The Crime Of Sylvestre Bonnard

Unfortunately my copy of the title work of fiction is not one of the Bodley Head collection of the works of Anatole France, illustrated by Frank C. Papé. It is, however, an early Folio Society volume of 1948, complete with dust jacket.

This charming little tale, first published in 1891, was the author’s first novel. In his usual flowing, poetic, prose he gives us a story of relationships spanning generations. With a delightful delicacy he describes the beauty of human emotions, not omitting scoundrels. As usual, I will not reveal the details. The work has always been in print for anyone who wishes to read it.

Lafcadio Hearn’s translation has been used by permission of The Bodley Head. The translator has provided a useful introduction.

Book illustration, by 1948, had moved on from the Golden Age of elegant draftsmanship exemplified by Mr Papé. The more impressionistic lithographs of Harold Hope-Read are quite a contrast to the careful lines of the earlier illustrator.

Once the reader peers through the murk of the artist’s well balanced designs and deciphers the suggested expressions of the people in the images it is possible to recognise his fidelity to the charming text.

This evening we dined on Lidl ready-made curries. Mine was chicken jalfrezi; Jackie’s was chicken korma. These acceptable meals were followed by Belgian buns.

A History Of The World

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Today I finished enjoying another Bodley Head publication of the collaboration between author Anatole France and illustrator Frank C. Papé. The book was first published in 1908, which has significance for one example of the writer’s prescience. Focussed on France as Penguinia this is a satyrical history of Western Europe in general, with a pop at the United States. As usual, I will not spoil the story with details, save to say that anyone with some knowledge of world history, philosophy, politics, or religion will get the gist of this acute analysis of human nature, society, morals, and customs. The writing from M. France is as flowing as ever, and the final Book VIII chilling in its foresight.

A.W. Evans has provided an excellent translation.

Mr. Papé’s illustrations are as skilled as ever. Do not miss any detail of the exquisite, often humorous, main plates,

or this selection of the black and white tailpieces.

Late this afternoon, Jackie drove the two of us around the forest where

as usual, ponies and donkeys occupied the green at South Gorley. Although this village is now barely a hamlet, the large, now residential, building forming a backdrop for the pony scenes was once a school. The fifth picture contains a familiar view of a pony, legs in the air, scratching its back on the grass.

Around the corner, pigs at pannage snuffled up fallen acorns. One, oblivious of the approaching car, leisurely trotted across the road.

This evening we dined on Mr Pink’s fish and chips and Garner’s pickled onions. Jackie and I drank Wairau Cove Sauvignon Blanc 2017, while Elizabeth finished the Brouilly.

 

La Reine Pédauque

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Jackie has come to an agreement with Jessica at rusty duck to attempt to preserve this year’s echinaceas by cutting them down whilst in bloom. Our Head Gardener dealt with hers this afternoon. Not wishing to waste the flowers she placed them in a vase.

This afternoon, Danni and her friend, Heather, popped in for a visit, and we all enjoyed a conversation with tea and water on the patio.

Later, I finished reading ‘At The Sign of The Reine Pédauque by Anatole France. My Bodley Head edition, translated by Mrs Wilfrid Jackson, illustrated by Frank C. Papé, and with an insightful introduction by William J Locke.

This historical novel, set at the beginning of the 18th century, has all the humanity and humour that one expects from the Nobel Prizewinner who published it in 1893. Without divulging any of the story, I can say that it tells of a young man’s education in book learning and in life from a man of God very much a man of the World with very human desires; contrasting with this teacher is a philosophising alchemist; there are intrigues and disappointments with women, and a certain amount of wine drinking. The prose flows with simple elegance; the descriptions are often poetic; the characterisation is excellent. The tale is well crafted and completed to perfection. I found I needed to tolerate the early pages with their references to ancient and classical authors. The translator added explanatory footnotes for those of a more classical bent. After that the story romped along.

The illustrator’s skilled, elegant, humorous, decorations would enhance any book. As always, these repay close scrutiny.

Regular readers will know that I have been struggling with my teenage scanner lately. It has done me proud for a dozen or so years. The replacement is an updated versions of the same model, and made much easier my task of scanning

the gilded front board which would support my assessment that ‘Pédauque’ is an old French word for with goose feet; the end papers; the main plates;

and a sample of the tail pieces and other vignettes. The text on these latter images gives a flavour of the translated prose.

This evening the three of dined at The Royal Oak. Elizabeth enjoyed her roast chicken; Jackie, her macaroni cheese, and I, my battered haddock, chips and peas. Elizabeth’s dessert was chocolate and grand marnier torte; Jackie’s, cheesecake; and mine, Eton mess. Elizabeth and I shared a good bottle of Chilean Merlot 2017. Jackie drank Amstell. Service wS FRIENDLY and efficient; food excellent.

The Gods Are Athirst

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Often underestimated is the influence of a translator on the literary quality of a written work of art. It seems to me that the translation of the Englishman, Richard Allinson, must have been significant in producing the version of Anatole France’s ‘The Gods Are Athirst’ in such simple, poetic prose as is presented in The Bodley Head’s first illustrated edition of 1927 which I finished reading today.

The author, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1921, has produced a masterly novel set during the reign of terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution. We have a perfectly crafted tale of love, fear, poverty, mistrust, political intrigue, mismanagement, breakdown of law, and ultimate tragedy with what I think is historical accuracy. Sensitive characterisation, poetic imagery, and a keen sense of the dramatic are evident in this work. I particularly like the skilled descriptions of environment, place, and weather, all of which set the scene and have symbolic significance. Above all, this is any easy book to read. As usual, I will not give details of the story.

