Cicely Mary Barker

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A Fairy Orchestra*

Found in the Peter Haining archives this long piece from 1995 about the great Flower Fairy illustrator Cicely Mary Barker. It is likely to be the fruit of research by PH's good friend the amazing W.O.G. 'Bill' Lofts. Cicely Mary Barker's beautiful illustrations are still much loved and have become something of an industry. She also produced some deeply religious illustrations which are also of very high quality.

CICELY MARY BARKER

Wander into almost any stationers', gift or book shop, and you will see them - on cards and calendars, notelets and writing pads, diaries and address books, pencil tins and wrapping paper - even on tins of tea and Wedgwood china collectors' plates! The Flower Fairies suddenly seem to be everywhere.

They never really went away, of course - since they first appeared over 70 years ago, they have continued to work their magic on generations of children and adults alike. If all at once they seem more popular than ever before, it is because 1995 marks the 100th anniversary of the birthday of their creator, Cicely Mary Barker. To celebrate the centenary in June, and hand-in-hand with a big marketing campaign, Warnes are due to publish the first ever study of the artist: “Cicely Mary Barker and her Art” by Jane Laing. This superbly produced book, lavishly illustrated with colour plates of the artist's work and family photographs, is an absolute "must" for any collector of Barker's work, and guaranteed to add to her ever-increasing circle of admirers world-wide.

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Coventry Patmore rejects his uninspiring ‘vegetables’

The poet who composed the long love poem, The Angel of the House, which appeared in four volumes from 1854, became, like many of his generation, a convert to Catholicism, and so his remarks, voiced in a letter to the editor of the Spectator  regarding a bust of Cardinal Newman by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, come as no real surprise.

The original letter, written from Hastings, was discovered in a pile of similar autographed material.

‘It may interest some of the readers of a Paper which has shewn so special an interest in and affection of Cardinal Newman, that by very much the finest likeness of him in existence is the bust which was made of him some ten or fifteen years ago by Thomas Woolner…I was once in a room containing first-rate busts of all the most famous men of the past generation. That of Newman made all the others look like vegetables, so wonderfully was it loaded with the great Cardinal’s weight of thought and character.’

We don’t know who the sitters for other busts were, or the identity of the sculptors, but we do know that as a friend of Woolner, as indeed he was of Dante Rossetti, W. Holman Hunt, and other Pre-Raphaelites, Patmore was bound to defend the merits of the Newman bust over perhaps some more conventional works of art. As a child, Patmore himself wanted to be an artist and at the age of fifteen won the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts. The poverty of his father made such an ambition impossible and Patmore ended up in the British Museum library. In later life, spurred on by his association with the Pre-Raphaelites, he wrote on Art, but he is best known today as the author of The Angel of the House, although it is generally recognised that his best poems, which have strong spiritual qualities, were written towards the end of his life. [R R]
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The Red Priest and the Architect

It might perhaps be guessed that Conrad Noel (1869 - 1942), the 'Red Priest' of Thaxted, whose Socialist views once outraged the Tory faithful of his North Essex parish, would be sympathetic to the Art and Craft movement, whose guru was the Socialist poet and designer William Morris. But an inscription, dated April 1906, in a copy of The Country Cottage, presented to him from its co-author, George Llewellyn Morris, confirms it.

Amazingly, I found this inscribed copy of the little book, a hymn to the virtues of both the humble thatched labourer’s cottage and its much more sophisticated Arts and Crafts imitations in brick, plaster and tile, profusely depicted in photographs, in 2006 among the trashy novels in the ten pence box outside a well known bookshop in Saffron Walden. The book had been given to Noel four years before he became Vicar of Thaxted, and it had somehow found its way from here to that bookshop, just 12 miles away, in the intervening years.

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New Movements in Art 1942

Found - a folding 6 page art catalogue/ booklet for an exhibition in wartime Leicester June 1942. Artists included John Tunnard (who provides the image on the cover) John Piper, Ivor Hitchens, Graham Sutherland, Frances Hodgkins, Edward Wadsworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Hans Erni, Paul Nash, Kurt Schwitters, Eileen Agar, Ithell Colquhoun, Ceri Richards, Michael Ayrton,  John Buckland Wright ,Cecil Collins, Leslie Hurry. Top price was £150 for Two Serpents by Paul Nash. The 3 Schwitters were all less than £30..The curator and writer of the introduction (below) was Trevor Thomas - the subject of another Jot entry, as 21 years later he was the last person to see Sylvia Plath alive. He wrote a slim book on this called Sylvia Plath: Last Encounters (Privately Published, Bedford 1989.)

