Our favorite girl journalist resurfaced miraculously a few weeks ago, when the New Jersey antiquarian bookseller Between the Covers offered Cotsen two issues of The Flapper’s Magazine edited by “V. V.” and published in Teddington, Richmond by Vivie Wivie & Co. in 1918. The address, which is the same as the editorial offices of The Flapper’s Magazette, leaves no doubts as to the brains behind the operation.
Would the two issues contain information that would lead us to the real young woman? Absolutely!
One issue has no publication date, but the second carries an announcement that starting with this, the May issue, the magazine will be issued every two months. Flip through the new issues and it’s obvious that Vivie Wivie & Co. decided that the magazine needed a make-over. The silly jokes and contests that were an endearing feature of the Magazette are history. More sophisticated young women in daring hats are featured on the covers.And the contents? Each issue consists of more portraits of devastating modern beauties billed as “V. V.’s famous girls,” any one of which can be obtained as a full-page picture from Vivie Wivie & Co., according to another announcement. No price is given, however. V. V.’s glamorous creatures, some with bobs, a few with wide-brimmed chapeaus, others bedizened with huge bows or artificial flowers, and some with long braids down the back (a “flapper,” according to OED), are signed “Viven Furniss 1918,” “V. Furniss 1918,” or “ViviE 1918.” The sole man admitted to the Magazine’s pages is a handsome square-jawed aviator, whom the reader may suspect, is the object of the editor’s dreams. The only copy in the two issues are the captions. Vivien’s artwork in the 1918 issues of The Flapper’s Magazine is much more accomplished than that in the Magazette, so it seems safe to say the Magazine is the work of a teenager, and the other of a little girl.
But can it be puzzled out how old she was when she made the manuscript periodicals?
Yes! Almost exactly.
It was pure wishful thinking on my part to have imagined that Vivien must have been the daughter (or other relative) of Harry Furniss (1854-1927), the Irish-born British artist famous for his humorous drawings and caricatures for Punch and illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1993). He also illustrated G. E. Farrow’s Wallypug series, sometimes collaborating with his artist-daughter Dorothy. Dorothy was Harry’s only daughter.
So it was back to the drawing board. Now that I knew that Vivien F. Furniss put together those two issues of The Flapper’s Magazine in 1918, I could search Ancestry Library with a bit more confidence. It didn’t take that long to find our girl journalist Vivien Florence Furniss. She was the daughter and oldest of the four children of the assurance clerk Percy Furniss and his wife Maude of Richmond on Thames in Surrey. Her birth in 1903, parents, place of birth can be found in England and Wales Civil Registration Birth Index 1837-1917. That would have made her 15 when she drew the “famous girls” of the Magazine.
This inconvenient fact blows out of the water my original dating of the Magazette to the 1920s. The only evidence I could squeeze out of the text appeared in a limerick. I leapt to the conclusion that its first line “There was a young lady of Bow, / Who attended a cinema show. / She was heard to remark / “Oh George! It is dark….” (the reader to provide a last line) contained an allusion to the It Girl, Clara Bow (1905-1965) who made her first picture in…. 1921. I should have checked to see if there were other limericks that began with that line. There were several.
Is there other evidence that might establish how old Vivien was when she edited and illustrated the Magazette? The picture of “The Little Patriot” showing a blonde girl draped in the Union Jack suggests that she might not have started her first publication project until Great Britain had entered World War I in August 1914. That would have made her eleven. Without any dates in the Magazette, it is impossible to know exactly when she was inspired to begin the project, but it seems safe to guess between 1914 and 1917.
This just goes to show how easy it is to give into the temptation to invent an origin story for child-made works on the few “facts” the text seems to contain. Revising the first post is a small price to pay for the discovery that Vivien didn’t abandon her project after one number, and if any thing, she seems to have become more interested in clothes and boys. Who knows, maybe she did more than these three issues and those may surface on the antiquarian market one day. What I’d like to know is, did the future Mrs. Philip W. Hume continue to draw after her marriage? She lived to the ripe old age of 82, passing away in 1985. Vivie, take a bow!