David Low, the third son of four children of David Brown Low, a businessman, was born in Dunedin, New Zealand on 7th April 1891. His father's family had originally come from Fife in Scotland in the 1860s and his mother's from Dublin, Ireland, in 1850. (1)
In 1902 his eldest brother died from peritonitis. His parents believed he had been weakened by "overstudy" and Low, aged eleven, was withdrawn from school. "He thus went into adolescence without the advantages and disadvantages of a peer group. His discipline was self-discipline." (2)
As a young man he had discovered a pile of old copies of Punch Magazine in a second-hand bookshop in Christchurch. Deeply impressed by the work of Charles Keene, Linley Sambourne and Phil May, Low decided he wanted to become a cartoonist. In his autobiography he wrote: "The more I poured over the intricate technical quality of these artists the more difficult did drawing appear. How impossible that one could ever become an artist! But then I came on Phil May, who combined quality with apparent facility. Once having discovered Phil May I never let him go." (3)
David Low's first published cartoon was printed in a New Zealand paper in 1902, when he was eleven years old. "It represented the local authorities as lunatics because of their reluctance to remove certain trees that obstructed traffic." It was have his drawings published in other magazines and newspapers. (4)
Low published anti-gambling cartoons for the War Cry, the newspaper of the Salvation Army, and illustrations for New Zealand Truth, a weekly newspaper specializing in sensational crime and sex . Still a teenager, Low was appointed the regular political cartoonist of the New Zealand Spectator. He drew two full-page political cartoons and four of five small ones weekly. He also contributed two half-page cartoons to a new socialist newspaper, the Weekly Herald. (5)
His fame spread to Australia and at the age of eighteen he was asked to join the Sydney Bulletin, where he worked with two other great cartoonists, Livingstone Hopkins and Norman Lindsay. (6) David Low enjoyed his time on the newspaper: "The men behind the Bulletin, notably Jules Francois Archibald, a master journalist, and William Macleod, an artist with solid business ability, had made it a major policy of their paper to encourage native Australian talent.... The Bulletin was radical, rampant and free, with an anti-English bias and a preference for a republican form of government. No more imported governors nor doggerel national anthems, no more pompous borrowed generals, foreign titles, foreign capitalists, cheap labour, diseased immigrants, if the Bulletin could help it." (7)
During the First World War Low became a strong opponent of the Australian prime minister, William Hughes. General William Birdwood managed to persuade Hughes that conscription was necessary. In December, 1915, Hughes argued: "We must put forth all our strength. The more Australia sends to the front the less the danger will be to each man. Not only victory, but safety belongs to the big battalions. Australia turns to you for help. Fifty thousand additional troops are to be raised to form the new units of the expeditionary forces. Sixteen thousand men are required each month for reinforcements at the front. This Australia of ours, the freest and best country on God's earth, calls to her sons for aid. Destiny has given to you a great opportunity. Now is the hour when you can strike a blow on her behalf. If you love your country, if you love freedom, then take your place alongside your fellow-Australians at the front, and help them to achieve a speedy and glorious victory." (8)
However, the vast majority of members of the Labor Party were opposed to the measure. Eventually he was expelled from the party over this issue. Hughes now joined forces with the Commonwealth Liberal Party to form the Nationalist Party of Australia. At the May 1917 election Hughes and the Nationalists won a huge electoral victory. A second plebiscite on conscription was announced. In July, Low produced a cartoon on the subject but it failed to get past the censor. (9)
In October 1917, Hughes was again defeated, this time by a wider margin. Hughes claimed it was a black day for Australia. "It was a triumph for the unworthy, the selfish, and anti-British in our midst. It was a triumph for the insidious propaganda that had been actively at work in every Allied country since the war began.... The defeat was interpreted by those sections amongst us who had led the campaign as proof that Australia was war weary, that their campaign of lies and poisonous propaganda had done its work sufficiently, and not only misled the electors on this one question, but had sapped their loyalty to the Empire." (10)
The publication of The Billy Book (1918), a collection of cartoons of William Hughes sold 60,000 copies. Low was attacked by the pro-government press for his personal hostility towards the prime-minister. However, Low insisted that "political opposition need not mean personal malice". (11)
Norman Lindsay, who worked with Low on the Sydney Bulletin, claimed: "He (Low) was ruthlessly determined to get on and submerged all other interests to that objective". (12) Low's biographer has defended the cartoonist's behaviour: "The ruthlessness - or singlemindedness, as friends might have chosen to call it - was not directed against others: Low did not try to displace his colleagues. Nevertheless, he seemed rather obviously on the make. His drive must have rested largely on enormous self-confidence... With self-confidence too came resourcefulness, individuality and practical curiously." (13)
Low sent some of his cartoons to the Manchester Guardian. They could not afford their own cartoonist but did publish the occasional drawing from Low. The British writer Arnold Bennett was impressed with one of these cartoons that appeared in the newspaper on 25th January, 1919. He wrote in The New Statesman that "if the Press-lords of this country had any genuine imagination they would immediately begin to compete for the services of that cartoonist and get him to London on the next steamer." (14)
This article resulted in Low being offered a job in England with The Daily News and the company's evening paper, The Star. Low arrived in England in 1919 but was unhappy with the space that he was given for his cartoons. After threatening to resign, the editor of the newspaper agreed to publish the large, half-page cartoons that he had been doing in Australia. In London Low became a close friend of the other great political cartoonist of the period, Will Dyson of The Daily Herald. (15)
Low found the British public had a different attitude towards cartoons than those in Australia: "Australian wit and humour, though following English forms, had had, besides our native tartness, a touch of American smartness. The English, by all the evidence, had much more appreciation of humour than of wit. Wit was rather the diversion of the intellectuals, narrowed to more or less obscure or esoteric references and associations. In 1920 there was no radio and Hollywood was young; and the British masses still had not only music, songs, plays, pictures but especially their own local jokes, farce and broad comedy, none of it as yet overlaid by streamlined American imports." (16)
When he arrived in Britain, David Lloyd George, was prime minister of a coalition government. Although a member of the Liberal Party, Lloyd George relied on the support of the Conservative Party. To represent the coalition, Low invented a two-headed ass. During the 1918 General Election campaign, Lloyd George promised comprehensive reforms to deal with education, housing, health and transport. However, he was now a prisoner of the Conservatives, who had no desire to introduce these reforms. (17)
Low attacked Lloyd George for betraying his radical past. In one cartoon, Reflections, he refered to a speech he had made on 30th July 1909 at Limehouse in the East End of London, where "he had bitterly attacked dukes, landlords, capitalists - the whole of the upper classes". Lloyd George welcomed the criticism as it helped to inform the public that it was the Conservative Party that was blocking his reform measures. (18)
David Low became very friendly with Ramsay MacDonald. He later wrote: "I was perhaps too greatly impressed by Ramsay MacDonald, who looked to me a real leader. He seemed taller in tjose days and more craggy, as he stalked up and down. A handsome figure, fine voice, shabby blue serge suit, handlebar moustache solid black against solid white of hair forelock. I enjoyed drawing him." (19)
Low was commissioned by The Star to draw the portraits of the fifty most distinguished people in Britain. His subjects included George Bernard Shaw, Arnold Bennett, H. G. Wells, Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton and Arthur Conan Doyle. Only two men refused to sit for him: John Galsworthy and Rudyard Kipling. Some of his cartoons for the newspaper were used as posters for the Liberal Party in the 1922 General Election. (20)
After a disagreement with the editor about how this should be presented in The Star, Low eventually had them published in The New Statesman. Low also had cartoons published in other journals in Britain such as Punch Magazine, Illustrated London News and The Graphic. Low later recalled: "I worked an eight-hour day - sometimes ten-hour - day and with evenings spent moving around seeing people, it was a busy life. Making a cartoon occupied usually about three full days, two spent in labour and one in removing the appearance of labour." (21)
David Low was highly critical of Lord Rothermere and his friend, Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the The Daily Express. In December, 1923, he drew a cartoon of Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, "quailing before the ruffians Rothermere and Beaverbrook". This started a series of cartoons that featured the two men, who he described as the "Plot Press". (22)
Low explained in his autobiography that the portrayed the "two press lords" as the "wicked uncles in Babe in the Wood... two mischievous conspirators in mock-sinister cloaks and hats. The figures, fat Rother and little Beaver, were such naturals to draw and the newspaper public gave them such popularity that in no time I found myself running a series dealing with their dark doings. Various incidents and accidents turned up by grinning fate in succeeding months tended to support and confirm the lightsome fancy... The Plot Press became one of my major properties and a regular feature of the Star." (23)
