The Rubaiyat of Lawrence A. Patterson

Published by Johnck (1a), Kibbee (1b) & Company, San Francisco in 1926, it featured a frontispiece and seven other full–page black and white illustrations by Patterson, and nine small vignettes by him, seven forming an intriguing sequence, as we shall see, the eighth forming a headpiece to the opening verse, and the ninth a tail–piece right at the end. It used FitzGerald’s fourth edition, together with FitzGerald’s explanatory notes on it, plus a “Vocabulary” by NHD (Nathan Haskell Dole) followed by an essay, “The Rubaiyat as English Poetry” by David Anderson (2). First let us look at the life of the illustrator.

Lawrence A. Patterson.

Lawrence Andrew Patterson was born in Fresno, California on 24 March 1896. The US Federal Census Return for 1910 gives us a snapshot of his family in Fresno – he is 14, and he is the only child of Willard E. Patterson, age 48 and his wife Carrie, age 46. His father is listed as a “Retail Merchant”, specifically in “Paper & Paint”, and the family seem to have made a little extra income by taking in two lodgers.

Patterson signed up for service in the army in 1917, and was sent to France, where he spent two years. An article in the Fresno Morning Republican for 16 March 1919 (p.29) noted that:

Corporal Lawrence A. Patterson of Fresno had the reputation before he joined the army of being a clever artist in pen and ink, and the Fresno High school publications carried many evidences of his gift as a caricaturist and draughtsman. With such a faculty for observing beauty of form it is little wonder that he appreciates the frozen poetry of architecture as shown in French cathedrals.

The article goes on to quote a letter he had written to his parents back home, in which he refers to visiting Paris, Dijon and Nevers. His visits to the first two were brief, he told them, but during his more lengthy visit to Nevers he describes being awestruck by the beauty and sheer size of the cathedral there. As we shall see later, Patterson was a Catholic.

In the 1920 US Federal Census Patterson was back living with his parents in Fresno, and working as a proof–reader for a daily newspaper, though he moved to San Francisco shortly after that, where he studied at the California School of Fine Arts (of which more presently.) Active in the local art scene, he exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association from 1921 to 1925, though no details of this seem to be available at present. In 1926 he married his wife, Grace, about whom very little seems to be recorded, save that she was born in California in about 1901.

Early in 1927 a candidate was being sought to stand in for Mr Raymond Hill at the State Teachers’ College, Greely, Colorado. Hill had presumably written to various contacts asking for recommendations, and the following is one he received from – probably, since the end of the letter is missing – Lee Randolph, the Director of the California School of Fine Arts. Dated 26 April 1927, this letter of recommendation gives us an excellent summary of Lawrence Patterson’s career up until that date:

Since receiving your letter of April 5th asking for someone to take your place for the coming Summer Session and for next year’s work in the State Teachers7rsquo; College, I had not found anyone I wished to recommend for this position until yesterday, when one of our former students, who has been away several years, returned to San Francisco, and I think he would be very acceptable from what you say of the subjects he would be called on to teach.

This young man is Mr Lawrence Patterson, who is thirty–one years of age and married, and has had a thorough education in art and much practical experience in varied lines of work. Beside some other study with which I am not familiar, he has had two years at the California School of Arts and Crafts at Berkeley and two years in this school. He made an excellent record as an earnest and talented student.

Since leaving here he was in Mexico doing some decorative and mural painting and has been recently in New York City as an illustrator. He illustrated the fifteenth (sic) edition of the Rubaiyat, and at present is engaged in making sixteen full page illustrations for the de luxe edition of “The Golden Tales” of Anatole France, published by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. He has had some teaching experience, conducting a life class for the San Francisco School of Commercial Art and was art director for Colman, Sebree Co., print planners. He has a good knowledge of design and has taken special work under Francesco Cornejo in the design of the ancient Mexican art, and has studied mural painting with Ray Boynton, an instructor of this school. He has done professional metal craft work, having studied this craft with Harry Dixon of San Francisco, brother of Maynard Dixon, the painter.

Mr Patterson is planning to return to New York to go on with his illustrative work after next year, and so, if.... (3)

At this point the first page of this letter ends and, alas, the rest of it is missing. We shall see more of Patterson’s illustrations of Anatole France, and his other work as a book illustrator, later. Meanwhile, as regards chronology, though actual dates are not given in the foregoing, it would seem reasonable to guess that Patterson’s two years studying at the California School of Arts and Crafts (in Berkeley) were 1921 & 1922; his two years studying with Ray Boynton at the California School of Fine Arts (San Francisco) 1923 & 1924; and with his spells in Mexico & New York in 1925 & 1926 respectively. Incidentally, it is quite possible that in Mexico he crossed paths with Diego Rivera, for in 1931 Rivera was hired to paint a mural at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute.)

Moving forward in time some six months from the date of the above letter, an article by Nadia Lavrova, titled “Sudden Fame Won By Local Illustrator,” appeared in The San Francisco Examiner for 16 October 1927 (p.49). I quote it in full here:

Emulating Lord Byron a young Californian artist has achieved a reputation overnight. Lawrence A. Patterson is becoming famous as an illustrator in New York while to San Francisco and Los Angeles his name is as yet unknown. At present he and Mrs Patterson make their home in Berkeley at 2036 Durant avenue.

Patterson has recently finished fifteen illustrations, pen and ink drawings as well as wash, for the English version of Anatole France’s “Golden Tales” which is being brought out by Dodd, Mead & Company, on October 28. So enthused was the great publishing house over the artist’s conception that it is offering him a contact to illustrate at least one book a year for them at a very attractive figure.

The proofs of his illustrations received from the East show Patterson to be an artist of fertile and gorgeous imagination. His favorite medium is black and white. He loves to solve problems of design without the artful aid of color so often used to detract attention from faulty drawing. There is strength and elegance in his treatment.

