Cecil G. Trew (1897–1958)

Though Cecil G. Trew is a fairly well known illustrator of books about horses, dogs and drawing, a number of people – understandably – think that the artist was a man. In fact, CGT was a woman, the G standing for Gwendolen, and the Cecil – a name taken from her father – one of those unusual occurrences of the name applied to a woman.

Secondly, Cecil G. Trew was not, as is commonly stated, the pseudonym of Mrs Cecil Gwendolen Ehrenborg. Rather, she was born Cecil Gwendolen St Leger Russell (familiarly known as Gwen) in Bristol on 22nd March 1897, and became Cecil Gwendolen Trew on her marriage to an American physician, Niel Charles Trew, in Bristol in 1918. She became Mrs Cecil Gwendolen Ehrenborg on her second marriage, to Rolf Killigrew Ehrenborg in London, in December 1932. However, even after her second marriage, she continued to use Cecil G. Trew as her professional name, both as a writer and as an artist. But all this is jumping forward somewhat.

To go back to her early days (1), her father was Cecil Henry St Leger Russell, for many years an Assistant Master at Clifton College, Bristol, and author of Latin Elegiacs and Prosody Rhymes for Beginners (1902) and Latin Unseens for School Certificate (1936). He also published at least two books of poetry, On Echoing Shores and Other Verses (1904) and Poems (1937). Her mother was Blanche Wellsted Russell, née Wansey. At the time of the 1911 Census they lived at 34 College Road, Clifton. Cecil Gwendolen was the second of three children, having an older brother, Harley Raymond, and a younger sister, Vivien. Sadly, her brother was killed in the Battle of Loos in October 1915, aged only 24, his death having a profound effect on her. Between 1913 and 1915 she attended the Bristol School of Art (2a). Fig.1 is a photograph of her taken in about 1915. It was presumably following the death of her brother, and during the dark days of the First World War, that she completed some two hundred war pictures, later to form part of a permanent exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale de la Guerre in Paris, for which see the brief reference in note (5).

In December 1918 she married Niel (sometimes spelt Neil) Charles Trew, at Leigh Woods in the parish of Long Ashton, on the western fringes of Bristol. Thus, as already indicated, she became Cecil Gwendolen Trew (hereafter CGT: in fact, she frequently signed her work with precisely these initials in monogram form.) Fig.2 is a photograph taken on their wedding day in the garden of the Russell family (3), who were by now living at 5 Norland Road , Clifton, Bristol. Her husband, who was born in Canada in 1872 and thus some 24 years older than her, was an American physician and surgeon whose family were residents of Los Angeles. He had come over to England from New York in January 1917 arriving in Liverpool, but bound for a London address. The purpose of his trip was apparently to join the war effort, though how he came to meet his future wife is at present unknown.

In March 1919 CGT and her husband left Bristol for New York aboard the “New York City”, apparently working their passage as crew members because passenger berths were in such short supply – she is listed as stewardess, and he as purser. In the USA census for 1920 they are listed as living with the Trew family in Los Angeles, at 2919 Waverley Avenue. Here they were to have three children, Helen (born 1919), Elizabeth (born 1922) and Harley (born 1924.) Fig.3 is a family photograph taken in about 1926. As Niel Trew’s practice was a prosperous one, CGT had no financial incentive to work, but it was whilst in Los Angeles that she came to illustrate four books, all published in 1929, and all very different from anything she was to do later in life, as we shall see presently.

The one of key interest here is her Reveries of Omar Khayyam, a ribbon–tied artist’s portfolio (Fig.4a) containing a number of black and white plates illustrating the fourth edition of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat. Each plate was mounted on a card bearing its associated quatrain in the lower left–hand corner, and “Copyright 1929 Cecil G. Trew” in the lower right–hand corner. Reveries being quite difficult to come by these days, and the illustrations being of such interest, I here reproduce eleven of them as Figs.5 to 15 inclusive [browse images.]

The problem with a loose–leaf portfolio is that bits of it get lost over the years, and my copy is typical in this respect. For example, it contains no indication of any publisher, and it is only by comparison with another copy that I know it was an “Artist Proof Set” issued in a limited edition of 1000 copies, and published by National Illustrated News Service of Douglas Building, Los Angeles, my copy having lost (or never had ?) a pasted–in colophon label of the type shown in Fig.4b. Note also the “Genuine K–LO Print” logo, which is presumably that of the Kaloprint (pronounced Kayloprint ?) Corporation, who were closely associated with National Illustrated News, as we shall see presently. It does appear from this, then, that Kaloprint were the printers and National Illustrated News Service the publishers, though the boundaries between the two roles do become fuzzy.

