Monday 7 September 2009

Orlando The Marmalade Cat

This is opening up a new theme of children's literature and its cultural influence on perceptions of the countryside. To maintain a tenuous motoring link from the previous post, I have included the illustration below from Kathleen Hale's story Orlando Buys a Farm, orignally published in 1942.

On the right, just below the horse's head, Orlando the Marmalade Cat can be seen driving his car with a hay sweep attached to the front. The use of cars in the hay meadow was quite a common sight in the 1930s. These were old, big-engined cars that still had life left in them but little second hand value at the time and could be bought very cheaply. With a hay rake or sweep bolted to the front, they were ideal for trundling the finished hay across a field to where the stack was being built. The picture is full of other accurate detailing: the individual components of the horse gear used for driving the elevator; the elevator itself; and the rolled up temporary canvas tilt, supported by poles and guy ropes, that kept the stack dry, should it rain whilst under construction. In her autobiography, Kathleen Hale (1898-2000) recalled how she used to sneak into agriculture lectures and spend lots of time at the College farm whilst an art student at Reading during the First World War - in fact her student residence was St Andrew's Hall, which now is home to the Museum of English Rural Life.

Hale's first Orlando book was A Camping Holiday of 1938, from which the illustration above is taken. The Orlando character emerged from stories that she made up to amuse her own two sons and in this case drew heavily upon her love of the countryside and childhood memories of camping holidays. Further published adventures followed as Orlando became a big hit with children in the 1940s and 50s. There were radio spin-offs and even an Orlando ballet at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Orlando's Country Peepshow was a pop-up book that appeared in 1950 and gave more opportunity for Hale to display her sound working grasp of farming practice with a scene for each of the seasons.

This copy, along with the other examples of Hale's work, are from the Children's Collection - part of the University's Special Collections held alongside the Museum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How extraordinary no one has bothered to respond to the reappearance of one of the best British children's cat story series ever writen in my opinionated opinion.
Where can I find these books?
There is also another series for those afflicted by the love of cat subject literature on a cat who lives with mice companions in a cathedral. I should like to track down both series please?