New Movements in art exhibition: 23 May to 21 June 1942: Leicester Museum and Art Gallery

Trevor Thomas, Curator.

By way of introduction.

The contention that "every picture tells a story" is now recognised as a popular fallacy, just as, Hollywood excepted, nobody now believes that "every story makes a picture." In this way free from the necessity for literary associations, we can approach such an exhibition as this with unfettered intelligence and liberated imagination.

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Ronald Searle – Caricature Manifesto

Another manifesto from Jot-- this one still relevant given the atrocities of early this year at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. We found it in La Caricature: Art et Manifeste Du XVI siecle a nos Jours (Skira, Geneva 1974) which was produced by Ronald Searle, Claude Roy and Bernd Bornemann. At the beginning Searle contributes a  piece ('Quelques Reflexions Authentiques..') that is a cross beneath a credo and a manifesto. It has not been translated before (to our knowledge) and our friend Tom A has done a sterling job. There is a pun about a hound's tooth which Tom says works better in French than English. Searle was much admired in France and lived there for the last 50 years of his life. Rave on...

La caricature est un art mineur qui comporte des responsibilites majeures.
Caricature is a minor art which carries major responsibilities.

L'humour c'est quelque chose qui met les gens en colere quand on leur dit qu'ils n'en ont pas.
Humour is something which makes people angry when you tell them they don’t have a sense of it.

La satire est la plus haute forme de la basse intention.
Satire is the highest form of a low instinct.

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The Eric Parker Story

From the files of Peter Haining this draft of a piece by W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts on the great Sexton Blake illustrator Eric Parker (1898 - 1974). It was published in the early 1980s in the Australian magazine Collector's Digest.

The Eric Parker Story.

By W.O.G. Lofts.

For over twenty years, it was my good fortune and privilege to meet many Directors, Editors, sub-editors, authors, and artists, not only down Fleet Street, but in the home of it all at Fleetway House in Farringdon Street, the home of the mighty Amalgamated Press. I use the expression 'fortune' in the sense, that living in London, it was quite easy for me to make these short trips.

Always firmly believing in sharing information with others not so fortunate, I used to write up many of these events in the various magazines circulating at the time. Nearly all personalities I'm glad to say, freely gave me information not only about themselves, but about the papers they were connected with in pre-war days. Papers that gave so much pleasure to us, as they do even today in some cases over a half a century later. Indeed, in time by so many meetings, many became good friends, when they probably gave me real inside information, that they would not have revealed to the ordinary interviewer. The very sad fact today, is that with all of them considerably older than myself-practically the majority of them have now passed on.

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Arthur Wragg ‘These Thy Gods’ (1949)

Found in the Jimmy Kanga hoard These Thy Gods (Longman, Green and Co., London, 1949) by William Purcell, illustrated by Arthur Wragg. The artist and illustrator Arthur Wragg is slightly  forgotten, although there was a good art book on him by Judith Brook a former pupil Arthur Wragg: Twentieth-century Prophet and Jester (Sansom 2001). He was collected by Jimmy Kanga and also another eccentric hoarder the great Baron Corvo scholar Donald Weeks. Wragg's style is stark, apocalyptic and symbolic. The frontispiece and d/w image neatly sums up the addictive 'Gods' of the time with a sort of totem pole. It appears to depict - (from the top) -- Television, jet travel (war?) sex/ entertainment/ parties/glamour then gambling, smoking, drinking, money, work (the thumbs?) and drugs and medicine. The 'blurb' on the back panel of the jacket reads:

A struggle for survival now challenges the people of the United Kingdom, a struggle only to be won by stern qualities of personal morale. Are these qualities being produced? Is there a solution to the urgent problems of our uneasy peace? 'These Thy Gods' ruthlessly anatomises life today and points towards a firm and practical Christianity as our final chance.

Indifference, selfishness, materialism and cynicism are shown here as they actually appear in people's lives. From the man who believes in nothing, the worker who "couldn't care less" to the girl with the film-world's scale of values and the couple lost like babies in the matrimonial wood, the people in this book are all types we know - types in whom we may recognise ourselves. This book is to help us to judge, and to care while there is yet time.

Some of these short essays with their illustrations were originally published in the magazine 'John Bull', where they attracted considerable attention. The Rev. W. E. Purcell will be known to many for articles written in an easy style, free from pedantry and "pulpit terminology", and he also rites successful short stories under a pseudonym. The brilliant illustrations, designed to add to rather than repeat the text, recall Storm Jameson's remark about Arthur Wragg's earlier drawings for 'Jesus Wept', "I wish every comfortable person in the country had a copy put into their hands".

