MY UNCLE SILAS is a collection of the 14 short stories about Uncle Silas, a devilish sort who
"got gloriously and regularly drunk, loved food and the ladies, and good company, was not afraid to wear a huge and flamboyant buttonhole, told lies, got the better of his fellow-men whenever the chance offered itself, used a scythe like an angel, was a wonderful gardener, took the local lord's pheasants, and yet succeeded in remaining an honest, genuine and lovable character."
Above is 93 year old Uncle Silas working in his garden from the story "The Lily." All of Ardizzone's finished drawings look like pages torn out of his sketchbook. The ink flows freely and easily, and the composition is so subtle; drawing you in, in this instance, to our man Silas.
"There was no sound or movement from anything except the bees, droll and drunken, as they crawled and tippled down the yellow and blue and dazzling white throats of the flowers."
Above: tales told in the pub. I like how everyone is leaning; on the bar, against the wall. All that inky noodling makes it look cozy.
Above: In the story "The Race," Uncle Silas boasted he could beat a local blowhard named Goffy in a foot race. One problem: the chap is fit, and Silas is old and not in shape. In the drawing, Goffy is about to come upon Silas, lying corpse-like in the middle of the village path. Did Silas collapse -- or it a ruse?
Just looking at the foliage, you can see how overgrown it is. When you read phrases like the bees buzzed lazily and the sun was hot, etc., you see the feel of the country in Ardizzone's work
All of the stories are told from the point of view of Silas' great-nephew Edward. In this drawing you see a bit of the hills and dales of the country, with not even a hint of a straight line of tamed flora from Ardizzone -- the ground is swelling upward, and bristling with growth.
Above: a country fair.
"Care for a mouthful o' wine?" is a phrase Silas uses a lot. And there's an abundance of the beverage at the fair.
Climbing a forbidden high wall. There are dozens of illustrations in the book, of which only a handful are here. I'd like to think that he would have been a great graphic novelist if he were alive today.
Bates described himself "lucky to have the collaboration of Mr. Edward Ardizzone, whose crabbed and crusty pictures are so absolutely and perfectly in the spirit of every page they illustrate."
The housekeeper dresses Silas. Silas yells at her a lot. In one story, Silas and the nephew have come in to Silas' house after a hot day in the garden for a mouthful of wine.
"'Woman, if you're down the cellar bring us a bottle o' cowslip.'This goes on for a bit. After a page or two, the housekeeper relents, retrieves the wine and the glasses, but Silas insults her speed and then, her general appearance, until she leaves, vowing never to come back. The nephew sees all this and remarks --
"'I'm upstairs,' came a voice.
"'Then come down. And look slippy.'
"Fetch it yourself!'"
"I said, 'You've done it now,' and he winked back at me again, knowing that I knew that she had been leaving every day for twenty years, and that they had quarreled with each other day and night for nearly all that time, secretly loving it."
MY UNCLE SILAS was made into two series for ITV, seen in the States on Masterpiece Theatre with Albert Finney. Below is a preview for the series:
It's TOM JONES, 40 years on.
Above: from TIM AND TOWSER.
When I was a kid, I found Ardizzone's Tim books at the local library. The Tim series of books began in 1937 and have never been out of print. Like a good cartoonist, Mr. Ardizzone wrote and drew and watercolored all of them. I have liked his work ever since I first saw it.
The more I read about him, the more I find out. Case in point:
Related link: Ardizzone was a 2nd Lieutenant in an anti-aircraft battery when Sir Kenneth Clark appointed him as a full-time official War Artist by the War Artists Advisory Committee.