The Rubaiyat of Marie Préaud Webb

In 1907 James Hewetson & Son first published an edition of The Rubaiyat, illustrated by Marie Préaud Webb. It is Potter #38. Little is generally known about the artist, but thanks to online ancestry records and newspaper archives it is possible to glean some details of her life, and also those of her publisher and his son, not to mention the strange story of the Domes of Silence. The following is at least a start.

Some Biographical Details

Marie Préaud Webb (hereafter MPW) was born in St. John’s Wood, Marylebone, London, on 20 March 1879. She was the daughter of Charles Daulman Webb, an assistant teacher at King’s College School, and his French wife Jeanne Marie Webb (née Préaud.) In the 1891 Census they were living at 112 Adelaide Road, Hampstead, She was 12 years old and still at school, as was her younger sister Nora Préaud Webb, aged 10. Her father was 37 and her mother 45. They had a (French ?) boarder, aged 16, also at school, and two servants, so they were presumably comfortably off.

In the 1901 Census the family were living at 22 Adelaide Road, Hampstead, but now with no boarder and no servants. MPW was now 22 and her occupation listed as “Artist Sculp”. Her sister was by now a clerk.

In Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper for 7 April 1901 (p.8, col.5) it was announced that Marie P. Webb was one of nine students awarded an art scholarship worth £20, with free tuition for two years. She was to attend the South Western Polytechnic, which became the Chelsea Polytechnic in 1922 and is today the Chelsea College of Art and Design. The course did cover drawing and painting, but also covered modelling in clay, woodcarving, and the design of murals and textiles. Given her occupation in the 1901 census, one might have expected that MPW would have focussed on sculpture–related areas of study. But though sculpture may have been her main interest, she may also have taken an interest in commercial art, in particular, in poster design. So as not to interrupt the flow of the biographical section too much, this brief and seemingly abortive phase of her career will be covered in the final section of this article.

But to continue the biographical details, in 1902 MPW’s mother died at the age of 56.

On 1 June 1910 at St Saviour’s Church, South Hampstead, MPW, age 31, spinster, no occupation stated, of 5 Provost Road, London NW (her father’s address – see below), married Cecil Charles Hewetson, age 30, bachelor, Bookseller and Printer, of 12 High Street, Hampstead. The bride’s father was named as Charles Daulman Webb M.A. B.Sc, and his occupation listed as Lecturer, King’s College London. The groom’s father was named as James Hewetson, and his occupation listed as Bookseller and Printer. Readers of this essay will probably immediately recognise “James Hewetson and Son” as the publishers, in 1907, of the edition of The Rubaiyat illustrated by MPW, mentioned above. Many will also recall that “C.C.H” (Cecil Charles Hewetson) wrote the Foreword to it.

In the 1911 Census, Marie Préaud Hewetson, as she now was, and her husband, were living at 7 Temple Fortune House, Golder’s Green, London NW. He was listed as a Bookseller, but no occupation was listed for her. In fact, as we shall see, all her illustration work seems to have been done before her marriage (and all of it, incidentally for James Hewetson & Son), leading to the suspicion that, like many female artists back then, her career gave way to wifely duties. As for MPW’s family, in the 1911 Census her father and his second wife, Katherine, whom he had married in about 1904, were living at 5 Provost Road, South Hampstead. Living with them was MPW’s sister, Nora, still single and working as a clerk.

In 1912 MPW and her husband had a son, James Préaud Hewetson and in 1913, James Hewetson, MPW’s publisher father–in–law, died, at the age of 75.

It is known that Cecil Charles Hewetson served with the 14th London Regiment at some stage during the First World War, though seemingly not as an officer, for he is listed merely among “Other Ranks Survived” in War Pension Records. Depending on when he enlisted, he may therefore have fought at the Battle of Messines in October 1914.

There are no census records online after 1911, and the next sighting we have of MPW and her husband is in the 1939 Register, by which time they were living at “Little Home”, Longlands Road, Chichester. MPW lists her occupation as “Unpaid domestic duties” (= housewife), and her husband lists his occupation as “Librarian (Retired)”.

MPW’s father died in 1943 at the age of 89.

Her sister Nora, having married Thomas Reuben Hopgood in London in 1915, emigrated to Australia in 1920, and died there in 1960.

Probate Records for 1964 reveal (with a little added punctuation) that:

Hewetson, Marie Preaud of Field End Barn Road, East Wittering, Sussex, married woman, died 6 January 1964 at the Royal West Sussex Hospital. Chichester. Probate Winchester, 16 March, to James Preaud Hewetson, bank official. £1795.

As the above record indicates, MPW’s husband, Cecil Charles Hewetson, survived her, dying in 1970. James Préaud Hewetson was, as we saw above, her son. He died in 2009 at the ripe old age of 97.