Low had a meeting with two of Britain's leading cartoonists, Bernard Partridge and Leonard Raven-Hill. Low found them the two men "ultra-conservative, even reactionary" but enjoyed talking to them about the use of symbols in cartoons. Partridge and Hill often used the Lion to represent Britain but Low thought this provided the wrong impression of the country: "With his waving mane and his tufted tail he could be made to look very striking, crouching in dignified anger or glaring nobly at nothing... But apart from this purely aesthetic consideration, there seemed no justification for continuing to libel the British people by likening it to this unworthy creature, notoriously a load roarer but a cruel and cowardly beast, only bold when facing something weaker than itself." (24)
In 1927 Low was persuaded by Lord Beaverbrook to work at the Evening Standard. Although Beaverbrook was a strong supporter of the Conservative Party, he promised Low that he would have complete freedom to express his own radical political views. Low's biographer, Colin Seymour-Ure, has pointed out: "The two men had sharply differing political attitudes. But each was a showman and a colonial boy made good, with an element of detachment about Britain, and they thrived on mutual flattery. Beaverbrook paid extremely well, and the Evening Standard had a more sophisticated, if less numerous, readership. Above all, cartoonist and proprietor played up to the claim that Low was entirely free to express his own opinions." (25)
Low produced four cartoons a week and these were syndicated to 170 journals worldwide. Time Magazine reported: "Cartoonist Low is a unique combination of a student of contemporary politics and a superb draughtsman. A passionately sincere democrat, he is also a hard worker. He begins the day at 8 o'clock, digesting thoroughly the daily papers. Breakfast is a political meeting, with the cartoonist, his wife, and his two young daughters threshing out the news. After breakfast he walks to his roomy, book-lined studio where with much pacing and squirming and pipe-smoking, he struggles to express a complex idea in a few vivid lines and a brief, usually wry, caption. The final drawing is done rapidly with a fine brush." (26)
Unhappy with the political leadership of the British establishment David Low created his cartoon character, Colonel Blimp in 1934. In his book, Low's Autobiography, he explained that Blimp represented everything he disliked in British politics: "Blimp was no enthusiast for democracy. He was impatient with the common people and their complaints. His remedy to social unrest was less education, so that people could not read about slumps. An extreme isolationist, disliking foreigners (which included Jews, Irish, Scots, Welsh, and people from the Colonies and Dominions); a man of violence, approving war. He had no use for the League of Nations nor for international efforts to prevent wars. In particular he objected to any economic reorganization of world resources involving changes in the status quo." (27)
Low's principal weapon was ridicule, not the arousal of hate or horror. He believed there was "more stupidity than wickedness in the world". He saw himself as heir to James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson than John Tenniel. It has been claimed that whereas Max Beerbohm dealt in "comic ideas seriously illustrated", Low preferred "serious ideas comically illustrated". (28)
Low was appalled when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. On 31st March 1933 he published a cartoon entitled The Aryan Race - Germany, 1933. Low explained the reasons for the cartoon: "President von Hindenburg and Nationalist leader von Papen no doubt hoped to avoid political chaos through a government of National Concentration, and thought they could 'manage' Hitler, even as Chancellor. They acquiesced in his methods, therefore, but they did not bargain for his brushing aside all constitutional hindrances to his own complete executive authority; nor for the intensive campaign carried on by Göring, new controller of Prussia, of suppressions, arrests and executions of Social Democrats, Communists and Jews." (29)
Low responded to the decision by Hitler to the withdrawal of Germany from the Geneva Disarmament Conference in October 1933, by drawing a powerful cartoon, The Difficulty of shaking hands with Gods. " Colin Seymour-Ure has pointed out: "As if in a music-hall turn, Low's figures misunderstand their cues. Goebbels, Göring and Hitler, armed with the lily of innocence, distance themselves from the proffered hand of friendship. Litvinov, Simon and Dolfuss (front) look perplexed." (30)
In November, 1933, Low drew a cartoon of a bonfire outside the League of Nations building, with Hitler saying "It worked at the Reichstag - why not here?" Hitler was furious and Low's cartoons were immediately banned from appearing in Nazi Germany. (31) Mussolini took similar action in Italy. However, the cartoon, which was more attack on the cowardice of the League members, now appeared in newspapers all over the world. (32)
David Low was also added to a Gestapo priority list of persons to be arrested after invasion. In has been argued that "more than anyone, Low defined the image of Hitler which the history books perpetuate: a strutting figure, with toothbrush moustache and diagonal forelock". (33)
David Low attacked those who supported Oswald Mosley, the leader of the National Union of Fascists. This included Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail and Evening News. Low wrote in his autobiography: "A British Fascist Party grew up overnight; and the Daily Mail, then Britain's biggest popular newspaper, approved it. With the zest I added the first Lord Rothermere, its proprietor, to my cast of cartoon characters. He made up well in a black shirt helping to stoke the fires of class hatred. Lord Rothermere was much incensed and complained bitterly. Dog doesn't eat dog. It isn't done, said one of his Fleet Street men, as though he were giving me a moral adage instead of a thieves' wisecrack." (34)
In January 1934, he drew a cartoon showing Rothermere as a nanny giving a Nazi salute and saying "we need men of action such as they have in Italy and Germany who are leading their countries triumphantly out of the slump... blah... blah... blah... blah." The child in the pram is saying "But what have they got in their other hands, nanny?" Hitler and Mussolini are hiding the true records of their periods in government. Hitler's card includes, "Hitler's Germany: Estimated Unemployed: 6,000,000. Fall in trade under Hitler (9 months) £35,000,000. Burden of taxes up several times over. Wages down 20%."
Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Evening Standard, was a close friend and business partner of Lord Rothermere, and refused to allow the original cartoon to be published. At the time, Rothermere controlled forty-nine per cent of the shares. Low was forced to make the nanny unrecgnisable as Rothermere and had to change the name on her dress from the Daily Mail to the Daily Shirt. (35)
Martin Walker, the author of Daily Sketches: Cartoon History of Twentieth Century Britain (1978) argues that Low was one of a couple of cartoonists in Britain who criticised Mosley and his fascist movement: "A fascist rally at Olympia, marked by the brutality of Mosley's stewards towards hecklers in the audience, began to swing public opinion in Low's direction. But in the summer of 1934, Low was almost alone in his opposition in the popular press; the Daily Mail gave Mosley regular and favourable publicity." (36)
David Low was highly critical of the way the British government dealt with the threat of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. As Anthony Rhodes has pointed out: "His left-wing sympathies turned him violently against the Fascist dictators... When Hitler and Mussolini achieved power, Low quickly realized that to satirize them as tyrants with blood dripping from their fingers, far from embarrassing them, only gratified their vanity. What piqued them, he says, was to be depicted as clowns." (37)
In June, 1934, Hitler decided to purge members of the Nazi Party who were critical of some of his policies. The people murdered included Ernst Röhm, Edmund Heines, Karl Ernst, Hans Erwin von Spreti and Julius Uhl. Others killed were Gregor Strasser, Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler's predecessor as chancellor, Gustav von Kahr, who crushed the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Herbert von Bose and Edgar Jung, two men who worked for Franz von Papen, Erich Klausener, the President of the Catholic Action movement and Fritz Gerlich, a journalist who had investigated the death of Hitler's niece, Geli Raubal. (38)
Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary: "Executions nearly finished. A few more are necessary. That is difficult, but necessary... It is difficult, but is not however to be avoided. There must be peace for ten years. The whole afternoon with the Führer. I can't leave him alone. He suffers greatly, but is hard. The death sentences are received with the greatest seriousness. All in all about 60." (39)
David Low responded to what became known as the Night of the Long Knives by producing a cartoon that deeply angered Hitler. He wrote about the cartoon in his book, Years of Wrath (1949): "Nazi Party members and S.S. men got out of hand, clamouring for jobs in a Nazified industry and in an army under Nazi control; but Hitler had promised the Conservatives and the generals that in return for their support he would leave the economic structure and the Reichswehr alone. On the night of June 30, 1934, several hundred important Nazis, including Röhm, the Brownshirt Chief of Staff, were killed under his orders." (40)
Joseph Goebbels broadcast the Nazi account of the executions on 10th July. He thanked the German press for "standing by the government with commendable self-discipline and fair-mindedness" and accused the foreign press of issuing false reports so as to create confusion. He stated that these newspapers and magazines had been involved in a "campaign of lies" which he compared to the "atrocity-story campaign waged against Germany" during the First World War. (41)
In 1935 Low joined with other radicals, such as Stafford Cripps, Nye Bevan, Ellen Wilkinson, J. B. Priestley, Victor Gollancz, Henry Nevinson and Norman Angell to complain about Britain's foreign policy towards Nazi Germany. Low was especially appalled by what he called the "Government's supine attitude to foreign intervention in Spain" during the Spanish Civil War. (42)
On 5th August 1936, Low published a cartoon entitled Correct Attitudes in Spain. A man marked "Democracy" is being attacked by two men "Army Fascism" and "Fascist Intervention". Standing alongside is Anthony Eden, the British prime minister, and Leon Blum, the French premier. Eden is saying: "Heah, I say, fair play! You shouldn't encourage the agressor, you know. After all, my friend and I aren't trying to help his victim."
