Our book of the month for February 2022 is Simon Grennan’s Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval (2018).
In the collection at Chetham’s Library, Manchester, is an illustrated novel, published in 1877. Titled The Story of a Honeymoon, the novel was written and illustrated by Charles H. Ross and Ambrose Clarke. Thousands of novels like it were produced in the period, as part of the first boom in popular mass entertainments – fashion, organised sport, smoking, tourism, day tripping, romance, musical theatre, comics and magazines. This period saw the birth of modern urban cultures of working-class leisure exemplified by the industrial city of Manchester.
The Story of a Honeymoon hides a compelling secret. Ambrose Clarke never existed. Rather, another illustrator was given cover by the invented name of Clarke. The artist drawing as this fictional man was a woman, Marie Duval. She was an actress and cartoonist known for her reckless comedic drawing style. As one of only a handful of women cartoonists in a male publishing environment, her work was habitually disguised, emasculated, overwritten and stolen. After her death, her male collaborators took the opportunity to erase her from history. They almost succeeded. In 2017, Simon Grennan identified Duval’s work in The Story of a Honeymoon for the first time. Grennan has been instrumental in bringing Duval’s work back to public view. In Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval Grennan focuses on the manners and habits of twenty-first century mass leisure culture, plus its roots in the great cities of the nineteenth century. He adopts the pseudonym Marie Duval, producing drawings in drag, as a woman.