James Hewetson & Son

Exactly when James Hewetson first set up in business is not clear, but we know that from being an errand boy at the age of 15 in 1851, by 1871 he was married with six children and had set up a business as a Bookseller and Stationer, employing 3 men and 1 boy, at 7 Belsize Park Terrace, Hampstead. By the time of the 1881 census, the family were living at 11–12 High Street, Hampstead, the address which was to remain that of James Hewetson, “Bookseller and Stationer” for many years after. Hewetson and his wife, Frances Sophia, now had 8 children – 5 daughters and 3 sons – the youngest child being Cecil Charles, born only 6 weeks before the census. Fortunately, they had 2 servants to help out!

One of his earliest publishing ventures (as opposed to merely printing) appears to have been an edition of Benjamin Clarke’s booklet The Sentry System: How to Extinguish Scarlet Fever and Smallpox in the United Kingdom in Three Months which Hewetson published in conjunction with Hardwicke & Bogue of London, in 1876. Its wonderful old–style title–page is shown in Fig.1a.

In 1879 he published Rev. Joshua Kirkman’s The True Use of Shakspere for a Christian Man, a 16–page pamphlet which was the text of a lecture delivered at the Haverstock Schoolrooms, Maitland Park (neighbouring Hampstead) on 24 April 1879 and in c.1880 he published Rev. Edward Henry Bickersteth’s Songs in the House of Pilgrimage, basically a book of five of the many hymns which Bickersteth wrote.

Hewetson printed / published at least three sermons delivered by Rev.William Brock. The first was Christ Our Life, an 8–page pamphlet based on a sermon delivered at the Heath Street Chapel, Hampstead on 7 February 1869; the second was, In Memoriam: a Sermon on the Occasion of the Death of James Harvey, delivered in the same chapel on 18 February 1883; and the third was The Religious Difficulty in the Schools and the Education Bill, again preached in the same chapel, on 9 November 1902. These publications almost certainly indicate Hewetson’s own religious inclinations, for in the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 21 October 1911 (p.6, col.2), under the heading “Heath Street Chapel Jubilee” we read that Rev. William Brock, who had been the pastor of the church for 44 years, was in attendance at the celebrations, as was James Hewetson.

Again, Hewetson printed / published Robert.F. Horton’s A National Church: the Workman’s Lecture delivered at Lyndhurst Road Church, Hampstead on 3 March 1889, which would seem to indicate that he had Ruskinian social leanings. He was certainly active in local affairs, for in the early 1900s the Hampstead and Highgate Express printed letters to the editor from him campaigning against environmentally unfriendly tram services (9 June 1900, p.3 col.6) and campaigning for improved street paving (10 September 1904, p.5 col.5.) As we learn from the same newspaper, though, he was also a Conservative, being a member of the Hampstead Patriotic Society, founded in 1906 (2 June 1906, p.5 col.3.)

On a different front, Hewetson published P.E. Vizard’s Guide to Hampstead in 1898. That he had a keen interest in local history is shown by his later advertising for sale G. W. Potter’s Random Recollections of Hampstead, published by Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1907. He was also an early environmentalist, for in the Hampstead and Highgate Express for 17 December 1910 (p.4, col.4) we find him, as a member of the Hampstead Heath Protection Society, selling Lord Eversley’s book, Commons, Forests and Footpaths, published by Cassell & Co. earlier that year (Fig.1b.) Subtitled “The Story of the Battle during the last Forty–Five Years for Public Rights over the Commons, Forests and Footpaths of England and Wales” it was as much a ramblers’ rights book as an environmental one. Also of note, in 1907 he published H. Thoreau’s Walking and the Wild, no.1 of “The Trail Classics”, a series described as “appealing to all lovers of the country and the open road.” (See Fig.10c below.)

Thus far specifically James / J. Hewetson.

We know, from an announcement in the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 2 February 1907 (p.7, col.2) that “Mr James Hewetson, of High street, has taken into partnership his son Mr Cecil Charles Hewetson as from Jan 1st. The style of the firm will be James Hewetson & Son.”

It is at this point that the publication of poetry takes centre stage, with Cecil Charles Hewetson (hereafter CCH) often providing Forewords and / or Notes. Irritatingly, most of the publications are undated, but Cardinal Newman’s Dream of Gerontius and The Rubaiyat certainly first appeared in 1907 as nos. 1 & 2 respectively of “The Queens’s Quartos” series – the series list and logo is shown in Fig.2. The date of the first is fixed by a notice in the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 6 July 1907 (p.7, col.3) (Fig.1c) and that of the second by a known copy with a gift inscription in it (present location unknown.) (Potter #38 dates it to [1907].) Both had Forewords by CCH, and both appeared in two formats: small (12.5cm tall by 8.5cm wide) and large (17.0 cm tall by 15.0 cm wide.) In addition, each size came in at least two different bindings, cloth cover and suede cover. Finally, both seem to have been reprinted, the reprints being again mostly undated (Potter #38 gives [1907], [1908] & [1909].) Both books are certainly not rare, but then they are not very common either, as a result of which it is difficult to get anything more than a patchy overview of any sequence of them. But a good place to start is with the various covers, since the contents of all editions of both Gerontius and The Rubaiyat are remarkably uniform. Thus, Fig.3a shows my own copy of a cloth covered small Gerontius, its title–page dating it to 1907. (Though unsigned, the cover–design could well be by MPW.) Fig.3b shows my own suede covered copy of Gerontius, and a date of 1907 also appears at the foot of the title–page (see Fig.4a below.) This copy is stated to be a second edition completing the fifth thousand, and in fact one source tells us that over 8000 copies had been sold by December 1907 (see below.) Fig.3c shows a small suede covered Rubaiyat and Fig.3d a large suede covered Rubaiyat. These copies are from my own collection, and though both are undated, both do contain dated gift inscriptions, the small for 10 September 1910; the large for 25 December 1908. Of course, these dates do not necessarily indicate the year of publication. The suede cover of the large Rubaiyat in Fig.3d makes it a nice companion for the Gerontius in Fig.3b.

