|bc||The St Jim's Portrait Gallery,
In the late 1980s I had the good fortune to buy about 60 Gems between #680 and #760 in good condition from an Adelaide [South Australia] dealer. These covered the years 1921 and 1922. Soon after opening the parcel of story papers, I became very interested in the attractive full-page portraits of various St Jim's characters on most of the back covers. Subsequent research has proven to me that this range of Gem numbers almost covered the best one of several Portrait Galleries in the history of the famous boys' story paper.
Together with the issues of 1921-22 which I had previously acquired from Mr Norman Shaw of London, I have been able to draw up a substantial list of the finest portrait gallery of them all. These pictures gave the name and a brief description of the character. For example: 'Gem 704 - TOM MERRY - The popular junior character of the school, and leader of the "Terrible Three"'.
Nearly all the pictures showed the St Jim's crest at the top or bottom of the illustration. Searching for further information, I found a short article headed "The St Jim's Gallery", by C F F Rickard, in the "Story Paper Collector" (SPC), #24, dated October/December 1945. This was the famous amateur magazine published by the late William H Gander of Transcona, Manitoba, Canada. It was a great pocket-sized paper which could easily be posted around the world in a letter, and it was free.
This feature on the St Jim's Gallery gave me the information about where to find the other earlier Galleries in my collection of Gems. These were generally small pictures hidden somewhere inside the papers. The SPC article of 1945 also told me the names of the artists who drew the illustrations of the fictional schoolboys of the famous college in Sussex. In the case of the 1921-22 series of full page portraits, the SPC feature named R J Macdonald as the artist who did most of the work. One of the most outstanding illustrations was a picture of the author, Martin Clifford (real name of course, Charles Hamilton). This showed him looking quite youthful and handsome. He would have been about 45 years of age at the time. It was signed "Yours sincerely, Martin Clifford".
It is now of interest to mention that Magnet #1000 of 16 April 1927 contains the only photograph of Frank Richards in the history of the Greyfriars School paper. This picture showed a view of the author's face from the left profile, whereas the Gem portrait of Martin Clifford was almost a frontal view, so that the similarity between the authors was somewhat disguised. In addition, Martin Clifford was drawn with a full head of hair, and appeared to be copied from a photograph taken in the younger days of Charles Hamilton, whereas the Magnet picture showed Richards (CH) with a receding hairline which left him bald on the front portion of his head.
Furthermore, Hamilton wrote "Some Reminiscences" by Frank Richards in Magnet #1000 which stated that he began writing of Greyfriars School because his 'old friend, Martin Clifford was impressed with his manuscripts and took him to see the Editor of The Gem'. For some reason the editors of the two papers thought it important to keep the true identity of their best and most prolific author a close secret from the readers of the two great boys' school story papers. Probably it was because the pen names of Richards and Clifford also covered a large number of substitute writers of Greyfriars and St Jim's yarns, some of which were quite good, although not right up to the Hamilton standard of excellence. As a schoolboy reader of both papers, I didn't notice any difference in the stories between the genuine and the substitute varieties. It wasn't until I started reading the Collectors' Digest monthlies and annuals in the 1970s that I became aware of the subs.
The first St Jim's Library Portrait Gallery began as early as 10 May 1913, when the Gem was only 6 years old, and the characters only had a relatively short history, although they were already well developed by the skilful Charles Hamilton.
This series began with Gem #274 and finished in Gem #285. There were black and white drawings of three characters in each issue of the paper displayed [usually] at the foot of page 14. Each picture was enclosed in a circular frame measuring two inches in diameter. The names of the boys or masters were supplied in a central square with identifying numbers: 1, 2 and 3. No other information was supplied as to form or character outline. R J Macdonald was the artist who did most of these miniature portraits in 1913. Altogether there were 48 characters in this first run of pictures.
The second St Jim's Library Portrait Gallery commenced with Gem #518 on 12 January 1918, when the story paper had been running for about 11 years. At this stage, because of the acute war situation, the Gem had been reduced to 16 pages, almost half its peace time size. Each character was given over a page of biographical information, compiled by the editor, Mr J N Pentelow. In addition, there was included a 2" by 4" portrait in the centre column, drawn by Warwick Reynolds. The detailed character analysis must have involved a great amount of knowledge and painstaking research of old Gems by Mr Pentelow. Just before the Portrait Gallery commenced, he wrote a short history of the Gem stories, which was included in the "Editor's Chats" section of #510 to #515.
There were 41 personalities portrayed in the second Gallery, the most informative of the several series between 1913 and 1930. The 41 began with Tom Merry in #518 and concluded with the German Master, Herr Otto Schneider, in #581, so that there were over 20 issues between those numbers when no character appeared. Here is a short quotation from the information about Mr Railton, No 9 in the series of 1918-19. This will give some idea of the style of writing: "Very much as Tom Merry may stand for the ideal boys' hero, so may Mr Railton stand for the ideal public school master. He is the right sort in every way that matters". And a little later on it stated: "Were Mr Ratcliff and Mr Selby ever boys? It is not easy to think of them as such. But one can imagine Victor Railton as a Tom Merry, a Harry Noble, or an Eric Kildare".
The Third St Jim's Library Portrait Gallery started with #616 on 29 November 1919 and ran to #636, on 17 April 1920. The series comprised 58 school personalities, varying from four to two per Gem. The SPC #24 stated that many of the portraits in the previous Gallery were used again, with a number of new ones by R J Macdonald. The brief character sketches were supplied just below each picture, which measured 2 & 1/2" by 2" wide.
This is what it had to say about Tom Merry: (No. 1 in #616) "Tom Merry, the junior captain of St Jim's, and leader of the Terrible Three. A great favourite throughout the whole school. Plucky, straightforward, fond of fun, and a good all-round athlete. Shares Study No 10 with Manners and Lowther, the other two members of the Terrible Three."
And here is the clever description of No. 2, Arthur Augustus D'Arcy: (#616) " ..the Hon Arthur Augustus D'Arcy, second son of the Earl of Eastwood. A bright and shining member of the Fourth, described as the Swell of St Jim's. A Prince of Fashion, spending far too much time and money on dress. At the same time he is loved by all who know him. He is always threatening to "administah feahful thwashing's", but the threat is very rarely carried out". (Study No 6, Fourth Form).
These concise, clear, short outlines are much easier to mentally memorise than the rambling full page and a quarter of the second series.
I have already given a summary of the fourth Portrait Gallery in the first page of this article. These full page pictures on the back covers of the Gems in 1921-22 were magnificent, to such an extent that the viewer would probably think they were photographs instead of genuine illustrations, but the latter possibility was indeed true.
A random inspection and comparison of some miniature pictures in the second and third Galleries with the large page portraits of the fourth series shows that those of 1921-22 seem to be faithful enlargements of the earlier ones. To test this matter I have checked the small and big portraits of Kildare, Skimpole, Blake and Manners.
The fifth and final Gallery, if it may be so described, appeared in the Gems of the 1930s under the heading: WHO'S WHO AT ST JIM'S.
THE FIRST ST JIM'S LIBRARY PORTRAIT GALLERY (48 CHARACTERS) from 10/5/13 to 23/8/13
GEM # CHARACTERS
THE SECOND ST JIM'S
LIBRARY PORTRAIT GALLERY from 12/1/18 to 29/3/19
THE THIRD ST JIM'S LIBRARY PORTRAIT GALLERY from 29/11/19 to 17/4/20
GEM # CHARACTERS
THE FOURTH ST JIM'S LIBRARY PORTRAIT GALLERY from 19/2/21 to ?
GEM # CHARACTER - BRIEF DESCRIPTION
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