“The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”

There’s a husband and wife detective agency, Randall & Craig, Confidential Investigation. They’ve been hired by the title character to find out what his profession is.

Along the way, the wife, Cynthia Craig Randall, “[R]ecalled once having seen a painting entitled “Subway”. It showed a crowd pouring out the door of an underground train while another crowd attempted to force its way it. Getting on or getting off, they were plainly in a hurry, yet it seemed to give them no pleasure. The picture had no beauty in itself; it was plain that the artist’s single purpose had been to make a bitter criticism of a way of living.” I think that painting is by Reginald Marsh (1898 – 1954) called “The Subway”.


While looking for that painting, I ran across two others of the same subject, and period, that caught my interest. There’s a 1935 painting by Daniel Celentano called “Subway”. This one shows people’s faces that are at least mostly contented, if not happy.


And there’s the painting, “Subway”, by Lily Furedi (1934). Here, we see a range of emotions from happy to sad to tired.

Subway-1934-oil-o- canvas-Lily Furedi-s

Discussing Jonathan Hoag, Cynthia says “That’s all very well, but I wish we had never laid eyes on him.” To which her husband, Teddy, replies, “Too late for Herpicide.” “Herpicide” is from the Latin words herpes, meaning “to creep”, and cide, meaning “death”. It was a product sold around 1899 by the “drummer” (travelling salesman), D.M. Newbro. His claim was that Herpicide would destroy dandruff, falling hair, and baldness.


Will update my reading of “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” as the pleasantness of reading it proceeds….

And it ends with a surprise. And a happy one, because it is impossible for me to disbelieve the truth: that Jonathan Hoag’s profession is the most unpleasant one I could imagine. And yet, I would hire a Hoag, if I could, to do justice to my own alien art.


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