Our visual image of Victorian London is largely fixated on its sordidness—cramped streets, dark alleys, desolate slums, overcrowding, and illicit dens. Two people are responsible for creating in our heads such pictures of destitution and filth—one is Charles Dickens, whose works largely revolved around grinding poverty, and the other is French illustrator Gustave Doré. Doré (1832 – 1883) was a prolific engraver, artist, illustrator, and sculptor, who became very popular both in France and England by being an extremely successful illustrator for books and magazine.
He began his career early—at the age of fifteen—working for the French paper Le journal pour rire. Before he was twenty-five, his illustrations had adorned the books of several prominent writers of his time such as Cervantes, Rabelais, Balzac, Milton, Byron, and Dante. His illustrations of Cervantes's Don Quixote left such an indelible impression on the collective imagination of the public that it forever changed how subsequent artists, stage and film directors would represent the various characters in the book in their medium. Doré's illustrations for the English Bible in 1866 was such great success that it earned him a major exhibition of his work in London, eventually leading to the foundation of his very own Dore Gallery.
In 1869, Dore teamed up with journalist Blanchard Jerrold to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. For the next four years, Jerrold and Dore explored the dark underbelly of the largest, most fashionable, and most prosperous city in the world, visiting night refuges, staying in cheap lodging houses and making rounds of the opium den. The duo were often accompanied by plain-clothes policemen. They travelled up and down the river and attended fashionable events at Lambeth Palace, the boat race and the Derby.
Note: Doré produced so much work that I will feature his work in two tranches. This first series features works by Doré from 1847 to 1870. A later series will feature works from 1867 to 1883.
This is part 11 of a 12-part series on the earlier works of Gustave Doré:
1866-67 Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson
published by Henry Altemus, Philadelphia, PA:
|"And high above a piece of turret-stair. |
Worn by the feet that now were silent, wound
Bare to the sun,"
|"And when the pale and bloodless east began |
To quicken to the sun, arose and raised
Her mother too and hand in hand they moved
Down to the meadow where the jousts were held."
|"First thou thyself, thy lady, and thy dwarf, |
Shall ride to Athur's Court and being there,
Crave pardon for that insult done the Queen."
|"and Enid stood aside to await the event |
Not dare to watch the combat, only breathe
Short fits of prayer at every stroke a breath."
|"He, when the fair-hair'd youth came by him, said |
'Friend let her eat: the damsel is so faint'."
|"But at the flash and motion of the man |
They vanished panic-stricken, like a shoal
Of darting fish."
|"Then after all was done that hand could do |
She rested and her desolation came
Upon her and she wept beside the way."
|" This heard Geraint, and grasping at his sword |
Made but a single bound and with a sweep of it
Shore through the swarthy neck and like a ball
The rust-bearded head roll'd on the floor."
|"he turned his face |
And kiss'd her climbing, and she cast her arms
About him, and at once they rode away."
|"and the dead |
Steered by the dumb went upward with the flood
In her right hand the lily, in her left
The letter - for all she did not seem as dead
But fast asleep and lay as tho' she smiled."
|"and from the skull the crown |
Roll'd into light, and turning on its rims
Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn."
|"Till as he traced a faintly shadow'd track, |
That all in loops and links among the dales
Ran to the Castle of Astolat, he saw
Fired from the west far on a hill, the towers."
|"He spoke and ceased the lily maid Elaine |
Won by the mellow voice before she look'd,
Lifted her eyes and read his lineaments."
|"He look'd and more amazed|
Than if seven men had sat upon him, saw
The maiden standing in the dewey light."
|"Then rose Elaine and glided thro' the fields, - so day by day the past |
In either twilight ghost like to and fro Gliding."
|"So those two brethren the chariot took |
And on the black decks laid her in her bed
Set in her hand a lily o'er her hung
The silken case with braided blazonings."
|Thus he read |
And ever is in the reading lords and dames
Wept looking often from his face who read
To hers which lay do silent."
