Routh, Jonathan Reginald Surdeval

British, (1927-2008)

Jonathan Routh was a painter, author, and actor born November 24, 1927, in England. At Cambridge University he researched Queen Victoria and participated in theatrical projects. He founded the groundbreaking Candid Camera TV program. He wrote a series of books with such diverse titles as The Nuns Go on Holiday, and the legendary The Secret Life of Queen Victoria. He spent most of the years of his life in Jamaica. He exhibited often at Harmony Hall, and in London, Paris, Rome, Palm Beach, New York, and Washington.


Jamaica Holiday – The Secret Life of Queen Victoria

Routh featured Queen Victoria in a string of paintings inspired by life at the renowned Jamaican resort, Round Hill – images such as the “unamused” monarch water-skiing.

The book aimed to cover Queen Victoria’s disappearance between 22 March and 10 June 1871. Lord Braborough released extracts of what he alleged was the diary the Queen kept during her visit to Jamaica, which coincided with these dates.

The queen gets up to all sorts of adventures, all related through wry prose and more than three dozen whimsical paintings. She goes golfing and water-skiing, learns to limbo dance and twirl the hula hoop, consorts with a sugar planter who prefers not to wear clothes, and smokes the wacky weed, among many other improbable and hilarious things.

What’s not to like about a book that includes the following entry in its index: “Victoria, Queen: removes one of her under vests, 9; speaks highly of Bubble & Squeak, 11; refuses a goat chop for breakfast, 15; contrite about not opening an Aberdeen waterworks, 15; has golden syrup spilt over her, 26; runs, jumps, and somersaults, 29; walks on a tightrope, 33; shot out of a cannon, 37; dons eagle’s wings, 40; swings through a forest, 40; makes balloon ascent, 42; plays tiddlywinks with Miss Biggy the Fat Lady, 53; imitates a hen, 65; bargains for a goat, 66; visits a dubious establishment, 71; involved in a bar brawl, 71-72; in prison, 72; with hiccoughs, 77; upside down, 86; catches a packet, 88.”

This charming book is out of print, but signed first edition copies are readily available from the Chisholm Gallery, LLC.

Guidebooks created with John Glashan

With John Glashan, Routh created an unusual set of small guidebooks: The Good Loo Guide and The Good Cuppa Guide (both about London), The Guide Porcelaine to the Loos of Paris, and The Better John Guide (about New York). The humor owed much to the apparent seriousness, and to the affectionate parody of the connoisseurship of The Good Food Guide (then as now a trove of information on fine eating).

The Good Loo Guide

The Good Loo Guide, a compact fifty-page booklet subtitled “Where to Go in London,” written with Brigid Segrave and “conveniently illustrated” by John Glashan, was the first of the series, published in London by Wolfe in 1965. A note on the copyright page sets the tone: “This is an impartial guide. Our visits to loos have been anonymous. We have not declared ourselves even after making use of the establishments’ facilities. Nor have we at any time accepted hospitality, but paid cash for all chargeable facilities we have used. Loos are rated by the application of stars, three-star establishments being ‘worth traveling out of your way to experience.’” The illustrations are numerous as well as convenient, with Glashan’s characters (typically bearded men) experiencing various adventures and misadventures. The “Completely New & Revised” edition of 1968 lives up to its billing. More is included, and ten establishments earn a new award, the “Good Loo Royal Flush.” Two decades later, Routh (but not Glashan) would reexamine this issue with the Initial Good Loo Guide.

The Good Cuppa Guide

The Good Cuppa Guide: Where to Have Tea in London, published in 1966, was “blended” by Routh and “milked and sugared” by Glashan. The format and charm (and, in its day, usefulness) are those of The Good Loo Guide. Providers of cuppas are rated with a maximum of five stars.

Guide Porcelaine to the Loos of Paris

In the Guide Porcelaine to the Loos of Paris (1966), Routh must, of course, provide not only locations and descriptions but also convenient phrases for the nervous English tourist. An example: Donnez-moi les ordres simples pour atteindre le pissoir le plus pres d’ici; et, s’il vous plait, sans les gesticulations sauvages et tumultueuses [no diacritics in the original], i.e. Please direct me to the nearest loo in simple terms and without waving your hands in too dangerous a manner. A French translation also appeared: Guide porcelaine des “lieux” de Paris (Editions de la Jeune Parque, 1967).

The Better John Guide

Unlike the three-and-sixpenny (£0.21) booklets described above, The Better John Guide: Where to Go in New York (New York: Putnam, 1966) was a $2.50 hardback. Written with Serena Stewart, it had “graffiti” by Glashan. Unfortunately, this graffiti is largely recycled from the convenient illustrations of The Good Loo Guide. Some of the text was recycled too – understandably so, as neither work was likely to have been known in the other capital.

The Nuns’ books

The Nuns Go to Africa (London: Methuen, 1971). The Nuns Go to Penguin Island (London: Methuen, 1971). The Nuns Go East (London: Methuen, 1972). The Nuns Go West (London: Methuen, 1972).

Jonathan Routh’s Book List

The Little Men in My Life (London: Barrie, 1953). This book was reissued in 1962 as An Exhibition of Myself. Captain d’Arcy’s Filthy Picture Book (London: Wolfe, 1967). Dr. Crocker’s Exercise Book (London: Wolfe, 1967). The Hangover Book: Prevention, preparation, treatment and cure (London: Wolfe, 1967). So You Think You’ve Got Problems: A book of disasters (London: Wolfe, 1967). Routh’s Weekend Guide (London: Anthony Blond, 1969). Jamaica Holiday: The Secret Life of Queen Victoria (London: Harmony Hall, 1984). Jonathan Routh’s Initial Good Loo Guide: Where to “go” in London (London: Banyan, 1989). Illustrated by Enzo Apicella, this paperback is considerably larger than the earlier works by Routh and Glashan. The odd title derives from the book’s sponsorship by Initial Textile Services, a company that serviced loos. Notas de Cocina de Leonardo Da Vinci (Hardcover) by Leonardo da Vinci (Author), Shelagh Routh (Compiler).

Additional Links

Jonathan Routh featured in Chisholm Gallery Ad

Jonathan Routh’s Television Work

Jonathan Routh’s Wikipedia Entry

Jonathan Routh’s About Us Page & Obituaries

Jonathan Routh is surreal funny – A spot of British humor takes a shot at Newport – August 30, 1981

Internet Movie Database (IMdb) Profile