Golden Age of Children's Illustrated Books
Golden Age of Children's Illustrated BooksINTRODUCTION
OVERVIEWS AND GENERAL STUDIES
VICTORIAN MASTERS OF THE GOLDEN AGE
THE BRANDYWINE SCHOOL OF CHILDREN'S ILLUSTRATION
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century publishing era that witnessed the release of some of the most significant and influential works of children's illustration of all time.
The so-called "Golden Age" of children's illustrated books—a period dating from around 1880 to the early twentieth century—is today regarded as a literary epoch that produced some of the finest works of art ever created for children's literature. The culmination of a progressive movement that, for the first time, focused on producing texts specifically oriented to appeal to children, this era continues to be cited as a major source of inspiration for modern juvenile authors and illustrators. During this period, the sheer number of published children's texts increased exponentially, with publishing houses releasing thousands of new books annually. While most were substandard in quality, earning the label "toy books," the highest echelon featured a roster of acclaimed artists that produced painstaking illustrations which continue to be reproduced in new editions even today. Many of the top artists of this era either earned lasting fame as a result of their work in children's publishing, such as Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway, or solidified already well-established reputations by crossing over to juvenile-themed illustrations, such as George Cruikshank and John Tenniel.
As a movement, the "Golden Age" can be difficult to define given the dramatically varied artistic visions, subject matter, and broadly attributed period of time over which it is said to have occurred. However, several generalizations regarding the underlying themes and motifs of the Golden Age can be made. In theory, artists ascribed to this period are remembered for their interest in providing a more intuitive connection between the text and image than had been present in children's literature prior to the Victorian Age. As a result, they introduced the first aspects of realism into popular children's illustrations with the intent of creating a gateway to the text rather than drawing attention away from the text. Additionally, while the subject matter for Golden Age artists primarily revisited previously published material—most commonly, revised editions of famous novels, educational primers and alphabet books, or classic folk stories, including the works of George MacDonald or the Brothers Grimm—Golden Age illustrators distinguished themselves through their use of modern art theories to reinterpret these more classical texts. As a result, facets of several different artistic styles were used to reinvigorate conventional children's publications, evincing the influences of the Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Art movement, Art Noveau, and Les Nabis, among others. But perhaps most importantly, the Golden Age oversaw a new devotion by artists and publishers to children's literature that was focused solely on young audiences, fostered largely by improvements in printing methods—a result of the dawning Industrial Age—which allowed better quality illustrations to accompany these works.
As a result of the Golden Age's broad scope and time period, critics tend to divide the movement into three phases defined by three leading schools of illustrators—the early Victorians, a group of innovative masters who helped enable the ascendancy of color illustrations; the Victorians, whose work is generally ascribed as being the artistic peak of the movement; and the Brandywine School, a group of American illustrators formed under the tutelage of Howard Pyle who reinterpreted traditional Victorian motifs to create an uniquely American artistic style. There are two primary figures who are commonly associated with the Golden Age's early Victorian period: George Cruikshank and John Tenniel. Both men achieved early fame as political caricaturists for such magazines as The Scourge and Punch. While working almost exclusively in black-and-white plates drawn in ink, they laid a structural and stylistic framework that edged away from earlier children's illustrations which simply served a decorative purpose. Indeed, some critics even label Cruikshank's illustrations of Jacob and Wilheim Grimm's first English translation of German Popular Stories (1823) as the first manifestation of the Golden Age. Cruikshank was also renowned for his early collaborations with Charles Dickens, providing the illustrations for the first edition of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (1838). John Tenniel found similar acclaim with his groundbreaking plate illustrations for the first edi-tions of Lewis Carroll's children's classics Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).
The second epoch of the Golden Age—the mid- to late-Victorian period—witnessed, what some consider, the zenith of children's illustration, a result of the culmination of a cultural shift in both societal thought and color image reproduction capabilities. Printer Edmund Evans published many of the most acclaimed children's texts from this era, including the works of three of the most prominent Golden Age illustrators: Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway. Crane was an admirer of the Aesthetic Art movement, which sought to incorporate contemporary art into the mass-produced publications of industrial England. Crane believed that a balance could be achieved between the seemingly disparate forms of mass entertainment and great art; the success of his efforts is highlighted by some of his best known works such as The Frog Prince (1874) and The Baby's Opera, A Book of Old Rhymes with New Dresses (1877). As Crane's contemporary, Randolph Caldecott suggested an appreciation for adventure and experimentation as well as a strong belief in the use of clean bold lines that nonetheless expressed a nostalgic undercurrent for a simpler era, the details of which are readily apparent in what is perhaps his most famous work: The Three Jovial Huntsmen (1880). In books such as Under the Window, with Coloured Pictures and Rhymes for Children (1879) and A Apple Pie: An Old-Fashioned Alphabet Book (1886), Kate Greenaway also invoked a sentimental revisiting of the pre-Victorian era, presenting a bevy of young children playfully enjoying sunny scenes of everyday events, all facets of her characteristic images of an idealized childhood. But where Caldecott's broad strokes attempted to incorporate the stylistically impressionist forms of such artists as James Whistler, Greenaway's illustrations were slavishly detail-oriented recreations of eighteenth-century pastoral scenes. Despite their fundamentally disparate approaches to engaging their young audiences, as clients of the same publishing house, Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway were friendly rivals, and their work remains as examples of some of the most resplendent illustrations to ever accompany a children's text.
The third phase of the Golden Age revolves around Howard Pyle's American Brandywine School. Drawing upon the legacy of Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway, Pyle blended Victorian realism with romanticism, a style that brought a new artistic vigor to the author/illustrator's own juvenile adventure books such as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883) and The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903). While the Victorian Golden Age artists would frame their illustrations with no trace of action or consequence, Pyle's artwork was fraught with the tension and drama of the text he was illustrating. In this sense, Pyle was faithful to the doctrines of the Victorian belief that illustration should be more than decorative, working to advance the plot as much as the words on the page. But as important as his artistic contributions were, Pyle's greatest personal legacy might be his instruction of a group of illustrators that is collectively called the Brandywine School. Composed of such luminaries of American illustration as N. C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Maxfield Parrish, Frank Schoonover, Harvey Dunn, and Violet Oakley, the Brandywine artists were all pupils of Pyle and evince varying aspects of his tutelage in their work. Of all the Brandywine students, N. C. Wyeth's artistic style most parallels the works of his teacher. His efforts in children's literature were largely within the realm of adventure novels—including Treasure Island (1911) and Robinson Crusoe (1920)—texts that featured explosions of bright color and raging action. Like Pyle, Wyeth's work served to underscore the action, linking thought to the visual stimulation offered by the illustration. However, while Wyeth was the scion to Pyle's illustrative style, other Brandywine artists—particularly his female students—demonstrated a willingness to explore other aspects of illustration. For example, in some ways, the works of Jessie Willcox Smith seem more reminiscent of Kate Greenaway than the works of Howard Pyle. Like Greenaway, Smith dabbled with the idealized mold of drawing gently romanticized portraits of happy children sedately content in their own warm homes. But, unlike Greenaway's sentimental universe, Smith's works showed the complete family, not just the fantasy realm of the child.
By the late twenties, the era of the Golden Age began to slowly fade, with only a few illustrators such as Beatrix Potter and Arthur Rackham taking up the mantle of the Victorian and Brandywine traditions. And even though these artists can lay claim as being the equals of any of their forebears, they are sometimes considered an afterthought due to their late prestige. Indeed, Arthur Rackham's illustrations for Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1940) is generally regarded as the final great issue of the Golden Age. Still, the influence of these early masters remains widely felt in almost every picture book published today in terms of format and intent. Further, the Golden Age illustrators are credited for help-ing save hundreds of traditional folk tales from obscurity through their faithful retellings, even as the Industrial Age threatened their existence as society continued its dramatic shift away from the countryside and into more urban settings. But more importantly, the Golden Age illustrators saw the value that art could play in children's literature, appreciating that good art could teach and motivate. Despite the gains made to children's literature over the years, the Golden Age remains remarkable for its contrast of vivid beauty and realism while maintaining its roots in traditional illustration. In honor of their contributions to the genre, many of the most prestigious awards in children's literature bear the names of the Golden Age masters, including the Caldecott Medal for best American children's book and the Kate Greenaway Medal given annually to the best British children's illustrator.
The Diverting History of John Gilpin [illustrator; written by William Cowper] (picture book) 1878
The House that Jack Built (picture book) 1878
Sing a Song for Sixpence (picture book) 1880
The Three Jovial Huntsmen (picture book) 1880
The Queen of Hearts (picture book) 1881
Hey Diddle Diddle, and Baby Bunting (picture book) 1882; also published as Hey Diddle Diddle and Other Funny Poems
A Frog He Would a-Wooing Go (picture book) 1883
Some of Aesop's Fables with Modern Instances [illustrator; edited and compiled by Alfred Caldecott] (picture book) 1883; also published as The Caldecott Aesop: Twenty Fables, 1978; and as Aesop's Fables, 1990
Jackanapes [illustrator; written by Juliana H. Gatty Ewing] (picture book) 1884
Lob Lie-by-the-Fire; or, The Luck of the Lingborough [illustrator; written by Juliana H. Gatty Ewing] (picture book) 1885
Farmyard Alphabet (picture book) 1865
The House that Jack Built (picture book) 1865
Sing a Song of Sixpence (picture book) 1866
Baby's Own Alphabet (picture book) 1874
The Frog Prince (picture book) 1874
Goody Two-Shoes (picture book) 1874
Puss in Boots (picture book) 1874
The Yellow Dwarf (picture book) 1874
Jack and the Beanstalk (picture book) 1875
The Baby's Opera, A Book of Old Rhymes with New Dresses (picture book) 1877
The Baby's Bouquet, A Fresh Bunch of Old Rhymes and Tunes [illustrator; compiled by Lucy Crane] (picture book) 1878
Baby's Own Aesop, Being the Fables Condensed in Rhyme [illustrator; text by William Linton] (picture book) 1886
German Popular Stories [illustrator; by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm] (fairy tales) 1823
Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress [illustrator; by Charles Dickens] (juvenile novel) 1838
George Cruikshank's Fairy Library. 3 vols. [editor and illustrator] (picture books) 1853–1854; also published as The Cruikshank Fairy-Book, 1911
Cinderella and the Glass Slipper [editor and illustrator] (picture book) 1854
The History of Jack and the Beanstalk [editor and illustrator] (picture book) 1854
Puss in Boots [editor and illustrator] (picture book) 1864
Under the Window, with Coloured Pictures and Rhymes for Children (picture book) 1879
Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book for Children (picture book) 1880; reprinted as Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book, 1980
Mother Goose; or, The Old Nursery Rhymes [illustrator] (picture book) 1881
Little Ann and Other Poems [illustrator; by Ann and Jane Taylor] (picture book) 1882
Marigold Garden: Pictures and Rhymes (picture book) 1885
A Apple Pie: An Old-Fashioned Alphabet Book (picture book) 1886
The Pied Piper of Hamelin [illustrator; by Robert Browning] (picture book) 1888
Kate Greenaway's Book of Games (picture book) 1889
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (juvenile fiction) 1883
Pepper and Salt; or, Seasoning for Young Folk (juvenile fiction) 1886
Otto of the Silver Hand (juvenile fiction) 1888
Wonder Clock [with Katharine Pyle] (juvenile fiction) 1888
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (juvenile fiction) 1903
The Story of the Champions of the Round Table (juvenile fiction) 1905
The Story of Sir Lancelot and His Companions (juvenile fiction) 1907
The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur (juvenile fiction) 1910
Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm [illustrator; by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm; translated by Mrs. Edgar Lewis] (fairy tales) 1900
Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World [illustrator; by Jonathan Swift] (juvenile fiction) 1900
Rip Van Winkle [illustrator; by Washington Irving] (juvenile fiction) 1905
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens [illustrator; by J. M. Barrie] (juvenile fiction) 1906
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [illustrator; by Lewis Carroll] (juvenile fiction) 1907
A Midsummer Night's Dream [illustrator; by William Shakespeare] (play) 1908
Aesop's Fables [illustrator; translated by V. S. Vernon Jones] (fairy tales) 1912
Arthur Rackham's Book of Pictures (picture book) 1913
Mother Goose—The Old Nursery Rhymes (nursery rhymes) 1913
A Christmas Carol [illustrator; by Charles Dickens] (juvenile fiction) 1915
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow [illustrator; by Washington Irving] (juvenile fiction) 1928
The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book (fairy tales) 1933
The Wind in the Willows [illustrator; by Kenneth Grahame] (juvenile fiction) 1940
Jessie Willcox Smith
An Old Fashioned Girl [illustrator; by Louisa May Alcott] (juvenile fiction) 1902
In the Closed Room [illustrator; by Frances Hodgson Burnett] (juvenile fiction) 1904
A Child's Garden of Verses [illustrator; by Robert Louis Stevenson] (children's poetry) 1905
A Child's Book of Old Verses (children's poetry) 1910
The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose (nursery rhymes) 1914
The Water-Babies [illustrator; by Charles Kingsley] (juvenile fiction) 1916
The Princess and the Goblin [illustrator; by George MacDonald] (juvenile fiction) 1921
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [illustrator; by Lewis Carroll] (juvenile fiction) 1865
Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There [illustrator; by Lewis Carroll] (juvenile fiction) 1871
N. C. Wyeth
Treasure Island [illustrator; by Robert Louis Stevenson] (novel) 1911
Kidnapped: Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751 [illustrator; by Robert Louis Stevenson] (novel) 1913
The Boy's King Arthur: Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table [illustrator; edited by Sidney Lanier] (folklore and legend) 1917
Robin Hood [illustrator; by Paul Creswick] (novel) 1917
The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 [illustrator; by James Fenimore Cooper] (novel) 1919
Robinson Crusoe [illustrator; by Daniel Defoe] (novel) 1920
Rip Van Winkle [illustrator; by Washington Irving] (short story) 1921
The Deerslayer; or The First War-Path [illustrator; by James Fenimore Cooper] (novel) 1925
The Yearling [illustrator; by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings] (novel) 1939
Anne Lundin (essay date 2001)
SOURCE: Lundin, Anne. "Victorian Horizons: 'Sensational Designs.'" In Victorian Horizons: The Reception of the Picture Books of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway, pp. 21-57. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001.
[In the following essay, Lundin provides a comprehensive analysis of the "cultural discourse" surrounding the works of several major illustrators from the "Golden Age of Children's Literature," including Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway. Lundin presents ten traditional aspects of review that she uses as criteria to evaluate the impact of the Golden Age illustrators on their intended audiences.]
The twentieth-century picture book bears the mark of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway. They are our historical horizon, the cultural landscape against which our modern books are foregrounded, silhouetted. Indeed, children's books, particularly from the late Victorian period, look familiar to us today. Instead of the plain fare of instruction, books for the young appealed to adult as well as child fancies. Picture books were celebrated as works of art and enjoyed a large following. From the largesse of the literati, with its tradition of au-thoring and editing children's books, to the speculative market of sensational fiction, children's books shared a public literary culture of young and old. The popularity of children's literature can be determined not only by the diversity of books produced but also by the nature of the productions and the manner in which they were presented. In essence, by looking at what the critics said.
The Victorian periodical press both reflected and constructed the response of the public to a literature of childhood. Literary journalists reviewed children's books in response to a heightened interest in children's reading and to a concomitant rise in the juvenile book market. Journals and magazines included essays on children's literature in its relationship to education, book arts, and the marketplace. These reviews and commentary constituted the criteria by which children's books were interpreted and given value in the late Victorian period.
How were children's books received in the formative period of the late nineteenth century? What contributions did the critics make in shaping the cultural discourse over children's books? How does this reception compare to the climate that shapes contemporary book publishing? To answer these questions, we turn to the cultural gatekeepers of the age—the periodical reviewers, the cultural mediators—to see how they perceived and promoted children's books. I embarked on what was an immersion in the cultural discourse of the late Victorian age, as revealed by their voices across a century. To understand these critical years of the Golden Age of Children's Literature, seventy-five British and American periodicals were chosen from a twenty-five-year period. The primary question was to what extent late Victorian criticism reflected and constructed a certain climate that encouraged the growth and development of what has become modern children's literature. Readings in reception theory afforded a foundation for a study of historical readership.
Reception theory is a modern approach to literary history that examines the ways in which literary works are received by readers. The examination of "reception" began in the 1950s in the fields of jurisprudence, theology, and philosophy. The application of "reception" to literary studies developed in the late 1960s as a way to relate the three elements of aesthetic communication—author, work, and recipient (reader, critic, or audience). The approach is a reaction to the limitations of intrinsic literary study, often known as "New Criticism," in which a literary work is considered complete unto itself, autonomous and apart from the reader. Reception theory was launched by the theories of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hans Robert Jauss, Wolfgang Iser, and furthered by the work of Stanley Fish, Jane Tompkins, Jonathan Culler, among others, who argue for the role that audiences play in the scheme of things. Reception theory is central to the larger field of Cultural Studies, which shares interest in the social history of how culture is produced and received.
Reception theory is related to other rhetorical studies, such as reader-response criticism. What they have in common is an interest in the relationship between the literary text and its reader, between what is being communicated and how it is received. Each reader-oriented approach acknowledges that literary works do not exist within a vacuum—a departure from formalist criticism—but have meaning from their interaction with readers. Reception study is distinguished by its greater concern with historical changes affecting the reading public than with the solitary reader. Literary meaning is determined over time, by a series of readings constituting its history of influence. The history of reception includes those literary and sociological factors that shape individual responses in a given time and place. The context of reception is defined in material and ideological terms, in aesthetic terms, or in terms of evaluative interpretive communities that mediate between the literary product and audience.
Readers of a certain social group—what Stanley Fish calls "interpretive communities"—shape readings and evaluations of a literary work. Historically situated, the community of interpreters are a work's first readers. Wolfgang Iser suggests that audiences play an important part in what he calls the "realization" of a text.1 Jane Tompkins views historical reception as the only way to re-create the original context from which the books emerged and responded to the cultural discourse of their time.2 The history of reception includes those literary and sociological factors that shape individual responses in a given time and place, often called "the horizons of expectation" that frames the impact and interpretation of a work. To Gadamer, the concept of a horizon is "the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point," which includes the shared meanings or "prejudices" of an age.3 A work's first readers are privileged for their proximity to the text's cultural formation and their critical role as the audience of ideal readers—and consumers—for whom a work is conceived. In Jauss's words, the horizon "conditioned the genesis and effect of the work."4 Examining the contemporary reception of a literary work at the moment of its emergence offers insight into why and for whom a work is conceived—an impact that may be lost to a modern reader.
Historicizing the context to a book's reception provides the opportunity to see texts in a different light. Instead of embodying universal themes of transcendent value, literature bears the cultural realities of its age, the national, social, economic, and institutional interests and concerns of an historical context from which texts arise and continue to speak. This way of looking at literature challenges canonical notions and allows for a broader consideration of "literary" and "extraliterary" texts. Children's books and picture books matter and make sense as agency, what Tompkins calls "sensational designs" that seek to move readers and make things happen as "attempts to redefine the social order."5 A text's "cultural work" arises from its influence in the culture as a discourse of power. A literary text's particular historical audience responds to the work in a dialectical relationship by the way it answers the fundamental questions of its age. The questions and answers embedded in a literary work in a particular historical moment can only be understood by a later age through reconstructing the horizons of expectations of that time, which reveal how the readers of that day viewed and understood the work.
Allowing historical contingencies to be part of our perception of literature also offers a glimpse into the politics of reputation. Tompkins considers how works deemed classic are embedded in a network of circumstances, which are political, "since they involve preferences, interests, tastes, and beliefs that are not universal but part of a particular reader's situation."6 Some of these circumstances are artfully crafted, and others are serendipitous interventions by figures of status and influence. Readers are always situated in relation to a work in a particular framework of beliefs and social practices. This insight does not deny a text's aesthetic value but explains, in part, why some texts reach a wide audience and rich reward, while others remain obscure. Whatever a text's intrinsic merit, a literary work succeeds or fails in terms of its cultural production, which includes publishing practices, pedagogical and critical traditions, economic structures, social networks, and national needs. Classics are made, not born.
A key to the interpretation of cultural production lies in the historical studies of reader response criticism. The salient features that shaped literary fashions and critical reputations in the late nineteenth century were embedded in the horizons of expectations of the age—the assumptions of the readership as to childhood and its literature. The horizons of expectations with respect to children's literature in the 1880s and 1890s constituted the framework in which juvenile books were received. These standards are implicit in the Victorian periodicals of the day, in which reviewers and commentators of literary magazines and journals, as well as the popular press, articulated their expectations for literature and art. The careers of Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway must be seen within the context of children's literature with its cultural assumptions and presuppositions, and within the context of periodical publication, in which critics embraced children's books as a valid subject and authorized their existence as text and image. Drawing on reception theory and on my own readings into the cultural discourse on children's books in late nineteenth-century England and America, I construct my sense of the spectrum of these contextual perspectives. I turn to the documentary evidence of the reviews and commentary of contemporary readers, drawing on approximately seventy-five periodicals as representative of the leading review journals of the day, as determined through Poole's Index, Nineteenth-Century Readers' Guide, and Wellesley Index.
My research reveals which periodicals, in part, reviewed children's books, something we have not known in children's book history. Of this number, forty-six periodicals, or 61%, did some reviewing of juvenile literature. On the inclusion of commentary on children's literature, fifty periodicals, or 67%, were represented. Some periodicals that did not review children's books included articles about issues related to children's reading, noted children's book authors, or classic children's books of an earlier era. The high percentage of periodicals covering children's books is significant, considering that most were literary reviews or magazines oriented to a general adult readership. As this late Victorian period was prior to the establishment of professional journals in the field, these periodicals represent the nature and extent of cultural discourse concerning children and their literature.
Based on my reading of the contemporary cultural discourse of the period (1875–1900), and in the process of determining the context for the reception of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway, I constructed the following horizons, realizing that Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway's contemporary reception could be examined only by understanding the larger cultural context of the day: the historical situation of which both the readers and the works were a part.
Victorian Horizons of Expectations
The horizons of expectations with respect to children's literature in the last quarter of the nineteenth century constituted the context in which, I believe, juvenile books were received. The literary discourse of the period can be described as including the following spectrum of positions:
(1) Treatment of children's books as a commodity
(2) Elevation of children's books as works of art
(3) Emphasis on illustration and pictorial effects in literature
(4) Lack of rigid demarcation between adult and children's literature
(5) A growing gender division
(6) Diversification of the didactic tradition
(7) Continuing debate on fantasy and realism
(8) Romantic idealization of childhood and its literature
(9) Attention to the historiography of children's literature
(10) Anxiety about the changing character of children's literature
These characteristics of the literary climate describe the complex and often conflicting critical reception of children's books in the late Victorian period. While these issues have been present to some extent since the advent of children's book publishing in the mid-eighteenth century, they converged to create a unique climate for the reception of children's books in England and America in the late nineteenth century.
Treatment of Children's Books as a Commodity
Victorian children's books were perceived as commodities, in the sense of prizes or rewards, gift books, and toy books. Books as prizes had a long tradition in juvenile publishing. They were originally designed to impart moral guidelines, to reinforce exemplary behavior, and to caution against the evils of intemperance or profanity. The Religious Tract Society, with evangelical leanings, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, with a broader base, were two pioneer publishers in the field whose influence continued throughout the century. By the 1870s prize books were more secular in content and more attractive in appearance. Many of the mainstream publishers, such as Cassell, Routledge, Ward Lock, Nelson, and Nisbet, developed reward series. Reviewers rarely discussed prize books as such, but covered the leading publishers; the Times regularly reviewed new works of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, noting that they excelled in storybooks with a wide range of tone and subject matter.7 The visibility of prize books in the marketplace was most evident in periodical advertisements: the Religious Tract Society announced its list in the Spectator (1879) as "Christmas Presents and School Prizes"; Mudie's headlined an extensive list as "Christmas Presents and Prizes."8
However, while this "prize book" market was more institutional, geared to Sunday Schools and other educational purposes, most of the children's book trade was centered on the home. The multitude of periodicals, the promotion of books as designed for family reading, and the timeliness and publishing zeal in late autumn months for the holiday gift market all pointed to the significance of the family as a responsive market for children's book publishing. For instance, the appearance of children's books at the Christmas season promoted the association of juvenile books as illustrated holiday books or annuals. Illustrated gift books, often called "Keepsakes," "Forget-Me-Nots," or "Friendship's Offering," were produced from the beginning of the nineteenth century. They were essentially booklets of verse, by whatever famous personage could be cited as a contributor, and illustrated with steel engravings. Seasonal themes were common. The gift books were meant to be ornamental, in the style of our "coffee table books" today, something more to adorn a room rather than to be read.