Having earlier embraced the flowing line exemplified by Aubrey Beardsley in his book illustrations, by the time he came to produce the illustrations for this volume, John Austen, an excellent and prolific artist, had become influenced by Art Deco, a style, although popular, which I dislike for its geometric angularity. Nevertheless I can but admire

the colour plates

and the black and white vignettes that decorate this publication.

I had trouble presenting these pages directly from the scanner, so Elizabeth photographed them while I held them down then loaded the results into the computer, taking care to crop out my fingertips.

This evening the three of us tried Rokali’s, a comparatively new Indian restaurant in Ashley. It was a good one. The food was very good, as was the friendly, efficient, service. I chose Bengali prawn; Jackie, chicken shaslik; and Elizabeth, chicken tikka bhuna. We shared special and sag rices, a plain paratha, and onion and cauliflower bahjis, and all drank Kingfisher.

 

Something About Eve

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Although enhanced by the skilled, insightful, sometimes scurrilous, illustrations of Frank C. Papé, ‘Something About Eve – A comedy of Fig Leaves’ is not my favourite work of James Branch Cabell. I finished reading it yesterday evening.

I found it rather heavy going. The crossword setter in me was amused by the anagrams of the lands visited by our main protagonist in his journey from naive youth to mature age. These are Caer Omn (Romance), through Dersam (Dreams) and Lytreia (work it out for yourself) to Mispec Moor, where Compromise snags his search for the promised land. Eve comes in many forms, tempting and not so delightful. Gerald Musgrave tries them all in his sometimes thwarted efforts at copulation.

Finally, the book had not engaged me.

As usual the illustrations in this Bodley Head edition consist of tipped in plates, headers, end pieces, and vignettes among the text.

 

The golden engravings on the cover and the end-papers some up the essences of the tale.

I have chosen to present the frontispiece as it stands behind the protective tissue that covers each of these plates, the last of which shows our rake as a young man encountering his older self.

Here are one header and an end piece.

This morning Elizabeth drove us over to Mum’s, where we spent much of the day gardening. Jackie pruned needy shrubs, weeded rampant beds, and cleared the lawn edges, which, with a spade, I relined; Elizabeth cut the grass and tidied more edges.

After this, we repaired to The Wallhampton Arms where we partook of their excellent carvery. Jackie drank Amsrell, Elizabeth, Peroni and I, Flacks bitter.

‘Soul-Contenting Pictures’

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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.

 

The Age Of Chivalry

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Raindrops on window

Today began with leaden skies and raindrops on windows.

Garden through rainy window

Even owls, dripped on from branches above,  peered enviously inside.

Late this afternoon, when the rain had desisted somewhat, we took a car load of rubbish, that we had ourselves recycled once or twice already, to Efford Recycling Centre; and returned with two mirrors for the garden, a bar stool, and a Chinese rug.

Back in the early 1970s, I discovered the English book illustrator Frank C. Papé, and,  through him, the American writer, James Branch Cabell, in the illustrated editions produced by The Bodley Head in the early 20th century. I have already featured ‘The Cream of the Jest’, and today, as I finished reading ‘Domnei: a Comedy of Woman-Worship’, offer more information on the collaborators.

On the author, Wikipedia tells us:

‘James Branch Cabell (/ˈkæbəl/; April 14, 1879  – May 5, 1958) was an American author of fantasy fiction and belles lettres. Cabell was well regarded by his contemporaries, including H. L. MenckenEdmund Wilson, and Sinclair Lewis. His works were considered escapist and fit well in the culture of the 1920s, when they were most popular. For Cabell, veracity was “the one unpardonable sin, not merely against art, but against human welfare.”[1][2]

Although escapist, Cabell’s works are ironic and satirical. H. L. Mencken disputed Cabell’s claim to romanticism and characterized him as “really the most acidulous of all the anti-romantics. His gaudy heroes … chase dragons precisely as stockbrockers play golf.” Cabell saw art as an escape from life, but once the artist creates his ideal world, he finds that it is made up of the same elements that make the real one.’

There is much more information on his life and works on this link [1]’

Maybe I’m too gullible, but I found this work an enthralling fantasy of an imagined love story from the age of chivalry. There are a number of cynical characters, and we are invited to believe it is based on fragments of a Medieval manuscript. Obviously the source is spurious, and it is perhaps significant that the only uncut pages are the last two of the alleged bibliography. Nevertheless the romantic in me was enjoyably engaged with this readable story, details of which I will not reveal. The language is of the writer’s time, yet following the form of a 14th century geste. The descriptions of the natural world are beautifully done.

The artist is perfectly in tune with the writer, Clicking on the numbered highlight in the following paragraph will take you to the fuller Wikipedia page about him.

‘Frank Cheyne Papé, who generally signed himself Frank C. Papé (b. Camberwell, July 4, 1878 – d. Bedford, May 5, 1972) was an English artist and book illustrator. He studied at The Slade School of Fine Art, completing his studies circa 1902-04.[1] Papé was married to a fellow Slade student, illustrator Alice Stringer.’

Papé’s distinctive style ensured his popularity in the golden age of book illustration. He has a mastery of line and form.

Domnei, first published in 1913, underwent several revisions before the first illustrated edition of 1930, of which my copy is one.

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Of the ten plates protected by tissue sheets, we begin with the frontispiece;

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thereafter I have chosen samples of chiaroscuro elegance;

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of drollery;

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and of excellent composition, with an ability to indicate the effect of passing time on a still beautiful woman. We can well believe this is the lady in the second picture above.

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Each of the thirty short chapters is introduced

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by a framed picture illustrating its first page.

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These are minutely faithful to the text.

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I cannot elaborate on this without giving too much away.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s supreme lamb jalfrezi, savoury rice, and vegetable samosas. I finished the malbec.