Monday 29 April 2013

Bees in fables

'Bees in fables', an illustration by JVL in Aesop's Fables, Jonathan Cape, 1989, page 35.

Bees are the crucial pollinators of our plants and they are diminishing in numbers. Some blame insecticides and other blame Varroa mites which carry a virus that are damaging to bees. Whatever the reason, something needs to be done about protecting this crucial species on our planet.

Here are some fables about bees. This first one is a fable told by Roger L'Estrange in his publication of 1692, with his idiosyncratic language and spelling in tact.

Jupiter and the Bee
Bee made Jupiter a Present of a Pot of Hony, which was so kindly Taken, that he bad her Ask what she would, and it should be Granted her. The Bee desir’d. that where-ever she should set her Sting, it might be Mortal. Jupiter was loth to leave mankind at the Mercy of a Little Spiteful Insect, and so bad her have a care how she Kill’d any Body; for what Person soever she attacqu’d, if she left her Sting behind her, it should cost her her Life.

Moral: Only spiteful people are willing to hurt others at the cost of their own life.

Text: Roger L’Estrange 1/125 (1692).
Selected parallels: Caxton, Remicius 12. Chambry 234. Perry 163. Daly 163. TMI A2232.2.

Here is another fable about bees, again told by Roger L'Estrange.

The Bee-keeper
There came a Thief into a Bee-Garden in the Absence of the Master, and Robb’d the Hives. The Owner Discover’d it upon his Return, and stood Pausing a while to Be-think himself, how This should come to pass. The Bees, in This Interim, came Laden home out of the Fields from Feeding, and Missing their Combs, they fell Powdering in Swarms upon their Master. Well (says he) you are a Company of Senceless and Ungrateful Wretches, to let a Stranger go away Quietly that has Rifled ye, and to bend All your Spite against your Master, that is at this Instant Beating his Brains how he may Repair and Preserve ye.

Moral: It is a serious error to accuse our friends rather than suspect our enemies.

Text: Roger L’Estrange 1/166 (1692)
Selected parallels: Chambry 235. Perry 72. Daly 72. TMI J652.1.

This fable about bees is told in verse by Christopher Smart in his 1761 publication of fables.

The Bees and the Drones
Up in a lofty oak the Bees
Had made their honey-combs: but these
The Drones had asserted they had wrought.
Then to the bar the cause was brought
Before the wasp, a learned chief,
Who well might argue either brief,
As of a middle nature made.
He therefore to both parties said:
“You’re not dissimilar in size,
And each with each your color vies,
That there’s a doubt concerning both:
But, lest I err, upon my oath,
Hives for yourselves directly choose,
And in the wax the work infuse,
That, from the flavor and the form,
We may point out the genuine swarm.”
The Drones refuse, the Bees agree -
Then thus did Justice Wasp decree:
“Who can, and who cannot, is plain,
So take, ye Bees, your combs again.”
This narrative had been suppress’d
Had not the Drones refused the test.

Moral: Put the pretenders to the test of doing what they say.

Text: Christopher Smart (Phaedrus 3/13 (12), 1761).
Selected Parallels: Phaedrus 3/13. La Fontaine 1/21. L’Estrange 474. Perry 504. TMI J581.4.

This fable is by Aphthonius of Antioch (3rd/4th Century AD)

The Bees and the Shepherd
There were bees making honey in a hole of an oak tree. A shepherd discovered them at work and took some of their honey. This caused the bees to surround him and sting him. Finally he decided to clear off, saying, "If the bees are going to be like this I am not going to bother taking their honey".

Moral: If you want something desperately you may have to take the consequences to obtain it.

Text: trans. JVL (2013).
Selected Parallels: Aphthonius 27 (3rd/4thC AD). Halm 288.  Perry 400. TMI J581.4.

Another fable about bees, as told by Roger L'Estrange.

