Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work

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Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work  (1960) 
by Derek Hudson

Arthur Rackham

Books by Derek Hudson

A Poet in Parliament: The Life of W. M. Praed
Thomas Barnes of ‘The Times’
British Journalists and Newspapers
Norman O’Neill: A Life of Music
Charles Keene
Martin Tupper: His Rise and Fall
James Pryde
Lewis Carroll
Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Personal Study
The Forgotten King and other essays

(With Kenneth W. Luckhurst)
The Royal Society of Arts, 1754–1954

(With Anthony Goldsmith)
On the Slant: a play

Self-portrait in oils, 1934. ‘A Transpontine Cockney’






Copyright © 1960 Derek Hudson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the permission
of Charles Scribner’s Sons


1 19
2 29
3 43
4 61
5 87
6 113
7 129
8 150


A 159
B 161
C 164
A Check-List compiled by Bertram Rota

List of Illustrations

The illustration of trees and birds on page 1 is from The Springtide of Life, 1918. The girl and the dog on page 3 are from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, 1909 (‘Fred and Kate’). The drawing on the title-page is from the title-page of The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie, 1910. The trees on page 8 are from A Wonder Book, 1921 (‘The Miraculous Pitcher’). The mice on page 12 and the head-piece on page 18 are from Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, 1932. The dancing figures on page 17 are from Comus, 1921 (‘Country Dances in Ludlow Town’). The initials which begin the text chapters are from Mother Goose, 1913. The end-papers are from Peer Gynt, 1936. The sketch on the front of the case is from The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book, 1933.

Self-portrait, 1934: ‘A Transpontine Cockney’
The struggle for seats
Hey! up the chimney, lass! Hey after you!
Five sketches of men
Miss Nellie Stewart
Mlle. Armand ’Ary
The king could not contain himself for joy
They worked themselves up into such a rage that they tore up trees by the roots…
Becket at Windsor
With this ring I thee wed
The Patient
The influenza fiend
The Dolly Dialogues — cover design
The Vicar of Wakefield — title-page sketches
A nightmare
Drawing of a man in period dress
Sketches from the nude
Madame Zola at the Mansion House
Richardson, the crack Surrey bowler
How authors work: Mr Hall Caine
After the Ball
Two photographs of Arthur Rackham
Self-portraits: Arthur Rackham and Edyth Starkie
Invitation card for private view
The Dance in Cupid’s Alley
He would sit on a wet rock
A company of odd-looking persons
Old Mr Salford
The Serpentine is a lovely lake
16 Chalcot Gardens
Houghton House
I’ll fetch you ladies a chair apiece
‘Preposterous!’ cried Solomon in a rage
We feel dancey
Our artist equipped for the tunnel
A Mad Tea Party
The Queen turned angrily away from him
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
A letter from Rackham
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms
‘Oscar’, and Miss Marie Tempest
To hear the sea-maid’s music
The Knight took the beautiful girl in his arms
I am here with thee as a guide
Nothung! Nothung! Conquering sword!
This is the house that Jack built
There was an old woman
The man in the wilderness asked me
All he wanted was a good scrubbing
An informal self-portrait
What do you call this?
Mr Irving as Don Quixote
Silhouette illustration from The Sleeping Beauty
Mr Tree as Svengali
Olive trees above Assisi
The incoming tide
A Favourite Song of Dryden’s
The quietest and fittest place
Invitation Card to the Daddy and Mummy party
When Night was come and the Shop Shut Up
The Children and the Pictures
Hansel and Gretel act-drop
Wedding announcement
Peer and the Threadballs
It was a golden afternoon
Shove that under your feet
Silhouette chapter-head from The Wind in the Willows
Endpaper design for Shooting


Do not hunt for subjects, let them choose you, not you them,’ wrote Samuel Butler in the Notebooks. ‘Only do that which insists upon being done and runs right up against you, hitting you in the eye until you do it. This calls you and you had better attend to it, and do it as well as you can.’

I cannot pretend that in writing biographies I have always followed Butler’s rule. But it has happened like that more often than not. And certainly the subject of Arthur Rackham did ‘run right up against me’ and ‘insist upon being done’. I can even remember the day when it began to ‘hit me in the eye’. I was looking through a copy of Who’s Who of 1938, and I had savoured once again my favourite entry — that of a certain potentate who is recorded as being ‘an excellent horseman; a brilliant polo player; an excellent shot, and A.1 billiard player’ — when, turning over a few pages, I came to ‘Rackham, Arthur, R. W. S.’