But how many plates were in a complete portfolio when first published ? Some say 24, others say 25, and the confusion may arise not just from the problem of lost or missing plates, but also from the fact that CGT is known to have done 25 different illustrations relating to 24 different quatrains (4a). My own copy, for example, contains 23 plates relating to 21 different quatrains – there are two duplicate plates, one signed by the artist, the other not. Such duplication is encountered in other extant copies, and simply adds a further dimension to the problem of the number of plates!

But that is not the end of the complications, for there appear to have been at least two variant editions of CGT’s illustrations of the Rubaiyat, with slightly different titles, and, like Reveries of Omar Khayyam, published in a loose–leaf portfolio format, and all in 1929.

The first variant edition bore the slightly shortened title Reveries of Omar. This is known to have been issued in at least two different covers, extant copies of which can be described as follows. One copy bore a relatively bare cover (Fig.16a), with the familiar design of Fig.4a now appearing on an inserted colophon sheet (Fig.16b.) This tells us that it was another Artist Proof Set, issued in a limited edition of 1000 copies, published (or printed ?) by the Kaloprint Corporation (4b), whose name and address – 257 South Spring Street, Los Angeles – appear in the lower right–hand corner. The cover of a second copy (Fig.16c) simply bore the design of Fig.4a, the title only being revealed by the same inserted colophon sheet as depicted in Fig.16b. In both copies the plates are as depicted in Figs.5 to 15 – that is, with the verses printed on the same sheet as their associated illustrations [browse images.]

But that isn’t the end of it. A third issue of Reveries of Omar is known with yet another cover (Fig.17a) and with a colophon sheet (Fig.17b) indicating that the publisher is The Danbys of – and here is that address again – 257 South Spring Street – the same address as Kaloprint. In this copy, the plates are printed on a parchment–like paper and placed inside a folded sheet, the associated verse being printed on the inside left of the folded sheet (Fig.17c), and not on the sheet bearing the print as in Figs.5 to 15. (4c) Inside the cover of this copy is pasted a typed label (Fig.17d) which would seem to confirm that Kaloprint were the printers of the plates, rather than the publishers – here The Danbys of 257 South Spring Street, rather than the National Illustrated News Service of the Douglas Building, encountered above. It all gets rather confusing, to say the least.

However, we are now in a position to clarify the situation to some extent. The Danby family (in particular, Sherman Edward Danby and his wife, Genevara) owned – or at least ran – the National Illustrated News Service, and this operated from the Douglas Building, whose address was 257 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, the same address as the Kaloprint Corporation. (The building still stands and is now a luxury apartment block known as Douglas Lofts.) Whether the Danby family owned Kaloprint, or simply worked in close co–operation with it, is unclear, as is the reason for publishing so many editions with different covers, differing titles, and under different publishers’ names. But at least we now know that the Danbys, the National Illustrated News Service and Kaloprint were all interlinked and shared the same building. But to return to the Rubaiyat.

Yet another variant edition to the forgoing dropped the word “Reveries” from the title altogether, and bore instead the title The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I know of two extant copies of this, both slightly different. The first (Fig.18a) was “published by National Illustrated News, Douglas Building &c”, as is stamped on the inside of the back cover (Fig.18b.) Presumably it was printed by the Kaloprint Corporation, but this is not indicated here. The second copy has the cover shown in Fig.18c, and this copy contains an insert like Fig.16b, but minus the text (Fig.18d), thus adding further to the confusion [browse images.] In both copies, the verses are printed on the same sheet as their associated plates, as in Figs.5 to 15. Also, as neither copy is indicated as a limited edition, this may well have been a ‘trade’ edition, though this is not certain, as this, like the name of the Kaloprint Corporation, may well have been on a now–missing label or insert like Fig.4b.

Mercifully, the potential confusion over covers, titles, inserts, publishers and printers need not concern us too much, as the illustrations in all are the same – namely, subsets of those listed in note 4a and exemplified by Figs.5 to 15.

At this point we should note that a rather curious review of Reveries – one laced with spiritual psychology and “the direct action of the Universal Mind” – appeared in the magazine The Science of Mind in May 1930. This review, in addition to being one which raises the old issue of whether or not Omar was a Sufi, is one of those sources which states that there were 24 plates in the portfolio when new. (For a source which says 25, see note 4c.) As this review is of considerable interest, its contents are covered in some detail separately in note (5). Meanwhile, let us turn to the other works illustrated by CGT in Los Angeles in that eventful year of 1929.

