Greenaway, Kate 1846-1901
(Full name Catherine Greenaway) English illustrator and author of picture books.
The following entry presents an overview of Greenaway's career through 1999. For further information on her life and works, see CLR, Volume 6.
Sometimes referred to as the "Queen of the Nursery," Greenaway was a nineteenth-century children's illustrator and author whose vision of an Arcadian childhood dramatically changed the form and format of Victorian-era picture books. Her imaginative renderings of a romanticized realm for children elevated Greenaway into the ranks of her artistic contemporaries, which included such noted illustrators as Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. All protégés of Victorian printer Edmund Evans, Greenaway, Caldecott, and Crane are generally credited with ushering in what is today regarded as the "Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration." Rejecting the didactic traditions of the period, Greenaway built upon the legacy of such authors as Lewis Carroll, creating singular children's works meant to appeal more to the interests of young readers rather than foisting the typical moral instruction found in most Victorian juvenilia. Featuring iconic modes of dress that recalled the fashions of a simpler, bygone time, Greenaway's illustrations differentiated from the masculine energies of her competitors by depicting softer scenes of idyllic comfort, while paying sharp attention to detail and color. In recognition of Greenaway's immense contribution to the field of children's literature, in 1955, the Library Association of Great Britain established the "Kate Greenaway Medal," which is awarded annually to the artist living and publishing in the United Kingdom who has produced the most distinguished work in the illustration of children's books that year.
Greenaway was born on March 17, 1846, in Hoxton, London, England, less than a week before Randolph Caldecott's birth and only a few months after Walter Crane's. One of three children of John and Elizabeth Greenaway, she spent several of her formative years at her aunt's farm in rural Rolleston, England. In 1850, when the engraving company that employed her father as a draftsman went bankrupt, the Greenaway family relocated to Islington, England. She first demonstrated early artistic promise under the guidance of her father, and she began her first formal art training by enrolling in evening classes at the Finsbury School of Art. An avid student, Greenaway was soon accepted as a full-time student at Finsbury, where she would spend six years before gaining admission to the prestigious National Art Training School. Determined to prove her worth as an artist, Greenaway found a job with Marcus Ward, a greeting card company in London whose artistic director was Walter Crane's brother, Thomas. Initially assigned to design Valentine's Day cards, Greenaway's very first attempt sold an astounding twenty-five thousand copies within a few weeks. After six years, Greenaway left the greeting card industry and sev-ered her relationship with Ward when the company refused to return her original artwork. Concurrent with her greeting card work, Greenaway also worked on various freelance illustration assignments—her first published work involved designing the frontispiece for Infant Amusements, or How to Make a Nursery Happy (1867) by William Kingston. She is known to have worked as an illustrator on thirty-five books (including nine alone in 1879) before she finally achieved her breakthrough as a writer and illustrator. Greenaway's father was acquainted with famed engraver Edmund Evans, who was looking for new graphic artists since his long-time partnership with Walter Crane had come to an end. Upon seeing Greenaway's portfolio of sketches and poetry, Evans decided to collect the entire volume into a single book, titled Under the Window, with Coloured Pictures and Rhymes for Children (1879). Evans convinced the Routledge publishing house to release the book, pushing for an abnormally large initial print run of twenty-thousand copies. Fortunately, Under the Window became a runaway success, and a second printing of seventy-thousand copies was ordered. Greenaway produced ten more books between 1879 and 1889 that combined her light poetry and artwork, among them Language of Flowers (1884) and A Apple Pie: An Old-Fashioned Alphabet Book (1886). Further, she released a series of fourteen annual almanacs between 1883 and 1897 (excluding 1896), while additionally illustrating more than a dozen children's books, including a well-received reproduction of Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin in 1888. Before long, Greenaway attracted the attention of John Ruskin, a noted English art critic who soon became an avid devotee of her art style. Before long, the two had developed a close friendship, with Ruskin acting as her most vocal supporter. During the late 1880s, Greenaway saw her immense popularity quickly fade. A host of unauthorized copies of her illustrations combined with the widespread duplication of her artistic style accelerated the English public's already growing sense of fatigue regarding the oversaturation of Greenaway's heavily stylized designs. By 1890 she stopped pursuing publishing work all together and shifted her focus to gallery painting, a move long advocated by Ruskin. Greenaway died on November 6, 1901, of breast cancer in her home at Hampstead.
Primarily an illustrator, Greenaway's short verses are relatively negligible, serving mostly to underscore and link her illustrations. To that end, many of her most successful books lack any distinct plot, such as with A Apple Pie—an alphabet book—and her series of popular almanacs. Aestheticism was an art movement of the last quarter of the nineteenth century that revolutionized classical Victorian art and led the way for art nouveau. Partial aesthetic motifs resound in Greenaway's first solo effort, Under the Window. The children in Greenaway's illustrations exhibit a subdued and melancholy air even when accompanied by cheerful verse. Merry Phillis and her friend sit on William Morris rush-seated chairs to take tea on blue and white china. The predominant colors are the soft yellows and greens in vogue at the time and are displayed on the cover with a border of children waving lilies. White plays an integral part in Greenaway's designs, as it does in Japanese prints, creating a light effect. Under the Window received much attention in the United States, where aestheticism was particularly influential after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition Exposition, an international trade fair that championed decorative arts. However, Greenaway departed from the format of Under the Window in her next publication. Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book for Children (1880) was an example of a popular genre of the day, a journal that provided spaces for signatures by designated birthdays. Greenaway's entry in the genre was accompanied by 382 drawings and the verse of Mrs. Sale Barker—its title attests to the illustrator's newly found fame. Greenaway's illustrated edition of Mother Goose; or, The Old Nursery Rhymes (1881) appeared the following year, and while the commercial response was less than that of the Birthday Book, the critical reception was better. The work was proposed by Evans, and Greenaway chose the verses, most likely from Popular Nursery Rhymes, edited by James Orchard Halliwell, a collection common at the time. In 1882 Greenaway published the first of her series of almanacs, for which the author is well known. The almanacs were booklets with variant bindings that contained monthly calendars—the surprise from year to year was in Greenaway's choice of decorations for the seasons. From 1882 to 1895, annual volumes appeared, printed by Evans and published by Routledge. No edition appeared for 1896, and the 1897 edition was published by Dent. 1884 saw the publication of both The Language of Flowers, in which Greenaway illustrated floral lyrics from classic poets, and William Mayor's The English Spelling Book, a reprint of a well-known spelling text. The Mayor book was a famous primer first published in 1801, which included, besides the alphabet, lessons in natural history; a selection of fables, poems, and moral tales; and a catechism. The drawings of the alphabet letters were also published separately as Kate Greenaway's Alphabet (1885), which was more in the style and size of the illustrator's almanacs and other gift books. The year 1885 brought the publication of Marigold Garden, the second picture book written as well as illustrated by Greenaway. The volume represented a collection of verses on favorite childhood activities, such as playing games or make-believe, with pronounced flower imagery. Her next original works included A Apple Pie, Greenaway's illustrated version of a traditional nursery alphabet jingle, and Kate Greenaway's Book of Games (1889), a pictorial anthology of fifty-three games, with each described as to its structure and rules. However, though her own output as an author was relatively sparse, throughout the latter decades of the nineteenth century, Greenaway illustrated over twenty works for a wealth of other authors, including Robert Browning, Charlotte Mary Yonge, Kathleen Knox, and Ann and Jane Taylor.
Few illustrators can claim the same type of popular success that greeted Greenaway during the 1880s. Her contemporary, Walter Crane, reflected that, "The grace and charm of her children and young girls were quickly recognized, and her treatments of quaint early nineteenth-century costume, prim gardens, and the child-like spirit of her designs in an old-world atmosphere, though touched with conscious modern 'aestheticism,' captivated the public in a remarkable way." And, though he pressured Greenaway to abandon the picture book format, John Ruskin similarly hailed her talent as, "the radiance and innocence of re-instated infant divinity showered again among the flowers of English meadows." Unfortunately, the backlash against her illustrations after "Greenaway Vogue" went out of fashion threatened to tarnish both her popular and critical legacy. Additionally, many scholars and pundits of the era engaged in sharply divided debates regarding the true impact of Greenaway's contribution to Victorian children's illustration, with critics either positively or negatively comparing her artistic output to the works of Crane and Randolph Caldecott. In the modern era, critics have continued to debate Greenaway's artistic prowess. While such commentators as Anne Lundin have declared Greenaway "the undisputed queen of nursery books," others have argued that her artwork fails to enliven its accompanying text, coming across as more decorative than illustrative. Maurice Sendak has been a particularly harsh critic of Greenaway's oeuvre, lamenting the "vapidness" of her publications. Nevertheless, Greenaway has emerged as one of the most prominent figures of Victorian children's illustration, serving as a powerful influence to a wide body of stylistic heirs, including Jessie Wilcox Smith, Tasha Tudor, Rachel Fields, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Author and Illustrator
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
Art Hours: After Kate Greenaway (picture book) 1882
Steps to Art: After Kate Greenaway (picture book) 1882
Kate Greenaway's Almanack. 14 vols. (almanacs) 1883–1895, 1897
The Language of Flowers (picture book) 1884
Kate Greenaway's Alphabet (picture book) 1885
Marigold Garden: Pictures and Rhymes (picture book) 1885
A Apple Pie: An Old-Fashioned Alphabet Book (picture book) 1886
Kate Greenaway's Book of Games (picture book) 1889
Selected Illustrated Works
Infant Amusements, or How to Make a Nursery Happy [illustrator; by William Kingston] (picture book) 1867
Madame d'Aulnoy's Fairy Tales. 9 vols. [illustrator; by Marie Aulnoy] (picture book) 1870
Aunt Louisa's London Toy Books: Diamonds and Toads [illustrator] (picture book) 1871
Fairy Gifts; or, A Wallet of Wonders [illustrator; by Kathleen Knox] (picture book) 1874
The Fairy Spinner [illustrator; by Miranda Hill] (picture book) 1875
Puck and Blossom [illustrator; by Rosa Mulholland] (picture book) 1875
Seven Birthdays, or, The Children of Fortune [illustrator; by Kathleen Knox] (picture book) 1875
Turnaside Cottage [illustrator; by Mary Senior Clark] (picture book) 1875
Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines [illustrator with Walter Crane; edited by W. J. Loftie] (nonfiction) 1876
Starlight Stories Told to Bright Eyes and Listening Ears [illustrator; by Fanny LaBlanche] (picture book) 1876
Poor Nelly [illustrator; by Bonavia Hunt] (picture book) 1878
Heir of Redclyffe [illustrator; by Charlotte Mary Yonge] (picture book) 1879
The Little Folks Nature Painting Book [illustrator; by George Weatherly] (picture book) 1879
The Little Folks Painting Book [illustrator; by George Weatherly] (picture book) 1879
The Two Gray Girls and Their Opposite Neighbours [illustrator; by Ellen Haile] (picture book) 1880
A Day in a Child's Life [illustrator; by Myles Birket Foster] (picture book) 1881
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
English Spelling Book [illustrator; by William Mavor] (picture book) 1884
Dame Wiggins of Lee and Her Seven Wonderful Cats [illustrator; edited by John Ruskin] (picture book) 1885
Rhymes for the Young Folk [illustrator with Helen Allingham, Caroline Paterson, and Harry Furniss; by William and Helen Allingham] (picture book) 1886
The Pied Piper of Hamelin [illustrator; by Robert Browning] (picture book) 1888
Royal Progress of King Pepito, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge [illustrator; by Beatrice F. Cresswell] (nonfiction) 1889
April Baby's Book of Tunes [illustrator; by Mary Annette Beauchamp Russell] (picture book) 1900
Michael Patrick Hearn (essay date 1980)
SOURCE: Hearn, Michael Patrick. "Mr. Ruskin and Miss Greenaway." Children's Literature 8 (1980): 22-34.
[In the following essay, Hearn traces the relationship between art critic and intellectual John Ruskin and Kate Greenaway, charting how their communications and personal relationship influenced her artistic style and career.]
In 1878, with the publication of her unpretentious collection of verses and pictures titled Under the Window, Kate Greenaway became a household name. As her chief rival Walter Crane explained, "The grace and charm of her children and young girls were quickly recognized, and her treatment of quaint early nineteenth-century costume, prim gardens, and the child-like spirit of her designs in an old-world atmosphere, though touched with conscious modern 'aestheticism,' captivated the public in a remarkable way"1 This reclusive spinster suddenly became the confidante of poets and princesses. She was lionized and parodied in the press. Greenaway boys and girls appeared (often without the artist's permission) on porcelain and pewter, on toys and wallpaper. Her simple style of dress, derived in part from the Empire period, became the rage in the late Victorian age, and for once Paris in coining the term Greenawisme looked to London for inspiration in fashion. Being as popular in the New as in the Old World, Kate Greenaway was credited with dressing the children of two continents.
This illustrator had no greater champion that John Ruskin, the most influential English art critic of the day. He was enchanted by Under the Window, and he at once wrote her an eccentric letter of great praise: "I lay awake half (no, a quarter) of last night thinking of the hundred things I want to say to you—and never shall get said!—and I'm giddy and weary, and now can't say even half or a quarter of one out of the hundred. They're about you,—and your gifts—and your graces, and your fancies, and your—yes, perhaps one or two little—tiny faults."2 He wanted to know if she believed in fairies, in ghosts, in principalities or powers, in Heaven. "Do you only draw pretty children out of your head?" he persisted. "In my parish school there are at least twenty prettier than any in your book … they are like—very illdressed Angeli. Could you draw groups of these as they are?" She was touched by this enthusiasm and treasured the opinions, both the good and the bad. They soon became fast friends, discussing possible collaborations, perhaps a new edition of Beauty and the Beast or a book on botany (he sent her "sods" for nature studies). Most of these suggestions, however, came to nothing. He invited her to visit him in his country home, where she found much to admire: "Such wild wide stretches of country and then such mountains—such mossy trees and stones—such a lake—such a shore—such pictures—such books—my mind was entirely content and satisfied."3
Why did the great defender of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites devote so much time and energy toward the promotion of Kate Greenaway's humble art? Her appeal was in part nostalgic; she knew him when he was recalling his childhood, during the writing of his autobiography Praeterita. Clearly the author of Mod-ern Painters had altered his aesthetics. He who once defended Turner against accusations that the landscape painter had hurled "handfuls of white, and blue, and red, at the canvas, letting what chanced to stick, stick," now attacked Whistler's nocturnes as "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face."4 Ruskin had long been known for his unorthodox opinions of art; for example, he argued that George Cruikshank's illustrations for German Popular Stories (1823 and 1826) of the Brothers Grimm "are the finest things, next to Rembrandt's, that … have been done since etching was invented."5 Ruskin was now growing old. To many of his colleagues he had become, as the American expatriate called him, "the Peter Parley of Painting."6 In these later years, Ruskin suffered from recurrent bouts of madness. His mind had never fully accepted his loss of faith and the renunciation of narrow Puritanism for humanism. More significantly he had fallen in love with a girl thirty years his junior.
Rose LaTouche was only nine years old when she first met Ruskin. He grew to love this strange, sensitive child, and as they corresponded over many years, she learned to love him in return. He was repeating the pattern of his failed marriage. Effie Gray, his former wife, was only twelve when she and the writer were first introduced. As a token of his affection, he wrote his famous fairy tale The King of the Golden River. His letters suggest that he grew less infatuated with Effie as she matured; yet he married her and then later divorced her (the marriage never having been consummated) so that she might become the wife of John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite artist who had painted Ruskin's portrait. The difference between Ruskin's love for Effie and that for Rose was that as the latter grew older, he desired her more. Judiciously, the middle-aged suitor waited until Rose reached eighteen to propose marriage. Her parents discouraged the match and went so far as to have Effie Millais warn their daughter that Ruskin was "utterly incapable of making a woman happy."7 Ruskin chose as his confidante in this sad affair George MacDonald, the author of At the Back of the North Wind and a friend of the LaTouches; and after much intrigue, Rose agreed to marry Ruskin within three years. Unfortunately she died; hers was a death from which the author never recovered.
