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However, having entirely forgotten to put in a bid, I later logged onto thesaleroom.com in some trepidation and with the all-too-familiar hope that it had sold for more than I would have been willing to pay: nothing scourges the soul more than the horrid realisation that an object of desire has been knocked down for a pittance.

So I was delighted and relieved to learn that it had made £1000 hammer – a price that its quality and relative fame fully justify, in my opinion. Given the subject matter, the composition and the level of detail it must have a claim to be Du Maurier’s finest drawing – but despite Andrew Sim’s brave assertion, it is not, I think, the artist’s most celebrated.

That accolade surely belongs to his Punch cartoon of November 1895 titled True Humility which introduced the phrase ‘the curate’s egg’ to the world. The expression is still frequently encountered today, although its meaning has changed over the years.

However, it can’t be denied that ‘the curate’s egg’ drawing itself is a slightly stodgy thing, featuring diners arrayed around a table – a convention Du Maurier turned to rather too frequently – and it relies almost entirely on the letterpress for its appeal. It can’t compete with Mr Sim’s new purchase, which is quite splendid in every way.

And who knows, thanks to this drawing’s reappearance and subsequent coverage in ATG, it may not be long before ‘the six-mark tea-pot’ is on everyone’s lips every bit as often as ‘the curate’s egg’…

David Stuart Cook



MADAM – In the vein of Private Eye ‘lookalikes’, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity of the character in George du Maurier’s cartoon to Nick Hall of Bentley’s Fine Art Auctioneers and regular expert on Bargain Hunt.

I wonder if Nick gains a lot of his knowledge from his ability to time travel?

Robin Fletcher

Robin Fletcher Antiques