The annuals began to be fashioned into illustrated Christmas stories by popular authors. It was in this tradition that the public received Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843) and Thackeray's The Rose and the Ring (1855). This fashion died out, too, but after this the illustrated magazines revived the "Annual" tradition in their special Christmas numbers. In the late 1860s holiday gift books, illustrating a favorite poem or other literary masterpiece, began to appear on the shelves at Christmastime. Publishers vied with each other as the demand for the books grew. While only a few publishers were associated with the Christmas book trade at mid-century, by 1880, as the Dial noticed, the leading publishers, both English and American, were competing and employing "much of the finest literary, artistic, and inventive talent that clus-ters around the publishing craft."9 Much of this attention was directed to a young audience. The Graphic (1882) noted a marked change in the character of Christmas literature: "Formerly the season produced a host of handsome and elaborately illustrated 'drawing-room' volumes; now such works are few and far between, and publishers' energies seem concentrated on the childish public."10
The concentration of children's book publishing at the Christmas season promoted the notion of the book as commodity. The Times (1883) began one of its Christmas book surveys by connecting the "English manner of celebrating Christmas" and "the development of popular English art." The fashion for exchanging gifts promoted the publishing of books, especially with "the growing taste for reading" and "the publishers of many classes" eager to provide competition.11
Juvenile books regularly appeared approximately two months before Christmas. Most publishers featured children's books only at this season, a practice that elicited commentary. The Graphic considered "how little juvenile literature is published at any other time."12 The Nation noted in 1879, "Every holiday season brings a fresh assortment of stories for the young which, as being new, recommend themselves as gifts and do their share in the cultivation of juvenile ethics."13 In 1880 the Saturday Review commented that the quantity is much more remarkable than the quality: "A flock of brilliant cloth covers, a crowd of woodcuts, is the general impression left on the weary eye and brain"14; in 1882 the journal observed that Christmas books come out earlier all the time, now appearing by late September15; and in 1886 Christmas picture books were "sufficiently numerous to engage the whole of the fabulous family of the old lady that lived in a shoe."16 The Illustrated London News (1882) defined the gift book genre as consisting of handsome editions of popular classics, illustrated with pictorial designs; new flights of fancy, such as narrative poems or fairy tales, also furnished with graphic illustration; and children's books, nursery tales, rhymes, or "new ones specially composed for the beloved infant race of this present time."17 The Graphic stated in 1892 that the juvenile literature of the year was crowded into a few weeks, "a custom too deeply rooted for change."18 This custom, according to the Bookman (1896), impeded literary criticism, since the books appeared as a great bulk, impossible to characterize except in a cursory manner.19
Victorian children's books developed in part from the gift book tradition. John Newbery's pioneer works in the mid-eighteenth century were gift books, containing miscellaneous verse, pictures, and marketing ploys. A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744) included toys as rewards and gimmicks of promotion: balls for boys, pincushions for girls. Nineteenth-century children's books perpetuated these associations with the designation of "toy books." Largely a publisher's invention, the term was used to describe contemporary picture books, often issued in series, which depended for their impact on the use of color. The emphasis was indeed on color, not text, which was often slighted, until Edmund Evans transformed the genre with high quality artistic books: the works of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway.
By 1895, the Dial, noting the proliferation of Christmas books for children, commented that their imaginative composition could "supply a modern school of fiction," but was instead contained in fifty or so volumes of "impractical and impossible extravagances." To Dial, these books potentially might stimulate the heroism and genius of the future, but, more practically, their sheer volume and excess might just as readily "crush them."20
Elevation of Children's Books as Works of Art
Children's books were transformed during this period from utilitarian fare to objects of art. The Dial (1881) admired the beautiful volumes, resplendent in gilt covers and exquisite illustrations, heaped on the booksellers' shelves, and recalled, in contrast, the books of the writer's own childhood, "plain and clumsy to ugliness in their exterior."21 The Art Journal (1881) noted, too, the startling difference between the toy books of twenty years ago and those of the present: the earlier books were described as "primitive" and "clumsy" in conception and craftsmanship, characterized by crude lines and harsh colors, devoid of beauty. Acknowledging Randolph Caldecott's influence, the critic, William Henley, stated, "Art for the nursery has become Art indeed."22 The Magazine of Art (1882) chronicled the rise of illustration in children's books, from its infancy in the mid-eighteenth century when the expectations were low; now the standards were high in the use of paper, type, and, especially, color printing, which gave the books the status to be considered as works of art.23
Gift books and toy books attained artistic status through technical as well as aesthetic changes. The revival of etching and invention of photomechanical methods of reproduction provided a medium for a new school of illustrators. The success of children's magazines stimulated greater attention to book arts. The competition for subscriptions and quality stories and art work raised the standards in general for children's literature.
The decade of the 1880s was attuned to art reform. Aestheticism was the name given to the heightened emphasis on art principles in domestic manufacturing, including furniture, ceramics, textiles, wallpapers, and books that began in mid-nineteenth-century England. Its most visible impact was on architecture, where it was known as the "Queen Anne style." This progressive ideal of style led to a greater interest in aesthetics for children. The Aesthetic movement in illustration was heralded by books written for children, with adults in mind, particularly the work of Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway.
Contemporary reviewers were aware of the phenomenon. Grant Allen in the Fortnightly Review (1879) related the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Crane, and Randolph Caldecott to "the many products of the Queen Anne revival," which he characterized as a reaction to "the formless solidity of the age wherein we live." He astutely observed that literary revivals tended to look back to an idealized world while incorporating touches of the modern spirit as well.24 The Critic (1881) praised the number of excellent toy books on the market, which should help children learn at an early age to distinguish good art from bad.25 The Graphic (1881) surmised that "children of the nineteenth century ought to grow up with well-cultured artistic tastes if they profit by the daintily illustrated books provided for their delectation."26 The Dial (1881) observed that books best show the influence of "art-culture" in America. Children's books were touted as a measure of the progress of the American people in applying art to decorative purposes and to the techniques of art. A skillful use of color—"the last and most sacred element of beauty"—was considered essential. Holiday books for children revealed the extent of this "genuine feeling for the beautiful and a correct interpretation of its laws and possible interpretations."27 This description, which could function, in itself, as a contemporary definition of Aestheticism, suggests how children's books related to the extension of the movement.
A children's book could hope for no higher praise than the word "artistic." Publishers even advertised their books as such. An advertisement by E. P. Dutton in the Critic (1884) was entitled "Artistic Children's Books" and included promotional blurbs that cited one book as a model for students in water-color drawing and another as "the most charming specimen of really artistic children's books that we have met for a long time."28 By the late 1870s, children's books stood at the forefront of fashion, reflecting contemporary artistic motifs and attracting a sizable, sophisticated market.
While the Aesthetic movement peaked in the 1860s–1870s, its influence lingered in the status accorded children's books as art. In 1882 the Graphic noted that Aestheticism was beginning to wane, but not in children's books, where it was more influential than ever. The reviewer mentioned the familiar aesthetic themes still so prominent in juvenile books: "fancies of olden times, soft refined colouring, and humour suggested rather than strongly expressed."29 In 1900, the Dial wrote about Walter Crane's picture books, "the pictures are sufficiently decorative to be used on the nursery walls by lovers of life and beauty."30 Aesthetic principles were embodied in the Arts and Crafts movement, with its emphasis on hand craftsmanship and what the English artist William Morris called "The Book Beautiful."
Emphasis on Illustration and Pictorial Effects in Literature
In the Victorian period art became increasingly important not only in illustrating the text but also in influencing literary discourse. As a visual art, illustration was able to extend the concerns of the journalist and the novelist. In its opening issue in 1842, the Illustrated London News declared that art had become the bride of literature. In the serial novels of Dickens, the illustrations and pictorial narrative worked as one. A public receptive to art was instrumental in the response to illustrated children's books. The use of illustration in both children's and adult literature—picture books, periodicals, and novels—helped to educate the expectations of the public and stimulate a close relationship between books for young and old.
The popularization of visual elaboration coincided with technical progress in printing for a mass audience. The development of wood engraving was instrumental in creating a popular audience for illustration. Wood engraving was a traditional woodcut technique, dating back to the thirteenth century, in which the parts of a design that are to be white are cut away, while the black parts are left in relief. Thus, both text and illustration can be printed together. Wood engraving had been developing steadily since the mastery of the craft by Thomas Bewick (1753–1828), who perfected the process that was used extensively throughout the nineteenth century, which necessitated hard-wood blocks and tools of metal engraving. He demonstrated the effect of light and shade by lowering parts of the block to print faintly and to create delicate designs by using the close-grained end of boxwood. Bewick's techniques were adapted by news periodicals, which found the unity of the page conducive for mass production.
From the 1840s illustrations played a role in periodicals, but by the 1860s visual matter was prominent. Wood engraving was suitable to the large print runs of popular journalism. The development of a workable process of picture reproduction stimulated creativity and the emergence of artists. Professionally trained artists were engaged to illustrate appealing images of Victorian life to accompany serialized fiction, poetry, travel literature, and news stories. Illustration became a staple of popular journalism. The receptivity of the public to these images increased the use of wood engraving to produce publications in greater abundance and economy. The number of new publishers of books and periodicals grew rapidly, as did the reputation of these artists, who enjoyed an unprecedented public following and influence.
Further technical innovations changed the direction of printing by the mid-1860s. Thomas Bolton developed a technique of transferring a photographed image of a drawing to a wooden block, which enabled the engraver to work on the surface and to preserve the original drawing. George Baxter pioneered a process of using aquatinting to produce a design in color; the technique was further refined by J. M. Kronheim to produce similar effects at a lower cost. Color printing by wood engraving was perfected in the work of Edmund Evans, a printer in direct lineage to Bewick. Evans, apprenticed to Ebenezer Landells, a pupil of Bewick, developed a mastery in color printing from wood blocks and worked closely with his artists—Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway—to exploit the possibilities and limitations of the medium. Evans demonstrated that it was possible to produce inexpensive illustrated books of fine color and taste.
Artistic styles and technical methods were further expanded toward the end of the century by Oriental influences and the Arts and Crafts movement, with its revival of interest in early illustration. The tradition of the decorated book had waned over the course of the century, only to be revived by the Pre-Raphaelites, in particular the edition of Tennyson's Poems (1857) and the title page by Rossetti to Early Italian Poems (1861). Book decorators and book printers worked toward an ideal of design as beautiful in its own right and its relationship to the whole of the book. As Walter Crane—who was the person most vocal on the subject—writes, "Book illustration should be something more than a collection of accidental sketches. Since one cannot ignore the constructive organic element in the formation—the idea of the book itself—it is so far inartistic to leave it out of account in designing work intended to form an essential or integral part of the book."31 In effect, the illustrator, often collaborating with the author, became more interested in interpreting the text than in decorating the page, and the whole book—from cover to cover—was now considered text. The emphasis on the visual, on the physical attractiveness of a book, created a stimulating book environment.
Art was so prominent in literature that a writer in the Critic (1883) stated, "The spirit of the times takes much more kindly to the art of the painter than to that of verse-making."32 The prevalence of illustration accompanying text in periodicals and novels affected the expectations of the public for the reading experience. The impact was on the serialization process as well as on the framework of illustrated texts. In suggesting character, advancing plot, stating dialogue, and infusing moral significance, the illustrator's creativity shared the novelist's dramatic quality. The inherent rivalry was exacerbated by a practice of matching text to preexisting pictures. The traditional role of text and illustration was reversed as well in the practice of gift books; often the illustrations were completed first, with verse then written to complement the pictures.
Reviewers frequently noted the dominance of illustration in contemporary literature. To the Critic (1882), "A savage dropped into a modern bookstore would undoubtedly suppose literature to be something to look at; something like Wordsworth's Nature, with 'no charm unborrowed from the eye.'"33 The Literary World (1881) was struck by the proliferation of illustration, once so diffuse, which was now directed toward two distinct lines: "the pictorial poem and the children's quarto."34 The Dial (1880) noted the stock of holiday juvenile books, most of which were illustrated, and commented as an aside, "A holiday book without pictures is like a Christmas pudding without plums."35 To Walter Crane, children's book illustration was the only imaginative outlet available for the creative artist who rebelled against "the despotism of facts."36
Heightened attention to art was perceived by some as a threat to the future of literature. An 1880 essay in Lippincott's on "Cheap Books" attributed a decline in quality literature to the ascendancy of Aestheticism. The author noted, "Literature is out of fashion, and Art is having its day." Art was defined not in the abstract but in the commercial sense—"pocket-art." The public was perceived as seeking not the distinguished literary works of the past but handbooks to art, guides to decoration and ornamentation. In such a cultural climate, books lessened in value as well as cost. All that mattered was art and adornment. The writer was concerned that women's advancement would be jeopardized by a preoccupation with aesthetic touches in artistic needlework and china painting, at the expense of higher goals of intellectual merit.37
Lack of Rigid Demarcation between Adult and Children's Literature
Children's books were read frequently by adults in the nineteenth century. Six of the ten best-sellers in the United States between 1875 and 1895 were children's books: Heidi, Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses, Huckleberry Finn, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and King Solomon's Mines.38 The generation after 1880 was the era of Robert Louis Stevenson, Howard Pyle, L. Frank Baum, Beatrix Potter, and Laura Richards. Richards's poetry was often featured in the Ladies Home Journal, suitably illustrated by Kate Greenaway. The genre of adventure fiction appealed to both children and adults, who made popular such works as Ben Hur, Rudyard Kipling's fables, and the scientific fantasies of Jules Verne as well as the magical creatures of Palmer Cox's The Brownies.
This dual readership was recognized in the reviews. The Atlantic Monthly in 1894 described the phenomenon as "not juvenile literature but books for the big about the little."39 The Times (1889) found that "some of the stories for younger children are far more amusing reading to our minds than nineteen-twentieths of the three-volume novels."40 The Art Journal (1881) distinguished between two classes of children's books: those actually written for children and those catering to "the pleasure of grown-up as well as infantile minds" and noted the continuing trend of publishing high-class works "nominally intended for the little ones, but also catering to the grown-up folks."41 Reviewers frequently made reference to books "delighting all children between the ages of six and sixty," or "pleasing the old as well as the young."
Younger children and adults shared picture books. Older children read books whose subject matter attracted a broad popular audience. Some examples included Charles Dickens's novels, G. A. Henty's imperialistic adventures, James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy, which was described in Murray's Magazine (1887) as "one which appeals equally to the old-young reader and the young-old reader."42
Other evidence exists about the breadth of child/adult reading practices. The Pall Mall Gazette conducted a poll in July 1898 to determine the best books for a ten-year-old. As a summary of children's leisure reading, it was instructive, suggesting the longevity of many of the books that children—and adults—read in the late nineteenth century. Most popular was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, followed by two perennial favorites, the fairy tales of Grimm and Andersen. Robinson Crusoe and Little Lord Fauntleroy followed, with The Water Babies—sixth, The Heroes—seventh, The Jungle Book—eighth, The Pilgrim's Progress—ninth. Next came The Arabian Nights, then Through the Looking-Glass, the books of Alcott, Ivanhoe, and Masterman Ready. Fifteenth were the fairy tale anthologies of Andrew Lang, and the final favorites were the books of Mrs. Molesworth and G. A. Henty.43
Some critics tried to construct or preserve the distinction between books for and books about children. The Art Journal (1883), recounting the history of children's books, noted that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland appealed to both adults and children, and its enormous popularity and commercial success encouraged authors to write for both; the drawback to this approach, of course, was that in trying to please both, an author would please neither.44Blackwood's (1896) stated that books that were "avowedly designed both for children and for grown-up people are apt to please neither."45 Mrs. E. M. Field's The Child and His Book (1891) noted that many recent books for children had not been stories for children, but stories about children, of greater interest to grown people than to the young. While her book surveyed older traditions in children's literature, her comments on the contemporary scene showed some concern for the appropriateness of the dual audience. To Field, contemporary artists were, if anything, "too good." As she said,
The nursery picture-book has a curious tendency to find its way to the drawing-room table and to the smoking-room lounge, even perhaps to the serious study shelf. And uncles and aunts who buy these charming productions "for the children" are frequently discovered to be themselves gloating over them in a corner.
While admiring the beauty of these books, she found some of the older illustrators, such as Bewick, to be superior in their directness and simplicity.46 Horace E. Scudder, the Atlantic Monthly editor, wrote Childhood in Literature and Art in 1894, which distinguished between books in which the child merely furnished the subject matter and those which were written to be read by the children themselves.47 The American Review of Reviews noted this distinction, adding that many children's books were sources of entertainment to grown-up people, and that no rigid classification should be made.48
By the end of the century, there were hints of coming changes. Compared to the prime period of "the Golden Age" of children's book publishing, fewer distinguished prose writers showed an interest in writing for children. The Dial (1901) noticed this tendency and expressed concern for the adverse effects on children's literature. Recalling that the masters of English fiction a generation ago had not found children's books to be beneath them, the reviewer detected "a great gulf" between children's book authors, who "have little or no reputation in the broader paths of literature," and those who wrote for adult audiences.49
A Growing Gender Division
The decades of the 1880s and 1890s displayed a growing consciousness of gender and a more rigid classification of children's books. Reflecting the broader discourse on gender roles, children's books during this period often dealt with themes of the "test of manhood" or "true womanhood." While books for the youngest readers tended to be more gender-inclusive, those for older children divided largely into adventure fiction for boys and domestic chronicles for girls. Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women stood as quintessential examples.
Historians agree that gender division in children's books became a marked trend in the 1860s, the "After-Alice" boom period of publishing. Edward Salmon, a prominent author and authority on children's books in the 1880s and 1890s, addressed the subject in various periodicals and in a collection of essays, Juvenile Literature As It Is (1888). In "What Girls Read," appearing in the Nineteenth Century (1886), Salmon was critical of the writing for girls, not in quality but in subject matter, which lacked the dynamism of boys' books. Domestic dramas, described as "goody-goody," appeared lackluster after the hairbreadth escape of boys' fiction. Girls' books existed as a transition to adult reading and to prepare young women for their social roles ahead. Well-known female authors were discussed, with Alcott the most esteemed. A poll of girls' and boys' reading, conducted by Charles Welsh, indicated a strong preference among both sexes for the works of Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott, and little reference to girls' fiction. While Salmon questioned the validity of the survey, he was struck by the omission and suggested that authors reconsider before producing "another story on the usual lines."50
Reviewers began in earnest to differentiate between boys' and girls' books in the 1890s. Current Literature (1899) defined the gender differences by suggesting that morals should be introduced indirectly into stories, so that little boys would intuitively recognize the requisite qualities behind the heroes of adventure fiction, and little girls would be stirred in their feminine stories with "sweetness and innocence in charming profusion."51 While earlier columns grouped fiction for boys and girls in composite columns labeled "Juveniles," separate divisions now appeared. The Review of Reviews, a periodical originating in 1890 to reprint work from other periodicals, distinguished between them in their coverage of "Gift Literature." The Academy, which had long reviewed children's books and had recently begun a Christmas book supplement, announced in 1900 that "children's books" had become too large a designation, and that distinction would now be made between "Picture Books," "Story Books," and "Books for Boys and Girls."52
From the 1880s, the Times devoted separate review essays to boys' and girls' literature. Of all the reviewing outlets, the Times was the most critical of popular fiction for the young, particularly books written especially for girls. One reviewer in 1885 admitted an unsympathetic response to books written for girls and added complaints about boys' books being monotonous in plot and motive. However, even in the stalest adventure story for boys, there would be some excitement, which contrasted sharply with girls' fiction:
However often the hero may be blown up or shot down … although we know he has more lives than any cat, and are assured that he will be returned to his home and parents, nevertheless there is always the exciting question as to how to scrape through each particular peril; while feminine authors writing for their sex seldom dare or care to stir the pulses, except in a quietly sentimental fashion.53
Commenting in 1886 on girls' fiction, the Times, in another prescient note, suggested that publishers would be more successful "if they occasionally gave a clever authoress her head, remembering that girls, as well as boys, delight in life and action."54 The Dial (1899) noted differences in the quantity of books written for boys and for girls. The reviewer found it curious that fiction for adults was largely peopled with female characters, while fiction for youth was decidedly slanted toward boys' interests.55
A Diversification of the Didactic Tradition
The Victorian age as a whole was preoccupied by moral concerns. As one contemporary essayist wrote in the Bookman (1897), Victorian literature was "a literature of the pulpit—always self-conscious, always 'moral.'"56 Children's literature has been dominated by the didactic tradition from its beginnings: the expectation that books for the young must in some way inform and instruct. The late Victorian period has been distinguished in the literature for its departure from the strictures of didacticism. An essay in Saturday Review (1886) marked this trend in the growing rise of fiction for the young. The writer noted the scarcity of books available earlier in the century, citing a brief canon of acceptable works: books by authors Maria Edgeworth, Sarah Trimmer, Anna Barbauld, Lucy Aiken, and Thomas Day; a few periodicals and an occasional annual; and, in more progressive homes, classics like Gulliver's Travels, Arabian Nights, Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, Tales from Shakespeare, Tales of the Genii, and Rasselas. Now all had changed, as children's books reflected "the development of a theory of fiction-making for the young at which our own worthy fathers and mothers would have stood amazed, if not absolutely 'aghast.'" The writers marveled at the abundance of juvenile stories available, in a variety of illustrations and price. Fiction was now considered appropriate family reading. The author estimated that for every one book of fiction read by the young earlier in the century, fifty fictional works were now consumed.57
A few years later, an 1870 Graphic vividly described the developments in this growing genre. Using the image of the nursery rhyme of Jack Horner and his Christmas pies, the reviewer remembered his own childhood reading, where he felt lucky to find "one plum of incident or adventure amidst the solid mass of suet of instruction and the flour of moral precepts." Contemporary children were now able to have their instruction by itself and their amusement by itself, "unspoiled by any dread of being trapped into 'lessons' in the midst of 'play.'"58
While it has been a commonplace to view the period of the mid-1860s through the turn of the century as "the Golden Age" of imaginative literature, there was no great departure from didactic aims in children's books. Indeed, the 1866 Saturday Review noted the appropriation of fiction by religious authors, whereby "the ingenuous youth of today are to be seduced into the paths of virtue."59 Most children's books throughout the period exhibited pronounced moral or instructive themes, although there were changes in tone. Exemplary behavior could shape destiny, given the right amount of persistence.
One evidence of the survival of didacticism in the late Victorian period was the continued publication of many of the older didactic classics. Books by Sarah Trimmer, Mary Sherwood, and Thomas Day appeared in revised editions, with more engaging illustrations and abridged texts. New editions of Mrs. Trimmer's Fabulous Histories (1786) were reprinted under the more whimsical original subtitle, The History of the Robins, and were published well into the twentieth century. Mrs. Sherwood's The Fairchild Family (three parts, 1817–1847) was reprinted in one-volume editions, with some textual changes. For instance, some of the more extreme religious exhortations were deleted as well as the notorious incident in the book when the children are escorted to a gibbet to see the decaying remains that ensued from quarrelsome behavior. Thomas Day's Sandford and Merton (three parts, 1783–1789) was reprinted many times, translated into French, and appeared in a greatly condensed chapbook edition.
The persistence of instructional works was stimulated by periodical essays and reviews which revived the childhood classics. In the New Review, and reprinted in the Eclectic Magazine, popular author F. Anstey wrote a long tribute to The Fairchild Family, a work of "didactic piety" and "portentous instructiveness" that has maintained its popularity and appeal for "even the most secular-minded child."60 An Academy editorial of 1905 touted the older works for their clarity of vision and directness in discipline, as opposed to "the introspective literature offered to the youth of our day."61Blackwood's, surveying the contemporary landscape of children's literature in 1896, commented that "the collapse of baldly and blatantly didactic literature which took place a quarter of a century ago has not been an unmixed blessing." Tracing the evolution of a new tone in children's literature, the Blackwood's reviewer concluded that the children now have the good fortune of possessing excellent entertainment plus "the pick of the didactic literature, which has lost all its sting." The writer praised the quality of the old didactic tales, which children could still enjoy, especially since they would not take them seriously but would "revel in their archaic oddity."62 Biographical essays appeared on the classic Georgian children's authors, including Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, Anna Barbauld, and Lucy Aiken.
