English and Drama blog

On literature and theatre collections from the 16th century to the present day

14 posts categorized "Illustration"

08 July 2014

Arthur Graeme West’s 'Diary of a Dead Officer' remembered.

In the run up to the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War the British Library has been involved in a number of projects including collaboration in a Europe wide initiative, Europeana. This project covered a range of activities one of which was the digitisation of thousands of books and documents.  Part of my involvement with the project was to put forward literary works to be digitised.  One book that had a particular impact on me was The Diary of a Dead Officer: Being the Posthumous Papers of Arthur Graeme West.  This slim volume comprises diary extracts written between 1915 and 1917 and a selection of West’s poems.

IMG_1186The Diary of a Dead Officer. British Library shelfmark 010856.de.16

The Diary was published posthumously in 1919 shortly after the end of the war and was edited by the pacifist campaigner C E M Joad who had been a friend of West’s since schooldays.  The Diary charts West’s growing sense of disillusionment as the reality of war takes its toll.  West had initially tried to obtain a commission in 1914 but had been turned down because of poor eyesight.  Undeterred, he enlisted as a private in the Public Schools Battalion in February 1915.  However, faced with the realities of army life and the way the war was being conducted, his sense of duty and patriotism gradually turned to disenchantment.  In 1916, after serving in France for several months, West was sent to Scotland for officer training, a period when West’s disillusionment reached crisis point.  Many of the instructors were soldiers who had not experienced life at the front making it difficult for them to gain the respect of the officer cadets who had served in the front line.  West felt that the training he received was ineffectual for the conditions faced in the trenches and at times he felt it bordered on the farcical.  During this period he became increasingly influenced by the writings of Bertrand Russell and the pacifist arguments of his friend Joad to the point where he decided he would write to his Commanding Officer resigning his commission and refusing to take any further part in the war.  In the end, West couldn’t bring himself to deliver the letter and reported for duty as instructed.  He went back to France in September 1916 on active service with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire light infantry and was killed by a sniper on 3 April 1917.

Along with the diary excerpts is a selection of West’s poetry.  The poetry section opens with ‘God! How I hate you, you young cheerful men!’ West’s angry reaction to the patriotic poetry of those idealistic young men who believed they were living through “epic days”.  The most well-known of West’s poems is ‘The Night Patrol’ a powerful and honest account of the atrocious conditions and horrific experiences endured by those living in the trenches and one of the first realistic war poems to be published.

Last year I was delighted to learn that the Old Stile Press were to publish a fine press edition of West’s work to commemorate the 1914 centenary.   This new publication, in a limited edition of 150 copies, contains newly commissioned linocut illustrations by the artist and print-maker John Abell who also provides an afterword.  The Illustrations, several of which are full-page, reinforce the sense of horror and outrage found in West’s narrative. The black and white images create a striking and haunting impression.  Hand printed by Nicolas McDowall this edition is a fitting tribute to West.  For more information about the creation of this work please see the Old Stile Press blog.

West’s frank and powerful writings deserve to be more widely known.  I hope the interest generated by the centenary of the First World War and publications such as the one from the Old Stile Press will go some way to helping his work reach a wider readership.

The Old Stile Press edition of The Diary of a Dead Officer is now available to consult in the Library’s Rare Books and Music Reading Room, shelfmark RF.2014.b.25.

24 April 2014

A Long Forgotten Poem by the Admirable Crichton

James Crichton, known by the appellation the Admirable Crichton, was the epitome of the cultured Renaissance man.  Perhaps for many, the name the Admirable Crichton is more familiar from the 1902 play by J M Barrie ‘The Admirable Crichton’ or its subsequent film and television adaptations. However, these have little connection with the historical figure apart from portraying a highly talented individual. 

So who was James Crichton?  He was born in 1560 in Dumfriesshire.  His father was a lawyer and land owner in the service of Mary Queen of Scots. On his mother’s side he could claim royal descent from the House of Stewart.  As a child he displayed a prodigious intelligence.  He was educated at St Salvator’s College, St Andrews gaining a BA in 1573 and an MA in 1575.  Two years later, in 1577 at the age of just seventeen, he left Scotland for the continent and continued his education in France at the Collège de Navarre and, according to some sources, subsequently spent two years in the French army.

