the Gulliver Lilliputian style differences in size between giant lady and puny male victims?

Are these her tiny fallen lovers?

Is she a Femme Fatale figure? A Dusa or mythical fate spinner, a fatal woman?

What of the tiny fallen or wounded figures on the floor, including one in uniform, cursing or crying out? He must have a very revealing view of  Mademoiselle “Strategie”.

What would the spirited Amber Reeves make of it all?

Strategy was produced as a comic or satirical postcard by Xavier Sager.  Sager was a European  postcard artist whom I had not heard of before but a quick internet search reveals him to have been most prolific.

However  little appears online or in print about Sager’s life. Xavier Sager may have been born in Austria in 1870 or 1881 and died in the USA in 1930. He mostly illustrated Paris life in the first few years of the 1900s. You can see many of his designs here and on Pinterest:

https://aboutcards.blogspot.com/2006/12/xavier-sager-belle-epoch-postcard.html

http://perso.wanadoo.es/xsager/_marcs-eng.htm

French website: http://wilfrid-sager.blogg.org

Sager’s image reminds me of this curious Gibson Girls comic drawing by American artist Charles Dana Gibson entitled “The Weaker Sex” (1903).

IMG_4136
Caption this for female Wargamers or modellers?!? Sager’s images reminds me of this curious 1903 Gibson Girls drawing by American artist Charles Dana Gibson entitled “The Weaker Sex” (Wikipedia image source public domain)

Xavier Sager reputedly produced over 3000 designs of what in America would later be called pin ups, nose cone art  and far more relaxed and revealing than the fashionable Gibson Girls of America at the time.

IMG_4139
Howard Chandler Christy WW1 poster
IMG_4140
Howard Chandler Christy WW1 US poster

These Sager postcards are much more similar in cheeky style to the Howard Chandler Christy girls of WW1 American forces recruiting.

IMG_4064
Lots of “military terms” or puns illustrated on postcards by Xavier Sager c. France WW1. As the old saying goes, Time spent in Reconnaissance is seldom wasted!

Many of the military ones seem focussed on cheeky, erotic or patriotic subjects such as flags, national songs, uniforms and female company for Allied soldiers including the Americans after their 1917 entry into WW1. They must have sold like hot cakes or donuts to the American doughboys.

IMG_4065

IMG_4069
Bersaglieri, part of a Sager postcard series on Allied national flags and uniforms  WW1. A similar female Bersaglieri postcard by Sager exists.

This post is for Marvin, a talented painter of WW1 miniatures!

These  images sit interestingly alongside the fantastical and unrealistic images of women or girl soldiers that Marvin of the Suburban Militarism blog has been researching, alongside the real female soldiers and support services https://suburbanmilitarism.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/girl-soldier/

There are plenty of Xavier Sager’s collectable vintage postcard images for sale online or viewable on Pinterest, if you want to look up his work any further, along with websites below.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 August 2018

B.P.S. Blog Post Script 

Mademoiselle Strategie with her ammunition of hearts may well be the female version of the man collecting a Jar of Hearts (conquests, hopefully, not real human organs) in Christina Perri’s recent song Jar of Hearts, better heard in the remix of the  time travelling Postmodern Jukebox, court musicians to the Duke of Tradgardland. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/G_4Qf2yV0KQ

 

Remembrance, Great War and Little Wars

IMG_2329
An edited quote from H.G. Wells’ Little Wars (1913) in Donald Featherstone’s War Games (1962)

Armistice and Remembrance Weekend – a suitable time to reflect, in this case on the WW1 Centenary, Poppy or Armistice Day 99 years on and a 104 year old book by H.G. Wells.

IMG_2517

IMG_2518

IMG_2519

IMG_2515IMG_2516

Written by H G Wells in 1913, being the final page of Little Wars.

Something to think about as we mark another 11th November 99 years on and another Remembrance Sunday.

The extended original quote also available at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3691/3691-h/3691-h.htm

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog,  November 11th  and 12th, 2017

 

How to Feed Toy Soldiers

 

imagePicked up in a second hand bookshop years ago is an illustrated copy of this E. Nesbit Short story The Town In the Library, first published in 1901.

