The Rubaiyat of Margaret R. Caird

The Collins Clear Type Press editions of The Rubaiyat illustrated by Margaret R. Caird (hereafter MRC) can be divided into two basic versions – Small (cover height 15.5 cm) and Large (cover height 24.5 cm.) Both went through numerous editions, the commoner Small more so than the Large, and none of them was dated, which causes severe problems in sorting out their chronology. In fact, what follows is merely a skeletal chronology based on available information at the time of writing: a fully detailed chronology is simply not possible at present. One thing we can do, however, is establish rough dates for when MRC completed her illustrations, and when they were first published.

The Small Version

The Small Version contained the text of FitzGerald’s first and second editions of The Rubaiyat, along with his Prefaces to both, together with his translation of Salaman and Absal, the whole with an Introduction by Laurence Housman. MRC contributed four illustrations for The Rubaiyat and one for Salaman and Absal. The illustrations are all fairly literal representations of the text, and all bear a specific quote to which they relate, with identifying stanza numbers. In the case of the four Rubaiyat illustrations, the associated stanza numbers are those of FitzGerald’s second edition. Fig.1a shows what turns out to be the earliest type of title–page, with its frontispiece, the latter relating to stanza 40. Fig.1b illustrates stanza 30; Fig.1c illustrates stanza 57 (misprinted as 52); and Fig.1d illustrates stanza 102. Fig.1e illustrates the opening stanza of Salaman and Absal. Though, as we shall see, title–pages change over the years, the illustrations and contents remain the same in all editions of the Small Version throughout the 1930s and beyond. But when did the first Small edition appear ?

In the absence of publication dates, dated gift inscriptions and such like can serve as a rough guide to chronology, though of course an inscription date can have been written inside a copy of the book quite some time after publication. Nevertheless, by studying the inscriptions inside a number of copies we can see some sort of pattern. Thus Fig.1f shows the dust–jacket (note the Collins’ Pocket Classics, #327) and Fig.1g the cover of a copy bearing a gift inscription dated Christmas 1930 (Fig.1h), the earliest that has come to light so far. Other known copies like this are inscribed with dates 1931, 1932, 1933, 1936, and 1937, the advert on the back of the dust–jacket and the colour of the cover varying over time, but basically repetitions of the same model. As we shall see from the biographical details of the artist presently, 1930 probably does represent the first edition of the Small Version.

We come now to something of a Collins enigma. Another edition has the frontispiece and title–page shown in Fig.2a, these being exactly as in Fig.1a; its cover (Fig.2b), though a different colour, has a spine exactly as in Fig.1g; and yet the dust–jacket (Fig.2c) proclaims it to be title #327 in The Students’ Library – it was #327 of the Collins’ Pocket Classics in Fig.1f, remember. As if that weren’t enough, two other editions have frontispiece & title page as in Fig.2a, cover very similar to Fig.2b, but one has a slipcase (Fig.2d) which places it in the series of “Collins Mermaid Poets” and the other has a slipcase which places it in “The Westminster Classics” (Fig.2e). What seems to be going on here, at least in part, is that Collins marketed the same book in different dust–jackets or slipcases to appeal to different markets (1) If that is the case, we may be wasting our time in trying to sort out what might seem to be a sequence of editions, for some of the ‘sequence’ might actually represent contemporaneous copies issued according to marketing strategies. But before moving on, there is yet another, rather strange, edition, which shares the frontispiece and title–page of Fig.2a. Its front cover, bearing the Egyptian emblems of lotus flowers and a winged sun–disk, is shown in Fig.2f. It has a curious, mostly cellophane, “Transmatic Book Jacket” (actually almost invisibly in place, in Fig.2f) whose front inner flap is shown in Fig.2g, folded over the inner front cover and front free end paper, the latter bearing the date of Christmas 1933. The front inner flap would suggest that this edition of The Rubaiyat is one of the Collins’ Theban Classics series, hence the Egyptian emblems, of course. But I have been unable to find any other title in this series, nor any information about the series generally – it seems to be yet another quirk of the Collins’ publishing strategies, and a rather scarcely encountered one.

