Cricket CartoonsMartin Chandler |
Author: Mailey, Arthur
Publisher: NSW Bookstall Ltd
Rating: 3.5 stars
I must confess to having something of a weakness for Arthur Mailey’s publications. Australia’s expansive and entertaining leg spinner of the early 1920s was also a talented writer and caricaturist, and to go with a not uncommon 1958 autobiography, 10 for 66 and All That he also published, in the words of Wikipedia, a number of booklets of cartoons of cricketers of his time between 1920 and 1953.
Those somewhat vague words were carefully chosen by the Wiki author, because it is difficult to work out just how many of these booklets there are. Archie Mac has already reviewed Mailey’s Googlies, which is one of as many as three Mailey publications that came out of the 1921 Ashes series.
Mailey himself does nothing to assist the confused. He used exactly the same wrappers for booklets on tours as different as the 1932/33 Bodyline series in Australia and Australia’s visit to South Africa in 1935/36. He did much the same with pre tour booklets on the 1924/25 and 1928/29 Ashes series, although at least there is one tiny difference between those two. It is also completely unhelpful to the completist that all four of these booklets have the same title, Cricket Sketches.
EW ‘Tim’ Padwick, who produced the first two editions of the game’s bibliography after years of research, missed the 1935/36 Cricket Sketches issue, although it did turn up in 1990 in Padwick 2. The booklet under review here escapes Padwick completely, despite its helpfully having a title that I believe is unique.
To raise further doubts a year or so ago I managed to acquire what amounts to a second 1935/36 publication. Is that in Padwick? The answer is it is referred to, but the main entry is under the name of the Company that sponsored it, and Mailey is credited only in what amounts to a footnote. But surely with more than twenty pages of Mailey cartoons it counts?
So how many Maileys are there? I’m not going to express a particularly confident view, but after a decade of trying to work it out I’d venture to suggest there is one for 1920/21, three for 1921, two for 1924/25, one each for 1926, 1928/29, 1930 and 1932/33, two more for 1935/36 and, almost two decades later, one for 1953. A total of thirteen, unlucky for some, but fortunate for the collector who can claim ownership of a full set. I am not yet in that exclusive club, but am closing in on the target.
And what of Cricket Cartoons? A little different. First of all it appeared after the fourth Test, something we can be certain about because the penultimate page contains the scorecards for the first four matches. The second feature is that the first twenty odd pages consist of something more akin to a cartoon strip than the usual Mailey output. Generally Maileys, as pre tour brochures, consist in the main of full page illustrations of the combatants. The events of the Tests provide the material for the strips, and as with all the best caricatures just a few quick strokes of the pen and it is obvious who Mailey has drawn even if the accompanying narrative is left unread. That is not however recommended, as the text adds a rich vein of humour.
As the Mac mentioned in his review of Mailey’s Googlies these little booklets are not cheap. They are not unique either as a few imitators tried to get in on the act, but none succeeded like Mailey, a great talent with a pen in his hand, in much the same way as he was with a ball. For anyone with deep pockets Maileys generally, and Cricket Cartoons in particular, are delightful period pieces, and thoroughly recommended.