In his fifteen drawings the delicate cynicism of France has been so happily caught and interpreted that one might think it is Patterson’s own mood. That this is not so becomes clear by comparing those drawings with the artist’s latest illustrations, which he has begun making for Alva Romanes’ forthcoming volume of verse – “One Hundred Stanzas.” Patterson has finished four out of a projected twelve. In them he has retained the cosmic quality of the poet and mirrored Romanes’ philosophy of love. Entirely free from the satire of the earlier drawings these last have nothing but deep earnestness, into which creeps a note of reverence and awe.

Patterson has also illustrated a private edition of the “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam, issued last year. The volume was so beautifully made that it deserved mention in Orcutt’s “Kingdom of Books” – an honor roll of the publishing fraternity – where no new book has been mentioned for the last three years.

The artist has led an interesting, indeed, somewhat hectic life. Reared in Fresno, where his parents reside today, he has seen two years active service in France. He has also been a sailor before the mast, owner of a restaurant and book agent. In between he contrived to study at the California School of Arts and Crafts, in Berkeley, and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. He insists that he was never rated as a good pupil, being too independent, preferring always to work on his own conceits than those prescribed by the instructors.

One of the worst breaks of his career happened in Mexico City, where Patterson found himself stranded without funds, and was hired by an Irish restaurateur to paint the murals in the “Dinty Moore” cafe in return for unlimited helpings of corned beef and cabbage.

It seems that the United States Government had sent Patterson to Mexico to take up the study of ancient Indian art. Unhappily, the Foreign Department mislaid the documents concerning him, and refused his frantic appeals for promised funds. The money was paid to him in a lump sum, a year and a half after his return to California.

The artist, stranded in Mexico City, welcomed the Dinty Moore order as a godsend. While occupied in the place one day, he watched a Mexican policeman come in and make a remark to a customer, whereupon the customer pulled a gun and shot the policeman. Incidents of the kind were usual, patrons never losing their appetites over such trifles.

While staying on the south side of Rio Grande the artist became very friendly with Francisco Cornajo, the Spanish artist, who taught him to appreciate the art of the Mayas.

In answer to the query what literary treasures appealed to him for his pen and ink interpretation, Patterson said:

“I have wanted for a long time to illustrate the poems of Baudelaire. I also hope to be able to make drawings for the wonderful translations of Hindu classics which are appearing now, and for some of the earlier Chinese poets.”

We shall have more to say about Anatole France’s Golden Tales below, but nothing seems to have come of the Dodd, Mead offer to illustrate at least a book a year for them, and Alva Romanes’ One Hundred Stanzas seems never to have been published, at least, not under that title and not illustrated by Patterson.

An edited version of the above–quoted article, bearing the title “Fresno Artist adds to Fame” appeared in The Fresno Morning Republican on 1 November 1927 (p.2), and this version carried a portrait of Patterson, reproduced here as Fig.1a.

In the 1930 US Federal Census Patterson and his wife were living in Berkeley, California, at the address given in the above article, he working as an Assistant Teacher in an unnamed Art School, she working as a Clerk in a Library. The unnamed Art School was probably the California College of Arts and Crafts, for The Fresno Morning Republican for 11 May 1931 reported that he had just been awarded the degree of Bachelor of Art Education there.

In 1932 Patterson and his wife moved to San Mateo, California, where he taught at the San Mateo Junior College. In The Times (San Mateo), for 12 January 1932 (p.4) there appeared an announcement for an exhibition of Patterson’s work:

Book illustrations by Lawrence A. Patterson, art instructor at the San Mateo junior college are on display at the San Mateo Public Library. Included are illustrations of Macbeth soon to be published in an edition by Johnck & Seeger, limited to 100 copies priced at $75 each.

Originals of other illustrations for limited editions are also on display, including those from the “Golden Tales” of Anatole France, “Ode to the Setting Sun,” by Francis Thompson, “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam and others. The exhibition, in the west wing of the main room, was made through co–operation of Miss Inez M. Crawford, librarian.

Alas, the edition of Macbeth to be published by Johnck (1a) & Seeger (1c) seems never to have appeared – at least I have never come across a copy or even a mention of one. Francis Thompson, though, we shall encounter again below.

One curious document relating to Patterson’s life which has survived is worth reproducing here as Fig.1b: his California State Library Card for 1932. At the head of it is written “Artist”; his place and year of birth are correctly given, as are the names of his parents, Willard Patterson and ‘Carrie’ (Caroline) Patterson (née Main), but his wife is named as Christine Patterson, whereas she is named as Grace in the census returns for 1930 and 1940 – ie either side of the date of issue of the library card. The place and date of the marriage – San Francisco 1926 – however, tallies with what was said above. Also of interest, listed under “other places of residence,” we find New York, Mexico City and France, all of which have been mentioned above.

By the time of the 1940 US Federal Census, Patterson and his wife were living in Burlingame on the San Francisco Peninsula, where he was still working as an Art Teacher, in an unnamed Public School. This must have been the San Mateo Junior College, for he taught there for some 30 years until his retirement in about 1960. It would appear then that like so many other artists, his art work and book illustration did not fully pay the bills and teaching bridged the gap, as well as giving him a steadier income.

Returning to the recorded details of his life, in 1942 he is known to have signed up for service in the Second World War, it seems as a reserve in the US Air Force. His draft card confirms that at the time he was living in San Mateo, California, and working at the San Mateo Junior College. Patterson’s mother died in 1945 and his father in 1950. Both died in Fresno, the artist’s birthplace, where they had continued to live after their son had moved to San Francisco. Lawrence Patterson himself died in San Mateo, California on 3 November 1964. Curiously the date of the death of his wife, Grace, remains, like that of her birth and parentage, something of a mystery.