The second book that CGT illustrated was Job. This, like Reveries, consisted of a portfolio of seven (or eight?) loose–leaf prints, each illustrating a verse or verses from the Biblical Book of Job, though, unlike Figs.5 to 15 from Reveries, the relevant verses were not printed on the same page as their illustrations. The copy used here was published by The Danbys according to its front cover (Fig.19) and by National Illustrated News Service according to a label like Fig.4b pasted inside its back cover! Be that as it may, Fig.20 (Job 3.3), Fig.21 (Job 4.10-1), & Fig.22 (Job 42.17) are examples of the plates in it [browse images.] Job, of course, bemoans the mysterious ways of God, just as Omar does, though admittedly in a very different way – in particular, Job questions why God sometimes allows the righteous to suffer, and the wicked to prosper (for some detail, see the end of Appendix 2b.) One wonders, therefore, if CGT’s choice of both Omar and Job as subjects for illustration were somehow linked in her mind, possibly via the early and needless death of her brother in the First World War, and possibly also via a tragic accident that disabled her older daughter in the 1920s (on which more presently.) However, there is nothing to indicate that CGT ever underwent anything like a crisis of faith, and as her grandson Michael Mather has told me, she was married in church some three years after her brother’s death, and her beliefs remained those of the mainstream Church of England. So whatever her reasons for choosing Omar and Job as subjects, they appear not to be faith–related. Indeed, any theory based on such a premise is inevitably also confounded by the third – and totally unrelated – book she chose to illustrate: Benjamin Franklin’s Choosing a Mistress. This was a book or portfolio containing an Artist Proof Set, again in a limited edition of 1000 copies, and published by the Kaloprint Corporation (Fig.23.) I have never seen a copy of this, unfortunately, but given that the differently titled Rubaiyat portfolios contain the same illustrations, it seems likely that CGT’s illustrations for Choosing a Mistress were the same as those for the fourth book mentioned earlier, to which we now turn.

This is actually a variant of the third: Benjamin Franklin’s Choosing Your Woman, published by The Danbys. (Fig.24) Why the change of title is unclear (6), for the text is certainly that of Choosing a Mistress, which is the more usual title, if not actually Franklin’s own. The text purports to be a letter from Franklin to a friend who is contemplating marriage, but not at all sure of it. The gist of the letter is that if the man opts not to marry, but decides to have mistresses instead, then he should choose older women rather than younger ones. Franklin gives eight reasons for this choice, and CGT did an illustration for each one. The letter was almost certainly written to a fictitious recipient, with tongue lodged firmly and provocatively in cheek. (7) Certainly it has done nothing to endear Franklin to the feminists, whose wrath I may have to endure for reproducing here a sample as Fig 25, Fig.26 & Fig.27, these illustrating Reasons 1, 5 & 8 respectively. (8) However, I would remind readers that Cecil G. Trew was herself a woman, and chose to illustrate it [browse images.]

How did CGT come to know the Danby family ? Her life in Los Angeles was a very social one, often tied to her husband’s position as a well respected doctor. Michael Mather was told by his mother, Elizabeth, that she could remember parties where it was not unusual to have Hollywood stars like Gary Cooper and Charlie Chaplin present – it was a much smaller and informal world in those days. (The Hollywood sign was visible from the Trew household, apparently.) Perhaps, then, somewhere in the midst of the social whirl, CGT met the Danbys, but in truth, it is not known at present how any meeting came about, still less how Omar, Job and Franklin came to be chosen subjects. Indeed, it is not known whether CGT chose these subjects herself, or whether the Danby family chose them and merely commissioned CGT to illustrate them (on which see the end of note (5).)

Returning now to CGT’s life, at some point in 1920s tragedy struck the family. Firstly, their older daughter Helen fell from a stationary car and suffered brain damage. From then on she suffered from fits and her physical development was also affected. Then, in March 1929, her husband Niel died, aged only 56. CGT decided to return to England, and in November 1929 she boarded the “Lochgoil” from Los Angeles to Liverpool, though her destination address was 5 Norland Road, Clifton, Bristol – this being her parents’ address, at which the wedding photo of Fig.2 was taken, remember. She was accompanied by two of her children – Elizabeth (age 7) and Harley (age 5.) As for Helen, Michael Mather tells me that the difficult decision was taken to put her into foster care in Los Angeles, and, sometime later, to transfer her to an institution. She died in Los Angeles in 1980.

