Giles - Grandma and Giles
Was Grandma in fact Giles himself?
Giles was very fond of Grandma. “From my point of view she’s the perfect instrument for getting away with murder”, he confessed: “I can say what I like and, as long as I put the words in her mouth, the chances are I’ll get away with it.” In Giles’ cartoons Grandma thus came to embrace every form of extreme opinion, from fervent Royalism to revolutionary socialism - she even had a portrait of Lenin on her bedroom wall. A strict disciplinarian, she not only supported hanging, but also, it seems, beheading and flogging. As Giles explained, she could be very aggressive and “violence, perhaps, is her keynote.”
But was she more than a useful mouthpiece? In 1992 Giles’ biographer, Peter Tory, felt that “perhaps, unconsciously, Carl based Grandma on himself”: “At his grumpiest and most difficult he is certainly closer to her than he is to any of his other characters. Certainly, when his mouth takes a down-turn and his glasses angrily reflect the light and his short white hair appears to bristle with irritation, all you would need to add would be a black, neck-high frock, a handbag and an umbrella and you would have Grandma.”
The growing physical resemblance was certainly noticed by his friends, and Giles himself admitted to being “like Grandma’s brother, only worse.” They certainly shared many characteristics, such as a deep hatred of traffic wardens and other petty officials, and on one occasion Giles drew a cartoon for a friend which showed himself looking in the shaving mirror, with Grandma looking back. But this is to miss the essential fact of Giles’ cartooning; that he put something of himself into every character that he drew.