The Country-man and Bees
There was a Plodding Country-fellow that was pretty well  to pass in the World, and he might thank a Good Stock of Bees for't. As he was sucking a Comb one day, a Bee caught him by the Tongue: The Pain put him into such a Rage, that he threw down all his Hives upon it. The Bees fell to expostulate the matter with him, what a fool he was to do himself a Mischief because he was Angry at another body: especially considering it was Their Labour and Industry that both Rais'd and Maintain'd him, and if he would not take the Sweet with the Sowr on with another, they'd e'en leave him to shift for himself. Upon this Disgust, they forsook the Poor Man, to his utter Ruine.

Text: L'Estrange, 2/112 (1699).

This is a fable about bees in Robert Dodsley's collection of fables in an edition of 1802 but first published in 1764.

Bee and Spider
THE bee and the spider once entered into a warm debate which was the better artist. The spider urged her skill in mathematics; and asserted that no one was half so well acquainted as herself with the construction of lines, angles, squares, and circles; that the web she daily wove was a specimen of art inimitable by any other creature in the universe; and besides, that her works were derived from herself alone, the product of her own bowels; whereas the boasted honey of the bee was stolen from every herb and flower of the field; nay, that she had obligations even to the meanest weeds.

To this the bee replied, she was in hopes the art of extracting homey from the meanest weeds would at least have been allowed her as an excellence; and as to her stealing sweets from the herbs and flowers of the field, her skill was there so conspicuous, that no flower ever suffered the least diminution of its fragrance from so delicate an operation. Then, as to the spider's vaunted knowledge in the construction of lines and angles, she believed she might safely rest the merits of her cause on the regularity of her combs; but since she could add to this, the sweetness and excellence of her honey, and the various purposes to which her wax was employed, she had nothing to fear from a comparison of her skill with that of the weaver of a flimsy cobweb; 

"for the value of every art," she observed. "is chiefly to be estimated by its use."

Text: Dodsley, 1/44 (1764/1802).

Sunday 28 April 2013

Saturday 27 April 2013

'The Old Man without a Dish'

'The Old Man without a Dish' (and others), 4 drawings by JVL, 1978.

These were trial drawings done before working on the 330 illustrations I carried out for The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear, which was published by Jonathan Cape in 1989 and republished in 2012.

Friday 26 April 2013

'The Ass Eating Thistles'

'The Ass Eating Thistles', an illustration by JVL in Aesop's Fables, Jonathan Cape, 1989, page 64.

The Ass Eating Thistles
AN Ass, loaded with provisions, meeting with some Thistles, began to devour them with much greediness. In the midst of his coarse repast he said thus: "The provisions I carry cannot seem more exquisite to delicate palates, or more agreeable to their appetite, than this harsh thistle is to me".
Moral: One person’s meat is another person’s poison.

Text: Charles Draper (page 116, 1760).
Selected parallels: Babrius 133. Chambry 280. Perry 360.

The Babrius and Chambry versions of the fable are told slightly differently; something like this:

Whilst an ass was eating a prickly plant a fox sidled up to him and said, "I am amazed that you can chew so cheerfully upon such rough and prickly food with that soft tongue of yours".

Sunday 14 April 2013

Saturday 13 April 2013

Ditchling Village Church

Ditchling Village Church, an illustration by JVL drawn sometime during the 1980s.
This was drawn for the church (known as St Margaret of Antioch) for various uses.

Friday 12 April 2013


'Gogetagadget', illustrations by JVL for a magazine article, House Beautiful, 1965.

I brought such objects home with me from London to Brighton; then drew them 'from life' in a couple of days and returned them to the magazine. I also arranged how each illustration would be placed on the magazine page. Such commissions were very useful in the early stages of my career as an illustrator. 'Gogetagadget' was the title of the magazine article.

Thursday 11 April 2013

The Dong attaches his luminous nose

The Dong attaches his luminous nose, an illustration by JVL in The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear, Jonathan Cape, 1984 and republished in 2012, page 16.