Most discussions of children's books in periodicals of the day included references to didactic intentions. The Outlook included a long essay on "Literature for Children" (1883), which was excerpted in the Critic, in which the author stated that "every story should have an aim or lesson," the truth of which would be revealed, not by explicit authorial observation, but by narrative development.63Current Literature (1900) expressed a similar aim: "Let them have the joy of their childhood in the little time while they may, and make them moral by example rather than by precept—at least, such precepts as are found in books avowedly didactic."64 But adults were counseled to be indirect in their religious exhortation, to avoid, in the words of the Critic (1884), "harping on the golden strings."65
This debate on the virtues of literature was part of the larger discourse on literacy and education. In England, the passage of the Forster Elementary Education Act in 1870, which created state-run elementary Board schools, promoted an awareness of educational needs and created a growing market for the publishers. For the first time the government made provisions to use the power of "the mighty engine of literature," in Matthew Arnold's words. By 1880 Parliament established compulsory education laws for all English children under twelve. The advent of universal education demonstrated the necessity of revising the conventional ideas of moral and social behavior, which had been long established within a settled middle-class society. Educational aims became so dominant that one writer in the Quarterly Review (1886) warned against excluding amusement and reminded readers that it is through the imagination that a child's interest is aroused, without which our "educational labours will be worthless."66
In America, where expansion of public education progressed since the late eighteenth century, expressions of faith in the social and individual benefits of education also influenced the publishing of children's books. The Critic commented in 1887 that educational works were beginning to overwhelm the market. The writer described the field as a table to which the choicest dishes were brought, where "didactic blackbirds vociferating the most useful information are packed, as it were, in innumerable tempting pies."67Current Literature (1888) viewed the growing list of distinguished writers creating books for children as a landmark of American civilization—"this attention to the mental needs of the young."68Dial (1894) noted the phenomenon as well, remarking that "some of the best writers, alive to the importance of this field, are sharing in the production of books of information."69
The didactic tradition was being redefined and reshaped into diverse formats. Earlier evangelical concerns were being replaced by a new scientism, and technical changes in Victorian printing made illustration a prominent feature of publishing for children. While most works in the earlier tradition of the moral tales were unillustrated, since illustration was perceived as incompatible with earnest content, contemporary instructive works exploited the potential of the pictorial effect. Picture books offered a new format for conveying instructive messages. The growth of literacy and the expansion of the reading and visually oriented public shaped a diversified object and medium for children's books.
Continuing Debate on Fantasy and Realism in Literature for Children
The question of whether fact or fantasy was more appropriate reading for children has deep roots in the nineteenth century. The early reformists like Maria Edgeworth and Sarah Trimmer were concerned with educating children to live in a material world and feared that children's imaginations might be damaged by contact with mystical worlds of enchantment and mystery. Fairy tales were a subject of controversy. Fantasy in general had long been considered objectionable because it blurred truth and fiction and because it distracted children from the serious business of learning facts and moral lessons. The first objection, that fairy tales were untruthful, persisted in one form or another throughout the century, although it diminished over time. The second objection, that fairy tales were frivolous distractions from serious pursuits, was particularly pronounced during the first third of the nineteenth century, when children's books were invariably instructional in nature.
The issue continued to be debated in the periodical press into the late nineteenth century. In 1895, a column in Punch, "Meeting of Fairy Folk," satirized an article from the Educational Times by a Mr. H. Holman, school inspector, who expressed his aversion to the fairy tales for their primitive, immoral nature. Punch then imagined the fairy tale characters meeting to protest their expulsion from the nursery and to defend their intrinsic utilitarian worth.70Good Words also commented on Holman's views, citing his recently published book, Education: An Introduction to Its Principles and Their Psychological Foundations,71 which included a critique of fairy tales as "intellectual and moral atavism."72 While Holman questioned fairy tales for their unrealistic depiction of experience beyond a child's world, William Canton's column in Good Words affirmed that very quality as a virtue, the anticipation of "a world of delight beyond the region of law." To Holman's claim that facts provided satisfying subject matter, Canton argued that the cost was too great: the acquisition of "a handful of crude facts" at the expense of "that divine sense of wonder, that spiritual vision, that imaginative sympathy."
Punch could well jest, and Good Words rejoin, particularly since esteemed scholars like Andrew Lang shared their sentiment. As a prominent man of letters, Lang helped to popularize fairy tales and to impart an academic respectability to the field. Current Literature (1890) called Lang "unquestionably the foremost literary power in London at the present time."73 His fairy book series, which began with the Blue Fairy Book in 1889 and ended with the Lilac Fairy Book in 1910, helped to shape a receptive public. To Lang, folktales were not the debased remains of higher literary myths, but the very foundation of them. Lang's name was cited in an essay on fairy tales in All the Year Round (1893), in which the author urged the creation of such tales for adults, described as "the children who have grown up."74
Fairy tales became fashionable fare in many literary magazines of the period. Even publications which normally did not cover children's literature included pieces on fairy tales as reading for adults. In Pall Mall Magazine, Evelyn Sharp commemorated Hans Christian Andersen's publishing centennial and acknowledged that fairy tales led the children first and the grown-ups afterwards.75 The Nineteenth Century included scholarly studies of fairy tales, notably "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots."76 The Gentleman's Magazine revealed a newly discovered fairy tale in verse by Charles Lamb.77 The Edinburgh Review (1898) published an extensive history of "Fairy Tales as Literature," which was one of many that expressed what the author called "the gospel of childhood's imagination." Fairy tales were viewed as opening the door to the nursery for the adult, so that the eyes of the child lingered on in the adult as "eclipsed illusions." Even when the adult learned the scientific basis of reality, there would still remain a link to "the imagination of grown years with the fairy-nurtured imaginations of the nursery."78
America seemed more resistant to fairy tale enchantment, and the reviewers lamented this opposition. A reviewer in the Critic (1887) stated pragmatically, "Fairy-tales are hardly in fashion. If you doubt it, write one for the children's magazines, and see what becomes of it."79 An editorial in Current Literature (1900), in defense of fairy tales, expressed the main objection to be an exploitation of the supernatural "to an objectionable and harmful extreme."80 An essayist in the journal Education (1900) argued that "well meaning but unimaginative teachers" substituted books of facts for books of fancy, whereas fairy tales had a strong ethical element that expressed symbolically the truths of Nature.81 What was peculiar to American children's literature was an emphasis on practicalities and self-reliance rather than imaginative play, exemplified in the popular "Peter Parley" series. These instructional works on the subjects of history, natural science, geography, biography, and mythology featured a fictionalized narrator and generous use of illustrations. As late as 1897, the Dial noted the prevalence of factual books of this type, which they attributed to "the worship of false gods."82 The reviewer lamented the lack of imaginative content, citing barely half a dozen books that "give the imagination a chance to grow." He decried the absence of fairy tales, which had a truth and authenticity that spoke to the needs of generations of children. The reviewer quoted a current essay by Harry Thurston Peck, who called for a "Renaissance of the Natural, when they will no more be fed with formulas and made to learn so many improving things." Dial (1897) noted that children were so satiated with formulas and facts, with "only practical commonplaces to digest," that the imagination was threatened by "death from inanition."83
Romantic Idealization of Childhood and Its Literature
The 1880s and 1890s were an age of romanticism and escapism. The National Review (1891) repeated the description of the period as "the Age of Children."84Good Words (1904) described the nineteenth century as "the Children's Century," noting the enhanced value placed on the child, as the subject of reform movements as well as scholarly studies and fictional narratives.85Scribner's (1898) explored the literary preoccupation with the child as "a second childhood in literature," in which writers looked back to a "golden age" for solace in uncertain times.86
Aestheticism had popularized childhood as a contrast to the excesses of modern technology, its commercial vulgarity and industrial blight. The aesthetes of the Queen Anne movement looked back to a greener time, an older time. Country life, not town life, was preferable. The old-fashioned became fashionable. The adjectives "delicate," "quaint," and "old-fashioned" were high praise, epitomizing a nostalgic romanticism of the past. The late Victorians envi-sioned childhood as preserving the innocent world that adults had lost. Childhood was considered a separate state of life, and the child became the focus of major imaginative and philosophical speculation—as well as commercial exploitation. Childhood for the Victorians became a symbol of mediation in a period of spiritual crisis. One poem in particular became the cultural text for this mediation—Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (1807). Throughout the nineteenth century, lines from this poem were summoned to evoke sentiment for reform as well as nostalgia. The child was viewed as one who was fresh from God and still remembered a heavenly home, while the aura surrounding childhood faded into the common light of adulthood. Writers indulged themselves in an imaginary return to the simplicity of childhood. Scribner's (1896) noted the outpouring of child literature, which seemed to be more about the child than for the child, more an expression of a state of mind than a dramatic literature. Adults seemed to be receiving, in their words, "unalloyed enjoyment" out of this new child literature, which was enjoying a kind of Elizabethan age.87 The Atlantic Monthly observed the trend as well. In a review of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The One I Knew Best of All, the reviewer noted the prevalent fashion of interpreting the life of the imaginative child in terms that produced not "juvenile literature," but "books for the big about the little."88 The Critic (1901) noted in an article, "The Literary Cult of the Child," that the nineteenth century had indeed discovered childhood, that it had awakened to its "dramatic" and "picturesque" possibilities, and that the effect of the child-cult was not its moral effects but its artistic value.89 The image of the pastoral garden of childhood was pronounced for a whole framework of authors making up "the Golden Age" of children's literature: Charles Kingsley, Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald, Louisa Alcott, Richard Jeffries, Kenneth Grahame, E. Nesbit, Beatrix Potter, J. M. Barrie, and A. A. Milne. Children were viewed as having a clear, even heightened vision of the world so that by the end of the century, children and childhood became critical elements in the literary imagination.
Such romanticism became sentimentalized in the popular culture. The Illustrated London News (1890) described the broad nostalgic appeal of childhood:
The pleasures of children supply the sweetest part of parents' pleasures; and to many a kindly heart, among good old maids and other childless persons, or the aged whose own sons and daughters have grown up to men and women, there is nothing so delightful, in the whole spectacle of life, as the innocent joys of the little people, without whose presence the world, indeed, would be horridly dull and dreary.90
The periodicals reflected this iconization of the child in popular culture. In advertising, these images were used to peddle soap, insurance, silverware, or literature. Infants reading a book graced the 1880s cover of Tinsley's Magazine, a literary review of adult fiction. The child was extolled as "The New Hero," in an article by that title in the English Illustrated Magazine (1883), which was revived more than a decade later in the Review of Reviews.91 Articles began to appear on the social welfare of children, on the reading responses of slum children to popular books. An essay in Atlantic Monthly (1901), "The Child in the Library," began, "He was an only child and a motherless one," and then chronicled the great works of literature within the library that provided solace.92
Romanticism was also evident in the historical themes prevalent in art and literature. There was a revival of interest in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, the Regency period that represented to the late Victorians a simpler, more innocent time, just as for the Pre-Raphaelites the medieval period served as an alternative image to its modern age. Grant Allen noted in the Fortnightly Review (1879) "the many revivals of the Queen Anne period," in which are found "touches of the modern spirit everywhere interwoven with the older style."93 The Dial (1899) related the contemporary trend of historical fiction—tales of colonial times—to romantic yearnings for a nation's childhood at a time of enormous growth into maturity. Leaving behind simpler times, the country looked back to its origins, "when the nation was still in swaddling clothes."94
Attention to the Historiography of Children's Literature
The growing attention to classic books reflected the backward glance of romanticism. As the culture focused on the golden past, it looked to its own literature of childhood. The remembered books of the turn of the century were perceived as more wholesome, less corrupted by the marketplace. The Spectator (1899) examined "Modern Nursery Books" and concluded that contemporary authors would be well-advised to return to the old models.95 Mrs. E. M. Field did just that in her history, The Child and His Book (1891), ending her discussion with books of the 1820s.96 Art critic and editor Gleeson White wrote a seminal essay on the history of children's book illustration that consumed the whole issue of Studio(1897–98).97 Andrew Tuer compiled Pages and Pictures from Forgotten Children's Books (1898), Stories from Old-Fashioned Children's Books (1898), and wrote the definitive work, The History of the Horn-Book (1899).98 Facsimiles began to appear of classic books like Goody Two-Shoes, with an introduction by Charles Welsh, noted bibliophile and biographer of John Newbery.99 The first textbook anthology of "Classics for Children" appeared in 1885 by the press of Ginn, Heath & Company, to the rave reviews of the Dial.100
Essays on the history of children's literature appeared in a wide range of periodicals, some of which did not regularly cover children's books: the Atlantic Monthly reviewed "The History of Children's Books" (1888) by Caroline Hewins, the children's library pioneer who was busily promoting old and new in the Library Journal101; the Strand surveyed "Grandfather's Picture-Books" (1892), "Favorite Books of Childhood" (1894), and "Some Old Children's Books" (1898)102; Eclectic Magazine reprinted an article that appeared in New Review, a tribute to "On an Old-Fashioned Children's Book: The History of the Fairchild Family," (1896) by popular author F. Anstey103; Blackwood's surveyed contemporary literature in "On Some Books for Boys and Girls" (1896), concluding with an historical appraisal104; the New England Magazine offered Charles Welsh's "The Early History of Children's Books in New England" (1899)105; Critic savored "Christmas Books of the Past" (1899), finding most contemporary holiday books "unwholesome and depressing"106; Longman's explored "Some Eighteenth-Century Children's Books" (1901)107; and, in that same year, Edinburgh Review covered "Schoolroom Classics in Fiction."108 The interest in the origins and development of children's books indicate a maturing field, an independent branch of literature, and a romantic longing for the past—for one's own childhood reading and the childhood of the genre.
Anxiety about the Changing Character of Children's Literature
To establish a canon of childhood literature became critical as its very foundations were considered threatened. The field was being glutted with cheap publications, products of the new rotary press, which made accessible what was popularly called "sensational fiction." The "penny dreadfuls," as they were known in England, or "the dime novels," as they were known in America, created great turmoil in the press. Many in the educational establishment felt threatened by such encroachment on the perceived purity of literature for the young. To Edward Salmon, "no element of sweetness and light" entered their dark forays into bloody revenge and base passions, improbably plotted and crudely executed.109 Others nostalgically looked back to the simpler texts of their childhood and reminisced over the great classics so removed from what was now, in the words of the Dial (1888), "the large amount of trash which goes under the name of children's literature."110 A few argued for greater tolerance of popular literature. One notable example was the essay, "Sensational Literature," in All the Year Round (1892), in which the author examined the conventional wisdom about the adverse effects of cheap publications on culture and morality and refuted the charges in a strong defense of popular literature.111
More common was the sentiment expressed by H. V. Weisse in "Reading for the Young" that cheap literature poisons the mind with its dubious moral tone and unwholesome stimulus; Weisse even suggested that a life of crime might result from such literary consumption.112 The essayist in Outlook's "Reading for Children" (1901) pointed out that the matter of reading was of great importance and presented "so many perplexities" to parents eager to train the impressionable child.113 In 1886, the Quarterly Review, after surveying new editions of the great classics, called—"pleads" is its word—for a guide to children's books.114 The following decade would provide an abundance of such guides, in the way of polls, reading lists, essay reviews and published books. One British newspaper, the Daily News, organized a survey of "the best one hundred books for children," the results of which appeared in the Academy and were reprinted in the Eclectic.115 This cultural discourse over children's books articulated the formation of a canon, a prescribed list of revered texts, which the Victorians were the first to create and redefine according to a complex historical process that involved aesthetic ideals, educational theories, psychological insight, and contemporary fashion. These perceived classics function within the horizons of expectations, which to the late Victorians included a cultural consciousness of children and their growth toward "life and beauty," two hallowed words that were common to contemporary reviews and that, curiously enough, also described the themes of the great works of the "Golden Age" of children's literature.
Past and Present
As the nineteenth century neared its end, children's literature was shaping its identity as a separate genre and fledgling field of no small import. At the same time, children's literature was being shaped by the diverse expectations of its many publics. The literary marketplace swelled with children's books, second only to novels in book production, as the yearly notices in the Bookman indicate. The horizons of expectations for Victorian children's books, as expressed through contemporary reviews and commentary, reinforced the notion of a literature taken seriously. The horizons suggest the deep significance for the Victorians of a literature of childhood.
My construction of the horizon of expectations yields the following assumptions about the late Victorian, Anglo-American cultural landscape.
First, the treatment of children's books as a commodity revealed the profitability of children's books in the marketplace, the appropriation of the gift book genre, and the association of children's books as holiday fare and family reading.
Second, the elevation of children's books as works of art indicated a dual audience for picture books, an aesthetic autonomy, and a perceived status as the apotheosis of art-culture.
Third, the emphasis on illustration and pictorial effects in literature lent a credibility to children's literature as a highly visual narrative form.
Fourth, the lack of rigid demarcation between adult and children's literature created broad appeal for picture books and adventure fiction and encouraged the participation of the literati.
Fifth, the growing gender division led to further classification of children's books by gender and age categories, the expansion of the juvenile market, and the disappearance of a unified audience.
Sixth, the diversification of the didactic tradition reflected the attention of the commercial trade to secular moralities and the move from narrow prescription and instruction toward the satisfaction of a wider range of interests.
Seventh, the continuing debate on fantasy and realism reflected the overt rejection of didacticism, the belated effects of romantic sensibilities, the conflicts of puritanism and scientism, and the adoption of the fairy tale as a fashionable Victorian genre.
Eighth, the romantic idealization of childhood and its literature invested the child with cult status, brought child-study to the forefront of scholarly and popular interests, and distinguished between books for and about children.
Ninth, attention to the historiography of children's literature developed out of scholarly interest in book collecting, bibliography, and the book arts, a romantic nostalgia for childhood reading, and a conservative response to a rising tide of pluralism.
Tenth, anxiety about the changing character of children's literature was expressed in research and in the criticism of children's books, the articulation of a literary canon of classic works, and the perception of the book as tool rather than art.
These horizons, in my reading of a vast landscape of discourse, informed the criticism and commentary on children's books in the late nineteenth century. Publishers created a niche for children's books, which became enlarged through expanding literacy as well as periodical coverage in reviews, commentary, and advertisements. The result was an unprecedented reviewing of children's literature in the leading literary periodicals of the day and a heightened awareness of children's social, educational, and artistic development. Specialized children's libraries and children's book publishing followed, along with the professionalism of these new networks.
The influence of these Victorian horizons persists into the twentieth century. In a continuity of cultural discourse, one horizon leads into another. While modern reading of Victorian children's books differs decidedly from the contemporary reception, we view these books with subtle lines of influence leading the reading backward and forward in time. Their horizons form part of our own. Curious variations of expectations exist in the reception of children's books in the late-twentieth century, some of these which have historical roots in the late nineteenth century. Unlike the extensive coverage of the mainstream literary press, children's books are now reviewed in a vast professional framework of publications and yet virtually ignored by literary periodicals. The public knows only the few leading names of bestselling titles or larger than life figures like Maurice Sendak. Debate continues over the book as text or tool, as instruction or amusement. Fantasy and imagination are suspect. Didacticism is diversified into social messages and technological formats that reflect and shape competing ideologies. In a hot-wired electronic culture, children learn nonlinearity and interactivity. The publishing of children's books is largely directed to adult consumers and a mass market. Multinational corporations, with children's book publishing a small subsidiary of their big business, control the literature of childhood. The book itself as historical and aes-thetic artifact is threatened with extinction. Some predict the end of childhood as we knew it or would wish it to be. Experts construct lists of the best books of the century and debate such canons. Literacy is defined by those who not only can read but who continue to do so beyond the schoolroom. Children and their literature are both marginalized and mythologized. The contemporary interest comes from familiar provinces of psychological, sociological, political, and spiritual needs as the modern age, like the late Victorian, turns a new century.
1. Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 274.
2. Tompkins, xiii.
3. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward, 1975), 269.
4. Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981), 146.
5. Tompkins, xi.
6. Tompkins, 9.
7. "Christmas Books," Times (December 20, 1883), 8.
8. Spectator 52 (December 6, 1879), 1549, 1555.
9. "Books for the Holidays," Dial (December 1880), 159.
10. "Christmas Books," Graphic (November 4, 1882), 494.
11. "Christmas Books," Times (November 20, 1883), 4.
12. "Christmas Books," Graphic (October 20, 1888), 418.
13. "Christmas Books," Nation (December 11, 1879), 408.
14. "Christmas Books," Saturday Review (November 20, 1880), 655.
15. "Christmas Books," Saturday Review (November 25, 1882), 711.
16. "Christmas Books," Saturday Review (November 27, 1886), 733.
17. "Illustrated Gift-Books," Illustrated London News (October 28, 1882), 454.
18. "The Christmas Bookshelf," Graphic (October 29, 1892), 534.
19. "Books for Boys and Girls," Bookman (December 1896), 385.
20. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1895), 339.
21. "Illustrated Juveniles," Dial (December 1881), 182.
22. W. E. Henley, "Randolph Caldecott," 212.
23. "Art in the Nursery," Magazine of Art (December 1882), 129.
24. Grant Allen, "Some New Books," Fortnightly Review (July 1, 1879), 154.
25. "Children's Books," Critic 1 (November 5, 1881), 307.
26. "Christmas Books," Graphic (November 5, 1881), 471.
27. "Illustrated Juveniles," Dial (December 1881), 180.
28. "E. P. Dutton's & Co.'s New Books," Critic (December 6, 1884), xi.
29. "Christmas Books," Graphic (November 18, 1882), 559.
30. "Pictures and Stories for Little Readers," Dial (December 1900), 507.
31. Walter Crane, Of the Decorative Illustration of Books Old and New (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1896), 174.
32. James Herbert Morse, "Robert Browning," Critic (June 9, 1883), 263.
33. "Children's Books," Critic (December 2, 1882), 327.
34. "Illustrated Books," Literary World (September 24, 1881), 327.
35. "Books for the Holidays," Dial (December 1880), 163.
36. Walter Crane, Of the Decorative Illustration, 158.
37. "Our Monthly Gossip," Lippincott's (May 1880), 641.
39. "Books for and about Children," Atlantic Monthly (June 1894), 853.
40. "Christmas Books," Times (December 5, 1889), 13.
41. "Children's Christmas Books," Art Journal (December 1881), 380, 408.
42. "Our Literary List," Murray's Magazine (March 1887), 288.
43. Gillian Avery, Nineteenth-Century Children: Heroes and Heroines in English Children's Stories, 1780–1900 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1965), 137.
44. "Children's Books," Art Journal (January 1883), 21.
45. "On Some Books for Boys and Girls," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (March 1896), 389.
46. Mrs. E. M. Field, The Child and His Book (London: Wells Gardner, Darton, 1891), 314.
47. Horace E. Scudder, Childhood in Literature and Art, With Some Observations on Literature for Children (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1894).
48. "Juvenile Literature," American Review of Reviews (December 1894), 698.
49. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1901), 449.
50. Edward Salmon, "What Girls Read," Nineteenth Century (October 1886), 449-50.
51. "Juvenile Literature," Current Literature (March 1899), 206.
52. "Books for Children," Academy (December 8, 1900), 558.
53. "Christmas Books," Times (December 9, 1885), 13.
54. "Christmas Books," Times (December 21, 1886), 13.
55. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1899), 432.
56. Clement K. Shorter, "The Reader: Victorian Literature," Bookman (January 1897), 58.
57. "Notes for Family Reading," Saturday Review (February 24, 1886), 238.
58. "Children's Christmas Books," Graphic (December 17, 1870), 590.
59. "Notes for Family Reading," Saturday Review (February 24, 1866), 238.
60. F. Anstey, "On an Old-Fashioned Children's Book," Eclectic (May 1896), 698.
61. M. E. Francis, "A Literary Causerie," Academy (September 9, 1905), 825.
62. "On Some Books for Boys and Girls," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (March 1896), 387.
63. "Literature for the Young," Critic (May 26, 1883), 243.
64. "Fairy Literature," Current Literature (June 1900), 246.
65. Edward Hale, "On Writing for Children," Critic (December 6, 1884), 267.
66. "Books and Reading," Quarterly Review (1886), 512.
67. "Minor Notices of Books for the Young," Critic (December 3, 1887), 285.
68. "General Gossip of Authors and Writers," Current Literature (December 1888), 472.
69. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1894), 339.
70. "Meeting of Fairy Folk," Punch (December 14, 1895), 287.
71. H. M. A. Holman, Education: An Introduction to Its Principles and Their Psychological Foundations (London: Isbister, 1896).
72. "Bits about Books," Good Words (1896), 214.
73. "General Gossip of Authors and Books," Current Literature (April 1890), 333.
74. "Fairy Tales," All the Year Round (August 26, 1893), 199.
75. Evelyn Sharp, "Footsteps to Fairyland," Pall Mall Magazine (January 1901), 132.
76. W. R. S. Ralson, "Cinderella," Nineteenth Century (November 1879), 832-53; "Puss in Boots," Nineteenth Century (January 1883), 84-104.
77. Richard Herne Shepherd, "An Unknown Fairy-Tale in Verse by Charles Lamb," Gentleman's Magazine (August 1885), 188-96.
78. [Una Ashworth Taylor], "Fairy Tales as Literature," Edinburgh Review (July 1898), 59.
79. "Minor Notices of Books for the Young," Critic (December 3, 1887), 285.
80. "Fairy Literature," Current Literature (June 1900), 246.
81. Anna Hamlin Wikel, "The Child and His Book," Education (May 1900), 544.
82. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1897), 342.
83. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1897), 342.
84. H. Sutton, "Children and Modern Literature," National Review (December 1891), 507.
85. Florence Maccunn, "Children's Story-Books," Good Words (1904), 341.
86. "The Point of View: The Golden Age—Second Childhood in Literature," Scribner's Magazine (January 1898), 123.
87. "The Point of View: 'The Child's Garden'—of Verses and Other Literature," Scribner's Magazine (April 1896), 519.
88. "Books for and about Children," Atlantic Monthly (June 1894), 853.
89. Louise Betts Edwards, "The Literary Cult of the Child," Critic (August 1901), 167.
90. "Joies D'Enfants," Illustrated London News (December 13, 1890), 739.
91. Theodore Watts, "The New Hero," English Illustrated Magazine (December 1883), 181-990; "The 'New Hero' and His Picture Books," Review of Reviews (1897), 604.
92. Edith Lanigan, "The Child in the Library," Atlantic Monthy (January 1901), 121.
93. Grant Allen, "Some New Books," Fortnightly Review (July 1, 1879), 154.
94. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1899), 432-33.
95. "Modern Nursery Books," Spectator (December 2, 1899), 841-42.
96. Mrs. E. M. Field, The Child and His Book (London: Wells Gardner, Darton, 1891).
97. Gleeson White, "Children's Books and Their Illustrators," Studio (Winter 1897–98), 3-68.
98. Andrew Tuer, Pages and Pictures from Forgotten Children's Books (London: Leadenhill, 1898); Stories from Old-Fashioned Children's Books (London: Leadenhill, 1898); History of the Horn-Book (London: Leadenhill, 1899).
99. Goody Two-Shoes, facsimile reprint of 1766 ed. with introduction by Charles Welsh (London: Griffith & Farran, 1881).
100. "Briefs on New Books," Dial (June 1885), 51.
101. Caroline Hewins, "The History of Children's Books," Atlantic Monthly (January 1888), 112-26.
102. "Grandfather's Picture Books," Strand (1892), 199-208; Francis Low, "Favorite Books of Childhood," Strand (1894, 128-36; Alice Waters, "Some Old Children's Books," Strand (1898), 32-40.
103. F. Anstey, "On an Old-Fashioned Children's Book," Eclectic (May 1896), 698-705.
104. "On Some Books for Boys and Girls," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (March 1896), 386-91.
105. Charles Welsh, "The Early History of Children's Books in New England," New England Magazine (March 1899), 147-60.
106. Annie Russell Marble, "Children's Books of the Past," Critic (December 1899), 1122-32.
107. L. Allen Harker, "Some Eighteenth-Century Children's Books," Longman's (October 1901), 548-57.
108. "Schoolroom Classics in Fiction—A Survey," Edinburgh Review (October 1901), 414-37.
109. Edward Salmon, "What Boys Read," Edinburgh Review (1886), quoted in "What Boys Read," Punch (February 20, 1886), 96.
110. "Books for the Young," Dial (December 1888), 211.
111. "Sensational Literature," All the Year Round (September 24, 1892), 294-300.
112. H. V. Weisse, "Reading for the Young," Contemporary Review (1901); "Reading for the Young," Eclectic (September 1901), 228-46.
113. "Reading for Children," Outlook (December 7, 1901), 866.
114. "Books and Reading," Quarterly Review (1886), 512.
115. "The Best Hundred Books for Children," Eclectic (June 1900), 802.
Patricia Demers (essay date 1989)
SOURCE: Demers, Patricia. "Walter Crane's The Baby's Opera: A Commodious Dwelling." In Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature, Volume Three: Picture Books, edited by Perry Nodelman, pp. 46-54. West Lafayette, Ind.: ChLA Publishers, 1989.
[In the following essay, Demers provides an introduction to the life and canon of "Golden Age" illustrator and author Walter Crane, paying particular attention to his seminal work The Baby's Opera, A Book of Old Rhymes with New Dresses and noting the various influences that inspired his oeuvre.]
Artist and teacher, enthusiast and critic, romantic and socialist, Walter Crane devoted his life to the ideal of beautification. He remains a byword for elegance and design in illustration. We are still attracted by the gentle drape of the gowns and balletic grace of his women, by the cheerful insouciance of his children and the muscular proportions of his men, and by his often humorous exploitation of the full page. Symbols, emblems and quirky jokes so abound in his vibrantly coloured work that few of his real fans need to search for the identifying signature rebus (a bird and W within a semi-circle): we instantly recognize the Crane "look."
In his Papers and Addresses on Art and Craft and the Commonweal (1911), Crane enumerated these "essential qualities of beauty": "harmony, proportion, balance, simplicity, charm of form and colour" (William Morris to Whistler 214). Unfortunately, some of Crane's admirers have isolated certain of these features and disregarded others, making their commentaries on his work clear examples of the Aesopic moral that "the story depends on the teller."
For instance, Edmund Evans, the water-colour artist and businessman who worked with Crane, recognized him as "a genius," and was especially impressed with the accuracy of Crane's animal drawings, which were executed "in the most intelligent way, without a fraction of hesitation in the line" (32). This "great ability in drawing," fostered no doubt by Crane's three-year apprenticeship to the engraver J. W. Linton and his frequent visits to London's Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park, distinguished his earliest collaborations with Evans—Railroad Alphabet and Farmyard Alphabet (1865)—and also sparked the success of the sixpence Toy Books of 1865–86 and the larger shilling series of Toy Books of 1874–76.
Quite differently, it is Crane's fascination with the black outlines and flat colours of the Japanese printmakers Hokusai, Hiroshige and Bari in the late eighteen sixties, and his absorption in the Renaissance masters during his extended honeymoon in Italy (1871–73), that inform William Feaver's comments on his "pure but eclectic manner." According to Feaver, Crane set a standard for "stylish quality": "one could assume that every item he showed was available from Liberty's shop in Regent Street" (16). As the first president of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, an association of painters "against the Royal Academy and its narrow views of art and exclusiveness" (Crane, William Morris 95), Crane secured a platform for his passionate views about the needed blend of utility and beauty in all the interrelated aspects of daily living—clothes, furniture and architecture. "Modern life," Crane said in discussion "Of the Progress of Taste in Dress in Relation to Art Education," lacked "beauty and romance" because it was "ruled by the dead weight of the prosaic, the prudent, the timid, the respectable …" (185). In fact, because Crane declared in his Reminiscences (1904) that his work was the "vehicle" of his ideas, Alan Suddon has made Crane's essay about taste in dress the basis of an argument about the surprising, venturesome and uncorsetted costumes of Crane's illustrations. Suddon goes as far as to suggest that the non-restricting kimono styles modelled by Crane's nursery adults actually influenced the softer lines of turn-of-the-century and Edwardian fashion.
Evans, Feaver, and Suddon are all partially right. But Crane is more than a gifted line drawer, or a purveyor of stylized Japonaiserie, or a Pre-Raphaelite couturier. He heralds an exuberant development in the design of children's books, particularly because he demonstrates that a book can be a work of art: in his own words in "A Decorative Ideal," "the home of both thought and vision" (Ideals 184).
Not only does Crane's extended, poetic description of a book as a commodious dwelling provide a fine introduction to his work for children, it also establishes Crane's place as an artist in his own time. His remarks about books emerge from a discussion of one of the foremost innovations of his era: photographic reproduction, which was as transforming in his day as computer technology is in our own. While Crane was quick to realize its advantages, he was not unaware of the losses involved. Among the most significant of these, in his opinion, was the confusion and deterioration of "the faculty of inventive design, and the sense of ornament and line." Since complete control and mastery of the layout of each page was an essential tenet, it is natural that he would want a book to beckon its reader, not with a rough hewn realism but with its friendly "architectural plan." He envisions the reader welcomed by the "facade" of the frontispiece, the "inscription over the porch" of the title page and the "votive wreath" of the dedication, and being led by the author and artist "from room to room, as page after page is turned, fairly decked and adorned with picture, and ornament, and device; and, perhaps, finding it a dwelling after his desire, the guest is content to rest in the ingle nook in the firelight of the spirit of the author or the play of fancy of the artist" (184).
Crane's own fancy never disappoints a reader. From the earliest eight-page, paperbound Toy Books of 1865–66—Sing a Song of Sixpence, Cock Robin, The House that Jack Built, Dame Trot and Her Comical Cat and The Waddling Frog—to the more stylistically advanced work in this format of 1867–69—1, 2 Buckle My Shoe, Multiplication Table in Verse and Grammar in Rhyme—he ingeniously blended text and illustration on each page. With the improved colour processing of later works like Old Mother Hubbard, Little Red Riding Hood and The Sleeping Beauty, with Crane's easy self-portraiture as the master of Puss in Boots (1873), and with the splendid double-page centrefolds of each of the shilling Toy Books—especially Goody Two Shoes, Beauty and the Beast, The Yellow Dwarf, Bluebeard, Princess Belle Etoile and Aladdin—his reputation in the forefront of children's book illustration was assured. We can hunt for the Botticelli-inspired poses in Beauty and the Beast, point to the influence of Pre-Raphaelitism in Princess Belle Etoile, notice the confusion of Japanese and Chinese styles in Aladdin and ferret out the Flaxman bias in The Yellow Dwarf; but the essential thing is the unique stamp of design and execution that marks Crane's work.
Only with the publication of The Baby's Opera in 1877, however, did Crane's intense love of detail, powerful line and instinct for full-page adornment truly affect the final product. The Baby's Opera signals the beginning of his mature work for many reasons. Although the texts are still borrowed and traditional, in this case "old rhymes … by the earliest masters" chosen and arranged by Crane's beloved sister Lucy, the "dresses" he concocts for them are wonderfully new. In this charming book tailored to the small hand (16.8 × 15.7 cm.) and captivating young and old reader alike, each of the thirty-six rhymes and eleven complete illustrations is full of Crane's personal response to the particular nursery ditty. His borders picture the song, not merely by encapsulating its events but by echoing its rhythms, exploiting its humour and emblematizing its world. They also frame these simply played tunes with an extended palate of colors, ranging from sienna to gamboge, flesh tint to bisque, azure to deep marine.
Crane's quietly unobtrusive "architectural plan" nevertheless controls the whole book. The jovially rotund figure of King Cole drawing on his hookah and beaming at his musicians, who are clad in jerkins embroidered with emblems of their art, supplies the facade. What could be friendlier, we wonder, than the inscription over the porch of Crane's title page, with one line of feline fiddlers and another of a nursery rhythm band framing the stage curtain that announces this production. Encircled in laurel and enjoying the central position is the infant, rattle in one hand and book in the other, while a knowledgeable-looking long-billed bird peeks out from the side of the screen. The book is dedicated to Mrs. George Howard (whose husband later became the ninth Earl of Carlisle); the votive wreath for this page consists of a baby gleefully sailing in a coracle-lyre that is prowed with a crane and propelled, we assume, by the Aeolian breeze of the artist Crane's fancy. The book's own medallion, on the verso of the title page, features an infant Pan or Orpheus charming the animals with his pipe and sitting beneath a tree festooned with a palate bearing Crane's rebus and a banner marked with a double E, to indicate his collaboration with Evans. There is nothing recondite about this symbolism, which provides such a hospitable welcome to the musical works ("opera" at its roots) which follow.
In the opening song, girls and boys are invited to "come with a good will, or not at all." Crane's world is indeed one of cheer and good will. Although the ice cracks under three children at play "all on a summer's day," and an aristrocratic womanizer wishes to dally with the pretty milkmaid, and King Arthur is a gourmandizing thief who steals the ingredients for a plum pudding, their situations are neither dreadful nor threatening. Crane's penchant for drollery and light-hearted burlesque dictates his treatment of these three old rhymes. As Iona and Peter Opie explain, "Three Children" could have originated in a Caroline ballad about the burning of London Bridge (282); but Crane exults in the mock-cautionary tone with its tongue-in-cheek warning to "parents all that children have, / And you that have got none." In the "carefully rewritten" ditty that had existed in a more bawdy version since the days of James I, Crane's articulate milkmaid handles the gentleman as capably as Ralegh's nymph answered Marlowe's passionate shepherd; in addition, his bonneted maid—winsome, nubile but sensible—encountering the frock-coated squire contrasts nicely with Randolph Caldecott's treatment of The Milkmaid (1882), a jauntily bodiced lass whose back only is seen as she walks briskly and converses with a young, horsebound cavalier. Whether the original ballad was about King Arthur or King Stephen, and whether the Queen involved was "good Quane Bess" (Opie 56) or Guinevere, Crane chooses to spotlight the use to which the frugal and talented queen puts her husband's theft; without any of the sultriness of William Morris's Queen Guinevere (reproduced in Harding's The Pre-Raphaelites ), Crane's queen is a capable, handsomely proportioned cuisiniere who feeds the noblemen and fries the leftovers for breakfast. This illustrator takes pleasure in physical attractiveness. His women are less angular, histrionic and lantern-jawed than many of the models of his Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries; either in empire waists or Grecian draperies, they have fuller figures and curlier hair, and embody a gently maternal comeliness.
As in most nursery rhymes, incongruities are plentiful in The Baby's Opera. The black sheep never accounts for one of his bags of wool, yet there is still "none for the little boy that lives down the lane." Crane, though, attenuates any stress on pain or discomfort. Baby's cradle will fall, but the gentle tendrils bordering the song suggest a cushioned descent. The bucolic sturdiness of Jack indicates that he will probably recover quickly from the cranial fracture. Crane does not moralize or admonish; he is content to entertain. He clearly delights in such eccentrics as the "jolly miller," a happy curmudgeon whose world is coloured in yellows and pinks on an outline of soft blue. The illustration might even be a fanciful document. Although he was born in Liverpool, Crane was raised in the south of England, in Torquay and London; he may have heard childhood stories about the old Dee mill at Chester or actually have visited the site where, the Opies tell us, the legendary miller of Dee is supposed to have plied his trade (302). Since the mill burned down in 1895, we cannot check Crane's drawing against the original, but we can conjecture that there was probably considerable accuracy in his representation. He imparts a cartoon quality to the donnish activities of Dr. Faustus, whipping his scholars first in one direction and then the reverse. The ferule borders this ditty as fittingly as the crook surrounds "Little Bo Peep," "Baa! Baa! Black Sheep" and "Over the Hills & Far Away."
Crane's real genius in The Baby's Opera resides in the deft harmonizing of ornament and design with the mood and rhythm of each song. "Xmas Day in ye Morning" is a clear-voiced street cry that strikes a thrilling minor key when the dame and her maidens are enjoined to bake their pies. The blue and bisque enclosure of this song suggests not only the outside brick wall of a house, with windows illustrating specific quartets, but also the arched masonry and entablature of oven openings. Crane creates an entirely different kind of harmony for "My Lady's Garden," in which the calm passage up and down the F major scale is echoed in the neat borders of blue and pink silver bells and cockle shells as well as by the perfectly alternated sweet human faces of the flowers, superintended by a gardening Mercury, in the full-page illustration.
Crane's hand exercises masterful control over this whole production. He orchestrates the leap of the cow, the dance of the plate and spoon, the tune of the cat cellist and the paw-tapping chortle of the gentleman dog on the front cover as surely as, in the guise of a tuxedoed crane, he presents the "Hey diddle diddle" rhyme to a pair of youngsters in evening costume on the back cover. Such a delightful ebullience is in no way belittling to children, and does not reduce them to miniature adults. It does, however, express Crane's fervent belief in the need to expose them to art and beauty from the earliest age.
A companion volume, The Baby's Bouquet, A Fresh Bunch of Old Rhymes and Tunes, was issued the following Christmas, and maintains Crane's distinctive stress on an aesthetically pleasing and joyous milieu. Once again, the emphases on comfort, grace and artistic design—consistent with his theory of illustration as a vehicle for his ideas about modern life—are announced at the outset. Nothing could be further from what Crane in William Morris to Whistler called the "vulgar smartness and stuffiness" of mid-Victorian furniture, "afflicted with curvature of the spine" and showing "design-debauchery" (52), than the inviting nursery scene which provides the frontispiece of The Baby's Bouquet. The children wear no-waist pinafores; one pushes the other in a wonderful wicker perambulator; and they receive a floral bouquet from a winged, Aphrodite-like enchantress. Toys are strewn about the room; the wainscoting is decorated with Crane's nursery friezes and the wallpaper above it is also a real paper of his own design. Here is illustration as both advertisement and tour-de-force. The votive wreath, called "Pegasus," highlights not the infant mariner but the hobbyhorse-riding child, who plays an enlarged French horn which actually surrounds the whole design. Crane seems to have been especially fascinated with the Pegasus figure, and drew "a Pegasus to all little passengers aspiring to run, and read, or write" as a cover-device for a collection of three books, A Romance of the Three Rs, in the first of which, Little Queen Anne and Her Majesty's Letters, appear more of the wicker furniture and nursery toys from The Baby's Bouquet. Lucy Crane again collected and arranged the tunes for the Bouquet; forecasting their later collaboration in Lucy's translation of Household Stories from the Collection of the Brothers Grimm (1882), her influence is evident in the number of German and French pieces included. His long-standing interest in folk music also resulted in Crane's partnership with Theophilus Marzials, the head of the music section at the British Museum, who supplied the arrangements for Pan Pipes. A Book of Old Songs (1882); its bitter sweet ballads, such as "The Three Ravens," "Early One Morning" and "Barbara Allen," are directed at an older readership than the three Baby books.
The last of the "triplets," The Baby's Own Aesop (1887), is definitely the most skilled and challenging. Crane felt free to adjust, to add "a touch here and there" to the rhymed version of the fables supplied by his old master W. J. Linton. The dedication—"to the possessors of Baby's Opera & Baby's Bouquet with Walter Crane's compliments"—indicates some of the changes that have taken place during the nine-year interval. An infant stevedore operates a mechanical crane or winch, from whose beak the new cargo descends to the vessel already carrying the Opera and Bouquet. An owl is perched on the bow, while a quill stuck in an inkpot serves as a mast. Crane often treats four fables on a double page, and never provides a full-page illustration uninterrupted by text.
He seems at pains to squeeze as much of the worldly, pragmatic, frequently cynical wisdom of the Greek fables into his design as possible. With the pithiness of the rhymes and morals, the zoological precision of his drawings and his penchant for caricature, Crane leads the young reader to an understanding of the tactics of gamesmanship ("The Fox & the Crane"), the strategy of politics ("The Fox & the Mosquitoes") and the emptiness of masks ("The Fox & the Mask"). It is a more sobering work than the two earlier Baby books; perhaps Crane felt that its unflattering assessment of human nature, by means of illustrating old saws, was the necessary counterpoint to the amiable ditties. When George Routledge issued all three under the title Triplets (1899), Crane probably considered that they represented a healthy combination of the beautiful and the useful.
So established was Crane's reputation that he was commissioned as the illustrator of stories by Mrs. Molesworth, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary de Morgan, Oscar Wilde and Nathaniel Hawthorne and of such textbooks as The Golden Primer (1884) and The Dale Readers (1899–1907). Although Ruari McLean can state categorically that "the typical fault of Victorian book design was feebleness" (6), that judgement must be adjusted—if not overturned—in the case of Crane. His prolific invention, it is true, did not extend to the elaborate tracery which distinguished his friend William Morris's Kelmscott imprints. But his excellence was recognized and celebrated. He was the first president of the Art Workers' Guild established in 1884, and of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society begun in 1888. He was appointed as Director of Design at the Manchester Municipal School of Art in 1893, Art Director of Reading College in 1896 and Principal of the Royal College of Art, South Kensington, in 1898. As well as contributing cartoons regularly to the socialist periodicals Commonweal and Justice, he wrote idiosyncratic theoretical books, such as The Bases of Design (1898), Line and Form (1900) and Ideals in Art (1908). He continued to paint while illustrating and designing books; in fact, in the same year that The Baby's Opera was published he also completed an ambitious oil painting, The Renaissance of Venus. He knew the other members of the famous illustrating trio, having met Kate Greenaway once and having welcomed many friendly visits from Randolph Caldecott to his Shepherd's Bush studio.
Crane was an indulgent father and sought-after-artist—a duality that sounds both quaint and anomalous today. He provided illustrations for works by Spenser and Shakespeare, Cervantes and Plutarch, but also, as Margaret Crawford Maloney tells us, found time to toss off "at odd moments" private entertainments for his three children, Beatrice, Lionel and Lancelot (8). Most of these over-thirty family works remain in manuscript; the few that have been published—Legends for Lionel (1887), Lancelot's Levities (1888), Mr. Michael Mouse (1956) and Beatrice Crane Her Book (The 2nd) (1983)—offer privileged glimpses of a close, witty, fun-loving Victorian family.
Indeed, these experimental miscellanies reveal the childlike pleasures that animated Crane's life. The most recent assessment of his work and character, in Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard's Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, cites the eulogy of his friend, C. R. Ashbee, about his naiveté as the blissful "Commendatore" living devotedly alongside "Mistress Crane." I think his way of life, that seems to have had all the popular associations of the fairy tale, was a deliberate and artistic decision. Neither regressive nor reactionary, he openly admitted a perpetual fascination with "the rich tapestry of story and picture …, the warp of human wonder and imagination … crossed with many coloured threads of mythological lore, history and allegory, symbolism and romance." (134) Recognizing in design his own succinct language for talking to his fellow men, Crane pursued his art with a dedication that made blithe-ness and ardour uniquely compatible.
Carpenter, Humphrey, and Mari Pritchard. Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984.
Crane, Walter. The Baby's Opera: A Book of Old Rhymes with New Dresses by Walter Crane, Engraved & Printed in Colours by Edmund Evans. The Music of the Earliest Masters. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1877.
―――――――. "Preface." The Romance of the Three Rs: Penned and Pictured by Walter Crane. London: Marcus Ward & Co., Ltd., 1886.
―――――――. "The Lion and the Statue." The Baby's Own Aesop: Being the Fables Condensed in Rhyme with Portable Morals Pictorially Pointed by Walter Crane. London and New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1887.
―――――――. "Of the Progress of Taste in Dress in Relation to Art Education." Ideals in Art: Papers Theoretical, Practical, Critical. London: George Bell & Sons, 1905.
―――――――. William Morris to Whistler; Papers and Addresses on Art and Craft and the Commonweal. With Illustrations from Drawings by the Author and Other Sources. London: G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., 1911.
Evans, Edmund. The Reminiscences of Edmund Evans. Ed. Ruari McLean. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1967.
Feaver, William. When We Were Young: Two Centuries of Children's Book Illustration. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977.
Harding, James. The Pre-Raphaelites. London: Academy Editions, 1977.
Maloney, Margaret Crawford. "About Beatrice Crane Her Book and Her Family." Beatrice Crane Her Book (The 2nd) June 1st, 1879. A Manuscript by Walter Crane. Toronto: Reproduced by the Friends of the Osborne and Lillian H. Smith Collections, 1983.
McLean, Ruari. Modern Book Design from William Morris to the Present Day. London: Faber & Faber, 1958.
Opie, Iona and Peter, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1951.
Suddon, Alan. "Walter Crane, Dress, & Children's Illustration." Canadian Children's Literature 4 (1976).
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Leonard S. Marcus (essay date March-April 2001)
SOURCE: Marcus, Leonard S. "Medal Man: Randolph Caldecott and the Art of the Picture Book." Horn Book Magazine 77, no. 2 (March-April 2001): 155-70.
[In the following essay, Marcus theorizes that Randolph Caldecott and his fellow "Golden Age" artists, Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway, fundamentally altered the way picture books are created and influenced all subsequent generations of illustrators.]
The picture book was born on the fly, as an art form for, by, and very often about people in a hurry. Children, of course, are always on to or into the next new thing. But during the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s, it was industrial Britain's upwardly striving middle class who clamored for illustrated storybooks for its children. And it was in response to that great and growing demand that ambitious young artists such as Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott turned to picture book making; and that Caldecott, in particular, went on in a few short years to produce a series of books that represented a new kind of book for young people.
Thanks to the Caldecott Medal, more people than ever recognize Randolph Caldecott's name. Yet nowadays, more adults than children—and of the adults probably more librarians and collectors than anyone else—know any of the sixteen picture books that Caldecott illustrated, at the rate of two a year, from 1878 to 1885. And few people know very much at all about the artist himself. The home page of the one website devoted to him leads with the headline: "Randolph Who?" Who, indeed? What follows is an attempt to renew our acquaintance with the medal man himself; to show in pictures and words something of who Randolph Caldecott was, the world he belonged to, the work he did, and in what ways that work still has value.