Once back in England, CGT took to book illustration, apparently exploiting the ambiguity of the name Cecil to secure her work in what was very much a man’s world. As we shall see presently, the fly–leaves of several of her books refer to her as if she were a man [Fig.35b & Fig.36]. But the books she illustrated now were of a very different type to anything published back in Los Angeles. One of her earliest illustrated publications bore the now outrageously politically incorrect title Ten Little Nigger Boys: New Pictures to an Old Rhyme (Basil Blackwell, 1931) (Fig.28), and this was followed by her own book of Bad Rhymes about Good Animals (Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1933). (Fig.29) Very different was another book illustrated by her, G.S. Laird Clowes, The Story of Sail (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1936) – as the title suggests, a book about all types of sailing ships, from Chinese Junks and Arab Dhows (Fig.30) to east Indiamen.

It was during this period (December 1932) that, as indicated earlier, CGT married Captain Rolf Killigrew Ehrenborg, late Border Regiment, who was of part Swedish extraction, though born in Liverpool in 1893. (His father had been Swedish Vice–Consul in Liverpool.) The forthcoming marriage had been announced in The Times on December 6th, 1932 (p.17), but a much more interesting announcement of it featured in the “Barbara’s Budget” column of the Western Daily Press, Bristol, and Bristol Mirror, for December 10th 1932 (p.13.) It reads:

Her many friends in Clifton were very pleased to see the announcement of the engagement of Mrs Gwendolen Trew, widow of Dr N.C. Trew, and Capt. Rolf Killigrew Ehrenborg, late the Border Regiment. Mrs Trew is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Russell, and is a very clever artist, as her friends know. Recently one of her pictures was bought by the Queen and her portrait of Mrs Hargeaves, the original “Alice” in “Alice in Wonderland,” appeared in “The Cornhill” as the frontispiece to an article on the centenary of Lewis Carroll. Her future husband is a nephew of Col. W.K. Wait and a grandson of the late Mr and Mrs Killigrew Wait, of St. Vincent’s Hall. They are to be married shortly, and in the meantime all her friends are wishing her much happiness and the best of good luck.

Unfortunately, Kate Heard, the Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings in the Royal Collection, and Alex Buck, Senior Collections Information Assistant in the Department of Paintings, have been unable to identify any work by CGT in the Collection, so this part of the foregoing is a bit of a mystery (9). But the portrait of Mrs Hargreaves, which appeared as the frontispiece of the article “Alice’s Recollections of Carrollian Days, as told to her son, Caryl Hargreaves” in the July 1932 issue of The Cornhill Magazine, is shown here as Fig.31. Titled “Alice in her Eightieth Year” it shows Mrs Hargreaves reading a book (presumably a copy of one or other of the Alice books), with Alice and the rising deck of cards in the lower right, and various figures from the Alice books (after Tenniel) floating in the background. Starting with Bill the Lizard just above the book, and going clockwise, the White Rabbit, the Fish Footman, the Duchess, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum (or Tweedledee), the Dodo, and the Mad Hatter are all clearly visible, even in this scan of a rather dark photo of the original portrait. The present location of the portrait and the circumstances under which CGT came to do it, are alike unknown, unfortunately (10).

But to return to CGT’s marriage to Rolf Ehrenborg, the actual marriage took place in Kensington and the couple took up residence in Hounslow, Middlesex. Fig.32 is a studio portrait of CGT taken by London–based photographer Pearl Freeman at about this time, the hat presumably being a souvenir of Los Angeles days.

For some years during the 1930s, CGT became an art teacher, and is said to have been Head of Art at the Imperial Service College in Windsor (2b). But actually there is no record of this (2c). Her husband Rolf, though, did work there, apparently teaching modern languages, from 1933 to 1936. Fig.33 is believed to have been taken at about this time. However, when he left the Imperial Service College, he and CGT seem to have moved to Eastbourne where, Michael Mather tells me, they set up a “crammers’ school” for would–be army officers, and this may well be where CGT was “Head of Art”. At any rate, their school continued up until the outbreak of war in 1939, when the building was requisitioned for the war effort, and the school had to close. The 1939 Register gives their address as Berrow, 17 Carew Road, Eastbourne, which also seems to have been the address of their school.