|"And Lancelot answer'd nothing, but he went |
And at the inrunning of a little brook
Sat by the river in a cove and watch'd
The high reed wave."
|"And pushing his black craft among them all |
He lightly scattered theirs, and brought her off
With loss of half his people arrow slain."
|"At Merlin's feet the wily Vivien lay."|
1867 Élaine by Alfred Tennyson:
|...and the dead woman led by him advanced with the tide, the lily in her right hand, the letter in her left hand....|
|The crown, falling, rolled on a lighted point, and, turning on itself, slipped like a brilliant stream into the pond.|
|Until he followed a dimly shaded rut, which, like a chain, went through the valleys to end at the castle of Astolat. There he saw a light to the west which announced its towers on a height in the distance.|
|He spoke and was silent. Lily-skinned young Elaine, won over by the melodious voice she heard before she looked, looked up and read Lancelot's features.|
|He looked, and more astonished that if seven men had attacked him, he saw the young girl standing in the morning light.|
|Elaine then got up, took her course through the fields... Thus, day by day, she came and went like a ghost in one and the other twilight.|
|The two brothers lifted their sister's body from the litter, and placed it on the black deck; she held a lily in her hand, and above her hung the sheath embroidered with coats of arms.|
|He read thus, and always during this reading lords and ladies wept, casting their eyes from the face of the king to that which rested silent.|
|Lancelot answered nothing; but he went out, and at the place where a small brook was lost in the river, he sat down in a cove and looked at the water which meandered.|
1867 Genièvre by Alfred Tennyson:
|And again in the evening, in front of his horse, the fluttering circle of fairies whirled and dispersed.|
|There they kissed and parted in tears.|
|She fled to Almesbury, and stayed on the way a whole night.|
|Please, noble lady, do not cry more: but suffer that my words console you in your sorrows.|
|The Queen then began to think again: Will this child kill me with her gossip.|
| As he crossed the dark forests, he himself saw three joyful spirits rushing by the side of the road on a large flower.|
|Then a naked child was found on the sands of the dark Dundagil, near the Cornish Sea. It was Arthur.|
|They lost their way under thickets that seemed like a flower paradise.|
|He stopped: the Queen dragged herself a little towards him, she put her hands around the feet of her husband.|
1867 Viviane by Alfred Tennyson:
|Front Cover (English Edition)|
|Having pushed his black skiff into the midst of them all, he soon dispersed them: he kidnapped this woman.|
|Clever Vivian lay at Merlin's feet.|
|Before touching the sands of Brittany, they landed.|
|Viviane followed Merlin all the way to the wild forest of Broceliande.|
|It was the time when the question of founding a Round Table arose for the first time.|
|"We rode all day through the mist, battling a strong wind."|
|"Without speaking to him, I leaned towards him, I took his brush, and I erased the bird."|
|"In the end, the king's officers found a little bald man with a shiny head."|
|Merlin, defeated and exasperated by Viviane's speeches, surrendered, revealed all the charm and fell asleep.|
1868 Énide by Alfred Tennyson:
|When the pale east began to come alive in the sun, she stood up. His mother did the same, and, hand in hand, they went downstairs, heading for the meadow.|
|First you yourself, your lady and your dwarf, you will go to the court of Arthur, and, once there, you will ask forgiveness for the insult done to the queen.|
|Aenid stood aside to wait for the event, not daring to follow the fight.|
|From the city, by a path cut in the rock, came a young man with blond hair, who carried in his hand something to eat for the reapers.|
|At the sight of such impetuosity, she disappeared in panic terror.|
|After doing all she could do, she stopped, desolation seized her, and she wept on the side of the road.|
|With a backhand blow he struck the count's swarthy neck; and, like a bullet, the red-bearded head leapt to the floor.|
|He turned and kissed her as he passed; she threw her arms around him, and, without delay any longer, they departed.|