The above illustrations can be browsed here.

Continuing with the Small Version, a change in title–page design seems to have taken place in the late 1930s, Fig.3a showing the new design, and Fig.3b the gift inscription inside this copy dating it to 1937. Other copies like this are known with gift inscriptions dating them to 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942 and 1945. Many of these come in a standard Collins cover like Fig.3c and with a coloured dust–jacket like Fig.3d – this one is yellow, but red, blue and green are also known. Note that the title–pages all bear the imprint of Collins Clear Type Press, but now under the umbrella title of The Library of Classics, whereas the covers preserve the Collins Pocket Classics tag at the base of the spine, The Rubaiyat retaining its listing as #327.

Overlapping with these last, Fig.4a represents an edition published by the New University Society of Edinburgh, and Fig.4b an edition published by D.B. Taraporevala of Bombay, a gift inscription dating it to 1940 (Fig.4c).

Out on its own, Fig.5 shows another variant title–page of an edition published by the British India Publishing Company of Calcutta. At the time of writing I know of no Collins Clear Type Press edition of The Rubaiyat bearing on its title–page the antique–style reading man design, though this design features on the title–pages of the two other books MRC illustrated for Collins Clear Type Press, as we shall see below (Figs.9a & 11a).

Finally, we should mention what seems to be the precursor of the MRC Small Version – that is, it features FitzGerald’s first and second editions of The Rubaiyat, and Salaman and Absal, but without illustrations by MRC or anyone else. Bearing the title Omar Khayyam: Poems of the Passionate East, its somewhat lurid dust–jacket is shown Fig.6a; its cover is shown in Fig.6b (note The Novel Library at the base of the spine); and its title–page is shown in Fig.6c (note again The Novel Library, and the imprint “Published for Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. by The London Book Co., Ltd.”) But at what date was this published ? As usual there is no date of publication in the book, but the Complete List of Titles in The Novel Library given in it (Fig.6d) gives us a clue, for the items asterisked as “these novels have been filmed” were all filmed between 1927 and 1930 (2), so the book must have been published no earlier than 1930. Ironically, my copy bears a gift inscription dated Christmas 1953, showing that this book was over 20 years old by the time it was inscribed (presumably bought as a used / second–hand copy), and a timely reminder that inscription dates are not always a good guide to publication dates!

To summarise a somewhat confusing section, the Small MRC Rubaiyats can be divided into 3 types, all sharing the same format and illustrations, but differing in their title–pages. Type 1 has the title–page shown in Fig.1a and type 2 has the title–page of Fig.3a. Type 1 seems to have first appeared in the first half of the 1930s, and type 2 in the second half of the 1930s, both with reprints following. Type 3 is made up of MRC editions issued by publishers other than Collins – like Figs.4a, 4b & 5. What little information we have on dates for these suggests that they post–date type 2, and certainly the title–pages of the first two seem more akin to type 2 than to type 1. Hopefully more information about this type will come to light in the future.

The above illustrations can be browsed here.

Both types 1 and 2 were clearly reprinted numerous times after their first appearances, according to demand, but since none were dated, it is virtually impossible to reconstruct a precise sequence of events. We can get some insight into the scale of the problem from an article which appeared in The Montrose Review on 28 April 1933 (p.7, col.2). Under the heading “Collins’ Illustrated Pocket Classics” it marked the 30th anniversary of the series which by that time had sold 20 million copies spanning 320 titles. The publishers were praised for making these classics available to families and schools at affordable prices – 2 shillings for a cloth binding, 3 shillings and 6 pence for a leather binding. Of particular interest here is this paragraph:

Perhaps a word may be added of the organisation and labour involved in keeping constantly in stock 320 different titles, some of them running to 650 pages and over, and containing 8 to 16 illustrations, each with a finely coloured wrapper. Every title is reprinted once in every 12 or 18 months. A beautiful thin British–made paper is used, the binding is of a British–made cloth, and pure gold leaf is used for lettering and decorating.