At some stage in the 1930s, CGT went with her husband to Sweden, and Fig.34 is a photograph taken there of her on horseback. This photograph brings us neatly back to her books, via her love of horses.

CGT illustrated various books about riding, horses and ponies, including From Dawn to Eclipse: the Story of the Horse (Methuen, 1939) and D. Glyn–Forest’s book Gipsy’s Way – a Story of Ponies (A & C Black, 1939.) She wrote and illustrated two horse–related stories of her own, Asido, the Story of a Mexican Pony (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1935) and Wild Horse of the West (Methuen, 1937) [Fig.35a & Fig.35b], plus she illustrated two of Primrose Cumming’s books, Silver Eagle Riding School (1938) and Silver Eagle carries on (1940), both published by A & C Black. Also published by A & C Black in 1950, and illustrated by CGT, was Catherine Spencer’s book Pennies for a Pony. She illustrated S.G. Goldschmidt’s book An Eye for a Horse – a Guide to Buying and Judging (Constable, 1932 & Country Life, 1944) and also wrote and illustrated The Accoutrements of the Riding Horse (Seeley Service & Co., 1951.)

As her previously mentioned book Bad Rhymes about Good Animals indicates, she had a love of animals generally, particularly dogs (see Fig.1, for example!). She illustrated Christopher Morshead’s book Terrier’s Days (Jonathan Cape, 1937) and Lady Kitty Ritson’s book Lad – the Story of a Border Collie (A & C Black, 1938). She also wrote and illustrated The Story of the Dog and his uses to Mankind (Methuen, 1940.)

Among other books illustrated by her are A Pond in your Garden (Seeley Service, 1952) and, with Rosemary Upton, An Introduction to Bird Watching (Seeley Service, 1956). She also wrote and illustrated three books for Jordan & Sons, Questions Answered about the Human Body (1948), Questions Answered about Wild Flowers (1949) and Questions Answered on How to Draw (1950). In fact, she wrote numerous books about how to draw – Drawing without a Master (1936) [Fig.36], Figure and Animal Drawing (1938), Drawing at Home (1939), Hints for Artists (1940), Drawing out of Doors (1950) and Drawing Self–Taught (1957), all of these being published by A & C Black.

Of particular interest, as regards CGT herself, is her autobiographical book What are YOU doing Here ? Being the Adventures of a Surgical Artist with the BLA [= British Liberation Army], published by the International Publishing Company at an unspecified date, but thought to be 1947 (though the accession date of the copy in the British Library is March 1950.) Though autobiographical, it tells us little about her beyond her exploits during the winter of 1944, when, as we are told in the Editor’s Note at the front of the book:

The author held a unique appointment, being the only official Surgical Artist in His Majesty’s army on any front. Her instructions were ‘To chase battles,’ and, as she went out entirely alone, unencumbered by more than the minimum of kit, armed with only pencil and paper – and a complete disregard for military discipline combined with a sense of humour – she was able to carry out these instructions even more literally than the authorities had intended.

She was to make detailed sketches of wounds and operating techniques, as well as of the transport used to carry the wounded, and of the improvised equipment and methods of front–line treatment. (At the time of her appointment she was apparently engaged in illustrating medical text–books – p.11.) Not that any of these sketches ended up in the book – for these presumably ended up in War Office files or in specialist medical textbooks. Rather her book is peppered with drawings of things she saw on her travels, from a monastery garden to an abandoned German tank. Some of the illustrations are decidedly quirky, like “The Church in a hurry” (p.89 – Fig 37), “Dutch Girl swabbing floor” (p.95 – Fig.38) and “Unfortunate Juxtaposition of Signs” (p.109 – Fig.39 – CDN. C.C.S = Canadian Casualty Clearing Station.) Equally quirky is CGT’s PS to her Foreword:

On reading through the MS of this book I find chapters V, VI and VII awfully dull. They have to be included for the sake of continuity, but I strongly advise readers to skip them.

CGT’s sense of humour likewise shines through in the text of the book, as when she complains that, “In England we have almost forgotten what fresh paint looks like” (p.73), or when she explains that she preferred wearing an old pair of riding boots to Wellingtons, as she found the latter “as cold as charity.” (p.97) The title of the book, incidentally, came from the fact that whenever she turned up at any of the front–line units, she was almost invariably greeted with the remark, “What are you doing here ?”

