Hilary Knight’s Illustrations for The Owl and the Pussy-cat

Sixteen finished double-page watercolors for Hilary Knight’s The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983), based on Edward Lear, watercolor, tempura, ink and color pencil, each 315 x 500 mm.
WITH: six preliminary pencil sketches of characters and double-page spreads; color photograph of Mr. Knight’s cat Skeezix, in front of the found photograph of a little girl who suggested Polly in the picture book; and inventory of the art.

Hilary Knight’s fantasia based on Edward Lear’s great nonsense ballad is among the artist’s most extraordinary achievements. Two children, Polly and Otto, visit Professor Comfort who transforms them into the famous Edward Lear characters and sends them off on a marvelous adventure. He is assisted by his pet monkey Arabella (originally a little girl in a fez as shown in one preliminary pencil sketch). The song the Owl sings was set to music by musical composer Douglas Colby on pp 18-19. The illustration of the Piggy-wig with the ring on the end of his nose on pp 24-25 is a puzzle page with references to all sorts of rings (key ring, earring, curtain ring, smoke ring, napkin ring, onion ring, boxing ring, spy ring, Wagner’s “The Ring” on the Victrola, bath tub ring, telephone ring, etc). The book was reissued with new endpapers, the front ones with a special foldout with Colby’s music.


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Edward Lear, El Koorneh (1854)

Edward Lear, El Koorneh, Egypt.
Titled and dated ’19.Feby, 1854′ lower left and with annotations pencil, pen and brown ink and wash on off-white paper 12 x 42.50cm (5 x 17in).

Spink & Son Ltd., 5, 6, 7 King Street, St James’s, SW1.

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, holds another version of the present composition.

The Saleroom.

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Pussycat Pussycat

“Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?”
“I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen.”
“Pussycat pussycat, what did you there?”
“I frightened a little mouse under her chair”

First published in London during 1805 in the book Songs for the Nursery. Here.

Liza Blake, at The Collation. Research and Exploration at the Folger, summarises John Ogilby’s translation of Aesop’s fable “Of the Youngman and the Cat:”

One upon a time, there was a guy who really liked his cat—really liked her. So much so, that he prays to Venus, the goddess of love, to transform her from a cat into a woman he could marry. Venus grants his prayer, the couple marries, and as they are in their marriage bed Venus decides to test whether her transformation was complete. She sends a mouse running across the room, and the woman leaps out of bed, chasing it; Venus, upset that the woman transformed in body but not mind, changes her back into a cat.

Here is the illustration:

And here is a caricature of 1821 from the Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions at the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University:

A kitchen scene [with a satire based on the fable of the “catspaw”]. A monkey with Wood’s head squats beside a plump cat with the head in profile of Queen Caroline. She sits gazing at the fire with an eagerly expectant smile. He puts his left hand on her shoulder and takes her right paw which is supported on his knee, looking fixedly at her with greedy expectation. Between the bars of the grate are four chestnuts like large potatoes. These are inscribed respectively: ‘Privileges’, ‘Rights’, ‘Liturgy’, ‘St Catherines’. Beside the grate and attached to a chain is a ‘Kettle of Fish’. Behind the cat is a big trap with steel teeth inscribed ’50 000 per Annum’. Behind it is a dresser, neatly arranged above a cupboard inscribed ‘Lately from St Omers’ [see British Museum Satires no. 13730]. On the dresser are a teapot and butterdish, each with a bust portrait of Bergami, and two cups, inscribed ‘BB’. There are also pans inscribed ‘Hash’ and ‘Stew’, a ‘Tinder’ box and bottle of ‘Brim-Stone’. On the chimneypiece, with other utensils, is a box of ‘Matches’.”–British Museum online catalogue.

  • PrintmakerLane, Theodore, 1800-1828, printmaker.
  • TitleThe man of the woods & the cat-o’-mountain [graphic].
  • PublicationLondon : Pubd. by G. Humphrey, 27 St. James’s St., March 27, 1821.
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Edward Lear Visits the Baths of Titus

Edward Lear, ‘Baths of Titus’. Pencil, pen and ink. Inscribed and dated, Feb. 4 (18)40. 3.5×5 inches.

These should be the Roman Baths of Titus. Lear mentions what I think are different Baths of Titus near Civita Ducale, which he visited on 24 September 1844, in Volume 1 of Illustrated Excursions in Italy.

From Wikipedia:

One of the features of the baths was mural designs by the artist Famulus (or Fabullus), both al fresco and al stucco. Before the designs fell into disrepair from exposure to the elements, Nicholas Ponce copied and reproduced them as engravings in his volume “Description des bains de Titus” (Paris, 1786). The designs are now recognized as a source of the style known as “grotesque” (meaning “like a small cave, a hollow, a grotto”) because the ruins of the Baths of Titus were in a hollow in the ground when they were discovered

Ponce’s book, with the images the guide is clearly pointing to is available here.