The following paragraph, too, may help explain the emergence of some of type 3:

Hundreds of thousands of these classics are sent out abroad, even to the uttermost ends of the earth, and there again they play the vital role of propagating the English Language and its major literary achievements.

The Large Version

The Large Version contained the text of Fitzgerald’s first edition only, without FitzGerald’s Preface, and with the same Introduction by Laurence Housman as in the Small Version. The Salaman and Absal illustration in the Small Version was now dropped of course, the four Rubaiyat illustrations being retained, with the quatrain numbers adjusted to relate to the first edition (they had previously related to the second edition, remember, and been dubbed stanzas) and with addition of a new illustration, here reproduced as Fig.7c, which readers will recognise from the dust–jacket of the Small Version shown in Fig.1f. (This prompts the question: were all the other Rubaiyat illustrations originally in colour like this ?)

As with the Small Version we can use dated inscriptions as a guide to the chronology of the Large Version, the earliest that has come to light being that whose cover is shown in Fig.7a. Its frontispiece and title–page are shown in Fig.7b, a sample illustration with facing quatrains in Fig.7d, and the inscription dating this copy to 1932 in Fig.7e. Another copy like this bears a gift inscription dating it to 1939, and another, but with a red cover instead of the brown in Fig.7a, has an inscription dating it to 1941. It is not clear whether these later dates denote later reprints or whether they tell us that the copies were bought, possibly second–hand, some years after publication.

Another edition of the Large Version has the cover shown in Fig.8a. The sample two–page spread shown in Fig.8b is clearly similar to that in Fig.7d, the illustration now being set in the same decorative surround as the quatrains, with adjusted quatrain numbers etc, and Fig.8c is a gift inscription dating it to 1942.

At a guess, the edition of Fig.7a was first published before or in 1932, with that of Fig.8a before or in 1942.

The above illustrations can be browsed here.

What is clear from the foregoing study of the Small and Large Versions is that MRC had done her illustrations by 1930, and that as Roger Paas puts it, “Collins got a lot of mileage out of them.”

The Golden Treasury

MRC illustrated Palgrave’s Golden Treasury for Collins Clear Type Press, its size being that of the Small Version Rubaiyat. The title–page with frontispiece are shown in Fig.9a, and the four other illustrations in Figs.9b, 9c, 9d & 9e. Like her Rubaiyat illustrations they are fairly literal representations of their associated texts, the titles of which, together with specific lines quoted from them, given beneath the illustrations, mean that no explanation is required here. As to dated copies, I have seen copies bearing inscriptions dated 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1935, so it seems clear that MRC had completed the illustrations by 1932. As a rather nice example of a gift inscription, I give the one from 1935 as Fig.9f, and leave readers to speculate on the relationship between Rufus and May.

As with The Rubaiyat, a variant edition of the Golden Treasury was published in the Library of Classics series, with its characteristic title–page shown in Fig.10 (cf Fig.3a) and with a change of frontispiece. I have not seen a copy of this with a dated gift inscription, but by comparison with its Rubaiyat counterpart, it probably dates from the late 1930s.

The above illustrations can be browsed here.

The Way of Poetry

The third book illustrated by MRC for Collins Clear Type Press was The Way of Poetry, an anthology of poetry for young people compiled by the poet and dramatist John Drinkwater. Its format was the same as that of The Rubaiyat Small Version and The Golden Treasury. Its frontispiece and title–page are shown in Fig.11a, and the four other illustrations in Figs.11b, 11c, 11d & 11e. Again, they are fairly literal representations of their associated texts, though some show a little more artistic licence, and again the given titles together with the specific lines quoted from them, mean that no explanation is required here. I know of only one copy of this bearing an inscribed date, and that refers (in Danish!) to Christmas 1930.

