Wednesday, April 14, 2021

507. Ricketts, Symons, Gray

After moving to Edinburgh, John Gray visited friends in London with some regularity. He also stayed in touch with them in other ways, through letters or publications. In September 1928, the Dominican journal Blackfriars published a contribution by Gray which was read by Ricketts. 

On a postcard Ricketts wrote to A.J.A. Symons (with whom he was in contact about exhibitions of the First Edition Club and about a possible publication of his stories) that John Gray had published 'a charming new poem' and that he would keep this recent issue of the magazine for Symons. Many of Ricketts' letters are undated, but the postcard is postmarked 11 October 1928 and the most recent issue of Blackfriars prior to that date was the issue of September 1928. It contained a translation by Gray of a poem by Henri de Régnier.

Henri de Régnier

They have struck on the doors of gold
with the hefts of their rugged swords;
and their salt lips are cold
from the mists which hang in the fjords.

Like kings they have entered again
the bourg where torches flare;
the charger steps high, and his mane
flies back like the mad sea's hair.

They are bidden to notable feasts
in gardens, on terraces, spread
with sapphire and amethyst
of these lie on the ocean bed.

So drunk with wine of the years,
so dazzled with jewels and rings,
so deafened with praise, in their ears
the hammering ocean rings.

It is an adaptation of a poem that De Régnier published as part of a long section 'Motifs de légende et de mélancholie' in Poèmes 1887-1892 (Paris, Société de Mercure de France, 1895, pp. 60-61).

Ils ont heurté les portes d'or
Du pommeau rude de leurs glaives
Et leurs lèvres étaient encor
Amères de l'embrun des grèves.

Ils entrèrent comme des rois
En la ville où la torche fume,
Au trot sonnant des palefrois
Dont la crinière est une écume.

On les reçut en des palais
Et des jardins où les dallages
Sont des saphyrs et des galets
Comme on en trouve sur les plages;

On les abreuva de vin clair,
De louanges et de merveilles,
Et l'écho grave de la mer
Bourdonnait seul à leurs oreilles.

John Gray, Poems (1931): title page

After his first two major volumes from the 1890s, Silverpoints and Spiritual Poems, new poems by John Gray appeared only sporadically. Ad Matrem appeared in 1903, The Long Road in 1926. In 1931, he published his last poetry collection: Poems. This collection of poems was designed by Eric Gill and René Hague in a modern style: set in Gill's own type and with a title page that was also a table of contents (a rare combination of functions). It was published in 1931, but it did not include the poem that Ricketts had praised.

It was not reprinted during Gray's lifetime. Ricketts himself would not live to see the publication of Poems, as he died on 7 October 1931. Poems was published barely a month later and Gray was so impressed by the death of his former mentor and lifelong friend that he dedicated the volume to his memory.

John Gray, Poems (1931): dedication

Ricketts's letter to Symons is held in the Oscar Wilde and his Literary Circle Collection at the Clark Memorial Library (shelf mark: R539L S988 1928 Oct. 11).

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

506. The Designs on the Cover of 'Bibliography of Oscar Wilde' (6)

Last time I mentioned a vignette that was not used by Ricketts for the limited first editions of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis in 1905. The fourth vignette was replaced by that of the sea and the star. In an 1970 essay on bookbindings designed by Ricketts, Giles Barber wrote about De Profundis:

Here again we come back to Rossetti, for the plain ivory cover bears only three circles with simplified ornamentation and, between the top two, the calligraphically inscribed title. These top two circles show, on the left the imprisoned bird, on the right the free bird. Ricketts’s signed sketch for the binding, now in the possession of Mr. John Sparrow, shows that he intended his initials to appear hidden between the prison bars. This detail seems to have been dropped in the finished work.
(Giles Barber, 'Rossetti, Ricketts, and Some English Publishers' Bindings of the Nineties', The Library, December 1970, pp. 329-330) 

Charles Ricketts,
sketch for vignette of escaping bird
(current whereabouts unknown)
[reproduced after Christie's auction catalogue,
21 October 1992]

We can indeed see the initials 'CR' in the bottom right-hand section of the drawn vignette. This sketch was in the possession of John Sparrow, and was partly reproduced in the catalogue of the Christie's auction of his collection: Printed Books from the Celebrated Library of the late John Sparrow, O.B.E., Warden of All Souls College, Oxford (21 October 1992).

Barber continued:

More important is that on the original sketch the bottom circle originally bore a complicated circular thorn device which has been crossed out and that the final circular device, showing the star in the sky above the great waters as described in the concluding paragraph of the book, has been substituted. This fine and bare design, so unlike the nineteenth century in style, was adopted three years later for all the volumes of Methuen’s collected edition of Wilde. Since this design is so effective on the ivory vellum finally chosen it is perhaps interesting that in a footnote to the original sketch Ricketts wrote: "Please ask Mr. Leighton. Ask for specimen on black cloth, on green cloth (same as Vale Shakespeare) and mauve cloth same as used on Oscar Wilde’s plays".'
(Giles Barber, 'Rossetti, Ricketts, and Some English Publishers' Bindings of the Nineties', The Library, December 1970, p. 330).
The vignette of a thorn was not used by Ricketts for Wilde's works, and yet we have reason to believe that it has not completely fallen out of favour. The question is whether Barber has identified it correctly.

Once again, Stuart Mason (pen-name of Christopher Sclater Millard) comes into the picture.

In 1907 Mason had published a study and bibliography on The Picture of Dorian Gray: Art and Morality. After Wilde's collected works appeared in 1908, followed in 1910 by the so-called Second Collected Edition in a smaller format, bound in green buckram, Mason published a second revised edition of Oscar Wilde. Art & Morality in 1912. The new edition was published by a different publisher: Frank Palmer in London. In the 1914 Bibliography of Oscar Wilde, Mason himself described this new edition as 'Uniform with Methuen's foolscap 8vo edition of Wilde's works'.

Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1910)
and Stuart Mason, Oscar Wilde. Art & Morality (1912)

Mason's work does indeed look suspiciously like the Methuen volumes, also because Wilde's name has now been added to the title, so that at fiest, the book even seems to have been written by him. The vignette of the sea is not used here. The new vignette seems to reasonably match Barber's description. Would Ricketts have allowed him to use it? Nobody is thanked for the design in the preface and the vignette is not even mentioned in his later bibliography.

If we look closely at the design, we can see that the thorny branches are actually flames.

Vignette on the cover of Stuart Mason,
Oscar Wilde. Art & Morality (1912)

The similarity to the vignettes of the escaping and free birds is immediately apparent: the shape of the same bird is cut out in the middle, including the spread wings and the opened beak. To the right, we see a preview of the later vignette of the star - here still accompanied by the crescent moon. At the bottom, flames swirl up, reaching left to top and surrounding the bird on various sides. In other words: Ricketts did not draw thorny branches; the vignette depicts the bird Phoenix rising from its ashes. 

The vignette must be the previously unused vignette: it fits seamlessly with the bird devices and it already uses elements from the star-over-sea vignette. It has all the subtlety we would expect from a Ricketts design.

But this adds to the mystery: Ricketts must have lent an earlier sketch (the later one being 'crossed out') to Mason/Millard, perhaps through the intervention of Robert Ross. From 1906 Ross had supported Millard (who had been imprisoned for homosexuality), and Millard had helped him prepare the collected works of Wilde, and later, between 1910 and 1913, hwas Ross's personal secretary, only to be fired after he became embroiled in court cases again. 

This explains why Mason could not borrow the other vignettes, and used clumsy imitations for the Bibliography of Oscar Wilde. Originally, when negotiations about the Collected Works of Wilde were opened by Robert Ross, Methuen considered issuing the bibliography separately, but uniform to the de-luxe edition, on a royalty basis, and Millard/Mason and his friend Walter Ledger were requested to make their own arrangements with Methuen. It seems, these were not even started before Millard was arrested at Iffley in April 1906. The 1908 edition of the Collected Works did not include the bibliography, and when it was finally published in 1914, Methuen, the owner of the original blocks for Ricketts's decorations, did not lend them to the publisher T. Werner Laurie.

The question remains as to why Ricketts initially rejected this very fine Phoenix vignette. The explanation may lie precisely in the great affinity with the other two bird vignettes, the escaping bird and the free bird. These two symbolise the soul of Oscar Wilde who, still in prison, was already thinking ahead to his freedom, and was in fact freed from earlier pre-occupations by focusing on the essence of human existence (as Wilde wrote in De Profundis). Ricketts thus drew the unfree and the free soul, and an image of the resurrected phoenix was in fact duplicitous. 

However, it does mean that we can add a new title to the list of books decorated or designed by Charles Ricketts: Stuart Mason's Oscar Wilde: Art & Morality (1912).

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

505. The Designs on the Cover of 'Bibliography of Oscar Wilde' (5)

The three vignettes Ricketts designed for the deluxe editions of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis did not originally include that of the star over the ocean. First there was another third vignette, which I will deal with next week. So the vignette best known by its frequent later use is an afterthought, a replacement.

Oscar Wilde, The Duchess of Padua (1908)
Vignette designed by Charles Ricketts,
originally used for the deluxe editions of De Profundis

It is the only vignette derived directly from the text, as I wrote in blog 503 (17 March 2021) and perhaps that is because of the need to come up with a new design. There is an older vignette that may have served as an example. Looking for inspiration, Ricketts may have thought of a circular vignette used for the cover of William Allingham's Evil May-Day that was published in 1882. The title poem is about growing up in an age of science after the death of god, but Allingham opposes atheism and science's 'rigid formulae':

The rose, the primrose, and the hawthorn-flow'r,
The colours of the dawn or evening air,
The woodlands, and the mountains, and the meads,
Lakes, rivers, rivulets and rocky springs,
The varying ocean and the starry night,
Have in their beauty more significance
Than tabulated light-waves which impinge
On optic nerves and yield the brain a sense
Of red, blue, yellow - Science knows not how.

The vignette seems to be an illustration of that line: 'The varying ocean and the starry night'.

William Allingham, Evil May-Day (1882)

The appeal of this vignette was its connection with the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who probably had the greatest influence on Ricketts's early views on art and book design, along with James McNeill Whistler. Several of Ricketts's designs for bookbindings from the early 1890s can be seen as responses to Rossetti's decorations. Allingham brought Rossetti very close; he was a long-time friend of his and Rossetti designed some illustrations for his work. Only a watercolour remains of a design for a binding of Allingham's Day and Night Songs; it was not used for the binding in 1854 (it was used for a later book, but by then Rossetti was already dead).

Rossetti had designed circular devices for several bindings such as Algernon Charles Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon (1865) and Songs Before Sunrise (1871).

The friendship between Rossetti and Allingham had cooled by 1867 and it is therefore not likely that the vignette of Evil May-Day was designed by Rossetti, although it has been suggested from time to time (frankly only by antiquarian booksellers who have a certain interest in it - see footnote). Apart from that, Rossetti had died on 9 April 1882 and Allingham received his first copies of Evil May-Day in the first half of December of that year. 

That said, for a fan like Ricketts, even the meagre association with Rossetti may have helped, and, in any case, the similarities between the vignettes are striking: a lone star above an endless sea. Ricketts's rendering of the turbulent water is less realistic and shows traces of Art Nouveau.