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‘We could, I suppose, fall back on a woman…’

‘We could, I suppose, fall back on a woman…’

The words of John W Carter, scholar, bibliophile, author of the excellent ABC for Book Collectors, and sometime head of Charles Scribner’s Rare Book Department in London. He was discussing with the expert on British theatre, Ifan Kyrle Fletcher, the problem of finding someone eminent enough to open the National Book League’s exhibition on the British Theatre in October 1950 now that John Gielgud had declined the invitation.

From the correspondence that has come to light recently in a file of letters, Carter, having rejected the not very glamorous Ralph Richardson as a candidate, and having dismissed T.S. Eliot out of hand, for some reason, seems indeed to have turned to a woman in the shape of Peggy Ashcroft ( ‘the best actress in England’), who politely declined. Her explanation was that she always hated ‘making speeches‘ and that anyway she was committed to going on tour with the Old Vic on October 16th. Carter then seemingly wrote to the glamorous Fay Compton, who also appears to have said no. Luckily for Carter, the comparatively youthful Alec Guinness, despite being involved with a film at the time, accepted the invitation. [RR]

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Laughton Osborn

Found- a rare anonymous work by Laughton Osborn, an almost completely forgotten writer and one time friend of Poe - A Handbook of Young Artists and Amateurs in Oil Painting (Wiley and Putnam New York 1845.) The author is given as 'An American Artist' and the book demonstrates  a very thorough technical knowledge of the subject, particularly the making and mixing of colours. Very much a writer manqué, his entry in the American Dictionary of Biography ends on this pathetic note: 'His plays were obviously for the library, and not for the footlights, and a search of dramatic records fails disclose any mention of their production in New York or elsewhere.' An online search some 80 years later shows no mention of any performances or reviews of his plays but brings up one modern critic (David S Reynolds) writing that his plays '…have been  deservedly ignored because they sheepishly attempt to duplicate both the  the form and content of Shakespeare's plays.' As a friend (and correspondent) of the 'divine Edgar', surely the greatest of all American writers, he may be worthy of greater note. Poe writes about him fulsomely in The Literati of New York (1850) which is available at Wikisource. The shorter Allibone has this: 'Novelist. Author Confessions of a Poet, Sixty Years of the Life of Jeremy Levis,etc. A writer of some power, whose works have been criticised as of questionable morality.'

Here is his entry in the American Dictionary of Biography:

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The Briar Rose — exhibited August 1890

Found in a slim volume of verse from 1891 'printed for private circulation' - this poem about The Briar Rose - a series of 4 related paintings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones. These were first exhibited at Agnew's Gallery in Bond Street, London in 1890. The paintings depict a moment in the story of Sleeping Beauty, the title of the series coming from the version presented by the Brothers Grimm in their collection of 1812. The book was called Thoughts by the Way / Sicily by S.A. Thompson Yates. He was the son of Henry Yates Thompson (1838 -1928) a wealthy British newspaper proprietor and collector of illuminated manuscripts. He was known as the Reverend S. A. Yates Thompson and was the brother of Henry Yates Thompson also a major book collector.

After seeing Mr Burne-Jones picture, 'The Briar Rose.' (August 1890)

Love comes at last with sad and serious face,
A pale, armed youth with sharpened sword in hand,
To pierce the briar-rose hedge, which can withstand
The arms of hate or lust. It is disgrace
To let such through. But, that true love's embrace
Should give all life again, the burly band
Of sleeping sentinels will not demand
The watchword, as should guardians of the place.
Here all are sleeping. King and council sit,

In years and wisdom ripe; next maidens
While busy with their housework. All, asleep,
Await the kiss of love, which, as is fit,
The warrior gives, yet sadly, half afraid
To rouse the loved one from her slumbers deep.

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Pulp fiction art

This original artwork was one of three covers created for a number of 1940s pulp magazines published by a British company. The series was called the ‘Headline series’ because each story was built around a newspaper headline-- to be found sketchily depicted at the bottom left hand corner of each cover. The other two pieces of artwork were for Road to Nowhere and Road to Revenge—both stories by someone called Max Foster. There seem to have been at least 20 tales in this particular series.

In the ultimately futile three hundred year old debate that has raged regarding ‘high ‘ and ‘ low art’, such ‘ low’ art as these pulp fiction covers, is often derided for the poor quality of the  draughtsmanship, whereas the simple truth is that for pure draughtsmanship, as opposed to piercing originality or ‘ vision’, this art is often more impressive than that of many ‘ high’ artists. Next time you visit Tate Britain wander around the many rooms devoted to Turner and study the groups of figures that inhabit the foregrounds of his huge oil landscapes. You might be surprised at how inept our greatest painter could be at depicting the human figure.