Again, variant editions of this appeared in the Library of Classics series – Figs.12a & 12b – note that the former recycles the Golden Treasury frontispiece of Fig.9a, even though the poem “A Musical Instrument”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is not in Drinkwater’s anthology.

Before looking at the only other commercially published book illustrated by MRC – not for Collins – it is instructive to look at the life of the artist.

MRC – the Outline of a Biography.

There is nothing about MRC in Brigid Peppin and Lucy Micklethwait’s Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: the 20th Century (1983) nor in Alan Horne’s Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators (1994), so her life would have to be largely reconstructed from what can be gleaned from online genealogical records and a few scant references in the online British Newspaper Archive were it not for the fact that I managed to make contact with one of her three surviving nieces, who was able to supply some very useful information. Known to her as Aunt Peggy, she recalls, as a child, being entertained by MRC with stories accompanied by pencil drawings, often involving cats and guinea pigs. But this is to jump forward somewhat, so let us begin at the beginning.

Margaret Rorie Caird was born in Edinburgh on 4 November 1896. She was the daughter of Professor Francis Mitchell Caird, a prominent surgeon, and his wife Jean Anne Caird (née Rorie). From the Scottish census return for 1911 we learn that the family was living at 13 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, and that MRC, then aged 14, had an older brother, Karl F. Caird (aged 15), two younger brothers – James Colin Caird (aged 10) & Francis M. Caird (aged 6) – plus a younger sister – Jean R. Caird (aged 1.) Their mother, Jean A. Caird, was at that time aged 40, and their father, who seems to have been away on business at the time of the census, was then aged 57. The house had, in quaint census classification terms, 14 “rooms with one or more windows”, and they employed 6 servants. MRC thus grew up in a well–off and privileged household.

It is strange the things that get ‘remembered’ (and by the same token, ‘forgotten’) about a person’s life, but one of the few newspaper items that comes to light about MRC is a short report in The Berwickshire News on 24 September 1918 (p.3, col.3) which tells us that the Royal Humane Society had awarded a Testimonial on Vellum “to Miss Margaret Caird, Charlotte Square Edinburgh, a daughter of Professor Caird, for her courageous action on July 22 in swimming out about 100 yards at Coldingham and bringing in a man who had become exhausted while bathing.” Her niece tells me that Coldingham and nearby St. Abbs were regular holiday haunts for the family, being within easy distance of Edinburgh. The photograph shown in Fig.13a was taken at Coldingham, probably in the mid to late 1920s. MRC is the smiling young lady on the extreme right, with her sister Jean next to her, and with their brother Colin between and behind them.

A major event in MRC’s life was the death of her father in 1926, which was widely reported in the press. Though her father’s glittering medical career is of little interest to us here, “An Appreciation of the Late Professor Caird” published in The Scotsman on 5 November 1926 (p.10, col.2) does have some bearing on his daughter: it reported that, “he had a wide knowledge of art, ancient and modern, and he had a skill in drawing which he put to good use in his daily work” adding that, after any unusual operation, “he took time to make a sketch in colours of what he had found at the operation.” It would appear that this skill was passed on to his children, for all of them, not just MRC, were gifted artists.