From details supplied by Roger Paas, who has an extensive collection of editions, with some supplementary details supplied by Jos Coumans,we can add considerably to the foregoing. Other copies of the large version in Fig.3d, which appears to be the most commonly encountered type, are found with gift inscriptions dated to 4 October 1908 (Paas 4), and 9 April 1910 (Paas 5). This version seems originally to have come in a gift box (Fig.3e) (Paas 3), this particular example having no indication of date, unfortunately, but the one dated 9 April 1910, just mentioned, came in a plain white gift box. To add to the mix, the red cover in Fig.3d has a black variant in Fig.3f (Paas 6), this particular copy bearing a gift inscription dated 1917 (no specific day & month), though, as ever, that does not necessarily mean that it was published in that year. Finally, two other cover–types of the large version are known. The first, cloth–covered, shown in Fig.3g, is from my own collection, and bears a gift inscription “in memory of March 1909.” Copies of this type are also known in a more greyish green colour (Paas 1; Coumans.) The second, somewhat rarer, vellum–covered type is shown in Fig.3h, (Paas 2), but unfortunately we have no indication of a date for this copy, not even a gift / ownership inscription.

[The illustrations can be browsed here.]

As regards the small version, the cover in Fig.3c appears to be one of the most commonly encountered, one known copy of it (Paas 9) bearing a gift inscription dated August 1914. An interesting cloth covered variant of it (Paas 8) is shown in Fig.3i. This is signed by MPW in the lower right hand corner, and it is of sufficient interest to merit a paragraph to itself.

The design which, as can be seen, extends from the front cover, across the spine, and onto the back cover, depicts an all–female celebratory procession, presumably of Omarian significance. The procession is led by two figures – both male. One is the figure of a Satyr, possibly Pan himself, playing on his well–known pipes, and, Pied–Piper–like, leading the procession of young women. This might suggest that the procession is Bacchanalian in nature, and indeed it seems that such festivals were originally all–women events. But I'm not sure that this is the correct interpretation here, for there is no wine in evidence, only what may be chains of vine leaves passing from woman to woman (cf. Figs.6f & 7 below) and these could just as easily be garlands of ivy leaves, for example. The other figure leading the procession is a blindfolded winged youth, and he is possibly Eros, who is sometimes depicted blindfolded, signifying that love is blind. This is perhaps where the Satyr comes in, for he is traditionally lustful, so the procession perhaps represents women hoping for love from men, but sometimes mistaking male lust for love – the two leaders of the procession are male, remember. But more than this, at the rear of the procession, on the back cover, is a hooded skeletal figure (presumably Death) holding a child who clutches the ends of the two trailing leaf–chains. Death holding a child traditionally represents the terrible ravages of infant mortality so prevalent in the past, most famously depicted in Holbein’s woodcut of a child being snatched from its family in The Dance of Death, so perhaps the message here is that the procession of women’s lives, as a result of love and / or lust, is governed by Childbirth and Infant Mortality. But whatever MPW actually had in mind when she drew it, it gives us much food for thought.

As already indicated, we need much more information in order to establish a chronology of types, and all we can say at present is that publication of the Queen’s Quartos series (large and small) definitely began in 1907, with numerous variants published in subsequent years.

Since Gerontius and The Rubaitat seem to have been MPW’s principal works of illustration, each deserves a section to itself here.

The Dream of Gerontius

Written in 1865, Cardinal Newman’s poem centres on the death of Gerontius (the name derives from the Greek for “old man”) and his passage to Purgatory, but with the promise of an ultimate admittance to Heaven and to the Throne of God. Throughout the journey Gerontius converses with his Guardian Angel, and along the way he hears howling demons and choirs of angelicals, before joining other Souls in Purgatory and being immersed in a lake of penal waters.

The images of MPW’s illustrations used here are taken from the large copy shown in Fig.3b, but in fact the illustrations in both large and small copies are the same. The frontispiece and title–page are shown in Fig.4a, the frontispiece showing a rather young–looking Gerontius contemplating Death, a crucifix in his hand and (presumably) a Bible at his feet, and the title–page bearing the date 1907 at its base, as mentioned above. Fig.4b is the head–piece to the opening of the poem, with Gerontius realising that he is about to die. Fig.4c clearly shows a priest administering the last rites, and Fig.4d shows he Soul of Gerontius dazzled by the Glory of Christ (Emmanuel.) Fig.4e is the tailpiece of the book, with an Angel symbolically extinguishing a candle, the figure of Christ crucified in the background.