Although he was a staunch socialist, Low, did not usually join political groups because he thought he could be more effective by remaining and independent critic. However, he did become a member of Friends of the Spanish Republic and the International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture. He felt so strongly about the situation in Spain that he wrote letters to The Times and made public speeches on the subject. (43)
On 8th July, 1936, Low produced a powerful attack on Anthony Eden and other European leaders failed to respond to Hitler's aggressive foreign policy: "When German troops reoccupied the Rhineland demilitarized zone, Hitler justified the breach of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties by asserting that both were already dead. He had, he said, a peace-plan of his own to take their place - a 25-year Western non-aggression pact. When Eden, to the anxious interest of Van Zeeland (Belgium), Flandin (France), Litvinov (Russia), Titulescu (Rumania) and others, asked for the precise meaning of vague and ambiguous details, Hitler evaded reply." (44)
This was followed by another cartoon that attacked the way the politicians dealt with Hitler's decision to reoccupy the Rhineland. "Both the rearming of Germany and the reoccupation of the Rhineland caught Western statesmanship off balance between the French policy of resistance to Germany and persuasion to Italy and the British policy of resistance to Italy and persuasion to Germany. The German General Staff had been unable to make war, but Hitler gambled on there being no resistance from the French without British support. When he was proved right, and leaders of both democracies still refused to accept the risk, his generals were impressed by his intuition". (45)
In September, 1937, Percy Cudlipp, the editor of Evening Standard, started refusing to publish Low's cartoons attacking Hitler: "The state of Europe is extremely tense at the present time. That being so, I don't want to publish anything in the Evening Standard which would add to the tension, or inflame tempers any more than they are already inflamed. There are people whose tempers are inflamed more by a cartoon than by any letterpress. So will you please, when you are planning your cartoons, bear in mind my anxiety on this score." (46)
Low's cartoons criticizing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini resulted in his work being banned in Germany and Italy. After the war it was revealed that in 1937 the German government asked the British government to have "discussions with the notorious Low" in an effort to "bring influence to bear on him" to stop his cartoons attacking appeasement. Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, went to see Low: "When Lord Halifax visited Germany officially in 1937, he was told that the Führer was deeply offended by Low's cartoons of him, and that the paper in which they appeared, the Evening Standard, was banned in Germany.... On Halifax's return to London, he summoned Low and told him that his cartoons were impairing the prime minister's policy of appeasement." (47)
Lord Beaverbrook made it clear to David Low that he believed: "European problems, especially eastern European, were nothing to with Britain." According to the authors of Beaverbrook: A Life (1992) Low "agreed to moderate his contemptuous depictions of Hitler and Mussolini, and invented an only slightly less offensive composite, named Muzzler; but he afterwards regretted that he had made any concessions at all." (48)
David Low was attacked by the conservative press as a "war-monger" because of his hostility towards Neville Chamberlain. He came under considerable pressure from his friends. Margot Asquith, the wife of the former Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, wrote to Low about his cartoons. "I thought your cartoon on Wednesday (20th April, 1938) in the Evening Standard both cruel and mischievous. I know the P.M. - do you? He is a man of iron courage, calm and resolution. Neville is doing the only right, wise, thing, unless you want war. Hate, threats - which you can't carry out - and suspicion do not advance peace, and if the P.M. fails we can always go back to the policy of the war-mongers - Winston Churchill and Co. I think Neville has saved the world by his courage - and so do much cleverer people than I." (49)
However, others welcomed his criticisms of Adolf Hitler. This included Sigmund Freud who wrote: "A Jewish refugee from Vienna, a very old man personally unknown to you, cannot resist the impulse to tell you how much he admires your glorious art and your inexorable, unfailing criticism." David Low thought that the British had problems with cartoons as propaganda. "I had been told often enough that the British never had taken propaganda seriously, because they believed in themselves so much as to regard the rightness of their causes to be self-evident. Certainly, although they were fighting what was ostensibly a war of ideas, in striking contrast to the Nazis, the Russians, the French and the Americans they placed little value upon the presentation of their case to the enemy in cartoons." (50)
David Low visited the United States in order to persuade American cartoonists to join his campaign against Hitler. He advised them to "scrap this Uncle Sam business". He went on to argue: "Your Uncle Sam is no more representative of the American people than my boot or my foot... "When you hold a man up as a public menace you lend him dignity. You don't destroy him at all.... I saw an American cartoon, for instance, which was opposed to Mussolini and Hitler. The cartoonist drew them as huge, huge figures.... Now Mussolini is a short man, and his large jaw is largely due to a fold of fat that is carefully touched out in photographs. Hitler is not an impressive figure. He has a turned up nose, good eyes, an absurd little mouth and a slightly receding chin. All the opportunities in these two men for very destructive caricature." (51)
Zbyněk Zeman, the author of Heckling Hitler (1987) believes Low "belonged to the small group of artists who do not only illustrated but also influenced public events." According to Zeman: "Low was doubly fortunate. He could resist manipulation by politicians, and he aimed his darts at Hitler from a politically powerful base. He was possessed with the quality of courage, even in other, more local contexts... The combination of Low's talent and inventiveness and the accidental fact that he worked for a free British press raised him high above the ranks of ordinary newspaper." (52)
Zeman is not really correct about David Low's freedom and was constantly in conflict with his employer, Lord Beaverbrook. According to Low's biographer: "Low enjoyed a reputation for outspoken independence, Beaverbrook for proprietorial tolerance. The arrangement was set out in a letter of agreement... Low could not be required to draw to order: but nor was Beaverbrook required to publish everything he drew. Over the years, at least forty cartoons were omitted and others were modified." Nor was Low as influential as he claimed over the subject of appeasement: "The great international issue that gives the letter of agreement its interest was the appeasement of the fascist dictators in the 1930s. Beaverbrook - with probably the majority of readers - was in favour, Low against. (53)
David Low believed that the best way to stop Hitler invading European countries was to form a military alliance with the Soviet Union. Low reported: "Sensing the weaknesses of his opponents, Hitler raised his bluff from day to day with threats and menaces, and in the end he made his own terms. Hitler, Mussolini (whom Chamberlain had called in as peacemaker), Daladier and Chamberlain met in Munich to sign over Sudetenland to Nazi Germany. Stalin had been ignored and the prospects of Britain and France being drawn into a 4-Power anti-Soviet pact with the two dictators seemed accordingly increased." (54)
Stalin's own interpretation of Britain's rejection of his plan for an anti-fascist alliance, was that they were involved in a plot with Germany against the Soviet Union. This belief was reinforced when Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler at Munich in September, 1938, and gave into his demands for the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Stalin now believed that the main objective of British foreign policy was to encourage Germany to head east rather than west.