Ruskin discovered Under the Window only a few years after Rose's death. In the picture book's simplicity and purity he found comfort and hope. "Holbein lives for all time with his grim and ugly 'Dance of Death,'" he confided to his new protégé; "a not dissimilar and more beautiful immortality may be in store for you if you worthily apply yourself to produce a 'Dance of Life.'"8 Greenaway was one of several female artists whom Ruskin championed. One may wonder what his Oxford audiences thought of his lectures devoted to this strange group. "You are fast becoming," he reassured the creator of Under the Window, "the helpfullest, in showing me that there are yet living souls on earth who can see beauty and peace, and Good-will among men—and rejoice in them."9 Such praise offered with an almost religious fervor now seems excessive. "Your proper work would be in glass painting … seen, in sacred places, by multitudes," he wrote her. "You have the radiance and innocence of reinstated infant divinity showered again among the flowers of English meadows."10
What charmed him most about her work was her depiction of innocent girlhood. His affection for the young was not restricted to the children Effie and Rose. In maturity he confessed no sweeter pleasure than to join in the sports and gambols of the students of a private girls' academy which he supported. He even proposed that Greenaway be the headmistress of a drawing school in London "where nice young girls can go—and find no disagreeable people or ugly pictures."11 In Greenaway, this "mixed child and woman," he found the medium through which to express his image of the young. "My knowledge of people is extremely limited," he once confessed to her, "continually mistaken—and what is founded on experience, chiefly of young girls."12 When asked which one he preferred from a group of little girls that she had drawn, he became as coy as a prospective suitor: "Of course the Queen of them all is the little one in front—but she's just a month or six weeks too young for me. Then there's the staff bearer … but she's just three days and a minute or two too old for me. Then there's the divine one with the dark hair, and the beatific one with the brown—but I think they've both got lovers already, and have only come to please the rest, and wouldn't be mine, if I prayed them ever so. Then there's the little red beauty who is ruby and diamond in one, but—but—not quite tall enough, again. I think the wisest choice will be the pale one between the beatific and the divine!"13
Ruskin's enthusiasm for Greenaway's subjects was matched by his persistence that she improve her drawing. In his desire that she perfect her art, he becomes obsessed with improving the feet of her figures. His letters, even to the last one he sent her just before his final breakdown, abound with demands that she sketch the bare feet of children: "And—you should go to some watering—place in August with fine sands, and draw no end of bare feet,—and—what else the Graces unveil in the train of the Sea Goddesses,"14 Perhaps there was nothing perverse in this insistence on improvement (she never did perfect the depiction of that part of the anatomy), but his persistence in his letters that she draw the naked figure is often embarrassing. She told him she had had enough anatomy when at art school, and she refused to work from the nude. Still he teasingly tried to get her to reveal the form beneath the frock: "As we've got so far as taking off hats, I trust we may in time get to taking off just a little more—say, mittens—and then—perhaps—even—shoes!—and (for fairies) even—stockings—And—then … Will you—(it's for your own good!) make her stand up, and then draw her for me without her hat—and, without her shoes … and without her mittens, and without her—frock and its frill? And let me see exactly how tall she is—and how—round. It will be so good of—and for—you—And to, and for—me."15 He even tried to get her to work in the classical manner, admonishing "you must draw figures now undraped for a while—Nobody wants anatomy,—but you can't get on without Form."16 In spite of her refusals, he remained firm, and he could be brutal. When he objected to one maiden with "a perfect coal-heaver's leg," he told her, "I'll send her back to have her gown taken off as soon as you're able to work again."17 Such remarks suggest those made by that other Oxford don, Lewis Carroll, to another artist, E. Gertrude Thomson, from whom he commissioned a series of nymphet drawings, the "fairy-fancies" of the posthumous Three Sunsets and Other Poems (1898).18
Kate Greenaway admitted that she had difficulty drawing from life. She could not merely hold up a mirror to the visible world; her realm in which Ruskin found refuge was the creation of her own fancy. She preferred to offer an idealized portrayal of childhood. "Children," she argued, "like to know about other things—or what other children did—but not about children in an abstract sort of way. That belongs to older people."19 Ruskin insisted on her "exquisite feeling given to teach—not merely to amuse."20 Teach she did—not only in William Mavor's textbook The English Spelling-Book (1884) but also in the volumes she both wrote and illustrated. In each she offered examples of good behavior. Her world is free of conflict and everyday nuisances. Her delicate girls never tear their frocks while shinnying up trees; her roses rarely bear thorns. Her Book of Games (1889) avoids rough schoolyard sports; instead she selects word games and conundrums which require no strenuous participation. It is doubtful her two combatants in "F Fought for It" of A Apple Pie (1886) will ever come to blows; in Little Ann (1882), her dirty Jim is never so dirty and the little girl who beat her sister is never so vicious as the characters suggested by the verses of Ann and Jane Taylor. She could not bear such children. "I don't feel near strong enough for the strain of it," she wrote of painting children's portraits. "I know what the children are like—quite unaccustomed to sitting still…. I prefer the little girls and boys that live in that nice land, that come as you call them, fair or dark, in green ribbons or blue. I like making cowslip fields grow and apple trees bloom at a moment's notice. This is what it is … to have gone through life with an enchanted land ever beside you."21 In her "enchanted land," children act as they should and not as they do.
Perhaps she perfected her vision in Marigold Garden (1885), a companion volume to Under the Window but without the brown witch and other "mere ugly nonsense" which Ruskin had objected to in the earlier picture book. In the new volume of her own verses, her drawings were never prettier. When a child herself, she used to plan "out delightful places just close and unexpected" where her fancy might roam freely. "My bedroom window used to look out over red roofs and chimney-pots," she once wrote Ruskin, "and I made steps up to a lovely garden up there with nasturtiums growing and brilliant flowers so near to the sky. There were some old houses joined ours at the side, and I made a secret door into long lines of old rooms, all so delightful, leading into an old garden. I imagined it so often that I knew its look so well; it go to be very real."22 This private world is "Somewhere Town" of Under the Window, "Over the tiles and the chimney-pots … up in the morning early." Through her picture books this child-woman was able to take other children through that secret door to an enchanted marigold garden.
Although boys may accompany her girls, men rarely invade this sanctuary. Those who do appear are actually tall maidens in false mustaches. She could not draw the male form. She never married, and there is no evidence she had suitors. It was once rumored that she was actually Mrs. Randolph Caldecott, a possibility Caldecott did not find amusing. One contemporary described her as "short and dumpy, with hair turning grey and very unruly. Bright brown eyes, one with a slight droop of the lid. A kind, merry face, a flow of brisk talk, laughter for the obvious things, no complexities about art, matter of fact, easy, simple, and natural … not pretty hands."23 Her plainness distressed her. Once she warned a correspondent, "Please, you are not to make so much of me, for I am not in the least a frog Princess. Wouldn't it be nice if I were, to emerge suddenly, brilliant and splendid?" It hurt her that she was not the creature her art suggested: "I was given quite the wrong sort of body to live in, I am sure. I ought to have been taller, slimmer, and at any rate passably good-looking, so that my soul might have taken flights, my fancy might have expanded."24 Suffering from a lisp, she was shy and felt ill at ease with men. Ironically, her staunchest defenders were gentlemen.
Her lack of sympathy for certain aspects of human character influenced her attitude towards Nature. "I could never understand," Edmund Evans, her printer, noted in his memoirs, "her liking only calm-weather skies, blue and white; she utterly disagreed with me when I told her of the pleasure stormy-weather skies gave me, such skies as Constable evidently loved."25 Perhaps her rheumatism affected this opinion, but more likely it was because she could not understand why anyone preferred the ugly to the beautiful. "People laugh at me," she once told a friend, "I am so delighted and pleased with things, and say I see with rose-coloured spectacles. What do you think—is it not a beautiful world?"26
Unlike Evans, Ruskin would have nothing but sunny days and golden sunsets from her. He sought in her world an alternative to Victorian technocracy. "There are no railroads in it, to carry the children away with," he wrote in "Fairy Land," his Oxford lecture devoted to her art; "no tunnel or pit mouths to swallow them up, no league-long viaducts—no blinkered iron bridges? There are only winding brooks, wooden foot-bridges, and grassy hills without any holes cut into them!" Her books supported his quarrel with the Industrial Revolution, a fight he had waged since he wrote The King of the Golden River.
In choosing her texts, Greenaway was careful to remain within the pre-industrial England of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Mavor, the Taylors, Mother Goose, A Apple Pie, Dame Wiggins of Lee and Her Seven Wonderful Cats, belonged to the age of John Newbery and John Harris when there were "no gasworks! no waterworks, no mowing machines, no sewing machines, no telegraph poles, no vestige, in fact, of science, civilization, economical arrangements, or commercial enterprise!!!" There was no trace in her work of what Ruskin called the "plague-cloud," that nineteenth-century phenomenon that polluted his contemporaries' landscape paintings. This pollution of Nature by materialism increased Ruskin's disenchantment with the modern world. His protégé's vision remained uncorrupted; he knew she would be the perfect collaborator for his projected "story about perpetual spring." Her spirit was an eighteenth-century sensibility akin to that of Mrs. Barbauld, whose argument of Divine instruction in Nature, in Hymns in Prose for Children (1781), was shared by Ruskin in his Modern Painters. "Every field," Mrs. Barbauld wrote, "is like an open book; every painted flower hath a lesson written on its leaves. Every murmuring brook hath a tongue; a voice is in every whispering wind. They all speak of him who made them; they all tell us, he is very good." Mrs. Barbauld's vision of Paradise could easily be a description of the world in Kate Greenaway's picture books. "There is a land," her Hymns in Prose concludes, "where the roses are without thorns, where the flowers are not mixed with brambles. In that land, there is eternal spring, and light without any cloud …; rivers of pleasures are there, and flowers that never fade…. This country is Heaven: it is the country of those that are good; and nothing that is wicked must inhabit there."
Not surprisingly Ruskin saw much in his friend's drawings to soothe his troubled soul. In these children's books the weary teacher could retire like Robert Browning's Pied Piper of Hamelin to that "joyous land, / Joining the town and just at hand, / Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew, / And flowers put forth a fairer hue, / And everything was strange and new." Ruskin characteristically did not fully approve of Greenaway's vision of Paradise in her 1888 edition of the Browning poem. "A real view of Hampstead ponds in spring," he wrote, "would have been more celestial to me than this customary flat of yours with trees stuck into it at regular distances. And not a Peacock! nor a flying horse!!" Yet he acknowledged the comfort her Pied Piper of Hamelin gave him: "I feel as if he had piped me back out of the hill again, and would give some spring times yet to rejoice in your lovely work and its witness to them."27
Her simple work invigorated him for a time, and under his tutelage she improved as an artist. He frequently played Svengali to her Trilby. He often scolded her like a naughty pupil. "Now be a good girl," he wrote, "and draw some flowers that won't look as if their leaves had been in curlpapers all night—and some more chairs than that one chair—with the shade all right and the legs all square—and then I'll tell you what you must do next."28 He could be irritable, but his criticisms were always affectionate. He wished her shoes "weren't quite so like mussel-shells," her "roses like truffles," her "suns and moons like straw hats," her "lillies crumpled like pocket-handkerchiefs." He told her which painters to admire and which to avoid. He even advised her on literature. The Brontës, he stressed, were not for her; all she should read was Shakespeare.
His letters were not filled solely with art instruction; he could be intimate. Once he described a miracle performed by his beloved Rose, "a saint in her way," in reviving a dying friend through prayer.29 He also confided to her on "the sadness of deliberately preparing for the close of life." "A great deal of the time I have lost in the mere friction of life," he wrote her, "scarcely any sense of Peace—And no hope of any life to come. I forget it all more in the theatre than anywhere—cathedrals are no good any more."30 She knew that he cared deeply for her, and she for him. She wrote him almost daily, filling her letters with impromptu sketches; and even during the last, silent decade of his life, she carried on an affectionate monologue with him. Typical of her concern was her birthday greeting: "I wish I was going to be there to see all the lovely flowers you are going to have. If I were there you should ask me to tea—I think—yes, I think you ought to ask me to tea—and we'd have raspberry jam for tea—a muffin, some violets—and a Turner to look at—oh, yes, I think you should ask me to tea."31 She was not an intellectual, and Ruskin must have been amused by her opinions on art; but her simple, childlike interest comforted him in his old age. She found in his words and thought a "holiness," an inspiration for her work.
During his final illness, she produced only a few books, primarily her annual almanac. She experimented with children's portraits in oil, a medium she never mastered; and she occasionally exhibited watercolors and designed book-plates and magazine illustrations. His death in 1900 left her deeply grieved. "It was a great shock," she wrote a colleague. "I feel it very much, for he was a great friend—and there is no one else like him."32 She now tried to revive her career, by proposing many new projects such as editions of Andersen's The Snow Queen and Blake's Songs of Innocence. Her vogue, however, had passed. Her heart seemed no longer in her work, and she suffered from acute muscular rheumatism. She died in November 1901, at age forty-five, only a little over a year after the death of Ruskin.
1. Quoted by M. H. Spielmann and G. S. Layard, Kate Greenaway (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1905), p. 71.
2. Letter to Kate Greenaway, Jan. 6, 1880, The Letters of John Ruskin, The Works of John Ruskin, vol. 37, ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1909), p. 307.
3. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 113.
5. "Appendix," The Elements of Drawing, The Works of John Ruskin, vol. 15 (1904), p. 222.
6. Quoted by Rosenberg, p. 208.
7. Quoted by Rosenberg, p. 202.
8. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 5.
9. Letter to KG, Christmas Day 1881, p. 383.
10. Letter to KG, Dec. 7, 1880, p. 331; and "Fairyland," The Art of England, quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 5.
11. Letter to KG, Nov. 2, 1886, quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 155.
12. Letter to KG, Jan. 15, 1885, p. 508.
13. Letter to KG, Feb. 11, 1884, p. 474.
14. Letter to KG, July 10, 1883, p. 460.
15. Letter to KG, July 6, 1883, p. 459.
16. Letter to KG, April 20, 1884, quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 133.
17. Letter to KG, Jan. 28, 1884, p. 473.
18. It should be noted that Ruskin was the drawing instructor of Alice Liddell, the little girl for whom Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
19. Quoted by Spielman and Layard, p. 124.
20. Letter to KG, June 15, 1883, p. 454.
21. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, pp. 239-40.
22. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 218.
23. Quoted by Esther Hallam Meynell, A Woman Talking (London: Chapman & Hall, 1940), p. 29.
24. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, pp. 112 and 208.
25. Edmund Evans' Reminiscences, ed. and introduced by Ruari McLean (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1967), p. 63.
26. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 266.
27. Letters to KG, Feb. 23, 1888, p. 601; and Mayday, 1889, p. 608.
28. Letter to KG, June 7, 1883, p. 453.
29. Letter to KG, Jan. 23, 1884, pp. 472-73.
30. Letter to KG, March 20, 1884, p. 478.
31. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 166.
32. Quoted by Spielmann and Layard, p. 248.
Richard Dalby (essay date 1991)
SOURCE: Dalby, Richard. "Kate Greenaway, 1846–1901." In Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration, pp. 26-9. London, England: Michael O'Mara Books Limited, 1991.
[In the following essay, Dalby offers a bio-critical introduction to Greenaway and her works, commenting that "no Victorian artist could combine charm, beauty and gentleness with such style as Kate Greenaway, the undisputed queen of nursery books."]
In the portrayal of childhood, no Victorian artist could combine charm, beauty and gentleness with such style as Kate Greenaway, the undisputed queen of nursery books. Her mob-capped little girls and frillytrousered, short-jacketed boys inhabited an idyllic Gainsborough-inspired rural paradise. Her quaint costume designs so captivated the public in Britain, Europe and America, that it was claimed 'Kate Greenaway dressed the children of two continents'.
She was born in London on 17 March 1846, daughter of the wood-engraver John Greenaway. She studied at Heatherley's and under Legros at the Slade School. Her first book illustration was a frontispiece for William Kingston's Infant Amusements, or How to Make a Nursery Happy (1867), a prophetic title which aptly summed up all her future artwork. In 1870 she illustrated Aunt Louisa's London Toy Books: Diamonds and Toads for Frederick Warne, the publisher who was to reissue most of her bestloved books at the turn of the century.
During the 1870s Kate Greenaway drew for several important magazines, including Little Folks, St. Nicholas, the Graphic, and the Illustrated London News. She also received several book commissions from the publishers Griffith & Farran, including Fairy Gifts or a Wallet of Wonders (1874), Kathleen Knox's Seven Birthdays: A Fairy Chronicle (1876), and Fanny Lablanche's Starlight Stories Told to Bright Eyes and Listening Ears (1877).
Kate Greenaway worked extremely hard, almost to the point of exploitation, for the firm of Marcus Ward, for whom she designed many greeting cards and calendars, besides a dozen books, including Rosa Mulholland's Puck and Blossom (1874), Miranda Hill's The Fairy Spinner (1875), and The Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines (1876) in collaboration with Walter Crane.
In 1877 Kate Greenaway filled a notebook with nearly fifty pages of drawings and verses, and presented them to her father. He showed them to Edmund Evans, the most celebrated Victorian printer of children's books in colour (notably Doyle's In Fairyland). Evans found these designs delightfully natural and spontaneous, and determined to publish them in book form in association with George Routledge. Under the Window appeared in time for Christmas 1878, and was an immediate triumph.
Kate Greenaway's Birthday Book for Children was published in 1880, containing 12 colour and over 350 tiny black and white illustrations, accompanied by Mrs Sale Barker's verses. Her next assignment was the equally pretty small-format volume, Mother Goose, or, The Old Nursery Rhymes (1881).
Her intense love of flowers and gardens was given free rein in her next three books: A Day in a Child's Life (1881) is a delightful celebration of children in music and pictures, compared by some critics to the work of Botticelli and the flower paintings of the meticulous Dutch master, Van Huysam. Language of Flowers (1884) is considered by many to be the loveliest Greenaway book of all, the flowers and fruit here being seen as 'the highest point of her art'. Half of the first edition of 19,500 copies went immediately to America, where many collectors had them bound in leather and gold. Marigold Garden (1885) is said to have been Kate Greenaway's own favourite among all her own books. It was praised for its beauty of colour and freshness of design. She was now at the pinnacle of her success, with the Greenaway 'cult' reaching its height. A plethora of Greenaway artefacts such as dolls, wallpaper, fabrics, christening sets and fashions were manufactured in England and on the Continent.
Among her next books were Kate Greenaway's Alphabet (1885), A Apple Pie (1886), Queen Victoria's Jubilee Garland (1887), and Kate Greenaway's Book of Games (1889) describing 53 games with 24 illustrations in colour.
