Mark Boxer was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, on 19 May 1931, the son of Steven Boxer, an army officer. Educated at Berkhamsted School, where he developed an interest in the theatre, Boxer went in 1950 to King's College, Cambridge where, according to his friend Mark Amory, he developed "a reputation for being bright and gifted in an undefined way, with a suggestion...of naughtiness." In 1952 Boxer became editor of the undergraduate magazine Granta, but it was suppressed after he published a series of blasphemous verses. Noel Annan, his tutor at King's, recalled that "the Vice-Chancellor demanded that he be sent down without a degree": "King's got the sentence reduced to a week's rustication during May Week, which meant that he would miss all the festivities." Boxer left Cambridge after the traditional mock funeral, and reappeared on the stroke of midnight at the King's May Ball.
Boxer left Cambridge without a degree, and, after a brief spell on the Sunday Express, joined a fashion export magazine called Ambassador, and also began to draw for Tatler. He had found a talent for cartooning at Cambridge, and his first published cartoons appeared in Granta and Punch. Then, in 1957, a Cambridge friend, Jocelyn Stevens, asked Boxer to become art director of his magazine Queen. Here he gained a reputation for employing the best photographers and using their pictures for maximum impact. In 1962 Sir Denis Hamilton offered Boxer the editorship of the new Sunday Times Magazine, a supplement that was designed to carry high-quality photographs and attract lucrative advertising. He accepted, and in the new magazine featured Gerald Scarfe's cartoons.
In 1965 Boxer left the Sunday Times Magazine, moving within the Thomson Group to edit a new listings magazine called London Life, which was being created out of the ailing Tatler. London Life attempted to capture the spirit of the sixties, and declared it would be a "comprehensive guide to the entertainment scene: films, theatre, restaurants, night life, music, sport", but it was a short-lived failure. Boxer had remained a director of the Sunday Times, and in 1966 returned to that paper as assistant editor, remaining until 1979. London Life folded in 1967, and the Tatler name was sold off, to be relaunched by another company in 1968.
Good looking, and witty, Boxer liked to move in fashionable literary circles, where he continued a process of self-reinvention that had begun at Cambridge. Charlie Boxer, his son by his first marriage to the cookery writer Lady Arabella Stuart, recalled that his father "reserved his charming, vivacious persona for when he was on the razzle", and that he developed "a split personality - a home persona, and then this other life." Boxer's other life involved numerous love affairs. Lucretia Stewart, one of his lovers, recalled that "for Mark... womanising was a way of life. It was compulsive": "There was a famous story of him going to bed with a new woman and saying to her after it was over: ‘Will you tell all your girlfriends how good I am in bed?’ It was too good a story for her to keep to herself."
Boxer was also something of a snob, and Martin Amis once observed that if he was obliged to enter a pub, "he looked like some duchess visiting the East End." Stewart characterised him as a snobbish dandy who "always noticed and loved social nuances", and this manifested itself in his creation of Simon and Joanna Stringalong, a trendy upper-middle-class couple from London's NW1. The Stringalongs were based on characters from Alan Bennett's 1966 BBC series On the Margin, and they first appeared in the strip "Life and Times in NW1", written by Peter Preston, which began in the Listener in August 1967. From 1969 they also featured in a pocket cartoon in The Times. A variant of the strip then ran in colour in Nova as "Tinderbox Green: An Everyday Story of Estate Living", again written by Peter Preston.
On his death The Times noted that Boxer was the natural successor to Osbert Lancaster, but that whilst "Lancaster drew the upper classes, Marc drew the upper-middle and middling-classes: the Stringalongs of NW1, the trendies and the publishers, the Hampstead intellectuals, lecturers, teachers, and politicians, the mini-skirted and the student rebels and their Laura-Ashleyed mums." Yet according to his colleague Jonathan Meades, Boxer refused to admit his professional indebtedness to Osbert Lancaster. He was also reluctant to admit that George Melly provided him with the ideas and the captions for many of his cartoons, Meades recalling that Boxer "was more dependent than he liked to believe on George Melly, who thought up his subjects and upon whose daily call he'd wait in a state like a baby needing its bottle."
Over the years Boxer's politics moved to the left, and his friend Christopher Hitchens recalled that, in his support of the Labour Party, "Mark remained quite staunch and was forever having his more biting cartoons adjudged 'not quite right' by The Times." In 1983 he thus moved his cartoons from The Times to the Guardian, where they ran for three years. According to Peter Preston, Boxer "came to the Guardian for a while because The Times kept spiking his best jokes": "He left us, with some trepidation, for the Telegraph, because he was anxious to milk a little outrage from an alien audience." Boxer began contributing to the Daily Telegraph in 1986, and continued until his death.
Boxer used a dip pen with a Gillott 404 nib and calligraphic ink on A4 Croxley Script, drawing with a No. 3 or No. 4 brush for thick lines. For his pocket cartoons the captions were typed on an old Remington typewriter with a large typeface, which had once belonged to the short-sighted Lord Thomson of Fleet. Each caption was typed using fresh carbon paper cut into strips. From 1970 to 1978 Boxer also illustrated profiles for the New Statesman, and he drew cartoons for the Observer from 1983 until 1987, when he objected to a reference in the paper to his second wife Anna Ford, and moved his weekend cartoons to the Sunday Telegraph. In 1980 Boxer became a director of the publishing company Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and in 1983 was invited to edit the relaunched Tatler. In 1987 he also became editor in chief of Vogue and editorial director of Conde Nast. Boxer also drew for advertising, notably Smirnoff Vodka. He died of cancer on 20 July 1988 at his home in Brentford, Middlesex.
After his death, Jonathan Meades, his features editor at Tatler, characterised Boxer as "a self-invention on a prodigious scale": "He cut a dandiacal figure though he dressed appallingly. He was petulant, capricious, vindictive, tight-fisted. He was a non-drinker whose rudeness when drunk was breathtaking. His boastfulness could teeter into boorishness. He was equally tender, funny, gay (in the old sense), winningly indiscreet, charming, generous to those from whom he could expect nothing in return, very clever (when he wasn't being obtuse), a beguiling companion... He was as far from being a rounded person as is possible: he was, rather, an elegantly packaged mass of irreconcilable contradictions and uncomfortable antagonisms." "He was a flibbertigibbet, a lightweight," recalled Lucretia Stewart affectionately: "frightfully indiscreet, couldn't keep a secret for a second, and great fun."
- Martin Amis "Martin Amis remembers a black and white friendship", Sunday Times Magazine, 7 November 1983, p.22.
- Stephen Cook "Diary", Guardian, 28 November 1987.
- Mark Amory "Obituaries: Mark Boxer", The Independent, 21 July 1988.
- Noel Annan "Pinning down the butterflies", Daily Telegraph, 21 July 1988, p.15.
- The Times, 21 July 1988, "Mark Boxer; Cartoonist of shrewd social comment".
- Peter Preston "Mark Boxer: The life force in line", Guardian, 21 July 1988.
- Philip Howard "Chronicler of the chattering classes", The Times, 21 July 1988, p.14.
- Christopher Hitchens "Backchat," New Statesman, 26 August 1988.
- Jonathan Meades "Boxer delights", Mail on Sunday, 14 November 1993, p.35.
- Mark Amory (ed.), The Collected and Recollected Marc (1993)
- Catherine O'Brien "My father always wanted me to be like him", The Times, Features, 2 November 2000.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.32-33.
- Lucretia Stewart "Life Was Just Riotous For Us All. Then Anna Ford Came Along", Evening Standard, 24 February 2010.
4 unaccessioned originals
1 framed uncatalogued original
70sback to top