An extract from Edward Lear's 'The Dong with a Luminous Nose'

And because by night he could not see, 
He gathered the bark of the Twangum Tree
On the flowery plain that grows.
And he wove him a wondrous Nose, -
A Nose as strange as a Nose could be!
Of vast proportions and painted red,
And tied with cords to the back of his head.
- In a hollow rounded space it ended
With a luminous Lamp within suspended,
All fenced about
With a bandage stout
To prevent the wind from blowing it out; -
And with holes all round to send the light,
In gleaming rays on the dismal night.
Edward Lear

Wednesday 10 April 2013

The Crow and the Pitcher

'The Crow and the Pitcher', an illustration by JVL in Aesop's Fables, Jonathan Cape, 1989, page 107.

This ingenious crow perhaps learned something about water displacement from Archimedes. Here is this ancient fable as told by Joseph Jacobs in 1894:

The Crow and the Pitcher
A CROW, half dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough to get down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near him; and after casting a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life.

Moral: Little by little does the trick. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Text: Joseph Jacobs (55, 1894).

Selected Parallels: Avianus 27. Caxton - Avianus 27. L’Estrange 1/239. Perry 390. Daly 390. TMI J101.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

The Old Person of Crowle

'The Old Person of Crowle', an illustration by JVL in The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear
Jonathan Cape, 1984 and republished in 2012, page 52.

Monday 8 April 2013

Villa Tommaso,

Villa Tommaso, Castelbuono, Sicily - a notebook drawing by JVL, 18 September 2009.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Back yard of a bakehouse in Glossop

A sketch by JVL of the back yard of the bakehouse at Lord's Café, Glossop. 1957.
This was drawn when I was a 17 or 18-year-old student at Salford School of Art.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Friday 5 April 2013

A King's Head

'A King's Head', a double-page spread from a student diary by JVL, March 1961.

Thursday 4 April 2013

'The View with a Flu'

'The View with a Flu', a notebook drawing by JVL, 10th January 2009.

This was drawn in bed when I was gradually recovering from a bad bout of flu.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

'Marmalade, wheelbarrow, Camberwell'

'Marmalade, wheelbarrow, Camberwell', drawings by JVL in a double-page diary entry 
for 21 January 1984.

(This is the 100th posting on the blog, which began on 23 December 2012).

Monday 1 April 2013

Looking-Glass Insects

Looking-Glass Insects, an illustration by JVL in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking -Glass,
Artists' Choice Editions, 2011, page 38.

Here is the text at the beginning of the chapter:

 Looking-Glass Insects

 Of course the first thing to do was to make a grand survey of the
country she was going to travel through. 'It's something very like
learning geography,' thought Alice, as she stood on tiptoe in hopes
 being able to see a little further. 'Principal rivers -- there ARE
none. Principal mountains -- I'm on the only one, but I don't think
it's got any name. Principal towns -- why, what ARE those
creatures, making honey down there? They can't be bees -- nobody
ever saw bees a mile off, you know -- ' and for some time she stood
silent, watching one of them that was bustling about among the
flowers, poking its proboscis into them, 'just as if it was a regular
bee,' thought Alice.

However, this was anything but a regular bee: in fact it was an
elephant -- as Alice soon found out, though the idea quite took her
breath away at first. 'And what enormous flowers they must be!'
was her next idea. 'Something like cottages with the roofs taken off,
and stalks put to them -- and what quantities of honey they must
make! I think I'll go down and -- no, I won't JUST yet, ' she went
on, checking herself just as she was beginning to run down the hill,
and trying to find some excuse for turning shy so suddenly. 'It'll
never do to go down among them without a good long branch to
brush them away -- and what fun it'll be when they ask me how I
like my walk. I shall say -- "Oh, I like it well enough -- "' (here
came the favourite little toss of the head), '"only it was so dusty and
hot, and the elephants did tease so!"'

'I think I'll go down the other way,' she said after a pause: 'and
perhaps I may visit the elephants later on. Besides, I do so want to
get into the Third Square!'

So with this excuse she ran down the hill and jumped over the first
of the six little brooks.