[The illustrations can be browsed here.]

CHH’s Foreword consists simply of a short biography of Cardinal Newman, making only a brief mention of “his beautiful poem, ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, which has been so aptly described as a ‘Spiritualised Faust.’” It has also, of course, been compared to Dante’s Purgatory.

Incidentally, the large edition was republished by the National Library Society for Hospitals at an unspecified date. Its cover is shown in Fig.5a and its frontispiece and title–page in Fig.5b. As can be seen, CCH’s Foreword has been replaced with one by Malcolm Sargent, reminding us that The Dream of Gerontius had been turned into a monumental choral work by Edward Elgar in 1900.

Newman’s Gerontius with its firm ‘true blue’ Catholic belief in an afterlife forms a stark contrast with the agnostic Omar’s Rubaiyat, in which “The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.” Each to his own, as the saying goes, but personally I myself side with Omar on this. Incidentally, in the early 1900s, Newman’s ‘true blue’ Catholic poem caused some opposition to the performance of Elgar’s work at some Anglican venues, to the extent that a revised text of the poem had to be used.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

MPW illustrated FitzGerald’s first edition, mostly with fairly literal art nouveau interpretations of the quatrains, but with some interesting details. The following illustrations are taken from the large copy shown in Fig.3d, though in fact, the illustrations in this copy are the same in all the copies whose covers are shown in Fig.3. (This is not true of some later small versions, as we shall see.) Fig.6a shows the frontispiece and title–page, the frontispiece presumably relating to quatrain 58, with its reference to Eden and the Snake. Clearly this is not a literal reference to the Temptation of Eve as described in Genesis chapter 3, in accordance with which, in conventional art, Adam and Eve are usually next to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with the Serpent wound around the Tree, and tempting Eve to pick the Forbidden Fruit. Rather MPW’s picture seems to depict the aftermath of Eden, the present–day Woman (a descendant of Eve) in a modern post–Edenic garden, and with the present–day snakes that inhabit it. These are the condemned descendants of the Serpent, as per Genesis 3.14–15, particularly v.15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” – a reference to women’s traditional dislike of snakes. But moving on, Fig.6b is the headpiece to the opening quatrain, I would guess, signifying “Awake!” Fig.6c, as its caption indicates, relates to the famous quatrain 11; Fig.6d to quatrain 40, the curious figure in white on the left presumably being “old barren Reason”; and Fig.6e (left) to quatrain 59, with Fig.6e (right) a neat illustration of “the better Moon” in the same verse. Fig.6f is an unusual and highly original illustration of quatrain 67, Omar being carried to his grave on a bier swathed in vine leaves, with the two closest bearers each holding a thyrsus, the emblem of Dionysus / Bacchus, the God of Wine. Ahead of the bier is a young woman carrying a tray of something whose nature is not clear – perhaps grave offerings ? Lastly, Fig.6g is the tailpiece of the book, and encapsulates the final words of quatrain 75, “turn down an empty Glass.”

[The illustrations can be browsed here.]

It is interesting that though all the illustrations are the same in both small and large versions, the title–page of the small version (Fig.7) is different to that of the large (Fig.6a), its minor details being particularly interesting. The angel on the left is raising a glass in celebration of the vine, but the one on the right seems to have a hangover – the downside to the pleasures of wine. Note the three serpent–heads emerging from the grapes above, echoing those in the Edenic frontispiece opposite.

It is to be noted that whereas green ink is used for the title–page and full page illustrations in Figs. 6 & 7, the text and in–text illustrations being in black ink, black ink is used for everything in some editions (eg. Fig.3g, Paas 1 & Coumans).

CHH’s Foreword to The Rubaiyat was nothing special, consisting largely of a chunk of FitzGerald’s own introduction – the extract from the Calcutta Review no.59 – and with a brief biography of FitzGerald himself tagged on at the end.

Before returning to the Hewetsons, it is perhaps worth saying that though “The Queen’s Quartos” listing of Fig.2 indicates that no.3 of the series was “Keats’ Poems”, and no.4 was “Over the Hills: an Open–air Anthology” I have never seen either of them, and a search of Jisc Library Hub Discover (formerly COPAC) reveals that no major library in the UK has them either. Title no.4 recalls James Hewetson’s association with the Hampstead Heath Protection Society and Thoreau’s Walking and the Wild, mentioned above.

James Hewetson & Son (continued)

In the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 14 December 1907 (p.6, col.2), appeared the following notice under the heading of “A Christmas Anthology”, which is worth quoting in full:

Messrs James Hewetson & Son, of High–street, have just published a very attractive little Christmas anthology, which is intended to supersede the ephemeral Christmas card. It is finely printed, and has a charming cover design by Miss Marie P. Webb. The anthology is issued in paper wrappers at sixpence net; cloth gilt top one shilling net; leather gilt top and silk bookmarker, two shillings net. It is interesting to note that over 8000 copies of Cardinal Newman’s “Dream of Gerontius”, illustrated by Miss M.P. Webb and published by Messrs J. Hewetson & Son in the Queen’s Quarto Series, have been sold within three months of publication.