Neither William E. Fredeman - in his Pre-Raphaelitism. A Bibliocritical Study (1965) - nor Mark Samuels Lasner - in William Allingham. A Bibliographical Study (1993) - have identified the  designer of the vignette.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

504. The Designs on the Cover of 'Bibliography of Oscar Wilde' (4)

A fourth instalment about a vignette on the Ricketts-designed bookbinding of the two deluxe editions of De Profundis by Oscar Wilde (1905) and Stuart Mason's Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1915) may come as some surprise, as there are only three vignettes. However, there are several reasons for a sequel: the reuse of the first vignette in the 1940s (the escaping dove), the inspiration for the third vignette (the star over the sea) and a fourth vignette not used for this book but designed at the same time as the other three.

Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Goal (1910):
dust wrapper with Charles Ricketts's vignette

Let's start with the reuse of the vignette that shows the dove flying out from between the bars. Methuen, who issued De Profundis in 1905, published a separate, sewn-in edition of The Ballad Of Reading Gaol in 1910. This was the first separate printing since the author's death, and it included a shorter version 'for the benefit of reciters and their audiences who have found the entire poem too long for declamation', as Robert Ross explained in his editorial note.

The cover was adorned with Charles Ricketts's vignette of the escaping dove. (See blog No. 501.

Toward the end of World War II, The Unicorn Press, a publishing house in London, began reprinting the works of Oscar Wilde and other decadent authors. Apparently these editions were not sent to the English copyright libraries; not all of them are included in the British Library collection. There were several publishing houses in London called the Unicorn Press. The first was the publisher of the magazine The Dome (1897-1900). Ernest J. Oldmeadow was the manager of the firm that was based at 26, Paternoster Square, and later at 7, Cecil Court. Founded in 1895 (as far as I know), it stopped publishing in 1908, and was probably dissolved around 1916. The second firm with this name began publishing in 1931 and existed until about 1938. This probably was not the same firm: it was owned by John Heritage, who also owned The Union Press. (By the way, Oldmeadow was still alive at the time, he died in 1949).

Frederick Gwynn, Sturge Moore and the Life of Art (1952):
advertisement for Wilde publications

The third Unicorn Press began publishing in 1944 with an edition of Oscar Wilde and existed until the early 1960s. Its director was Martin Secker (1882-1978)

According to John Trevitt, writer of the article about Secker in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Secker's original firm was sold in 1936, and continued under the name Secker and Warburg, and Secker stayed on to oversee production until 1938. Trevitt states: 'Secker then created the Unicorn Press, which published Arthur Symons's book on Aubrey Beardsley, Robert Hichens's The Green Carnation, and a collected edition of Oscar Wilde. He bought the Richards Press in 1937, formerly run by Grant Richards, his only close friend in British publishing [...]' It seems the chronology here is wrong, as the Unicorn Press books mentioned in his text were all issued after 1944. (Due to the lockdown, I have had no access to D. W. Collins's biography, published in British Literary Publishing Houses, 1881–1965 [1991]).

The publishing house was located at number 8, Charles Street near St James Square in London. June 1944 saw the first of a series of Wilde editions published by The Unicorn Press: Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest. Four Plays by Oscar Wilde. For the cover, the decorations designed by Charles Shannon for the first edition of the latter play were used. It was very successful and six reprints appeared. The same year, The Ballad  of Reading Gaol was also produced. It was followed by Intentions (February 1945), The Picture of Dorian Gray (November 1945), The Profundis (probably also 1945), Salomé (1947), Lord Arthur Savile's  Crime and Other Stories (1948) and A House of Pomegranates (1949). In 1951, an edition of Poems was in preparation, but it seems never to have appeared. 

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (left: 1905; right: 1945)

Of these books, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Intentions imitated Ricketts' s original binding designs. The same applied to The Profundis, which brought about the reappearance of the escaped dove, the vignette Ricketts designed for the first regular edition and its subsequent reprints. 

And here we encounter the renegade design again. This is quite puzzling, as the designs of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Intentions do appear to be neat reproductions of the original covers. Here, however, the publisher did not take notice of the first printing of De Profundis; instead, he relied on Stuart Mason's bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1915). This is also evident from the advertisement on the back of a Richards Press/Unicorn Press collaboration with the University of Kansas Press: Frederick L. Gwynn's monograph Sturge Moore and the Life of Art (1951). The back of the dust wrapper advertised "The Unicorn Press Edition of the Works of Oscar Wilde". The text was surrounded by the three imitation vignettes on the binding of Mason's book. The same advertisement appeared on the cover of Charles Richard Cammell's Aleister Crowley. The Man, The Mage, the Poet (1951).

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1905: above; 1945: below)

However, a 'Note' at the front of the book states: 'The small device on the cover, taken from the first edition, is the work of the late Charles Ricketts, R.A.' Although that vignette was the inspirational source, this device is the recreated version by an anonymous craftsman.

The blocks for these vignettes must have been transferred from the publisher of Mason's bibliography, T. Werner Laurie to The Unicorn Press, or new ones may have been made. They have the identical format, but the one of the free bird has been cleaned: the drop of 'blood' (bottom centre) has been removed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

503. The Designs on the Cover of 'Bibliography of Oscar Wilde' (3)

The third vignette on the deluxe editions of De Profundis, published in 1905, depicts a tempestuous sea with six high waves; above, in the centre, is a bright star in the sky.

Charles Ricketts, vignette for Oscar Wilde, De Profundis
(deluxe editions, 1905)

The combination of three vignettes (see blog 501 and 502) was reused in 1908 for the "First Collected Edition" of the works of Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde, The Duchess of Padua (1908)
(deluxe edition)

Whereas the other two vignettes were related to Wilde's imprisonment and release, the latter refers to the concluding paragraph of De Produndis:

Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with better herbs make me whole. 
(Oscar Wilde, De Profundis, 1905, pp. 150-151).