It was after her father’s death, in 1927, that she joined the Scottish Society of Artists (SSA) and became a contributor, in the Applied Art Section, to their annual exhibitions (3). Thus, for example, in 1927 she exhibited a design for a curtain, for the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh (item #374). This ties in with three of the few mentions of MRC in the newspapers, all of which I reproduce here. The first clip (Fig.13b), from The Scotsman on 13 July 1927, is an extract from an article on the forthcoming Craigmillar Pageant, to be held in Edinburgh later that month. It mentions her designing of dresses for the pageant, and also the curtain she had painted at the King’s Theatre, the design for which was exhibited at the SSA, as noted above. “She likes a big canvas, I believe” the author of the article notes, “and she sure has it there – to borrow the American phrase.” This brings us to Fig.13c, a photograph of MRC pasted into a family album alongside a cutting of the news–clip in Fig.13b. This strongly suggests that the photo was taken when she was painting the curtain, though some unfortunate blurring obscures much of the detail. Nevertheless it is a very rare photograph of MRC in action. (Incidentally, we know from brief mentions in other newspaper reports that she did costume designs for the great Edinburgh Masque of 1929 and for the Edinburgh William Dunbar Masque of 1933.) The second news–clip reproduced here (Fig.13d), from The Scotsman on 30 July 1934, gives her a brief mention in connection with costume design and stage prop making. The third clip (Fig.13e), again from The Scotsman, on 7 January 1935, shows her playing a key role in a discussion about stage design – basically arguing that stage design should be an adjunct to the play, and not the other way about, as some more extravagant stage–designers would have it. (The above illustrations can be browsed here.)

But returning to the SSA, in 1928 she exhibited “In Xanadu”, a Design for a Mural Decoration (clearly a nod towards Coleridge’s poem), and also a Poster for The Children’s Shelter on Edinburgh’s High Street (items ##86 & 281 respectively), presumably indicating that she was involved in charity work. Of particular interest to us here, though, is item #317 in the 1930 Exhibition: “Illustrations (Property of Messrs Collins).” Unfortunately no details are given of exactly what the illustrations were for, but clearly this ties in with the publication dates for some of the Collins Clear Type Press books discussed above. It is also interesting that in 1931 she exhibited a picture bearing the title “Orion” (item #211.) Since this was a picture offered for sale, rather than “Property of Messrs Collins” it is not clear if was connected to Fig.11d.

Some of the intriguing titles of works by MRC listed in the SSA Catalogues make it a cause for regret that more details aren’t given for them. Thus in 1929 she exhibited a Panel bearing the title “Twa Gods guides me, ane of them is blind, and tane a wife engendered of the Sea” (item #336), somewhat garbled lines from Mark Alexander Boyd’s late 16th century sonnet, “Cupid and Venus”, and in 1932 she exhibited a picture titled “Chamunda Raya, the Contemplative Man” (item #163), he presumably being the 10th century Indian general & minister, and benefactor of the Jain Religion. Rather puzzling, too, are two related items listed as not for sale in the 1933 catalogue – “The Dragon–Dog” and “The Dragon–Dog Box” (items #398 & #399 respectively) – presumably a model of a Chinese Foo Dog, though these usually come in pairs.

MRC seems to have dropped out of the SSA in 1936, her last exhibited picture in that year being “The Seven Swan Brothers” (item # 157). This presumably relates to a 7 Swans version of an old fairy tale which became an 11 Swans version in Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Wild Swans.”

But to return to MRC’s life, the census returns for years after 1911 are not available online yet, but we can trace her through the Electoral Rolls for Edinburgh. We know that she was living in the city pretty much all through the 1930s, having two addresses, 3 Lockharton Avenue, where she lived with her mother, younger brother Francis and younger sister Jean, and 58 Queen Street, which may well have been her studio, for this is the address she gives in the SSA Exhibition Catalogues.

Then, at the age of 41, on 10 October 1938, she married James Oswald Dykes, some 16 years her junior. He was born in Edinburgh, and her niece tells me that the Dykes family had been friends with the Cairds for very many years, the two families going on holidays together. The couple were married at the Register Office in Liverpool South and on the wedding certificate her husband’s Rank / Profession is listed as “Electrical Engineer (Telephone)”, her Rank / Profession being left blank. According to their wedding certificate, at the time of the marriage he was living (and working ?) in Wavertree, Liverpool, whilst she was living (or staying ?) at Llanthony, Monmouthshire. Be that as it may, she and her husband continued to live in Liverpool, for in the 1939 register (4) they were living at 15 Inchcape Road there. James O. Dykes lists his Occupation as an Electrical Engineer in Telecommunications whereas Margaret R. Dykes, as she now was, lists her Occupation as “unpaid domestic duties” (= housewife.) In those days, of course, many female artists gave up their artistic careers upon marriage, a woman’s place being generally reckoned to be in the home rather than the studio, but her niece tells me it is unlikely that her aunt would have done so, and nor would her husband have wanted her to do so. Nevertheless, at this point she gave up commercial book illustration, though she continued to draw and paint. The couple’s address was still 15 Inchcape Road in the Electoral Roll for 1939–40.