Caldecott was born in March 1846, in Chester, England, a small town well to the north and west of London. The son of a hatter, he was a tall, bright, physically frail, good-natured child. The elder of two sons, he taught himself to draw at an early age, and in his last year of school he earned the Head Boy's silver badge, which he wore, by all accounts, with none of the comic self-importance of Harry Potter's Percy Weasley. One of Caldecott's most engaging personal traits, his readiness to poke fun at himself, set the tone for the best of his illustration, in which all but the most ridiculous characters look to be worth knowing. It is as though Caldecott could not help putting himself in the other person's bowed or buckled shoes. This gift of empathy stood him in good stead especially when, as a much-in-demand thirty-two-year-old magazine illustrator, he turned to art-making for children. At a time when many contemporary illustrators, including Kate Greenaway, perched the young on pedestals of unattainable moral perfection, Caldecott approached his audience at eye level, as flesh-and-blood folk no better and no worse than himself.
Caldecott's tradesman father did his best to talk him out of a career in art, and the good son obliged, first by taking a clerk's job at a nearby bank and later, at age twenty-one, at a bank in more cosmopolitan Manchester. He never gave up sketching, however, and there is always plenty of paper in a bank. Manchester's dynamic art scene soon absorbed his evenings, and in 1868, within a year of his arrival in that city, Caldecott published his first humorous illustrations in a local magazine.
Things happened fairly quickly for him after that. In 1871, he published his first drawings in the prestigious London Society magazine; the next year, he moved to London, set up as an illustrator, exhibited a painting, published in Punch, and illustrated his first book, a travelogue for adult readers called The Harz Mountains: A Tour in the Toy Country, by Henry Blackburn. Another travel book followed, along with work for American magazines, including Harper's Monthly; then a commission, in 1876, to reillustrate Washington Irving's Old Christmas. It was this last project that solidified his reputation, prompting the renowned printer, Edmund Evans, to approach him about the possibility of launching a picture book series alongside the series Evans had already printed by Walter Crane. Caldecott created his first two picture books—The House That Jack Built and The Diverting History of John Gilpin—in 1878, in time for the Christmas trade, and he continued the series at the same pace for the next seven years running. The Caldecott Picture Books were an instant success, both in their original, eye-catching paperbound "Yellow Back" editions, which during the artist's lifetime had initial print runs of up to 100,000 copies each, and in the more costly gift editions that followed, in which four and later eight of the picture books were bound together.
The world in which Caldecott came of age was in some ways much like our own. New technologies were transforming the way people worked, traveled, communicated, and pictured themselves. The steam locomotive telescoped distances for travelers, making it possible, for instance, for Lewis Carroll to make the sixty-mile journey from Oxford to London any time he wished for a weekend of theater-going; Carroll was riding the rails when the chapter titles for his first Alice book came to him. As an illustrator on assignment and later as an ailing thirty-something-year-old artist in search of warmer climes, Caldecott was another frequent traveler who worked well while in motion. In the spring of 1879, he wrote a friend that he had just dashed off the complete dummy for one of his two picture books for that year—either his Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog or Babes in the Wood—while hurtling along by train between Florence and Bologna. Rapidly executed, preliminary drawings such as these came to be known as his "lightning sketches." Victorian rail travelers were book buyers, and Caldecott's popular picture books sold briskly at the bookstalls to be found on train platforms throughout Britain. The canny artist went so far as to take this fact into account in his cover designs, aiming for images bold enough to be "catching," as he told a friend, "from the top of an omnibus or out of the passing window of a railway carriage."
The telegraph not only shot words through a wire at unimaginable speeds but, just as the advent of e-mail has done, prompted the invention of a new up-tempo style of written communication. Emily Dickinson was the first poet of the telegraph age. Caldecott brought to the picture book a similar taste for verbal punch and compression, showing time and again that what could be pictured in a book did not also have to be stated; and that, with the right drawings to help spirit them along, a very few lines of text could be made to speak volumes.
The inventions that most directly influenced Caldecott's work were in the field of mechanical reproduction—Edmund Evans's domain. During Caldecott's childhood, high-quality color printing still lay beyond the practical reach of the publishers of books and magazines. Whatever books the young Caldecott read would either have been hand-colored or color-printed by primitive methods yielding garish results. Edmund Evans was not only a master wood engraver and color printer but also something like a modern-day packager. Evans gambled that, given the choice, the newly educated English public would prefer children's books of superior artistic quality, and that high demand for the books would help keep them competitively priced. Evans was right, and the various series illustrated for him by Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway set a new standard for the picture book that in some ways has yet to be surpassed.
The combined impact of these three artists can be seen in the contrast between two anonymous nineteenth-century English alphabet books on that most Victorian of subjects—trains—the first published in 1852, the second around 1889. Cousin Honeycomb's Railway Alphabet is a book of the old school, illustrated with hand-colored woodcuts and designed more or less the way bricks are laid, text and pictures fitted one on top of the other. But the 1889 Railroad Alphabet shows a different, more fluid Crane-Greenaway-Caldecott-like approach to design, in which pages no longer merely warehouse content but instead serve as platforms for the artist's inventiveness and the viewer's imagination.
Each of Evans's illustrators left a different mark on the picture book. Walter Crane was essentially a decorative artist who brought a lusty delight in design to the genre. Fey, theatrical Kate Greenaway was something like the Laura Ashley of her day, and a fervent spear-carrier for the Victorian cult of innocent childhood. Caldecott's impact, which far exceeded that of his two rivals, was more in the nature of an explosion: an unhinging of the basic conventions of the illustrated book. Caldecott books were free-wheeling experiments at a time of feverish experimentation in the visual arts.
J. M. W. Turner's Rain, Steam, and Speed of 1844, for example, represented one of the earliest attempts by an artist to record the propulsive rhythm and energy of the age. The French Impressionists, several of whom were living in exile in London in 1871, learned from Turner and were guided by his example. Under the spell of Turner and Monet alike, James McNeill Whistler, the American-born bad boy of English painting in Caldecott's day, stripped and streamlined his canvases to such an extent that in 1877 the great—if also mentally erratic—art critic and Kate Greenaway supporter, John Ruskin, publicly accused him of artistic fraud. (Later that year, Whistler sued Ruskin for libel; though he won, he was soon forced into bankruptcy.)
Caldecott, who had moved to London in 1872, was by then a member of Whistler's circle, sharing key artist-friends and two London galleries in common with him. And although he and the famously self-dramatizing painter were not close, the illustrator also shared some of the older artist's most basic ideas about picture making. Caldecott's most often quoted comments on drawing—"the art of leaving out [is] a science" and "the fewer the lines, the less error committed"—read like notes straight from Whistler's own play-book. And in an 1883 letter, Caldecott sounds the Whistler-note again as he explains why the work of Walter Crane always leaves him cold: "He is a clever man; but he does not enough follow his natural bent. He is in the thrall of the influence of the early and most intellectual Italian painters and draughtsmen"—artists of the type, that is, who met with fussy Ruskin's, but not Whistler's, approval.
Caldecott also shared Whistler's fascination with the Japanese woodblock prints that had only just become widely known in the West. Caldecott's inventive use of the three major design-elements in his picture books—text type, color plates, and sepia line drawings—often gives his page layouts a beguiling asymmetry clearly derived from Japanese prints.
Still, vast differences separate Whistler's work from Caldecott's. Whistler was an art-for-art's-sake firebrand. Caldecott, though he exhibited his paintings and sculptures with modest success, was quite content to be known as an illustrator-for-hire. Caldecott was a storyteller, who set several of his picture books in the eighteenth-century English countryside. In this one important respect, Caldecott applied the brakes to the modernizing tendencies in his art, offer-ing his contemporary readers an idealized backward glance at their grandparents' less hurried world. Whistler, in contrast, believing that art ultimately should be about itself, was suspicious of narrative and "subject matter" generally.
Whistler could nonetheless get off a fine portrait now and then. As an instinctive caricaturist, Caldecott made a point of turning down portrait commissions. As he told a friend, "I fear that I ought not to approach Mrs. Green brush in hand—my brush is not a very reverent one." Everyone knows "Whistler's Mother." But take a look at "Caldecott's Mother," as seen in the picture book An Elegy on the Glory of Her Sex: Mrs. Mary Blaize, based on a text by Oliver Goldsmith.
During Caldecott's lifetime, photography turned traditionally labor-intensive portraiture into instant art for nearly everybody. Critics at first were uncertain whether images produced by mechanical means should be considered art at all. Lewis Carroll, who was sure photographs could be art-worthy, countered with a tongue-in-cheek fantasy called "Photography Extraordinary" in which he imagined a machine for the mechanical production of novels. Whistler became an avid photographer in his later years; it is a good bet that had he lived a while longer, Caldecott, with his keen interest in reproduction techniques and growing impatience with printers, might have also.
The photographer whose work bears the most striking affinity with Caldecott's is Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904), an Englishman living in California who in the years just before Caldecott published his first picture books began a series of pioneering stop-action photographic studies of animals and humans in motion. Muybridge's fascinating experiments forged the missing link between still photography and the soon-to-be-invented motion picture. Caldecott's picture books can be seen as having a comparable historical role as the bridge, or certainly one of the bridges, between traditional print illustration and animation. Consider, for instance, the helter-skelter sequence in The Three Jovial Huntsmen, in which Caldecott has his hard-riding comic protagonists—and us—literally going in circles. No wonder that Maurice Sendak, though he grew up not on Caldecott's The House That Jack Built but Disney's Steamboat Willie, is the American artist who has had the most to say about Caldecott's preeminence (about which more later).
Caldecott never considered himself a writer, but he had the confidence to make small changes to suit his purposes in the traditional texts he chose for illustration. In Sing a Song for Sixpence, for example, one of his pair of picture books for 1880, he replaced the of in the title of the traditional rhyme with for. In making this small revision, he sharpened the focus of the cryptic old verse so that it could be fairly read as a story about singing for one's supper or, more plainly, working for a living. To sing a song for six-pence could mean to earn one's living as an artist for hire; Caldecott's Picture Books sold for a shilling—twice sixpence. (Walter Crane, who had advised Caldecott to demand a royalty from Evans, was nonetheless said to have been bothered when Caldecott succeeded in having his compensation pegged to "results"; Crane himself received a flat fee.) In addition to altering the title, Caldecott added a last couplet—"But there came a Jenny Wren and popped it on again"—in which the Maid gets back her nose. By 1880, Caldecott, who had just married, may have been thinking more closely about his young audience than he had before.
He had made no such concessions a year earlier, when he illustrated The Babes in the Wood, the plot-line of which can be summed up as "Hansel and Gretel" minus the gingerbread house and the happy ending. Everyone in that strange little book just ups and dies. What emerges from the carnage, however, is the realization that the last thing Caldecott wanted a children's book to be was sentimental, and for setting that precedent we have a lot to thank him for. Here is his response to a letter from a writer-friend who had offered some advice about an illustration-in-progress:
What you say of chins is true—I make a note of it—but the suggestion to 'give a touch more size to the eyes' makes one think that one must be careful in accepting—or rather in acting upon—criticisms of this kind…. I have altered the eye of the lady in question: but I have made it rather smaller…. It is a very cheap way of making a pretty face to draw large eyes….
Another time, after a proud parent tried to foist her children off on the artist as models, Caldecott wrote a friend: "A history of the twins was kindly given by the mother, how they lived together, ate together, slept together, walked together, did everything together. Interesting. My opinion was that they were 2 fat, ugly children…."
One of the artist's most devoted contemporary fans, it turns out, was Rupert Potter, father of Beatrix, who purchased from him the complete set of original drawings for The Three Jovial Huntsmen as well as two from Sing a Song for Sixpence, and hung them in his young daughter's nursery. The old story told about Beatrix Potter's early years was that she largely "lived" in her room as the cloistered prisoner of domineering Victorian parents. That may have been partly so. But her childhood was far from uniformly grim. She and her father, who was an accomplished amateur photographer, often visited London galleries and artists' studios together. And she learned to draw in part by copying her very own Caldecotts. Later in life, as the author and illustrator of some of English children's literature's most tough-minded tales, Beatrix Potter revealed a very Caldecott-like impatience with Victorian primness and sentiment. If the emotional undercurrents running through picture books could be tracked, there would be a straight line from Caldecott to Beatrix Potter, and from Potter to Margaret Wise Brown and Maurice Sendak.
Brown, as a nonillustrator, may seem the odd man out of the group. But it was Brown who once told the Russian émigré artist Esphyr Slobodkina, when the latter woman expressed doubt in her own ability to author a picture-book text, "Don't worry, Phyra, you write like a painter!" Brown did, too. And Brown, perhaps more than any writer before her, understood how to leave Caldecott-style openings in a picture-book text for the illustrator to elaborate on—as for example in the opening line: "Night is coming. Everything is going to sleep," trusting that Jean Charlot would come up with a suitably all-encompassing image for the first page of A Child's Good Night Book. And it was Brown who, in the Caldecott spirit again, wrote the line for which the perfect illustration was no illustration at all: "Goodnight nobody."
Nor was it just Margaret Wise Brown's lively grasp of the interplay between pictures and words that links her work to Caldecott's. The Runaway Bunny and Little Fur Family are every bit as much hunting stories as Caldecott's own Three Jovial Huntsmen and The Fox Jumps over the Parson's Gate, and in fact cut a lot closer to the bone as tales about quickness and cunning. Like Caldecott, Brown, who hunted rabbits on Sundays and wrote books about bunnies during the rest of the week, took care not to idealize her subjects, who ultimately of course were not rabbits at all, but vulnerable, resilient, flesh-and-blood boys and girls.
Margaret Wise Brown's career had just begun in 1938, the year that the American Library Association awarded the first Caldecott Medal to Dorothy P. Lathrop for Animals of the Bible, a picture book with biblical quotations selected by Helen Dean Fish. By the late 1930s—the time of Lawson, Bemelmans, Burton, Flack, and so many others—the American picture book was coming of age as an art form independent of, yet still strongly influenced by, British models. The establishment of the medal was meant both to celebrate and help solidify the achievement. It is surprising to realize that in 1938 Beatrix Potter was still alive, as was L. Leslie Brooke, the English illustrator most often mentioned at the time as Randoph Caldecott's immediate successor. There was even some talk of a Brooke Medal rather than of a Caldecott one. But Frederic G. Melcher, the publishing visionary who put up the money for the award (as he already had done for the Newbery), held out for the artist he rightly considered the founding father of the genre in question. One consequence of this was that when the British decided in the mid-1950s to follow the American lead and create an illustration prize of their own, the best name for the award was already taken; English illustrators must be content to win the Kate Greenaway Medal.
In another sign of Americans' continued reverence for English cultural models, The Horn Book Magazine had long since adopted Caldecott as its unofficial house artist, posting an image redrawn from The Three Jovial Huntsmen on every cover. In March 1946 the Horn Book devoted a special issue to a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of both Caldecott and Kate Greenaway's birth. The number's best piece, "Caldecott's Pictures in Motion," was by Hilda van Stockum, a prolific Dutch-born American author and illustrator, who wrote perceptively about Caldecott's special achievement:
When leafing through his Picture Books it is [the] ebb and flow of perpetual motion which strikes one first. Other artists like to dwell on the scenes they are creating, either from contemplative joy in their beauty or from a psychological joy in their social values. Not so Caldecott. He is always aiming at the next picture; his very figures seem to be pointing to it; one cannot wait to turn the page and see what happens next…. As an artist, I am interested to see how Caldecott achieves this effect of continuous movement. I think he does it through a lavish use of horizons; his people are either coming at you, large as life, or vanishing over a hill. You can never be sure of them; now they're here, now they're gone…. It is this vigorous action which endears Caldecott to children, who don't look at pictures to admire, but to participate. As a daughter of mine put it, they want to be "in the book."
By mid-century, Caldecott's example had left its mark on the American picture book in numerous ways. His legacy could be glimpsed in the vibrant wordless sequence in Helen Sewell's A Head for Happy (Macmillan, 1931); in the warm, sepia line and adventurous shifts in perspective of Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings (Viking, 1941); and in the balletic interplay of pictures and words in Ruth Krauss's A Hole Is to Dig (Harper & Brothers, 1952), illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
The story of how Harper's editor, Ursula Nordstrom, met Sendak at New York's F.A.O. Schwarz toy store, where the latter was then employed in the display department, has become well known. Such was her first impression of his talent that Nordstrom immediately began contemplating the possibility of a Margaret Wise Brown/Maurice Sendak collaboration, a dream-project that failed to materialize only because of Brown's unexpected death in the fall of 1952.
With her death, Sendak assumed Brown's mantle of boldness and experimentation. In 1955, he produced a dummy for a picture book that aimed at giving the Head Boy of the grand English picture-book tradition a run for his money.
The book Sendak was after was not going to be a Caldecott nostalgia-fest, decked out with hunting horns and crumpets. Nowhere in Caldecott is there anyone like the hero who (eight years later) finally emerged as Max; nowhere is there anyone or any thing like Sendak's Wild Things. But the energetic pacing in Where the Wild Things Are unmistakably bears the Caldecott mark—as does Sendak's sure grasp of the sonnet-like picture book form. In his 1964 Caldecott acceptance speech, Sendak, taking up where Hilda van Stockum had left off, pointed to the elements of Caldecott's work that he had learned from:
No one in a Caldecott book ever stands still…. Characters who dance and leap across the page, loudly proclaiming their personal independence of the paper—this is perhaps the most charming feature of a Caldecott picture book…. [But] for me, his greatness lies in the truthfulness of his personal vision of life. There is no emasculation of truth in his world. It is a green, vigorous world rendered faithfully and honestly in shades of dark and light, a world where the tragic and the joyful coexist, the one coloring the other. It encompasses three slaphappy huntsmen, as well as the ironic death of a mad, misunderstood dog; it allows for country lads and lasses flirting and dancing round the Maypole, as well as Baby Bunting's startled realization that her rabbit skin came from a creature that was once alive.
To which one might add that, placed beside the books being published today, one of the most striking features of Caldecott's picture books is the seldomness with which child characters become the major focus in them. Caldecott's books have less to do with the world children know than with the alluringly off-limits adult world about which they wish to know more. The promise of a stroll—or gallop—into that forbidden territory is central to the Caldecott appeal.
All his life, Randolph Caldecott suffered from weak lungs and a weak heart, and it was in search of better health that he and his wife Marian set sail for the United States in late October 1885. Landing in New York a day late following a stormy crossing, they immediately boarded a train and headed south for the Florida sun. Caldecott was fascinated by America, and hoped to bring home a big book of drawings based on his travels, which were to have taken him all the way to California and back, after which he planned to settle in for an extended East Coast visit. Caldecott's work was well known in the United States, and had the trip gone as planned, he doubtless would have been the toast of literary New York and Boston. Instead, after stopping briefly to sketch in Philadelphia, Washington, and Charleston, he fell ill, took a sudden turn for the worse, and died in St. Augustine in February 1886.
A rush of posthumous publications followed the famous artist's death. Among these was a picture-book Jack and the Beanstalk, retold by Hallam Tennyson, son of the poet laureate, and a book of Caldecott's lightning sketches for The House That Jack Built. Caldecott's widow is said to have tried at first to discourage the publication of the sketches. The drawings look so hurried, the argument went. Perhaps recalling the Whistler-Ruskin lawsuit, Marian Caldecott feared that the revelation of drawings executed with such apparent freedom and speed would be put down as un-art-worthy and would damage her late husband's reputation.
Quickness and freedom were of course what Caldecott's art was all about. His reputation as an illustrator's illustrator—an artist whose work held a treasure trove of innovative pictorial narrative techniques and ideas—continued to grow as English illustrators, and later also Americans, scrambled to lay claim to his legacy.
That legacy—Caldecott's ongoing influence on the world of children's books—remains great today, notwithstanding the fact that few contemporary picture book artists study his work. Artistic influence, like the party game of Telephone, can take untraceable twists and turns. Some modern illustrators "meet" Caldecott without ever knowing it, via the work of Beatrix Potter, for instance, or Sendak. Others may share with Caldecott a common source of inspiration, such as Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. Whatever their provenance, the underlying ideas about pictorial storytelling that Caldecott developed still work, and they continue to define the picture book as an art form.
And what of Caldecott himself—artist of "lightning sketches" and bold, spare, action-packed images; freelancer with a keen grasp of publishing economics and a roiling impatience with traditional printing methods? If Caldecott could be fast-forwarded in time into our media-saturated world, what place would he find in it? Would he be illustrating children's books? Designing websites? Drawing New Yorker covers? Storyboarding big-budget Hollywood animations? All these possibilities are implied in his still-resonant hundred-plus-year-old illustrations.
For his own amusement, Caldecott once drew a parody of a Kate Greenaway illustration in which he played up for comic effect the latter artist's tendency to idealize cute little girls in oversized bonnets. It is not hard to imagine that, were he among us today, Caldecott might take similar aim at the grandiosity of much contemporary illustration. One reason that his picture books are so supercharged with life is that Caldecott held his own ego in check as he made them. Caldecott drawings suit their occasion—robustly, modestly, and with a fine sense of proportion. Friends and critics alike who claimed more for his art than that left themselves open to his subtle scorn. As he once wrote a fawning but self-important collector:
Your note of 22 May is very complimentary to me—in it you tell me that you are going to preserve for future generations a copy of my volume of Picture Books. I am very glad. I hope others will do the same, and that future generations will feel blessed, be content, and not knock the nose off my statue.
Yours pictorially, Randolph Caldecott
Christa Kamenetsky (essay date 1977)
SOURCE: Kamenetsky, Christa. "Arthur Rackham and the Romantic Tradition: The Question of Polarity and Ambiguity." Children's Literature 6 (1977): 115-29.
[In the following essay, Kamenetsky debates whether Arthur Rackham—an influential nineteenth-century children's illustrator—qualifies as either a Victorian or a Romantic artist. Kamenetsky argues that Rackham evinced qualities of both artistic disciplines in his work, noting that, "[b]y never committing himself completely either to the one world or the other, Arthur Rackham developed a certain spirit of ironic detachment in his illustrations, which we recognize as his peculiar sense of humor."]
The question of identity has puzzled many critics of Arthur Rackham. Judging by the many contradictory essays written about his work, he still appears to be an artist of various styles that escape a definite classification in the history of the English graphic tradition. Was Rackham a Victorian artist or was he a Romantic visionary? Selma Lanes pointed out Rackham's philistine middle-class tendencies. Although she did not deny his magic in uncovering the fairyland beneath the countryside, she underscored to a greater extent his emotional detachment, his "matter-of-factness," and his affection for detail, texture, and elaborate design in "cozy English interiors replete with rugs, quilts and bric-a-brac."1 Henry Pitz felt that Rackham's drawings had more "conviction" than those of Caldecott and Greenaway and that he was "English to the very core."2 This was also Derek Hudson's view, who saw him as close to his British "Cockney origins."3 Eleanor Farjeon, on the other hand, saw in him an artist capable of transporting the commonplace into a sphere of the imagination, a romantic "wizard" bringing to life a world of fairies, elves, and dwarfs.4
How do we reconcile such differing opinions, which emphasize the realistic as well as the imaginative perspectives of Rackham's work? Margery Darrell came to the conclusion that in his "strange mix of magic and materialism" lay the very key to the credibility of his work. "Perhaps it was his very worldliness that made his drawings so believable," she suggested.5
Without attempting to minimize the British influences upon his work, we will proceed to view Rackham within the broader perspective of European Ro-manticism, of which English Romanticism was a definite part. A brief exploration of the nature of European Romanticism, in all its complexity, may throw some light upon the complexity of Rackham's subject choice and on the puzzling ambiguities of his style.
Around 1920, Arthur Lovejoy pointed to the diversity of the term "Romanticism," suggesting that one should refer to it only in the plural form. He felt that the confusion of terminology had led not only to the present "muddle" of critical thought, but also to the unfortunate ambiguity now associated with the word.6 Twenty years later, René Wellek contradicted Lovejoy by asserting that there were three unifying principles of Romanticism that could be detected throughout the art and literature of Europe. He identified them as: the role of the imagination as the very basis for poetry and art; the organic view of all natural objects; and the creative use of myths and symbols.7 In more recent times, Morse Peckham tried to reach a synthesis of Lovejoy's and Wellek's views. He felt it was more important to acknowledge the inherent contradictions of Romanticism as an integral part of the movement than to quarrel about "multiplicity" versus "unity." "Since the logic of Romanticism is that contradictions must be included in a single orientation, but without pseudo-reconciliation," he wrote, "romanticism is a remarkably stable and witful orientation."8
Keeping in mind Peckham's observation, we will now move on to examine the seemingly contradictory forces in Rackham's work on the basis that they may correspond to those inherent in European Romanticism as a whole. In this connection, we will give particular attention to his subject choice, his use of the imagination, his organic view of nature, and the ambiguous qualities of his style.
