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.