• Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval

      Grennan, Simon; University of Chester (Book Works, 2018-10-12)
      In the collection at Chetham’s Library, Manchester, is an illustrated novel, published in 1877.Titled The Story of a Honeymoon, the novel was written and illustrated by Charles H. Ross and Ambrose Clarke. It is a comic novel, cheaply produced, telling a titillating and amusing story of a marriage that goes fatally awry on the couple’s honeymoon. Thousands of novels like it were produced in the period, as part of the first boom in popular mass entertainments – fashion, organised sport, smoking, tourism, day tripping, romance, musical theatre, comics and magazines. This period saw the birth of modern urban cultures of working-class leisure exemplified by the industrial city of Manchester. The Story of a Honeymoon hides a compelling secret. Ambrose Clarke never existed. Rather, another illustrator was given cover by the invented name of Clarke. This was not unusual. Writers and journalists frequently used pseudonyms to create an idea of the author that was favourable for readers, as a way to increase the popularity of their work. But this isn’t the heart of the matter, nor is it the whole secret. The artist drawing as this fictional man was a woman, Marie Duval. She was an actress and cartoonist known for her reckless comedic drawing style. As one of only a handful of women cartoonists in a male publishing environment, her work was habitually disguised, emasculated, overwritten and stolen. After her death, her male collaborators took the opportunity to erase her from history. They almost succeeded. In 2017, Simon Grennan identified Duval’s work in The Story of a Honeymoon for the first time. Grennan has been instrumental in bringing Duval’s work back to public view. He is co-author of the Marie Duval Archive online and publishes widely on her work. He was energized and excited, as well as dismayed, to discover that Duval is still catalogued under her male pseudonym after all this time. On stage, Duval was popular for performing as a leading man, in crossed-dressed roles. This re-gendering was overt, a conscious performance ‘as a man’ by a woman, rather than hidden under a male identity as the cartoons were. The Victorian era, created and reinforced many societal expectations, including the performance of gender. These boundaries and the play that they encouraged, particularly in the sphere of entertainment, has a legacy and impact today in current re-evaluations of conservative gender roles with queer explorations and gender fluidity. Grennan explores this historical legacy through his contemporary Duvallian drawings. In Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval Grennan focuses on the manners and habits of twenty-first century mass leisure culture, plus its roots in the great cities of the nineteenth century. He adopts the pseudonym Marie Duval, producing drawings in drag, as a woman.