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Tributes to Randolph Caldecott after his death in 1886

"Ceremony of removing a piece of sculpture from the British Museum" (drawing, black chalk).  
Shows two workmen carrying a litter, in which a small marble fragment lies on a cushion, watched over by 
an official (Sir C T Newton, KCB), who walks beside down a corridor of mocking statues.  
Bought by the British Museum in 1886.
  1. Sir Frederick (later Lord) Leighton, President of The Royal Academy, addressing The Academy on 1st May 1886:
    "Such, I think, was an artist whose name I am compelled to pronounce tonight ... withal an artist whose works are in every English hand, and are cherished in every English home; whose sweet and dainty grace has not been in its kind surpassed; whose humour was as quaint as it was inexhaustible, and his mirth bubbling and contagious; a pure and wholesome artist in whom each of us has lost a friend; for who amongst us gentlemen is not in some degree poorer by the death of Randolph Caldecott?"
  2. Joseph Grego, writing in "The Magazine of Art", presumably 1886:
    "So extended was the appreciation of his sunny and genial abilities, his humorous fancy, and the specially popular qualities of his art, that the sudden and premature extinction of such varied gifts of grace and gay pleasantry has inflicted a personal loss on countless numbers of kindly admirers, spread all over the world, whom his pencil had made his friends."
  3. His fellow-illustrator and friend George du Maurier:
    "... a true illustrator if ever there was one. That is, an enhancer of the charm and humour of his text, whose art seems of the slightest - a very few strokes were enough for him to work wonders with.  It is magic.  Grace, charm, beauty, humour, character, pathos, - all were his: and he was as skilled in landscape and in animals as in humorous figure, and good alike at grave or gay.  There is also his immortal series of picture books, equally beloved by old and young and middle-aged, by babies even - a gallery that never palls."
  4. Austin Dobson, in the Dedication included in the one-volume posthumous reprint of all the Picture Books, published in 1887 (writing about the illustrations in the Picture Books): 
    "No taint clings to them of morbid affectation or sickly sentiment; they are genuine utterances of a manly, happy nature, delighting in beauty, delighting in innocent pleasure, and dowered as few English artists have been, with gifts of refinement and grace."
  5. Unsigned tribute published in The Times Literary Supplement on the Centenary of his and Kate Greenaway's births, 23 March 1946 (she was born just 6 days before Caldecott, on 17th March.):
    "Caldecott knew the art of leaving out; that the spare clean line and the light clear colour told just what he meant to say.  How good his line is may be seen in his black and white illustrations for some of Mrs. Ewing's books where he has no colour to charm away any weakness.  To a child it was the sparkle in his skies, the dust and stones on his roads, the red pippiny faces of his farmers, his mooncalf yokels and brave soldiers, the riband-like brightness of his colour, his enchanting detail that made him as companionable as a fine day."
  6. William Clough, writing in "The Manchester Quarterly", No XIX, July 1886, pp 197-210.:
    "If the art, tender and true as it is, be not of the highest,
    yet the artist is expressed in his work as perhaps few others have been.
    Nothing is to be regretted - all of the clearest - an open air, pure life - a clean soul.
    Wholesome as the England he loved so well.
    Manly, tolerant, and patient under suffering.
    None of the friends he made did he let go.
    No envy, malice, or uncharitableness spoiled him;
    no social flattery or fashionable success,
    made him forget those he had known in the early years.

In the midst of hard work, time was found for the writing of an envelope
with a kindly message to some acquaintance,
which kept the flame of affection alive.
His letters were full of the charm of his drawings,
and his conversation was equal to both.
To have his friendship was to be rich. ...

The Hindoos have a proverb which says,
'The words, thoughts and actions of the just are the same.'
This was true of Randolph Caldecott.
His web was all of a piece, and alas! it is woven out."

  1. Tribute by "a member of our staff" published in "The Graphic", 1886.
    "Caldecott's work was known and appreciated all the world over, in fact his reputation spread faster than that of any artist who ever lived.  The quaint humour, so daintily conceived and touched with such delicate and refined feeling, was peculiar to the nature of the man.  How little the public thought, when laughing over his sketches, so brimful of merriment, what manner of man the artist was!

