Drawings from an edition of Alfred Tennyson’s Poems illustrated by British artist Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1872–1945) which was published by George Bell & Sons in 1905. The book was part of a series of illustrated poetry collections that included several books featured here in previous posts: Poems by John Keats and Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley both illustrated by Robert Anning Bell, and The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe illustrated by William Heath Robinson. There was also an edition of Browning illustrated by Byam Shaw at whose art school Ms Fortescue-Brickdale was employed as a teacher. Her Tennyson drawings aren’t entirely to my taste, I’ve omitted the full-page works which are rather static pre-Raphaelite-derived things. Far better are these vignettes whose heavy outlines and sinuous curves resemble both Heath Robinson’s early illustrations and Pamela Coleman Smith‘s famous Tarot card designs. As usual the Internet Archive has the whole book and (should anyone require more Tennyson) Ms Fortescue-Brickdale’s take on that Victorian staple Idylls of the King.
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The post title sounds like a psychedelic album but the illustrations are from The Garden of Kama (1901), allegedly a collection of Indian love poems “translated by Laurence Hope”. The translator’s real name was Adela Florence Nicolson who no doubt wished to do for India what Edward Fitzgerald had done for Persia but rather than presenting new translations of unknown verse the poems were all her own work. The book survived this mild scandal to be republished several times, the illustrations here by Byam Shaw (1872–1919) being from a 1914 edition. I linked to a selection of these plates last year when they were posted at Golden Age Comic Book Stories but anyone wanting to see the complete book, poems and all, may do so at the Internet Archive.
The content may be Orientalist pastiche but Shaw paid great attention to the decorative details. This is also an adult work, with violence, death and some sexy females. So many illustrated books of this period are children’s stories it can be a surprise to find something where the characters don’t live happily ever after.
Continue reading “Byam Shaw’s Garden of Kama”