Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ex Libris Charles Philip Castle Kains Jackson

A while ago I was doing some work in part of the remains of the collection of the late Donald Weeks and saw there, and photographed, a copy of the bookplate of Charles Philip Castle Kains Jackson. Jackson was a solicitor come art critic and art magazine editor who was firmly in the circle of Gleeson White and, of course, Frederick Rolfe, particularly during the latter's time in Christchurch. Jackson was gay and in a relationship with his younger cousin, Cecil Castle. I find the pair of them fascinating. It is easy enough to pinpoint gay men in history but much much more difficult to find relationships but, through Jackson's writing, Rolfe's letters and sundry other sources, there is enough evidence to attempt a description of their relationship - which I hope to do in print at some point in the future.

So I was delighted when I got a chance to own my own copy of CPCKJ's bookplate (above) It is signed with a monogram in the top right corner by Alan Wright (an A and a W enclosed in an artist's palette). Wright too is an interesting figure. He was born in 1864 and lived to the age of 95 and worked as an illustrator of books and articles for nearly forty years. He was almost a contemporary of Beardsley, Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham, Heath Robinson and that lot, his work was regularly alongside theirs in the periodicals of the day and yet today he is almost unknown.

There are two possible reasons for this I think. First, his long-life. It could be he's a little like Richard le Gallienne, an 1890s figure without the sense of common cause to die before the turn of the century: it may be that he simply isn't counted in the crowd because he outlived them all. Secondly, however, it has been suggested that it might have been his association with Rolfe which was part of his undoing. Wright was the illustrator of 'How I Was Buried Alive' by Rolfe in The Wide World Magazine. However, The Aberdeen Free Press launched an excoriating attack on Rolfe following that story and it has been suggested that it was after this point that Wright's star began to wane, that he was, in some way, tarred with the same brush.

Wright became a very early Corvine, somewhat obsessed by his memories of his occasional encounters with Rolfe during the 1890s, often referring to them in later life. One of the nice things about this bookplate is that it shows perhaps the one artistic thing that Wright took from Rolfe: the method of drawing feet which details the big toe but simply outlines the rest.

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