There was nothing in the least egotistical about Arthur Rackham’s modest entry in Who’s Who, but the long list of books that he had illustrated served to remind me of my own childhood and of the great pleasure his work had given to me and to so many others, and it led me to wonder whether anything in the nature of a memorial volume existed. I found that it did not; and this book, which will be published twenty-one years after Rackham’s death, is an attempt to fill the gap.

Any merit it may possess is due largely to the encouragement of Arthur Rackham’s daughter, Mrs Barbara Edwards, who has not only lent me her father’s personal records, letters, photographs, press cuttings, etc., and made available his work for illustration, but has also generously set down her own recollections of her parents, which have guided me throughout, and taken endless pains to assist me in every possible way. I am also most grateful to Mr Bernard Rackham, C.B., the artist’s brother, for his kind hospitality and advice, and for permission to reproduce drawings; and to his sister-in-law Mrs Harris Rackham for similar courtesies. Rackham’s nephew and niece by marriage, Professor Walter Starkie and Dr Enid Starkie, have also placed me deeply in their debt, and I remember with gratitude the help of several other members of his family. Nor should I omit to mention the enthusiasm with which Mr Dwye Evans and Mr Hugh Williamson of Heinemann’s approached the project and set about the making of this handsome book.

The overwhelming response that I received to an inquiry in the Press showed conclusively that, despite changes of artistic taste and fashion, Arthur Rackham still enjoys a special place in the affections of two or even three generations, both in his own country and in America, and that his work is far from being forgotten. Those who have helped me by contributing recollections, allowing letters to be published, or in other ways, include Dr Arthur C. Hill, Mr W. E. Dawe, Mrs W. E. Wheeler, Miss Janet Seligman, Mr Humphrey Brooke (Secretary, Royal Academy of Arts), Mr James Laver, Dr Percy E. Spielmann, Miss Dorothea Braby, Mr George E. Heath, Mrs R. L. Crosley, Mr Harold Bourne, the Hon. Mrs Geoffrey Edwards, Mr F. C. Winby, Miss Margaret Andrewes, Mr Karl Kup, Miss Carolyn E. Jakeman, Mr Roland Baughman, Mr Kerrison Preston, Mr A. R. Redway, the Assistant Keeper of the Tate Gallery, Mr Owen Oliver, Mr Guy Phillips, Mr R. H. Ward, Mr Gilbert Foley, Mr Stacy Colman, Mr J. B. Oldham, Mr Gilbert Rountree, Mr Roger Lancelyn Green, Mrs Evelyn Bolckow, Miss M. Savage, Dr Eric G. Millar, Mr Sydney H. Pavière, Mr Wilfrid Robertshaw, Mr E. J. Laws, Miss Margaret Nelson (Assistant Secretary, Art-Workers’ Guild), Mr John C. Oberlin, Mrs Rachel Wolton, Mrs E. Williams Bailey, and Mr Meredith Frampton, R.A. I offer my thanks to them all, and to the many others who wrote to me.

I am most grateful to Mr Bertram Rota for compiling the check-list of the printed work of Rackham, and for his advice on the book-trade aspects of the subject.

The letters from Sir James Barrie; E. V. Lucas; and Bernard Shaw are published by kind permission of Lady Cynthia Asquith; the executor of E. V. Lucas; and the Public Trustee and the Society of Authors, respectively. Extracts from a letter written by Mrs Kenneth Grahame are published by permission of the executors of the late Lord Courtauld-Thomson. I hope for the indulgence of certain correspondents of Rackham (or their representatives) from whose friendly letters I have taken brief extracts.

For their courtesy in making available original drawings for reproduction I am greatly indebted not only to Mrs Barbara Edwards, Mrs Harris Rackham and Mr Bernard Rackham, C.B., but also to the Hon. Lady Nicolson, C.H., Mr William Mostyn-Owen, Mr Peter Lazarus, and the Trustees of the Tate Gallery. Moreover, I am most grateful to Messrs Hodder and Stoughton, Messrs Methuen and Company, Messrs Harrap and Company, and Messrs Constable and Company for co-operating with my own publishers to make it possible for a wide range of Rackham’s work to be represented in this book.

D. H.

Arthur Rackham

Golden the light on the locks of Myfanwy,
Golden the light on the book on her knee,
Finger-marked pages of Rackham’s Hans Andersen,
Time for the children to come down to tea.

—John Betjeman

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.

Works published in 1960 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1987 or 1988, i.e. at least 27 years after they were first published/registered but not later than 31 December in the 28th year. As this work's copyright was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1989.

The longest-living author of this work died in 2003, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 19 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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