In looking at the wide range of Rackham's illustrations, we notice that he gave considerable attention to folklore and imaginative literature. Among the folk literature of the oral tradition which he illustrated—with a natural feeling for the mood and the cultural uniqueness in the heritage of other lands—were such folk tales as Grimms' Fairy Tales, Stephens' Irish Fairy Tales, and Aesop's Fables. Of the illustrations of his native folklore we may mention Steele's English Fairy Tales and Mother Goose. Among the literary adaptations of traditional folklore we find his unique illustrations of Wagner's Rhinegold, and his Twilight of the Gods, Ibsen's Peer Gynt, Fouqué's Undine, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, Irving's Rip Van Winkle, and Hawthorne's Wonder Book.9
Rackham's emphasis on universal folklore reflected his romantic interest in the life, language, and literature close to the common folk tradition. As such, it corresponded to the Romantic dream of reviving the folk heritage around the world—a dream echoed also in the so-called color fairy books of Andrew Lang. It was Herder, during the Sturm und Drang movement in Germany, who initiated this revival trend by collecting folk songs of many lands. He was followed by von Arnim and Brentano, Tieck, and later the Brothers Grimm. The Grimms' Household Tales were still widely read in England at Rackham's time. In 1914, Rackham wrote to one of his friends: "In many ways, I have more affection for the Grimm drawings than for the other sets…. It was the first book I did that began to bring success (the little earlier edition, that is)."10
Rackham's illustrations of Grimms' fairy tales demonstrate his fine perception and great skill in getting close to another country's folk heritage. The universality of folktale motifs may have helped him in part. Yet it remains a remarkable fact nonetheless that his illustrations of Grimms' Märchen made their way back across the channel to give many generations of German children a first glimpse of their own folktales.11 How well he did capture the spirit of German folklore may be perceived also from his Mother Goose illustrations, which were later adapted to an edition of German nursery rhymes. Though some verses in this edition were translated from the English, most of them were of German origin. Yet Rackham's silhouettes seem to fit the text perfectly.12 Similarly, we may notice that his illustrations of Rip Van Winkle capture the very essence of the book, and it would not readily enter an observer's mind that in this case a British artist illustrated an American book. Rackham's illustrations fit Irving as they fit American folklore. We can't well imagine Rip any other way than Rackham has perceived him.
Viewed from the Romantic perspective, Rackham well demonstrated in his work what Coleridge called "the coloring of the imagination." In Wordsworth's "Preface" to the Lyrical Ballads we read: "The ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect."13 Like the Romantic poets, Rackham often chose to illustrate the commonplace, rendering it colorful in the light of his imagination. Whether he illustrated scenes from folklore or fantasy, his drawings always reflected a certain mood or atmosphere. He achieved this partially by using soft pastel colors, in which even the most meticulously drawn details were blended to an antique tone, giving the effect of ancient parchment. In his paintings the soft browns and grey-greens dominate, here and there illuminated by a warm ivory. His colors vary from light, fluffy tones to rich, dark ones of the kind one may find in Flemish or Dutch landscape paintings. The warm hues of Rackham's colors add much to the impression that the imaginary world of fantasy and folk tale is part of the here and now. One is therefore perhaps less surprised than one ought to be at discovering fairy tale creatures amid a world drawn, otherwise, with much attention given to realistic detail.
A second device has helped Rackham in projecting the spirit of imagination into the world of realism, namely, his independent and very peculiar selection of captions for his illustrations. Instead of searching out highlights of plot and action, he would focus upon scenes or lines often overlooked by even the most attentive reader. Selma Lanes observed in this connection: "Thus he often chose to illustrate the unillustrable, or to rescue from oblivion words the reader had most likely never noticed. From Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol he plucked the line: "The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste and moaning as they went."14 From Wind in the Willows, we may add, he captured the very atmosphere of a golden afternoon, when "the smell of the dust kicked up was rich and satisfying."15 Rackham thus created a mood that did not leave the observer untouched. He himself felt that the most fascinating form of illustration for the artist was the one in which he expressed "an individual sense of delight or emotion, aroused by the accompanying passage of literature."16 Again we are reminded of Wordsworth's theory of poetry, in which he expected the poet to arouse the reader's passions and to give him a certain sense of pleasure and delight.
In regard to Rackham's ambiguity of style, we find another striking correspondence with Romanticism, in the element which Morse Peckham called "the illusion of mutability."17 Peckham had in mind a certain amphibian quality emerging from Romantic art and literature that belonged neither entirely to the world of reality nor entirely to the world of fantasy. By recognizing its kinship to metamorphosis, he reevaluated imaginative ambiguity as a positive force, suggesting that it represented the Romantic striving for unity between the internal and the external world or toward the "perfect identification of matter and form."18 By tracing certain correspondences in the art of Constable and the poetry of Wordsworth, Peckham tried to establish their similar views of the concept of "organic nature." In Constable's cloud studies, for example, he noticed an attempt to bring together the appearances of landscape and sky through certain parallel lines, movements, and colors—an attempt which he felt corresponded to Wordsworth's view of nature as a creative soul. In "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth had spoken of the eye and ear in terms of "what they half create, / And what perceive," whereas Constable had said, "It is the business of a painter not to be content with nature, and put such scene, a valley filled with imagery fifty miles long, on a canvas of a few inches, but to make something out of nothing, in attempting which he must almost of necessity become poetical."19 Both of these quotes also seem to illustrate Arthur Rackham's view of nature. Miss Farjeon well described his landscapes drawings as "delicate webs of leafless branches traced against a wintry sky;… pale marbled clouds … and strange patterns upon the water."20 In Rackham's drawings, as much as in Wordworth's poetry, we sense that "there is a spirit in the woods." His illustrations make trees, grass, flowers, and the very fieldstones come alive. In looking at the strangely twisted, gnarled, and knotty trees in his drawings, we can never be quite sure if nature, man, or a creature from the netherworld is speaking to us. What appears to be a knothole turns out to be an eye or a mouth—and yet, it may be a knothole after all.
In the landscapes of Rackham the very concepts of "manhood," "treehood," and "dwarfhood" often become strangely fused and blurred, leaving the observer with a feeling of ambiguity. We recognize in the ambiguity the Romantic world view, according to which the same spirit flowed through all things. Both macrocosm and microcosm, the animate and the inanimate object, were humanized and alive, revealing at their very source the deepest secrets of God and nature.
In some of Rackham's drawings we may witness the very process of a strange metamorphosis at work, gradually fusing natural objects and imaginative perspectives. At times, his illustrations are gloomy and frightening, suggestive of a dark and evil netherworld, and at other times, they are light and gay—or even grotesque. One can never be sure what mood to anticipate. In Rip Van Winkle, for example, we may feel a bit apprehensive while trying to decide whether some of the roots of an old twisted tree might belong as arms or legs to a withered and misshapen dwarf leaning against its trunk. Another illustration in the same book, no less ambiguous in style, makes us smile, as we discover among some hybrid creatures seated high on top of a branch the plumes of birds and the faces of men. Particularly amusing is a female creature among them, who is busily engaged, of all things, in knitting a sock. Her ball of yarn, hanging from her nest in a hopeless tangle, is drawn so realistically that one is tempted to pick it up.
Such opposing moods are very pronounced in Rackham's drawings. Side by side we may observe in them idyllic as well as grotesque elements—moods so contradictory that they do not seem to have been created by the same artist. And yet, it is precisely this sense of contradiction that illustrates the Romantic striving toward unity. Viewed separately, these polarities present such contrasts as those between the contemplative and peaceful mood of Wordsworth, for example, and the grotesque and nightmarish mood of Coleridge. In Germany, the polarities are represented by the "light" bourgeois Romanticism (bürgerliche Romantik) of Eichendorff and Brentano on the one hand and the "Dark" or "night side" of horror Romanticism (Schauerromantik) of Tieck, Novalis, and E. T. A. Hoffman on the other.21 Oscar Walzel commented on these seemingly contradictory forces of European Romanticism: "I maintain that two antithetical methods of forming a work of art may be distinguished from each other…. The first is rather calm and simple and lays no claim on emotional intensity. The other is more roaring and pathetical and at times grotesque, and even inclined to hyperbolic expression. The current conception of baroque, or as Wörringer terms it, "Gothic," is applicable only to the latter."22 In some of Rackham's illustrations we find an echo of the idyllic world of the bürgerliche Romantik, as seen in the engravings of Ludwig Richter (first German illustrator of the Grimms' Household Tales), the paintings of Moritz von Schwindt (well known for his enchanted forest scenes), and later in the works of Karl Spitzweg, master painter of the small town atmosphere. In both Spitzweg and Rackham we discover a similar fondness for crumbling medieval walls bathed in late afternoon sunlight, rooftop scenes, and quaint characters. In some other Rackham drawings we perceive the dark world of the Schauerromantik and certain moods reminiscent of E. T. A. Hoffmann. In visual terms, Rackham expressed the dark sphere of Romanticism by means of bizarre line movements and tensions in forms. By using a fairly dark tint of raw umber, he would create the atmosphere of the netherworld, in which the real and the unreal lived together side by side in an ambiguous relationship.23
Rackham's dual vision of life comes out well in a work not meant for children. His illustrations for Walton's The Compleat Angler show well fascination with both the idyllic and the grotesque. And yet, there are drawings, interspersed with contemplative fishing and village scenes, that seem to have lost their way from the children's bookshelf: insects with spectacles are scribbling something into books; dwarfs are engaged in frog hunts; and fish skeletons, equipped with crutches, are contemplating their future fate in the angler's frying pan. The last drawing, ironically, is accompanied by a delicious fish recipe in the text, which reads: "… and pour upon it a quarter of a pound of the best fresh butter, melted and beaten with half-a-dozen spoonfuls of the broth…."24
Although we smile at these drawings, we perceive quite a different mood in another one, which is reminiscent of a tale by Edgar Allan Poe or E. T. A. Hoffmann. An odd old couple is bent over what appears to be a huge book of knowledge. Their wrinkled, grinning faces seem out of place in the museumlike surroundings of skeletons and weird-looking stuffed fish and birds. There is a striking incongruity between the rich folds of the neatly arrayed silk and brocade clothing of the couple and the bare spiny bones hanging overhead. The open book may suggest a Romantic symbol of the hieroglyphics of life, yet the facial expressions are far remote from radiating a sense of wonder. Instead, they suggest something resembling more closely the features of the grotesque.
The Romantic grotesque may be translated as ungraceful, out-of-harmony, or incongruous. It was capable of taking on a humorous as well as a horrifying quality, depending upon the emphasis of the writer or artist. Paul Ilie characterized it as "a low keyed disquietude."25 In analyzing the fantasies of Bécquier, Ilie called attention to the hybrid and ambiguous nature of his portrayals of transformation that showed but little resemblance to Ovid's portrayal of metamorphosis. Whereas Ovid had clearly indicated changes from one form to another, the Romantic grotesque remained ambiguous and hybrid in nature, thus transmitting the eerie feeling of metamorphosis still in process. It is just such a feeling which emerges from many of Rackham's drawings. We are never quite sure about his portrayal of nature as nature, of man as man, or of a symbol as a symbol.
It may well have been Beardsley who inspired Rackham with the element of the grotesque. Hudson noted a strong influence, especially with respect to some nightmarish scenes, one of which in fact is entitled: A nightmare: horrible result of contemplating Aubrey Beardsley after supper.26 Further, Hudson noted the influences of Gothic and Italian primitives and also of "Cruikshank, Caldecott, Dickey Doyle, Arthur Boyd Houghton, [and] the artists of Germany and Japan."27 It is also possible, however, that Rackham received inspiration along these lines from the very writers of the German Schauerromantik, not to mention, of course, Edgar Allen Poe, whose works he illustrated. We know that Rackham frequently spent his holidays on the continent, usually in Germany and also that his wife, Edythe, studied art there prior to her marriage.28 One of Rackham's admirers pointedly commented in 1905 "I have at last been able to get to your exhibition which I enjoyed immensely. Hitherto one had to go to the Continent for so much mingled grace & grotesque as you have given us…."29
A study of all of the influences on Rackham will lead us to a complex and varied pattern that easily might distract our attention from his own original contributions to the art of illustration. And yet, a study of some affinities of mind may give us a clue as to the direction of his thoughts—particularly since Rackham himself acknowledged above all other influences his affection for the spirit of the Germanic North. When once asked by a friend how he would explain a peculiar Indian flavor in his drawings, Rackham responded: "I think I myself am more conscious of Teutonic influence."30 Indeed, Rackham visited Wagner's Bayreuth several times while traveling in Europe, and he was as fond of Wagner's Nordic operas as he was of Norse mythology.31 It is possibly from here that he drew his inspirations for the thievish, gray, and grotesque dwarfs who appear in his various fairytale illustrations. The Nordic alb (later Elberich or Oberon) had nothing whatever in common with the dainty dwarfs of Disney. Jacob Grimm in his monumental work Teutonic Mythology also commented on the dark or gray complexion of the "dark elves," as he called them.32 According to the Edda they had emerged originally as maggots from the rotten flesh of the slain frost giant Ymir.33 It may be noted that Norse or Teutonic mythology represents a common heritage for both the English nation and the German nation alike—a fact which may explain why Rackham's illustrations are so very much at home in the Nordic folk heritage of both countries.
From the perspective of European Romanticism, the double nature of the netherworld of dwarfs and elves held a special interest for writers and artists because it seemed to correspond to their own view of the world. Ricarda Huch characterized the Romantic movement as one that upheld the contrast between spirit and nature, light and darkness, force and materialism. Swaying back and forth between these opposites, the poets of the time hoped to achieve a synthesis of mind and spirit.34 Walzel saw in this polarity a reflection of the Romantic dream of harmony. By oscillating between thesis and antithesis, he said, one hoped to recover the "golden age" of the ancient past. This oscillation, in turn, gave birth to Romantic irony, as the inherent contradictions were not resolved but kept alive.35
By never committing himself completely either to the one world or the other, Arthur Rackham developed a certain spirit of ironic detachment in his illustrations, which we recognize as his peculiar sense of humor. It was his special gift to create an illusion of reality by giving minute attention to realistic detail. Unnoticeably, he would then introduce, by means of color or ambiguous forms, the spirit of the imagination. It seems that he very much enjoyed the freedom of belonging to both worlds and to neither, thus asserting the very freedom of his creative mind.
There is an odd little drawing among his letters and notes that served as a wedding announcement for his daughter Barbara.36 It shows an old, twisted, knotty, and leafless willow tree with grotesque branches sticking out like sinewy arms at the sides and like windblown hair on the top. Strangely enough, this tree bears the very features of Arthur Rackham—glasses, long nose, and all. On one of the "branches" sit two little birds ready, it seems, to build their nest. Who was Rackham, we may wonder—a man, a dwarf, or a tree; a "realist" or a "fantasist"?
If we have viewed Rackham's work within the context of European Romanticism, it should be remembered that there is nothing rigid about this attempt. Classifications remain constructs of the mind and, like metaphors, can only be carried so far in bringing out certain affinities of thought. In his work Beyond the Tragic Vision, Morse Peckham wrote: "Thus even a single work of art must not be regarded as culturally coherent, as reflecting one and only one aspect of a construct model."37 Periods or movements were "constructs" or "operational fiction," he warned, and they should be used with caution. In the case of Romanticism however, as both Peckham and Walzel agreed, we have to do not with a single coherent construct but with a multiplicity of patterns characterized by polarity and imaginative ambiguity. For this reason alone, there is little danger that an application of Romantic theories to Rackham's work might lead to a rigid interpretation of his art.
The perspectives of European Romanticism open up new possibilities of viewing the seeming contradic-tions in Rackham's illustrations as complementary forces arising from a dialectical approach to nature. To Rackham and the Romantics, nature was humanized and alive. By swaying back and forth between the worlds of fantasy and reality, he imparted to both the spirit of his creative imagination.
Like the European Romantics, Rackham felt at home in the folklore and fantasy of many nations. His interpretation of both reflects his capacity to perceive a living creature behind every bush and tree, in the ripples on the water, or in the movement of the clouds. Ambiguity and metamorphosis to him became a way of seeing which corresponded to the Romantic search for a mythopoeic vision of life. As if he were holding up a mirror to the complexity of our souls, Rackham cunningly revealed to us our dreams of beauty as well as the distorted features of our nightmares and secret fears. In that sense, polarity and ambiguity not only mark his poetic vision, but also the special sense of humor that places him, beyond doubt into a class of his own.
1. Selma Lanes, Down the Rabbit Hole: Adventures and Misadventures in the Realm of Children's Literature (New York: Atheneum, 1972), pp. 67-79.
2. Henry Pitz, Illustrating Children's Books: History-Technique-Production (New York: Watson-Guptill Publ., 1963), pp. 42 and 86.
3. Derek Hudson, Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work (New York: Scribner, 1960), p. 156.
4. Eleanor Farjeon, "Arthur Rackham: The Wizard at Home," St. Nicholas, XL (March, 1913), 391.
5. Margery Darrell, ed. Once upon a Time: The Fairy World of Arthur Rackham (New York: Viking Press, 1972), p. 12.
6. Arthur O. Lovejoy, "On the Discrimination of Romanticisms," Publications of the Modern Language Association, XXXIX (1924), 229-253.
7. René Wellek, "The Concept of Romanticism in Literary History," Comparative Literature, I (1949), 1-23, 147-172.
8. Morse Peckham, "Toward a Theory of Romanticism." Publications of the Modern Language Association, LXVI (1951), 5-23. See also: Studies in Romanticism, I (1961) 1-8.
9. For more detailed information on Rackham's various illustrations, consult Sarah Briggs Latimore and Grace Clare Haskall, Arthur Rackham: A Bibliography (Los Angeles: Sutton-house, 1937). Also Hudson, Appendix.
10. Hudson, pp. 46-57. For the reception of Grimms' Household Tales in England, see Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 25-28.
11. See: Ethel M. Chadwick, "Arthur Rackham," Dekorative Kunst, II (Munich, Dec., 1909), 23-34.
12. George Dietrich, ed., Mein Kinderhimmel: Gesammelte Kinderlieder und -Reime, ill. by Arthur Rackham (Munich: Mohn Verlag, 1919).
13. William Wordsworth, "Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800)" in Selected Poems and Prefaces of William Wordsworth, ed. Jack Stillinger (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1965), pp. 446-447.
14. Lanes, p. 68.
15. Darrell, p. 7.
17. Morse Peckham, p. 11. See also: Robert F. Gleckner and Gerald E. Enscoe, eds., Romanticism: Points of View, 2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1970), pp. 231-258.
19. Morse Peckham, The Triumph of Romanticism (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1970), pp. 105-122.
20. Farjeon, p. 391.
21. See Marianne Thalmann, The Romantic Fairy Tale: Seeds of Surrealism (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1964). Also: Ricarda Huch, Die Romantik: Blütezeit-Ausbreitung-Verfall (Tübingen: Rainer Wunderlich Verlag, 1951), p. 397.
22. Oscar Walzel, German Romanticism (New York: Ungar Publ. Co., 1965), pp. 51-78.
23. Robert Lawson, "The Genius of Arthur Rackham," Horn Book (May-June, 1940) p. 150.
24. Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation, ill. by Arthur Rackham (Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1931). The book was originally published in 1653. It includes not only instructions on angling but also proverbs, superstitions, legends, and popular rhymes. Obviously, it was the folklore that inspired Rackham to illustrate this work.
25. Paul Ilie, "Bécquier and the Romantic Grotesque," Publications of the Modern Language Association LXXXIII (1968) 319-322.
26. Hudson, p. 45. Hudson thought that Rackham's subject choice was healthier than Beardsley's and wider than Tenniel's. He accordingly called him "a loveable grotesque."
27. Ibid., p. 44.
28. Ibid., pp. 54-55.
29. Ibid., p. 58.
30. Ibid., p. 46.
31. Ibid., p. 92.
32. Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology II (New York: Dover Publications, 1966), pp. 439-517. See also Reidar T. Christiansen, ed., Folktales of Norway (Chicago: Delacorte Press, 1966), Introduction.
34. Huch, p. 512
35. Walzel, pp. 45-67.
36. Hudson, p. 138.
37. Peckham, cited in Triumph, pp. 151-152.
Susan R. Gannon (essay date 1991)
SOURCE: Gannon, Susan R. "The Illustrator as Interpreter: N. C. Wyeth's Illustrations for the Adventure Novels of Robert Louis Stevenson." Children's Literature 19 (1991): 90-106.
[In the following essay, Gannon studies the symbiotic relationship between Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure novels and N. C. Wyeth's illustrations in the Scribner's Illustrated Classics series.]
Castles, sailing ships, a pirate cave; tall, big-boned figures caught in mid-gesture; and all the swords, boots, swirling cloaks, and flintlock pistols a romantic could wish—dramatically lit and freely painted. The illustrations for Stevenson's adventure novels in Scribner's Illustrated Classics series are obviously N. C. Wyeth's. But though all Wyeth's pictures share a family resemblance, each sequence of illustrations also renders a markedly personal reading of a single novel and has its own mood, tone, palette, and recurrent images. Wyeth's pictures, like all good illustrations, create for each novel a rich and rhetorically powerful narrative sequence well able to modify a reader's experience in significant ways; for, if narrativity is "the process by which a perceiver actively constructs a story from the fictional data provided by any narrative medium," it is clear that the reader's own active narrativity is susceptible to the powerful impact of an illustrator's vision as he or she works on the cues provided in the discourse "to complete the process that will achieve a story" (Scholes 60).
Stevenson himself appreciated this, commenting approvingly of a set of illustrations that its "designer also has lain down and dreamed a dream, as literal, as quaint, and almost as apposite as … [the author's]; and text and picture make but the two sides of the same homespun but impassioned story" ("Bagster's Pilgrim's Progress" 296). And Stevenson's discussion of those illustrations goes on to trace the interactions between text and picture as they might be experienced by a perceptive reader. Following Stevenson's lead, I would like to examine some of the choices Wyeth made in illustrating Stevenson's novels—choices which can shape a reader's experience of a novel in significant ways—and then to offer a reading of the way Wyeth's illustrations for Treasure Island (arguably his best) work together in sequence to interpret that text.
N. C. Wyeth illustrated four of Stevenson's adventure novels for Scribner's Illustrated Classics Series: Treasure Island (1911), Kidnapped (1913), The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (1916), and David Balfour (1941). Wyeth's illustrations for each of these novels set up an immediate field of reference for the reader, enacting and embodying the story like a play or a film in specific visual terms. When the details of a verbal description are turned into visual images they become more precise and limited. A hat or coat must be cut a certain way; a human figure must be of a certain height and build; a house must have specific architectural features. Each choice which "places" details for the reader both limits and—paradoxically—offers a potential enrichment of the reading experience as the illustrator puts his own complex experience of the text at the reader's service.
One of the most important choices an illustrator can make is the selection of scenes to be shown. All of Wyeth's pictures accent thematic and structural development in the novels, but in the design of an illustrated book there are some illustrations which hold positions of special rhetorical force. In illustrating Stevenson's novels for the Illustrated Classics Series, Wyeth used cover, endpapers, and title page to make a strong thematic statement and set the tone for his whole interpretive reading of each novel. The cover of Kidnapped shows young David Balfour apparently stranded on the "island" of Earraid, unaware that he will be able to walk to freedom when the tide goes out. The cover of David Balfour, Stevenson's sequel to Kidnapped, dramatizes an important thematic difference between the novels. Highlighting the older David's inability to make any decisive moves for himself, it shows him bound hand and foot and carefully guarded, a real prisoner on a real island.
Wyeth also used endpapers to sum up the conflict in a book. In Treasure Island and in The Black Arrow, novels filled with violent contention for power and wealth, brutal pirates and members of an outlaw band stride purposefully across these pages, whereas the endpapers in David Balfour depict the Bass—the rocky islet on which David is helplessly imprisoned during much of the action. The title page sketches for both of the David Balfour novels metaphorically express the central concerns of the books. In each case the figure of David is more clearly realized and substantial than the shadowy and rather fantastic background, suggesting that the picture really shows what is on his mind. On the title page of Kidnapped a thoughtful David contemplates a dreamlike rendition of the House of Shaws; in the title sketch for David Balfour, a shadowy gibbet with its swinging noose looms over the frightened boy. Wyeth draws attention to the terrible dilemmas David faces. In the first book he must risk enslavement and death in order to claim his inheritance; in the second, if he offers the testimony needed to clear an innocent man of murder, he risks the gallows himself. Wyeth's cover and endpapers for David Balfour pinpoint at once the conflict between freedom and bondage, between action and passive acceptance of the status quo, which will dominate the story.
The illustrations for a book, by epitomizing the plot, can often serve as a sort of trailer for it, much like the "previews of coming attractions" familiar to us from the movies. Wyeth thought "a person should be able to walk into the book store and just thumb through a book and get the idea of the story by the drama of the illustrations—very quickly" (An American Vision 80). His pictures represent carefully chosen moments more or less evenly spaced throughout the story and so arranged as to provide not only a sense of the story's continuity, its drama and emotional force, but to complement each other aesthetically, offering contrast and comparison in subject matter, coloring, and design.
