"The Mermaid of Legend and of Art" (The Art Journal, 1880)
Jewitt writes in his introduction:
"But few fabulous or mythological objects have entered so largely into Art, as well as into legend and poetry, as that of the 'enchanting syren' 'with dulcet and harmonious breath' -- the Mermaid (the mere-maiden, or maiden of the sea) -- and I have thought, therefore, that a few pages might profitably, as well as pleasantly, be devoted to a consideration of some of the main features under which the strange being has, at one time other, been presented to the eye by the painter, sculptor, or worker in metals."Mermaids remain a popular figure in folklore today. I find it interesting that, of all of the titles in Ruth Manning-Sanders' "A Book of..." series, the hardest to find and most expensive one is "A Book of Mermaids."2
Here are some mermaid illustrations, and their descriptions, from Jewitt's 1880 series:
"Of its prevalence as an heraldic bearing it will perhaps be sufficient to say that, in some scores of instances in our own British armory, the mermaid occurs either as a distinct bearing on the shield, or as an adjunct in form of crest or supporter. ... [In Fig. 11], two mermaidmens appear as supporters to the arms of Bishop Berkeley, in Bristol Cathedral, where it occurs, exquisitely carved, on one of the stalls."
"A singular example of the mermaid as a bell ornament occurs in Fig. 34, which is carefully copied from one of the church bells of Appleby, in Derbyshire. She is represented with comb in her left, and mirror in her right hand. Doubtless the introduction of this device on bells had, like that of the fylfot cross, a superstitious origin, and was believed to be, like it, efficacious in the lulling of storms and averting of danger from lightning and tempest."
"Figures of the mermaid also occur in some of the early printed books, both in quaint old cuts and in those that are 'adorned with copper plates.' many of these are strange in their form, and occasionally hideous in their features and accompaniments. Figs. 35, 36 and 37 [Note: Figure 37 is not shown on this blog.] represent three extraordinary monsters, which will serve to show the extent of wildness to which the imagination of the old engravers sometimes carried them."Jewitt further states that the "Bishop"3 is said to have been caught in the British Channel in 1531, and the "Monk" is said to have been captured in Norway.
These two illustrations come from the book "Monsters of the Deep," according to Jewitt. He's likely referring to 1875's "The Monsters of the Deep: And Curiosities of Ocean Life. A Book of Anecdotes, Traditions, and Legends," by Armand Landrin and W.H.D. Adams, which is available from Google as a free eBook.
"It would be interesting, did space permit, to quote at length some of the remarkable, and, in many instances, droll accounts that have from time to time been printed of the sight or capture of these fabulous creatures, but I am compelled to refrain from so doing, and must content myself by saying that ever and again mermaids have been exhibited and 'made much of' both in England and in other countries, and indeed may yet be seen preserved in some museums. The one give in Fig. 38 was exhibited in the Leyden Museum4, and Fig. 39 was shown in the early part of the present century in London. Like Barnum's late imposition, this monstrosity 'was a hideous combination of a dried monkey's head and body, and the tail of a fish.'"Footnotes
1. In "The Art-Journal, 1850-1880: Antiquarians, the Medieval Revival, and The Reception of Pre-Raphaelitism," Brown University professor George P. Landow writes that Jewitt was the most important essayist in The Art Journal's history:
"In the 1870's Jewitt helped write a series on the ancient homes and castles of England, and he himself wrote a series on 'The Museums of England, with Special Reference to Objects of Art and Antiquity,' which appeared at irregular intervals after 1871."According to Landow, Jewitt also wrote: "Art Under the Seats," an illustrated series on medieval carving and grotesqueries in choir stalls.
2. For example, on the day I wrote this post, there were six used copies available on Amazon.com, but the cheapest copy sells for $99.95! Why do people love it so? I'll let someone else answer: The 2008 post "Mermaid Influences" on the Black Mermaid Productions blog raves about the Ruth Manning-Sanders/Robin Jacques effort.
3. The Bishop is a dead ringer for Guiron, one of Gamera's enemies. Interestingly, I am not the first person to note this similarity. Chris Barrus of the Quartz City blog made the comparison in 2008.
4. The Leyden Museum is, I believe, now called the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities.
|Born||(1886-08-21)21 August 1886|
|Died||12 October 1988(1988-10-12) (aged 102)|
Ruth Manning-Sanders (21 August 1886 – 12 October 1988) was a prolific Welsh-born English poet and author, well known for her series of children's books in which she collected and related fairy tales from all over the world. All told, she published more than 90 books during her lifetime.
Ruth Vernon Manning was the youngest of three daughters of John Manning, an English Unitarianminister. She was born in Swansea, Wales, but, when she was three, her family moved to Cheshire, England. As a child, she had a great interest in reading books on many topics. She and her two sisters wrote and acted in their own plays. She described her childhood as "extraordinarily happy ... with kind and understanding parents and any amount of freedom."