Fig.40 is a picture of CGT in uniform taken at around the time of her mission, and is the frontispiece of What are YOU doing here ? Clearly, unlike some of her other books (Fig.35b & Fig.36), there is no confusion as to the sex of the author, and indeed the title page gives the author as “Cecil G. Trew (Mrs C.G. Ehrenborg).”

To get back to the details of CGT’s life, it seems that CGT and her husband were divorced some time before 1955, for he married a Maud Isabel Monk in Bromley, Kent, in that year. He died in Orpington, Kent, on 26th October 1961. According to the National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) Cecil Gwendolen St Leger Ehrenborg, of 19 Gloucester Crescent, London N.W.1 died “a single woman” on 4th April 1958.

It only remains for us to look back at some of CGT’s work not already mentioned above.

Of her surviving original art–work, Michael Mather owns only one example, unfortunately (Fig.41) – “Time and moving continents several times takes its toll”, he admits, with some regret. This is a drawing she did of a Chinaman from whom she bought various Chinese objects during her time in Los Angeles. As Michael told me, CGT would have Chinese–themed parties in Los Angeles, and also back in England before the Second World War.

At the time of her death, CGT was working on the illustrations for a book of birds, which, alas, was never to be published. As Michael told me in an email:

The book was owned by a person who put it into auction in 1989, but I was fortunate to visit him before he sold it. Unfortunately it was evening and I only had a pocket camera with no flash...

Actually, the photographs are much better quality than Michael’s email implies, and the Barn Owl is shown in Fig.42 as an example.

One other minor work of CGT’s which is worth a mention at this point is a bookplate she designed for herself sometime before her first marriage, when she was familiarly known as Gwen Russell (Fig.43.) The design was later to be used as an example in the chapter on “Design and Ornament” in her book Drawing without a Master (Plate XXXV, fig.146.)

Of works housed in art galleries, I know of only two, both in the Huntington Museum, San Marino, California – “Landscape: the Lotus Eaters” (Fig.44) and “The Prince passing through the Haunted Forest” (Fig. 45). Both are undated, but were presumably done whilst she lived in Los Angeles in the 1920s.

Neither the Victoria & Albert Museum nor the British Museum appears to own any original art–work by CGT, unfortunately.


Note 1: Much of this account is pieced together from ancestry websites, together with information supplied by CGT’s grandson, Michael Mather.

Note 2a: David Buckman, Dictionary of Artists in Britain since 1945 (Bristol, 1998), p.1203. (To my knowledge, this is the only dictionary of artists to mention CGT, and that only sketchily.) Unfortunately, there are now no longer any records available to confirm CGT’s attendance at the Bristol School of Art (or the Bristol Municipal School of Art, as it would then have been known), let alone furnish any further details of her time there. Dr Oliver Kent of the present–day Bristol School of Art told me that in the 1960s, the School relocated most of its courses and its administration to a new site and more or less all of the existing archives and records were destroyed at that time.

Note 2b: This is according to Buckman, as cited in note 2a above.

Note 2c: The Imperial Service College in the 1930s basically catered for the education of the children of army officers and had its own Officer Training Corps. In 1942 it merged with Haileybury School. Despite a thorough search of available records by Heather Edwards–Hedley, Assistant Archivist at Haileybury, and Toby Parker, the Archivist there, no record of CGT being on the staff was found, only records for her husband, Captain Rolf K. Ehrenborg, who was on the staff there between March 1933 and February 1936. (Haileybury and Imperial Service College Register, vol.2, 1912–1994, p.xlii; the ‘Imperial Service College Chronicle’, October 1933, Vol. XI., no 3; and the ‘Imperial Service College Chronicle’, October 1936 XIV., no. 3.) Toby Parker told me, “If CGT had taught at ISC it would have been mentioned when the couple left Windsor in the summer of 1936.”

Note 3: Going from left to right: Unknown, Unknown, Niel Trew, CGT, Cecil H Russell (her father), Blanche Russell (her mother), Vivien Russell (her younger sister.) Wedding photo traditions would suggest that the two unknowns were members of the groom’s family, but they remain unidentified. (Niel Trew’s father had died, aged 72, in 1915, some three years before the wedding. It is possible that the unknown lady was Niel’s sister Margaret, who was a year older than him, but there is no evidence for this.)

Note 4a: By cross–referencing various extant copies, Douglas Taylor, Joe Howard, Roger Paas, and I have found 25 illustrations for 24 different verses, quoted from FitzGerald’s fourth edition. They are as follows: verses 1, 3, 4, 12, 13, 17 (two versions), 18, 19, 22, 24, 27, 29, 32, 37, 43, 44, 48, 64, 71, 80, 83, 86, 90 and 98.