What she did during the war is not clear, but her husband became a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, serving in the Far East, and spending some time in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in Malaya. Her niece picks up the story here:

He was so enfeebled by his imprisonment – my mother said he weighed only six stones when he returned home – that it was recommended that he work outside to build his strength back up again. So he became a small–holder and they lived in Wales for around eight years at a property called Milaid Fach, I think near Abergavenny. In the 1950s he resumed his career as an electrical engineer and worked out in India and Pakistan where Aunt Peggy quickly became very proficient in the various native tongues, speaking them like a native according to her husband. In the late 1950s they came back to the U.K. I presume because her health was failing. They may have lived in Isleworth for a while but then Uncle James went to work in Nigeria and Aunt Peggy was either in hospital or living with us in Berkhamsted – I don’t think she ever made it out to Nigeria. I remember that my mother had been going to pick her up from hospital on the day she died.

Margaret R. Dykes (née Caird) died of severe lung troubles in the King Edward VII Sanatorium, Eastbourne on 22 June 1961 1961 - her niece tells me that both she and her husband had been chain smokers, and that he gave it up after his wife’s death. It clearly prolonged his life, for he died in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire in December 1989. He had been awarded an MBE for his wartime services in October 1946 (5).

Mr Horse’s New Shoes

The foregoing sketch of the life of MRC makes it clear that she came from a well–to–do Edinburgh family, and this perhaps explains how she came to illustrate her last commercially published book, Margaret Sackville’s story for children, Mr Horse’s New Shoes, published in 1936 by Country Life Ltd. Not only was Country Life a magazine aimed at the better–off members of society, with its features of country mansions and stately homes, not to mention their frequently aristocratic inhabitants, but the author of the book was Lady Margaret Sackville (1881–1963.) She was the daughter of Reginald Windsor Sackville, the 7th Earl de la Warr, and was, incidentally, related to Vita Sackville–West. Though born in Mayfair, London, she spent much of her adult life in Edinburgh before moving to Cheltenham in 1936. A peace activist during the First World War, she was a poetess of sufficient merit to attract the attention of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt when she was only sixteen, and she published numerous volumes of verse (some of it appeared in Country Life magazine), as well as plays and books for children – Mr Horse’s New Shoes was one of several, though this seems to have been the only one published by Country Life. It is not clear how MRC came to work with Margaret Sackville, or how the book came to be published by Country Life, but since many of the illustrations quite clearly relate to life in the countryside, the choice of publisher is perhaps not surprising. As to how they met, the two certainly both worked on the great Edinburgh Masque of 1929 (marking the sixth centenary of the city’s Royal Charter), Lady Margaret as a script–writer, MRC as a costume designer, but of course the two may well have met before then in Edinburgh’s literary and artistic circles.

Fig.14a is the frontispiece, Fig.14b the title–page and Figs.14c, 14d & 14e three of the other colour illustrations (there are 12 in all), these showing the country life nature of the story. Figs.14f , 14g, 14h & 14i show four of the 38 black and white drawings woven into the text, all skilfully drawn cartoons, the third of which harks back to days of class–distinction now long gone. The fourth depicts two children bathing in a bath made out of half a dragon’s egg, incidentally. MRC must really have enjoyed illustrating this book, as she had a great fondness for animals, notably horses (Fig.13f) and dogs (Fig.13g), these two illustrations being selected from a number of similar photographs in a family album - note Fig.14g in particular!