Patterson is buried in a US Veteran’s Grave in the Golden Gate National Cemetery. His gravestone reads: “Lawrence A. / Patterson / California / Major US Air Force Res / World War I & II / March 24 1896 / November 3 1964” – absolutely no mention of art, but with the correct dates of birth and death for our artist (Fig.1c). Next to it is another gravestone in an identical style which reads: “Barbara / April 21 1900 / January 21 1956 / wife of / Major / L.A. Patterson / USAF.” This presumably means that Grace died sometime after the 1940 Census, and Barbara represents another marriage later in the 1940s. Unfortunately, US Federal Census Returns for 1950 and onwards are not yet available online, and to date I have found no record of that marriage. An obituary of her which appeared in The Times (San Mateo) for 23 January 1956 (p.20) tells us that she died after a lengthy illness; that “she had lived in this community for 11 years” (so they married in 1945 ?) and that “she is survived by her husband Lawrence A. Patterson, who is the well–known art instructor at the College of San Mateo” (no mention of the US Air Force!) A notice of Lawrence Patterson’s funeral which appeared in The Times (San Mateo) for Monday, 9 November 1964 (p.40), is of interest here:

Funeral Services will be held Tuesday for Lawrence A. Patterson, 68, 413 Williams Place, San Mateo, who died November 3 of an apparent heart attack. He was a retired art instructor at College of San Mateo.

His wife, Barbara, died in 1956.

Services will be held at 10.30 a.m. from Patterson & O’Connell Chapel. A requiem mass will be said at 11a.m. at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, followed by interment in Golden Gate National Cemetery. A rosary will be recited tonight at 8 o’clock at the chapel.

Lawrence A. Patterson, then, was a Catholic.

The Rubaiyat: Plates

The title–page and colophon of the book are shown in Figs.2a and 2b respectively – note the signatures of Lawrence Andrew Patterson and David Anderson in the latter (these are not present in all copies.) Note also the Star and Crescent to the upper left of the former, presumably representing Islam, and the Radiate Cross to the upper right, Christianity. These feature in all the full page plates, as we shall see, perhaps representing the two key protagonists amongst “The Two–and–Seventy jarring Sects” of quatrain 59, and, of course, the two faiths in whose shadows Omar and FitzGerald lived – I use the shadow metaphor advisedly, as both men were at best agnostics! The frontispiece is shown in Fig.2c. Unlike with the other plates, no quatrain number is given beneath the illustration, and there seems to be no quatrain to which it unequivocally relates, so perhaps the illustration is generic, with the chained man represented as the Prisoner of Fate, with a death–like figure of Fate / Death, outlined in white, grinning in the background. This is perhaps reinforced by the Signs of the Zodiac in the border round the title–page of Fig.2a (our fate is in the stars etc.)

Fig.2d illustrates quatrain 1. The dawn city–scape is clear enough, with the Sultan’s Turret being struck with a Shaft of Light, but the figure of the Sun here seems more suited to the Hunter of the East in FitzGerald’s first edition. Curiously the Stars scattered into flight by the Sun’s rise are represented by naked young women, a vision which would perhaps today be regarded as a tad sexist by some!

Fig.2e illustrates quatrain 7. The upper half of the illustration clearly depicts the lines, “Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring / Your Winter–garment of Repentance fling”, with the Bird of Time fluttering in the top left. The lower half is a bit more puzzling, but presumably represents the mundane world left behind by casting off the Winter–garment of Repentance – by ‘dropping out’ as more modern parlance might have it. Another possibility is that it represents “the phantom Caravan” which “has reach’d / The Nothing it set out from,” and taking “A Moment’s Halt – a momentary taste / Of Being from the Well amid the Waste” (quatrain 48), though there is nothing which directly indicates such a link. It is also interesting that the figures in the upper half seem to be much younger than those in the lower half, perhaps representing joyous youth and care–worn old–age, the transformation of youth into old age being the inevitable result of the Bird of Time being “on the Wing.”

Fig.2f illustrates quatrain 34. This is such an obscure verse that it is perhaps as well to quote it in full here:

Then of the Thee in Me who works behind
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find
A Lamp amid the Darkness, and I heard,
As from Without – “The Me within Thee blind!”

I must confess to never having fully understood this verse, nor the presumably related quatrain 32 with its “Veil through which I might not see” along with “some little talk awhile of Me and Thee.” FitzGerald’s note on quatrain 32 says, “Me–and–Thee: some dividual (sic) Existence or Personality distinct from the Whole.” He gave no note specifically relating to quatrain 34, but, given the foregoing, we seem to have here an assumption of the Sufi belief that each of us is part of a Divine Whole, some would say God, others the Universal Spirit, and that some part of that Divine Whole is within each of us. Quatrain 34 then seems to be saying that if part of us is beyond the Veil, why can’t it tell what that side of the Veil is like? The answer from beyond seems to be, “Yes, part of me is in you, but it is blind” – that is, it cannot help you to see beyond the Veil in Life, presumably because that is forbidden, until one passes beyond the Veil at Death, when the Me and Thee of quatrain 32 coalesce in the Divine Whole, “and then no more of Thee and Me.”

In Patterson’s illustrations figures in white outline on a black background are, for want of a better term, supernatural ones (cf Fig.2c above, and Figs.2g & 2i below), and here the giant figure in the background with eyes closed (’blind’) is “the Thee in Me who works behind / The Veil.” The white figure is Omar lifting up his hands in accordance with quatrain 34. The hands of the Thee are constrained with ropes (cf the chains of Fig.2c), which perhaps, like the blindness, are there specifically preventing us from finding out too much about beyond the Veil.

Incidentally, Heron Allen in his Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with their Original Persian Sources (1899) believes that quatrain 34 is “an exposition of the Sufi doctrine of the emanation of the mortal Creature from God the Creator and his re–absorption into God” and that FitzGerald got it not from Omar but from the Mantik ut–tair (The Conference / Speech of the Birds), the mystical poem by Attar, who was a devout Sufi. FitzGerald did an abridged translation of it under the title The Bird Parliament. Curiously, Heron Allen says nothing about the Sufic nature of quatrain 32, though he does so in his book The Second Edition of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Umar Khayyam (1908), where quatrains 32 and 34 of the fourth edition are quatrains 35 and 37 respectively. Though the latter is from Attar, the former does have antecedents in both the Ouseley and Calcutta Manuscripts, but since Omar was no Sufi (I go with FitzGerald on this) it is presumably either Omar playing Devil’s Advocate or a quatrain written by a Sufi in imitation of Omar’s Rubaiyat.

