by Jeet Heer
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In recent years, there has been a surge of critical interest in the fact that many major writers were also, on the side at least, doodlers and drawers. Off the top of my head, such writers include Thackeray, Kipling, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, John Updike and Guy Davenport. There are many critical insights to be gained by thinking of these writers as “cartoonist manqués” (to borrow a phrase from Updike). Thanks to Kent Worcester we can add another notable name to the list: Friedrich Engels, the co-creator of historical materialism. For those not familiar with him, Engels was to Karl Marx what Gerhard has been to Dave Sim. Engels was also a lifelong doodler and sketcher. Many of his letters are filled with drawings. He had an excellent sense of draughtsmanship. I would love to see someone familiar to Engels life and thought do an analysis of his drawings. The website www.marxists.org has a vast collection of Engels’ letters, sometimes including the drawings that accompanied them For a sample, page, see here. I’ve posted a few of Engels’ drawings below.