Our Christmas cards this year
BY PETER STOTHARD
About ten years ago, when austerity was a rarer word in the lexicon, the TLS printed its own Christmas cards, based on a painting that hangs in the Editor’s office.
It was not an especially festive card. But then the TLS is not famous for festivity at this time of the year, holding our sole annual party in June and preferring often to have even our office goose or turkey in March.
The painting is called The Estuary. It is mostly grey-beige river and sky. A barely sketched man in a hat stands up in a small boat. There are other empty boats. Rains seems certain. Good cheer is discouraged.
The painter was Philip Wilson Steer. And in 1939 his watery work was was a gift to Bruce Richmond (Editor of the TLS 1902-37) from T.S Eliot, Virginia Woolf and other luminaries.
It is our office heirloom.
It also made a fine Christmas card — and I have been using it ever since.
Each December our office suprema, Maureen Allen, says that it looks down-at-heel to send the same card year after year. And each year some distinguished recipients, at her irresistible insistence, have enjoyed angels and holly instead. I hope they have appreciated her thought.
But In 2012 she need lecture me no longer. Sad to say, the tide has almost run out on the Estuary. The grey box file, marked ‘Peter’s Christmas Cards (unused)’ has merely three Stygian images left.
No more are going to be made. There will be no second impression. Austerity comes naturally to us here.
Inside my Christmas card box (unused) are five pictures of a snowman on the lawn of Trinity College, Oxford, six views of Texan oil rigs (see above), twenty thin Virgins from Katonah, NY, a few Thesea from the Benaki Museum and an Ashmolean Klimt.
Ah yes, and hidden in a large envelope a quantity of Thames bridges, riparian subjects from further up river than where Steer once stood.
If anyone who expects a card from the Editor of the TLS gets anything other than these. Maureen will have been especially persuasive on their behalf.