In 1909, the first volumes of what has come to be called the Second Collected Edition were published. The first volume appeared in early September 1909, bound in green buckram: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories. These smaller format (foolscap) editions only used one of the three original vignettes by Ricketts, and bibliographer Stuart Mason asserted that the third vignette was used for these editions, that of the star over the sea. However, this is not entirely accurate.

Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime and Other Stories (1909)

The circumference of the circular vignette is now 25 mm instead of 23 mm due to the addition of an extra border. The image itself is unchanged: the star has a protruding point at bottom right, and swirls in several directions can be seen within the waves. 

Oscar Wilde, Salomé, La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy
(eight F'cap. 8vo Edition, 1927) (above)
Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance
(Ninth Edition, 1920) (below)

Why was the block changed for the Second Collected Edition? Perhaps Ricketts felt it should have a more distinctive border, now that it was the only vignette decorating the binding? Subsequently, publisher Methuen used it for dozens of reprints through the early 1930s, and the vignette became the best known of the three. Buyers and readers of those editions will not have realized it was a Ricketts design, for his name was not mentioned. Possibly, several blocks may have been necessary for the later reprints.

The third vignette was also copied for Stuart Mason's Bibliography of Oscar Wilde in 1915.

Stuart Mason, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1915)

The large middle wave clearly has a different curve, as do the other waves around it. Of the star, only the outline remains. 

The vignette has an extra round border, compared to De Profundis, 1905, and similar to the 1909 vignette. 

In short: all three vignettes used for Mason's bibliography needed new drawings for the maker of the block. 

The main question is: why on earth did Stuart Mason claim in his introduction that Ricketts's vignettes were used for his bibliography, when all three were copies only. Those new blocks were certainly not Ricketts's doing, as they lack subtlety and are clearly copied, not carefully drawn again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

502. The Designs on the Cover of 'Bibliography of Oscar Wilde' (2)

The second vignette on the cover of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis (1905) - that is: the two deluxe editions, bound in buckram (200 copies) or vellum (50 copies) - depicts a free bird against the night sky. With its wings spread, the dove flies upwards, its beak open; on the left, a star stands above the landscape.

Charles Ricketts, vignette of free bird
front cover of Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1905)

The copies bound in buckram show that the texture of the fabric does not do the image justice; Ricketts must have had a finer fabric in mind, or designed it for the vellum edition. For comparison, here are the images on vellum and on a wrapper of two volumes of Oscar Wilde's collected works from 1908.

Charles Ricketts, vignette for Oscar Wilde, The Duchess of Padua
(copy bound in vellum) and Intentions and The Soul of Man (wrapper) (1908) 

The replica of the block used for Stuart Mason's Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1915) shows a different image.  

Stuart Mason, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1915):
wrapper (above) and buckram binding (deluxe edition)

There is an additional border framing the circular image. 

In the original image, the left wing (right for us) is depicted loosely, so that the bird's opened beak is clearly visible, the pigeon's head tilted backwards. The cry of joy for the regained freedom that is expressed in this way is absent from the copy. 

Ricketts drew the tail of the bird moving upward at the end. To separate the shape of the bird from the landscape that begins at the top left of the tail and continues right under the wing (using a kind of yin-yang image) he drew a clear gap between tail and landscape. In the copied drawing, the tail has disappeared; we no longer see a flowing line from the head to the tail of the bird.

Finally, in the landscape below the dove, there is damage to the block. It looks as if the dove is losing a drop of blood - contrary to what the image is meant to symbolise.

One might think that publisher Methuen had to make new blocks in the course of years, but that is not the case. When Ricketts's vignettes were used again in 1922, for a work that was wrongly attributed to Oscar Wilde, For Love of the King (1922), the original images from 1905 turned out to be intact.

Charles Ricketts, vignette for the wrapper of
For Love of the King (1922)

This second vignette, like the first (see blog 501), is a rough adaptation of Ricketts's subtle drawings.

[Thanks to Robbert-Jan Henkes for his astute comments.]

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

501. The Designs on the Cover of 'Bibliography of Oscar Wilde' (1)

In 1914, Stuart Mason (pseudonym of Christopher Sclater Millard, 1872-1927) published his Bibliography of Oscar Wilde in a regular one-volume edition and in a limited deluxe edition of one hundred numbered and signed copies. Publisher Thomas Werner Laurie had started his business in 1904, and issued the bibliography as if it belonged to the first edition of Oscar Wilde's collected works. The design of the books was almost identical, especially the deluxe edition whose white linen bindings with gold printing imitate those of the multi-volume collected edition. The calligraphy of the titles - designed by Charles Ricketts - is not copied, but replaced by a typeset title. Ricketts's three vignettes with doves, stars and the sea adorn the front cover, dust jacket and endpapers.

Stuart Mason, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1914):
deluxe edition, cover of volume 1

The collected works were published by Methuen and Co. in 1908. The design by Charles Ricketts was the same as the one he especially made for the first edition of De Profundis in 1905. The regular copies of that book were issued in blue cloth with one vignette, the two deluxe editions had three vignettes. 

Stuart Mason's 'Preface' acknowledges Methuen's rights to the design:

Thanks and acknowledgments, formal though none the less sincere, are due to [...] Messrs. Methuen & Co., for many courtesies, including permission to use the designs on the cover of this volume; [...].

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1905):
deluxe edition in buckram binding
with designs by Charles Ricketts

Methuen still used the designs for reprints, especially the star in the sky above the 'great waters', while the one with a dove escaping through prison bars was best known from the reprints of De Profundis. The third design (all were described by Mason in his bibliography) is 'the bird flying free'.