This anthology appears to have been published with title The Book of Christmas Verse on the cover (Fig.8a), but with A Book of Christmas Verse on the title–page, where it is subtitled “Collected from Longfellow, E.B. Browning, Scott, Milton, Herrick, Burns &c by C.C.H.” (Fig.8b). Whether this was reprinted in subsequent Christmases I do not know, as the above is the only press–notice of it that has come to light to date.

Next comes the “Little Parchment Library”, which seems to have run to three titles for each of which MPW designed the front and back covers, the same designs being used to decorate the end–papers. The three titles, all of which first appeared in 1907–1908, were as follows:

Charles Lamb, Old China

This was one of The Last Essays of Elia, first published in 1833. (Elia was the pen–name used by Lamb when the essays were first published in the London Magazine in the 1820s.) It opens with, “I have an almost feminine partiality for old china”, but is not actually about old china as such. Rather it is a discussion with his cousin Bridget on the relative merits of being able to buy such things as old china when they were not so well off (“a triumph”) with doing the same now they are comfortably off, and a similar purchase is more of a routine than a triumph: were they happier then or now ? MPW’s cover design, which presumably shows cousin Bridget handling a piece of old china, extends from the front cover, across the spine, and over onto the back cover, as shown in Fig.9a. Her signature can be found just below the right hand edge of the shelf on the front cover. As already mentioned, the design is also used across the end–papers of the book (Fig.9b). Incidentally, my copy of Old China bears an ownership inscription dated August 1945, a clear indication, if one were needed, that dated inscriptions are not necessarily a good guide to the date of publication!

Roberts Burns, The Cotter’s Saturday Night.

By way of explanation, a Cotter is – or was – a farm labourer who was granted a cottage in which to live, his rent being paid out of his labours. Saturday was the day he finished work, and with the prospect of a day off on the Sabbath, it was a joyous family occasion. MPW’s cover design shows the cotter returning home to his wife and children on Saturday, the design again extending from the front cover, across the spine, to the back cover (Fig.10a) – her signature is at the bottom right of the front cover. (Again, these designs are also used in the endpapers of the book.) The title–page and the frontispiece by Arthur Rackham are shown in Fig.10b – Rackham and his wife lived for some time in Hampstead, which is presumably the connection with James Hewetson & Son. An advertisement at the back of my copy of Cotter’s is shown here as Fig.10c. It lists the first three titles in the “Little Parchment Library”, as mentioned above, but note the Dream of Gerontius “Third Thousand” and “Fifth Thousand” at the top. If it is true that over 8000 copies had been sold by Christmas 1907, this seemingly dates all three titles to the same year, the sales for each being noted, though there is a problem with this, as we shall see presently. Note also the listing of Thoreau’s Walking and the Wild, mentioned above.

Alfred Turner, Songs of the Sunset.

Alfred Turner was journalist by profession, but a poet, dramatist and essayist by inclination. His early journalistic career was in Yorkshire, where he was born, but for about ten years he was an acting editor of the London Evening News, during which period he presumably met James Hewetson, though Songs of the Sunset was actually written whilst he was still working in Yorkshire. He died in Scalby, near Scarborough, in December 1922, aged only 49. He was well enough known in journalistic circles for short obituaries of him to appear in several newspapers, but a more detailed one, with a small picture of the man himself, appeared in The Yorkshire Evening Post on 14 December 1922 (p.6, col.2), from which the foregoing details are taken.

The date of first publication of Songs of the Sunset seems to be established as 1907 by Fig.10c, but either a reprint appeared in 1908 or the above–quoted figure of over 8000 sales for Gerontius by Christmas 1907 is incorrect, for reviews of it seem only to appear in 1908. One favourable review appeared in The Yorkshire Post on 9 September 1908 (p.4, col.4.) Describing it as “a dainty little volume of poems”, the reviewer drew some comparisons with Omar Khayyam in noting, for example, that “the subtly beautiful verses, ‘Love Endureth,’ read almost like an expansion of one of the Persian poet’s quatrains.” Another review appeared in “the Lady’s Newspaper” The Queen on 12 September 1908 (p.48, col.3.) This review says that the contents are “much above the average of contemporary verse.”

Fig.11a shows the front cover of Songs of the Sunset, and Fig.11b the back cover, between them forming a neat rustic sunset (MPW’s signature is at the lower right of the front cover.) The two covers join up over the spine, as with Old China and Cotter’s, but this particular copy was too fragile to scan or photograph flattened out. The title–page is shown in Fig.11c, and as can be seen this was Songs of the Sunset: First Series. However, I can find no trace of a second series ever having been published.