During the 1880s the most successful of her book illustrations which accompanied texts by other authors were Jane and Ann Taylor's Little Ann and Other Poems (1883; these verses had been Kate Greenaway's favourite childhood reading); Bret Harte's The Queen of the Pirate Isle (1886); Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1888; one of her best-known and most rewarding works); and Beatrice Cresswell's The Royal Progress of King Pepito (1889).
Routledge also published the very popular Kate Greenaway's Almanack every year from 1883 to 1895. Comprising around eight to ten pages, and measuring 3 in × 2 in, these miniature books featured some of her most accomplished work. English sales of the Almanack were exceeded by those in America, where demand for her books was immense. After a gap, Dent issued the final Kate Greenaway's Almanack and Diary for 1897.
She died at her home in Frognal, Hampstead, on 6 November 1901, just as her most accomplished successor as 'queen of the nursery books', Beatrix Potter, was launching her career with Peter Rabbit.
Anne Lundin (essay date 1998)
SOURCE: Lundin, Anne. "Writing Kate Greenaway: Carrier-Bag Autobiography." Children's Literature 26 (1998): 169-84.
[In the following essay, Lundin suggests that Greenaway's children's books are suggestive of Ursula K. Le Guin's theory of "carrier bag" writing—that is, writing which often relies strongly on emotive and nostalgic imagery—drawing evidence from an autobiographical journal by Greenaway found within the Hunt Institute's collection of Greenaway's works.]
The first cultural device was probably a recipient…. Many theorizers feel that the earliest cultural inventions must have been a container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier.
—Elizabeth Fisher, Woman's Creation
Ursula K. Le Guin, in her provocative essay "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction," suggests that fiction writing is much like the prehistoric gathering of wildoat seeds from the husk and carrying them away in some kind of carrier bag, bearing them home—home being another, larger kind of bag—to be shared and honored by the family. This process resembles the fictional one of gathering words that bear meanings and hold "a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us" (169). Those early gatherers, who collected from the fruit of the earth and then returned it to the community to share and to hold sacred, restore Le Guin's faith in humanity. As she writes, "If to do this is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time" (168).
Perhaps "writing a woman's life," in Carolyn Heilbrun's words, is even more like bearing home seeds in a carrier bag. Perhaps scholarship in a special collection library is also similar in its bending, unfolding, and collating process. In so doing, I located an extraordinary holograph manuscript—a fragmented autobiography of Kate Greenaway—in a botanical library at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The location of the manuscript in a botanical library seems somehow fitting to the process of organic growth and gathering. At the same time, a botanical library seems to be a curious site for a picture-book collection. How did a scientific archive come to obtain many of the original works of a Victorian picture-book illustrator? What would this abbreviated autobiography reveal about the relationship between Greenaway's childhood reverie and her art?
Original artworks and related materials of Kate Greenaway were donated to the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation by Frances Hooper in the 1970s. Hooper, a bibliophile with a collection of Greenaway materials spanning more than thirty years, initially became interested in the artist through a rare book collector from Chicago named Walter M. Hill. Beginning with an instinctive attraction to a pencil-and-watercolor drawing of a girl in an old-fashioned red pelisse, Hooper was finally able to acquire a sizable collection of Greenaway items owned by Arnold Shircliffe, a Chicago restaurateur known for his eclectic acquisitions. She collected original artworks, first editions, holograph letters, and other manuscript material. Hooper finally donated the collection to the Hunt Institute largely because of her affinity with Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt, herself a woman with extraordinary interests in horticulture, rare books, and graphic arts. Hunt was intrigued not only with botanical works on flowers but also with related works, such as the "Language of Flowers" books, popular in the Victorian era. Although Hooper never met Hunt personally, she grew close to Hunt through participation in groups Hunt founded that were related to fine printing and book collecting.
I learned about the existence of the autobiography in 1990 from working in the de Grummond Children's Literature Research Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. This collection contains large holdings of original Greenaway materials as well as related source books and catalogs. In a 1980 exhibition catalog published by the Hunt Institute, Kate Greenaway, was the following citation: "Autobiographical journal, text in pencil, with sketches. One volume, soft bound, ca. 110 pp., 22.5 × 18 cm" (105). I was aware of the existence of a journal through biographical works on Greenaway, although I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to read and study the penciled scribblings myself. Frances Hooper purchased the journal at a London auction held at the direction of Greenaway's grand-nephew and donated the work to the collection in 1971. As a librarian, I was struck by the largesse and wisdom of the donor who sensed in Greenaway's work a quality—her floral motif—that transcended traditional archival patterns of where to give what. As a scholar of Greenaway, I was closer to my quarry than ever before.
Kate Greenaway's autobiography as literary text is virtually unknown. The work belongs to the genre that Richard Coe calls "the Childhood," an adult autobiographical foray into childhood and adolescence. As Coe points out, such discursive work takes as its subject matter the quotidian life, the trivia that essentially define childhood experience in its "minutiae of child-delight or torment" (xii). This writing presents an alternative world written not from the vantage of a historian's accuracy but, instead, of a poet's truth (2). Sidone Smith considers autobiography to be a form of fiction, of "assigning meanings to a series of experiences, after they have taken place, by means of emphasis, juxtaposition, commentary, omission" (45). Such elasticity is not always valued as process or product. Greenaway's first—and still most definitive—biographers, M. H. Spielmann and G. S. Layard, purge the manuscript for the same reasons that postmodern critics privilege women's autobiography. In the words of their 1905 biography of Greenaway: "What she left behind is a long detailed record of undigested recollections and sensations as she recalled them, marked by discursiveness and lacking in literary form" (9). What they do acknowledge is her "unusually retentive memory"—of childhood colors, flowers, clothing, dolls, gardens, and family relations. Like that in other women's autobiographies, the writing celebrates homespun and natural details, a rich quilt of sensual experience and genealogy. In this the autobiography is similar to the ancient act of gathering seeds in a carrier bag to bring home to others.
Considering that Greenaway's health was failing during the process of its writing, the mere existence of the journal, however inchoate, is extraordinary. Greenaway wrote this journal in the last years of her life, when she was stoically suffering from breast cancer before her premature death in 1901 at age fifty-five. The journal begins and ends rather abruptly, without introduction or conclusion. A summary of the contents exists in the Spielmann and Layard biography of 1905, extracts of which reappear in various biographical sketches of Greenaway ever since that publication. Despite this visibility, no one has yet examined the autobiography as autobiography, as a unique form of women's writing, by a woman who was distinctly a children's book author and illustrator. Indeed, few have considered her late-in-life notebook an autobiography. Yet she conceived of an audience, as her various markings on the page show. She illustrated the text with numerous sketches, corrected names, inserted words, and included "see also" references for the implied reader.
Writing in her early fifties, beset with health problems, Greenaway began the story of her childhood in a simple penciled notebook. No record exists as to what prompted this self-expression, nor if it was ever read, except by her biographers after her death. Greenaway was clearly interested in the art of autobiography, as evidenced by letters quoted in Spiel-mann and Layard's biography. Two letters to her friend Violet Dickinson (later intimate with the young Virginia Woolf) in 1897 suggest her interest in the genre:
What an interesting thing nearly every one's life would be if they could put it down; but it is only the horrid ones who will, like Marie Bashkirtseff or Rousseau—but if nice people could tell all their mind it would be charming. Did you ever read Goethe's Life—the autobiography? All the early part is so charming—only there you feel he also was very heartless. And he was, but it is so charmingly told. Sometimes frankness is curious. I once met a young man who told me he was a coward and a liar—and it turned out he was, to my great surprise. It isn't often people know themselves so truthfully, or, if they know, they don't say.
I am longing to read the Tennyson Life—shall send for it next week. I don't know, I'm sure, who is best to write a Life—outsiders don't know what any one is like, and relations often get a wrong idea of you because you are cross at little points in your character that annoy you. I feel an autobiography or diary is best. A person must reveal himself most in that.
And reveal Greenaway does in more than a hundred pages of recollections of her childhood.
Greenaway's personal storytelling begins, cryptically, with a crest on the first page with emblem figures appearing to be ducks. With little ado, the first page of text fixes the geography of Rolleston, the quaint country town in Nottinghamshire where she spent her earliest years and every childhood summer thereafter. This is the heart of the matter: where she spent her formative years. She then turns to family, to the relations who nurtured and housed her during her frequent stays. Her most intimate connections there were not with family members, however, but with their servants. When Greenaway was taken seriously ill as a young child, she was sent to her Aunt Wise's house and then to nurse at the home of her aunt's servant Mary Barnsdale, married to Thomas Chapell. Mary soon became "Maman," her husband "Dadad," and Mary's sister Ann "Nanan." Their names appear on the top of the first page of the manuscript, along with the mysterious crest.
Her earliest memories include, curiously, the mention of baskets. She was two years old and being carried by Ann into a hayfield with a basket containing tea, bread, and butter. Greenaway states that for the rest of her life she has recalled the look of the sun, the smell of tea, the perfume of the hay, the feeling of happiness from her perch on Ann's arm. She then recounts picking up tiny stones and pebbles and putting them into a little round purple-and-white basket. Greenaway even remembers what she was wearing—a pink cotton frock and a white sun bonnet. As she writes, "Everything impressed me very strongly early on" (4).
Her next strongest images recollected from childhood are of flowers. There was the snapdragon that opened and shut its mouth as she touched it. There was the pink moss rose that grew by the dairy window. There were the gooseberry bushes, the plum tree, and the laburnum in the garden near the road. There was a purple phlox on one side of the gate and a Michaelmas daisy on the other side. Flowers—their color, scent, and form—shaped "a real fairy ground" for this young girl (6).
Still in her toddler years, Greenaway reveled in the cornfield and flower bank, which she visited with Ann on free Sundays. She remembers the flowers and the foliage growing along the stream: purple vetch and blackberry bushes. Nearby was a mill with its network of pools and streams, forget-me-nots ablaze on the banks and apple trees overshadowing. In the autumn, fallen apples would float atop the water. Young Greenaway felt these sodden fruits "a Mystery, thinking they might float on and on to the sea to a new land altogether" (7). The only jarring notes in these reveries were sounds of church bells, which seemed "so mournful," or sightings of recalcitrant cows she tried to herd, which caused great terror.
At about this time Greenaway returned to London, where her family struggled with finances and with frequent moves. Although Kate was unaware of the circumstances—her father losing much of his business as an engraver and her mother recouping with her own dressmaking enterprise—she was sensitive to the atmosphere of each location. Greenaway's perspective is always that of a child; she gives no background or explanation of the events that engaged her. She was particularly struck with the house at Islington, where her mother ran a small shop. It was a rambling place with a large garden in the back, then a lane and a field of sheep—in Greenaway's words, "Houses and gardens all rather mixed up with each other" (11).
Part of the mixture involved dolls, a major preoccupation of her childhood. She was enchanted by the Punch and Judy shows in the streets, with the puppets playing out their own dramas. She longed for the dolls that she could not buy. She writes of—and sketches—the dolls that she played with during her childhood, remembering their every garment and imaginative re-creation. Dolls were often brought outdoors, wheeled in carriages, and dressed up in old handmade clothes. She owned a small set of figures of the royal family as well as paper dolls and toy animals.
Another persistent interest involved books and their imaginative worlds. Greenaway recalls how she learned to read by herself at an early age from the old fairy tales in their colored paper covers. The servants passed on scary stories, such as "Pepper and Salt" and "Bluebeard," which created states of terror in the young child. Some of her favorite stories were those by Maria Edgeworth; she mentions, in particular, "Cherry Orchard" (which she was later to paint), "The Purple Jar," and "Frank, Harry and Lucy." She was also enamored of the poetry of Ann and Jane Taylor, which she would later memorialize in her own illustrated volume, Little Ann and Other Poems (1882). Greenaway's beloved fairy tale was "Beauty and the Beast," a story of transformation. She responded actively to what she read. She was quite distressed, for instance, by a book of rhymes for which her father engraved the wood blocks. One of the selections was "The Wonderful History of Cocky Locky, Henny Penney, and Goosey Gander," which seemed to her a brutal story. She also pored over the illustrations from Illustrated London News that were collected by her father in the course of his business as an engraver. She was horrified at the pictures of fleeing women and children during the Indian Mutiny and would attempt to draw the scenes on her slate, with the innocent victims rescued.
In the midst of depicting a street scene—replete with puppet shows, singers, and vendors selling their wares—she describes one man who marched along proclaiming the end of the world. This intrusion into her blissful world produced "months of gloom." She began to envision the creation of the world, if it were indeed ending. She imagined herself in a dark space with a burning world floating about it and drew circles on the page of the manuscript to illustrate. Such thoughts as to what came before the beginning and into what state the world would evolve created distress. "I can well remember wishing away the despairing thought and seeking forgetfulness of the thought" (42).
Much of the terror aroused by fairy tales, the media, and philosophical questions became woven into her first book, Under the Window (1879), in which she combined street cries, nursery rhymes, and some of the fear and trembling of childhood. The pages that include the witch on a broomstick and the hooded man capturing a child show the influence of a fiery imagination, which helps to balance some of the more bucolic pictures and the stasis. Unfortunately, under John Ruskin's tutelage, all images of darkness were expunged from later editions, which conceivably stunted the artist's—as well as the reader's—growth. We will never know how her work might have matured had she been allowed to convey the despair as well as the enchantment she experienced as a child because, from that point on, her work became patterned into a more prettified world.
Greenaway's focus was never far from the family. She describes happy domestic scenes with her mother reading, her father close by, her sister Lizzie singing, and her and her sister Fanny sliding off the sofa to the floor or playing with carpet stools as stepping stones across an imaginary stream. She introduces all of her relatives at Rolleston, as well as their personalities and habits and interactions with her. All of her familial characters are described by their clothing, their gardens, or their teatime. Her sense of family extended to the farmers and workers of the town. At one point she writes, "I know every farmer in Rolleston, every laborer, and nearly every cow" (67). She attributes much of her empathy with farmers to the novels of George Eliot, which, she says, taught her much more about their lives than Thomas Hardy's novels did.
As appropriate to a chronicle of childhood, Greenaway recalls her dreams, unself-consciously revealing some of her psyche as well as leaving many gaps. In one recounted dream she is walking in the woods when she finds a cottage. She knocks on the door, which is opened by an old woman with a face so frightful she awakes trembling. In another dream she is in a garden with climbing nasturtiums (a favorite flower). She opens one door after another, only to sense that the door would eventually be opened by the frightful face of the previous dream. In one recurrent dream her father would change faces, and she would desperately try to remove the false one, only to be confronted by another, and yet another. Another repetitive dream was of falling through water, past green weeds, to the very bottom. Or she would dream of flight, of mounting into the air and then floating downward over a steep staircase, out one window and in at another (anticipating some of Maurice Sendak's dreamscapes). Some of these nightmarish and ecstatic dream images resonate in Under the Window in the airy feel of the page, in the preponderance of white space, in the water scenes, and in the frightening images that complement the placid expressions.
Her imaginative world was also quite active in the daytime. She would choose circuitous paths through gardens "for my old reason I suppose—the love of the Mysterious, for I could not see the end of it" (49). She would frequent the Rolleston churchyard and occasionally find bones, which created "an awe-struck feeling that they once belonged to people whose descendants belonged now to me. All this gave full scope for my love of the Mysterious and something that was ∗old" (85). She remembers kneeling against the drawing-room window and singing close to the glass. All at once it seemed as if hundreds of voices were singing, until someone came into the room and they vanished. Another day, inspired by the scent of a rose she was carrying, she sensed wonderful scenes, which, when the flower fell, fled too. She writes that when painting flowers and springtime pictures, "I have actually smelt the flowers." Walking into her studio on cold days, she knew she would be in summer as soon as she began to draw. Music was also an elixir. "I have the greatest difficulty to listen to beautiful music, it is so suggestive" (95). Flowers were often enchanted to her. In perhaps the most revealing passage, she writes:
I have always had a curious feeling whenever I see or smell cowslips or apple blossoms—as if I had known them in some former existence—and I seem always trying to remember something I can't when I smell them. It may be knowing them so young that gives me that feeling…. I had a mystical country haunting me—a soul of Eden or Paradise where the air was scented with apple blossom and you walked through cowslips or seemed to live in a sea of buttercups and daisies that were everywhere—a world covered with flowers and blue sky—and divinely fresh air—I never remember primroses there.
In her journal, Greenaway captures one posture that seems most emblematic of the unexpressed longings that her picture books express and evoke. She recounts how she loved to climb to the rooftop of her Islington home and look out over the other rooftops and, in the early morning light, imagine a "Hidden dwelling place." She stood high and saw a lovely garden from afar with boxes of nasturtiums. This im-printed image is illustrated in picture and verse in Under the Window :
Which is the way to Somewhere Town?
Oh, up in the morning early;
Over the tiles and the chimney-pots,
That is the way, quite clearly.
And which is the door to Somewhere Town?
Oh, up in the morning early;
The round red sun is the door to go through,
That is the way, quite clearly.
Under the Window reveals much of the self that is expressed in her later autobiography. The gardens, the marketplace, the rooftops all speak of the young Kate who dreamed of waterfalls and flight, who wore a plum-pudding dress of silk with rainbow stripes while herding the cows, who dressed her dolls in the fabric of old bonnet linings, who loved the word enchanted, who knew every farmer and nearly every animal in Rolleston, who mentioned more flower names than people in her journal, who sensed the mystery at the core of the world, its very beginnings.