Stuart Mason, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1914):
deluxe edition, dustwrapper of volume 1

The dove escaping through prison bars 

Remarkably, Methuen's original binding tools have not been used. New, different stamps have been made that more or less resemble the earlier ones, but they lack all subtlety. They are, frankly, rather crude imitations.

Vignette 1, designed by Charles Ricketts:
a dove escaping through prison bars
on the front cover of the first edition of
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1905):
deluxe edition in buckram binding (above)
and deluxe edition in vellum binding (below)

The impression on the vellum binding of the most luxurious edition of De Profundis (1905) shows best what Ricketts meant. The impression on the paper wrapper of the deluxe edition of Mason's bibliography shows best what went wrong in reproduction.

Vignette 1, designed by Charles Ricketts:
a dove escaping through prison bars
on the front cover of the first volume of
Stuart Mason, Bibliography of Oscar Wilde (1914): 
deluxe edition in buckram binding (above)
and brown paper wrapper of the same volume (below)

The most striking difference is the drawing of the bars over the pigeon's body; they are much too thick in the new block, and have a crossbar that is not there in the original. As a result, there is actually no opening for the dove to fly through. 

The transition from the pigeon's breast to the right wing is also too thickly accentuated, so that it is no longer visible that the pigeon is opening its beak, in other words, gasping for breath.

Above the left wing, against the circle, Ricketts drew a larger open space in the original design than was done in the reproduction. There, just above the wing, a horizontal bar has been drawn.

All these changes show that the new block maker did not understand that the design depicts not a captured dove, but a dove escaping, symbolising freedom. All the modifications actually restrict the pigeon's freedom of movement to such an extent that its spread wings can no longer be understood. The image now resembles a bird that has been pinned to the bars.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

500. The Two Husbands of Edith Catherine or 'Ryllis' Broadbent

This blog about the adventurous but partly secretive life of one of Charles Shannon's models is written by Armand Robichaud and Paul Delaney. Robichaud, trained in geography and urbanism in Moncton and Montréal, has written two books on the Robichaud family genealogy. Delaney has written about the history of the Acadians, and is the author of Charles Ricketts's biography. Both are distant relatives of William Robichaud, the second husband of Edith Broadbent (later Hacon, later Robichaud). I would like to express my sincere thanks to the authors for this special contribution.

The Two Husbands of Edith Catherine or 'Ryllis' Broadbent, William Llewellyn Hacon and William Joseph Robichaud

The life of Edith Catherine or 'Ryllis Broadbent has intrigued historians of the 1890s, since she was involved in both the literary and the artistic world of the time. Yet, she is an elusive character. Consistently, in her two marriage records, she claimed that she was the daughter of John Broadbent and Margaret Rayment, but no such couple occurs in the civil marriage records or in the censuses of 1871, 1881 or 1891. According to the age she gave in various records, she was born about 1874/5, but there is no civil birth record for her and no mention of her in the censuses. She should certainly be somewhere in the census of 1881. In the record of her first marriage, she claims that her father was a gentleman. In that of her second marriage, she says he was an artist painter. All the above unanswered questions lead us to doubt these assertions. 

William Rothenstein, 'Portrait of a Lady'
[from: The Yellow Book, Volume 1 (April 1894)]

She is sometimes said to have been born in London. However, she told her niece by marriage, Cecily Hacon, that she had come down to London with a friend and became an artist's model (note 1). In this role, she called herself Muriel or Mu Broadbent. In 1894, she inscribed a photo of herself with 'All my love Yours Mukins' (note 2). She had an opulent beauty and golden auburn hair, reminiscent of the women painted by Titian and Rossetti. In a memoir of Herbert Horne, Arthur Symons recalled her thus: 'She was frightfully nice and kind to me; one of those women who are sensual and excitable though not passionate. There was something bright and attractive about her, apart from her erotic nature...' (note 3). 

Though the origins and early life of Edith Broadbent, or Ryllis Hacon, have proved unfathomable, her days as a beautiful muse and model are better documented (note 4). 'Edith' being too prosaic a name for such a beauty, she was dubbed Amaryllis, or 'Ryllis. She occurs in the memoirs and the biographies of several artists and writers of the 1890s. Herbert Horne set her up in a flat in London. He was succeeded by Arthur Symons, who wrote a poem to her and a fictionalized account based on her life in three stories, the first two of which published in The Savoy (note 5). She posed for the 'Portrait of a Lady' by William Rothenstein, published in the first volume of the Yellow Book in April 1894 (p. 150). To him in 1899, she inscribed a photo of herself.

'Ryllis Hacon, photo portrait
with handwritten dedication to William Rothenstein, 1899
[Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas:
Carl Woodring collection on Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. Series IV, Box 2, Folder 15.]

or Charles Shannon, she posed for 'In the House of Delia', which he did in several versions, in oil, pastel and lithography, and for his lovely 'Lady with a Chinese Fan' (note 6).

Charles Shannon, 'Mrs. Hacon (Lady with a Chinese Fan)' (1900)
[Dublin City Gallery: 'The Lady with the Green Fan']

According to her niece, Cecily Hacon, she also posed for a 'portrait of a mermaid (Ryllis) out of a boat with lots of men' (note 7). This must be an early version of 'The Mermaid' (1909), depicting a man leaning out of a boat to embrace a mermaid in the water. In this painting, there is only one man. This too was done both as an oil and a lithograph (1918).

Charles Shannon, 'The Mermaid' (lithograph, 1918)

The hair colour of the girl in the painting would be consistent with Edith being the model. Charles Ricketts did a portrait of her sculpted in gold in a jewel commissioned by her first husband in 1900. She bequeathed it to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Before her marriage in 1895, Ricketts and Shannon gave her a copy of George Meredith's Jump to Glory Jane, one of a special issue of a hundred copies, inscribed to 'Ryllis Broadbent fro: C.R.& C.H.S.' in Shannon's hand (note 8).