More Poetry: The Domes of Silence

At around this time (c.1910, though dates are uncertain), the firm of James Hewetson & Son sprouted a parallel publisher, The Domes of Silence Ltd, of Hopetoun House, 5 Lloyd’s Avenue, London E.C., the two firms publishing in tandem a series of little booklets offering a selection of poems from the works of various poets. The parallel series included the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Adelaide Anne Procter, and, of course, Omar Khayyam. We know from a contemporary newspaper advert (Fig.12a) that the Domes of Silence series was on the market in time for Christmas 1910, billed as “a Xmas greeting that will give lasting pleasure.” This, of course, recalls the Hewetsons’ Book of Christmas Verse, mentioned above, which was “intended to supersede the ephemeral Christmas card.”

Thus, for example, Fig.13a shows the brown suede cover, Fig.13b the “cottage” endpapers (bearing the signature “ERN HILL” = Ernest Frederick Hill (1873–1960)), Fig.13c the title–page, and Fig.13d the contents page of the Tennyson volume published by James Hewetson & Son. The cover is 9.5cm wide by 13.0cm high. For comparison, Fig.14a shows the burgundy leather cover, Fig.14b the “Venetian” end–papers (extracted from Turner’s view of The Dogano (1842)), Fig.14c the title–page, and Fig.14d the contents page of the Domes of Silence volume. In addition, Fig.14e shows a listing of “The Poets Series” at the back, announcing “other volumes in preparation” – there is no such listing at the back of the Hewetson volume. The cover of The Domes copy is 8.5 cm wide by 12.5cm high, so slightly smaller than the Hewetson copy. Note that in both the poems included have been selected by “Cecil Charles” (without the Hewetson, for some reason) and that page by page the two copies use exactly the same poems on exactly the same pages, the only differences being that: the pages are unnumbered in the Hewetson edition (despite the numbering given in Fig.13d), whereas they are numbered in The Domes edition; the decorative surround in Figs.13c & 13d, which is used throughout the Hewetson edition to surround each page of verses, has been dropped in The Domes edition; and brown ink is used throughout the Hewetson edition, whereas a traditional black ink has been used in The Domes edition. Curiously, facing the final page of verse in The Domes edition we find “Printed by J. Hewetson and Son, Hampstead.” And finally, the two copies pictured here are from my own collection, and both bear inscriptions dated to 1911, indicating that both were on the market at pretty much the same time – in other words, this is not a case of one publisher taking on a discontinued title of another, but a case of publishing in tandem, with one publisher actually printing for the other! We shall return to the strange tale behind what is going on here presently, but first let us look at the parallel editions of Omar.

Fig.15a shows the violet suede front cover of the Hewetson edition, the same size and style as Fig,13a, and with “cottage” end–papers as in Fig.13b. The frontispiece and title–page are shown in Fig.15b, and as can be seen the former is a reduced version of that in Fig.6a, but in brown ink rather than green, and the latter is a revised title–page in the style of Fig.13c. (No other volume in the Hewetson Poets series is illustrated.) Note, too, that it contains a Biographical Note by Cecil Charles, which is effectively the Foreword by C.C.H. in the earlier edition of 1907. In fact, this is effectively a reduced size and re–jigged reprint of the 1907 edition, still with the full text of FitzGerald’s first edition, but with five illustrations in brown ink, as opposed to eight illustrations in green ink. (The full page illustrations depicted in Figs.6c, 6d & 6e(left) are the ones omitted.) This edition is a variant on Potter #38. These images are taken from my own copy, but copies are known with covers in green suede (Paas 10; Coumans) and brown leather (Paas 12), for example, and in different coloured ink and in slightly different sizes, indicating that various reprints were made. At the moment, however, it is quite impossible to put dates to the sequencing beyond saying that the series began in c.1910.

Fig.16a shows the burgundy leather front cover of the Domes of Silence edition, the same size and style as Fig,14a, and with “Venetian” end–papers as in Fig.14b. The title–page is shown in Fig.16b. There is no frontispiece, and only the three in–text illustrations plus the finis are used (ie those in Figs.6b, 6e (right), 6f & 6g), these, like the text, being in plain black ink (Paas 13). Another copy is the same size but has a brown leather cover (Paas 14), and another has a very dark olive green leather cover, but is slightly larger (8.5cm wide by 12.9cm tall) (Paas 15). This is Potter #82.

[The illustrations can be browsed here.]

Now, though Domes of Silence bill themselves as a publisher in the newspaper advertisement in Fig.12a and in the series listing in Fig.14e, they seem not to have published anything else, and a search of Jisc Library Hub Discover (formerly COPAC) reveals that no major library in the UK has anything published by them, including The Poets Series. So who were they ? The next section is devoted to the key motivator, whose story is rather strange, to say the least.

Enter Henry Mathew Alleyn

Towards the end of 1909 Alleyn invented and marketed a dome–shaped castor with sharp points which enabled it to be hammered into the wooden legs or base of a piece of furniture. Once in place, even the heaviest pieces of furniture could then be glided around easily and smoothly, thus prolonging the life of carpets, and, equally importantly, without making an awful noise when moved over linoleum or wooden floor boards. (Schools naturally expressed an interest in them!) These “invisible castors” as they were also known, were thus, quite literally, Domes of Silence. They were sold through numerous outlets like hardware shops and furniture stores, and Fig.12b is an advertisement for them dating from June 1910 (the arcs top and bottom are made up of the castors themselves), billing them as so simple to install that even a child could do it. This advert is also, as can be seen, is a “special offer” run by the London Evening News to promote advertising in it, a phenomenon not unfamiliar to us today!