Stalin tested Chamberlain out when on 17th April, 1939, he proposed an alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union, where the three powers would jointly guarantee all the countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea against aggression. (55) Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, did not like the idea. He wrote to a friend: "I must confess to the most profound distrust of Russia. I have no belief whatever in her ability to maintain an effective offensive, even if she wanted to. And I distrust her motives, which seem to me to have little connection with our ideas of liberty, and to be concerned only with getting everyone else by the ears." (56)
David Low agreed with Winston Churchill that Stalin's proposal made sense. "Undoubtedly, the proposals put forward by the Russian Government contemplate a triple alliance against aggression between England, France and Russia, which alliance may extend its benefits to other countries of and when those benefits are desired. The alliance is solely for the purpose of resisting further acts of aggression and of protecting the victims of aggression."
Churchill argued in the House of Commons. "There is no means of maintaining an eastern front against Nazi aggression without the active aid of Russia. Russian interests are deeply concerned in preventing Herr Hitler's designs on eastern Europe. It should still be possible to range all the States and peoples from the Baltic to the Black sea in one solid front against a new outrage of invasion. Such a front, if established in good heart, and with resolute and efficient military arrangements, combined with the strength of the Western Powers, may yet confront Hitler, Göring, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels and co. with forces the German people would be reluctant to challenge." (57)
On 19th May, 1939, Chamberlain made it clear that he was unwilling to form an alliance with the Soviet Union. Stalin now realized that war with Germany was inevitable. However, to have any chance of victory he needed time to build up his armed forces. The only way he could obtain time was to do a deal with Hitler. Stalin was convinced that Hitler would not be foolish enough to fight a war on two fronts. If he could persuade Hitler to sign a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, Germany was likely to invade Western Europe instead.
Stalin now dismissed Maxim Litvinov, his Jewish Commissar for Foreign Affairs. Litvinov had been closely associated with the Soviet Union's policy of an anti-fascist alliance. Meetings soon took place between Vyacheslav Molotov, Litvinov's replacement and Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister. On 28th August, 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed in Moscow. Under the terms of the agreement, both countries promised to remain neutral if either country became involved in a war. (58)
Neville Chamberlain now appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt for help. Joseph P. Kennedy, the United States ambassador to Britain, informed the State Department that the British government wanted the Roosevelt administration to "put pressure on the Poles" to make concessions to Hitler. (59) Roosevelt rejected the idea. Jay Pierrepont Moffat, chief of the State Department's division of European affairs, wrote: "As we saw it here, it merely meant that the British wanted us to assume the responsibility of a new Munich and to do their dirty work for them." (60)
On 31st August, 1939, Hitler gave the order to attack Poland. The following day German troops crossed the Polish frontier. Instead of declaring war on Germany, Neville Chamberlain decided that if Germany would suspend hostilities and withdraw her troops, a solution without war would still be possible. Lord Halifax was instructed to carry out these negotiations. On 2nd September, Chamberlain announced in the House of Commons that he was offering Hitler a conference to discuss the subject of Poland if the "Germans agreed to withdraw their forces (which was not the same as actually withdrawing them), the British government would forget everything that had happened, and diplomacy could start again." (61)
David Low responded to the invasion of Poland with one of his most important cartoons. Entitled, Rendezvous, the drawing shows "the two unlikely allies congratulate each other over the body of Poland". (62) Low wrote: "Eight days after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, while the world was still thunderstruck at the accord of two regimes which had been so inimical to each other, the German Blitzkrieg tore through Poland from the West to meet Russian troops oncoming from the East. The pact had arranged for a partition of Poland. Officially, past recriminations between the new associates were forgotten in present admiration of mutual interests". (63)
Once the Second World War began Low was willing to produce cartoons to inspire the British people at a time when many feared a German victory. He was pleased when Winston Churchill became prime minister and responded with the cartoon, All Behind You, Winston. The cartoon showed members of his coalition government marching behind Churchill. This included Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison, Leo Amery, Neville Chamberlain, Arthur Greenwood, Lord Halifax, Duff Cooper and Anthony Eden.
David Low later wrote about the background to this cartoon: "In Britain, criticism of the Government's short-comings reached a climax. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and formed a National Government including Labour and Liberal leaders. He promised nothing but 'blood, sweat and tears'. The people were inspired with new energy and confidence." (64)
Colin Seymour-Ure, the author of David Low (1985) points out that during the Blitz he worked from home. "He could not get brushes and improvised with his own hair. He got his cartoon ready earlier in the day or even, if he could, several days ahead. Knowing he was on the Gestapo black-list, he made arrangements for the safety of his family if there was an invasion, and he shaved off the beard which by now made him recognisable in the street." (65)
Low always took the side of the soldiers. In May, 1940, he produced a cartoon entitled, Message from Flanders, about the retreat from Dunkirk. It shows a British soldier writing on a broken down tank: "You can't stop tanks with brave hearts alone - send us more machines". In his book, Years of Wrath (1949), Low commented: "During the fiercely fought retreat that ended in the evacuation of the British from Dunkirk it was evident that against the new Nazi tank-plane technique of war the Allies were heavily handicapped by lack of sufficient tanks and planes." (66)
Another popular cartoon was Very Well, Alone (18th June, 1940). As his biographer, Colin Seymour-Ure, points out, drawings like this "were deeply affecting at the time and still illustrate the quintessence of the Dunkirk spirit". Foreign writers claimed Low was guilty of producing propaganda. Some of of his wartime work was inevitably propagandistic, but he refused to get involved with official propaganda. (67)
Low admitted that sometimes his work was propagandistic but this was necessary during the war: "I had been told often enough that the British never had taken propaganda seriously, because they believed in themselves so much as to regard the rightness of their causes to be self-evident. Certainly, although they were fighting what was ostensibly a war of ideas, in striking contrast to the Nazis, the Russians, the French and the Americans they placed little value upon the presentation of their case to the enemy in cartoons." (68)
On 2nd May 1940, Low produced one of his most successful compositions, The Harmony Boys. It shows Adolf Hitler conducting a choir that includes Joseph Stalin, Francisco Franco and Benito Mussolini. Hitler is coordinating "official" statements from Italy, Spain and the USSR, none of whom was yet in the war. The Spanish Government made a complaint to the Foreign Office about the cartoon. (69)
David Low published several drawings on the plight of the Soviet Union. He called on the British government to provide more military help to the latest recruit in the fight against Nazi Germany. In August, 1942, Low called for an opening of a second front in Europe. (70) Boris Efimov, the leading cartoonist in the Soviet Union thanked Low for his efforts: "I wish to tell you, Mr. Low, with interest I and other Soviet artists have been and are now following your magnificent work, which has won for you the well-deserved fame of the best cartoonist in the world. The future of history hangs in the balance. On one hand light, progress, democracy, life; on the other darkness, corruption, barbarism, death, that is Hitlerism. I am happy, dear Mr. Low, that in this decisive hour I am with you - a great artist whose creative work I regard with admiration and from whose works I learn." (71)
David Low was one of the first cartoonists to publicize details of German extermination camps. On 14th December, 1942, he published the cartoon, I've Settled the Fate of Jews - and of Germans. "Details of the Nazi methods of mass extermination of Jews in Poland by shooting, poison gas and electrocution revealed appalling depths of cold brutality. All told, approximately six million Jews were killed in the Nazi concentration camps." (72)
During the Second World War there was a strong feeling that the British people should be rewarded for their sacrifice and resolution. To encourage the British people to continue their fight against Nazi Germany, the government promised reforms that would create a more equal society. Low wrote: The powerful unity born of early reverses in the war had inspired a widely expressed wish for social change to give every Britain security from unemployment." (73)
The British government asked Sir William Beveridge to write a report on the best ways of helping people on low incomes. In December 1942 Beveridge published his report. He proposed that all people of working age should pay a weekly contribution. In return, benefits would be paid to people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed. Beveridge argued that this system would provide a minimum standard of living "below which no one should be allowed to fall". (74)