Greenaway's journal is unique as autobiography in its illustrations of these mysteries. Her occasional sketches, which in their fragmentary state seem more spontaneous than designed, signal her full-bodied childhood concerns: toys, architecture, flowers, and, above all, the human form, ennobled by dress. Although most of the illustrations carry little comment, her rough drawings of Rolleston houses include markings as to the function of rooms. The sketches, seemingly more illuminating to the creator than to the audience, suggest that her interests were in her own process of remembrance rather than in communication. There is none of the detail here that characterizes her style of illustration: attention to costume and period, circular relationship of figure to background, her own distinctive sense of perspective. This was her journal—Greenaway writing Greenaway.
Who is the audience, the implied reader? I believe it to be Greenaway herself, with belated overtures toward another reader. Her illustrations, with their occasional corrections or cryptic marks (an X on certain lines), assume a response. My own response is that she intended to complete this inchoate endeavor but sensed the shortness of time. Therefore, the creation is intuitive, more a journal of childhood reverie than an autobiography, if those distinctions matter. This language becomes her testament of lasting images, a legacy more personal than that found in her published books. To me, the work exists as a gift. As Lewis Hyde writes in his remarkable book The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, "That art that matters to us—which moves the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living, however we choose to describe the experience—that work is received by us as a gift is received" (xii). And so a gift is given to us: a reader, a library, a larger world. For someone as shy as she, who resisted temptations to assume a public persona, this was what could be said, drawn, shared. I as a reader am left with an interior experience of an author and illustrator who has spoken intimately and given much.
Kate Greenaway's autobiography is indeed a frail vessel, a container in which she gathers her seeds, her flowers, her dreamy stuff, however disparate and disjointed. As Carol Shields writes in her novel The Stone Diaries, "Biography, even autobiography, is full of systematic error, of holes that connect like a tangle of underground streams" (196). Baskets in all of their brokenness are like that.
Fisher, Elizabeth. Woman's Creation: Sexual Evolution and the Shaping of Society. Garden City: Anchor-Doubleday, 1979.
Greenaway, Kate. Under the Window. London: Routledge, 1879.
――――――. Unpublished holograph journal. The Frances Hooper Collection, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Heilbrun, Carolyn. Writing a Woman's Life. New York: Ballantine, 1988.
Hyde, Lewis. The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. New York: Vintage, 1979.
Kiger, Robert, ed. Kate Greenaway. Pittsburgh: Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, 1980.
Le Guin, Ursula K. "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction." In Dancing at the Edge of the World. New York: Grove, 1989. Pp. 165-70.
Shields, Carol. The Stone Diaries. New York: Viking, 1993.
Smith, Sidone. A Poetics of Women's Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
Spielmann, M. H., and G. S. Layard. Kate Greenaway. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1905.
Anne Lundin (essay date 1999)
SOURCE: Lundin, Anne. "Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of Kate Greenaway." In Literature and the Child: Romantic Continuations, Postmodern Contestations, edited by James Holt McGavran, pp. 155-87. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Lundin examines the cultural legacy of Kate Greenaway and the forces that helped shape her continuing reputation, particularly that of her female admirers in various literary fields.]
Imagine the actors and their actions. A framed illustration in a picture book depicts a country garden, a meadow, a picturesque farmhouse peopled with young children who are playing ritually in a Romantic rural landscape. The children bear the expressiveness of a delimited yet infinite space, of becalmed skies and flowering nature. Their bemused expressions belie the antique fancy costumes or peasant smocks in which they are dressed. The children, along with readers, stand serene in such a place, struck by the fantasy of such delicate environs, of tidy young life amid domestically cultured green spaces.1
The illustrations could be by any number of modern illustrators of the pastoral in children's books, where each page sings of the Romantic rhythms of innocent, fantastic childhood. Consider the work of Maurice Boutet de Monvel; Henriette Willebeek Le Mair; E. Boyd Smith; Swedish artists Carl Larsson, Elsa Beskow, Ottilia Adelborg; and the American illustrators Jessie Willcox Smith, Rachel Field, and Tasha Tudor, among others, who demonstrate a romanticized aesthetics of picture book art. The gender or nationality of the artist is not the focus, but, rather, the decorative and domesticated sense of childhood is. The commonality is a domesticated image of the child and feminized settings of home and garden. The model, the paradigm of these romanticized settings, is the style of Kate Greenaway.
Greenaway's prettified world inspired an immediate and enduring following: a company of illustrators who shared her artistic vision and reworked her motifs intertextually both in materials and points of reference. Related as well are the imitations of her style, which began immediately following the publication of her first book, Under the Window (1879), in the reworking of Afternoon Tea (1880) by Sowerby and Emmerson. The commerce of copying Greenaway has been a major industry in the products of Holly Hobby, Joan Walsh Anglund, Laura Ashley, and, most recently, Mary Engelbreit. Greenaway's work has been debased, sentimentalized, and reinterpreted, just as has Romanticism itself in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I intend to explore Greenaway's aesthetics of the picture book, a sensibility grounded in the past—from a remembered childhood to a re-created eighteenth century—which continues to shape the modern picture book landscape and popular culture. What I hope emerges is a portrait of Greenaway's constructed reputation, which is due in part to the canonical inscription of key women librarians and booksellers—notably, Anne Carroll Moore and Bertha Mahony.
The areas I will explore relate to the cultural work of Kate Greenaway as a picture book exemplar of feminine Romanticism, to her advocacy by the pioneer women of children's book publishing and librarianship in the formative years of the field, and to a survey of her intertextual appropriation in the works of late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century illustrators of children's literature. It cannot be merely a coincidence that Greenaway's work was experiencing a renaissance in public favor at the same time that newspaper columns, professional columns, and children's bookstores began to espouse her work, to promote its perpetuation in publishing, and to note contemporary re-creators of her style. The Greenaway style was a conjoined construction of a receptive sensibility.
Classics in the canon are made, not born. So Jane Tompkins's Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860 argues: a literary text exists only within a framework of assumptions that are historically produced. The reading and reputation of a work are affected by a series of cultural circumstances related to publishing practices, pedagogical and critical traditions, economic structures, social networks, and national needs. Whatever its intrinsic merit, a literary work succeeds or fails in terms of its reception in the immediate context, "on the degree to which it provokes the desired response" (Tompkins xviii). An author's reputation depends upon the cultural context within which the work is read and creates the values its readers "discover" there. A text that reaches an exceptionally large audience does so not by its particular uniqueness but by its common embrace of the values most widely shared. Yet literary texts may also inscribe "attempts to redefine the social order," to express solutions for cultural problems, to influence cultural discourse, the way people think and act (Tompkins xi).
This critique is part of a larger discourse that questions the canon as an institutional construction and the process of inclusion or exclusion by which social groups are represented or not represented in the exercise of power. Jane Tompkins's Sensational Designs is particularly valuable for the concept of "cultural work," arising from a text's historical existence and influence in the culture, and for her re-vision of sentimentality as a radical discourse of power. In discussing Uncle Tom's Cabin, Tompkins argues for the "sentimental women's" own sense of empowerment by the "cult of domesticity." Instead of viewing sentimentality as merely consolation and cultural denigration, Tompkins elevates sentimental rhetoric to a position of power that seeks "to reorganize society from the woman's point of view" (124). A sentimental piece of literature can be transforming and transgressive by its designs on the reader for critique, reform. A text can be conservative in its emphasis on established patterns and traditional beliefs, yet also revolutionary in extending these beliefs to an extreme of civic good and "the conduct of all human affairs" (Tompkins 145). "Cultural work" is the cultural self-expression of literature operating within a particular social context. A novel becomes an "answer" to a cultural "question" which is used to change the world of the reader and the cultural politics of a nation. Related is Michel Foucault's premise that an archive, what is preserved and what is not, itself represents an ideology. Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction presents a theory of taste and the politics of privileging a culture's "masterpieces." Clifford Geertz's concept of "thick description" in The Interpretation of Cultures heightens the need not just to describe "the meaning particular social actions have for the actors whose actions they are" but for "stating, as explicitly as we can manage, what the knowledge thus attained demonstrates about the society in which it is found, and, beyond that, about social life as such" (27). Literary practices are just one of many sites where several different discourses converge and assume meaning intertextually. Approaches toward intertextuality view imitations as supplements to the original, which function for later readers as the pre-text for the original (Clayton and Rothstein). Each imitative work is necessarily determined by the literary codes in force at the time of its writing and of its reading. Feminist critics challenge the canon by gendering Romanticism's restrictive notions of culture: art, politics, the self, and the other. Anne Mellor and Mitzi Myers, among others, have exposed the conventional view of high Romanticism: the notion that only the aesthetics of the leading male poets (six in particular) bear weight. Mellor postulates a feminine Romanticism as an ethical and familial portrayal of the self in relation to a family or community (209). To Myers, the discourse about the period and its literary production has been dominated by a peculiar masculine mythology of lyrical development, "Romanticism's claim to a mysterious, essentialized child self" (68). While male tropes of wilderness have been valorized as Romanticism in its finest spirit, women's developmental stories and imagined communities have until recently been relegated to nonliterary status as educational treatises or quotidian sketches. These related theories of cultural studies offer scholarly standpoints that illuminate the complex social, political, and material process of cultural production and demonstrate how Kate Greenaway's Romantic style and fashion in illustration are propagated.
A key to interpretation of cultural production lies in the historical studies of reader response criticism. Each generation's classics assume and foreground a set of dominant codes and values evident in the cultural politics of the age. The salient factors 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 context 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 press articulated their expectations for literature and art. Drawing on Hans Robert Jauss's reception theory and on my own research into the cultural discourse on children's books in late-nineteenth-century England and America, I see the literary discourse of the period 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 on 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; and (10) anxiety about the changing character of children's literature (Lundin 33-53).
Of these horizons, the one most persistent into the twentieth century has been the Romantic resonance of childhood and its literature. The 1880s and 1890s were a pinnacle in the Victorian Romanticism of the child, and the periodical press was the forum for reflection and construction of this iconization. The National Review (1891) described the period as "the Age of Children" (507). Good Words (1904) deemed the nineteenth century as "the Children's Century" and noted the enhanced value placed on the child as the subject of reform movements as well as scholarly studies and fictional narratives (341). Scribner's (1898) explored the literary preoccupations with the child as "a second childhood in literature," in which writers looked back to a "golden age" for solace in uncertain times (123). The Illustrated London News (1890) revealed the broad nostalgic appeal of Romantic childhood: "The pleasures of children supply the sweetest part of parents' pleasure; and to many a kindly heart, among good old maids and other childless persons, or the aged whose old 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 horribly dull and dreary" ("Joies D'Enfants" 739).
Kate Greenaway's style—a trope of "the innocent joys of the little people"—resonated with this charged climate. Kate Greenaway's picture books modeled childhood for the late Victorians as a garden idyll, with winsome children frolicking in pasturelands or village greens surrounded by verdant images, and her influence remains in the feminine romanticism of modern children's book illustration. Barbara Bader, surveying the origins of the modern American picture book, appreciated Greenaway's departure from the traditional renderings of childhood classics toward inventions of her own imagination, to creating books not only for but about children (4). Greenaway set the example for others to follow, a persistent strain of feminine Romanticism in children's literature. Historicizing the appeal of Greenaway for her day helps to establish the nature of her influence.
Romantic strands in Greenaway's work are redolent in images of the cult of the child and a community of women, expressed through artistic fantasies of secret gardens. The garden and its larger landscape became the metaphor for Greenaway and many of her contemporaries to express Romantic sensibilities about childhood and its stories. Some of the recent criticism on the subject includes Mitzi Myers in her writing on Maria Edgeworth and Anna Barbauld, Phyllis Bixler on the pastoral tradition, U. C. Knoepflmacher on nature and the Victorian imagination, and Judith Plotz on the masculine Romantic view of the childartist symbiosis. Humphrey Carpenter in his book Secret Gardens examines the potency of that image of the secret garden of childhood and of England for a whole frame of authors making up "the Golden Age of children's literature": Charles Kingsley, Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Richard Jefferies, Kenneth Grahame, E. Nesbit, Beatrix Potter, J. M. Barrie, and A. A. Milne. He argues that around the mid-nineteenth century, children were seen as having a clear, even heightened vision of the world, and that by the second half of the century, children and childhood had become important elements in the literary imagination (Carpenter 10). Moreover, childhood had become equated with Eden, the garden, the Enchanted Place where harmony reigns. Growing up meant a loss of Paradise, a departure from the Golden Age (Carpenter 9). Thus, much writing for children became introspective and turned to escape and fantasy (Carpenter x). Kate Greenaway belongs within that visionary company as a mothered progenitor of arcadian dreams and sylvan places.
Kate Greenaway's drawings of old-fashioned girls and boys, which appeared in the 1870s, presented an idyllic childhood inhabited by children and young maidens in sophisticated rural simplicity. Greenaway's stylized children were not ostensibly contemporary but appeared old-fashioned in dress reminiscent of the late eighteenth century and redolent of village life still preserved in small pockets of the late-nineteenth-century English countryside. In actuality, Greenaway subtly drew upon the most stylish of contemporary motifs from the aesthetic movement: Queen Anne architecture, William Morris furniture and textiles, Chinese blue-and-white china, and the soft colors much in vogue, apple blossom pink and moss green. To architectural historian Mark Girouard, surveying the Queen Anne movement (1860–1900), the picture books of Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott were "secret persuaders," "more convincing than any prose, of the need for artistic education, especially in the nursery" (139). While parents in the 1850s sought books for more didactic purposes, the generation of the 1870s sought books to inculcate the arts. Somehow such artistic education might offset the dehumanizing effects of industrialization and materialism on Victorian culture. Thus, these early picture books can be viewed as oppositional reading, in the sense that Janice Radway imparts to the reading of romance novels. The images offer an alternative vision, a desired state subverting reality.
Greenaway's work was particularly expressive as a feminine art form. Women artists traditionally have expressed themselves through allowable structures of the dominant culture. As Pamela Gerrish Nunn writes in Victorian Women Artists, a certain kind of feminine artistry was encouraged, one in which "the home and person were the only sites congenial to women's creativity" (20). While genius was suspect, women were allowed to develop talents in craft or design, which included children's book illustration. Nunn points out that by the end of the nineteenth century, the few women artists who were successful exemplified the acceptable models. The success of the three cited—Helen Allingham, Elizabeth Thompson (Lady Butler), and Kate Greenaway—indicates the sort of female artist that the late nineteenth century would accept. The persistent popularity of Allingham and Greenaway demonstrated the popular appeal of a traditionally feminine art, described as "small in scale; watercolour; addressing itself uncritically to domestic experience and incident, the appearance and behavior of children, the quaint and the picturesque; pleasing by its aesthetic charm but not arresting by its creative genius" (Nunn 220). This feminized pictorial world stood in contrast to the academy's notion of fine arts and Romantic subjects, which tended to privilege the dominant ideology of male Romanticism's lonely vision over a more relational community. John Ruskin (1819–1900) noted the subversiveness of such a vision in his Slade Lecture at Oxford University on the subject, "Fairy Land: Mrs. Allingham and Kate Greenaway," which was published in his book The Art of England (1884). Ruskin praised Greenaway's pastoral, preindustrial settings: "There are no railroads in it, to carry the children away … no tunnel or pit mouths to swallow them up … no vestige of science, civilization, economic arrangements, or commercial enterprise" (152). In other words, this was an alternative world that was attuned to other priorities of place while at the same time to a certain nostalgia of lost youth, something attractive to a masculine as well as a feminine sentiment.
This vision resonated with many critics like Ruskin who helped to construct for the public eye a way of seeing. To Martin Hardie, a contemporary artist and art historian, Greenaway distinguished herself through "the directness of the pictorial motives" that create a particular idealized world:
a little kingdom of her own, a kingdom like the island-valley of Avilon, "deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns," a land of flowers and gardens, of red-brick houses with dormer windows, peopled with charming children clad in long, high-waisted gowns, muffs, pelisses, and sun-bonnets. In all her work there is a "sweet reasonableness," an atmosphere of old-world peace and simple piety that recalls Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler and "fresh sheets that smell of lavender." The curtains and frocks of dainty chintz and dimity, the houses with the reddest of red bricks, the gardens green as green can be, the little lads and lasses "with rosy cheeks and flaxen curls," tumbling, toddling, dancing, singing—all make for happiness, all are "for the best in the best of all possible worlds."
To William Feaver, Greenaway was appealing because of her "mobcapped infants playing adult in model villages" (17). Greenaway's world was securely in the past, the past of Blake's Songs of Innocence, of Jane and Ann Taylor's poetry, or of Maria Edgeworth's "The Cherry Orchard," which were some of Greenaway's favorite works from her childhood.