Note 4b: Roger Paas has another version of Reveries of Omar, just like the loose–leaf portfolio edition, but in book form. It is bound in maroon velvet, with some gold Arabic writing contained in a small box (Fig.46), and the binding seems to be original (though compare the bound copy mentioned in note 4c below.) It is another Artist Proof Set, again issued in a limited edition of 1000 copies, and contains 24 illustrations. The title page bears the name and address of the Kaloprint Corporation.

Note 4c: This is presumably #277 in Jos Coumans, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: an Updated Bibliography (2010) which cites The Danbys as publishers, and describes the contents thus: “[25] folded leaves, [25] leaves of mounted plates. Twenty–five quatrains, each with an illustration on a separate leaf within the folder.” The online WorldCat.org likewise lists the edition of Reveries of Omar published by the Danbys, as well as edition(s) of it published / printed by the Kaloprint Corporation.

Bill Martin and Sandra Mason have told me that the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas has a nicely bound volume (not catalogued) containing what seem to be the plates from a copy of the Danby edition. Douglas Taylor believes that it was originally bound for Charles Dana Burrage, possibly to a design by the son of Eben Francis Thompson, who is known to have decorated several Rubaiyats. The ornate cover (Fig.47) bears the extended title The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur / The Astronomer Poet of Persia / Rendered into English Verse / by Edward FitzGerald / Fourth Edition / Illustrated by / Cecil G. Trew.

Note 5: The review, by Irene T. Haughey, appeared in the Book Review section of the May 1930 issue, p.42–4. It should be treated with some caution, however. Firstly, it gives the title of the work as “Reveries from the Rubaiyat” instead of “Reveries of Omar / Omar Khayyam,” but this is perhaps understandable given the variant issues! Secondly, it says that CGT is “a daughter of one of the oldest and most aristocratic families of Oxford” – both her father and her brother attended Oxford University, but Michael Mather has told me that though the family used to have a portrait of Harley, Earl of Oxford, and the family legend was that there was a connection, he has not been able to find one. And thirdly, it says that she was “trained in the art schools of London and Paris” – in fact, again according to Michael, there seems to be no evidence that she attended any School of Art other than that at Bristol. Bearing the above in mind, the following paragraph from the review is quoted here subject to verification:

Cecil Gwendolen Trew’s work is destined to become as well known in this country as it is abroad, where she has been an Exhibitor Royal West of England Academy, and Medalist of Royal Drawing Society of London. In Paris her two hundred war pictures are part of a permanent exhibit of the Bibliothèque Nationale de la Guerre.

But to get to the actual review of Reveries. Its second paragraph runs as follows:

To the Religious Scientists, the spiritual psychologists, or however you may catholically name the great and growing host of modern philosophers, the artistic and literary value of these illustrations will be enhanced by a knowledge of the artist’s method of work. It will seem a demonstration of their belief in the direct action of Universal Mind through the individual subconscious; that mental processes are controlled by scientific laws; thought, a force which by its nature must come into outward expression.

And a little later:

Her technique for work is not to force her ideas into expression, nor to compose patiently line by line, nor to draw from form. Rather it is the technique of the spiritual law, the “Higher Potential” conducting through the lower. She allows her mind to be the receptive instrument. Thus she makes correct use of the law of cause and effect.

From the subject she receives an imaginative idea. She permits this idea to take root in her subconscious mind as long as necessary, coming occasionally back to register new images in consciousness. When the idea is ready for expression her mental picture is complete. Then work begins, rapidly, easily, without fatigue, almost as if the idea were executing itself. It took more than two years to evolve the “Rubaiyat” ideas, but the physical work on some of the quatrains was actually completed in as many hours. The originals are done in black and white, the medium the pencil and a watercolor wash, applied with a fine pig–bristle brush. This ability to apply her clear inner thinking doubtless accounts for her very definite treatment of the quatrains, and explains the photographic quality of her work. However it would be unfair to give the impression that her pictures are merely mental photographs. They excel in the subtle, vivid, vibrant quality of suggestion which is always inherent in the work of the true artist.

So, was Omar a wine–bibbing agnostic, or a devotee of Sufism whose verses were symbolic of higher truths ? The review goes on:

Mrs. Trew dispels the popular idea that old Omar, the tentmaker, was a cynical wine–loving tempter of his fellow–men, and stresses him as the understanding poet, showing by philosophy, sarcasm, and jest the constant interplay of the spiritual and material forces in mankind’s everlasting desire to find Truth.