 The Admirable Crichton. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1579 he travelled to Genoa and then a year later to Venice where he was reputed to have wooed crowds with his skills in oratory.  In Venice he also made the acquaintance of the influential printer Aldus Manutius who became a great friend and promoter of Crichton’s abilities.  By this time Crichton was said to be a skilled horseman, swordsman, accomplished dancer, man of letters, debater, and to be fluent in ten languages.  For many he was regarded as the perfect gentleman with elegant social graces and enviable good looks.  From Venice he travelled to Mantua where he entered the service of the Duke of Mantua and seems to have been well established within the court by 1582.  However, his popularity was not universal; in particular he seems to have aroused the jealousy of the Duke’s son and heir Vincenzo Gonzaga.  This resentment came to a head one summer’s evening in July when an angry altercation took place in the streets of Mantua which resulted in the Prince mortally wounding Crichton.  He was buried the following day in the small graveyard of the church of San Simone in Mantua. 

Photogravure © Norman McBeath 

It was Crichton’s first impressions of his arrival in Venice, combined with the compelling majesty of the city, that inspired his most accomplished poem ‘Venice’.  The British Library is delighted to announce it has acquired the first English verse translation of Crichton’s Latin poem.  The book is a new collaboration between the poet and academic Robert Crawford and the photographer and printmaker Norman McBeath.  The source of the text is taken from the two volume anthology of Scottish-Latin poetry Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (1637), a copy of which is held at the Library at shelfmark 1213.a.7.  Robert Crawford’s impressive translation will hopefully generate wider interest in this sadly neglected poem.  The poem is accompanied by eight evocative photogravures by Norman McBeath which perfectly capture the enigma and splendour of that fascinating city. 

Venice is published by the Edinburgh based Easel Press in an edition of twenty copies and will be available to consult in the Library’s reading rooms shortly.

09 April 2014

Looking for Solace in a Busy World: The Best Gardens in Literature

By guest blogger Christina Hardyment, author of Pleasures of the Garden: A Literary Anthology

My pleasure in gardens has for much of my life been wistful admiration of those of other people. Four children and a dog, lots of writing and a fondness for literary geography and messing about in boats didn’t leave much time for fine horticulture when I was younger. But in 2005 I moved to a rambling peaceful house with two-thirds of an acre of neglected garden, and found myself enjoying the challenge of removing giant leylandii and battling brambles, creating raised beds and rows of beans and sweet peas in its bee-loud glades.

  PoG p153
Frontispiece from Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim, illustrated by S H Vedder, 1906 (012640.bb.9). © The British Library

Eight years later, I eased off. Like Elizabeth in Elizabeth and Her German Garden, I decided that contemplation is a vital garden recreation. I acquired a playhouse on stilts with a slide to keep the grandchildren occupied, a few hens to scratch for slugs’ eggs, and a summerhouse for me: open at the front and trellised at the sides, with an Albertine rose ramping over the roof and lilies flanking the entrance. In it, I began to browse through the books about gardens that I had enthusiastically acquired but been too busy weeding to read. It was there that the idea blossomed of making what Montaigne famously called ‘a posy of other men’s flowers: a literary anthology of legendary, historical, practical and humourous garden writings.

Initially, I thought the best medium would be audio, so that gluttons for punishment could garden as they listened to the pleasure that other people took in gardens. Then came the British Library’s idea of accompanying my delights for the ear with delights for the eye, and thanks to the enthusiasm of the Publishing team my anthology is now appearing in print – embellished by the fabulous illustrations taken from across the British Library’s collections of books and manuscripts.

PoG p62
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, from Wonders of the Past edited by J A Hammerton, 1923-1924 (7700.f.32). © The British Library

The collection is intended primarily to entertain, but also to inform. So you can find out just how Nebuchadnezz’s hanging gardens of Babylon were constructed, as well as smiling at Charles Warren’s rueful observation that what a gardener really needs is ‘a cast-iron back with a hinge in it’. I remembered Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Kipling’s poem 'The Glory of The Garden', and the many romances that have their most significant encounters in gardens: the spice-scented garden in The Romance of The Rose and the Eden-like nook in which Rochester takes Jane Eyre into his arms.