When Kate Greenaway was five years old, the family moved to the district of Islington, once a quiet rural village famous for its inns and swelling in the 1850s into a busy suburban commercial section of North London. Behind her mother's millinery shop was a large back garden that soon became "Kate's domain," although it was shared with two other families. While this small patch of ground was little more than abandoned flower beds beside makeshift sheds, the garden led into a pocket of pastureland where sheep idly grazed. To Kate, this rural retreat behind the busy Islington streets became her secret garden, a vision she recounted in a letter to a friend years later:
I often think just for the pleasure of thinking, that a little door leads out of the garden wall into a real old flowering garden, full of deep shades and deep colours. Did you always plan out delightful places just close and unexpected, when you were young? My bedroom used to look out over red roofs and chimney pots, and I made steps into a lovely garden up there with nasturtiums growing and brilliant flowers so near to the sky. There were some old houses joined ours at the side, and I made a secret door into long lines of old rooms, all so delightful, leading into an old garden. I imagined it so often that I knew its look so well, it got to be very real.
The Greenaway children retreated to the country to relatives in Rolleston, an old rural village marked by a green around which nestled a number of thatched and red-tile-roofed cottages. Down the road lay an enclosed grassland for penning cattle, and beyond stretched fields of maize, corn, and wildflowers. Trav-eling by train 130 miles northwest from London, the children discovered the valley of the river Trent, a pastoral idyll vanishing from Victorian landscapes. Here she saw the commonplace sights of an old-fashioned England: villagers in antiquated eighteenth-century dress, men working in the fields in embroidered blue smocks, bonneted women wearing their Sunday-best lace, and primrose paths and fields of wildflowers and hay. Greenaway's brief, unfinished autobiography reveals her displaced delight in the sights, sounds, and smells of a romanticized rural setting.2 Greenaway's Edenic bliss was always interrupted by a fall from grace, a return to the realities of mid-nineteenth-century urban life, the noisy streets of Islington, a solitary existence where she entertained her imaginative vision of beauty. In her journal of childhood reminiscence, Greenaway writes: "I have always had a curious feeling whenever I see or smell cowslips or apple blossoms—as if I had known them in some former existence—and I seem always trying to remember something I can't" (96).
Greenaway's earthly paradise was well received by the public. The Greenaway Vogue, as it was known, was launched with the publication of Under the Window (1879); many subsequent picture books, almanacs, and gift books followed in its path. Greenaway's delicate artistry was associated with the technical virtuosity of Edmund Evans (1826–1905), her color printer and commercial publisher. In the twenty-year span of Greenaway's publishing, from her first solo picture book to her last collaborative effort, Greenaway received persistent attention in the British and American press at a time when few figures maintained a high profile for so long and when there were no specialist journals devoted to children's literature. Her visibility was certainly linked to the status of Edmund Evans, whose work was associated with the pinnacle of book arts.
Greenaway was indeed fortunate to have Evans as her mentor, engraver, publisher, and commercial impresario. The distinctiveness of Evans's work lay in the quality of the wood engraving, a linear rather than a tonal process. Evans used separate woodblocks for each color and limited the use of inks to preserve the freshness of the colors. His care in designing her books (the extent of which is not yet known) and in executing the woodblock engravings, as well as his association with the distributor, Routledge, were instrumental to her success. Routledge, one of the leading publishers of children's books, frequently promoted her books as the lead juvenile of the season through selective listings, advertisements, and color inserts in the catalogs.
In a self-conscious "art culture," Greenaway was successful in impressing aesthetes, critics, book artists, and, most important, the consumer market of parents. Her books held a subtle message about the propriety of innocence and obedience to please the older generation, however enlightened or progressive they might be. Greenaway created or adapted texts that were familiar, even old-fashioned, and rendered them fresh, with a skillful blend of the old and the new. Her books were considered to belong to a new type of children's book, a harbinger of change in its romanticized portrayal of the child's world. Mrs. E. M. Field's The Child and His Book (1891) compared the costumes of Greenaway's children to the Georgian tales of a century before. To Field, the Greenaway children were only masquerading as historical. "They belong in real truth to our own age, which seems to own no dearer wish than that of making the children happy," she wrote (Field 314). What might be added to that intention was, also, to make parents happy.
Didactic messages were implicit in Greenaway's stylized designs. Gleeson White was one of the few contemporary critics who noticed a certain "priggishness" in her children's demeanor. To White, Greenaway's idealized children represented "the beau-ideal of nursery propriety—clean, good-tempered, happy small gentlefolk" (38). Their quiet acquiescence in a well-mannered and orderly nursery world suggested a foreordained universe of good taste and good behavior. At the same time, Greenaway offered a subversive vision, a view of childhood in which its values were not always those of the conventional adult world. Her imaginative landscapes where children cavort in unselfconscious play transgress the overbearing rational world, suggesting, by implication, their natural superiority. Her stylized figures suggest dolls created to please adults, yet the independence of these child figures belies adult artistry and reveals, instead, the subjectivities of childhood.
The fantastic and the real conjoin in Greenaway's major works to the public's pleasure. What Greenaway presented was England's idealized past—its national childhood—but fashioned into an eclectic contemporary style: eighteenth-century-styled children foregrounding Queen Anne architecture amid "England's green and pleasant bowers." The texts comprise a similar mix of historic and modern verse. Greenaway's two original works—Under the Window and Marigold Garden —depend textually on simple nursery rhyme morals and make-believe. Her other popular works—Mother Goose, Pied Piper, A Apple Pie —use traditional folklore texts. It is only in Under the Window that Greenaway displays a full range of fearsome elements (a goblin, a hooded character, and a procession of witches on broomsticks), a mixture of the terror and delight of childhood that never surfaces again in her work. John Ruskin's obsession with her young maidens led to expurgating such images from future editions. Thus, the culture industry around Greenaway perpetuated a singular vision that was well replicated in the popular culture. Her child figures, mostly female, were appropriated in advertising and commercial products; her books were copied outright by American publishers such as McLoughlin. While she suffered from this saturation economically and aesthetically, she triumphed in that most works were deemed by reviewers as "after Greenaway," thus perpetuating her style, her élan. The most serious and flagrant imitation of her work was Afternoon Tea, which appeared shortly after her first work, Under the Window. 3 While critics seemed to distinguish between the two, ignoring the derivations in style, Greenaway's name, not those of Sowerby and Emmerson, endured. In fact, one irony is that in the first substantive listing of children's books produced by the American Library Association, John F. Sargent's Reading for the Young (1890), the entry under Kate Greenaway lists, among other titles, Afternoon Tea (37).
Greenaway's prime was in the 1880s, and her fall from grace a decade later concluded a rather impressive longevity for a woman artist who shunned publicity. As the aesthetic fashion faded, her work began to appear outdated, along with its many imitations and commercial spinoffs. As Paula Connolly points out in her essay on A. A. Milne in this volume, an artist caught in the culture industry can feel trapped by his or her creations. Greenaway, unlike Milne, did not prosper from these by-products and was powerless to prevent their appropriation. The public, more in England than in America, tired of the ubiquity of her child figures, which seemed to appear on every imaginable commercial space. The advertisements that featured her figures stripped them of their context and heightened only their pose, transposed to a divergent marketing setting. The merchandising of the Greenaway image on incongruous products bears a similarity to the irony of Milne's reappropriated Enchanted Forest and its denizens. Milne's carefully controlled empire precluded the excesses that fractured the integrity of Greenaway's distinctive design. The British and American press referred to derivative works as belonging to the "School of Greenaway," which served euphemistically for the abusive imitation or outright plagiarisms at work. Her biographer, M. H. Spielmann, called her the "head of the school," by which he referred to the influence she held in shaping the development of children's book illustration (Spielmann and Layard 4).
Greenaway's stature was reaffirmed at the time of her death in 1901. She was accorded a great deal of attention, considering she had not been active for some time, almost a decade. Her last important works were the Pied Piper of Hamelin (1888) and The Book of Games (1889). The almanacs ceased in 1896, and her final work was the illustration of April Baby's Book of Tunes (1901), done without the artistic collaboration of Edmund Evans. Despite her absence from the field, her death was newsworthy and warranted coverage by leading critics. The most important commentary came from Austin Dobson and M. H. Spielmann, whose writing appeared in art magazines and was frequently reprinted. Spielmann's prose was incorporated into his biography of Greenaway, The Life and Work of Kate Greenaway (1905), which inspired a round of reviews and commentary on Greenaway that helped to propel her reputation further into the new century.
Kate Greenaway, along with Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane, became mythologized as one of the patron saints of picture books, the founding artists who established new standards for the children's book as art. Martin Hardie, art librarian at the Victoria and Albert Museum, wrote English Coloured Books (1906), which contained an extensive chapter on Crane, Greenaway, and Caldecott, whom he dubbed "academicians of the nursery" (282). Later, F. J. Harvey Darton's Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life (1932) touted the "the triumvirate of Edmund Evans" as the artists "who made the modern picture book" (277). In the early twentieth century, their influence continued, ever strong in America, and constituted the ideal of illustration.
Greenaway benefited from the interest of John Ruskin in her work, from the artistic virtuosity and commercial genius of Edmund Evans, and from her consonance with the horizons of expectations of Anglo-American culture in the late nineteenth century. She also prospered into twentieth-century prominence through the agency of children's librarians and book-sellers, two new enterprising professions for women.4 Greenaway's style was reproduced and reinterpreted through the intervention of cultural purveyors such as Anne Carroll Moore (1871–1961), the legendary first children's librarian of the Pratt Institute and then of the New York Public Library whose work covered the years 1896–1941 (see also Sayers; Lundin). Moore was also the first American critic to write a sustained critical column on children's books: first in the Bookman (1918–1927), next in the Herald Tribune (1924–1930), and then in the Horn Book (1936–1960). Moore called her column "The Three Owls," which referred to the prominence of author, illustrator, and critic—all artists of the book. Moore was particularly close to her mentor, Caroline Hewins (1846–1926), the library director of the Hartford Public Library who made children's books and reading her passion. Hewins advocated for children's books at a time when children were not being served by public libraries; she fought for access to books for children and to a new professional commitment to their guidance. Hewins not only was the first woman to address the American Library Association at one of its annual conferences (asking "What are you doing to encourage a love of good reading in boys and girls?"), but she also wrote the first book of recommended readings, Books for the Young: A Guide for Parents and Children (1883), which included several Greenaway titles. Cautioning librarians not to rely on the scanty notices of children's books in the press, she urged her colleagues instead to develop a sufficient "body of doctrine"—critical judgments, knowledge of books—so that they could guide others in the selection of literature ("Sections" 164). This practice of knowing a body of literature rather than just knowing about it departed from the standards set by Melvil Dewey (1851–1931) for the new profession of librarianship. According to Wayne Wiegand, Dewey thought that librarians should select books based on reviews by experts in scholarly journals rather than make judgments themselves on literature (95). Children's librarians, a feminized profession developing in the 1890s, were, by default, given province over children's literature, a subject considered appropriate for women, whose natural instincts were assumed to be authoritative. Thus Dewey, as professional progenitor, unwittingly created a special status for children's librarians: the power of cultural authority, the judgment to declare the value of literature, and the autonomy to create an institutional construct to further these values. The shaping of the field in this direction led children's librarians to become singularly powerful figures in the publishing world, wielding power through writing reviews, selecting and promoting recommended titles, training and guiding future children's book editors, and advocating a certain style in books for children.5 Kate Greenaway was the beneficiary of such largess.
As a colleague of Dewey and mentor of children's librarians, Caroline Hewins inspired Moore with the impulse to write and promote literature through the media, which Moore embraced in a variety of longstanding columns in the popular press and commentary in professional literature, then in its infancy. Once Moore assumed leadership of the children's room at the New York Public Library in 1906, the first such position at this august institution, she freely promoted the literature she found most valuable for children. While not the first children's librarian, Moore became, over a career that spanned half a century, its most articulate arbiter of taste and a children's advocate. Moore earned a worldwide reputation as an outspoken pioneer in the field of children's books at a time when the number of volumes written and illustrated for children was slim indeed. For example, she had served as a librarian for twenty-two years before Macmillan inaugurated the first children's book division in 1918. To one contemporary critic, Josiah Titzell, Moore was "the yea or nay on all children's literature" in America (218). As Barbara Bader writes in her study of American picture books, "What we have then, for thirty or forty years, is Miss Moore endorsing (or tacitly damning) and, through New York Public Library programs, promoting; The Horn Book sorting and sifting and, through its selection of articles, sponsoring the Children's Catalog—joined later by the school-oriented ALA Graded Lists—making permanent the evaluations of The Horn Book, Miss Moore, and a few of her colleagues, many of whom made their own lists" (12).
As institution builder, Moore's influence was large. She organized the many boroughs of New York into one system, whose crown jewel was the children's room at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, with its carved mahogany bookcases, exhibit cases, Italian marble countertops, and Welsh quarry-tile floors. It was here that she constructed one of the world's largest collections of children's books, historical and contemporary. Known for her sense of celebration, Moore commemorated the birthdays of select children's book authors, illustrators, and storytellers—Kate Greenaway, Randolph Caldecott, H. C. Andersen, Walter de la Mare, L. Leslie Brooke, Marie Shedlock. These celebrations not only happened at the main library but were encouraged at the various branches. Moore publicizes the ways various librarians celebrated Greenaway in their libraries and the response of the children. One librarian on the East Side took apart her own copy of Kate Greenaway's Pictures (1921) and hung the pages about the reading room on a level with the eyes of the children. This exhibit also in-cluded not only Greenaway's books to admire but a picture of the artist accompanied by a wreath of rosebuds. At a Greenwich Village library, children were encouraged to dress up as Greenaway characters, even to the extent of one child striding down the sidewalk carrying a paper bag—an imitation of her favorite picture, "Girl with a Muff" (Century 15). In one of her "Three Owls" columns in the Horn Book, Moore recounted other Greenaway celebrations of the centennial and mentioned that one of her first administrative actions as supervisor of children's services for the New York Public Library was to provide a copy of Spielmann's biography of Greenaway for every children's room in the city ("Three Owls' Notebook" 128).
Moore's advocacy of Greenaway extended into the popular press. In her columns, most of which reappeared in book format, she often brought Greenaway to attention by evoking memories of Greenaway's titles, such as Marigold Garden, and Spielmann's biography of Greenaway, no longer in print, and urging their revival. In an early column in the Bookman, reprinted in Roads to Childhood, she espoused Greenaway's work in a column on "Some First Books," in which she heralded Greenaway not only as an artist but as a child psychologist, mentioning five Greenaway titles that "should be added very early to a child's library" (73). In New Roads to Childhood (1923), Moore romanticized Greenaway's landscapes as "next to being in England in springtime," cited several titles, and mentioned her influence in Boutet de Monvel's picture books (131). Her greatest encomium was A Century of Kate Greenaway (1946), a monograph in which Moore surveyed Greenaway's contributions and her persistent appeal to contemporary children, noting the responses of urban children to her pastoral motifs through specific library programming. She compared Greenaway to William Blake, both of whom held "a golden key to the kingdom of childhood" and "record what is seen and felt with a truth and beauty that defy time and space" (Century 5).
Moore's strand of Romanticism was deeply embedded in images of the English countryside, something akin to Greenaway's settings. In his book on Margaret Wise Brown, Leonard Marcus distinguishes between Moore's flights of fancy and those more real-world images of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Margaret Wise Brown, and others of the Bank Street College of Education, known for their progressive views and emphasis on the "here and now" in children's books. Marcus associates Moore with a Romanticism akin to the poetry of Walter de la Mare. Quoting Randall Jarrell, Marcus sees de la Mare's Romanticism as a desperate clinging to a nonindustrial world, one in which "what is real lies above (God, Beauty), or beneath (dreams, animals, children) or around (ghosts, all the beings of myth or Märchen)" (56). Marcus describes the prevalent style in children's books of the period as still rooted in nineteenth-century Romanticism, "with its idealized imagery of the happy child at home in harmonious natural surroundings," as opposed to the Bank Street reforms that foregrounded the cityscapes and modern technology (53). While Moore recommended fairy tales as the staple works for children, Mitchell and her followers resisted the fantastic for young children. Moore and Mitchell battled over "once upon a time" versus "here and now," with each expressing thinly veiled criticism of the other. Moore's novel Nicholas: A Christmas Story is construed by some as a rebuttal to Mitchell's Here and Now Story Book, in that Moore whisks her characters—a brownie, gnome, and the toy/child Nicholas—through fantastic happenings. Moore perceived that her high literary standards and aesthetics were being compromised by reformist educational works for children, which somehow lacked the power of earlier romanticized renderings of childhood. Feeling attacked by mediocrity, Moore spoke even more vehemently for the books that she espoused and the domesticated vision of the child in nature. In one of her earliest columns in the Bookman, Moore writes: "We are tired of substitutes for realities in writing for children. The trail of the serpent has been growing more and more clearly defined in the flow of children's books from publisher to bookshop, library, home, and school—a trail strewn with patronage and propaganda, moralizing self-sufficiency and sham efficiency, mock heroics and cheap optimism—above all, with the commonplace in theme, treatment, and language, with the proverbial stone in place of bread, in the name of education" (Roads 26).