Winston Churchill refused to give his full backing to the report. When it was discussed in the House of Commons several Conservative Party MPs attempted to have the proposals amended: "The House of Commons has said its say. It has not precisely rejected the Beveridge Report - indeed, so far as words go, it gave it a kind of welcome. It has not even quite killed the Report. It has done something different. It has filleted it. It has taken out the backbone and the bony structure. It has added up the portions that are left - and assured us that they amount to 70%. Sixteen portions out of twenty-three by the Herbert Morrison reckoning - and the only proviso attached is that none of these portions is quite definitely and finally guaranteed. The opponents of the Report - from Sir John Anderson all the way down to Sir Herbert Williams - spoke as though the basis of the Report were an attempt to cadge money off the rich on behalf of the not entirely deserving poor." (75)
David Low published a cartoon on 7th October, 1943, entitled The Good Old Days, in support of the Beveridge Report: "As peril receded, old habits of thought reasserted themselves and voices were heard demanding the sacking of planners, the removal of controls and return to the old ways of free enterprise - with its corollaries, a 'healthy' margin of unemployment and the incentive of want." (76)
David Low got the Second Front with the D-Day landings in June 1944. Joseph Stalin responded to the news by claiming that "the history of wars does not know of any such undertaking, so broad in conception, so grandiose in its scale and so materly in its execution". Low argued that Operation Overlord had "showed the Allies in a new light to the Russian people, who had never appreciated the difficulties of making a full-scale invasion from the sea". (77)
As the war neared its end, Low, a strong supporter of the Labour Party, became more critical of Winston Churchill and in his cartoons began to highlight the divisions in the coalition government: "Party divisions reawakened in Britain's domestic policies. Churchill wanted to continue his non-party Government into peacetime, but Labour supporters held that his Tory friends had shown no disposition to face the drastic measures necessary to deal justly with domestic reconstruction problems." (78)
In public Winston Churchill accepted plans for social reform drawn up by William Beveridge in 1944. However, he was unable to convince the electorate that he was as committed to these measures as much as Clement Attlee and the Labour Party. In May 1945, Churchill made a radio broadcast where he attacked the Labour Party: "I must tell you that a socialist policy is abhorrent to British ideas on freedom. There is to be one State, to which all are to be obedient in every act of their lives. This State, once in power, will prescribe for everyone: where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say, what views they are to hold, where their wives are to queue up for the State ration, and what education their children are to receive. A socialist state could not afford to suffer opposition - no socialist system can be established without a political police. They (the Labour government) would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo." (79)
Clement Attlee's response the following day caused Churchill serious damage: "The Prime Minister made much play last night with the rights of the individual and the dangers of people being ordered about by officials. I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom compatible with the freedom of others. There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair. There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the State, given to it by Parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners. The Conservative Party remains as always a class Party. In twenty-three years in the House of Commons, I cannot recall more than half a dozen from the ranks of the wage earners. It represents today, as in the past, the forces of property and privilege. The Labour Party is, in fact, the one Party which most nearly reflects in its representation and composition all the main streams which flow into the great river of our national life." (80)
David Low was delighted when Attlee had a convincing victory: 393 Labour MPs against 213 Conservatives and their allies. (81) As Timothy Benson has pointed out: "The colourful Churchill, with his egocentric personality and his capacity for political misjudgement, offered a tempting target for Low... Yet while Low may not have cared for Churchill’s demeanour or politics, he was prepared to champion his cause when justified. He was totally in sympathy with Churchill’s warnings over Hitler’s intentions in the late 1930s. When war eventually broke out, Low’s cartoons portrayed Churchill as the only man capable of offering Britain the stoic leadership that it needed... Throughout the war Low upheld Churchill's role as war leader without once denigrating or ridiculing him. (82)
Low, had always admired Winston Churchill as a war leader and he produced a cartoon that showed Churchill sitting on a monument entitled "The Leader of Humanity". He says to a upset looking Churchill with the label, the Tory Party: "Cheer up! They will forget you but they will remember me always." (83)
In 1945 Low became an official British War Artist and in this role attended the Nuremberg War Trials with Joseph Flatter (USA) and Kukryniksy (Soviet Union). (84) Several Nazi leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels were dead while Martin Bormann and Heinrich Mueller had not been captured. The list of 23 defendants included Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Walther Funk, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Baldur von Schirach, Albert Speer, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Fritz Saukel, Robert Ley, Erich Raeder, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Doenitz, Franz von Papen, Constantin von Neurath and Joachim von Ribbentrop. (85)
Low wrote: "Jodl wears a poker face and moves rarely.... The most pitiful figure in the company is Funk. With the earphones clamped like horns to the fat, sick face sagging into the small dumpy body, he is the perfect model for a gargoyle. In colour he is light green. The next most frightened, I should say, is Saukel. He Is the cartoonist's fat-necked, square-headed German, but on a small scale. His uneasiness is painful to see. To make up for him, at his elbow is Baldur von Schirach, the ex-pin-up boy of the Hitler Youth, still good-looking with his scornful, pitiless eye... One for the 'most perturbed person' prize is Schacht, who is worried to pieces, too, but in a more refined way... von Papen looks more than ever like the fox shifting his tiny close-set eyes about the room." (86)
Low wrote down his thoughts about Joachim von Ribbentrop, Julius Streicher, Hans Frank and Karl Doenitz: "Ribbentrop, changed surprisingly into a meek person like a family solicitor, with disordered hair, pursed lips and large spectacles, fussing shakily with a sheaf of papers.... Streicher, the obscene Jew-baiter-no loathsome ape, but another little man with another nervous twitch. He has a trick of throwing his head right back and contemplating the ceiling with an air of preoccupation with Higher Things. In prison Streicher has grown a fluff of hair over his horrible baldness and this catching the light gives him a rind of halo.... Opinions might differ about the award for `nastiest person present', but I should choose unhesitatingly Frank, the butcher of Warsaw. He wears a fixed sneer and mutters... In a corner Doenitz sits impassive like a little acid drop. (87)
Low found Göring a fascinating subject: "Göring turns out to be about 5 feet 8 inches, still fat despite weight lost in prison; jolly, you would say, until you noticed the cruel cut of his mouth; vital, with periods of rumination when the countenance is sicklied over with desperate worry. Göring stands out by a mile as the boss in this company. He is a restless prisoner, leaning this way and that, flapping his pudgy little hands about, patting his hair, stroking his mouth, massaging his cheeks, resting his chin sideways on the ledge of the dock. Goring is not permitted to make speeches, but he manages to get a good deal of expression across with facial action. Nods, shakes and eye play.... Hess, down to skin and bone, going bald, wild eyes set in deep-sunken cavities, he has a nervous twitch and jerky movements. If, as he now insists, he is not mad, he looks it." (88)
Low was a strong supporter of Clement Attlee and his government. (89) He felt especially strongly about the introduction of the National Health Service (NHS) and gave his full support to Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health. (90) The right-wing national press was opposed to the idea of the NHS. The Daily Sketch reported: "The State medical service is part of the Socialist plot to convert Great Britain into a National Socialist economy. The doctors' stand is the first effective revolt of the professional classes against Socialist tyranny. There is nothing that Bevan or any other Socialist can do about it in the shape of Hitlerian coercion." (91)
David Widgery, the author of The National Health: A Radical Perspective (1988) admitted that "the Act was bold in outline; a National Health Service entirely free at the time of use, financed out of general taxation and able to organise preventive medicine, research and paramedical aids on a national basis... Bevan himself was apparently well prepared to deal with conservative pressures, and he was quite prepared for the out-break of near-hysteria by doctors, skilfully orchestrated by Charles Hill of the BMA, who had endeared himself to the listening public during the war as the smooth-spoken, concerned Radio Doctor." (92)
Between 1946 and its introduction in 1948, the British Medical Association (BMA), led by Charles Hill, mounted a vigorous campaign against this proposed legislation. In one survey of doctors carried out in 1948, the BMA claimed that only 4,734 doctors out of the 45,148 polled, were in favour of a National Health Service. One doctor was cheered at a BMA meeting for saying that the proposed NHS bill was "strongly suggestive" of what had been going in Nazi Germany. (93) In January, 1948, Low published a cartoon attacking the BMA entitled, Operation Sabotage.
