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THERE are various methods of introducing an artist to his public. One of the best is to describe how you saved his life in the Bush in ’82; or he saved yours; and then you go on:
“Little did either of us anticipate in those far-off days that Fougasse was destined to become . . .”
Another way is to leave Fougasse out altogether, and concentrate, how happily, on your own theories of black-and-white drawing, or politics, or the decline of the churches; after all, an introduction doesn’t last long, and he has the rest of the book to himself. Perhaps, however, it is kinder to keep the last paragraph for him:
“Take these little sketches by Fougasse, for instance . . .” and the reader, if he cares to any longer, can then turn over and take them. Left to ourselves, that is the method we should adopt. But the publisher is at our elbow. “This is an introduction,” he says. “For Heaven’s sake introduce the fellow.”
Let us begin, then, by explaining Fougasse’s nationality. I never discuss his drawings with another, but we tell each other how remarkable it is that a Frenchman should have such an understanding of English sport. “Of course,” we say, “in the actual drawing the nationality reveals itself; the Gallic style stands forth unmistakeably; only a Frenchman has just that line. But how amazingly British is the outlook! Was there ever a Frenchman before who understood and loved cricket as this one?” We ask ourselves how the phenomenon is to be explained. The explanation is simple. A fougasse—I quote the dictionary—is a small mine from six to twelve feet underground charged either with powder or loaded shells; and if a British sapper subaltern, severely wounded at Gallipoli, beguiles the weary years of hospital by drawing little pictures and sending them up to Punch, he may as well call himself Fougasse as anything else. Particularly if his real name is Bird, and if a Bird, whose real name is Yeats, is already drawing for Punch. Of course it would have been simpler if they had all stuck to their own names like gentlemen, but it is too late now to do anything about it, and when a genuine M. Fougasse of Paris comes along, he will have to call himself Tomkins. Once the downward path of deceit is trodden, there is seemingly no end to it.
We have our artist, then, Kenneth Bird of Morar, Inverness. When I first met him at the beginning of 1919, he was just out of hospital, swinging slowly along with the aid of a pair of rocking-horse crutches. This was on his annual journey south, for they have the trains in Morar now. Once a year Fougasse makes the great expedition to London, to see what the latest fashions may be, and is often back in Morar again before they have changed to something later. I have seen him each year; in 1920 with two ordinary crutches; in 1921 with two sticks; in 1922 with one stick; perhaps by 1923 he will be playing again the games of which he makes such excellent fun. But, selfishly, we cannot regret the Turkish bullet, which turned what I suspect of being quite an ordinary engineer into such an individual black-and-white draughtsman.
I am really the last person who should be writing this introduction, for all drawing is to me a mystery. When I put two dots, a horizontal line and a vertical line into a circle, the result is undoubtedly a face, but whose, or what expressing, I cannot tell you until afterwards, nor always then. But these mystery men can definitely promise you beforehand that their dot-and-line juggling will represent Contempt or Surprise or Mr. Asquith, just as you want it. It is very strange; and, sometimes I think, not quite fair. However, this is not the place wherein to dwell upon the injustice of it. What I wanted to say was that with Fougasse I feel a little more at ease than usual; we have something in common. Accepting the convention that writers write exclusively with the pen, and that black-and-white artists draw exclusively with the pencil, I should describe Fougasse as more nearly a Brother..