Original manuscripts and working drafts from a remarkable late-Victorian collaboration between two English women: a nearly-unknown writer of original children's fairy tales and a fanciful illustrator scarcely known outside her small local circle.
Very good overall.
Collection Of Original Manuscript Fairy Tales Including Original Illustrations
"Where there are wooden churches with leather bells<br />and the roofs are thatched with black puddings,<br />And the little pigs, with their legs tied together,<br />Run about, singing—<br />"God save the King."
Collected holograph manuscript notebooks and typescripts by Susan Robinson of Harrogate, Yorkshire: the majority were never published and they span two decades of creative productivity. The collection includes multiple revised drafts of some stories, accompanied by several original ink drawings credited to Sybil G. Petherick, a Suffolk artist and the illustrator of Robinson's one title definitively known to have been published (included here). Also included is a quantity of Robinson's sentimental and narrative verse, balanced by the exceedingly dry and self-aware "Tale of a would-be-Poet": "I never could be a Poet," remarks the narrator in an aside, "for only men can be that, women are ALWAYS Poetesses."
Robinson's tales adapt traditional motifs of transformation and kindness rewarded, but they also offer frequent intrusions of semi-realistic contemporary detail (a destitute father who seeks work in the mines, a blameless girl abducted for showing kindness to the wrong stranger) and dashes of wit and originality (a city of singing pigs, roofs thatched with black puddings, and a malevolent witch who changes a girl to a cat and her lover to a rabbit). These last details all hail from "The Witch of Itty Ditty," one of Robinson's most engaging and original works, which is represented here in three distinct draft stages. Drawing from a wide array of mythologies, the author ably pivots from town to deep forest, water-sprites to frost-fairies, classical allusions and talking Beasts to captive Princes and sister-rescuing sisters. With her fine disregard for consistency of source material, Robinson's methods call to mind those of C.S. Lewis, who in later years would infuriate Tolkien and delight children with fewer philological hang-ups and more tolerance for syncretism.
Several of Robinson's stories are dedicated to "the little cousins"; the notebooks – many of which are decorated with "found" illustrations from postcard and magazine – suggest a real relationship and not just a literary device. Much of the notebooks' charm thus derives from intimate, colloquial narration and the finely tuned specificity of the audience. Though composed in the long Victorian twilight and participating in that era's robust fairy tale tradition, Robinson's work is simpler for the most part than the subversive Victoriana collected by Nina Auerbach and Jack Zipes – that is to say, with less sense of a shadow adult audience always hovering near. At her best, Robinson approaches the deep strangeness, if not the professional polish, of her great contemporary Lucy Lane Clifford.
This collection includes several typescripts and fair copies with word count, title page, and address attached, corrected from the notebook versions and seemingly prepared for submission to an editor or publisher, as well as original illustrations by Petherick to accompany them. Wood's checklist for Stead's First Series (1896-1920) of Books for the Bairns makes no mention of further output by either Robinson or Petherick; however, the series titles number in the hundreds and include many anonymous retellings — some of which bear noteworthy resemblance to tales in this collection. Certainly, too, it was not unheard of for publishers to farm out popular retellings to a pool of anonymous female freelancers. These manuscripts offer multiple opportunities for textual comparisons, with a potential for authorial identification not previously possible for many ephemeral works of children's literature.
Read more: Wood-Lamont, W.T. Stead's Books for the Bairns; Auerbach, Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers; Zipes, Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves; Lewis, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children."
[London]: n.p.; [Stead's Publishing Company], [1885-1911]. 32 items in total, including: 4 original black and white illustrations on heavy cardstock (12.75'' x 9.75'), with marginal story title and page number notations in pencil, each signed S.G. Petherick. Handwritten paper labels mounted to versos, addressed in pen to Robinson. Condition ranges from near fine to very good, with some dampstaining and foxing to two pieces. THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF BARNEY BOO-ROO AND JOHNNY JOLLY-BOY, published by Stead's Publishing House. Author's copy. Side-stapled binding, lacking original wrappers. Initial advertisement page detached and heavily chipped, with Robinson's name and partial address in ink. Illustrated throughout by Petherick in black and white with some color plates. Pages toned and somewhat brittle, with considerable marginal chipping. 27 original manuscripts, of which 9 are written in small (7'' x 4.5'' approx.) commercial bound notebooks and include mounted illustrations, both original (some by Petherick) and repurposed postcard and magazine imagery. The remaining 18 manuscripts are revisions and fair copies on brad-bound loose sheets; most include Robinson's name, address, and word count on an initial title page. Minor to moderate edgewear, toning, and occasional foxing to all. A full list of titles is available on request.
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