I. KATE GREENAWAY
In the world of pictorial recollection there are many territories, the natives of which you may recognise by their characteristics as surely as Ophelia recognises her true-love by his cockle-hat and sandal shoon. There is the land of grave gestures and courteous inclinations, of dignified leave-takings and decorous greetings; where the ladies (like Richardson’s Pamela) don the most charming round-eared caps and frilled negliges; where the gentlemen sport ruffles and bag-wigs and spotless silk stockings, and invariably exhibit shapely calves above their silver shoe-buckles; where you may come in St. James’s Park upon a portly personage with a star, taking an alfresco pinch of snuff after that leisurely style in which a pinch of snuff should be taken, so as not to endanger a lace cravat or a canary-coloured vest; where you may seat yourself on a bench by Rosamond’s Pond in company with a tremulous mask who is evidently expecting the arrival of a “pretty fellow”; or happen suddenly, in a secluded side-walk, upon a damsel in muslin and a dark hat, who is hurriedly scrawling a poulet, not without obvious signs of perturbation. But whatever the denizens of this country are doing, they are always elegant and always graceful, always appropriately grouped against their fitting background of high-ceiled rooms and striped hangings, or among the urns and fish-tanks of their sombre-shrubbed gardens. This is the land of STOTHARD.
In the adjoining country there is a larger sense of colour–a fuller pulse of life. This is the region of delightful dogs and horses and domestic animals of all sorts; of crimson-faced hosts and buxom ale-wives; of the most winsome and black-eyed milkmaids and the most devoted lovers and their lasses; of the most headlong and horn-blowing huntsmen–a land where Madam Blaize forgathers with the impeccable worthy who caused the death of the Mad Dog; where John Gilpin takes the Babes in the Wood en croupe; and the bewitchingest Queen of Hearts coquets the Great Panjandrum himself “with the little round button at top”–a land, in short, of the most kindly and light-hearted fancies, of the freshest and breeziest and healthiest types–which is the land of CALDECOTT.
Finally, there is a third country, a country inhabited almost exclusively by the sweetest little child-figures that have ever been invented, in the quaintest and prettiest costumes, always happy, always gravely playful,–and nearly always playing; always set in the most attractive framework of flower-knots, or blossoming orchards, or red-roofed cottages with dormer windows. Everywhere there are green fields, and daisies, and daffodils, and pearly skies of spring, in which a kite is often flying. No children are quite like the dwellers in this land; they are so gentle, so unaffected in their affectation, so easily pleased, so trustful and so confiding. And this is GREENAWAY-land.
It is sixty years since Thomas Stothard died, and only fifteen since Randolph Caldecott closed his too brief career. And now Kate Greenaway, who loved the art of both, and in her own gentle way possessed something of the qualities of each, has herself passed away. It will rest with other pens to record her personal characteristics, and to relate the story of her life. I who write this was privileged to know her a little, and to receive from her frequent presents of her books; but I should shrink from anything approaching a description of the quiet, unpretentious, almost homely little lady, whom it was always a pleasure to meet and to talk with. If I here permit myself to recall one or two incidents of our intercourse, it is solely because they bear either upon her amiable disposition or her art. I remember that once, during a country walk in Sussex, she gave me a long account of her childhood, which I wish I could repeat in detail. But I know that she told me that she had been brought up in just such a neighbourhood of thatched roofs and “grey old gardens” as she depicts in her drawings; and that in some of the houses, it was her particular and unfailing delight to turn over ancient chests and wardrobes filled with the flowered frocks and capes of the Jane Austen period. As is well known, she corresponded frequently with Ruskin, and possessed numbers of his letters. In his latter years, it had been her practice to write to him periodically–I believe she said once a week. He had long ceased, probably from ill-health, to answer her letters; but she continued to write punctually lest he should miss the little budget of chit-chat to which he had grown accustomed. At another time–in a pleasant country-house which contained many examples of her art–and where she was putting the last touches to a delicately tinted child-angel in the margin of a Bible–I ventured to say, “Why do your children always …?” But it is needless to complete the query; the answer alone is important. She looked at me reflectively, and said, after a pause, “Because I see it so.”