According to an autobiographical story she tells in the foreword to Scottish Folk Tales, she spent her summers in a farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands named "Shian", which according to Manning-Sanders means the place where fairies live; there old Granny Stewart loved to tell stories and Manning-Sanders loved to listen to them.
Manning-Sanders studied English literature and Shakespearean studies at Manchester University. She married English artist George Sanders in 1911 (they changed their names to Manning-Sanders) and spent much of her early married life touring Britain with a horse-drawn caravan and working in the circus, a topic she wrote about extensively. Eventually, the family moved into a cottage in the fishing hamlet of Land's End, Cornwall. She and her husband had two children together, one of whom, Joan Floyd (17 May 1913, to 9 May 2002), found some fame as a teenage artist in the 1920s, while under her maiden name of Joan Manning-Sanders.
After the Second World War and the accidental death of her husband in 1953, Manning-Sanders published dozens of fairy-tale anthologies, mostly during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the foreword to her 1971 fairy-tale anthology, A Choice of Magic, Manning-Sanders writes:
There can be no new fairy tales. They are records of the time when the world was very young; and never, in these latter days, can they, or anything like them, be told again. Should you try to invent a new fairy tale you will not succeed: the tale rings false, the magic is spurious. For the true world of magic is ringed round with high, high walls that cannot be broken down. There is but one little door in the high walls which surround that world – the little door of "once upon a time and never again." And so it must suffice that we can enter through that little door into the fairy world and take our choice of all its magic.
In the forewords to some fairy-tale compilations, Manning-Sanders discusses the origins of the tales she is retelling. The stories in A Book of Dragons hail from Greece, China, Japan, Macedonia, Ireland, Romania and Germany, among other places. Manning-Sanders goes out of her way to state that "not all dragons want to gobble up princesses." She thus includes tales of kind and proud dragons, along with the savage ones.
Some insight into how Manning-Sanders believes fairy tales should usually end can be gleaned from a passage in her foreword to A Book of Witches:
Now in all these stories, as in fairy tales about witches in general, you may be sure of one thing: however terrible the witches may seem – and whatever power they may have to lay spells on people and to work mischief – they are always defeated. ... Because it is the absolute and very comforting rule of the fairy tale that the good and brave shall be rewarded, and that bad people shall come to a bad end.
Along those same lines, Manning-Sanders notes in the foreword to A Book of Princes and Princesses:
And so you will find, as you read these stories, that they all have one thing in common. Though they come from many different countries, and were told long, long ago by simple people separated that they may not even have known of each other's existence, yet the stories these people told are all alike in this: they every one have a happy ending.
While many of the tales Manning-Sanders relates in her various fairy-tale anthologies are not commonly known, she also includes stories about some famous literary and cultural characters, such as Baba Yaga, Jack the Giant-Killer, Anansi, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Robin Hood and Aladdin. The dust jacket for A Book of Giants describes her writing style: "Mrs. Manning-Sanders tells the stories with wit and good humor. There is not a word wasted."
Manning Sanders died in 1988 in Penzance, England.
In the February 1989 issue of The Junior Bookshelf, Marcus Crouch wrote, "For many long-lived writers, death is followed by eclipse. I hope that publishers will continue to re-release Manning-Sanders's priceless treasury of folk-tales. We would all be the poorer for their loss."
- Many of her children's fairy-tale titles were illustrated, quite memorably, by Robin Jacques, who was quoted as saying "My preference is for children's books of the more imaginative and fanciful kind, since these leave greater scope for illustrative invention, where I feel most at home. Thus, my work with Ruth Manning-Sanders has proved most satisfying, and the twenty-five books we have done together contain much of the work that I feel personally happiest with."
- Others who illustrated her fairy-tale titles included Victor Ambrus, Scoular Anderson, Eileen Armitage, Raymond Briggs, Donald Chaffin, Brian Froud, Lynette Hemmant, C. Walter Hodges, J. Hodgson, Annette Macarthur-Onslow, Constance Marshall, Kilmeny Niland, William Papas, Trevor Ridley, Jacqueline Rizvi, Leon Shtainmets, William Stobbs, and Astrid Walford.
- For children's literature, Manning-Sanders' American and international publishers included E. P. Dutton, Heinemann, McBride, Laurie, Oxford University Press, Roy, Methuen & Co. Ltd., Hamish Hamilton, Watts and Co. (London), Thomas Nelson, Angus & Robertson and Lippincott.
- She worked for two years with Rosaire's Circus in England. Some of her fiction and non-fiction is inspired by her time with the circus. The novel The Golden Ball: A Novel of the Circus (1954) is said to have some parallels to the life of Leon LaRoche, a famed circus performer who was with Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1895 through 1902.
- She was a poet and novelist, most notably in the years prior to World War II. At least two of her early collections of poetry – Karn and Martha Wish-You-Ill were published by Hogarth Press, the hand-printed publishing house run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf.
- Three of her poems are featured in the 1918 volume "Twelve Poets, a Miscellany of New Verse," which includes 10 poems by Edward Thomas.
- She won the Blindman International Poetry Prize in 1926 for The City.
