W. J. Blyton author and artist and farmer and journalist!


Men and Shires map by Blyton; Page 1 by Sheppard

Having spent a lot of time reading William Joseph Blyton’s two books ilustrated by Raymond Sheppard, and writing blog articles on them, I also wanted to show the author’s artwork. Some of it is quite well executed but others are perhaps rushed. You be the judge.

The Tablet ( 6th March 1937, Page 16 ) also reviewed the book (see other reviews in my Sheppard article)

The literary map at the beginning of Mr. Blyton’s book is a good foretaste of what is to come. Scott, Shakespeare, Chaucer and Hardy have England and the Lowlands divided between them in broad spheres of influence, as it might be Northumbria, Wessex and Mercia. Other names appear in groups—Wordsworth, De Quincey and Ruskin clustering among the Lakes, Priestley and the Brontës sharing the wastes of the industrial provinces, and so on down to the crowded South. One does not expect to find Swinburne so far up the lonely North-East coast, and what is Marvell doing on the Humber ? Mrs. Gaskell and Cmdmon sing an odd duet. Altogether it is a fascinating map, and will keep the reader from the text for many minutes.

” I am in love with this green earth, ” wrote Lamb, and Mr. Blyton has caught and fixed this mood in poets and prose-writers the land over. He has turned out just the book for a lazy spring or summer day, when the senses are sharpened for country sights and sounds, and a favourite stretch of hillside or coast is all the better for having touched the heart of Keats or Coleridge. Mr. Blyton himself knows how to use language (though rather too fond of the caviare, as in his iterations of “sapid”), and can sum up a period of literature neatly : “Poetry, it seems, was to turn pedagogue ; the wild horses of the sun to become Dobbin in the shafts of instruction. Gay’s `Rural Sports’ had not this systematic or homiletic air, just previously, any more than the humorous rogue Allan Ramsay’s ‘ Gentle Shepherd,’ which had a bright unreal Petit Trianon accent. To fire fact with imagination, genius was needed, the genius which Wordsworth said made poetry `the trans-figured countenance of science.’ This was withheld. Talent only was given. But what provocative and curious failures or half-successes talent producet: nevertheless ! ” There is little that Mr. Blyton misses (though Johnson in the Hebrides and Jane Austen in Bath are surely not to be disregarded in such company) and he gives us much that may be unfamiliar. John Clare, for instance, could write such lines as these : “And Crossberry Way and old Round Oak’s narrow lane With its hollow trees like pulpits I shall never see again.

Enclosure like a Buonaparte let not a thing remain.

It levelled every bush and tree and levelled every hill And hung the moles for traitors, though the brook is running still It runs a naked stream and scold.”

That excellent poet, Lord Gorell, has written the lines which sum up Mr. Blyton’s purpose : “My footsteps fall on English earth In sound of English sea, And, new as though unfelt before, Its glory falls on I will not praise her more than this—She everywhere has known Whole centuries of quiet love As deep as is my own.”

The English language is as flexible as the English countryside, and both have here been explored by a patient and loving friend.

There are many satisfactory woodcuts, one or two tiresome errors in quotation. English Cavalcade fails entirely to give the quality of the book ; here is no pageantry, or high top note of patriotism. Why not have taken the title from the device on the intriguing map : Men and Shires?

I have emboldened the only reference to the illustrations. Did the reviewer mean Sheppard, Blyton or both?

The Rolling Year was solely illustrated by Sheppard; English Cavalcade was illustrated both by Sheppard and the author himself. Follow the links to read a biography and also reviews of the books on publication in 1936 and 1937 respectively.

The dual illustrations are strange, particularly as Blyton’s are not framed in the way Sheppard’s are. Sheppard, of course had co-illustrated The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. But we know why that happened. For English Cavalcade we can only guess.



Raymond Sheppard on p154 and Blyton on p.155





Margaret Tarrant and The Littlest One


Recently I bought a book for my wife but have no idea where now! Still I wanted to share the details in case anyone was interested.