It was through a pastel drawing of her by Rothenstein that she came to the attention of William Llewellyn Hacon. Rothenstein had met her at the Vale, and the pastel he did of her was exhibited at a joint show with Shannon in May 1894. Hacon bought the drawing He was a barrister by education, but, having private means, he never took a brief. A widower, he had lost his first wife in childbirth. Through Rothenstein, Hacon was able to meet the original sitter for his drawing, when they were both invited for a day’s yachting at the Isle of Wight.

Charles Shannon, 'Llewellyn Hacon' (lihograph, 1896)
[British Museum, London: 1899,0321.14]
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.]

Rothenstein also introduced Hacon to Ricketts, and Hacon invested in the printing venture that Ricketts was hoping to set up. Thus was founded the firm of Hacon and Ricketts, the Vale Press. Hacon, a sleeping partner, got a good return on his investment when the press was wound up in 1904, but the final financial settlement gave little return to Ricketts, on whose hard work and talent the entire success of the venture had depended. This led to awkwardness between them. On 11 November 1904, Ricketts wrote in his diary: 'Hacon to dinner, we found it difficult at times to avoid forbidden subjects' (note 9). It was perhaps for this reason that Hacon left Ricketts 100 pounds in his will, one of only three bequests apart from that to his wife.


After her marriage to William Llewellyn Hacon at the fashionable St Margaret's Church, Westminster, London, on 18 February 1895, she still moved in artistic circles. Hacon was very sociable and good company. Ricketts and Shannon had moved to Beaufort Street in late 1894, and the newlyweds took over the lease of their house at the Vale where they entertained Ricketts and Shannon, Max Beerbohm, Charles Conder, Laurence Binyon, Rothenstein and others. The Hacons also received Conder and Toulouse Lautrec at their flat on Aguado Street in Dieppe. At Oversteps, their Scottish retreat at Dornoch in the north of Scotland, Conder came for a long stay in the summer of 1896. There he painted Edith twice. She was the model in ‘The Shore at Dornoch’, which the artist inscribed 'To Mrs Ryllis of Dornoch' and presented to her (note 10). This lovely work is often reproduced, and she appears also to have posed for the lesser known painting, 'The Ord of Caithness'.

Charles Conder, 'The Ord of Caithness' (oil on canvas, 1896)
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums]

However, the Hacon's marriage soon came under strain. Edith had gained weight and Hacon was drinking too much. On 25 June 1904, Ricketts wrote in his diary: 'Hacon made a confession of failure, the failure of affection, lust, companionship, daily habits. I believe I said things I did not quite believe as consolation, though I have felt also at an age when one puts one's house in order. Hacon again made reference to his undue share in firm. I felt embarrassed' (note 11). On 7 December 1904, Ricketts made the following enigmatic entry: 'tragic grub with Hacon and his wife'. On the same date, Shannon wrote in his diary: 'Dine with Hacon at Monaco Grill Room [...] Had most uncomfortable dinner with Hacon who arrived apparently drunk & spent the evening in insulting his wife. He afterwards ran away & we ... met him later at his rooms.' (note 12).


The Hacons are listed at Oversteps, Dornoch, in the 1901 census, along with a cook and a maid. They had moved to Scotland because they found life in London too expensive and because Hacon loved golf and yachting. Dornoch was (and still is) the home of a famous golf club, The Royal Dornoch Golf Club. founded in 1616. Hacon was elected to the town council, which pleased him very much. In about 1906, the Hacons had planned to return to London, and had packed up, but their plans were changed when a friend Margaret—known as 'Daisy'—Davidson, was looking for a place to stay. They took her in, and she never left. A school teacher, she acted as a buffer and helper in the house. When Hacon wanted to drink, Edith could never refuse him the key to the cellar, so she gave the key to Daisy who could say no (note 13). Daisy is listed as a ‘boarder’ in the 1911 census, but there were also three visitors listed as living in the house. Edith took in guests, among them, Herbert Asquith (1852–1928), Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916, who stayed at Oversteps every year.


Upon Hacon's early death on 23 July 1910 at only forty-nine years old, Edith was the principal beneficiary of his estate. She continued to live at Oversteps, a large house with twelve rooms that had one or more windows. Now she was well off; the 1911 census noted that she had 'private means'. With her racy and glamorous life behind her, Edith devoted herself to philanthropic works, to the suffragette movement, to the Liberal party and to the Girl Guides. She contributed to setting up 'The White Rest', a rest home for Irish Catholic girls working in the herring fishery in Scotland. In 1911, she offered a solid brass tabernacle and flowers to the new Catholic church at Lerwick in the Shetlands. For her work with Girl Guides, she received the Special Services Medal from Lady Baden-Powell.


Little has been published about her second marriage. On 30 October 1918, she married a French-Canadian, William Robichaud (born 25 April 1886), lumberman, at St Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Cathedral in Aberdeen. At some point earlier, she had converted to Catholicism. Her new husband was the son of the late Olivier Robichaud, a teacher and Justice of the Peace, and the late Marie-Claire Légère of Tracadie Beach, in northern New Brunswick, Canada. Nine years younger than she was, he was five feet five inches tall, had black hair and grey eyes. He was an Acadian, a descendant of early French settlers in Canada's Maritime provinces who are distinct from the better known French population in Québec.

