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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Best of H.T. Webster. A Memorial Collection. Simon and Schuster (1953)

Harold Tucker Webster (1885–1952) was a widely syndicated cartoonist in the US from the 1920s to the 1950s. He drew single panel cartoons that frequently ran along a theme such as "Life's Darkest Moment" and a series that gave rise to a new word in English, "The Timid Soul". The protagonist of the Timid Soul series is Casper Milquetoast, a man whose severe timidity ensured that milquetoast has entered English as an adjective.
H.T.Webster's topics were the small triumphs and disasters that occur in any life and that linger much longer in our memories that they should do. He captures, with understated skill the pleasure or sting of the moment without ever undermining those involved. There is a strong wash of nostalgia in his work, in particular where it features barefoot boys that echo his own rural boyhood in the wonderfully named town of Tomahawk in Wisconsin. One of the reasons that H.T.Webster's work is still appealing today is that he clearly liked people, his cartoons of the arguments that can erupt between husbands and wives over a game of bridge are done with a lack of spitefulness that makes them a pleasure still.
As someone with a near mystical lack of ability with anything mechanical or electrical I can strongly attest that the look of mingled relief and pride displayed by the man in the picture above has been drawn from life. Superb drawing and incisive writing that nailed the underlying emotion and captured the humour make H.T.Webster a master of his craft, a book to savour.

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