We have both loved Cecily Mary Barker  since we were kids (no we didn’t know each other at that time!) but when we first got married we had posters on our walls and later bought two Margaret Tarrant pictures! I always thought of her artwork as ‘insubstantial’ yet cute. But the two we bought still inspire me when I look at them. They are both at the top of this post and the reproduction does not do them justice.

Anyway enough of my memories.

The Littlest One was written by Marion St John Webb and you can read more about the authoress on the wonderful March House Books website. I found I had bought the third one in the series “The Littlest One Again” first published in 1923, so I’d bought a very cheap first edition! But it was the pictures which grabbed me. Here they are.







Norman Thelwell

My wife and I visited Hampshire recently in order to see the Norman Thelwell exhibition (16 January to 10 April 2016, 11am – 5pm)at the National Trust property, Mottisfont House. I was really pleased to see that the captions, which were excellent, stated that all the artwork on display was “On loan from the Thelwell Family Archive”. I hope they won’t mind me sharing these crude photographs all taken by me, and thus including reflections!

It was wonderful to walk round a few rooms and find older people than me laughing out loud. The cartoons still work so well and as one caption stated:

“In some ways Thelwell was out of step with conventions for cartoons in post-war Britain – these were often political and urban in outlook and acerbic in tone. […] Thelwell’s approach was completely different. His style was always naturalistic  and he included a great deal of descriptive detail. […] Although he said that politics bored him, Thelwell did produce cartoons that used humour to protest against environmental issues.”


The following are borrowed from the Mottisfont website (All Thelwell material is © The Estate of Norman Thelwell, and the official website has great stuff that I have no need to reproduce here!):



Romsey Abbey

Romsey Abbey by Norman Thelwell


Daily Mirror 24 May 1961 found under the carpet!

We’ve had the plasterer in our house for a few weeks and wish we’d moved out. If we had we wouldn’t have seen this issue of the Daily Mirror which was found under our dining room carpet (or more accurately the underlay!). Please forgive the poor nature of the photos, taken with my phone. The colour of the paper is pretty accurate here! The paper was very grimy and I was sad that we didn’t have a full copy of  the Perishers strip in this find!

Wednesday 24 May 1961




Andy Capp in Daily Mirror 1961 May 24



Sooty in Daily Mirror 1961 May 24


Franklin cartoon re RAB Butler and Franco


Keeping up with the Joneses – John Burns art? in Daily Mirror 1961 May 24



Buck Ryan, The Larks, Garth, The Flutters and the Perishers and ? in Daily Mirror 1961 May 24








Ron Embleton in The Crackerjack Western Book published by The Children’s Press

I found these on the web recently and thought them worth posting. I believe the given date of 1959 as the British Library’s copy (if the same book) states [1960], but these things are hard to date. They are by Ron Embleton, an artist I saw a lot when growing up in the late fifties, sixties and seventies. His work appeared in many of the comics of my youth such as ‘Stingray’ in TV21, and many illustrations of historical subjects in Look & Learn. Even my Mother and Father-in-Law had one of his “Victorian sellers” pictures, or was is “Victorian children’s games”? You can buy lots of his original artwork from the nice people at Illustration Art Gallery.

The Crackerjack Western Book [1959] (The Children's Press)_IMG_0001

Roger Hall’s cover to the 1959(?) Crackerjack Western Book

"Express Delivery" illustrated by Ron Embleton

“Express Delivery” illustrated by Ron Embleton, p130


Ron Embleton p.132

Ron Embleton p.128

Ron Embleton p.134

Ron Embleton p.130

Ron Embleton p.136

Ron Embleton p.131

Ron Embleton p.137

Ron Embleton p.140

Ron Embleton p.140

Ron Embleton p.142

Ron Embleton p.142

Ron Embleton p.143

Ron Embleton p.143