William Robichaud in his late teens or early twenties
[Private collection]

The ninth of eleven children, William lost his father when he was only fourteen. At the age of twenty-nine, he enlisted in the 55th Canadian Infantry on 20 April 1915 as a gasoline engineer. He sailed for England from Montréal on the SS Corsican (Allan Lines) on 30 October 1915, arriving on 9 November. In the army, he had a chequered career, being promoted three times, only to be demoted each time. After being first stationed at Westenhanger in Kent in southern England, he arrived in France on 15 April 1916. Shortly afterwards, on 3 June, he was wounded at the battle of Mount Sorrel, near Ypres in Belgium, having suffered a gunshot wound in the chest and a punctured lung. He was admitted to the Camiers Military Hospital in Pas-de-Calais, France, on 4 June. Then, on the 16th, he was transferred to England, to the Folkestone Canadian Air Base, and afterwards was at the North General Hospital in Newcastle-upon Tyne until 15 July. Finally, he completed his treatments at the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bear Wood, in Wokingham, Berkshire, where he spent over a month, and was discharged on 24 August 1916.


It is often stated that William met Edith in a military hospital in France. Indeed, this is what Miss Cecily Hacon believed (note 14). Edith did work in a hospital there operated entirely by women volunteers from Scotland. Called The Scottish Women's Hospital at Royaumont, it was located in a huge, ancient Cistercian monastery in Asnières-sur-Oise, France. Her good friend, Margaret Davidson was also there. There, Edith worked as a nurse orderly and as superintendent of the kitchen, known as 'Mother Hacon' or 'Head of Char'. She was responsible for overseeing the kitchen staff, for supervising the work of the seamstresses, who made and repaired uniforms, and for organizing teas and field hockey matches to keep up morale of the soldiers. 

Abbey de Royaumont (photo: Clicsouris, 2010)
[Creative Commons license]

She was there from 1 February 1915 to 1 February 1917, and for her service she was awarded the 'Médaille des épidemies' (silver) by the French government and the British War Medal and the British Victory Medal by the British Government. As we have seen, William was in France from 15 April to 16 June 1916, but he is not known ever to have been at or even near Royaumont. Ypres, where he was wounded, is about 150 km, and the hospital at Camiers, where he was first treated, is over 200 km, from Royaumont. Nor has any record been found of her working elsewhere in France. It is therefore not known how they could have met in a military hospital in France.


What is more certain is what enabled them to carry out their courtship. After his release from hospital, William was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps, and his last posting was with Company 129 in District 51 in the north of Scotland. The company operated two sawmills in Dornoch. Company 129 operated Sawmill no 2 there after 22 November 1917, so William must have been in Dornoch at that time. About a year later, a few days before the Armistice, William and Edith were married.


Five months after their marriage, William, aged thirty-three, and Edith, aged forty-two, left for Canada on the SS Lapland from Liverpool to St John, New Brunswick, on 2 June 1919, arriving on the ninth. The day after his arrival, William was demobilized. He had promised to build Edith a 'chateau' in Canada. First, he built a sawmill, so that he could cut the wood, and then, using the most modern materials and techniques, he constructed the house at 37 rue de la Pointe des Robichaud, in Tracadie Beach With its large projecting central dormer, its three gables and its hardwood panelling in the dormer, it was certainly more elaborate than most houses in the village. It had two sitting rooms and four bedrooms. For her part, Edith generously financed his business ventures. She is listed with William at Tracadie Beach in the 1921 Canadian census along with 'une fille adoptive', Lydia Robichaud, William's niece.


However, life in a remote, small French-speaking fishing and lumbering community with long, snowy, harsh winters did not agree with Edith (note 15). She returned without her husband to live in Scotland. Cecily Hacon said that Edith had gone to Canada twice, the second time with her two adopted sons (note 16). So she must have gone back to Scotland, and then returned to Canada before 18 September 1927, when she made a final departure from Canada for Scotland on the ship Athenia, with her sons Antony aged eight and Raymond aged seven. She also took back with her Lydia Robichaud, aged fifteen or sixteen, who was never legally adopted but who remained with her and married in Scotland. However, this was not a final break between William and Edith. Ties between him and her and their sons were maintained. Ten years later, on 19 June 1937, Antony left Greenoch on the Antonia to visit his father in Tracadie, and on 31 July 1938 William and his son Raymond set sail for England on the Aurania to visit their family in Scotland. Edith kept using the name Robichaud.

Oversteps, Dornoch (1910)
[History Links Archive, photographer unknown]

Edith Robichaud died at Glasgow on 29 August 1952, aged seventy-seven. In her will dated 7 March 1951, she made many bequests, to her children, her nieces, her friends, her doctor, her parish priest, her domestic help, the Mother Superior of a Convent in Aberdeen, and she even left 100 pounds to William's sister Marguerite Gautreau in Tracadie, but to William himself she bequeathed nothing. However, in a second codicil dated 24 March of that year, she explained, 'Considering what sums I have already expended and sunk in his business enterprises I hereby leave to my husband William Joseph Robichaud a legacy of Two Hundred and fifty Pounds Sterling and I hope that he will find it of some assistance' (note 17). No member of her own family attended her funeral or was mentioned in her will. She was buried alongside her first husband in the cemetery of the Free Church in Dornoch.


When Edith's lawyers made a search for William Robichaud so as to send on Edith's bequest to him, they found that he was in jail. On his release from prison, William carried on with his business, manufacturing windows, doors and furniture. In 1954, he moved to Saint-Camille-de-Lellis special care home in Bathurst, New Brunswick, where he lived for eight years, receiving room and board in return for his services as a cabinet-maker. He died aged seventy-six on 26 August 1962 and was buried in Bathurst.