How to Feed Toy Soldiers …

This out of print 1987 Macdonald / Beehive Books edition of the Edith Nesbit story has interesting illustrations of toy soldiers by illustrator Shirley Tourret who died in 2007.

Some of the aspects of the story are an interesting and magical realist mixture of kaleidoscopic Chinese puzzle ‘box inside a box’ / ‘world inside a fantasy world’ of Lewis Carroll and H.G. Wells Floor Games and Little Wars. It is the familiar floor world of Wells’ Little Wars world of the Edwardian Nursery.

Two children Rosalind and Fabian are quarantined at home with measles on Christmas Eve. They are forbidden to open the top drawers of a bureau / desk but of course do and discover their Christmas treats and toys including blue and red toy soldiers.

image

The short story from Nesbit’s 1901 book Nine Unlikely Tales is played out amongst buildings and forts made of books, in a H.G. Wells style but ideas of scale are played around with throughout the story and the children appear to shrink into this world or town inside their house’s library.

The blue toy soldiers appear out of their wood and straw box in a novel and exciting way – abseiling down the wood shavings to the floor below, a decorative feat in full Napoleonic gear.

image

Thus is nicely pictured by Shirley Tourret with the soldier climbing down  the side of the text to the book’s floor.

image

A similar abseiling paper soldier was recently featured in an innovative and imaginative 2010 art residency Remnants by Su Blackwell https://www.bronte.org.uk/contemporary-arts/artists-in-haworth/su-blackwell  at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, depicting the heroic characters leaping to imaginative life of the Bronte children’s juvenilia (Angria, Gondal and Glasstown) – see Pinterest,  http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/pdf/papermodels/blackwellcs.pdf or Su Blackwell’s website for more of  the images.

image
Su Blackwell’s Remnants exhibition 2010 inspired by Bronte juvenilia at the Bronte Parsonage Museum. Photo: Su Blackwell website.

Captured by the blue toy soldiers, the children are persuaded to feed them their Christmas treats in a novel and unusual way. “I suppose you know how tin soldiers are fed?” Edith Nesbit / the narrator asks:

image

The children are rescued by the traditional red coated heroes (Nesbit’s story was written in 1901 at the height of Empire after all) which Shirley Tourret depicts in almost 18th Century uniform and head gear. They are nicely portrayed amongst a battlement of books.

All very H.G. Wells and Little Wars …

image

The story cleverly ends with the two children reappearing in their real nursery / library proper sized again but suffering from the fever of oncoming measles. So was it all a feverish dream or was it?

The book is an interesting mix of period uniforms, and absurd ideas for gaming scenarios such as the blue Napoleonic troops abseiling in full dress and shako.

The figures are stiffly posed in a toyness fashion when glimpsed as toys in some pictures but within the world of the bookish “Town in The Library” of the title and the children’s feverish imaginations the Toy Soldiers appear more animated, alive and human. This is cleverly distinguished in Shirley Tourret’s illustrations.

A sad postscript

The things you learn whilst exploring the world of toy soldiers.

As well as finding out about illustrators, you discover interesting things about the authors too.

Exploring Edith Nesbit’s life on Wikipedia, I found that Fabian and Rosamund the two children in the book are named after her own complicated family of birth and adopted children including a son Fabian, who died aged 15 in 1900, the year before this story was published in 1901.  She also was one of the nine founders of  the socialist Fabian Society in 1884 with her husband Hubert Bland, and her son Fabian was named after the society.

Nesbit’s children were Paul Bland (1880–1940), to whom The Railway Children was dedicated; Iris Bland (1881-1950s); Fabian Bland (1885–1900); Rosamund Bland (1886–1950), to whom The Book of Dragons was dedicated; and John Bland (1898–1971) to whom The House of Arden was dedicated.

Her son Fabian died aged 15 after a tonsil operation; Nesbit dedicated a number of books to him: Five Children and It and its sequels, as well as The Story of the Treasure Seekers and its sequels. Nesbit’s adopted daughter Rosamund collaborated with her on the book Cat Tales. (Wikipedia source: E.Nesbit)

At least Fabian lives on through this story.

Blogposted by Mr MIN, Man  of TIN, September 2016.