Fig.2g illustrates quatrain 49. Another quatrain about solving the mystery of life, to the searchers for which Omar offers the advice, “Be quick about it, because life is very short.” The line “A Hair perhaps divides the False and True” presumably refers to the difficulty of distinguishing the real and the unreal, actuality and delusion, orthodoxy and heresy, in this great Quest. In Patterson’s illustration the Hair is depicted as a tightrope on which balances the Quester for Truth, with his open and bookmarked volume of notes. The page at which it is open bears a geometrical diagram – note what seems to be an L–shaped set–square poking out of the book tucked under his arm, and perhaps a pair of compasses poking out from his pocket amid some loose leaf note–paper. This would all presumably allude to Omar’s mathematical studies. In this precarious position the Quester is perhaps being warned by his companion, safe on the nearby balcony, to be “quick about it, Friend.” The giant figure outlined in white in the background is presumably what FitzGerald refers to in the following verse as the Master. The significance of the birds, if they are not just decorative, is not clear. The flight of birds, like that of the fluttering of butterflies, could be seen as a symbol of transience, though one should obviously beware of reading too much into any illustration.

Fig.2h is labelled as illustrating quatrain 50, but this quatrain is so close in content to quatrain 49, just illustrated, as to make one wonder if 50 isn’t a misprint for 56 (“For ‘Is’ and ‘Is-–not’, though with Rule and Line / And ‘Up–and–Down’ by Logic I define &c”.) Now quatrain 56, to be sure, seems to have as little to do with this illustration as quatrain 50, but the illustration does link up neatly with FitzGerald’s note on quatrain 56:

A Jest, of course, at his Studies. A curious mathematical Quatrain of Omar’s has been pointed out to me (4a); the more curious because almost exactly parallel’d by some Verses of Dr Donne’s, that are quoted in Izaak Walton’s Lives! Here is Omar: “You and I are the image of a pair of compasses; though we have two heads (sc. our feet) we have one body; when we have fixed the centre for our circle, we bring our heads (sc. feet) together at the end.”

Quite who Omar’s “You” was here – generic or specific – is not clear (4b). But FitzGerald links the quatrain to a quote from John Donne. It is not necessary here to give the three verses quoted by FitzGerald from Walton’s Life of Dr Donne – the last three of the nine verses of Donne’s poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” – merely to explain Donne’s symbolic use of a pair of compasses. The fixed centre of them represents the Soul of his wife, and the movable point of them represents his own Soul, moving separately from hers when they are unavoidably apart, but coming together again when he returns home. The “Forbidding Mourning” part of the title is his way of telling his wife, to whom he gave the poem when he was going to France for several months without her, that any sadness at their separation was unnecessary on account of the close bond of their souls. Whether Mrs Donne was comforted by this appears not to be known, but clearly this has nothing to do directly with quatrain 56, aside from having a geometrical element. Clearly, though, the imagery of drawing a circle with pair of compasses – be it from Omar or Donne – has come through into Patterson’s drawing more than the wording of FitzGerald’s quatrain 56 itself. But how did Patterson see his drawing in relation to that quatrain ? Did he, for example visualise the fixed centre as something like the Thee behind the Veil of quatrain 34, and the movable point as the Me separated from, but revolving around it, until they come together again at Death ? Or did he visualise the fixed centre as the Soul and the movable point as the Body moving through Life ? Or did he interpret Omar’s “You and I” as a common bond between all people, or perhaps, like Donne, as a reference to the bond between Omar and his Beloved ?

Note that the compasses here spin on a zodiacal dial – cf the signs of the zodiac in the border of the title page in Fig.2a: Destiny in the Stars again. The Hand at the upper left is presumably that of God injecting the Spark of Life into ‘the compasses’, a variant on Michelangelo’s famous image of God infusing life into Adam, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The two figures at the lower left are presumably decorative mortal observers of the proceedings. The passing birds in the background, too, may well be purely a decorative part of the backdrop.

Of course, the foregoing assumes that quatrain 50 is a misprint for quatrain 56. If Fig.2h really does relate to quatrain 50, then it is very difficult to see what Patterson had in mind with it – presumably a mystical Quest for the Treasure–house, with the Hand of the Master in the upper left. But given that the central figure has a strangely artificial format that is so much like a pair of compasses, I think I will stick with my misprint theory for now.

Fig.2i illustrates quatrain 71. The Moving Finger here writing “Tamam” (The End) is the winged figure of Death (outlined in white on a black background, note). He holds a Scroll – the Scroll of Fate (cf the Roll of Fate in quatrain 98) or the traditional Scroll listing the good and bad deeds of the Dead who are passing out of the Door of Life to go between the Wings of Death. Note the warrior seemingly trying to defy Death. Again note the birds in the background, symbolic or otherwise.

Fig.2j illustrates quatrain 76. A rather clumsy image, it seems to me, with the principal figure literally filing a Base–metal Key with which to unlock the Door in the background, outside which two dervishes (one whirling!) are howling in frustration at not being able to unlock the Door with their devotions.

The Rubaiyat plates can be browsed here

The Rubaiyat: Vignettes

Fig.3a shows the vignette at the head of the first page of the text, and Fig.3b the vignette at the foot of the last page of the text. The former is an upright vase of living flowers (Life); the latter an upturned vase of dead flowers (Death) which not only represents the End – the Tamam – but also serves to illustrate the closing words, “turn down an empty Glass.”

The intervening seven vignettes are a sequential representation of the progression from Life to Death – perhaps Patterson’s Omarian variation on the Seven Ages of Man. Fig.3c depicts a blindfolded Archer firing an arrow, this presumably being similar in symbolism to Hamlet’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” the blindfold certainly linking the Archer to the Roman goddess Fortuna, who was often depicted blindfolded, representative of “sheer luck”, otherwise known as “blind chance.” This arrow follows a course through all the subsequent vignettes, until it reaches its target in the final one, as we shall see. If you rapidly scroll through the images in sequence, you will see the arrow rise up, level out, then dip down to hit its target (alternatively see Fig.3j.) This is clearly deliberate.