Then return to the work of ‘low’ book illustrators and marvel at how well most of them could draw. [RMH]

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Simon Watson Taylor: surrealist, pataphysician & cabin steward

The death in 2005 at the age of 82 of aged hippy and anarchist Simon Watson Taylor went almost unnoticed in the Arts pages and it was left to his friend and former house-mate George Melly to supply an obituary in the Independent in which he pointed out the major contributions of the writer and translator of Alfred Jarry to the Surrealist and Pataphysics movements in Europe during the fifties and sixties. On a personal level, Melly also alluded to his friend’s ‘acid humour ‘, his delight in confronting and dispatching the pretensions of the bourgeoisie, and a determination to remain free of encumbrances. At one point in his early life we are told that he took a job as an airline cabin steward in order to travel the world.Indeed, among all his friends who had some way embraced aspects of the bourgeois life- style, Melly claimed that Watson Taylor stood out as a man ‘truly free’.

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A Bill Childish ephemeroid

Found a Billy Childish (and Sexton Ming) broadsheet listing 24 books from their Phyroid Press 1978 - 1982. It gives a useful bibliography of their publications (some are now rare) and it also lays down some ground rules when dealing with this esteemed publishing house:-

1. Do not swager yu bollocks when you come in
and dont give us any arty shit
yu will resive a brocken jaw and apendiges pretty qwick

2. If yu bottle out n turn out to be a whimpy one
we will not give you respect
infact we will do you down.
3. Do not talk of CND feminism or any of
that crap or we will bust yu lip

We talk the strong langwige that only children can bear
we drink neat carosean n smoke full strength navi-cut
our noses are smokeing chimny stacks
they fall over and crush yu wife and kids

We feed on boil pork n black cocain...[etc.,]

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Hector Whistler

Co-editors Anthony Dickins and Tambimuttu, who Geoffrey Grigson appropriately nicknamed ‘Tutti-Frutti’, made an unusual choice when they asked the thirty-four old Hector Whistler to illustrate the debut issue of Poetry early in 1939. Trained at the Slade and the Architectural Association schools, the multi-talented Whistler, who was related to American genius James McNeill Whistler and was cousin to both Rex and Laurence, was better known as a muralist, having, five years earlier, executed some rather unusual wall paintings at the council-owned Aero Café on the Marine Esplanade in Ramsgate.

Alas, the murals, which were supposed to be temporary anyway, were obliterated along with the whole Lido complex on Ramsgate’s waterfront, some time ago, and unlike the more celebrated Vorticist wall decorations by Wyndham Lewis in La Tour Eiffel restaurant, off the Tottenham Court Road, which also disappeared, there doesn’t seem to be any record of what they looked like. The curious art lover will just have to look up Whistler’s other decorations for books to imagine what holidaymakers and the residents of Thanet lost when the despoilers moved in. [RMH]

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Artists as foreign spies

It is a fact that many signposts were temporarily removed, especially in rural areas, during the Second World War, and that countrymen were advised to report sightings of suspicious foreign looking and foreign sounding individuals in their district. What is not generally known, I suspect, is that an artist plying his or her trade as a landscape painter could have come under the gaze of local busybodies, including members of the Home Guard, who may have reported them to the authorities.

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Laurence Ambrose Waldron

Found in a collection of other examples, this is rather dull little bookplate, considering it came from the library of Laurence Ambrose Waldron (1858 – 1923), one of Ireland’s great and good in the first two decades of the twentieth century-- a patron of the Arts, a Nationalist politician, public benefactor, and ardent book collector with a library of several thousand volumes.

The conventional design of the bookplate is even more bewildering when we consider that Waldron was such an Arts and Crafts enthusiast, that in the early 1900s he built a mansion, which he christened ‘Marino’ in this style at Ballybrack, just outside Dublin. He later commissioned the Beardsley-influenced cult illustrator Harry Clarke to create nine exquisite stained glass illustration of Synge’s Queens (below) for his new library there. In 1998, after having not been seen since 1928, these were sold by Christies for over £300,000.

The only possible explanation seems to be that Waldron had the bookplate printed some time before his enthusiasm for Arts and Crafts and Clarke took off. As he succeeded his much more conservative father (also called Laurence) at the age of 17  in 1875, the design was probably made between this date and the building of ‘Marino’. [RH]

Bookplate of Waldron's father *
*Many thanks Mullen Books
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Show me the Money, Coutts

Sent in by Hertfordshire's top jotter Robin Healey for which much thanks. The tradition of writing family histories appears to be alive and well.