The artistic ideal for Anne Carroll Moore and other cultural mediators of the period was the natural aesthetic of British children's books, exemplified in the works of Greenaway, Crane, and Caldecott. Barbara Bader speaks of the "Crane-Caldecott-Greenaway conflagration," in which the artistic European book prevailed in taste over the homelier American product (6-7). Americans were insecure in their conception of American book artistry and looked across the Atlantic for exemplars, with the British style the most dominant until after World War I. In a study of the Newbery and Caldecott awards, Irene Smith depicts the children's book landscape of the 1920s as one of "much looking backward," citing, in particular, the work of Boutet de Monvel, Leslie Brooke, Willebeek Le Mair, E. Boyd Smith, and ties to Crane, Greenaway, and Caldecott (34). Moore's artistic temperament was stimulated not only by the backward glance into historical children's books, which she emphasized in her collection development and library exhibitions, but also by her keen Anglophilia. She was a frequent European traveler and visited the British Isles many times, where she became friends with Beatrix Potter. In France she assisted in reestablishing a children's library structure after World War I. Moore extended her influence throughout the country (and internationally) by the librarians she trained, such as Lillian Smith, who became Canada's leading children's librarian and the author of a landmark critical work, The Unreluctant Years (1953; see Fasick, Johnston, and Osler). She was friend and advisor to many well-known children's authors and illustrators, such as James Daughtery, Ludwig Bemelmans, Stephen Vincent Benet, Carl Sandburg, Leslie Brooke, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Wanda Gag, Edgar d'Aulaire, Theodore Geisel, E. B. White, and Robert McCloskey.
Moore's influence was considerable. She was clearly the most active professional in the 1920s and 1930s, when children's book publishing in America was just emerging as a specialty. She knew all the major New York publishers, who brought her their manuscripts and sought her favor. Moore's endorsement of a book was more than just desirable; her annual Christmas exhibition of books, begun in 1911, accompanied by a booklist, became a highly visible commercial spot for publishers. Not only was the Christmas season the standard selling market for children's books (as it has traditionally been), but this seasonal showing also heralded "the best of the new," an endorsement of quality by a woman and an institution key to the sales and reputation of authors and illustrators. Her authority extended over the children's book editors and writers she trained as staff: Margaret McElderry, Marian Fiery, Eleanor Estes, Helene Forbes, Eugenia Garson, Pura Belpré, Florence Adams, Mary Gould Davis, Anna Cogswell Tyler, Harriet Wright, Maria Cimino, Ruth Hill Viguers, Alexandra Sanford, Ruth Giles Lontoft, Shirley Barker, Claire Huchet Bishop, and Frances Clarke Sayers. Moore shaped these editors' aesthetics toward her own privileging of the imagination and romantic sensibilities, and their influence continues immeasurably into the present day.
Anne Carroll Moore's power extended into other facets of children's book commerce. She was the inspiration for the creation of children's bookstores and a professional journal on children's books, both the contribution of Bertha Mahony (1882–1969). Mahony (later Bertha Mahony Miller) originally wanted to pursue a library education, but the costs prevented her from proceeding. Instead, she happened upon a 1915 article in the Atlantic Monthly by educator Earl Barnes about a new field for women—bookselling—and adapted her children's library instincts to a bookselling practice by initiating a children's bookstore in Boston. Mahony had been working at the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (WEIU) and inspired it to support the establishment. Mahony was stimulated by the ambience of the children's room at the New York Public Library, which she visited early after its opening in 1911 and later, in 1916, used as a design for her bookstore. The bookshop's colophon was based on the bookplates Kate Greenaway had designed for children. Sidney Smith adapted Greenaway's art into a colophon that showed a girl and boy sharing a book under a shade tree, with the turrets of a fanciful castle in the background. A permanent exhibit in the bookstore included a dollhouse called "The Greenaway House."
The Bookshop for Boys and Girls in Boston began issuing recommended reading lists in its first year of operation, 1916, and these lists evolved into the Horn Book in 1924. Mahony worked closely with legendary Boston Public Library children's librarian Alice Jordan (1870–1960), who counseled Mahony on her bookstore and coopted some of Mahony's ideas for her library. The editor of Publishers Weekly, Frederick Melcher, helped to train Mahony in the trade and became instrumental in creating the two children's book awards, the Newbery and the Caldecott medals. But clearly it was Moore's inspiration as a "mover and shaker" in the field who most shaped Mahony and her own distinctive contributions. Voluminous correspondence in the archives of Simmons College, Boston, which holds Mahony's papers, reveals that Moore and Mahony were closely aligned in the establishment of standards for children's literature and that Moore was particularly vocal in expressing her opinions on textual matters related to the journal and became a regular contributor to the journal from 1936 until 1960. Mahony's writings on children's literature are recorded in two books: Realms of Gold (1929) and Five Years of Children's Books (1936), both of which became guidebooks to the creation of a children's collection. Her co-edited work, Illustrators of Children's Books, 1744–1945 (1947), included a large section on Greenaway (75-86) as well as a chapter on "Foreign Children's Books in a Children's Library" (123-56), which intentionally draws on their use in the children's room of the New York Public Library. This scholarly work offers essays on text and image, biographies of living illustrators, and a bibliography of the works of many authors and illustrators of children's books.
Nevertheless, Mahony's greatest influence lies in the Horn Book. This landmark journal—the first professional American periodical devoted to children's books—grew in 1924 from Mahony's compilation of recommended lists that she prepared for her bookstore customers. The creation of evaluative lists and annotations is a distinctive professional practice that goes back to Caroline Hewins's work in the early 1880s and to Anne Carroll Moore's prolific reading lists and reviews. The first issue, with its depiction of the Caldecott jovial huntsmen, announced its intention "to blow the horn for fine books for boys and girls." The journal began publishing books under its own imprint, such as Paul Hazard's classic Books, Children, and Men and other historical and critical works.6 The Horn Book also featured a special issue on the centennial of Kate Greenaway's birth in 1946 and marketed the issue for multiple copies. In a special fiftieth-year celebration of the Horn Book in 1974, Virginia Haviland, a longtime reviewer, commented on Mahony's attachment to picture books, citing Greenaway as one of her favorites (59). Mahony's Horn Book became a forum to promote children's books that exemplified characteristics associated with the classics. American children's book publishing was still in its infancy when the magazine began, and the backward glance and forward sights were toward England as the motherland of imaginative writing and illustrating for children.
The conjoined influence of Anne Carroll Moore and Bertha Mahony was instrumental in shaping a style of illustration in the burgeoning field of children's book illustration. Moore, through her presence in libraries, reviewing, and book publishing, and Mahony, through her pioneering in bookselling and professional journalism, had the means to construct a canon in the new business of American children's books—the privileging of a Romantic style as text and image. A company of artists can be distinguished who perpetuated a Romanticism in illustration that can be traced back to that of Kate Greenaway. While few of her following actually acknowledged her work, an intertextual thread can be traced in the domesticated image of the child and feminized settings of home and garden.
Greenaway's aesthetics were well received in France. Her work sold so well there that the French adopted the phrase "Greenawisme," which meant "all things Greenaway" (Spielmann and Layard 268). Evoking her work as embodying the heart of femininity, Alfred de Lostalot writes in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1881): "Miss Kate Greenaway joint aux sentiments les plus délicats de l'artiste une nuance attendrie qu'elle doit à son coeur de femme" [Miss Kate Greenaway unites the most delicate feelings of the artist with a nuanced tenderness that she owes to her feminine sensibilities] (74). Other French art critics, such as M. Ernest Chesneau and Jeanne Doin, singled out her work for special attention in the press. Greenaway's work was also highlighted by her extensive contribution of drawings to the Paris Exhibition in 1889.
One of the first Europeans who became popularized in the United States was Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1850–1913), a French illustrator whose delicate depictions of French children reflected Greenaway's nursery world of English children. As an artist, Boutet de Monvel was especially drawn to Greenaway's fantastic creation of childhood, one independent of folktale renderings but a creation of her own imaginative vision. His work expressed a similar inventiveness and use of delicate but firm outlines highlighted by harmonious flat color washes. His first major success was Nos enfants: Scènes de la ville et des champs (1886), in which he sensitively captured the essence of town and country children at play. His most spectacular subject was Jeanne d'Arc (1896), in which, in forty-five watercolors, Boutet de Monvel transformed her life into a picture book pageantry—a celebration of the feminine, the religious, and the patriotic. His work illuminated the lives of the young with a freshness of observation and a serious winsome rendering of the child. Modern illustrators Hilary Knight (illustrator of Kay Thomson's Eloise) and Maurice Sendak have acknowledged the influence of the French artist on their work (Trust 12).
Boutet de Monvel inspired many followers, including the celebrated Henriette Willebeek Le Mair (1889–1966). Born in Rotterdam, Le Mair published her first book, Premiers rondes enfantines, in France when she was only fifteen. She drew from experience running a nursery school in her early twenties. Le Mair had hoped to study with Boutet de Monvel, but he remained in the background as an advisor. Her fourteen picture books, such as Little Songs of Long Ago (1912), Old Dutch Nursery Rhymes (1917), and Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses (1926), owe much to the French artist's song books and Greenaway's delicate child characters. An early bibliography in Children's Library Yearbook lists an article about Le Mair with the annotation: "A brief account of the art of an artist who resembles Kate Greenaway in many ways" (Committee 162). A contemporary critic, Arthur Reddie, writes of her work in the Studio: "Since the days of Kate Greenaway, of whose work despite all its great charm one is often a little impatient—if it not be heresy to say so—I know of no one who has caught so well the pure spirit of childhood as Miss Le Mair; in her work one finds that the naturalness, the simplicity of children is interpreted in its most attractive phase, with no suspicion of any attempt to ape the manners of elders, no hint of precocity, no posing, no straining after an effect of studied artlessness" (223). Long out of print, her works have recently been reprinted by Philomel Books.
E. Boyd Smith (1860–1943) was the first notable American illustrator who was influenced by Boutet de Monvel. Born in New Brunswick, he was raised in Boston, educated in France, and returned to Boston, where he began illustrating picture books. He used Boutet de Monvel's Jeanne d'Arc as a model for his Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith (1906). Capturing much of the composition and decorative borders of Boutet de Monvel, Smith portrayed domesticated scenes in works such as The Farm Book (1910), Chicken World (1910), and The Railroad Book (1913). His child figures are distinctive in their delicacy of expression and movement, transported to an Americanized setting.
Swedish artists seemed sympathetic to the warm domestic sense of childhood life. Carl Larsson's (1853–1919) paintings of family life, luminous children, and homey interiors, decorated with bright Scandinavian folk art, were first published in picture book form as Ett Hem (A Home) in 1899. After prolonged art studies in Paris, Larsson found a personal style which was derived from a weave of folk art, Japanese prints, bright colors, and idyllic childhood scenes. One of Anne Carroll Moore's book columns that focused on Swedish picture books featured Larsson's work and also that of Elsa Beskow and Ottilia Adelborg ("Three Owls' Notebook" 140-47). Bertha Mahony's Illustrators of Children's Books also includes these artists in a chapter on foreign illustrators. Elsa Beskow (1874–1953) illustrated more than thirty picture books in soft-toned watercolors. Her works were distinguished by their design, color, and use of personified nature. She creates illusions where elves and maidens become buds and blossoms and play among ferns, a miniaturized, motherly world. Beskow's child figures have much of the melancholic expression of Greenaway characters and similar smocklike clothing. Her first picture book, The Tale of the Little, Little Old Woman, appeared in 1897, followed by Peter in Blueberry Land (1901)—her best-known work—and a host of other works well known, particularly, in Europe. An artist with a related style is Ottilia Adelborg (1855–1936), who interpreted Swedish folk customs with naturalness and simplicity, her best-known work in America being Clean Peter (1901).
Jessie Willcox Smith (1863–1935) was the most prolific and successful American illustrator of her time. While many art critics acknowledge her debt to Howard Pyle, with whom she studied, she was clearly in the lineage of Greenaway with her Romantic visualization of child life. Her illustrations reflect a feminine view of the joys of motherhood and childhood. Her children are often posed with flowers, playing unselfconsciously in nature, reading in an overstuffed chair. S. Michael Schnessel, in his book on the artist, relates the formative influence of "European imports, books like Kate Greenaway's Almanacks, begun in 1883 and continued until 1897, or Greenaway's popular Marigold Garden, and the numerous books of nursery rhymes and other poems designed for children during the period" (28). Smith was also influenced by two leading American illustrators of the period, Maud Humphrey and Ida Waugh, whose works show Greenaway touches in their depiction of the child, alone or grouped, with little background. Smith's earliest work was as a kindergarten teacher, when she was exposed to picture books on a daily basis and, presumably, educated by their imagery. Smith's first published illustration (1888) was for St. Nicholas, a drawing of "Five little maidens all in a row", which owes much to Greenaway's style of lining her figures in a poised and slightly animated manner, of toddlers in long dresses and bonnets. After studies with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia, Smith's style became more narrative, with figures outlined with a dark, contrasting border. She began to work for some of the leading periodicals of the day, such as Collier's, the Ladies' Home Journal, Scribner's Magazine, Century, Harper's Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, and Good Housekeeping, for which she designed covers for fifteen years. Her illustrations to Rhymes of Real Children (1903), written by Betty Sage, reveal Greenaway-like decorative borders reminiscent of the cover of Under the Window (1879). Smith also illustrated many of the great children's classics: The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose (1914); Little Women (1915); Charles Kingsley's Water-Babies(1916); George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1919) and The Princess and the Goblin (1920); and Heidi (1922).
Rachel Field's (1894–1942) reputation is as an author as well as an illustrator. Her most celebrated book, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years (1929), a picaresque doll narrative, won a Newbery Medal; she was the first woman to receive the award. A novelist, nonfiction writer, poet, playwright, and artist, Field was friends with many in the burgeoning children's book world of the 1920s, including Anne Carroll Moore and Bertha Mahony. The Horn Book devoted a special memorial issue to Field in 1942, in which her editor, Louise Seaman Bechtel, noted that Field, in preparing to illustrate Taxis and Toadstools (1926), "pored over Kate Greenaway" (qtd. in Titzell 231). A special commemorative issue of the journal in 1946, honoring the centenary of Greenaway and Caldecott, included Mahony's editorial column "The Hunt Breakfast," in which she stated: "Of Kate Greenaway's influence in our own day, we could point to the drawings of Rachel Field and of Tasha Tudor" (74). Greenaway's influence in Field's art is most apparent in Taxis and Toadstools (1926); An Alphabet for Boys and Girls (1926), with a poem and drawing for each letter, and its companion volume, A Little Book of Days (1926); and Pocket-Handkerchief Park (1929), of which a reviewer in the Saturday Review wrote, "Within a small compass, they have a character of their own, reminding one of that succession of charming little volumes of Kate Greenaway whose appearance so delighted another generation" ("Pocket" 431). Field's illustrations consisted of watercolor, black-and-white, and ink drawings and silhouettes, notable for a certain naïveté and playfulness characteristic of childhood.
Tasha Tudor (1914–) was influenced by both Kate Greenaway and Beatrix Potter, celebrative of the child and the natural animal world. Her fanciful style of dress—both in her person and in her art—recreates a fantasy world much like Greenaway's archaic style. Writing and illustrating more than seventy-five children's books, Tasha Tudor captures some of the diminutive size and delicacy of Greenaway's art of the book and, most visibly, her decorative page and borders. Tudor expands Greenaway's frame of flowers and children and evokes the sense of an innocent, older world of bucolic pleasures. Her first work was Pumpkin Moonshine (1938), followed by a host of other natural-child reveries and recollections. Her evocation of Greenaway is most present in illustrations to Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses (1981), which, curiously, was done by Stevenson in 1885 in response to Kate Greenaway's The Birthday Book for Children (1880).
Kate Greenaway's influence persists in the work of a number of other modern illustrators. Note the style of Edward Ardizzone in his gentle and wistful children, the work of Marguerite De Angeli and Jane Dyer, and Satomi Ichilawa's romanticized, delicate portrayal of childhood. Despite the variance in individual style, a certain kind of line drawing evokes comparisons. Greenaway's resonance can be seen in decorative borders, innocent, pastoral childhood landscapes, and a timeless appeal—a sense of romanticized reverie for the past. This cultivation of childhood is not lost in the popular culture, with products created by Joan Walsh Anglund, Laura Ashley, and Mary Engelbreit that evoke an Anglocentric, hermetic paradise of domesticity. The debasement of Greenaway's invented world by commercial interests is reflected in the appropriation of the mass marketing of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit artifacts. The text is altered, plasticene figures replace line drawings, colors compete with contents as products proliferate. Romanticism continues to be reinterpreted as consolatory fantasy, an idealized backward glance, refined by art or defined by commerce.
To what extent are these depictions "cultural work" and "sensational designs," in the words of Jane Tompkins? In the development of the picture book, they represent what cultural mediators like Anne Carroll Moore and Bertha Mahony envisioned and promoted as the ideal of children's literature and book arts, the aesthetic mimeticism of mother and child, conjoined. Greenaway as a phenomenon led to the construction of a canon that perpetuated her reputation and privileged a similar style of illustrating childhood. Kate Greenaway initiated a Romanticism that resonated with the early institutional founders and cultural mediators of twentieth-century children's literature—a domesticated glimpse into a younger world that in its sweetness and light allows a different reading. Greenaway was a children's book illustrator in a patriarchal culture that viewed her sentiment as safe nostalgia, a departure from the real and rational. The utopia is of another world—a feminine community of nurture and play, a fanciful quotidian. These designs evoke what some want to believe childhood is like—in the words of Northrop Frye, "the world we want rather than the world we have" (6-7). While this vision is fantastic, full of dreamy wish fulfillment, it also suggests "the promise of happiness," what Stendhal conceived to be the prov-enance of art and which Fred Inglis has construed, in his work by that name, as the right of childhood. Greenaway's strand of feminine Romanticism, with its depiction of a childhood idyll, suggests how intimate and distant such a peaceable kingdom might be. While others may contest the rightness of that image, the Romantic notion lingers. The experience of childhood, in Blake's terms, may yet be felt, but the still-life innocence remains a desideratum for artists and audience, an autobiographical trope of domestically cultured beginnings, a Romance of what could be in the best of all possible worlds.
