‘Soul-Contenting Pictures’


Today’s title comes from James Branch Cabell’s preface to ‘The Silver Stallion, a Comedy of Redemption’, another of the splendid collaborations between the author and his illustrator, Frank C, Papé. This is the first illustrated edition of 1928 published by The Bodley Head.

The work is a splendidly rumbustious picaresque fantasy by a master of his field. This really is an impossibly nonsensical, yet un-put-downable escapade, rendered readable by Cabell’s flowing, poetic prose, full of lovely descriptions, perfectly positioned alliteration, barely concealed wit, and lascivious innuendo – all cleverly reflected in the elegant lines of his elegantly imaginative illustrator. Many of the author’s sentences are lengthy, yet gently undulate for the eyes to scan with no hesitation.

The numerous black and white illustrations consist of introductory pages to each of the ten books in the volume; tipped in plates; and line drawings at the end of each chapter. I have scanned twelve, almost at random.

The detail pays careful attention. How many riders are depicted here? The little boy stands protected among the frightening creatures concealed in the shadows. Can you spot the gaping-mouthed beast fashioned from the rock?

This little end-piece has sweat on the father’s forehead, a button bursting off his trousers, a hole in the boy’s onesie , and a missing shoe. The end of the chapter is repeated in the caption to the first illustration.

Note the protruding toes in this one. The artist portrays fingers and toes with such free-flowing accuracy.

Study the faces here, especially those in the peaks of the waves.

The artist’s take on the writer’s subtle lascivious humour is demonstrated by the young lady’s almost falling out of her sedan chair at the sight of what is suggested by the strategically placed leaf on the man’s shadow.

The paragraph above this end-piece suggests what is depicted in the dark clouds.

Papé’s mastery of line is represented in the two halves of this introduction to Book Five. Facial expressions indicate sanctity and devilry;

similarly the fluidity of his line is apparent in this drawing which captures the angry frustration of a father unable to control his impudently recalcitrant son.

Cross-hatching is used to good effect to provide a dark framework for this fearsome frolic. Look where the winged creature is aiming its sting.

The beauty of this liquid line may cause one to miss the dog’s sad, tearful, face.

The illustrator’s ability to pack immense detail into his frame. You may find much more, but I will draw attention to the wife’s taking on the disturbers of her sleep with fire irons and a broom.

The three faces in this end piece bringing up the rear tell a splendid story. In the form of the building overlooking the arch, Chad puts in an appearance.

Late this afternoon, Jacqueline brought Mum over for dinner. A pleasant evening ensued. Jackie produced vegetable soup; cottage pie with cabbage, carrots, and runner beans; and bread and butter pudding with cream or evaporated milk, according to taste. Jackie drank Hoegaarden, Mum’s choice was orange juice, Jacqueline’s, Ciro Bianco 2017, and Elizabeth’s and mine, Lellei Pinot Noir 2015.



  1. Do love the graphics and illustrations … the content seems bizarrely set in the past of headmasters and authoritarian figures.
    So good to know that as we age we can let it go. ?

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the intricate detail of these amazing drawings Derrick, I’ll not have much time for other posts tonight. !!

  3. Haven’t had a bread & butter pudding for yonks; think I’ll have to try making one, .That book doesn’t appeal to me at all, makes my blood run cold just looking at those illustrations.I’ll stick to the pudding tyvm 😀

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