Now I freely admit that the foregoing interpretation of Fig.3c is highly speculative, and that what follows is just as speculative, but Fig.3d seems to represent Childhood – Father and Mother with their two children, the arrow flying overhead, passing them by; Fig.3e is very odd, for it seems to depict two soldiers playing dice, perhaps casting lots for the naked female prisoner with her hands tied behind the tree to their right (?) If so, what prompted this particular scene in a life–cycle remains something of a mystery, though of course the phrase “a Prisoner of Fate” springs to mind, and the dice perhaps recall the likes of Caesar’s famous phrase, “The die is cast.” Be that as it may, the arrow passes her by too. Fig.3f seems to represent a marriage, and they are not the target of the arrow either; nor is the farmer leading his ploughing (?) oxen in Fig.3g. In Fig.3h we seem to have two scholars discussing weighty matters, or perhaps, like the Archer in Fig.3c and the Prisoner in Fig.3e, they are connected with Destiny – the scroll held by the man on the right being the Roll of Fate, the Globe held by the man on the left being the World, his pointing finger indicating where the arrow is destined to land. Be that as it may, the arrow finally reaches its mark in Fig.3i, resulting in the death of a naked young woman. What is not clear is whether or not the same young woman features in Figs.3d, 3e, 3f & 3i, and whether the same young man features in Figs.3d, 3f & 3g, but clearly Patterson had some sequential Life to Death tableau in mind here, even if the intention behind some of its details remains obscure. Fig.3j is a film–strip shot of the whole sequence, showing clearly the whole trajectory of the arrow, as mentioned above.

The Rubaiyat vignettes can be browsed here

Other Books illustrated by Patterson

(i) Golden Tales: The Rubaiyat appears to have been the first book illustrated or decorated by Patterson. Whether it was this publication which led to it or not is not clear, but the second book illustrated by him was Golden Tales of Anatole France published by the well–known and prestigious Dodd, Mead & Company of New York, in 1927. It contained 14 full–page black and white illustrations, of a similar format to those in his Rubaiyat, and 39 smaller black and white illustrations, all tail–pieces to stories or chapters. (There were probably 40 smaller drawings originally, one of which was used on the cover of the book.) This being arguably Patterson’s magnum opus, it is worth giving some explanation of the illustrations and the stories to which they relate. Unlike the full–page illustrations of The Rubaiyat with their accompanying but independent vignettes, the full–page illustrations of Golden Tales with their accompanying in–text drawings are very much related via the stories they illustrate. Consequently it makes sense to consider Patterson’s two types of illustrations together, story by story, of which seven stories will be considered here (there are eighteen in all.)

The first story, “The Procurator of Judaea,” tells the story of a chance meeting in Rome, after many years of separation, of Pontius Pilate and his former colleague in Judaea, Laelius Lamia. Over dinner they reminisce over old times in Jerusalem, Laelius remembering particularly a voluptuous Jewish dancing–girl who completely entranced him at the time (Fig.4a). Then one day she just disappeared, he tells Pilate, having become a follower of some thaumaturgist called Jesus, who was eventually crucified for some crime or other. “Pontius, do you remember anything about the man ?” Laelius asks, to which Pilate replies, “I cannot call him to mind.” Fig.4b is the full–page illustration that goes with this story. It shows Laelius and Pilate in the foreground, talking over the dinner table, with the many faces from their respective pasts in the background and, outlined in white, the key figure of Christ unremembered by Pilate, but in reality towering above all. (Recall the white–outlined ‘supernatural’ figures in some of The Rubaiyat illustrations – Figs.2c, 2f, 2g & 2i.)

The second story is “Putois”, a gardener invented by a Madame Bergeret as an excuse for avoiding a dinner invitation from a somewhat tedious hostess. Unfortunately, via rumour and tittle–tattle, Putois becomes one of those figures whom no–one has ever actually met, but nearly everyone knows someone who says they have. The imaginary figure becomes ‘real’, and worse, a criminal credited with much local crime, including the seduction of young girls (Fig.4c). In this cartoon illustration Putois is seen not only carrying off a young girl, but also two melons he has stolen from a kitchen garden. Note the white haloed cherubs (love / good) and their black un–haloed counterparts, with the legs of a faun or satyr (lust / evil), sporting in the background! Fig.4d is the full–page illustration that goes with this story, showing, again in cartoon style, the almost surreal ‘birth’ of the adult Putois from the imagination of Madame Bergeret, here surrounded by her family, one of whose favourite pastimes is to recount the ever–growing list of ‘deeds’ of Putois. (The story opens with such a family game, in fact.) Note the shadow of the Devil behind the ‘midwife’ in the ‘birth’ scene, the black imp seated on the back of the chair to the lower left, and the fleeing white cherub to the lower right.

Our third story is “The Seven Wives of Bluebeard.” Fig.4e relates to the fifth of his wives, the gullible and superficial Angèle, who, as the caption indicates, was seduced by a mendicant monk, led into a forest to meet the Angel Gabriel, and never to be seen again. Fig.4f relates to the seventh of his wives, the last of his marriages, which resulted in his murder by his wife’s brothers and lover, all with the connivance of her scheming mother. The illustration shows the mother, the newly wedded wife (Jeanne) and her sister, who were really poor but had hidden the fact, returning the jewels and clothing, which they had hired for the wedding ceremony, to their Jewish lenders. Note the angel and the devil above.

Our fourth story is “Balthasar”, one of the Three Wise Men, who at the beginning of the story is embroiled in a love affair with Balkis, the Queen of Sheba. But Balkis, though she loves Balthasar, does not remain faithful to him, and he retires, heartbroken, to his Kingdom of Ethiopia to study magic and astrology, and thereby to forget Balkis. When the Star of Bethlehem appears (Fig.4g), of course, he knows that the birth of some great personage is indicated. By now Balkis is irked that Balthasar no longer loves her, and she sets off to Ethiopia to try to regain his affections. But the Star has instructed Balthasar to follow it to witness the birth of the King of Kings, and Balkis knows then that she has lost Balthasar for ever. Fig.4h shows the distraught Balkis, with Balthasar and the Star in the distance, and with an Angel, outlined in white (cf. Fig.4b), set between her and her former lover.