Andrew Wyeth has described his father's way of setting about deciding which moments in a novel to foreground for the reader: "after initially reading the story, especially if it was a good yarn, Pa would reread it carefully and underline the passages that he felt were the essence of the story" (An American Vision 80). When he looked for moments which would show "the essence" of a story, Wyeth sometimes chose obvious moments of crisis or decision—Jim Hawkins's confrontation of Israel Hands in Treasure Island is a good example. But sometimes he chose a moment which would capture his idea of a character (Ebenezer Balfour in Kidnapped crouched over his porridge, plotting murder) or a relationship (Silver in Treasure Island leading Jim Hawkins on a leash) or a situation (Dick Shelton and Joan Sedley in The Black Arrow at bay in the forest). In Stevenson, Wyeth was working with a writer who had a marvelous ability to paint vivid and succinct word pictures of people and places, an artist with a knack for setting up important scenes in a very dramatic way. Yet often Wyeth would avoid the very scenes Stevenson made most striking. In explaining to his son why he chose to illustrate a scene an author had not described very fully, Wyeth once said: "'Why take a dramatic episode that is described in every detail and redo it? Instead I create something that will add to the story'" (An American Vision 80).
That something is often a symbol of the whole as much as a simple image of one small part. Wyeth ignores the famous scene from Kidnapped in which David climbs the unfinished staircase at Shaws only to find himself poised on the brink of an abyss; instead, he settles on a less obvious scene which serves as an even better visual emblem of the entire situation in which David has been caught. The illustrator shows the boy stranded on a rock in the middle of a dangerous current, unable to move forward or backward until Alan Breck forces him to take a blind leap to safety. Wyeth focuses attention here on a moment of choice involving that combination of trust and daring which will be vital to David's ultimate salvation.
Highlighting two scenes which might easily have been passed over by the reader of Treasure Island, Wyeth uses them to symbolize the complex relationship between Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver. The first picture of the two together shows Silver as an amiable substitute father; the second reveals him to be a cruel bully. And the self-defeating confusion which prevents Dick Shelton in The Black Arrow from knowing who his real friends are is brilliantly captured in Wyeth's picture of him knee-deep in an icy sea, fighting his own potential ally Lord Foxham on so dark and snowy a night that neither of them can really see the other.
In most cases when Wyeth departs from Stevenson's text, it is because he is deliberately adding or omitting details for artistic and interpretive reasons of his own. Often Wyeth extends Stevenson's narrative, picking up some symbolic touch and giving it a clear visual reference which Stevenson never supplied. He captures very well Stevenson's intent to supply his hero with a series of "doubles" in The Black Arrow, older men who represent in various ways the kind of person Dick Shelton might grow up to be. Dick is given a vividly recognizable appearance. He is a tall, well-built boy with dark hair, an oval face, a strong profile, and straight brows that meet across his nose. As Dick Shelton and the outlaw appropriately named Lawless prowl stealthily through the snow toward Lawless's lair, they look almost like identical twins. The young Richard III who appears in the book seems older in the illustrations than he is said to be, resembling more the traditional image from historical portraits, but there is a speaking family resemblance between the infamous king and Dick—the same straight browline and profile; in his effort to create this effect, Wyeth even minimizes Richard's "crookback" so that it is hardly noticeable. Further, in the final illustration, depicting the last scene in the book, the scowling and dour Ellis Duckworth (the Robin Hood figure in the novel) who bids farewell to Dick is dressed exactly like him and could be the boy's older brother.
Wyeth uses his own recognition of an elaborately coded world to place the details of each Stevenson story firmly in a social and historical context. His use of physical types which have come to be associated in our culture with certain values is an important part of his rhetorical strategy. The brutal, battered-looking pirates who stride across the endpapers of Treasure Island announce their ruthlessness in their very physical presence. The wiry, lithe Alan Breck who fights best when cornered has a distinctly rodent-like grin as he battles the invaders of the roundhouse in David Balfour. His face tells you something of his mindset. Wyeth makes David Balfour a handsome, brawny boy, whose burly shoulders and well-developed, muscular arms and legs seem too powerful for his sensitive and almost girlish face. The artist adds a certain charm to this character, conveying David's boyish clumsiness as he sits awkwardly in a delicate Queen Anne chair in a fussy and crowded lawyer's office. The posture of the boy suggests strongly his sense of being not only a dirty and ragged stranger in this respectable place but also something of a young bull in the china shop.
If bodies have a language, then so do the shadows they cast; indeed, the human shadow has a rich and highly conventionalized set of meanings in art and literature, and Wyeth often uses it to symbolize a character's inner nature. Thus, Ebenezer Balfour's shadow looms ominously on the wall behind him as he eats his porridge and plots to murder his nephew, and Alan Breck's dances, twice his size, on the walls and ceiling of the roundhouse as he gamely fights off a pack of sailors aboard The Covenant. Sometimes a person's shadow is thrown before him, portending the ill effects of his actions, as in the case of the pirate Billy Bones on the cliffside, and sometimes a figure is surrounded by shadows which suggest an atmosphere of all-encompassing evil, as in the treasure cave scene in Treasure Island.
Wyeth gives his Stevenson characters eloquent body language, often presenting them in the act of making slightly exaggerated gestures which "mime" their intent. This slight exaggeration draws attention to the gesture and creates a certain fictionality about it—puts it in quotation marks, so to speak. Figures gesturing like this rely for some of their impact on arousing a kinesthetic response in the viewer like that evoked by Marcel Marceau "walking against the wind." Thus Dick Shelton and his henchman, Lawless, prowl through a snowy forest, bent forward intently, miming "stealth" with every muscle. Wyeth prided himself on his ability to convey this sort of effect, claiming that his early work on a farm had given him an "acute sense of the muscle strain … the feel … the protective bend of head and squint of eye that each pose involves." In fact he complained that "after painting action scenes I have ached for hours because of having put myself in the other fellow's shoes as I realized him on canvas" (quoted in Wyeth 6). That Stevenson shared Wyeth's appreciation of this particular effect is evidenced in his admiration for an illustrator's depiction of Bunyan's "Christian, posting through the plain, terror and speed in every muscle" and Mercy eager to go her journey with "every line" of her "figure yearning" ("Bagster's Pilgrim's Progress" 300).
There is, of course, a veritable lexicon of body language which can be called upon in drama, fiction, and illustration, so sometimes Wyeth need only quote from an already coded social text to make his point. A bereft mother in Treasure Island hides her face in her apron, and a conventionalized message is conveyed immediately about her social class, her powerlessness, her maternal feeling. When one of the Black Arrow's band climbs a tree to get the lay of the land his costume makes a silent allusion to Howard Pyle's illustrations for Robin Hood, while his brow-shading hand evokes "sailor searching the horizon" in a gesture at once conventional and mimelike.
Stevenson is famous for his use not only of gesture but of costumes and props to suggest aspects of character, and Wyeth follows him closely here. "Character," Stevenson once said, "to the boy is a sealed book; for him, a pirate is a beard, a pair of wide trousers, and a liberal complement of pistols" (Essays 261). He signals the outlaw status and desperate situation of Alan and Davie in Kidnapped by the increasingly wretched state of their clothes. Wyeth carefully shows the two declining into raggedness, picture by picture, until David suddenly springs forth in the final illustration in a fine brown suit, carrying a fashionable cane (not mentioned by Stevenson). The differing lots of the young gentleman and the man with a price on his head are brilliantly summed up by the contrast in their appearance in this last picture.
One of Wyeth's trademarks as an illustrator is his fondness for depicting actions caught in mid-movement. Catriona's skirts billow out around her as she leaps from one ship to another; an inn sign just nicked by a sword blow swings violently from the impact; a sturdy inn table is shown tipping over and spilling its burden of pewterware. Though he is working in a static medium, Wyeth creates the illusion that each scene represents part of a rapid, almost headlong sequence of action. In doing so, he well reflects the speed and action of Stevenson's narrative, and he captures an effect Stevenson himself admired in another illustrator whose pictures he felt captured an author's "breathing hurry and momentary inspiration" ("Bagster's Pilgrim's Progress" 304).
It is not just choice of subject that determines Wyeth's interpretation of a particular novel but also choices of color, design, light, and shade. Wyeth's artistic choices operate as an effective visual rhetoric, creating pictures the viewer can "read." Each of his sets of illustrations has its own palette. The Balfour novels are set in a world of soft blues, greens, and silver-grays. The pictures for The Black Arrow suggest medieval illuminations in their clear colors and decorative detail, though a number of the scenes are dark and somber in tone: two young people drink from a forest pool under the stars; armed men struggle desperately in snowy battle scenes; a wounded spearman returns home just before dawn. Wyeth's Treasure Island is a place of harsh tropical sun and dark shadows, highly theatrical in the posing and lighting of the major scenes. The sunlight is dazzling as Jim leaves his seaside home for a shadowy world where good and evil will be strangely mixed. The shocking difference between two ways of life is symbolized by the arresting blocks of sharp and uncompromising light and shade in this picture. The same effect is repeated in one of the last pictures for the novel as Jim is marched from the bright cliffside into blue shadows by John Silver. In another picture, harsh yellow light from an oil lamp pours down on the cabin where the brutal Israel Hands struggles with his shipmate O'Brien, turning everything in the room flat brown and gold. And as Jim looks through a loophole in the stockade wall he sees a group of pirates crouched in a semicircle lit luridly from below by torchlight. In the final scene, a masterpiece of artistic restraint, Jim kneels in a fairy-tale cavern all in sepia tones, where the only bright spots are the glittering gold coins that seem dimly to illuminate the cave.
For Stevenson it is "the triumph of romantic story-telling" when the reader consciously plays at being the hero: "Then we forget the characters; then we push the hero aside; then we plunge into the tale in our own person and bathe in fresh experience; and then, and then only do we say we have been reading a romance" (Essays 231). Wyeth's use of perspective cleverly conveys the feel of Stevenson's narrative method. Over-the-shoulder views in which we see "with" the protagonist, who is placed in the fore-ground as an observer of action rather than a participant, are common in the pictures for those novels which are narrated in the first person. When David Balfour bids farewell to his old teacher, his back is to the viewer, and over his shoulder we see the old man and the landscape David must leave. Another device for emphasizing the first-person perspective is the presentation of a scene from an unusual angle distinctively identified with the narrator in the text. When David lies in bed, looking up at Alan and Cluny playing cards, the illustrator shows us the scene from a low angle, as David would have seen it; and when Jim Hawkins peeps through a cabin window or a chink in the stockade wall, we see what he sees.
The structural design of Wyeth's illustrations often underscores their meaning. When Catriona leaps dramatically from boat to boat in a rough sea, she falls right into David Balfour's outstretched arms. In this picture, his arms and her billowing petticoats form a small but attention-getting circle in a picture full of strong, thrusting diagonals. The completion of the circle also works well to suggest that David and Catriona, who in many ways represent different but necessary aspects of a single personality, belong together and cannot be "whole" unless each has what the other can give.
Color, lighting, and design are all used by Wyeth to convey his own reading of a scene in his portrait of Lord Prestongrange in David Balfour. The picture illustrating David's confrontation by the powerful Lord Advocate of Scotland shows them meeting in a darkened room. The tall figure of Prestongrange, looming in the darkness, dominates the scene. The shape of his elongated figure is echoed in the two candles he has lit—which give off a dazzling light—and in the wine decanter, glass, and candle snuffer on the table before him. One fist is on the table, knuckles down; and in the other hand, the taper he used to light the candle points down and toward the viewer. There is a dark shadowy area to the right of him, and the paneling behind him forms a large cross—suggesting again the gibbet, but also, perhaps, David's willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends. The picture dramatizes forcefully the emotional effect of interrogation by a judge whose power to condemn or free his prisoner is absolute, and Wyeth cleverly puts the viewer in the position of the prisoner.
Each set of illustrations Wyeth did for a Stevenson novel constitutes a highly personal reading of the written text, often accenting the undertones of tragic conflict which appealed to the artist. His pictures for The Black Arrow capture Stevenson's lightly satiric treatment of knighthood but also stress a darker suggestion that, in the corrupt world of this novel at least, the possibility of heroic action is no longer available.
Those of Stevenson's stories which are told in the first person by a mature narrator who explains both how he felt at the time of his adventures and what they mean to him now offer a special challenge to the illustrator. The ironic perspective the mature David Balfour can give to the story he relates in Kidnapped is rarely felt in the illustrations, which show us David as victim or—at best—survivor rather than as the foolish, stubborn prig the narrator feels himself to have been. Wyeth's pictures emphasize external events, dominated by the figures of energy and menace which seem so often to threaten David. But the essence of Stevenson's story, David's awkward, moment-to-moment struggle to appreciate and assimilate the virtues of his alter ego, Alan Breck, in order to become a more complete human being, cannot effectively be dramatized in fourteen pictures, though it is emblematized in several of them. Similarly, the pictures for the sequel, David Balfour, project effectively David's inability to act and the consequent aura of guilt which hangs about him, but the social comedy of Stevenson's story and the pained irony of the narrative voice are again missing.
Wyeth's pictures for Treasure Island, on the other hand, convey wonderfully well the intriguing doubleness of that novel, which from one perspective seems like a stirring adventure story; from another, something of a tragedy. Without ever picturing Stevenson's mature narrator, Wyeth has managed to create a parallel narrative to Stevenson's which stresses the difference between the way the story was experienced by its focal character and the way the teller understands it, now that he is older and wiser. But only a more detailed examination can do justice to the way Wyeth manages, in a brilliantly structured sequence of pictures, continually to remind the reader of the shadow side of young Jim Hawkins's blindness to the future without downplaying in the least the glamor and sheer romantic appeal of his adventures.
Wyeth's choice of moments to illustrate in Treasure Island is as carefully calculated as Stevenson's own choice of scenes to narrate in detail. His pictures are deliberately arranged so that the meaning of each picture is related both to the pictures that surround it and to the text in which it is set. The cover illustration showing three pirates raising the Jolly Roger does not correspond to any particular scene in the novel but offers a generic reference to that grim moment in any pirate saga when the buccaneers run up their colors in preparation for an attack. Thus the pirates appear to prepare an attack on the cover, sweep down the beach on the endpapers, and pause guiltily on the title page, reflecting on the price they are likely to pay for their crimes as they bury their treasure.
Stevenson divided his story into significant parts, each of which is carefully subtitled and develops a particular phase of the action. Wyeth takes advantage of the way Stevenson sets his story up, arranging his illustrations so that those grouped together play off one another effectively. In the pictures for the opening sequence of the story, called "The Old Buccaneer," Bill Bones stands lookout in the first illustration and lunges out of a darkened doorway in the second; then Blind Pew moves menacingly toward the viewer in the third, tapping his way with a stick that sweeps dangerously across the road. These images, full of energy and menace, suggest strongly that the springs of action in this story lie with the pirates.
The details Wyeth has added to Stevenson's narrative at every turn magnify the impressiveness of the pirates. In the first illustration, Bones is posed like a monumental statue on a cliff, seen from below. His stance, his billowing cloak, and his telescope held like a weapon make him at once the archetypal seaman on the lookout and a commanding figure—much more imposing than the sick old pirate of Stevenson's story. The figure of Blind Pew is never very clearly described by Stevenson, but Wyeth has given him the face of a death's head, with broken teeth. And the fingers of his outstretched hand, which claw at the air in a threatening gesture, are echoed in the thrusting tree branches of the wintry scene and especially in the shadows of those branches which lie across Pew's path. The effect is thoroughly chilling.
The pictures for the second segment of Stevenson's story, "The Sea Cook," are more static, more emblematic. In the first, Jim Hawkins says goodbye "to Mother and the cove" (57). In the next, Jim enjoys a quiet moment in the galley of the Hispaniola with the friendly sea cook, Long John Silver. Taken together, this pair of pictures is designed to emphasize the contrast between the safety of the cove and the dangerous and deceptive world into which Jim is moving.
In his depiction of the first scene Wyeth employs color, composition, and original added detail to give the reader a feeling for the complex emotional tone of the moment. The composition of the picture is quite striking. Dazzling sunlight illuminates the left side of the picture, where a sturdy woman stands weeping, her face buried in her apron. Jim is turned away from her, advancing toward the viewer and into the dark shadows cast by the house, which somewhat obscure his face. He is seen in outline, like Bones and Pew; and, like the blind Pew, he carries a stick which extends before him. The picture presents the moment of choice as Jim leaves home to pursue the pirate treasure, and he is shown pausing "on the sill of shade." There is a certain poignancy in the situation which is not grasped by the Jim Hawkins who, as Stevenson describes him in this moment, thinks only of the captain and the treasure. Stevenson's Jim has no weeping mother to make his leavetaking difficult; indeed, the reader is specifically told that Mrs. Hawkins was in good spirits as her son left, and for Stevenson's Jim it proves surprisingly easy to turn the corner and put "home out of sight" (57). Wyeth's picture, however, picks up the faint undertones of tragic retrospect which appear in the narrative of his own adventures by an older and wiser Jim Hawkins, a Jim who can describe his own boyish day-dreams of adventure this way: "Sometimes the isle was thick with savages, with whom we fought; sometimes full of dangerous animals that hunted us; but in all my fancies nothing occurred to me so strange and tragic as our actual adventures" (53). Stevenson's reminder here of the fallibility of the young focal character lends a certain plausibility to Wyeth's suggestion in his illustration that Jim might not have "seen" his mother's tears.
Wyeth makes the seamen of the "faithful party" (164) square-shouldered, clear-eyed, resolute, and unmarked by a brutal past. They have no broken teeth, sabre scars, sinister tattoos, or appalling deformities. Among the pirates, Pew is blind, Bones scarred, Black Dog has lost two fingers, and, of course, Silver has lost a leg. The very idea of the pirate with one leg haunts Jim's nightmares in the beginning of the story; and yet when he meets Silver the boy is struck by his pleasantness and his normality. Wyeth dramatizes this by taking care, in his picture of Jim and Silver in the galley, to disguise Silver's handicap. As Jim stands (in the same pose as Billy Bones atop the cliff), hands on hips, leaning backward to compensate for the roll of the ship, a thoughtful Long John regards him quietly, head bent, face in shadow, his tell-tale leg concealed from view.
The third part of the story, "My Shore Adventure," features two illustrations. In one, the leaders of the "faithful party" hand out loaded pistols "to all the sure men" (101); in the other, a feral Ben Gunn leaps "with great rapidity behind the trunk of a pine" (111). Wyeth stresses here the ironic twist of fate which awaits the treasure hunters: the weapons of these strong men will guarantee neither their survival nor their triumph—these will depend instead on the sly, childlike castaway. Wyeth's portrait of Ben Gunn is a clever visual allusion to the traditional "resourceful" image of Robinson Crusoe, and readers reminded of it may be encouraged to accept a little more readily the perhaps excessively convenient activities of Stevenson's deus ex machina later in the story.
The section Stevenson calls "The Stockade" has two pictures which clarify the differences between the "faithful party" and the pirates. In the first, the dutiful Captain Smollett defies the pirates, running up the Union Jack on the roof of the blockhouse with his own hands. This scene offers a vivid contrast to the similar scene on the book jacket in which the pirates hoist the Jolly Roger. Wyeth gives Captain Smollett snowy linen, a carefully powdered wig, and a most dignified bearing. All these proclaim him to be an eighteenth-century gentleman, above manual labor. When he climbs to the roof of the rude blockhouse and removes his coat to run up the Union Jack, the significance of the moment is clearly asserted by the details supplied by the artist. Stevenson's hints concerning body language, gesture, clothing, architecture, and iconic symbols like the flag are translated into visual specifics by Wyeth, who shares with the inexperienced reader his own knowledge of the elaborately coded symbolic systems human beings have contrived to convey information about themselves. In the second picture for this section, in contrast to the world of order and dignity suggested by Smollett's gesture in raising the flag, the savage pirate crew, armed to the teeth, swarm "over the fence like monkeys" (161). Like Stevenson, Wyeth tends to show the reader the moment just before a bloody confrontation—but the pirates look strong and menacing as they move into the foreground, almost seeming to threaten the viewer, and their bestial appearance contrasts effectively with Captain Smollett's elegant rectitude.
To the innocent eye of a reader concerned mainly with action and adventure, Jim Hawkins's great triumph in the story must seem to be the sequence in which he single-handedly steals the Hispaniola from the villains. But a close reading of Stevenson reveals that here, when he seems most free, Jim is caught up in circumstances beyond his control, and this paradoxical situation is well imaged in the pair of pictures Wyeth provides for the next section of the story. When Hawkins relates the next section of the story, "My Sea Adventure," Wyeth shows the reader what Jim sees through the window of the ship's cabin where two of the pirates, Hands and O'Brien, are "locked together in deadly wrestle"; this is followed by a picture of Jim's confrontation with Hands. The first of these pictures in effect shows a murder, and the second depicts the split second before a fatal accident: Hands is about to hurl the dagger which will cause Jim's pistols to discharge and so, in effect, bring about his own death. In the first picture, Wyeth shows Hands and O'Brien struggling for a knife (not mentioned in the text) and the reader is free to conjecture that this is when Hands acquires the weapon which he will throw at Jim in the next picture. In the fight scene, Wyeth adds a discarded jacket, an overturned chair, and a bottle rolling about the floor among scattered cards, as if to indicate what "drink and the devil" have done to the combatants.
In these pictures Wyeth capitalizes on the unsettling effect produced by the roll of the ship. In the scene with Hands and O'Brien, the lines of the wall and floor indicate that the ship is rolling badly, and the effect is even more striking in the next picture, where the steady line of the sea on the horizon and a bit of land visible in the corner of the picture suggest that the ship, which has gone aground on a sandbar, is canted at a forty-five degree angle. The lines of the mast and the rigging lead upward and converge on the figure of Jim, who clings to the mast, pointing two pistols down at Hands, who holds the knife he is about to throw. Jim's face is an important focal point here. It is close to the viewer and only in light shadow; but, inexplicably, it is so badly blurred that the expression cannot be read. The pitch of the ship suggests the uncertainty of the world in which Jim is moving, and Wyeth's blurring of Jim's face is perhaps an attempt to convey visually that what is about to happen will do so without Jim's volition. Like Stevenson, Wyeth wishes to attenuate Jim's responsibility for the killing of Hands, which becomes nothing but a reflex action. Jim, whose firing of the pistols is neither conscious nor deliberate, is well imaged in the featureless automaton of Wyeth's illustration.
Wyeth concludes his set of illustrations with three magnificent pictures for the section Stevenson called "Captain Silver." The first shows what Jim saw through a loophole in the Stockade wall: a semicircle of pirates cutting the Bible so that they can pass Silver the "Black Spot." Wyeth contrasts the Bible-cutting of the superstitious and self-defeating sailors, posed and lit like some kind of satanic ritual, with a picture of Long John swinging along on his crutch, a purposeful figure of demonic energy who easily pulls the helpless Jim along on a rope "like a dancing bear" (244). This illustration serves as an emblem of the real relationship between Jim and Silver. The figure of the boy struggling at a rope's end evokes the image of the doomed, hanged man Wyeth devised for the title page and may remind the reader of how often Wyeth has chosen to show the young Jim echoing in stance and gesture the pirates with whom he will eventually recognize a fearful kinship.
The title-page illustration for Treasure Island, as is usual with Wyeth, had suggested the nature of the essential conflict in the story. In it the pirates look furtively about as they bury their loot, projecting fear and guilt in every gesture. One crouches in despair with his head in his hands, while another is in the act of drawing his sword to protect himself against invisible enemies. These figures are painted brilliantly in realistic detail, but about them and above them swirl billowing, dreamy clouds, and in the sky overhead Wyeth has lightly sketched the huge, translucent image of a hanged man. Part of the horror of this figure is its helplessness as it dangles, arms bound, head bowed, above them. The hanged man symbolizes their fate, their future, their deepest fear. Yet, significantly, they do not seem to see him. They are armed to face a more immediate enemy and are blind to what looms above them. This picture strikes the keynote of Wyeth's version of the story, stressing the themes of helplessness and tragic blindness that in Stevenson's narrative are conveyed by the voice of the older Jim as he reflects on the exciting treasure hunt which initiated him into the ways of a corrupt world.
The final picture of a series, like the opening picture, occupies a powerful rhetorical position. If Wyeth had used his title-page illustration to suggest the atmosphere of guilty fear which pervades the book and to hint at the tragic blindness with which its protagonist stumbles through his adventures, here he had to convey the hollowness of Jim's triumph at the end of the story and the boy's dim recognition both that the treasure had been fatally tainted by all the crimes committed for it and that he and Silver have more in common than he would like to admit. In his final illustration, Wyeth shows us the treasure cave at last. He catches the disillusioned tone of Jim's description of the treasure that had been the occasion of so much "blood and sorrow," such "shame and lies and cruelty" (265) by choosing to make the cave not the "large, airy place, with a little spring and a pool of clear water, overhung with ferns" of Stevenson's description (275) but a dark brown cavern with a great curved roof, like the inside of a giant mouth. In this deeply shadowed final picture Wyeth suggests the rueful self-knowledge of the older Jim by showing the blind, unthinking boy who had left on his quest with such bright dreams as a faceless creature hunched over his treasure hoard, letting the glittering coins slide down his fingers into storage bags like some fairy-tale gnome or like a sad allegorical embodiment of greed.