The above illustrations can be browsed here.

Though Mr Horse’s New Shoes was the last commercially published book that MRC illustrated it was not the last book she illustrated, for she is known to have illustrated at least two privately published books for children written by Alice Berry–Hart, both now rarely encountered.

Alice Berry–Hart

Born Alice Harriet Ware in Shanghai, China on 15 April 1896, she was the daughter of missionary James Ware and his wife, Elizabeth Mary Clark Ware, who shared her husband’s missionary labours amongst the poor and destitute of Shanghai and its environs. Alice’s formative years in Shanghai were to lead many years later to a lengthy historical novel, Ching–a–Ring–a–Ring–Ching, or, Three Victorian Sisters in Shanghai, published by Rex Collings (London) in 1977 (6).

In 1920, in the Philippines, Alice Harriet Ware married Ralph Alexander Berry–Hart. He was a chartered accountant by profession, and travelled extensively on business in the Far East, which was presumably how he met Alice. Born in Edinburgh on 23 January 1897, he was the son of surgeon David Berry Hart and his wife Jessie. In the census returns for both 1891 and 1901 his family is recorded as living at 29 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, When we recall that MRC’s father was also a surgeon, and that in the census returns for both 1901 and 1911 their family home was recorded as 13 Charlotte Square, then it seems fairly likely that the artistic / literary connection between Alice and MRC was via the Berry–Hart family, who would almost certainly have got to know the Caird family sometime during their Charlotte Square medical–circles overlap.

In the 1930s, Alice and her husband seem to have lived in the UK – certainly electoral rolls show that they were living in London in 1932. We know, too, that between 1927 and 1935 she published at least three stories in Blackwood'’s Magazine and that she had at least two stories featured in the Children’s Hour radio programme between 1935 and 1936. Later, in 1953, her mystery story for children, To School in the Spanish Main was published by Penguin / Puffin, illustrated by Richard Kennedy.

But of greater interest to us here are two of her stories for children which were illustrated by MRC, and privately published. Why they were privately rather than commercially published is not clear, and nor is it clear how MRC became involved, save that she and Alice had almost certainly met through Alice’s husband, as mentioned above.

I was first alerted to the existence of these by MRC’s niece, who told me that after MRC’s death in 1961, among the papers and possessions passed on to the family was a copy of a book bearing the title David Dormouse. Unfortunately, the book is now lost, but her niece is “almost a hundred percent certain” that that was the title, and that Alice Berry–Hart was the author. Not surprisingly, though, she has no recollection of the printer or of its date of publication. There seems to be no copy in the British Library, and I could find no trace of a copy for sale anywhere. As luck would have it, though, an internet search revealed a second privately published book by Alice, illustrated by MRC, How John Hoe found a New Farm, and I was able to get hold of a copy of this one. The back of the title–page tells us that it was “printed for Berry–Hart Books by Stanbrook Abbey Press, Worcester, England” with “© 1967 Alice Berry–Hart” – ie six years after MRC’s death. However, as we shall see, one illustration does seem to be dated 1935, though why there is a gap of 32 years between that date and the date of publication is not known. Nor is it known how many – if any – other “Berry–Hart Books” were published, illustrated by MRC or otherwise.

