TENNYSON, Hallam, 2nd Baron TENNYSON and Randolph CALDECOTT (artist). Jack and the Bean-Stalk. English Hexameters. London and New York: R. & R. Clark for Macmillan and Co, 1886. 

Quarto (209 x 163mm), pp. 70, [2 (imprint, verso blank)]. Wood-engraved publisher’s and printer’s devices, and 37 illustrations in the text after Caldecott, some full-page. (Occasional light spots or marks.) Original pictorial green cloth, upper board lettered in blue and with design after Caldecott, lower board with publisher’s device in blue, spine lettered in blue, all edges stained blue. (Some light marks, extremities a little rubbed and bumped, spine slightly darkened and leant, short crack on lower hinge.) Provenance: Rudolph Benjamin Seebohm (1879-1926, pencilled presentation inscription on upper pastedown ‘Rudolph B. Seebohm from Hugh’ and 19th-century booklabel on upper pastedown). 

First edition. Hallam Tennyson (1852-1928) was the eldest son of the poet Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), and was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge. After graduating, Hallam Tennyson ‘was closely involved in all his father’s literary affairs, acting as secretary, confidant, occasional amanuensis, and warden of the poet’s privacy’ (ODNB), and also published some of his own writings. Jack and the Bean-Stalk, Hallam Tennyson’s re-working of the classic children’s tale in hexameters, was to be illustrated by Randolph Caldecott, one of the best-known British book-illustrators of the 1870s and 1880s, whose work was admired by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and influenced numerous British book-illustrators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Beatrix Potter, Arthur Rackham, and E.H. Shepherd. While he was working on his illustrations for Jack and the Bean-Stalk, however, Caldecott had travelled to the United States with his wife, and the arduous transatlantic crossing took its toll on the artist’s poor health, leading to his death at St Augustine, Florida, on 12 February 1886. With the agreement of Caldecott’s widow, the surviving illustrations that he had created were used to illustrate Jack and the Bean-Stalk, and ‘while many of the pencil drawings are in unfinished form, they remain excellent examples of Caldecott’s exceptional talent’ (Desmarais, p. 110). 

Jack and the Bean-Stalk was published in November 1886, and was well received by critics and readers, with one critic writing that ‘Hallam Tennyson’s hexameters are very good, and his whole recast of Jack the Giant-Killer is a charming one, though its readers will hardly be as apt to think that Jack was in serious danger, as the readers of the old nursery-tale were. There is, indeed, a laugh running through it. The Giantess, “with fat cheeks, peony-bulbous”, is a comic figure, rather than the alarmed, pitiful giantess of our childhood. The story is graphically told, and with a humorous directness. Mr Caldecott’s illustrations, though never completed, are full of fun, – the best of all, perhaps, being those of the animals with which Jack stocks his farm. The pig is most fascinating and the goats full of abandon’ (The Spectator, no. 3052 (week ending 25 December 1886), p. 1758). This first edition was followed by two further printings in December 1886.

Desmarais, Randolph Caldecott: His Books and Illustrations for Young Readers, 26; Engen, Randolph Caldecott: ‘Lord of the Nursery’, p. 98; Foster, A Bibliographical Catalogue of Macmillan and Co’s Publications from 1843 to 1889, p. 505; Mahony, Latimer, and Folmsbee, Illustrators of Children’s Books 1744-1945, p. 397; Marcus, Randolph Caldecott: The Man who Could not Stop Drawing, p. 62; Osborne, p. 665; Reilly, Late Victorian Poetry 1880-1899: An Annotated Bibliography, p. 66.


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