  PoG p18
The Garden of Pleasure, from Le Roman de la Rose, late 15th century (Harley MS 4425, f.12v). © The British Library

PoG p51
Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester from A Day With Charlotte Brontë by May Byron, 1911 (10601.tt.1/5). © The British Library

I show that gardening is a global passion, beloved as much in the ancient civilizations of China, Japan and Persia as it is by moderns who tune in religiously to Gardener’s World. The important thing is not to let it become drudgery. Forget the weeding. Throw a garden party. Or sit back and browse in the shade, taking pleasure in your chrysanthemums with a glass of wine in your hand like the fourth century Chinese sage Tao Yuan Ming.

PoG p15
Chrysanthemum from Canton Album (NHD 43, f.104). © The British Library


Pleasures of the Garden: A Literary Anthology is available now from the British Library Shop.




04 June 2013

The Keepsake Kiss

The Library has been very fortunate to acquire a copy of The Kiss, a poem by Paul Roche with a line drawing by Duncan Grant. The poem, published by the Keepsake Press in 1974, is part of the Keepsake Poems, a series published between 1972 and 1979.

The Keepsake Press was established by Roy Lewis and even though it published over a 100 books and pamphlets it is the Keepsake Poems for which it is chiefly remembered. The press was active up until the death of Roy Lewis in 1996. The Keepsake Poems include works by notable poets such as Vernon Scannell, Christopher Logue, Charles Causley and George Szirtes. The series numbered 39 in total, of which The Kiss is number 23. The final publication was Walking in the Harz Mountains by D J Enright, illustrated by Madeline Enright. The Kiss is elegantly produced with simple tan wrappers in crown quarto containing one folded sheet with the printed text of the poem offset to the top right and Grant’s oval illustration in the centre. The chapbook was published in an edition of 180 copies.

Duncan Grant first met Paul Roche in London in 1946. This was the start of a relationship which was to last over 32 years until the death of Grant in 1978. Roche began modelling for Grant and was used by Grant as his model for Christ in his murals for the Russell Chantry at Lincoln Cathedral. In later life Roche was to become a noted poet, novelist, and translator of classical texts. Duncan Grant provided illustrations for some of Paul Roche’s publications. Grant provided the illustration for the dust-jacket and the chapter decorations for Roche’s first novel O Pale Galilean (1954, British Library shelfmark NNN.5238). A portrait of Paul Roche by Grant was used for the dust-jacket of All Things Considered (1966, shelfmark X.908/7703) this portrait was additionally reproduced as the book’s frontispiece. Grant also provided the design for the dust-jacket of Roche’s collection of poetry Enigma Variations And (1974, shelfmark YA.1991.a.160054).

Duncan Grant died at Paul Roche’s home in Aldermaston on the 9 May 1978. A month later in June a memorial service was held for Grant at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 2004 the Library was able to purchase a copy of the Order of Service (shelfmark RF.2004.a.131) in which is printed Roche’s poem ‘The Artist’ which he read at the service. This new acquisition is a fitting addition to the Library’s collections and complements delightfully our existing holdings of collaborations between Duncan Grant and Paul Roche.

30 April 2013

In Praise of the Unloved

There is something intriguing about forgotten novels by famous authors. Why, for example, do general readers and academics alike adore Middlemarch and Adam Bede and yet leave Romola to gather dust like a neglected maiden aunt slumped in a chair? While many novels are ignored because they are simply rather dull and some because they are just too peculiar (we love Bram Stoker's Dracula while refusing to have anything to do with the bafflingly odd Lair of the White Worm) a few fall into obscurity when they deserve a better fate. A recent enquiry reminded me of one such title - a neglected novel by a famous author that among its many fascinations includes a heroine who works out in her private gymnasium while wearing a pair of pink pyjamas. I shall explain ....

Which novel by Thomas Hardy features, in addition to the heroine with the pink pyjamas, a pistol-packing tattooed illegitimate son of a dashing army officer; an amateur production of a Shakespeare play hastily re-written by the leading man so as to include an unscheduled love-scene with the leading lady and a hero who unfortunately finds himself in a railway tunnel as a steam train approaches? The answer is A Laodicean and while Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the Queen of the Sensation Novel, would have wept with pleasure at any one of these plot elements somehow A Laodicean missed its audience and tumbled from view.