In brief, How John Hoe found a New Farm tells how John Hoe’s farm is washed away in a flood, but luckily all his animals survive inside the farm buildings, which have been deposited, intact, by the flood waters in Pleasant Valley, some distance away. The book details John Hoe’s journey to Pleasant Valley – his new farm, as it were. Fig.15a is the front cover, John Hoe playing his pipe and looking down on Pleasant Valley, with his two piglets (Pinky and Blacky) beside him, and Fig.15b is the title–page, again depicting John Hoe and the two piglets. Fig.15c shows John Hoe stranded in a tree by the flood waters, his two piglets – the only animals left behind when the farm is swept away – being ‘out of shot’ in a neighbouring tree. On the way to Pleasant Valley, to earn a bit of money, the piglets dance to the tune of John Hoe’s pipe (Fig.15d) and further along they meet a girl called Trudie, and rescue her calf from a drifting boat (Fig.15e). On arrival at Pleasant Valley we meet John Hoe’s cat, White Rose (Fig.15f), sampling some strawberry jam, this being the above–mentioned illustration bearing a date of 1935. In the end Trudie becomes Mrs Hoe, and of course they live happily ever after – Fig.15g shows her busy in the kitchen. (The above illustrations can be browsed here.)

MRC’s line drawings in both Mr Horse’s New Shoes and How John Hoe found a New Farm give us some idea of why her niece remembers with such fondness being entertained as a child by her aunt’s stories, illustrated by improvised pencil drawings – note particularly the horse and dog in Fig.14g, the dancing piglets in Fig.15d and the cat in Fig.15f. In comparison her block colour illustrations, in both books, though competent, lack lustre.

Alice Berry–Hart died in Falmouth, Cornwall, on 1 March 1989 at the age of 92. Her husband had died some years before, when they lived in Birkenhead, on 22 March 1967.


Note 1: See, a useful source for background which dates the series to 1928–1935. See also the useful companion site for Collins Classics.

Note 2: The history of film is very well documented online, so it is comparatively easy to trace most titles in the list. The trickiest is “Sins of Desire” by Paul Bourget, for this was the alternative (and more provocative!) title for the 1927 film “André Cornélis”, the actual title of Bourget’s (French) novel. The list was clearly based on fairly recently issued films – “The Grand Babylon Hotel” had been issued on film in 1916 and 1920, for example, but is not asterisked as filmed in the list.

Note 3: Somewhat oddly, she contributed some Poster Designs to the SSA Exhibition in 1925 (item # 368), though she is not listed as a member for that year. The Catalogue gives her address at that time as 46 Redcliffe Road, London SW, though what she was doing in London at that time is not clear (art school ?) She still had not joined the SSA in 1926, and did not exhibit anything that year. Her membership of the SSA and her annual contributions to their exhibitions date from 1927, as indicated above.

Note 4: In the National Register of 1939 MRC’s date of birth is given as 4 November 1897, and this date is consistent with the ages given on both her marriage certificate (40) and death certificate (63). Nevertheless, the official register of her birth gives it as 4 November 1896, as stated earlier in this essay, so she was actually 41 when she married and 64 when she died.

Note 5: His award, with a brief account of some of his wartime exploits which led to it, was noted in The Western Mail and South Wales News on 5 October 1946 (p.3, col.5), under the heading “Welshmen’s Heroism in Jap Camps.” Though born in Scotland he was included in the article because at the time of award he was living at Llanthony, Abergavenny. Llanthony, of course, was the place where MRC was living / staying at the time of their marriage, and was presumably the location of the property Milaid Fach, mentioned by MRC’s niece above.

Note 6: Set during the period 1844 to 1857 and involving the events of the Taiping Rebellion, it was a readable account of missionary work and business enterprise, involving a mix of fictional and historical characters. Its title comes from a popular 1840s stage song about Dunn’s Pagoda, constructed at Hyde Park Corner in in 1841, and not about the Brighton Pavilion, as it says in the novel (p.10).



My thanks are due to Roger Paas for a guided tour of his monumental collection of 40 Collins Clear Type Press Rubaiyats, and to Sandra Mason & Bill Martin for supplying details of their copies. My thanks are also due to them, and to Joe Howard, for proof–reading the article and making various useful suggestions. I must also thank Kirstie Meehan, Archivist at the National Galleries of Scotland, for supplying scans of the SSA Catalogues, and MRC’s niece for the family background she supplied about her aunt, and the generous loan of her family photo album.


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