Finally, the reviewer has the following to say about the illustrations themselves. I have inserted figure numbers for the relevant illustrations:

As befits the text of the quatrains the drawings fall into two divisions, the expression of the worldly and the idealistic sides of life. “Myself when Young” (Fig.9) is Parsee, dignified, scholarly, didactic. In strong contrast at the other end of the social scale is the stark misery of the crippled beggar, “What! did the hand, then, of the Potter shake!” (Fig.14)

The fine attention to detail which rounds out and makes each theme more interesting is especially noticeable in the episodic scene of the magnificent sultan who has so evidently taken “the Cash and let the Credit go” (Fig.6); and the starlit desert nights which are background for Omar’s occasional love thoughts (Fig.7); the sweep, strength and speed of the black winged angel (Fig.15); the mystery and symmetry of the “Angel of the Darker Drink.” (Fig.11)

Through these intuitive methods the artist has caught the spirit of the East, though she has never visited the Orient, and with discrimination has produced the most appealing interpretations of the “Rubaiyat” that have yet been made.

Undoubtedly the philosopher’s upraised finger on the cover of the portfolio (Fig.4a) will invite an ever–increasing public to linger long over the illustrations within. “O come with old Khayyam and leave the Wise – to talk.”

How this curious review came to be written, and what CGT’s (or her publisher’s) connections with The Science of Mind magazine were, alike remain unclear. I asked Michael Mather if his grandmother was the type to rub shoulders with spiritual psychologists, and he thought not. “She was a very focused person particularly on practicalities,” he told me, “and it seems unlikely that she would have been interested in Spiritual Psychology or similar.” Perhaps, then, this review – and Reveries itself ? – arose via her publisher’s interests, rather than via CGT herself. But at present the raison d’être of the review is not at all clear, and it must therefore be left to speak for itself.

Note 6: Another edition bearing the title Choosing Your Woman was apparently also published in Beau: The Man’s Magazine devoted to the Comforts and Luxuries of Living, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 1926, p. 13 (Beau Publishing, New York.)

Note 7: It features in, for example, On the Choice of a Mistress & Other Satires & Hoaxes of Dr Benjamin Franklin (Peter Pauper Press, New York, c.1952.)

Note 8: CGT’s illustrations seem to bear little relation to Franklin’s reasons, but for the benefit of the curious, the reasons associated with Figs.25 to 27 are:

Fig.25 – Reason 1: Because they have more Knowledge of the World and their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreeable.

Fig.26 – Reason 5: Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: so that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old one from a young one. And as in the Dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of Corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being, by Practice, capable of Improvement.

Fig.27 – Reason 8: They are so grateful!!

Note 9: There is, however, a copy of CGT’s Bad Rhymes about Good Animals in the collection (RCIN 1166686), and this was in the collection of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Unfortunately, Bettina Gierke, the Collections Information Assistant in the department of Books and Manuscripts, found no provenance information with the book, and a search of the Royal Archives revealed nothing either, so how it came to be in the Royal Collection remains a mystery. In any case, Bad Rhymes was published in 1933, the year following the newspaper report, so, unless it was a pre–publication copy, it can hardly have been the basis for the story of one of CGT’s pictures being bought by the Queen, even allowing for journalistic licence.

Note 10: It seems likely that this portrait was done from a photograph, many of which were taken and published in newspapers and magazines during the Lewis Carroll centenary year of 1932. When I put this to Michael Mather, he replied: “As the Alice stories were part of my childhood, I would have thought that if my mother had known of CGT meeting Alice she would have mentioned it, which she never did.”


This essay has been put together with the help of numerous people who are mostly named in the text. I must, however, specially acknowledge the help of Joe Howard, Michael Mather, Roger Paas, Douglas Taylor and Emma Roberts (of the Los Angeles Public Library) in putting together the account of CGT’s rather involved set of publications in Los Angeles in 1929. This account is, quite literally, a composite picture based on the copies owned or seen by the various people named, photographs or scans being very generously supplied by them. Since different copies, by their portfolio nature, tend to lack various bits and pieces, and, in addition, since the publisher(s) seem almost to have acted on a whim as regards their covers and publication details, any such composite picture is bound to be uncertain.

I must also thank Michael Mather again for his help with many of the details of CGT’s family history, and for supplying various family photographs for use with this article.


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