Thoughts from yesteryear to help us through the lockdown

—6th April 2020

In these difficult times, we would like to share with you two of the very best responses made by great artists of the past to similar global events.  We hope they bring you some comfort and strength.

This cartoon is from the quintessentially British illustrator W. Heath Robinson unearthed by ILN from the Illustrated London News archive (The Bystander, December 1925). The caption reads:

“The new Heath Robinson Patent Improved Flu Tank. This desirable, self-contained vehicle, jewelled in every hole, is certain of a ready sale this Christmas, for it enables patients not only to arrive at the office in an equable temperature, but to continue the cure en route”

Heath Robinson Flu Tank

The quote below is from the quintessentially American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote this poignant letter while quarantined in the South of France during the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1920:

Dearest Rosemary,
It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that, he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources. The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us. You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,
F. Scott Fitzgerald