Sales were brisk and in June 1910 Alleyn, along with co–directors at that time, Robert E. Miller and Walter T. Sawyer, sought to expand by inviting shareholders to invest in their business, with promises of a healthy return (Fig.12c.) It is not totally clear whether this became a scam or whether Alleyn & Co. simply overspent on advertising and mismanaged funds by using them to set up at least one other company making similar promises of healthy returns for shareholders (this was Plants Plantoids Ltd, of which more presently), but the shareholders of Domes of Silence got little or no return on their investments. At a shareholders’ meeting, one distraught investor asked if they were ever likely to receive any dividends, to which Alleyn replied that at the moment it was quite impossible to say! (This was reported in John Bull on 27 December1913 (p.28, col.1), under the heading “Domes of (Great) Silence”.) As a financial writer in John Bull had earlier put it on 16 August 1913, “The Domes of Silence, so far as dividends are concerned, have become silent.” (p.38 col.2)

Fig.12d is a 1912 advert for Plant Plantoids Ltd, a company that manufactured a miracle growth tablet for plants. Who invented the tablet is not clear, but it may have been Alleyn himself as he had been a tea–planter in Ceylon in 1901, where he invented a device for grading and sifting tea, and in 1911 he was a director of the British and Continental Tea Plantations Trust Ltd, not to mention a director of Doranakande Rubber Estates Ltd. As to whether the tablet did what the advert claimed, I have no idea, though I do know that in 1912 someone swallowed two of the tablets (there is always somebody somewhere) and that it sent him to sleep for fully eight hours. The company denied any responsibility, as the tablets contained “nothing ... injurious to the health of an ordinary human being,” and besides they were not for human consumption. Incidentally, the disclaimer, published in The Pall Mall Gazette on 28 September 1912 (p.4, col.4), was signed pp the company by W.S. Sawyer who sounds suspiciously like one of the directors of The Domes of Silence, as mentioned above, and came from – you’ve guessed it – Hopetoun House, 5 Lloyd’s Avenue, London E.C. – the same address of The Domes of Silence Publisher. But getting back to the expansion of the Plantoids company, another prospectus was issued, shareholders were again forthcoming (the image of a lemming springs to mind), but alas, as with Domes of Silence, the dividends weren’t. Plantoids went bankrupt in 1914.

All this, of course, is a far cry from publishing, and begs the question: were they really a publisher at all, or were The Poets Series booklets simply printed for them by Hewetson to add a dash of literary respectability to the company, and, of course, to make a bit of cash in the run up to Christmas ?

Incidentally, though Alleyn’s Domes of Silence company was a financial disaster, his invention lived on: you can buy Domes of Silence glides today on Amazon, looking much as they did in the advert shown in Fig.12b. As for Alleyn himself, he went bankrupt in 1923 after some injudicious investments – a case of financial karma, some might say. He died in 1942, aged 69.

James Hewetson & Son (continued)

At about the same time as, but presumably slightly later than, the foregoing poets series, James Hewetson & Son also published, in hardback, Poems: Omar Khayyam, Dante Rossetti, Tennyson, which was basically a republication of three of their poets series booklets bound together in one volume. Its front cover is shown in Fig.17a and its frontispiece & title–page in Fig.17b (cf. Fig.15b.). Incidentally, this volume is not listed in Potter.

Also in c.1910, the Hewetsons published Poems by Robert and Elizabeth Browning – Including Sonnets from the Portuguese. It had a Foreword by Cecil Charles and a front cover designed by MPW – her signature is at the lower left (Fig.18a.) The title–page is shown in Fig.18b.

Still with poetry, but this time biographical, James Hewetson & Son published, again in about 1910, Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works. Its frontispiece and title–page are shown in Fig.19a, and as can be seen, the text was written by Cecil Charles and the frontispiece done by MPW (probably from a well–known photo taken in 1895, published in The Pacific Monthly in 1907, and currently on Wikipedia – Fig.19b.) Touchingly, CCH dedicated the book to his wife.

It would appear that MPW did little or no illustration work after 1910, the year of her marriage, so perhaps this marks the point at which housewifely duties took over from art, with, remember, the birth of her son in 1912. Certainly there seems to have been no input from her in what follows, though it is possible that some covers were designed by her but unsigned.