Winston Churchill led the attack on Bevan. In one debate in the House of Commons he argued that unless Bevan "changes his policy and methods and moves without the slightest delay, he will be as great a curse to his country in time of peace as he was a squalid nuisance in time of war." The Conservative Party voted against the measure. The Tory amendment stated that it "declines to give a Third Reading to a Bill which discourages voluntary effort and association; mutilates the structure of local government; dangerously increases ministerial power and patronage; appropriates trust funds and benefactions in contempt of the wishes of donors and subscribers; and undermines the freedom and independence of the medical profession to the detriment of the nation." However, on 2th July, 1946, the Third Reading was carried by 261 votes to 113. Michael Foot commented that the Conservatives had voted against the "most exciting and popular of the Government's measures a bare four months before it was to be introduced". (94)
By July 1948, Aneurin Bevan had guided the National Health Service Act safely through Parliament. The Government resolution was carried by 337 votes to 178. Niall Dickson has pointed out: "The UK's National Health Service (NHS) came into operation at midnight on the fourth of July 1948. It was the first time anywhere in the world that completely free healthcare was made available on the basis of citizenship rather than the payment of fees or insurance premiums... Life in Britain in the 30s and 40s was tough. Every year, thousands died of infectious diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and polio. Infant mortality - deaths of children before their first birthday - was around one in 20, and there was little the piecemeal healthcare system of the day could do to improve matters. Against such a background, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the introduction of the National Health Service (NHS). Although medical science was still at a basic stage, the NHS for the first time provided decent healthcare for all - and, at a stroke, transformed the lives of millions." (95)
The Manchester Guardian commented on the passing of the National Health Service Act: "These two reforms have sometimes been greeted as a large installment of Socialism in this country. They are not strictly that, for many besides Socialists have contributed something to them. What they mark is rather an advance of the equalitarianism which has been the mainspring, though not the exclusive possession, of the British Labour movement. They are designed to offset as far as they can the inequalities that arise from the chances of life, to ensure that a "bad start" or a stroke of bad luck, illness or accident or loss of work, does not carry the heavy, often crippling, economic penalty it has carried in the past. It is important to realise the fundamental change in attitude which this implies, and its consequences for our social evolution." (96)
David Low tended to support the left-wing of the Labour Party. He was especially close to Harold Laski: "I had a warm spot for Harold. Who, among those who knew him, hadn't? He had no ambitions in active policies. He was a teacher and took pride in it." Low, like Laski, began to get disillusioned by Attlee's cautious leadership. (97) On 12th August 1947, Low produced a cartoon entitled, Giving a Lead, which shows Attlee at the head of a march of Labour Party members, who he appears to be holding them back.
Low's support of the Labour government caused him problems with Lord Beaverbrook and after complaining about censorship he left the Evening Standard in 1949. The following year he joined the Daily Herald, a mass circulation working-class paper, that supported left-wing causes. The contract was for Low to draw three cartoons a week for £10,000 a year. (98)
Low was allowed to criticise McCarthyism in the United States. One cartoon showed him comparing the behaviour of Joseph McCarthy to the way that Joseph Stalin behaved. However, as Martin Walker has pointed out: "Men like Low, and many in the Labour Party, were deeply uncertain of the wisdom of taking America's part in the Cold War. But as Low pointed out, if a choice had to be made, then at least the US conducted its witch hunts in public." (99)
David Low's cartoons criticizing Winston Churchill caused a great deal of controversy. He was often portrayed as "Micawber" who was not fully committed to the the development of the Welfare State. On 27th January 1950 Low published a cartoon showing Rab Butler, the leader of the liberal wing of the party, being squashed by a backward-looking Churchill who faces a somnolent Lord Woolton, chairman of the Conservative Party. The road sign gives two possiblities, "Tax Cuts" or "Welfare State".
In June 1952 David Low moved to the The Manchester Guardian where he became the newspaper's first staff cartoonist (it had previously used syndicated cartoons). Mark Bryant has argued that "Low has been perhaps the most influential cartoonist and caricaturist of the twentieth century - he produced over 14,000 drawings in a career spanning 50 years and was syndicated worldwide to more than 200 newspapers and magazines." Low, who had refused a knighthood during the war in order to retain his independence, finally accepted the honour in 1962.
David Low died on 19th September 1963.
A pile of old copies of copies of Punch I found in the back room of a fatherly second-hand bookseller introduced me to the treasure of Charles Keene, Linley Sambourne, Randolph Caldecott and Dana Gibson. The more I poured over the intricate technical quality of these artists the more difficult did drawing appear. How impossible that one could ever become an artist! But then I came on Phil May, who combined quality with apparent facility. Once having discovered Phil May I never let him go.
The men behind the Bulletin, notably Jules Francois Archibald, a master journalist, and William Macleod, an artist with solid business ability, had made it a major policy of their paper to encourage native Australian talent. The supply of poets and writers began to flow almost immediately. That of comic artists and caricaturists had to be primed at first by a couple of importations, Livingstone Hopkins (Hop) from America, and Phil May from Britain.
The Bulletin was radical, rampant and free, with an anti-English bias and a preference for a republican form of government. No more imported governors nor doggerel national anthems, no more pompous borrowed generals, foreign titles, foreign capitalists, cheap labour, diseased immigrants, if the Bulletin could help it.
I worked an eight-hour day - sometimes ten-hour - day and with evenings spent moving around seeing people, it was a busy life. Making a cartoon occupied usually about three full days, two spent in labour and one in removing the appearance of labour. Sometimes I wondered whether I was not taking too much trouble. But when I learned that the methods of Brueghel, Callot, Daumier, Gillray and the other Old Masters of Caricature had been similarly thorough, that Tenniel took two or three days to make a Punch cartoon.
Who in 1915 would have identified the mild old gentleman, editor of a tiny literary monthly, walking tremulously with the aid of two sticks in the Melbourne sunshine, with the determined young ex-artillery officer H. H. Champion of the 1880s, who introduced John Burns and Keir Hardie to political life, and who with Burns and Hyndman led a riotous mob of unemployed through London's clubland, leaving a trail of broken windows? No one, I wager. Illness, disappointment and age had long since withdrawn Champion from politics to books. But he retained an interest in justice and right. Whenever I did a cartoon which in content departed from the strictly sane view I was sure next day to run into Champion, advancing slowly down the street like a conscience. He would stop, look me in the eye, smile gently and say, "Not quite, David, do you think?" Very effective criticism, coming from that old war-horse.
I had just left the warmth of a wide circle of friends in Australia to come to this desert island. The contrast was painful. "It will take you ten years to learn the English," said Will Dyson, the Australian cartoonist, whom we found crouching over a sinking fire in a large dark studio, nursing a great grief at the death of his wife.
Will, despite his sadness, was a great comfort in the cheerless winter of 1919-20. From his early Bulletin days I had been his great admirer as one of the master caricaturist-cartoonists. Will Dyson had broken up the pattern with his striking Socialist cartoons in the Herald from about 1910 onward, and had led the field during the First World War with his large war cartoons in which the monumental and the satirical had been powerfully blended.
One of the first subjects I called on was Bernard Shaw. A solid-looking domestic showed me in. Shaw was lying on a settee, wearing fancy slippers, very pleased with himself, talking to Barry Jackson and another man about details of the production of his new play Saint Joan, but I did not pay much attention because I was more interested in our host. Peculiar high skull, jutting beard, small eyes, pinkish bulbous nose, small mouth with false-looking teeth. I walked about the room, which seemed to be well furnished with portraits of Bernard Shaw. On the table was a bust of Shaw by Rodin, not too good. All these works represented a cocky Shaw, the head standing erect on a straight spine. When the others left I hadn't been talking to him long before I began to suspect that he was really a shy man, that the cockiness was a defensive facade.