                                                                Paul Delaney and Armand Robichaud

1. Interview with Paul Delaney, 22 January 1977. Miss Cecily Hacon knew Edith well, and her information has proved to be reliable. She was one of the beneficiaries of Edith's will.
2. Information from the late Prof Ian Fletcher of Reading University.
3. The manuscript is at Princeton University. Information from the late Prof Ian Fletcher. 
4. There is an article on her as 'Edith Hacon' in Wikipedia, which has furnished some details for this article.
5. These are 'Pages from the Life of Lucy Newcome', in The Savoy, no 2 (April 1896), pp. 147-160; 'The Childhood of Lucy Newcome',  in The Savoy, no 8 (December 1896), pp. 51-61; and 'The Life and Adventures of Lucy Newcome'. The third story was published posthumously by Alan Johnson in English Literature in Transition 1880-1920, vol 28, no 4 (1985) pp. 332-335.
6. Now in the Dublin City Gallery, Ireland.
7. Interview with Paul Delaney, 22 January 1977.
8. Formerly collection of John Russell Taylor, cf. Catalogue of Illustrated and Private Press Books. The Property of John Russell Taylor. London, Bloomsbury Book Auctions, 20 November 1996, no. 9.
9. British Library, MS 58102.
10. Now in the collection of the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum.
11. British Library, Ma 58102.
12. British Library, Ms 58116.
13. Most of this paragraph is form the interview with Miss Cecily Hacon, 22 January 1977.
14. Interview with Paul Delaney, 22 January 1977.
15. Though Dornoch is much further north than Tracadie, the winters are not so long, so snowy or so harsh as they are in Canada.
16. Interview with Paul Delaney, 22 January 1977.
17. Sheriff Court of Caithness, Sunderland, Orkney and Zetland, Dornoch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

499. Gleeson White's Designs Online

This blog has frequently mentioned the name of J.W. Gleeson White in the past and it is a pleasure to point out a new publication on the work of this critic, magazine editor and designer of bookbindings, monograms, bookplates, and much more. Recently the new issue of The Private Library arrived with an article by Simon Cooke: '"A Designer of No Ordinary Gifts": Gleeson White and Trade Bindings'. The issue is dated 'Spring 2019' — the magazine is usually published with a delay of a year or two, and much of the material in this article had been available on The Victorian Web for a year or so.

Gleeson White (editor), Practical Designing (1893)
Cover designed by Gleeson White

In his essay, Cooke wonders why the work of Gleeson White has remained so underexposed in comparison, for example, with the work of Ricketts or Laurence Housman; after all, his oeuvre is significantly larger (if we only count the bookbindings):

Working between 1887 and 1898 , Gleeson White produced around fifty original trade covers on cloth and paper. Employed by the publisher George Bell as his art editor (1893-8) and tasked with producing attractive volumes, he was Bell's primary designer of casings for art books and poetry, as well as undertaking a series for miscellaneous handbooks on growing fruit, the military skills required by the navy, vegetarianism, biographies, and histories.
(p. 6)

Cooke provides a checklist of these designs and, like the quoted paragraph, it does shed light on his status of relative obscurity. Ricketts and Housman served a more exclusive audience that embraced modernism in poetry and art (Art Nouveau), while White mainly designed books that did not end up in their collectors' cabinets. At the same time, one might note that his reach among readers was much more widespread, but these were precisely readers who cared less for good contemporary design. His designs are less revolutionary, but they are solid, often brilliantly splendid, and (not unimportantly) not too expensive to produce. 

Cooke examines the extent to which White's designs meet his own criteria (he wrote or edited several articles on design, including Practical Designing in 1893). Cooke is right to say that too few papers have been published on White's binding designs, and it is a pity that he missed an early article by Edward F. Strange: 'The Decorative Work of Gleeson White', published only a year after Gleeson White's death — it appeared in The Library (December 1899). He could have quoted Strange on page 19 where Cook discusses White's lettering:

In strict accordance to criterion 2 [the size and style of lettering], he stresses the principles of clarity by employing large and unambiguous titling, characteristically enclosed in a frame or outlined in black. [...] Quite unlike the cramped titles by Ricketts and Housman, which are often placed into a corner, these prominent panels are an important part of the bindings' visual impact.
(p. 19)

They were less fashionable and spoke more directly to the general public. Strange, who knew Gleeson White well, wrote a first-hand account of the design of these title panels:

He never counted as lost the time spent on the mere adjustment of his label even when the book-cover had no ornament; and the choice of the type, the spacing, and general setting out of it were, I know, often considered by him the first and chief matter in the whole design. Many of his covers would, for this reason alone be worthy of the attention of the student of book-making; while a series of the title-pages that, at one time or another, he put together, might be most reasonably collected for the same purpose.
(Strange, p. 17). 

Strange also points out a subject that Cooke does not bring up:

Gleeson White was a great lover of the end-paper; and it is rather extraordinary that he did so few.
(Strange, p. 16).

I would not be surprised if Cooke's article gives a new and strong impetus to the collecting of Gleeson White's bookbindings. An additional merit of Cooke's article is that he points to a previously unused source of research: a collection of 290 sketches, mock-ups, preparatory drawings that is preserved in the Hougton Library, Harvard University. Images of all these are online at Harvard Library Viewer. And to this we owe the knowledge of the existence of a sketch of Gleeson White's dust jacket for The Pageant, of which no traces had been found before. The wrapper itself forms part of this collection (described as a proof, it is in fact the folded wrapper).

The Pageant (1897): folded dust wrapper designed by Gleeson White
Drawings, circa 1870-1898. MS Typ 571
Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

The Pageant (1897): sketch by for the wrapper, designed by Gleeson White
Drawings, circa 1870-1898. MS Typ 571
Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

The design sketch consists only of the lower segment of the front cover, with a series of flowers (later they became tulips), the publisher's name, the year of publication (in roman numerals: 1896, later corrected to 1897, although the book was published at the end of 1896) and the beginning of the address 93 St [93 St Martin's Lane] (omitted). Later, the price was stated at the bottom right.

For The Pageant, see also blogs:

77. A Paper Wrapper for A Pageant466. The "Outer Wrapper" of "The Pageant" for 1897