Our fifth story is “The Daughter of Lilith”, Lilith being, according to Jewish legend, the first wife of Adam, who left him before Eve was ‘born’. In later legend she became the archetypal femme fatale, and in this story one of her immortal and immoral daughters, Leila, continues the family tradition in nineteenth century France, wreaking emotional havoc in the lives of Ary and his best friend Paul, deserting the latter and causing the former to desert his fiancée for her. In the end she deserts Ary, too, leaving him with a leaf of cypress on which is written, in Persian characters, the Prayer of Leila, given in translation at the base of Fig.4i. This shows Leila appealing to Death for her release, the sword presumably pointing towards her, poised to strike, but held back (?) by the beam of light from heaven above, since she is destined to be immortal. Fig.4j is the tailpiece to the story and is rather puzzling in that it relates to no specific episode in the story. It shows Leila cutting flowers and turning them upside down, their faces presumably indicating that they are the men whose lives she has ruined in the past and will ruin in the future. Above is what seems to be a scroll being unfurled by a hand below, this perhaps containing the Prayer of Leila.

Our sixth story is “Laeta Acilia”, a story set in Marseilles shortly after the crucifixion. To understand this story it is useful to know that, according to legend, Mary Magdalene and several other early Christians (including Lazarus!) left the Holy Land and sailed westwards to preach the gospel, Marseilles being their port of arrival. The pagan Laeta Acilia is the wife of a Roman noble, who takes pity on Mary Magdalene and her band of Christians, who are hungry, poverty stricken and dressed in rags. She gives Mary a purse full of money to relieve their plight, promising to send them baskets of food later. But Mary Magdalene, sensing an important convert in Laeta Acilia, overdoes it with her preaching, the last straw coming with Mary making a virtue of falling prostrate and dishevelled at Christ’s feet. This brings us to Fig.4k, which shows Mary Magdalene at the feet of Laeta Acilia, the caption making it clear why, in the end, Mary Magdalene is dismissed without making a convert: the threat to her hair! Mary, realising that she is perhaps not cut out for proselytising, retires to live in a cave, which is where we find her in Fig.4l, attended by three vultures and two devils. (This too is based on a local legend that Mary Magdalene spent the last thirty years of her life in a cave, now known as La Sainte Baume, the Holy Grotto, in the mountains to the east of Marseilles.)

Our final story is “The Miracle of the Great St. Nicolas”, he of Santa Claus fame, though here the story centres on the legend of his raising from the dead three boys, Robin, Maxime and Sulpice, who had been murdered by a pork butcher and pickled in a brine–tub. Unfortunately, all three boys turned out bad, in particular each inflicting suffering on the Saint’s beloved niece Mirande. Robin, who was the Saint’s treasurer (Nicolas was a Bishop with a castle), had not only defrauded the Bishop himself, but, having lent Mirande money to buy clothes and jewellery, had then sold her promissory notes to a Jew, and, when she could not repay him, he had taken the clothes and jewels in lieu. Robin is shown in his counting–house in Fig.4m – note the devils in attendance. Maxime became a knight, and it was he who took Mirande’s virginity (“with such impetuosity that the young lady lost her innocence without, so to speak, realizing that she had done so”) and left her pregnant. Fig.4n shows her “having recovered from her surprise” asking Maxime if it is really him, all this on his way out, and ogling some passing girls in the process! As for Sulpice, he became a monk but stirred up the heretical cult of the Edenites who, in seeking to regain the innocence of Eden, walked naked on all fours, making strange noises and licking the ground. One such deluded cult member was, of course, Mirande, shown here in Fig.4o, wearing a peacock’s feather for a tail... Because of his inability to quell the heresy, Nicolas is excommunicated, and goes to live as a recluse on a mountain, where, by a strange quirk of Fate, he meets the repentant pork butcher, now living the life of a recluse in the same neighbourhood.

Patterson’s illustrations for Golden Tales are much easier to interpret than his Rubaiyat illustrations, and I particularly like his use of cherubs, angels, imps, devils and such like to express the interplay of good and evil in the world, and which presumably owe something to his being a Catholic. These are not in the tales themselves, but are the artist’s own invention, and I cannot resist giving one final excellent example in Fig.4p. This shows the undeserved misfortunes of the poor costermonger Crainquebille, as told in the story of that title, and is the tailpiece right at the end of its eighth and final chapter. No such demons occur in the story, and they are Patterson at his most inventive, inviting comparisons with demonic torments of St. Anthony, as depicted by the likes of Matthias Grünwald and Martin Schongauer.

The Golden Tales illustrations can be browsed here

(ii) Wind in the Lilacs: After Golden Tales came Harris Merton Lyon’s little book The Wind in the Lilacs, a strange tale incorporating a short story told by the wind to a child and her grandfather. It was published in a limited edition of 230 copies by Johnck (1a) & Seeger (1c) and S.T. Farquhar (1d) in San Francisco in 1929 (5). This had a frontispiece by Blanding Sloan and was embellished with lilac–spray decorations by Patterson – one on the title–page, one as a headpiece at the start of the story, and the other as a headpiece to the colophon. I reproduce the title–page and frontispiece in Fig.5a and the colophon in Fig.5b – note the “Presswork by Lawton R. Kennedy” (1e), whose name we shall encounter again below. It is a pity that Patterson did not do the frontispiece, and one wonders why Sloan did it instead, but there it is.

(iii) Queen Melanie: The third – and seemingly the last – book illustrated, as opposed to decorated, by Patterson was Richard Middleton’s poem Queen Melanie and the Wood–Boy, published, in a limited edition of 110 copies, by Johnck (1a) & Seeger (1c) , in San Francisco in 1931 (6). Though somewhat obscurely told, its story is straightforward enough. The childless Queen Melanie is weary of her luxury palace life, but things change when:

The huntsmen found in some dim forest grove,
Caught in their traps, a little naked boy,
Who seemed a child of Pan, forsaken young
And reared by savage creatures for their King.