Even the illustrations didn't help .... A remarkably undramatic depiction by the usually excellent George du Maurier of a scene from A Laodicean. George Somerset, the hero, and Paula Power remain curiously unruffled after a close encounter with a steam train.

A Laodicean; or, The Castle of the De Stancys. A Story of To-Day, to give the book its full title, was published in 1881 and has by and large sat undisturbed on bookshelves ever since. Hardy categorized the work among his 'Novels of Ingenuity'; a category shared by the similarly ill-starred Desperate Remedies and The Hand of Ethelberta. The book was written while Hardy was seriously ill and perhaps the combination of looming deadlines and ill-health resulted in a more feverish and uneven imaginative process than usual. The sombre drama of The Return of the Native had gone before and the brilliant gloom of Jude was to come but A Laodicean lurks like an unexpected 'Mr Bun the Baker' card in the middle of a conventional pack. For all of its peculiarities, however, the book is not without interest and certainly deserves better than its generally forlorn status.

While undoubtedly sensational in nature - for example most of the drama actually takes place in a Gothic crumbling castle - A Laodicean highlights, in embryonic form, one of the major changes taking place within society during the 1880s and 1890s, namely the emergence of the independent, educated and free-spirited New Woman. Paula Power, the heroine of the novel, is highly intelligent and for a Victorian mainstream novel really rather racy. During the course of the book she vacillates - hence the title of the novel, a Laodicean being someone lukewarm or half-hearted - between various religions, various plans for the future of her dilapidated castle and various suitors while always remaining ultimately independent of outside influence and true to her own desires. She has charm and character and considerably more spirit than the wet and shabby array of men who make a play for her hand. One somehow always thinks of Hardy as looking back to a rural and romantic past but he was, as his love of the bicycle and the motor car would show, more often than not looking ahead. His sympathetic portrayal of Paula as a woman in advance of her time and a forerunner of more complex characters such as Grace Melbury from The Woodlanders and Sue Bridehead from Jude puts him at odds with many of his contemporaries, male and female, who regarded the New Woman as a mannish, pipe-smoking, child-neglecting monster prepared to put her own unnatural desires before the sturdy duties of marriage and motherhood.


The New Woman as seen in an unsympathetic Punch cartoon - cigarette-smoking, mannish and frankly a bit unnatural. Punch (Vol 108 page 282).

Hardy, I would argue, saw the other side of the coin and in A Laodicean sympathetically portrayed a woman who, though swayed by outside opinion, ultimately decides her own path in life and refuses to follow the conventions set out for her. So, we have challenging social comment, drama, a Gothic castle prone to shedding a turret or two during violent storms, dashing army captains and dopey heros wandering about in railway tunnels. And all this from a largely forgotten book. One never knows just what lies between the pages of those dusty, neglected and unjustly unloved novels.

03 December 2012

Some gratuitous Christmas illustrations

In honour of December, the month when we can officially begin to get excited about Christmas, I thought I would post some festive illustrations from the British Library’s Dexter Collection of Dickensiana. It is also a fitting way to round off Dickens’s bicentenary year.

Dickens was a great champion of Christmas. The Christmas stories he wrote captured the holiday spirit for his own and future generations. By the start of the 19th century, Christmas had rather fallen out of fashion among certain quarters of society and it was by no means universally celebrated. It was the immortalisation of Christmas tradition in print that largely helped to reinvigorate the festive season. By depicting an aspirational Christmas in literature, Dickens and his contemporaries (such as Thackeray and Gaskell) helped to shape and promote the Victorian ideal of Christmas as a time of joy and benevolence.

Mr fezziwig's ballDex 293(1)

A Christmas carol in prose: being a ghost story of Christmas / by Charles Dickens ; with illustrations by John Leech (London : Chapman & Hall, 1843)

‘Mr Fezziwig’s Ball’

To the extent possible under law, British Library has waived all copyright and related or neighbouring rights to Mr Fezziwig's Ball.

Even though Dickens can’t be credited with inventing Christmas, it is hard to separate him from the idea of a Victorian Christmas – he was, after all a Christmas print trendsetter. A Christmas Carol was phenomenally successful and John Leech’s illustrations contributed immensely to the book's charm.