David Lloyd George was the best-hated statesman of his time, as well as the best loved. The former I have good reason to know; every time I made a pointed cartoon against him, it brought batches of approving letters from all the haters. Looking at Lloyd George's pink and hilarious, head thrown back, generous mouth open to its fullest extent, shouting with laughter at one of his own jokes, I thought I could see how it was that his haters hated him. He must have been poison to the old school tie brigade, coming to the House an outsider, bright, energetic, irrepressible, ruthless, mastering with ease the House of Commons procedure, applying all the Celtic tricks in the bag, with a talent for intrigue that only occasionally got away from him.
I always had the greatest difficulty in making Lloyd George sinister in a cartoon. Every time I drew him, however critical the comment, I had to be careful or he would spring off the drawing-board a lovable cherubic little chap. I found the only effective way of putting him definitely in the wrong in a cartoon was by misplacing this quality in sardonic incongruity - by surrounding the comedian with tragedy.
As might be expected from his origins and temperament, Churchill was inwardly contemptuous of the "common man" when the "common man" sought to interfere in his (the common man's) own government; but bearing with the need to appear sympathetic and compliant to the popular will. In those days, whenever I heard Churchill's dramatic periods about democracy, I felt inclined to say: "Please define." His definition, I felt, would be something like "government of the people, for the people, by benevolent and paternal ruling-class chaps like me."
Churchill was witty and easy to talk to until I said that the Australians were an independent people who could not be expected to follow Britain without question. They were, in the case of new wars, for instance, not to be taken for granted, but would follow their own judgment.
Churchill was one of the few men I have met who even in the flesh give me the impression of genius. George Bernard Shaw is another. It is amusing to know that each thinks the other is overrated.
The spectacle of Mussolini so masterfully beating up his Liberal and Socialist opponents was one that could not fail to evoke admiration in some Anglo-Saxon breasts. A British Fascist Party grew up overnight; and the Daily Mail, then Britain's biggest popular newspaper, approved it. With the zest I added the first Lord Rothermere, its proprietor, to my cast of cartoon characters. He made up well in a black shirt helping to stoke the fires of class hatred. Lord Rothermere was much incensed and complained bitterly. "Dog doesn't eat dog. It isn't done," said one of his Fleet Street men, as though he were giving me a moral adage instead of a thieves' wisecrack.
The unending arguments about presentation, space and position in the Star became wearing. I had foreseen the possibilities of personal crisis about all this, so, as an insurance, I began to develop some footholds in quarters where I could place some better drawing: Punch, The Graphic and elsewhere.
The portraits I had been working on so long were now coming up to the final stage. I had Robert Lynd introduce me to Clifford Sharp, the editor of The New Statesman, and I offered them to him for a first publication at a small fee on condition he agreed to do them as offset plate-stamped loose supplements.
My personal contacts with the Tory Party were slight until I became acquainted with the Home Secretary. Sir William Joynson-Hicks (Jix for short) was a spectacular success as a 'red' hunter. He was in his element rushing the police around to seize sinister documents from some branch of the then insignificant Communist Party. Most of the time it seemed to me, of all Baldwin's men, the most intolerant, narrow-minded and dictatorial of anti-democrats. Week by week, I derided his moments of triumph. A letter arrived from Jix inviting me to come along to the Home Office if ever I wanted to bring my portrait up to date. Jix's vanity and giggling goodwill were irresistible. I abhorred his politics but I liked him and he liked me. There he was at the Home Office with a heap of reproductions of my bloodhound cartoons of himself on his writing-table, obviously put there for my benefit. I met him often after that, always with enjoyment. For years we exchanged Christmas presents regularly, I a little drawing, he a box of cigars: "With best wishes from your devoted assassin, Low": "With all good wishes from your most loyal victim, Jix."
He fixed me with a steady calculating eye and I put on my best Simple Simon look. The proposition was that I should leave The Star and draw cartoons for the Evening Standard at double my salary, whatever it was. Flabbergasted, I made refusing noises. "What do you want?" he asked. He was persistent. To close the subject I said I wished to take the advice of my friends H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett.
Negotiations ended when I called on Lord Beaverbrook one morning at noon, finding him sitting up in bed, a plaintive figure like Camille, reading the Bible. He had promised me four half-pages a week, but I wanted precise guarantees about presentation. "Dammit, Low," said Beaverbrook. "Do you want to edit the paper, too."
The Evening Standard advertised my coming lavishly. No one took seriously the announcements that I was to express independent views. that was a novel idea, except for an occasional series of signed articles by some big name. Free and regular expression by the staff cartoonist was unheard of and incredible.
Beaverbrook did not always laugh in the right place at my cartoons, and some galled him, but in the twenty-three years of my association with his newspapers I can recall only one cartoon being left unprinted because of a disagreement over its political content - a spirited effort about the situation in Greece in 1945 which was blocked at the request of Churchill the Prime Minister in what he held to be the interests of western democracy.
Some critics of my work took the view that a satirist should defer to the finer feelings of his readers and respect widely held beliefs. I explained that whatsoever might be the duty of a satirist, it certainly could not be too reflect, confirm or pander to popular beliefs. Rather the opposite, for it was popular beliefs themselves that were frequently the aptest material for the healthiest satire.
The circumspect cartoons of John Leech and John Tenniel were a sign of the times; so also were the respectful pencillings of Dicky Doyle. I took as a standard the works of Gillray, Rowlandson and company, who were generally agreed to be the old masters of caricature.
Bernard Partridge and Leonard Raven-Hill were ultra-conservative, even reactionary. Partridge, the last of the cartoonists of the Victorian grand manner. His knighthood troubled me, for I could not think that critics or commentators ostensibly of satirical temper on public affairs should accept, like other men, the insignia of trammelling loyalties.
Partridge, as the inheritor of the Tenniel tradition in Punch, specialized in cartoons dealing with national occasions, such as laying laurel wreaths on the tombs of dead statesmen, congratulating epic sportsmen, extending the helping hand in disasters, etc., in which he represented the Anglo-Saxon people by Britannia, a massive matron moulded according to the Graeco-Roman idea of beauty.
The British Fascist Party was comparatively insignificant until Mosley took over its leadership. Mosley was young, energetic, capable and an excellent speaker. Since I had met him in 1925 he had graduated from close friendship with MacDonald to a job in the second Labour Government; but he had become disgusted with the evasions over unemployment and had resigned to start a party of his own.
Unfortunately at the succeeding general election he fell ill with influenza and his party-in-embryo, deprived of his brilliant talents, was wiped out. Mosley was too ambitious to retire into obscurity. Looking around for a "vehicle" he united himself to the British Fascists, rechristened "the Blackshirts", and acquired almost automatically the encouragement of Britain's then biggest newspaper, the Daily Mail, which was more than willing to extend its admiration for the Italian original to the local imitation. That was a fateful influenza germ.
Things got a bit mixed at times between me and the Evening Standard. On the main issues of the day, I believed it was One World, upheld the League and was for combined effort to defend peace by economic pressure and international force. Beaverbrook didn't believe it was One World, thought the League was meddlesome and that Britain should mind its own business and develop the Empire.
Cartoons and leading articles often flatly contradicted one another, scandalizing the worthy souls who saw it as a serious defect in Lord Beaverbrook that he be not one-eyed. Inevitably stories got around, when for some reason or other, a cold or a journey, I missed a cartoon, that I was undergoing "discipline." My friend Hannen Swaffer, the columnist, who had a watchful eye open for occasions when my cartoon should have appeared and didn't, was apt to draw conclusions at the top of his voice and headline his suspicions Is Low Censored?
