Classic Cartoons: 'All right, have it your way - you heard a seal bark!'

Martin Plimmer on James Thurber
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The Independent Culture
THURBER WAS not an artist, but he was a brilliant doodler. He filled the New Yorker office he shared with writer EB White with scribblings that, as White was first to recognise, packed spontaneity, charm and humour. Frustrated with his job (he wanted to write but proprietor Harold Ross made him an administrator), Thurber's doodles became increasingly invasive.

Once he drew a man on an office wall, about to confront a belligerent woman wielding a club. One day in 1929, White rescued a drawing of a seal regarding two dots and saying "Hm, explorers" from a wastepaper basket, inked in the pencil lines and submitted it to the weekly art meeting. It came back bearing a sketch of a seal by art editor Rea Irvin and the note: "This is the way a seal's whiskers go." Ironically, Thurber's drawings, now synonymous with The New Yorker, were first published in a book he co-wrote with White, Is Sex Necessary?, in 1930.