See this on Images Online


Marley's ghostDex 293(1)

A Christmas carol in prose: being a ghost story of Christmas / by Charles Dickens; with illustrations by John Leech (London: Chapman & Hall, 1843)

‘Marley’s ghost’

Public Domain Mark
This work (Marley's ghost, by John Leech), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Ghost stories at Christmas had long been an oral tradition by the time Dickens employed them in his writings. The cold and the dark drove families to gather round the hearth, and the shadows cast by the fire suggested an excellent setting for sharing ghostly tales.

See this on Images Online


The Christmas scenes depicted in the Pickwick Papers were full of nostalgia and have inspired numerous artists to illustrate them…

Dex 310(18) - col. pickwick

Dex 310(18). On the back is written ‘box cover holding stationery c. 1880-82'.


Public Domain Mark
This work identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Dex 311(11)

Dex 311(11).

Six original illustrations, to bind with the Volume of The Cheap Edition of The “Pickwick Papers,” engraved on wood, from drawings by “Phiz” (London: Chapman & Hall, [1847])

From a series of six designs issued as ‘extra plates’ issued separately from but simultaneously with the first cheap edition of Pickwick.

Public Domain Mark
This work (The kiss under the mistletoe, by Hablot Knight Browne), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.


RB.23.a.22587, p.296 pickwick

Dex 53

The Posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club ...

(London: Chapman & Hall, 1837 [1836, 37].)

‘Christmas Eve at Mr Wardle’s’ illustrated by Phiz







Public Domain Mark
This work (Christmas Eve at Mr Wardle’s, by Hablot Knight Browne), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Dex 311 - cheap ed 1847



Dex 311(10)

Pickwickian illustrations / by William Heath.

(London: T. McLean, [1837])

‘Blindman’s Buff’ (Chapter XXVIII)




Public Domain Mark
This work (Blindman’s Buff, by William Heath), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Other Christmas scenes by Dickens’s illustrators …

Leech Mistletoe

Dex 257

Pictures by John Leech. Second series (London: Gowans & Gray, 1910, p.27)





Public Domain Mark
British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

This comic illustration was originally drawn for Punch magazine – to which Leech was a regular contributor.


Dex 243 Phiz

Dex 243

Christmas Day and how it was spent by four persons in the House of Fograss, Fograss, Mowton, and Snorton, Bankers / Christian Le Ros (pseudo. William J. Sorrell) ;  illustrated by Phiz (London: Routledge, 1854)



Public Domain Mark
British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Hablot Knight Browne (aka “Phiz”) illustrated many of Dickens’s

+++works. His distinctive style is used to great effect in this Christmas book from 1854.


Book of Christmas p.2271568/2302

The Book of Christmas / by Thomas Hervey ; with illustrations by Robert Seymour (London : William Spooner, 1836)

Public Domain Mark
This work identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

Seymour was the original illustrator for Pickwick. The Book of Christmas described Christmas practices and folklore, such as caroling, traditional Christmas games and fare. Seymour’s illustrations are more Regency in style and the characters he draws are uglier and more forlorn than the Victorian Christmas illustrations championed by Dickens’s later illustrators. The warm Christmas hearth depicted here is menacing rather than safe and loving.

So there we go – I claim no comprehensiveness in my list. Dickens wrote numerous Christmas stories, many of which were illustrated; he was also not alone in his penchant for creating festive stories and many a fine Victorian Christmas story can be found as a result (quite a few of them have ghosts in, which makes them even better).

Merry Christmas to us all.


Andrea Lloyd

Curator, Printed Literary Sources 1801-1914



Collected by John Furber Dexter, The Dexter collection, which was purchased by the British Museum in 1969, contains a wealth of printed material relating to, as well as editions of, the works of Charles Dickens (1812-1870). The collection has been microfilmed (Mic.B.613/1-93), and access to the originals restricted. Charles Dickens, the JF Dexter collection: accessions to the general catalogue of printed books, manuscripts, prints and drawings(London, 1974). * Copy in Rare Books and Music Reading Room at RAR 823.8, and in Manuscripts Reading Room at MSS 823.8. Another copy in British Library stacks at B.S.10/434

English and Drama blog recent posts



Other British Library blogs