Ian Fenwick and Wodehouse

Sometimes, my interests lead me to strange places.

A few weeks ago, I was tweeting about first edition covers to the works of P.G. Wodehouse, as you do, and I wondered if the cover of The Code of the Woosters was by the famous cartoonist Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird).

I don’t want to keep you in unnecessary suspense, so I’ll tell you right now that it isn’t. But you can see why I’d be confused…

The cover of the first UK edition of The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

Above, you can see the cover in question. Here, for purposes of comparison, is one of Fougasse’s very famous “Careless Talk Costs Lives” posters:

“Careless Talk Costs Lives” by Fougasse

He uses the same simplicity of line, reducing human figures and even faces to the minimum, and he gives similar “blocky” outlines to the figures in their coats.

Looking into this vital matter further, I saw that between 1938 and 1940 this artist drew the covers for the UK first editions of, in total, five Wodehouse books: Summer Moonshine, The Code of the Woosters, Uncle Fred in the Springtime, Eggs, Beans and Crumpets and Quick Service. The decision of Herbert Jenkins Ltd to use this artist was a very visible break from their previous style of Wodehouse cover, which was probably getting more than a little old-fashioned. I’ll show you what I mean. The change was from this in 1937….

The UK cover for Lord Emsworth and Others by P.G. Wodehouse (1937)

… to this in 1938:

The UK cover for Summer Moonshine by P.G. Wodehouse (1938)

The artist, while not being Fougasse, was clearly a talented practitioner of the new generation and working in a similar vein. Let the mystery end now. His signature can be seen on many of the covers. I don’t personally own any of these editions so I am reliant on online images, but here is a high definition closeup of the signature of “Fenwick” from Summer Moonshine:


A little searching online brought up some fascinating information about Ian Fenwick and I refer in particular to these links:

Cartoons by Major Ian Fenwick KRRC – The Royal Green Jackets Museum (rgjmuseum.co.uk)

Ian Fenwick | ParaData

Ian Fenwick Cartoons | ParaData

The following summary of his life is taken mostly from the above sources.

Born in 1910 the son of a Captain in the 60th Rifles and a “socialite” from Newport, Rhode Island, he was educated at Winchester College and at Pembroke College Cambridge. In the 1930s he was a busy cartoonist, contributing to Punch, Men Only, and London Opinion. The sites I have referred to do not mention his covers for Wodehouse but these must have been prestigious commissions. Who would not be proud of drawing the cover for The Code of the Woosters?

Major Ian Fenwick

He joined the Leicestershire Yeomanry in 1937 and after the outbreak of war was transferred to the Royal Artillery in 1940. He was involved in numerous campaigns including the North African desert campaign and the invasion of Sicily/Italy.

A cartoon about Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTs) by Ian Fenwick taken from rgjmuseum.co.uk

A note by his friend Lt.-Colonel I.G. Collins published in Fenwick’s posthumous cartoon collection Enter Trubshaw (1945) states: “Major Fenwick joined the First Special Air Service [S.A.S.] Regiment in February, 1944. He was in command of an S.A.S. squadron which operated for nearly three months behind the enemy lines, helping to organise and arm the F.F.I. [French Forces of the Interior = French Resistance] and sending back daily important intelligence reports on enemy troop movements…. Ian’s infectious cheerfulness, wit and ability were an inspiration to his men and to the whole regiment.”

Cartoon sketch by Ian Fenwick from paradata.org.uk

Fenwick died in action on 7 August 1944 in the most courageous manner, aged 34. For full information about his war years, please let me refer you again to his page at paradata.org.uk:

Ian Fenwick | ParaData

The examples I have seen of his joke cartoons suggest that generally speaking their humour does not travel. But his covers for Wodehouse are, in my opinion, amongst the most distinctive and attractive of the first editions designs. Here’s one of my favourites, for the short story collection Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940):

Cover design by Ian Fenwick for Eggs, Beans and Crumpets by P.G. Wodehouse (1940)

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