He was tall, very thin, and fair, with clear grey eyes.  There was a transparency in his complexion that denoted extremely delicate health - in all his actions he had a quiet restrained manner.  His smile bore a faint shadow of merriment, and had a sweet but melancholy charm.  Altogether he gave one the idea that he would like to be boisterous with good humour, had he not a concealed gnawing trouble always upon him.  This doubtless was owing to an affection of the heart, supervening on severe rheumatic fever, but the cheeriness of the man, and the quality and quantity of his work done manfully for years under these painful conditions was heroic; and to the anxious enquiries of friends he was always 'quite well', although unable to mount two flights of stairs."


1.  The Artist, March 1886:

                In Memoriam.
            FEBRUARY 12th, 1886.

His soul has reached, indeed, the farthest West
    Behind the sunset, and his kindly brain
    And playful pencil never will again
Surprise us with the pleasant, easy jest
    That knew no taint of spite, but could invest
    Beauty with brighter loveliness, and rain
Pure mirth into our hearts, that shall remain
His grateful debtors till we, too, must rest.

What need is there for requiem, or for show
    Of sables to display our dumb distress?
    Who can desire more mourning, when we know
That the wide eyes of innocence will brim
    With jewelled sorrow; that for loss of him
    The laughter of the children will be less.
                                H. W. OWEN.

Sorrowing woman and child with title pages of his books

Picture published in 
St. Stephen's Review
, 20 Feb 1886

2.  Source unknown.  (The number "22" appeared in the box as shown here):

In Memoriam

"Says Tom to Richard, 'Churchill's dead !'
Says Richard, 'Tom, you lie,
Old Rancour, the report has spread,
But genius cannot die.'" - Cunningham.

3.  The Graphic, 20 Feb 1886:

In Memoriam
Born at Chester, 1846,
Died at St. Augustine, Florida, 12th February, 1886.

ALAS, poor CALDECOT'T!  we hoped in vain
    We should not lose thy presence yet awhile.
Thou hadst no rival in thine own quaint style;
    Vacant thy place may evermore remain.
Thy pencil drew, with loving, faithful care,
    Each phase of human nature in its turn;
So that one looked and laughed, but yet would learn
    To love all men the more for what was there.
Old folks would smile, and seem to see once more
    The men and manners of a day gone by,
Whilst infants o'er thy "Picture Books" would pore
    And feast on Dreamland scenes with wond'ring eye.
No draughtsman drew more tenderly than thou
    Those things that please although we know not how.
Each detail in its place and nought forgot:
    Thy sketches olden times so well display,
That any man might think, who knew thee not,
    That thou hadst lived long since, and not to-day.
Though we have lost thee ere thy work is done,
    We'll not forget thee, RANDOLPH, though at rest,
But scan at times the page we love the best,
    Fancy thy hand is there, and dream thou art not gone.
                                                            H. E. D.

4.  Punch, 1886 (precise date not known):

    Randolph Caldecott

Too early stilled that happy hand
    That limned old English life, love, leisure,
That waked glad laughter through the land,
    And sent our playrooms wild with pleasure.
Too early stilled!  Dumb Fate hath willed
    One of its cruellest of crosses;
For, faith, our hearts are often thrilled
    With lesser griefs at larger losses.

We loved the limner whose gay fun
    Was ever loyal to the Graces;
Who mixed the mirth of Gilpin's run
    With willowy forms and winsome faces:
Who made old nursery lyrics live
    With frolic force rejuvenated,
And yet the sweetest girls could give
    That ever pencil-point created.

From "Bracebridge Hall" to "Banbury Cross"
    His fancy flew with fine facility.
Orchards all apple-bloom and moss,
    Child sport, bucolical senility,
The field full cry, snug fireside ease,
    Horse-fun, dog-joke his pencil covers,
With Aldermen and hawthorn-trees,
    Parsons and squires, and rustic lovers.

Sure never pencil steeped in mirth
    So closely kept to grace and beauty.
The honest charms of mother Earth,
    Of manly love, and simple duty
Blend in his work with boyish health,
    With amorous maiden's meek cajolery,
Child-witchery, and a wondrous wealth
    Of dainty whim and daring drollery.

And all that flow of fun, and all
    That fount of charm found in his fancy,
Are stopped!  Yet will he hold us thrall
    By his fine Art's sweet necromancy,
Children and Seniors, many a year,
    For long 'twill be ere a new-comer
Fireside or nursery holdeth dear
    As him whose life ceased in its Summer.

(All the tributes on this page were lovingly collected by Randolph's sister Sophia into a Scrapbook, which has been passed down the family to her descendants.)


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