London, July 22, 1884

Illustrated letter from Maxfield Parrish to Henry Bancroft, London, July 22, 1884

Parrish’s earliest European letter to Henry is illustrated with a street-side Punch and Judy performance. The viewing crowd is comprised of all ages and types: a country hick, children, parents, fighting cats, and an Indian man wearing a salwar and carrying a wash board. While Punch and Judy were certainly known in the United States, this street-side performance marks it as a British experience.

Throughout Parrish’s correspondence spiders are scribed hanging by a thread from various letters and other drawn forms. A spider that appears out of nowhere can cause a waiter to spill the contents of his serving tray, or may serve as an enticement for a young gosling. Another repetitive aspect is Parrish’s use of drawn smoke, steam, dust, and fog to imply an obscured view. On this page the drawing of a gentleman wearing a fez smokes a cigarette. As the billowing smoke rises through the letter it all but obscures the word ‘city’ in the text. To give this impression, Parrish wrote the word using a dotted line surrounded by the lines indicating smoke.

Illustrated letter from Maxfield Parrish to Henry Bancroft, London, July 22, 1884

On the third page of Parrish’s first letter to Bancroft a devil’s head with the words ‘What is this--?’ is drawn near the upper edge of the sheet to the right of the fold. In the late nineteenth century one possible end to the Punch and Judy show had Mr. Punch being carried off by the Devil. In fact the second figure shown on the Punch and Judy stage on the recto of this sheet looks rather like a dark devilish character.

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