Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Raymond Sheppard and Mark Twain

Cover to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huck and Jim canoeing watch two rabbits on the bank.
The spine shows 2 men standing over a tied-up Huck
I loved the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain since I first read them as a teenager. Later, in those heady days when we didn't have children, my wife and I would read to each other - we didn't want a television at first - and yes, we even did the voices whilst reading Huck Finn.  Gems are to be found in these books:

"The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them"

I still laugh at that! And how about this:

"Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving."
Twain had a really wry sense of humour and was a very keen observer of people. Take the preface he wrote:

PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR, Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

Even in his day, he knew some would delve deeply and try to extract a motive in the story, but he was insistent that there was none! And much literature has been written since bypassing this precept! Yes, it is racist, anti-femininst, dated, but boy, it still reads brilliantly!

Raymond Sheppard must have had a really enjoyable time reading (maybe re-reading) the two books and decided what was best to illustrate. It may be that he was told what to picture, we don't know.  Dating these editions is a real chore. Blackie re-issued them several times with and without Sheppard's illustrations. I own two editions:

  • Twain, Mark n.d. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Blackie's Library of Famous Books (?)), Glasgow: Blackie & Son Limited
  • Twain, Mark n.d. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (The Stanhope Library) Glasgow: Blackie & Son Limited
Anyway, enjoy these great book illustrations

Frontispiece: The King tripped and fell overboard
2 men fighting with wooden swords,
one falls in the water off the raft  while
Huck and Jim watch. The raft has a wooden shelter

Decoration of Huck on the board cover

Frontispiece: The King and the Duke practice together
2 men on raft with Jim and Huck in background

p.41: I slid out of the jacket as quick as lightning
Wild scruffy man, kicking over a chair, tries to knife Huck Finn
who escapes his grip

p.111: I read considerable to Jim about Kings and Dukes and Earls
Jim in his straw hat listens to Huck,
who lies back against tree reading aloud with his hat and 
4 books beside him

p.395: We dodged into the bush and let them go by
The two boys and Jim lying in grass
watch as 7 men run by into woods

I always considered The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to be The Hobbit to the Huckleberry Finn's Lord of the Rings Not many people realise that Twain wrote more of Tom's adventures. The American publication dates were:

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  • Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
  • Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896)
I have read all of these, but I have to confess that the first two still shine above all others, although it's good fun to enjoy Tom's presence once more.

Cover to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Huck and Tom are digging

Tom Sawyer

Frontispiece: The climbing fire lit up their faces
The three boys sit around a camp fire

p.3: The half-breed saw his chance
2 boys watch from between 2 trees
1 man knocking down another man while another
lies by gravestone

p.18: Tom gave up the brush
Tom gives paint broom to another boy
so he can paint the fence

p. 149: A weird flash turned night into day
3 boys in shock, move around tree
with creepers hanging

p.263: They came flocking down by hundreds
Tom helps Becky down through the cave
whilst avoiding bats flying about

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