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Edward Lear, Italian Hill-Top Town

Edward Lear, Landscape of an Italian hill-top town.
Ca. 1838, unsigned. Pen and black ink, gouache, over pencil, on blue wove paper, 104 x 160 mm. (4″ x 6.25″), inscribed verso “117/ upright/Top,” corners trimmed by the artist, the sheet tipped at edges into paper support.

Previously sold at Sotheby’s London, The British Sale, March 21, 2001, lot 247, along with one other item by Lear (also in this sale, see previous post.)

Lear left England in 1837 and travelled extensively. The present was likely executed while visiting Rome.

Addison & Sarova.

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Edwarad Lear, Italian Lady

Edward Lear, Portrait of a lady in traditional Italian dress, seated with lake beyond [recto]; Head study and inscription in pencil [verso].
Watercolor over pencil. Dated Jan. 17th, 1838, unsigned. 227 x 140 mm. (8.75″ x 5.5″), inscribed verso “14/ upright/ Lower/ left.” Corners trimmed by the artist, the sheet tipped at edges into paper support, matted.

Previously sold at Sotheby’s London, The British Sale, March 21, 2001, lot 247.

Lear left England in 1837 and travelled extensively. The present was likely executed while visiting Rome.

Addison & Sarova.

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There was an Old Man of Whitehaven…

There was an Old Man of Whitehaven,
Who danced a quadrille with a raven;
But they said, ‘It’s absurd
To encourage this bird!’
So they smashed that Old Man of Whitehaven.

From the Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions blog at the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University:

PrintmakerLane, Theodore, 1800-1828.
TitleMoments of pleasure [graphic].
Publication[London] : Pubd. by G. Humphrey, 27 St. James’s St., 1820 [ca. November]

British Museum online collection:

Seated on a sofa, the Queen, wearing a large feathered hat, receives the news of the dropping of the Bill; beside her is a paper: ‘Bill of Pains Thrown out’. Alderman Wood, in a furred gown more elegant than civic, capers before her, holding up his arms, snapping his fingers, and grinning with delight. The Queen looks up at him, with a gesture of surprised satisfaction; she is caricatured, but better characterized than in other prints, resembling the description given by Creevey of her appearance at the trial on 17 Aug. She sits facing a long scroll on which names of places presenting Addresses are inscribed (see No. 13934, &c.): ‘London’ (in large letters), ‘Westminster’, ‘So[uthwark]’. On the wall behind her is a (flattering) bust portrait of Bergami, wearing his decorations (see No. 13810). In the doorway (left) are the leading members of a body of proletarian addressers; the foremost, with the curved shin-bones known as ‘cheesecutters’ which resulted from rickets, holds a paper: ‘Address to the Queen’; they are received by a thin, sour-looking lady, evidently Lady Anne Hamilton. They have two banners: ‘Queer Fellows’ and ‘St Gi[les]’, but among them is the profile of Hobhouse, the radical M.P. for Westminster. Over the wide doorway is a picture or relief of two little puppets on a string: the King and Queen performing antics while the string is pulled by a fiddler and another man, watched by two bystanders. The room (in Brandenburgh House) is ornately furnished; a heavy curtain is draped round a pillar.
c. November 1820
Hand-coloured etching

British Museum online collection:

A companion plate to No. 13989 by the same artist, and with the same imprint. A Chinese interior resembling that of No. 13986. George IV as a mandarin, languid and ill, sits cross-legged on a low settee. Peacock’s feathers (cf. No. 13299) decorate his round hat. Sidmouth as a Chinese doctor feels his pulse with concern. At the King’s feet is a long rolled document headed ‘List of Addresses presented to Caroline Queen of [Engla]nd’. Behind (right), a melancholy Chinese messenger hands Bloomfield (a Chinese wearing a large sword) a paper: ‘Bill Thrown Out’. The latter registers dismay with raised arms. There is a slanting cloud of smoke as in No. 13986. On the wall is a picture of the Queen, with sword and shield, fighting a dragon. Carved dragons decorate the King’s settee (or throne), and there is a big dragon jar on the right; all the dragons look menacingly towards the King, who rests his right hand on a table on which are decanter, pill-box, &c.
c. November 1820
Hand-coloured etching

There was an Old Man of Cape Horn,
Who wished he had never been born;
So he sat on a chair,
Till he died of despair,
That dolorous Man of Cape Horn.


There was an Old Person of Prague,
Who was suddenly seized with the Plague;
But they gave his some butter,
Which caused him to mutter,
And cured that Old Person of Prague.

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