A Study of the Daily Express Cartoons

there are three of them, of course: the Giles family, prosperous working-class; the Barry Appleby family, commercial petty-bourgeois; and the Osbert Lancaster family, displaced aristocratic. They’ve all appeared every day for years in cartoons in the Daily Express, and sometimes in the Sunday Express as well. First, just to refresh memories about them:

The only one of the trio to which its artist has given his own name. They are twelve in number (or, by adoption—see below—thirteen), and there are four generations of them, namely: Grandma (in fact, as will be seen, Great-Grandma). Though treated with no deference whatever by the family, she is clearly wellloved, and not just tolerated. A survival from the distant Music Hall era, she embodies the robust virtues (and appalling nuisance-value) of the vanished, or vanishing, working-class matriach.

Father (who is Grandma’s son) and Mother. Father must be at least in his sixties, since it appears he served in World War I (as well as II). His dress and habits are resolutely proletarian (shirt-sleeves indoors, pints of truant wallop with the lads, bawdy flirtations and fundamental loyalty to the home), and in character he is entirely insensitive and endlessly patient, though liable to outbursts of exasperated rage. Mother, his wife (from whom, even more than from Grandma, the children would seem to inherit their pig-like faces), is the massive, imperturbable, competent linchpin of the household. If one word exactly describes her, it is “ Mum.”

This pair have five children—three adult, two still juveniles. The older three are George, Ann and Carol. It is George who wears the meerschaum pipe and beret, apparently does no work at all, but instead (Giles’s own words about him) ‘reads everything, and that’s about the lot for George.’ George is, in fact, Giles’s idea of a working-class highbrow. (In moments of stress, Father turns to the whisky bottle, George to gin.) He is married to Vera, his (Giles’s words again) ‘intellectual wife’ who wilts and faints and doses herself with aspirin. Ann is the mother of ‘the twins’ (see below), and one may search the cartoons in vain to discover who was these children’s father. (A nice, very accurate, Giles touch: my own guess is a wartime Gl) Carol, who ‘causes less trouble than the rest’ (Giles again), personifies the] nice, common, plain, placid, mildly sexy, fag-dragginig English girl.

The two younger children of Father and Mother are Ernie and Bridget, little devils both, and really closer in age to the ‘Giles babies’ of the fourth generation, whose youthful uncle and aunt they would thus appear to be. This fourth generation consists of George junior (the son of Vera and George—and how, one may wonder, did their skinny love produce so tough a child?), and of Ann’s two (illegitimate) children, ‘the twins’, called Laurence and Ralph after Ann’s favourite actors.

To this little lot we must add item thirteen, that diabolical nipper with his hair dangling, like a prize puppy’s, over his eyes, who sticks around with the family, clicking his infant news-ghoul’s camera, but whose exact blood relationship to the rest (if any) I have not been able to trace.