It was in 1912 that the firm published Baby O’Mine: an Anthologie and Record for Mothers, compiled by Cecil Charles, which presumably was not unconnected with the birth MPW’s and CCH’s son. Its front cover is shown in Fig.20a, its frontispiece in Fig.20b and its violet–ink title–page in Fig.20c. (One inevitably wonders if the frontispiece in any way depicts MPW and her son, or whether it is just one of a myriad of mother & child pictures. Unfortunately, I do not know.) This was followed in 1913 by Hélène Gingold’s Songs of a Woman, whose cover is shown in Fig.21a and whose title–page is shown in Fig.21b. (Its frontispiece was a photograph of the author.) Its date of publication is known from contemporary book notices in, for example, The Evening News (London), 20 March 1913 (p.3, col.4.) This was followed in 1914 by Lorma Leigh’s The White Gate and Other Poems, whose cover is shown in Fig.22a, and title–page in Fig.22b. (There is no frontispiece.) The date of publication is confirmed by a contemporary review in The Surrey Advertiser for 9 February 1914 (p.4, col.2) which described it as “a dainty volume of dainty verses instinct with the spirit of the countryside in its manifold aspects at dawn, noon, eve and night.” The Hewetsons’ support for women writers may well be connected with an advert in the weekly newspaper Votes for Women for 13 June 1913 (p.8, col.2), which I reproduce here as Fig.1d.

As noted earlier, James Hewetson died in 1913, after which the firm appears to have fizzled out, or at least, to have published very little new material. The last publication I have been able to trace is Dorothy Field’s book Old Men and Children, still published under the imprint of James Hewetson & Son, no later than 1919 (this from a gift inscription by the author, in one surviving copy, dated to Easter of that year.) Certainly CCH left the publishing business in about 1920, for according to The Westminster Gazette for 14 October 1920 (p.4, col.2), J. Hewetson and Son, of 11 and 12 High Street, Hampstead, were selling seats for a mass meeting in support of the League of Nations, but the membership register of the Harlesden Freemasons’ Lodge for 1921 lists his profession as a Clerk, and as we saw earlier, in the 1939 Register he was listed as a retired librarian. Unfortunately no further details of his post–publishing career are available at present.

MPW and Commercial Art: a Postcript.

In December 1900 MPW was awarded the first prize, worth 5 guineas, in a competition to design “a Poster for a Meat Extract or similar food.” The award was announced in the December 1900 issue of The Poster: an Illustrated Monthly Chronicle (vol.5, p.159), the organisers of the competition. MPW’s poster was illustrated on p.161 of the same issue, and is given here as Fig.23a. It advertised Tropon, a nutritional supplement made from egg–whites, invented in Germany in about 1897, but widely advertised in British newspapers in 1900, after which promotion of it seems to have died out. One of several newspaper advertisements for it is shown in Fig.23b, though I have found no evidence that MPW’s design was ever actually used in practice.

In November 1901 she earned an honourable mention in a competition which was part of a “Scheme for the Encouragement of Art in Advertising.” This was announced in the November 1901 issue of The Studio (vol.24, p.144), the organisers of the competition. Her design was titled “Chewed Cheek”, though quite what it was advertising (presumably food of some sort) is not clear, and being only an honourable mention rather than a prize–winner, there was no illustration of it. Somewhat curiously she seems to have submitted the same design in an earlier competition organised by the same journal, for “Chewed Cheek” earned an honourable mention as a “Design for a Panel in Enamel” in the February 1901 issue (vol.22, p.61). Again, though, it was unillustrated.

She also joined a number of artists and designers in “The Poster Academy.” This took shape in July 1900 at the initiative of John Hassall, Cecil Alden, Robert Sauber, Tom Browne and W.S. Rogers, with secretary Austin Fryers who will be known to many readers of this essay as William Edward Clery, the man who was almost certainly “de C”, author of A Rubaiyat of the Trenches, published in 1917. Modelled on the Royal Academy, with its own hanging committee and competitive awards, its aim was to raise the standard of art in advertising (which had previously been generally poor) and to promote the acceptance of quality poster art as “proper art.” Their first annual exhibition was held in conjunction with that of the International Advertisers’ Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in March 1901. There was a 12–page exhibition catalogue devoted to “The Poster Academy” and from this we learn that MPW had four entries: “Nestlé’s Milk” (#218), “Fancy Dress Carnival” (#219), “Calendar” (#220) and “Food (?)” (#221). Unfortunately, none of these was illustrated, and the only reference to her contributions that I am aware of comes from a review of the exhibition in The Art Record (6 April 1901, p.99) which read:

It is a pity the works of Marie P. Webb are hung so high. There is a distinct individuality about the work; the drawing is strong, and general treatment original. No.219 is particularly clever.

Alas, the journal did not feature a picture of this “clever” work, or of any other works of hers in the exhibition.

Unfortunately this first exhibition of “The Poster Academy” was also the last, and the Academy seems to have just fizzled out. As to whether MPW managed to make a career out of designing advertising posters, I have not found any evidence that she did.


I must thank Roger Paas and Jos Coumans for supplying scans of, and information about, copies of the MPW Rubaiyats in their respective collections; Joe Howard for alerting me to some useful background information about MPW, and for his very useful comments on my interpretations of some of MPW’s Rubaiyat illustrations; and Sandra Mason & Bill Martin, and (again) Roger Paas, for proof–reading the article and making a number of useful suggestions as a result.


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