Such vigilance would have been a useful safeguard for me had Lord Beaverbrook not been the sort of man he was. But the truth was that his attitude to my personal charter of freedom remained impeccable, and the misgivings I had had on joining his paper long had been forgotten. Often he disagreed with me profoundly and did not fail to say so. Cartoons of Hitler tripping up to glory on stairs formed by the spineless backs of democratic statesmen; and Hitler demanding with menaces to know what the same democratic statesmen would give him not to kick their pants for twenty-five years, hardly fitted the Beaverbrook line, but went into the paper without a word, except after publication. There was an occasion when I drew a doubt as to whether the inclusion of Japan in the Axis did not show the Hitler-Mussolini crusade against "godless" Russia to be a fraud, and a telegram arrived from his Lordship in Canada to protest that the imputation was unfair, since Hitler had not declared himself against Christianity. But even after he visited Germany, where he succeeded in getting the Daily Express ban lifted but was told frankly that so long as he kept me as cartoonist the Evening Standard would be banned, there were no recriminations but instead a worried solicitude for my own safety. Fresh from Dr. Gobbels, and hearing of my occasional trips to Europe, Beaverbrook was full of dire warnings that to show my nose in Germany would be asking for an "accident."
I had been told often enough that the British never had taken propaganda seriously, because they believed in themselves so much as to regard the rightness of their causes to be self-evident. Certainly, although they were fighting what was ostensibly a war of ideas, in striking contrast to the Nazis, the Russians, the French and the Americans they placed little value upon the presentation of their case to the enemy in cartoons.
I thought your cartoon on Wednesday (20th April) in the Evening Standard both cruel and mischievous. I know the P.M. - do you? He is a man of iron courage, calm and resolution. Neville is doing the only right, wise, thing, unless you want war. Hate, threats - which you can't carry out - and suspicion do not advance peace, and if the P.M. fails we can always go back to the policy of the war-mongers - Winston Churchill and Co. I think Neville has saved the world by his courage - and so do much cleverer people than I.
When Lord Halifax visited Germany officially in 1937, he was told that the Führer was deeply offended by Low's cartoons of him, and that the paper in which they appeared, the Evening Standard, was banned in Germany.... On Halifax's return to London, he summonded Low and told him that his cartoons were impairing the prime minister's policy of appeasement. Low obligingly desisted - but only for a few months. Soon afterward Hitler marched into Austria and Low, realizing that Chamberlain and Halifax had been fooled, took up his brush again with renewed vigor.
I wish to tell you, Mr. Low, with interest I and other Soviet artists have been and are now following your magnificent work, which has won for you the well-deserved fame of the best cartoonist in the world.
The future of history hangs in the balance. On one hand light, progress, democracy, life; on the other darkness, corruption, barbarism, death, that is Hitlerism. I am happy, dear Mr. Low, that in this decisive hour I am with you - a great artist whose creative work I regard with admiration and from whose works I learn.
Interviewed in Manhattan, British Cartoonist David Low advised U. S. cartoonists to "scrap this Uncle Sam and John Bull business. Your Uncle Sam is no more representative of the American people than my boot or my foot." More advice from the London Evening Standard's piercing satirist: "When you hold a man up as a public menace you lend him dignity. You don't destroy him at all.
"I saw an American cartoon, for instance, which was opposed to Mussolini and Hitler. The cartoonist drew them as huge, huge figures. . . Now Mussolini is a short man, and his large jaw is largely due to a fold of fat that is carefully touched out in photographs. Hitler is not an impressive figure. He has a turned up nose, good eyes, an absurd little mouth and a slightly receding chin. All the opportunities in these two men for very destructive caricature."
David Low's first published cartoon was printed in a New Zealand paper in 1902, when he was eleven years old. It represented the local authorities as lunatics because of their reluctance to remove certain trees that obstructed traffic. Ever since that time he has pictured himself as a "nuisance dedicated to sanity." His definition of sanity embraces a good many statesmen and policies: Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, armament races, Nonintervention, and Prime Minister Neville (Chamberlain's political "realism." Some of the personages scared by his corrosive brush have had good reason to regret that young David did not become a bishop as his mother wished, instead of becoming the world's deadliest political cartoonist.
After free-lancing in New Zealand and Australia, David Low went to England in 1919, where he drew for the London Star until 1927, when Lord Beaverbrook hired him for his Evening Standard. There he has ever since made fun of his employer's arch-conservative opinions. This month, A Cartoon History of Our Times, the seventeenth and best collection of David Low's work, with an explanatory text by Quincy Howe (author of England Expects Every American To Do His Duty), is to be published in the U. S.* Covering the hectic years of 1932-39, most of the car toons have kept their timeliness surprisingly well. His interpretation of the "Open Door," drawn in 1934, anticipated by five years Japan's present at tempt to drive foreign interests out of China, an eventuality which the British Government at that time thought highly improbable. The drawing of the gorged wolves appeared on Dec. 2, 1938, shortly after Polish troops occupied Teschen, completing the post-Munich occupation of Czecho-Slovak territory. The Spanish dancers were drawn last February when France and Great Britain were preparing to recognize the Franco Government.
Cartoonist Low is a unique combination of a student of contemporary politics and a superb draughtsman. A passionately sincere democrat, he is also a hard worker.
He begins the day at 8 o'clock, digesting thoroughly the daily papers. Breakfast is a political meeting, with the cartoonist, his wife, and his two young daughters threshing out the news. After breakfast he walks to his roomy, book-lined studio where with much pacing and squirming and pipe-smoking, he struggles to express a complex idea in a few vivid lines and a brief, usually wry, caption. The final drawing is done rapidly with a fine brush.
How Artist Low got that way politically is not hard to explain. He recalls that he became "socially conscious" at 19, when he went from deeply socialistic New Zealand to deeply laborite Australia. But for all his savage conviction, he is still a sly humorist. The words he puts in the mouth of his most famous cartoon creation, globular, mustached Colonel Blimp, archtype of the Tory diehard, are an acid parody of Conservative thought. Sample: "Come, come, let's be fair to Franco.
Let's assume he is a great Christian gentle man, prepared to doublecross his Italian and German friends without the slightest hesitation." The bewildered little man who frequently appears with the Colonel is the cartoonist's conception of himself.Adolf Hitler he usually depicts as an in sensate madman, Benito Mussolini as a simple gangster, Francisco Franco as a malicious child, Neville Chamberlain as a confused old man.
Jodl wears a poker face and moves rarely.... The most pitiful figure in the company is Funk. With the earphones clamped like horns to the fat, sick face sagging into the small dumpy body, he is the perfect model for a gargoyle. In colour he is light green. The next most frightened, I should say, is Saukel. He Is the cartoonist's fat-necked, square-headed German, but on a small scale. His uneasiness is painful to see. To make up for him, at his elbow is Baldur von Schirach, the ex-pin-up boy of the Hitler Youth, still good-looking with his scornful, pitiless eye... One for the 'most perturbed person' prize is Schacht, who is worried to pieces, too, but in a more refined way... von Papen looks more than ever like the fox shifting his tiny close-set eyes about the room.
Göring turns out to be about 5 feet 8 inches, still fat despite weight lost in prison; jolly, you would say, until you noticed the cruel cut of his mouth; vital, with periods of rumination when the countenance is sicklied over with desperate worry. Göring stands out by a mile as the boss in this company. He is a restless prisoner, leaning this way and that, flapping his pudgy little hands about, patting his hair, stroking his mouth, massaging his cheeks, resting his chin sideways on the ledge of the dock. Goring is not permitted to make speeches, but he manages to get a good deal of expression across with facial action. Nods, shakes and eye play.... Hess, down to skin and bone, going bald, wild eyes set in deep-sunken cavities, he has a nervous twitch and jerky movements. If, as he now insists, he is not mad, he looks it.
Ribbentrop, changed surprisingly into a meek person like a family solicitor, with disordered hair, pursed lips and large spectacles, fussing shakily with a sheaf of papers.... Streicher, the obscene Jew-baiter-no loathsome ape, but another little man with another nervous twitch. He has a trick of throwing his head right back and contemplating the ceiling with an air of preoccupation with Higher Things. In prison Streicher has grown a fluff of hair over his horrible baldness and this catching the light gives him a rind of halo.... Opinions might differ about the award for `nastiest person present', but I should choose unhesitatingly Frank, the butcher of Warsaw. He wears a fixed sneer and mutters... In a corner Dt3nitz sits impassive like a little acid drop.