The Queen has a son at last. By way of illustrations, Patterson did a frontispiece (Fig.6a) and two vignettes – one a headpiece at the beginning of the poem (Fig.6b) and the other a tailpiece right at the end (Fig.6c). All are readily explained by the above quoted four lines of the poem. The vignettes are particularly neat, I think.

(iv) West Wind: The only other book decorated by Patterson was Douglas S. Watson’s book West Wind – the Life Story of Joseph Reddeford Walker, Knight of the Golden Horseshoe, privately printed by Johnck (1a) & Seeger (1c) in an edition of only 100 copies, for Percy H. Booth in Los Angeles in 1934. Walker was a frontiersman, fur trapper, trail–blazer, guide of waggon trains, and a significant figure in the early history of California. Douglas S. Watson was hired by Percy H. Booth to research this book, the copies being intended as gifts for Booth’s friends and associates. The book contained 5 full–page illustrations by Frederic Remington, and 13 distinct chapter headings by Patterson, some appearing twice, at the head of the 19 chapters. They are generic rather than literal, and tend to illustrate untamed landscapes and traditional ‘wild west’ themes. Thus, Fig.7a, the heading of the Prologue, is a landscape with two frontiersmen to the lower right; Fig.7b, the heading of chapters 3 & 7, is a landscape with a waggon train; Fig.7c , the heading of chapters 5 & 14, a landscape with a herd of bison; Fig.7d, the heading of chapters 11 & 19, a landscape; and Fig.7e, the heading of the Epilogue – an imaginative view of the California that came after the death of Joseph Walker in 1876. Again, one wonders why Patterson did the chapter headings, but not the full–page illustrations.

Limited Edition Prints

Art–work by Lawrence Patterson is rarely encountered, and I have not yet seen a single painting by him. He does seem to have published limited edition prints, though these too are rarely encountered, and details about them are scant, aside from the fact that they were printed by Lawton Kennedy (1e) – note his mention and signature in Fig.5b. Two of these prints have come onto the market in recent years, so images of these and some information about them can be given here. (7)

The first, “A Night Mooring on the Chien–te River” (Fig.8a), dated 1929, takes its theme from the translation of a Chinese poem by Witter Bynner, published in his book The Jade Mountain: a Chinese Anthology, Being Three Hundred Poems of the Tang Dynasty 618–906 (Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1929.) It is not known whether Patterson produced other prints based on Bynner’s translations, but recall his interest in “the earlier Chinese poets”, expressed at the end of the 1927 article in The San Francisco Examiner, quoted above.

The second, “To all swift things for swiftness did I sue / Clung to the whistling mane of every wind” (Fig.8b), dated 1929, illustrates Francis Thompson’s famous poem “The Hound of Heaven,” first published in 1893, and subsequently in a huge number of editions and anthologies. As we saw above, in the account of his 1932 exhibition in San Mateo Public Library, Patterson also did an illustration for Thompson’s “Ode to the Setting Sun.” It is not known if he did any other illustrations for these or any other of Thompson’s poems, nor whether it / they were ever intended for publication in a book.


Note 1a: Of Danish descent, John Julius Johnck was born in Iowa on 24 June 1873. He was a printer throughout his working life. In the US Federal Census of 1910 he is listed as the Foreman of a Printing Shop in Seattle, Washington. His First World War draft registration card, dated 1918, records that he was then working for a printer in Portland, Oregon, and in the US Federal Census of 1920 he was running stationery and printing business in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Street directories for 1924 and 1926 show that he was in business as a printer in Oakland, California, and in the US Federal Census of 1930 he is listed as still being the proprietor of a printing business there. He died in San Francisco on 12 January 1936.

Note 1b: Wallace Lea Kibbee was born in New Mexico on 13 May 1888, the son of a newspaper proprietor. In the US Federal Census for 1910 he is listed as a printer (specifically of magazines) in Milwaukee, Oregon. In the US Federal Census for 1920 he is listed as a printer (associated with a Retail Store) in Portland, Oregon. The company of Johnck, Kibbee & Co. is listed in a San Francisco Street Directories for 1927 and 1928. In the US Federal Census for 1930 Wallace is recorded as being a printer in San Francisco (by which time Johnck was in Oakland, California). In the 1931 Street Directory for San Francisco there appears only Wallace Kibbee & Co. (no Johnck.) He died in Marin County, California on 30 August 1972.

Note 1c: Harold Norman Seeger was born in Iowa on 9 May 1899. A street directory for 1918 already lists him as a printer in San Francisco, and he continued to run a printing business there up until his suicide (in San Francisco) on 14 December 1965.

Note 1d: Samuel Thaxter Farquhar was born in Newton, Massachusetts on 10 May 1890. The 1920 US Federal Census lists him in San Francisco, involved in Advertising. The 1930 US Federal Census lists him in Berkeley, California, involved in Commercial Printing. The 1940 US Federal Census lists him still in Berkeley, but by now the Manager of the University of California Press. He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on 23 May 1949.

Note 1e: Lawton Raphael Kennedy was born in San Francisco on 19 May 1900 and is known to have been working as a printer in his early teens. By the time of the 1920 US Federal Census he was a job printer with his own shop in Oakland, California, where he continued to run a printing business until his retirement in the early 1970s. He died in Oakland on 20 October 1980. Having earned a formidable reputation as a printer during his long working life, he is probably the best documented of the various printers and publishers that surround Lawrence Patterson, in that he has a published biography: Ruth Teiser, Lawton Kennedy, Printer (Book Club of California, 1988). Interestingly, Teiser tells us (p.40–4) that Kennedy had a hand in the printing of the Patterson Rubaiyat, for Johnck enlisted his help when the intended printer ran into severe technical difficulties. Kennedy solved the problems, and the Patterson Rubaiyat, “a monumental piece of printing,” duly appeared in an edition of 200 copies, though it proved “too great an expense for them (Johnck and Kibbee) to bear, and the firm ‘blew up’.” The book also gives some interesting information about the various commercial interactions of Johnck, Kibbee, Seeger and Farquhar.