Portions of this essay were adapted from my earlier "In a Different Place: Feminist Aesthetics of the Picture Book," in Ways of Knowing, ed. Kay Vandergriff (Scarecrow, 1996).
1. This art, in the words of White in his landmark Studio essay on children's book illustration, is "part of the legend of the gentlefolk" (39-40).
2. For more on Greenaway's journal, see Lundin, "Writing."
3. For a discussion of Greenaway imitations, see Lundin, "Under the Window."
4. See Coultrap-McQuinn for a summary of what she calls the late-nineteenth-century "Vision of New Womanhood."
5. See Karen Smith for a special journal issue of the role of children's librarians in children's book publishing.
6. For a discussion of the influence of Paul Hazard's Romantic sensibilities, see Nodelman.
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The Trust for Museum Exhibitions. Maurice Boutet de Monvel: Master of French Illustration and Portraiture. Traveling exhibit catalog, 1987.
White, Gleeson. "Children's Books and Their Illustrators." Studio (Winter 1897–98): 3-68.
Wiegand, Wayne. Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey. Chicago: American Library Association, 1996.
UNDER THE WINDOW, WITH COLOURED PICTURES AND RHYMES FOR CHILDREN (1879)
Anne Lundin (essay date June 1993)
SOURCE: Lundin, Anne. "Under the Window and Afternoon Tea: 'Twirling the Same Blade of Grass.'" Lion and the Unicorn 17, no. 1 (June 1993): 45-56.
[In the following essay, Lundin compares Greenaway's Under the Window with its contemporary stylistic imitator, Afternoon Tea by J. G. Sowerby and H. H. Emmerson.]
In An American Childhood, Annie Dillard recalls that, as a child, "I no more expected anyone on earth to have read a book I had read than I expected someone else to have twirled the same blade of grass" (358). Perhaps writers feel the same about their creations—that they would no more expect anyone else to have written a book that was the same as theirs. Would this have been close to Kate Greenaway's thoughts as she saw the rash of imitations appear shortly after the successful publishing of her first book? Writing to her friend, Frederick Locker, Kate Greenaway lamented, "I really feel cross as I look at the shop windows and see the imitation books. It feels so queer, somehow, to see your ideas taken by someone else and put forth as theirs" (Spielmann, 87).
Under the Window, written and illustrated by Kate Greenaway, designed and printed by Edmund Evans, was published by Routledge in the fall of 1879. The book was a co-creation of Greenaway and Evans. Evans, described by Brian Alderson as "the country's foremost engraver and woodblock printer" (248), was first shown the manuscript by Kate's father, a colleague in the engraving business. The notebook contained, as Evans recalls in his Reminiscences, "miscellaneous odd drawings with nonsense verses written to them." To this "commercial impresario," in Harvey Darton's words, who would make the careers of Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott, here was the making of "a telling children's book" (61).
Greenaway and Evans agreed on the title, Under the Window, from the first line of the first verse. Taking advice from Routledge, Evans arranged for Frederick Locker to edit the verse, for, as Evans notes, "They did not quite understand the quaintness—quite in keeping with the illustrations, which were certainly original" (61). And then Evans set about the delicate process of transposing the images onto paper:
I photographed these original drawings onto wood and engraved them as nearly "facsimile" as possible, then transferred wet impressions to plain blocks of wood—"Transfers" to engrave the several colour blocks on, red, flesh tint, blue yellow. This was a costly matter but it reproduced the character very well indeed of the original drawings.
Evans then arranged for Routledge to print 20,000 copies, despite their reservations. Evans guessed right, as the first edition sold out immediately, with existing copies selling at a premium. The Athenaeum praised Evans's color printing and Kate's first-rate designs; the book was "sure to be accepted by all, big and little, artistic and 'aesthetic,' lay and simple."
Such broad appeal inspired a following. The commercial reception of literature—in terms of sales and successors—reveals the juncture of a book and its audience at a particular historical moment. Louis James links the many plagiarisms and imitations of Dickens's early novels to the features popular audiences enjoyed most. In exploring Henry James and the mass market, Marcia Jacobson views popular literature as books whose conventions "dramatize the shared assumptions of writer and reader" (7). These assumptions comprise the interpretive framework or cultural norms that help to reflect and construct the way literary works are written and received.
The Greenaway Vogue, as it was known, demonstrates the confluence of art and commerce in late-Victorian England and America. Imitations, piracies, and spin-offs document not only Greenaway's popularity but the state of the marketplace. An absence of copyright protection in America encouraged publishers to issue Greenaway titles in pirated editions, or with verses slightly altered, with the words "After Kate Greenaway" on the cover. McLoughlin Brothers, New York, took the greatest liberties, issuing a pirated copy, a miniature, and five variants in a toy-book series, with pictures and rhymes grouped around the following characters: "The Proud Girl," "The Tea Party," "The Three Little Girls," "Tommy Toddyhigh," and "The Three Little Sailors." Such marketing ploys reflect what Brian Alderson calls, in Darton's Children's Books in England, the "ebullient expansionist atmosphere of the times" (320). Expansive markets led publishers to develop specialist lines of children's books. Not only did these firms see the potential of a children's book market, but the competition encouraged a variety of talents. In Alderson's words, "There was hospitality for every kind of work, from the derivative to the experimental, in both writing and illustration" (320).
One book, both derivative and experimental, was Afternoon Tea, by J. G. Sowerby and H. H. Emmerson, published in 1880 by the rival firm, Frederick Warne, once a partner to George Routledge and then his chief competitor in children's book publishing. Among a horde of imitations, this is the only one mentioned in Spielmann and Layard's 1905 biography, in Rodney Engen's 1981 biography, and in Edmund Evans's Reminiscences. Evans writes:
Immediately this novelty in style was imitated by several artists who ought to have known better; some actually copied parts of the figures from Under the Window and took the head of one to add to the figure of another, thinking not to be found out. One fairly well-known artist from the North of England wanted me to buy a copy of a book he had drawn, painted, and I believe written the verses, calling the book Afternoon Tea. Of course I could have nothing to do with such a barefaced copy of K. G.'s book. It was, of course, bought and published by another firm of publishers and soon got classed among the "Kate Greenaway Books" which flooded the booksellers' shops for years to come.
Evans's resistance led to the book being passed to at least three separate color printers before Frederick Warne published it. Their names and the pages they engraved are marked on the back page and include the Dalziel Brothers, the most important engraving workshop in London (De Mare 66). The Illustrated London News admired the work's "agreeable quaintness" (606). On the influence of Greenaway, the reviewer notes: "These artists might seem to have borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, something of the air and style of Miss Kate Greenaway's designs, but they show no slight degree of original power." To the Dial, the book "has immediately taken rank with the best of Kate Greenaway's work and is scarce in the market" (164).
Greenaway's friends considered the book a crude exploitation and urged legal action. Biographer Rodney Engen describes the book as an objectionable "pastiche" of the Greenaway style, with "shocking alterations," such as a boy furtively smoking a pipe and a darkened graveyard, in shades that Greenaway would never use (74). Frederick Locker denounced it as "a shameful imitation of your manner, which if it goes on will tend to disgust the brutal British public and therefore injure you" (Spielmann 106). How "shameful" was Afternoon Tea? How injurious was its effect?
To examine the influence of one Victorian picture book on another, and the impact of both books on the Victorian age, we need to become historical readers, to be part of the reading audience of the early 1880s. To do so suggests the theoretical perspective of reception theory, a reader-response approach that stresses the importance of the audience in shaping the way literary works are given form and meaning by a particular culture at an historical juncture. Reception theory accounts for the production and reception of literary works within the context and continuity of a horizon of expectations, defined by Hans Robert Jauss as the reader's immediate response to a text, based on shared assumptions of genre, tone, and style (8).
The late-Victorian audience was particularly disposed toward picture books. Picture books were viewed as commercial products, in the gift book tradition, as well as works of art, as accessories to the Aesthetic movement. Children's books were tailored for the Christmas book-buying marketplace; the books were expected to reflect the cheer and spirit of the holiday. A dual audience of children and adults was assumed, with the expectation that the subject matter of childhood—an idealized nursery world with modern touches—would appeal to both readers. Pictures were privileged over text; illustrations were accorded a pride of place over verse. Despite rhetorical claims to the contrary, children's books were still viewed as improving works, with didactic messages diversified more into pictures than text. The persistent debate over fantasy enabled a certain amount of exaggeration to constitute "a fairy world." The romantic ide-alization of childhood and its literature invested picture books with enormous status. Illustrated children's books were both for and about children, a genre all its own.
With these horizontal expectations in mind, it is easier to understand the critical reception accorded Afternoon Tea and other imitators of Greenaway. In one breath a book could be hailed in Literary World (1880) as "after the style of Under the Window " and "the most charmingly original book of the year" (1). That strikes us as most peculiar, particularly with our own expectations for the originality of literary works. How was the meaning of "original" constructed for this reading audience so that imitations could be subsumed within its boundaries? Basically, it appears that by classifying books as to an affiliation with Greenaway—"the Kate Greenaway Books," the "Greenaway school," the "Greenaway family," "the pattern of Greenaway," "the Greenaway model," "the Kate Greenaway order"—the variations were allowed to depart ever so slightly from the original designs of their precursor. As the Nation noted in 1885, "Mention of Kate Greenaway will serve to characterize the now customary crop of juvenile picture-books consisting of colored prints of little folks, and appropriate verse" (409). What had been roughly defined as "the children's quarto" was given a name, with individual titles of common stock.
Children's books were not expected to be particularly unique. Fictional works as well as picture books were viewed as following trends, which necessarily involved repetition of certain themes and styles. The Graphic (1882) noted that "lack of originality is characteristic of the juvenile department, where authors keep to the oft-told tales of schoolboy life, of large and rebellious families, and of daring on earth and sea, while in the picture-books proper artists mainly follow out the different veins happily struck by Mr. Caldecott and Miss Greenaway" (494). With such expectations, it was natural that copyists of Greenaway would be considered legitimate heirs to a tradition, a commercial as well as cultural production.
Reception theory offers a way of examining the commonalities between books in the climate that made these literary works possible and profitable. Scrutinizing similarities and differences between the two works is a way for us to see what might have been missed at that time, or in our own time. We read within the contemporary horizons of expectation, which include considerations of ideology, intertextual influence, and subversive readings of texts. In our own preoccupation with "the anxiety of influence," we classify books just as readily as did the Victorians. In declassifying—in examining books for salient features—we discover more of the subtle weave of originality and imitation. Goran Hermeren, in Influence in Art and Literature, asks not only in what respect one artist influenced another, but also in how an artist did not influence another (6). In what way has one artist transformed another's ideas into something new, a unique style or expression? Alastair Fowler notes that every literary work changes its genre. In Kinds of Literature, Fowler writes, "The most imitative work, even as it kowtows slavishly to generic conventions, nevertheless affects them, if only minutely or indirectly" (23). Peter Hunt, in his new study of critical theory and children's literature, cautions critics from getting involved in "snobbish arguments" in comparing texts; questioning the value-laden statements we use to elevate one book over another only indicates "that we cannot talk about an abstract 'better,' only about differences" (12).
Physically, the two books reflect the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement and aesthetic fashions. The picture book for children is elevated to the book arts, with attention to color printing, type, fine paper, and decorative design. A reviewer from The Graphic in 1882 notes the proliferation of aesthetic motifs in illustrated children's books, characterized by "quaint fancies of olden times, soft refined colouring, and humour suggested rather than strongly expressed." The two picture books make or mirror the juvenile fashion in nearly identical format. Each page is framed with a border, which, as Perry Nodelman notes, creates a detached, more static effect, as if the reader were observing the scene (50). The coloring is of the pale and gently modulated tints favored by the Aesthetes, the soft yellows and greens. Other fashionable motifs such as sunflowers, blue and white china, and Queen Anne architecture are included. The influence of Japanese art is evident in definite block outline, flat, delicate colors, and use of white space. Walter Crane's decorative sense is marked in both, but particularly in Afternoon Tea, where most illustrations cover the page. Single children on one page are juxtaposed by groups of children on another. The emphasis is on illustrations accompanied by verse. While neither book fully exploits the potential of the double-page spread, Greenaway's "May Day" is a unified double-page theme. The images are of the English countryside, of childhood fantasies and adult parody.
The differences exist from the process of production. Under the Window reflects the expertise of Edmund Evans, who, at this point, had been working on children's books since 1865, when he began collaborating with Walter Crane on Routledge's series of toybooks. Evans was distinguished not only for his wood engraving, but for being one of the few expert engravers and printers who could also design books (De Mare 156). While Evans does not reveal the extent of his collaboration with Greenaway on their first venture, it can be assumed that he transformed her manuscript notebook into a picture book. Afternoon Tea, by contrast, suffers from the varied hands at work. The product of at least three different engraving firms, the effect is haphazard, particularly on the page of transition from one printer to another and in the colors printed off-register. Considering its problems in production, it is almost miraculous that the book recovers so successfully, that it communicates, in the words of the Illustrated London News, "elegance, neatness, and finish."
One distinction seems to be the implied readership. While both are ostensibly written, as their subtitles state, for children, gender differences are pronounced. Under the Window is a "Book of Days" of childhood, particularly for young girls. Greenaway creates an idyllic village back in time, in an England that never was. Her children are dressed in Georgian—style finery, but their movements, expressions, and fantasies belie the adornment. Girls play hoops, bat shuttlecocks, or hold a younger brother's hand. They turn from view, wandering off the path. A young girl, standing on a rooftop, looks for the world beyond, called "Somewhere Town." Feminine figures, even when expressionless, dominate with a kind of Pre-Raphaelite melancholia.
Afternoon Tea, reflecting the gender of its creators, seems directed toward boys; it is the young males who are the, often profligate, doers; the girls are the passive, concerned observers. The boy figure is usually in the center of the drawing, rudely drinking tea, leading his fearful female companions, or demonstrating his prowess with fiddle, kite, or top. Work and play are dichotomous. A rather threatening subtext prevails, as in the woman with a whip approaching the boys at play, and the refrain, "Whackety, whackety, whack!" Under the Window has some menacing touches, as in the goblin carrying away a child, or the witches promising a ride, but these are remnants of folklore, a naturalistic world celebrated as a whole. Sowerby and Emmerson present more mimetic images which underscore the socialization of the young through ritual play.
Indeed, the borrowing in Afternoon Tea changes the value systems implicit in the originals. If, as Jacqueline Rose suggests, children's books are about the tacit relationships of adults and children, then very different visions are depicted. As artificial constructs, the children in the two books reflect their authors' assumptions about childhood. Greenaway's idealized world is a "Never-never" land introduced on the title page, a model village of singing, dancing, decorous children, a largely female community, a pastoral interwoven with shadows of mystery and terror. Witches offer rides, a goblin steals cabbages from the garden, a hooded old man whisks away a young boy, and a young girl gazes from "grey eyes, / where such deep, deep wonder lies."
Sowerby and Emerson intentionally focus on the time frame of "afternoon tea," described in the dedication as "that pleasant hour / when children are from lessons free, / and gather round the social board, / brimful of mirth and childish glee." Childhood is sentimentalized, with no nightmare images other than the imagined collision with parental authority or conduct book. Contrary images of beauty and terror are not reflected. There are no goblins or witches, just the stylized figures of well-dressed children. Future imitators would follow suit, and even Greenaway, under the direction of John Ruskin, would excise the witches from future editions for a more rarefied vision of childhood innocence.
Both picture books were re-made by the marketplace. Afternoon Tea suffered a similar indignity of being pirated by McLoughlin. Not only were its pages rearranged and the text altered but the only color was the cover with derivative images of the Greenaway styles. The work was so popular that in 1886, six years after its appearance, a cheap reprint of the book was published by another New York publisher, Worthington, which even used artwork on the cover and the frontispiece by hack artists. The book was printed on cheap paper, in black and white, with seasonal poetry added at the back as filler. And today, collectors confuse spin-off items from the two books, so that all is now "Kate Greenaway."
In the end, Afternoon Tea reveals just how receptive the public was to Greenaway. But Greenaway became an article of folk culture at a price. Her reputation was confused and distorted by similar works that seemed almost caricatures. And yet her work was brought to new audiences in essentially the same spirit as the original. For a few moments they might even have twirled the same blade of grass.
Alderson, Brian. "Tracts, Rewards, and Fairies." Essays in the History of Publishing in Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the House of Longman, 1724–1974. Ed. Asa Briggs. London: Longman, 1974.
"Christmas Books." The Athenaeum 20 December 1879: 804.
"Christmas Books." The Graphic 4 November 1882: 494.
"Christmas Books." The Nation 12 November 1885: 409.
Darton, F. J. Harvey. Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. Ed. Brian Alderson, 3d ed. New York: Cambridge UP, 1982.
De Mare, Eric. The Victorian Woodblock Illustrators. New York: Sandstone, 1981.
Dillard, Annie. Three by Annie Dillard. New York: Harper, 1990.
Engen, Rodney. Kate Greenaway: A Biography. New York: Schocken, 1981.
