This was a surprise. My first thought on seeing the cover for Ethel Archer’s “book of verse”, The Whirlpool, was that its swirling waters were borrowed from Harry Clarke’s typically astonishing illustration for A Descent into the Maelström by Edgar Allan Poe. The problem there is that the Ethel Archer book was published in 1911 while Clarke’s first collection of Poe illustrations didn’t appear until 1919. The cover for the Archer book was by Ethel’s husband, Eugene Wieland, the publisher of Aleister Crowley’s Equinox periodical/occult treatise, and also the publisher of this volume. Crowley provided an introduction to the book. Given these occult associations it’s possible that Harry Clarke might have seen a copy of this. Clarke’s work appeared in Austin Spare’s own occult periodical, The Golden Hind, and he wasn’t averse to producing occult art of his own. This isn’t to say that Clarke necessarily took anything from the Archer book—sometimes a whirlpool is just a whirlpool—but it’s not outside the bounds of possibility.

There’s a copy of Ethel Archer’s book currently on sale at eBay, together with some original drawings by Eugene Wieland. The cover above came via John Eggeling’s Flickr page of rare book covers. The Poe illustration is via 50 Watts.


Previously on { feuilleton }
The Sapphire Museum of Magic and Occultism

4 thoughts on “Whirlpools”

  1. Adam: That’s great. I know Mahendra’s work (I think he’s commented here in the past), it’s good to see Harry Clarke providing further inspiration.

Comments are closed.