Note 2: Tracing David Anderson through online records is like searching for a needle in a haystack as there are so many of them, and were it not for his signature in Fig.2b it would be difficult to pin him down with any certainty. It turns out that he was born in Scotland, and his Naturalization Papers of 1918 and 1921 are the key to pinning him down. The signed and typed copy of his initial 1918 Declaration of Intention to apply for Naturalization, which is stored with his 1921 Petition for the same, is shown in Fig.9a. As can be seen, Anderson’s signature matches exactly that in the signed Rubaiyat of Fig.2b – the two are shown together for convenience in Fig.9b. From this we know that he was born on 3 March 1875 in Glasgow, that he sailed from Glasgow to New York aboard the Astoria, arriving on about 7 June 1906, that he was single, a Newspaper Reporter, and living in Fresno at the time of his naturalisation – Lawrence A. Patterson lived there in 1920, remember, and indeed Anderson is recorded as living there in the US Federal Census of 1920. By the time of the US Federal Census of 1930, at the age of 54, he was a “writer for newspaper” living in Berkeley, California. After that he seems to disappear – I could find no trace of him in the 1940 US Federal Census, and no record of his death anywhere, in the USA or otherwise.

Anderson’s essay “The Rubaiyat as English Poetry” gives high praise to the genius of FitzGerald in his going way beyond mere translation, and, stitching together the scattered quatrains of Omar into a sequential whole, creating an exquisite gem that deserves to rank among the greatest of English poetry. He adds that more literal translations by others pale in comparison with FitzGerald’s version, and he marvels, as many others have done before and since, that an eleventh century Persian and a nineteenth century Englishman could be so much at one.

Anderson did a similarly enthusiastic essay on Gray’s Elegy, published in Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray, published in a limited edition of 250 copies by Johnck (1a) & Seeger (1c), San Francisco, in 1928. In the title of Anderson’s essay “The Anthem of the Obscure”, the word “obscure” does not refer to the meaning of the poem, but to the unknown characters who repose in the country churchyard about which Gray wrote, and whose like had never before been celebrated in verse. The book contained a coloured frontispiece, and a black and white head–piece and tail–piece by W.R. Cameron. One naturally wonders why Lawrence A. Patterson was not invited to the party, but clearly he wasn’t. The Presswork was by the ubiquitous Lawton R. Kennedy (1e).

Note 3: This partial letter is archived in the Anne Bremer Memorial Library of the San Francisco Art Institute, and is the only item relating to Patterson there. My thanks are due to Jeff Gunderson, Librarian and Archivist there, for supplying a copy.

Note 4a: It would be interesting to know who pointed this out to FitzGerald, and from what manuscript it came – one possibility that springs to mind is from Edward Byles Cowell, FitzGerald’s mentor in Persian and regular correspondent, who was in India during the period 1856 – 1864, though there seems to be no evidence for this in their surviving letters. Another possibility is from the French translation by J.B. Nicolas, published in 1867, namely his quatrain 283, which reads, “O mon âme! Nous formons à nous deux le parallèle d’un compass. Bien que nous ayons deux points, nous ne faisons qu’un corps. Actuellement, nous tournons sur un même point et décrivons un cercle, mais le jour final viendra où ces deux poites se réuniront.” Both possibilities fit date–wise, for it must have been between the publication of FitzGerald’s first and second editions – ie between 1859 and 1868 – as the note does not appear in connection with quatrain 41 in the first edition, but does appear in connection with quatrain 58 in the second. FitzGerald devotes some considerable space to Nicolas in the preface to his second edition, mainly to express doubts about his Sufic interpretation of the quatrains, but though FitzGerald’s letters to Cowell contain much pertaining to this, there is no mention of Nicolas’s quatrain 283, and FitzGerald’s rendering of Omar’s compass quatrain is certainly not a direct translation of Nicolas. Nevertheless, Nicolas seems the most likely source.

Note 4b: The various translations available do not clear up the matter. E.H. Whinfield (1883) quatrain 323 has, “In these twin compasses, O Love, you see / One body with two heads, like you and me, / Which wander round one centre, circlewise, / But at the last in one same point agree”, Whinfield noting that “Mr. FitzGerald quotes a similar,” and citing five manuscripts containing this verse or variants on it. John Payne (1898) quatrain 544 has, “O soul, like the compasses twain I and you are; / Though one body we have, yet our heads, indeed, two are: / Round the one in the centre still circles the other / Till the twain in the end brought together anew are.” Johnson Pasha / E.A. Johnson (1913) quatrain 499 has, “Thy soul and mine are as a compass found, / One body serves two heads to circle round; / Yet in the end must ever needs agree / To meet where fate has set the circles bound.” (Johnson used the Lucknow edition, which was also one of the sources used by Whinfield and the main source used by Payne.) An interesting relative of this is to be found in Govinda Tirtha (1941) quatrain 743 (p.12) which has, “With hands in hands we whirl in merry ring, / What seems a duet, we as solo sing; / We compass whole, tho’ spinning on a point, / And in the end, as each to each we cling.” He cites multiple sources for this, one of which is again the Lucknow edition and another the Nicolas translation quoted in note 4a above. In brief, then, Nicolas and Payne seem to lean towards the Body and Soul interpretation; Whinfield, Johnson and Tirtha to You and I being Omar and his Beloved.

Note 5: The story had originally been published in Graphics, a collection of Lyon’s short stories, published by William Marion Reedy in St. Louis in 1913.

Note 6: The poem had originally appeared in The English Review in April 1911, and subsequently in the posthumously published Poems and Songs: Second Series, published by T. Fisher Unwin in London in 1912. The English–born Middleton, who suffered from what was then called melancholia, committed suicide in Brussels in December 1911, aged only 39.

Note 7: These images along with some useful biographical material are courtesy of and My thanks are due to Daniel Lienau of The Annex Galleries, Santa Rosa, California, and Melissa Lewallen, registrar of the online data-base askArt.



I must again thank those people named in the body of the article – Jeff Gunderson (note 3), Daniel Lienau (note 7) and Melissa Lewallen (note 7.) I must also thank Sandra Mason, Bill Martin, Roger Paas, and Joe Howard for proof–reading the article and for their helpful comments on my interpretations of the Rubaiyat illustrations.


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