Evans, Edmund. The Reminiscences of Edmund Evans. Ed. Riari McLean. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967.
Fowler, Alastair. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982.
Greenaway, Kate. Under the Window: Pictures and Rhymes for Children. London: Routledge, 1879.
――――――. Under the Window: Pictures and Rhymes for Children after Kate Greenaway. New York: McLoughlin Bros., [188?].
Hermeren, Goran. Influence in Art and Literature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1975.
Hunt, Peter. Criticism, Theory and Children's Literature. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.
"Illustrated Books." The Illustrated London News 18 December 1880: 606.
Jacobson, Marcia. Henry James and the Mass Market. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1983.
James, Louis. Fiction for the Working Man. London: Oxford UP, 1963.
Jauss, Hans Robert. "Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory." New Literary History Autumn 1970: 7-38.
"Juveniles." The Dial December 1880: 164.
"New Toy Books." The Literary World 23 October 1880: 1.
Nodelman, Perry. Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1988.
Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children's Fiction. London: Macmillan, 1984.
Sowerby, J. G. and H. H. Emmerson. Afternoon Tea: Rhymes for Children. London: Warne, 1880.
Spielmann, M. H. and G. S. Layard. The Life and Work of Kate Greenaway. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1905.
A APPLE PIE: AN OLD FASHIONED ALPHABET BOOK (1886)
Patricia Dooley (essay date 1989)
SOURCE: 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.
[In the following essay, Dooley reflects on how the stylized details of Greenaway's A Apple Pie demonstrates a deliberate attempt to depict a harmonious universe of indelible nostalgia.]
To suggest that the work of Kate Greenaway might be considered a touchstone of children's literature is an undertaking fraught with danger. Caldecott is rollicking, Rackham is tortuous, even Beatrix Potter is coming to be acknowledged as a fine ironist and a noteworthy naturalist; but Kate Greenaway's delicate drawings and watercolors are—well, sweet. Her dainty maidens, quaint, demure and innocent in their ruffled frocks and unruffled brows, their fragile limbs supporting a posy or a parasol, or at the utmost, holding an infant or a cup of tea, can be reduced to a parody of received ideas of childhood and of femininity. The risk is that our images of Kate Greenaway's world, blurred by many imitators and freighted with the sentimental associations they invite, will fall into the black hole of cliché, pulled down by their own fatal charm.
It might be argued, however, that Kate Greenaway's work is a touchstone precisely because it approaches the limits of licensed sentimentality. Reflecting a perennial emotional response to one particular aspect of childhood, it nevertheless stops short of excess. A close look at Greenaway's best work is a corrective to the notion that she worked exclusively in miniature and covered everything in roses and ribbons. In fact, in A Apple Pie and The Pied Piper of Hamelin there are few flower-bearing children or flower-ornamented pages; the figures are on a larger, less precious scale, and even the costumes seem less frivolous than those in her earliest pictures. Moreover, Greenaway's choice of quasi-rural settings and quasi-historical costumes was a legitimate turning away from the dirt and ugliness of the industrial age.
It is a mistake, however, to see the characteristic Greenaway style, even in its most decorative moments, as nothing but an occasion for permissible nostalgia. When Greenaway created a garden for her ideal children, she gave them not only beauty but an autonomous place apart, where they could be seen to advantage; when she invented clothing in a vaguely historical mode, it was partly because of the grace of its lines, and partly because large hats above long high-waisted gowns draw attention to the face and enhance a small-statured figure.
Much has been made of these clothes, and the influence they had on styles for children's wear. (It was said that Kate Greenaway "dressed the children of two continents," both Europe and North America.) What comes into fashion, of course, usually goes right out of fashion after a time, and Greenaway suffered from just such a reversal of public taste during the last ten years of her life, when she did little published illustration and turned her own interest elsewhere. A hundred years after this passing fad in clothing, a contemporary viewer can still feel the immediate attractiveness of the graceful dress of her figures. In period it falls somewhere between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The macaronic Greenaway style must have been based in part on the slow-to-change country clothes she saw during childhood visits to relatives and friends in Nottinghamshire. Perhaps, too, she was influenced by her observation, as a sixteen-year-old, of the widespread celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1862, during which many participants dressed in odds and ends from the family attic, clothes dating from around the time of the Queen's birth, in 1819, or accession, in 1837. Whatever the foundations, Greenaway built on them with brilliance.
Kate Greenaway had a genius for creating what would today be called a "look," made up not only of gowns, smocks, and pageboys' trouser-suits, but especially of accessories: gloves, scarves, necklaces, and, supremely, hats. All this apparel lends even her more active child-figures a certain formality; they are not merely dressed, but dressed-up. Greenaway's emphasis on clothes does not make her children stiff or mannequin-like, but rather, lends them a dignified importance. Their adult attire makes us take them seriously. Kate Greenaway's focus on apparel, which may seem superficial or even reprehensible, is not only central to the form of her work but an important element of its content. Freeing her child-figures from the constraints of mid-Victorian clothing, as well as from the limits of a specific historical past, she freed her audience to see the child freshly, as an independent entity.
Greenaway's characteristic backgrounds serve a similar purpose. They are of two types. The first is simply a flat white space all around the figures, with, sometimes, a slight wash of faint color immediately beneath their feet, or a few props beside them. "Props" is the right word here, for there is a decided feeling of the stage about the shallow space in which they stand. Some of these props are interior: a chair and table, a sofa-end, a school form. Often they are exterior: a low wall, a gate, a basket of flowers, a blossoming or topiary tree. All but one or two of the pictures in A Apple Pie are of this sort.
In the second type of layout there is a background—or, more accurately, a backdrop. Although Greenaway is sometimes thought of (for instance, by Rodney Engen in his Kate Greenaway) as a landscape artist, mathematical and atmospheric perspective were equally foreign to her. Often she eliminated the horizon by filling it in with roofs, walls, or trees. If there is a horizon it has no vanishing point; at its edge we are perched on a cliff at the end of the world, and beyond is empty space again. (An example is the illustration for the letter J in A Apple Pie. ) "Landscape," for Greenaway, is above all the garden or the home field. She is the artist of the medieval locus amoenus, a pleasant place of mown grass, a flowering tree, a few blossoming plants, transported into the middle of just-vanishing village England. Her first (astonishingly successful) book was called Under the Window : Greenaway's charmed magic casements, however, open not to perilous seas or faery lands forlorn, but rather, to an orderly child's paradise of lawn, flowers, and fruit. One of the three or four books that represent the apex of her art was called Marigold Garden : here and elsewhere there are roses in abundance, in garlands, wreaths, bouquets,—in baskets with babies asleep in them—and never a thorn. In another of the best, The Language of Flowers, she comes closer to true landscapes, but they are contained in tiny, oval, Bewick-like vignettes.
The isolating background frees Greenaway's figures from the limits of place, time, season, and most connections to the adult world. Even the most complete backgrounds seldom extend to the edge of the page: white space casts them loose from connectedness to the world of ordinary, perhaps disappointing, gardens. There is only one time of day, playtime. Greenaway is sometimes accused of creating an eternal summer, but in fact her world is almost seasonless: a summer without heat, a spring without rain, an autumn or winter without gales or frost. The free placement of figures against the blank page, or the elimination of a horizon, contribute to Greenaway's removal of all the limits that normally fence children in. Like the elaboration of dress, the backdrops thrust the figures to the fore and help to focus our attention on the children themselves. These tactics have another function, too: the white space draws the viewer in, since the picture doesn't end abruptly at the edges of the page, and the shallowness of the picture plane counterbalances the smallness of scale, which might otherwise seem claustrophobic. Greenaway manipulates our sense of proportion, so that the smallness of her subjects does not diminish them.
Against the white space of A Apple Pie, or the minimal backgrounds of other books, her figures stand out, shadowless both literally and figuratively, our attention drawn not to how they relate to pictorial space, but to how they relate to one another. Although some of her work features single figures (for example, most of the very small-scale Kate Greenaway's Alphabet ), she was particularly adept at placing her figures in felicitous relation to each other. It is not surprising that her favorite pictorial activity is the dance. In the pattern of the dance—especially in a ring dance, with the dancers joined loosely or closely in a circle, Greenaway can exploit to the maximum the gracefulness of her maidens and young children, as well as deploying them most effectively as a group. In fact, even when her figures are not dancing but sitting at tea, jumping rope, or picking fruit, they are often in a loose round, linked by the inclination of their heads, or the positioning of arms and hands.
Greenaway developed a small but effective vocabulary of gestures and bodily attitudes, a syntax of stances relating her figures informally but pleasingly—much like her apparently casual but carefully arranged posies or garlands. Sometimes she borrowed a classic pose, like that of the three Graces. (The draped folds of the simplified gowns worn by some dancers reinforce the echo of classical friezes.) The essential flatness of a Greenaway picture plane, and the flatness of composition (for even the circular arrangements seem to be squeezed into the same plane) account for the suitability of her figures for friezes and the success of wallpaper patterns made from her designs. The very lack of dimension, the decorative nature of much of her work, the concentration of emphasis on the shallow foreground, points to Greenaway's harmony with her medium: her painting does not deny the flatness of the page by attempting to open a window into deep pictorial space.
Even her negligent treatment of anatomy, which her mentor John Ruskin tried tirelessly to correct, contributes to the sense of a world suited to two dimensions. Anatomy was never Greenaway's forte, and often her upright figures seem to be supported entirely by their billowing garments, which allow them to hover slightly above the ground, barely anchored by their small, ineffectual feet. Gravity is merely another of the constraints from which the artist has freed her children: in one of the Pied Piper illustrations, an entire group of them floats down a wide staircase. Her babes in arms are conspicuously weightless, and at times the adult in charge seems to be clasping the infant not to hold it up, but to hold it down, lest it drift away. Ruskin often tried to persuade Greenaway into a greater accuracy in depicting feet (at the very least, into differentiating left from right), but for most of her thistledown creatures feet are simply a vestigial appendage.
Greenaway's people have been called "sexless," and if that term is used to mean "innocent," it is true that her world is, like Kenneth Grahame's, "clean of the clash of sex." It is not a genderless world, however, but an intensely feminine one. There are almost no adult males, and the little boys are either very sweetfaced or excessively ugly. Some, in fact, seem, like the Duchess's male baby in Alice in Wonderland, to be on the point of turning into pigs. (See, for example, Georgie Porgie in Mother Goose. ) Her girls are sometimes true children, rounded, rather dumpy, with a toddler's disproportionately large head and chubby cheeks, and sometimes diminutive ladies, slender, elegant and lovely, in miniature. Although the bodiless, demure, impassive Greenaway ideal may appear to us to be more angelic than womanly (however well-dressed), it did represent a step away from the corseted, chaperoned, well-covered Victorian standard.
Greenaway's pictures exclude not only males, but also the (then) masculine "greater world" of politics, economics, war and commerce. Both focus and settings recall the world of Jane Austen, a place of tea parties, village strolls, decorous dancing and regular rambles in the garden—only populated almost entirely by children. It is, like Austen's, a very social world, with many of its denizens engaged together in a common pursuit. Despite Greenaway's ties to the Aesthetic and Pre-Raphaelite movements, there is also something eighteenth-century about the formality and regularity of the composition, the good manners and sedate deportment of the children, their air of self-possession and their ability to amuse themselves rationally in harmless traditional pastimes. Indomitable cheerfulness was the theme of Greenaway's personality: she claimed that her own childhood was happy, and she gave her pictures an atmosphere of sober joy.
This feeling of intent, unruffled pleasure is the keynote of A Apple Pie. The children are not smiling or laughing, but pursue their share of the pie with unself-conscious absorption, in the manner of children seriously concentrating their energies in play. Even in the "dramatic" scenes, where large audiences of children watch the central performers (as in "F fought for it", "R ran for it" or "S sang for it"), the non-participants are fully engaged and give their undivided attention to the action.
In some ways, however, A Apple Pie is not really representative of the whole body of the artist's work. There are disproportionately more interior scenes; not a single garden setting appears! Although Greenaway's gift for costume was almost equalled by her touch with flowers, there are no flowers to be found in this book. It is devoid of decorative marginalia—borders, flower sprays, wreaths, vases, etc.—apart from the apple-garland on the front boards. The colors are darker than Greenaway's characteristically delicate pastels. (This may be the fault of the printing: even Edmund Evans's careful reproduction sometimes failed to do justice to her very fine line and sensitive color.) There is also more continuity and structure to the illustrations. Not only does the picaresque pie appear in every episode, but some of its coterie also seem to recur. Of course, costume always provides a degree of continuity in a Greenaway book, but the participants in A Apple Pie are clearly dressed for the same occasion, not merely by the same hand. Identical accessories—elaborate hats, mob caps, coral necklaces, cameos, hair bows and shoe rosettes—and only slightly altered versions of the same frocks may be traced from page to page. (At the same time, to ensure against monotony Greenaway resorts to such devices as using five different models of a small stool supporting the pie.) Although Ruskin urged her to move away from the ornamental or decorative, opining that "her power should be concentrated in the direct illustration of connected story" (quoted in Ernest ), most of her work remained "incidental." Even if the verses beneath it told a story, no more than a hint of narrative could enter the single-page picture, and some drawings, like those for Kate Greenaway's Alphabet, were purely decorative and not at all "illustrative." The major exception to this rule—and in the opinion of some, Kate Greenaway's masterpiece—was her work for The Pied Piper of Hamelin. (The magnificent frontispiece to this book contains practically every classic Greenaway element: the thoroughly feminized figure of the Piper, the locus amoenus, the angelic children linked in a ring dance, the horizon obscured by a flowering tree, and so on.)
Naturally, A Apple Pie has the structure of an abcedarius, but in Greenaway's illustrations to the old rhyme, the alphabet is personified in the figures acting upon the pie. The elliptical verses sketch a terse narrative, and in Greenaway's pictures the pie's adventures are given a special importance as a focus of much earnest attention from the groups of children. The pie becomes the center of various rites: it is sacrificed, mourned for, and feeds a multitude. Its child-attendants and acolytes sing, and stand rapt in contemplation before it, dressed in their Sunday best. Eaten, it does not diminish; when not enthroned on its own table or stool it floats or hovers miraculously in air; it becomes a mystical object, a Holy Grail of pies. When "K knelt for it" and "L longed for it" they are shown with hands clasped prayerfully; "N nodded for it" inclines in a deep reverential bow. In illustrating A Apple Pie, Greenaway celebrates food as the center of children's existence, the impetus and the reward for their ceaseless activity. Depicting the pie as the focus of rituals engaged in entirely by children, Greenaway elevates the child's concerns and acknowledges the special, transcendent significance of certain traditional nursery dishes. In this celebration of child life in its own terms, apple pie achieves its apotheosis, far surpassing any utility it might have as an alphabet-teaching aid.
Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Kate Greenaway together gave a new look to children's picture books: light, fresh, colorful, carefully designed. Greenaway's special contribution was to concentrate her own and the viewer's attention on children as subjects, not just objects, of the books. Although dress and decorative elements were her forte, she knew when to stop, when to balance detail with white space, how to make clothes lend importance to her child-figures without overwhelming them in frills. In the domesticated pastoral of her garden settings, she created an image of idealized childhood that still carries conviction and has power, even—or especially—in an age of sophisticated children and urban culture. The element of artificiality, the formality of dress and manners, are not only the superficial marks of a style but an essential element of content: they serve her symbolic placement of children in stage center, where they stand alone, not appendages of the adult world but freed (like the children of Hamelin in Browning's poem) into a timeless, perfect garden.
Engen, Rodney. Kate Greenaway. London: Academy, 1976.
Greenaway, Kate. A Apple Pie. London: George Routledge, 1886.
――――――. Kate Greenaway's Alphabet. London: George Routledge, ca. 1887.
――――――. The Language of Flowers. London: George Routledge, 1884.
――――――. Marigold Garden. London: George Routledge, 1885.
――――――. Mother Goose. London: George Routledge, 1881.
――――――. The Pied Piper of Hamelin. London: George Routledge, 1888.
Barr, John. "Kate Greenaway." In Illustrated Children's Books, pp. 59-66. London, England: British Library, 1986.
Short bio-critical assessment of Greenaway's artistic career.
Bolin, Bob. "A Fanciful Nature." Humanities 19, no. 4 (July-August 1998): 8-13.
Comparison of the works of Kate Greenaway, Beatrix Potter, and Arthur Rackham.
Lanes, Selma G. "Greenaway Went Thataway." In Down the Rabbit Hole: Adventures and Misadventures in the Realm of Children's Literature, pp. 31-43. New York, N.Y.: Atheneum, 1971.
Contrasts Greenaway's nostalgic and emotive artwork with the oversentimentalized works of Joan Walsh Anglund.
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.
Meyer, Susan E. "Kate Greenaway." In A Treasury of the Great Children's Book Illustrators, pp. 109-25. New York, N.Y.: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983.
Examination of the motivations that drove Greenaway's allegedly saccharine artistic style.
Silver, Anya Krugovoy. "'A Caught Dream': John Ruskin, Kate Greenaway, and the Erotic Innocent Girl." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 25, no. 1 (spring 2000): 37-44.
Explores the image of the erotic young girl in Greenaway's works, particularly as envisioned by Greenaway's colleague, John Ruskin.
Additional coverage of Greenaway's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 56; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 6; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 137; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 141; Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Something about the Author, Vol. 100; and Yesterday's Authors of Books for Children, Vol. 2.