- She was, for a time, a poetry protegee of the English author Walter de la Mare. De la Mare took at least one holiday to the Manning-Sanders' residence in Cornwall.
- When living in Sennen, Cornwall, Manning-Sanders was, for a time, a neighbour of British writer Mary Butts.
- Her short story, "John Pettigrew's Mirror," was published in "One and All – A Selection of Stories from Cornwall," a 1951 anthology (edited by Denys Val Baker). The story was republished at least once, in the 1988 anthology "Ghost Stories" (edited by Robert Westall).
- Her story, "The Goblins at the Bath House," from A Book of Ghosts and Goblins is read by Vincent Price on an LP titled "The Goblins at the Bath House & The Calamander Chest," which was published by Caedmon in 1978 (TC 1574).
Complete list of "A Book of..." titles
- A Book of Giants, 1962
- A Book of Dwarfs, 1963
- A Book of Dragons, 1964
- A Book of Witches, 1965
- A Book of Wizards, 1966
- A Book of Mermaids, 1967
- A Book of Ghosts and Goblins, 1968
- A Book of Princes and Princesses, 1969
- A Book of Devils and Demons, 1970
- A Book of Charms and Changelings, 1971
- A Book of Ogres and Trolls, 1972
- A Book of Sorcerers and Spells, 1973
- A Book of Magic Animals, 1974
- A Book of Monsters, 1975
- A Book of Enchantments and Curses, 1977
- A Book of Kings and Queens, 1977
- A Book of Marvels and Magic, 1978
- A Book of Spooks and Spectres, 1979
- A Book of Cats and Creatures, 1981
- A Book of Heroes and Heroines, 1982
- A Book of Magic Adventures, 1983
- A Book of Magic Horses, 1984
Other selected titles
- The Pedlar and Other Poems, 1919
- Karn, 1922
- Pages from the History of Zachy Trenoy: Sometime Labourer in the Hundred of Penwith, 1922
- The Twelve Saints, 1926
- Martha Wish-You-Ill, 1922
- The City, 1927
- Waste Corner, 1927
- Selina Pennaluna, 1927
- Hucca's Moor, 1929
- The Crochet Woman, 1930
- The Growing Trees, 1931
- She Was Sofia, 1932
- Run Away, 1934
- Mermaid's Mirror, 1935
- The Girl Who Made an Angel, 1936
- Children by the Sea, 1938 (published in United States as Adventure May Be Anywhere)
- Elephant: The Romance of Laura, 1938
- Luke's Circus, 1939
- Mystery at Penmarth, 1941
- The West of England, 1949 (non-fiction)
- Swan of Denmark: The Story of Hans Christian Andersen, 1949 (non-fiction)
- Seaside England, 1951 (non-fiction)
- The River Dart, 1951 (non-fiction)
- The English Circus, 1952 (non-fiction)
- Mr. Portal's Little Lions, 1952
- The Golden Ball: A Novel of the Circus, 1954
- Melissa, 1957
- Peter and the Piskies: Cornish Folk and Fairy Tales, 1958
- A Bundle of Ballads, 1959
- Circus Boy, 1960
- Red Indian Folk and Fairy Tales, 1960
- Animal Stories, 1961 (non-fiction)
- Birds, Beasts, and Fishes, 1962 (editor, an anthology of natural history poetry)
- The Smugglers, 1962
- The Red King and the Witch: Gypsy Folk and Fairy Tales, 1964
- Damian and the Dragon: Modern Greek Folk-Tales, 1965
- The Crow's Nest, 1965
- Slippery Shiney, 1965
- The Extraordinary Margaret Catchpole, 1966 (fictionalised biography)
- The Magic Squid, 1968
- Stories from the English and Scottish Ballads, 1968
- The Glass Man and the Golden Bird: Hungarian Folk and Fairy Tales, 1968
- Jonnikin and the Flying Basket: French Folk and Fairy Tales, 1969
- The Spaniards Are Coming!, 1969
- Gianni and the Ogre, 1970
- A Book of Magical Beasts, 1970 (editor)
- A Choice of Magic, 1971
- The Three Witch Maidens, 1972
- Festivals, 1973
- Stumpy: A Russian Tale, 1974
- Grandad and the Magic Barrel, 1974
- Old Dog Sirko: A Ukrainian Tale, 1974
- Sir Green Hat and the Wizard, 1974
- Tortoise Tales, 1974
- Ram and Goat, 1974
- Young Gabby Goose, 1975
- Scottish Folk Tales, 1976
- Fox Tales, 1976
- The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: Aesop's Fable Retold, 1977
- Robin Hood and Little John, 1977
- Old Witch Boneyleg, 1978
- The Cock and the Fox, 1978
- Boastful Rabbit, 1978
- Folk and Fairy Tales, 1978
- The Haunted Castle, 1979
- Robin Hood and the Gold Arrow, 1979
- Oh Really, Rabbit!, 1980
- Hedgehog and Puppy Dog, 1982
- Tales of Magic and Mystery, 1985
- A Cauldron of Witches, 1988