I’ve always been mildly amused at why the heir to a banking fortune ends up with the name Money-Coutts. And I’m equally certain that my aunt, who wrote a history of the Coutts family, was also tickled by the name.

Anyway, here’s an attractive bookplate which an inscription in pencil on the reverse assures us was designed by the gifted painter and book illustrator, John D Batten (1860 – 1932), in 1889, at the age of 29. The design is eclectic, featuring a central circular panel that owes much to Burne-Jones, and spandrels that are crammed with writhing Art Nouveau-style  foliage.

We can be sure that the design was very much to the taste of Batten’s patron, Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer ( 1852 – 1923), who had studied Law at Cambridge but  was considered too unstable to join the family firm. Instead he practised as a solicitor in Surrey while pursuing under the pseudonym ‘ Mountjoy’ his preferred vocation as a poet and general man of letters, safe in the knowledge that he was not likely to end up in a garret. He also befriended the composer Isaac Albeniz, becoming his benefactor and contributing the lyrics to a series of operas.

John Batten had a similar background to Money-Coutts. He also read Law at Cambridge, though at a later period, and like his future patron, was called to the Bar. Again, like Money- Coutts, Batten abandoned Law for his true passion, which in his case was Art. In 1886 he exhibited for the first time at the Grosvenor Gallery, which was owned by a kinsman of Money-Coutts, Sir Lindsay Coutts. So, it is very likely that the artist and the banking heir met through their shared association with the Gallery.

It would be interesting to know how the relationship developed over time, and particularly whether Money-Coutts became a keen collector of Batten’s striking, Pre-Raphaelite-influenced paintings.

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Oliver Madox Brown’s ‘Gabriel Denver’ – a rarity

Found - Oliver Madox Brown's novel Gabriel Denver (London: Smith, Elder 1873) - a late Victorian rarity with Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood connections. The binding was designed by the author's father, Ford Madox Brown and is said to be the only book cover he ever worked on. A loosely inserted catalogue clipping from about 1920 prices the book at 18/6 and states;

'...  a novel of great promise, the first and only production of the author, who died in his twentieth year. In A Birth Song Swinburne refers to him in the following lines:
"High hopes and hearts requickening in thy dawn,
Even theirs whose life-springs, child,
Filled thine with life and smiled,
But then wept blood for half their own withdrawn."

70 years late in 1992 a slight used copy turned up at Christies New York (from the collection of librarian and poet Kenneth A Lohf) and made $1210. The cataloguer described it thus:

Original tan cloth, pictorially blocked in black, lettered in gilt and black ..binder's ticket of Leighton Son and Hodge at inside rear cover, fraying at ends of spine, rear cover slightly soiled, cloth slipcase. FIRST EDITION, published when the author was eighteen years old (he died tragically the following year); this is the only book cover his artist father designed. Fredeman 47.1 and Plate VII for illustration of the front cover; Robert Lee Wolff, Strange Stories (Boston, 1971), pp. 37-43 and illustration of the front cover. "The death at nineteen of this brilliantly versatile and precocious artist and novelist, son of Ford Madox Brown, and brother-in-law of William Michael Rossetti and Francis Hueffer, deeply distressed the boy's father and all the brethren of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Both [this and The Dwale Bluth in the next lot] his books are rare ... By 1883, [Gabriel Denver] was already a rarity. Only 300 copies were sold and the rest pulped. See also a remarkable passage in George Moore's Vale (Hail and Farewell, III, 1914, pp. 47-51) in which Moore describes his friendship with Brown formed at art school. During the model's rest periods Brown read aloud from a novel of his which must have been Gabriel Denver..."The model was so entranced, she let her robe slip from her and listened quite naked"--Wolff 881.

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A lost Rossetti letter

Found in the front of an 1866 first edition of Swinburne's  Poems and Ballads (Moxon) this cutting from a catalogue from about 1920. The dealer is unnamed, possibly Maggs or Quaritch, and the catalogue seems to be entirely made up of autograph letters. This is an important letter but does not appear to be recorded anywhere or published. It was possibly bought by a wealthy collector and sits in a drawer in a mansion now owned by his indifferent heirs...the catalogue gives a good taste of it however and it is good on Swinburne and Milnes...Swinburne's book was disowned by the publisher Moxon and scandalised Victorian England by its sensual and decadent themes and lack of respect fro Christianity...

Swinburne by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti (Dante Gabriel, 1828-1882). English Painter and Poet. A.L.S. to Frederick Sandys, the painter and book illustrator. 9pp, 8vo. N.D. circa 1857 £15 15s.

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