An illustrator's vision, as I have suggested, can have a powerful impact on the way a reader experiences a text, and Wyeth's pictures embody the story in a very different way from, say, the fluent drawings of Louis Rhead or the mordant sketches of Mervyn Peake. Stevenson as author and Wyeth as illustrator seem unusually well-matched. Wyeth's pictures for Treasure Island translate the ironic doubleness at the heart of the written narrative into effective visual terms and open up alternative aspects of character and unexpected thematic and structural nuances for the reader's consideration. Perhaps they are especially effective in projecting the darker strain in Stevenson; Wyeth once confided to his mother that "for some reason or other Anything that I appreciate keenly and profoundly is always sad to the point of being tragic" (quoted in An American Vision 4). But, as many a dazzled reader can attest, they also do full justice to the romance, the glamor, the purely aesthetic appeal the pirate myth held for them both. Stevenson's and Wyeth's characters may do the darkest of deeds, but the pictures presenting them are invariably beautiful.
An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art: N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth. Essays by James H. Duff, Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Hoving, and Lincoln Kirstein. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1987.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. "Bagster's Pilgrim's Progress." In Familiar Studies of Men and Books: Criticisms, vol. 5 of The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson. South Seas Edition (32 vols.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923.
―――――――. The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916.
―――――――. David Balfour. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941.
―――――――. Essays. 1892. Reprinted with an introduction by William Lyon Phelps. The Modern Student's Library. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1918.
―――――――. Kidnapped. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913.
―――――――. Treasure Island. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911.
Wyeth, Betsy James, ed. The Wyeths: The Letters of N. C. Wyeth, 1901–1945. Boston: Gambit, 1971.
Lucy Rollin (essay date 1999)
SOURCE: Rollin, Lucy. "Depictions of the Mother Child Dyad in the Work of Mary Cassatt and Jessie Willcox Smith." In Psychoanalytic Responses to Children's Literature, edited by Lucy Rollins and Mark I. West, pp. 141-50. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc. Publishers, 1999.
[In the following essay, Rollin draws comparisons between the works of Mary Cassatt and noted Brandywine illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith, arguing that the artists' formative relationships with their families—particularly their mothers—had a direct influence upon their later artistic careers.]
Mary Cassatt and Jessie Willcox Smith became successful painters by focusing on images of mothers tenderly caring for their children—a subject with roots in depictions of the Madonna and child in medieval art and one which remains perennially popular. Both Pennsylvanians, one generation apart (though they never met), the similarities in their work are striking. Smith's most recent biographer, Edward Nudelman, notes that Cassatt's aquatints hung in Smith's home, and that, "more than from any other living artist, Smith's art drew its impulse and sentiment from that of Cassatt" (31).
There are some intriguing differences between their styles, however. While both use large, flat areas of color in the Japanese or poster-like style so popular with other Impressionist painters, Cassatt's images are individuals, portraits, beautiful but not sentimental. Smith's images are idealized, the children well-mannered and well-dressed, the mothers invariably young and beautiful—in short, a sentimentalized view of mother and child. Certainly much of this romantic strain in Smith is attributable to her choice of career; early on she elected to become an illustrator, stayed in Pennsylvania, and achieved remarkable success in commercial media such as magazine covers, story and book illustrations, and calendar art. She gave the public what it wanted. Cassatt remained in Paris where she participated in the Impressionist movement, receiving awards and holding individual shows but remaining "an artist's artist," not actively seeking public recognition (Roudebush 75).
But these different choices too are attributable to a deeper cause, one that springs from the different circumstances of their family lives—in particular, their relationships with their mothers, and, tangentially, with other women. This essay will explore this aspect of their lives. Of course, psychobiography is a notoriously risky enterprise. Yet it offers a lens through which to contemplate "the nature and limitations of human choice and commitment" (Coltrera, quoted in Zerbe 46). Certainly women's choices and commitments have, as many historical studies suggest, remained limited in similar ways for many years.
Comparing the lives of two women artists from similar backgrounds, with similar training, only a generation apart, who made difficult choices and achieved particular success, yet who responded to their success quite differently, may shed light on those continuing limitations and suggest other, more positive ways of seeing them.
Certainly the tendency in psychological studies of women artists is to find their characteristic rejection of marriage and children pathologic in some way. Phyllis Greenacre's work on women artists (1960) takes the classic Freudian stance, assuming penis envy, the close connection of women's art with their biological functions, and the generally troubled lives of women who do not choose traditional feminine roles. She does, however, acknowledge a strong bisexual component in all artists that makes for their "extraordinary empathetic capacity," and comments further that the more complex oedipal situation of girls leads them to caution—"the forerunner of tact"—and to careful balance and diplomacy, all of which, she avers, restrict the artistic impulse (591).
John Gedo (1983) agrees; though he acknowledges that cultural oppression may be partly responsible for women artists' problems, he locates that oppression directly and only within the family, especially in the relationship to the father. Studies such as these assume that the art of such women is a flawed substitute for the fulfillment that marriage and children would have brought them.
Others, however, viewing women's lives differently, find the empathic capacity of women a source of strength. Object relations psychology shifts the emphasis from the relationship with the father to that with the mother as the chief shaping factor in human relationships. Carol Gilligan's now classic study offers the web as a model of women's relational development: women perceive themselves in relation to others, rather than separate from them. Chodorow referred to this phenomenon, and to the mother-daughter relationship that is its source, as the "reproduction of mothering."
More recently, the work of several women psychologists at the Stone Center, Wellesley, Massachusetts, offers a new model for women's development that acknowledges the "centrality and continuity of relationships throughout women's lives" (Surrey, title page). In this model, the mother's and daughter's close relationship with each other provides a "matrix of emotional connectedness" that empowers both of them and leads to the development of a "self-in-relation," as opposed to the more culturally normative idea of the autonomous self.
Instead of individuation, these writers offer differentiation, a process through which we distinguish ourselves from others while remaining related to them. From this viewpoint, the empathy and tact that Greenacre sees as special qualities of women artists take on more positive connotations, and provide, not a restriction to their art, but the very impulse for it, especially in artists like Cassatt and Smith who take the most basic of human relationships as their subject.
Several studies of Cassatt have been published, but only one with a psychobiographical approach: "Mother and Child: A Psychobiographical Portrait of Mary Cassatt," by Kathryn Zerbe appeared in Psychoanalytic Review 74 (1), spring 1987. No psychobiographical studies of Smith have appeared, to the best of my knowledge, and biographical studies of her have tended to be relatively brief introductions to generally adulatory descriptions of her work. My method here will be to follow the order of Zerbe's discussion of Cassatt, but to focus slightly more on Smith, setting biographical material about Smith alongside Zerbe's comments about Cassatt, with psychoanalytic speculations about Smith generally based on object relations psychology.
Their Early Lives
Mary Cassatt was born in Pittsburgh in 1844, the youngest daughter of a prosperous family. Her father was a real estate investor, who preferred horseback riding to artistic endeavors. Her mother, however, admired French culture, spoke fluent French, and provided every opportunity for her children's cultural enrichment by guiding them through museums throughout Europe. Indeed Cassatt's mother remained a dominant influence throughout the artist's life. Her other children, Cassatt's siblings, tended to be frail and sickly, several dying quite young. Zerbe speculates that Cassatt's eventual choice of artistic subject—robust and healthy children—results in part from a wish to restore the lost siblings to life and health while "defensively denying any rivalry or hatred toward them" (48).
Jessie Willcox Smith was born nineteen years later, in 1863, in Philadelphia, also the youngest daughter of the family. Her father was a financier and provided a comfortable life for his wife and children, educating his youngest daughter in private elementary schools. Curiously, almost nothing else is known about Smith's parents, not even their death dates. She was sent away from home at age 17 to live with cousins in Cincinnati, for reasons which have never been discovered, and returned home to Philadelphia in 1884 only after she pleaded dissatisfaction with her position as a kindergarten teacher (she supposedly said she was too tall to stoop down to them comfortably) and expressed her desire to attend art school. While her parents undoubtedly paid for her schooling, Smith seems to have felt the need to become financially independent. Quite soon after completing her education, she took a position with the Ladies' Home Journal in 1889. Evidently she lived at home only a short time thereafter. Little is known about her siblings, except for a brother who became an invalid and for whom Smith cared in later years.
Unlike Cassatt, Smith's relationship with her family, and her mother in particular, was distant, marked more by absence than by nurturing or even presence. If Cassatt was restoring her lost siblings by painting them, it is certainly possible that Smith was doing the same, perhaps even more intensely trying to restore the relationship with her mother.
The recurrent theme of mothers caring for children is powerful in her art, and indeed, one of Smith's first paintings in this mode is strikingly intense, even erotic. "Mother," from 1903, depicts a young mother kneeling in front of a large armchair, her back to the viewer, embracing her child, who looks up at her but whose face is partially obscured by the mother. The mother's dress is slipping off her shoulder, and the child's hand caresses the shoulder. The embrace of the mother is replicated in the embrace of the wings of the chair, and the decorative fabric of the chair contrasts with the simplicity of the mother's and child's skin and clothing, all creating an especially concentrated image of physical closeness, heightened by our seeing neither face clearly.
It is instructive to compare this painting with one of Cassatt's: "Breakfast in Bed" (1897) depicts a young mother lying in bed cuddling her child and watching as the child eats. While this painting also has a physicality similar to that of Smith's, we see both the mother's and child's faces here, two highly individual portraits. The child looks away, while the mother's eyes examine the child almost suspiciously in a sidewise glance. The effect of these different gazes mitigates the intense physical closeness of the two, suggesting an attempt to distance them even while they are together—something that must have frequently marked Cassatt's life, since her mother was not only available to her but intensely involved with her life.
Nowhere else in Smith's canon is a depiction of mother and child so intense as her 1903 painting, though she painted the subject many times. It is as if she learned to distance herself from her own desire for closeness with her mother, yet continued to explore that desire in many modes—probably a healthy reaction to what was evidently an emotional situation she could not otherwise control.
The Painters Mature
In 1877, after terminating her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts because it was too stuffy and moving to Paris, Cassatt met Edgar Degas, who admired her work and invited her to join the Impressionist movement. He became her master, yet in her words, she could now work with "absolute independence" (Zerbe 49). As Zerbe puts it, her painting became "even more highly libidinalized" as she entered this "tumultuous but intimate relationship" (49).
While there is no evidence to suggest that Degas and Cassatt had an affair, her biographers have noticed that her finest work, especially on the mother-child theme, was done during the times when her relationship with Degas flourished. Zerbe speculates that she thus sublimated her desire for a child by Degas, achieving a "compromise formation: as an artist she asserts her own creative powers, vis-à-vis her art, while defending against any desires to be a mother" (50). Moreover, Zerbe asserts, this psychological situation was exacerbated by her father's withdrawal from his daughter's artistic life while her mother's intense interest in it continued; Cassatt was thus propelled "toward a highly libidinalized and enmeshed relationship with her mother" (51).
When Degas arrived on the scene, inserting himself between mother and daughter, he acted as the "desymbiotizing agent" that her father should have been. Nonetheless, Zerbe suggests, since their relationship was uneven, Cassatt remained in a "developmental arrest at the level of the mother-child dyad," her paintings only partially resolving "her unconscious conflicts regarding her mother" (51-52). Zerbe points out that Cassatt painted two fine portraits of her mother, but never completed a major study of her father (52).
Jessie Willcox Smith also attended the Pennsylvania Academy, found it repressive and stuffy, but graduated in 1888. For a time, despite her successes at the Ladies' Home Journal, she then found herself in "a sort of limbo," becoming more publicly visible yet not in the mainstream of professional illustration (Nudelman 20). Determined to pursue a lucrative career, however, she enrolled in the Drexel Institute of Arts in 1897 in order to study under the dean of illustrators, Howard Pyle. "He seemed to wipe away all the cobwebs and confusions" for her (quoted in Mitchell 4). She also admired Pyle because of his ability, which he could evidently teach, to reach imaginatively into the story he was illustrating: "you were bound to get the right composition because you lived these things…. It was simply that he was always mentally projected into his subject" (Quoted in Nudelman 23).
Smith's illustrations too have been admired because of her ability to project herself into her subject; she seems able to understand the intensity of a child's concentration, especially while at play. But in Smith's work, good manners always prevail, possibly reflecting the self-control she must have learned early. And no painting of her parents or siblings has ever come to light.
Thus Smith, like Cassatt, found a male mentor. Unlike Cassatt, however, there is nothing in Smith's history to suggest any kind of erotic relationship between them; Pyle encouraged all his pupils, and particularly sponsored Smith's working relationship with her friend and colleague Violet Oakley by procuring a book contract for an edition of Evangeline for them. In 1898, Smith left Drexel and moved in with two other women artists, Jessie H. Dowd and Elizabeth Shippen Green. For the remainder of Smith's life, she would live harmoniously with other women, each pursuing her own career yet giving each other financial and emotional support.
Zerbe cites Greenacre and Chodorow on the peculiar nature of the mother-daughter relationship, marked as it is by "fusion, narcissistic extension, and denial of separateness" (54). Just as Cassatt remained close to her mother physically and emotionally, expressed in her work by mothers and children in tight embraces, visual boundaries were softened and even erased between the two. Degas' encouragement of Cassatt's drawing—i.e. the depiction of boundaries—is further evidence of his desymbiotizing influence, but it was not strong enough, Zerbe suggests, to continue once his physical presence in her life lessened.
In contrast, Smith's work is, on the whole, very strongly drawn, possibly suggesting the clear boundaries that evidently were established between her and her mother early in life. However, Smith's attention to fabric, especially the fabric of the mother's dress in her paintings, which often seems to dominate and encompass the child as it nestles in the texture and pattern, may be a substitute for that blurring of boundaries which characterizes Cassatt, and which Smith denied so early but consciously or unconsciously longed for.
Their Artistic Development
Cassatt's mother died in 1895; for the next five years, Cassatt turned to portrait painting. Then, after 1900, she painted very little, becoming, instead, an active suffragette. Her work during this time reveals a definite waning of her powers. Zerbe comments that such an abrupt change "reflects pathological mourning and the employment of manic defenses … a disruption of her inner life" (56-57). She suffered frequent bouts of depression, and even explored Spiritualism.
Late in life, living only with a housekeeper and chauffeur, her infrequent visitors found her "blind and lonely, unreasonable and vituperative" (Quoted in Roudebush 89), unable to work or to find solace in friends. Zerbe speculates, "Her tragedy seems to have predominantly centered upon a denial of her own emotional reactions and feelings in search of her mother's love" (57). Since her art "served indispensable adaptive functions" (57), without it she could not act as a whole person. She seemed unable to function without her mother as well.
Smith's later life was quite different. Contracts for work continued steadily, and she seems to have managed them astutely, often making an illustration for a calendar serve as an illustration for a book and thus reaping a double profit from her work. Eventually she became known among her friends and relatives as "the Mint" because of her financial success and her great generosity; one biographer states that at one time she was responsible for the financial support of eleven children—nieces, nephews, and cousins who were without adequate resources (Schnessel 44). Unlike Cassatt, Smith was found by later visitors to be calm, sociable, spiritually at ease, enjoying theater and opera, her gardens, brisk walks, and especially her relationships with her friends Violet Oakley and Elizabeth Shippen Green, with whom she lived.
Another member of their household was Henrietta Cozens, who arrived at the home Smith shared with the others after Smith's invalid brother had died. She took over the household duties, managing the funds and other household affairs—becoming "mother," in short, to the other three women and freeing them from the daily bother of routine matters to concentrate on their art (Schnessel 37). Each July 4, the women honored the occasion with a celebratory dinner and a reading of the Declaration of Independence, "as each woman listened intently. After the reading, the women rose and signed the reprinted document between the names of the founders of our nation" (Schnessel 44).
In 1914, Green married the man to whom she had been engaged for several years. Oakley concentrated her time working on murals in another city, while Smith built a home for herself and Cozens, on a hill just above their first. The routine there was comfortable and pleasant, with Smith as busy as ever, but maintaining her correspondence with her women friends, her portrait painting, and her occasional visits with art students.
This same year, her large edition of Mother Goose rhymes appeared and was immediately successful. One reason for its popularity may be the softer style of the pictures; the dark outlining so typical of Smith's poster style was muted into more tender shapes and textures. If, as Zerbe notes, the intensify-ing or blurring of boundaries in Cassatt's work reflected her shifting relationship with her mother, this shift in Smith's style may reflect her sense of rediscovered closeness with a mother-like woman who cared for her needs and gave her undemanding companionship.
Another interesting aspect of these Mother Goose pictures is her depiction of all of the characters as young children; Peter Pumpkin-eater is a small boy, with an even smaller girl, out of natural proportion, in the pumpkin-shell. Such illustrations reduce these lusty characters and their odd situations to tender, pretty moments in a child's life. In her calendar art of the same period, she depicted Little Red Riding Hood's wolf as a tiny toy, and the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" as a sweet-faced, tea-drinking little monkey. These pictures suggest the attitude of a woman who saw life relatively simply and safely, who maintained a measure of childlikeness, yet who had found in herself a measure of security.
It is a question whether she found this security in spite of, or because of, the absence of her biological mother from her life, and the substitution of another female in that position. Her relationship with Cozens suggests that she enjoyed having household duties cared for, yet she also adopted a kind of patriarchal stance in their relationship, assuming the chief financial responsibility for their home. Certainly she continued to mine the image of the mother and child throughout her series of covers for Good Housekeeping magazine; she continued these popular covers for nearly 17 years, from 1917 until 1934, and they undoubtedly added to this magazine's popularity across middle-class and upper-class homes.
As her biographer Schnessel has put it, "Monthly images of children at play and of mother love are not continued out of habit. The magazine's management well understood the appeal her works held for millions of readers" (23). But they must have had an appeal for Smith as well, for they are invariably done with tenderness of texture, gracefulness of design, and expertness of technique, despite their obvious commercial requirements. At this time, she was also in demand as a painter of portraits of upper-class Philadelphia children. No doubt she could have made a handsome living doing this work alone. However, she continued to paint mothers and children, depicting a range of imaginative mother-and-child situations that is quite extraordinary for its variety and its naturalness, as well as for its romance and fantasy.
She must have observed mothers and children closely in life to paint such images, yet the variety of images suggests that though Smith's imagination continually worked this theme, it does not seem to have done so obsessively. And if, like Cassatt's, Smith's art served an adaptive function, she was able, probably because of its commercial success, to continue using it until the end.
Smith died in 1935, upon her return from her first and only trip abroad, leaving her entire estate of original paintings to Henrietta Cozens. In an obituary, the New York Times commented, "The children that Miss Smith painted were reflective and a little sedate, and in her art the maternal note predominated. She seemed to be haunted by the vision of two faces, and the face of one was the face of a mother" (Quoted in Schnessel 21). Certainly Smith herself seems to have been "reflective and a little sedate," and Schnessel finds her work, for all its beauty, "in some ways undeniably sad … [Mother love] is a dominant theme that speaks volumes about her own needs and desires, and this is why her art is so deeply touching" (21).
Schnessel's comments may represent the male biographer's inability to understand a woman who seemed so obviously happy without male companionship. Smith's life and art, as here described, lend credence to the notion that a self-in-relation, developed under initially unencouraging conditions, may flourish later in visual images as well as in a peaceful, fulfilled life.
Certainly, these two artists, only a generation apart, experienced virtually the same social obstacles to their careers. Both made difficult choices, lived with limitations, and let their art speak for them. One sought a way of life that separated her physically from her home and from other women except her mother; the other, already separated physically from her patriarchal home and family (and possibly rejected by them), enmeshed herself in relationships that nourished her and her painting. They were both "haunted by the vision of two faces"—that of mother and child, but their responses to the needs and desires engendered by this vision were quite different, resulting in two different kinds of art equally valuable and equally worthy of further study.
Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
Gedo, John. Portraits of the Artist. New York: Guilford Press, 1982.
Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Greenacre, Phyllis. "Woman as Artist" (1960). In Emotional Growth, II. 575-591. New York: International Universities Press, 1971.
Mitchell, Gene. The Subject Was Children: The Art of Jessie Willcox Smith. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979.
Nudelman, Edward D. Jessie Willcox Smith: American Illustrator. Grena, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., 1990.
Roudebush, Jay. Mary Cassatt. New York: Crown Publishers, 1979.
Schnessel, S. Michael. Jessie Willcox Smith. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1977.
Smith, Jessie Willcox, illus. Mother Goose (1914). New York: Derrydale Books, 1986.
Surrey, Janet L. "Self-in-Relation: A Theory of Women's Development." Work in Progress, 13. Wellesley, MA.: The Stone Center, 1985.
Zerbe, Kathryn J. "Mother and Child: A Psychobiographical Portrait of Mary Cassatt." Psychoanalytic Review 74.1 (Spring 1987): 45-61.
Adams, Gillian. "Arthur Rackham's Fairy Book: A Confrontation with the Marvelous." In Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature, Volume Three: Picture Books, edited by Perry Nodelman, pp. 107-21. West Lafayette, Ind.: ChLA Publishers, 1989.
Overview of Arthur Rackham's career that focuses special attention on his interest in the fantastical.
Cech, John. "Remembering Caldecott: The Three Jovial Huntsmen and the Art of the Picture Book." Lion and the Unicorn, nos. 7-8 (1983–1984): 110-19.
Analysis of The Three Jovial Huntsmen that examines how Caldecott's use of wit, action, and a harmonious balance of art and text made him a galvanizing force for change among picture book artists.
Dooley, Patricia. "Kate Greenaway's A Apple Pie: An Atmosphere of Sober Joy." In Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature, Volume Three: Picture Books, edited by Perry Nodelman, pp. 63-9. West Lafayette, Ind.: ChLA Publishers, 1989.
Reflects on how the stylized details of Greenaway's A Apple Pie demonstrates a deliberate attempt to depict a harmonious universe of indelible nostalgia.
Duvoisin, Roger. "Children's Book Illustration: The Pleasures and the Problems." In Only Connect: Readings on Children's Literature, edited by Sheila Egoff, G. T. Stubbs, and L. F. Ashley, pp. 357-74. Toronto, Canada: Oxford University Press, 1969.
Provides a historical overview of the evolution of children's picture books.
Greene, Ellin. "Randolph Caldecott's Picture Books: The Invention of a Genre." In Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature, Volume Three: Picture Books, edited by Perry Nodelman, pp. 38-45. West Layette, Ind.: ChLa Publishers, 1989
Offers an appreciation of Caldecott that praises his attempts to interpret common nursery rhymes as an innovation in the evolution of the picture book genre.
Laws, Frederick. "Randolph Caldecott." In Only Connect: Readings on Children's Literature, edited by Sheila Egoff, G. T. Stubbs, and L. F. Ashley, pp. 375-83. Toronto, Canada: Oxford University Press, 1969.
Critical examination of Randolph Caldecott's canon and career as an illustrator.
Lundin, Anne. "Kate Greenaway (1846–1901)." In Victorian Horizons: The Reception of the Picture Books of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway, pp. 167-223. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2001.
Offers a critical overview of Greenaway's artistic canon, including individual analyses of her major works.
Meigs, Cornelia, Anne Thaxter Eaton, Elizabeth Nesbit, and Ruth Hill Viguers. "A March of Picture Books." In A Critical History of Children's Literature, pp. 399-406. New York, N.Y.: The MacMillan Company, 1953.
Evaluates the works of several lesser-known picture book illustrators of the Golden Age of children's illustration.
Norton, Donna E. "Early Illustrators of Children's Books." In Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children's Literature, pp. 54-7. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill Publishing Company, 1987.
Explores the early publishing history of children's book illustration, noting the influence of such Victorian masters as Crane, Caldecott, and Greenaway.
Sendak, Maurice. "Randolph Caldecott." In Caldecott & Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures, pp. 21-5. New York, N.Y.: Noonday Press, 1988.
Credits Caldecott as being the father of the modern picture book, arguing that Caldecott's illustrated works feature "an ingenious juxtaposition of picture and word, a counterpoint that never happened before."
Smith, James Steel. "To Read, To Look: The Art of Illustrating Children's Books." In A Critical Approach to Children's Literature, pp. 305-32. New York, N.Y.: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1967.
Presents a historical chronicle of the role of illustration and illustrators in the development of the children's literature genre.