One of the surest tests [of a poet’s superiority or inferiority] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
T. S. Eliot, p. 114 in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1920
Likewise, a good illustrator welds the theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different and sometimes even funnier than that from which it is torn.
And Lewis Carroll may have borrowed from Thomas Gray.
All art is infested by other art.
(Leo Steinberg, in Art about Art, 1979)
2018-02-18, update: 2020-11-01
Bycatch from my Snark hunt:
The, well, ambiguity of that “shadow”is known. Also there were some Freudian assumptions regarding what the salt could stand for. But so far I didn’t find any remarks on the impossibility of having a shadow being covered by white salt which isn’t covered by that shadow. To someone who learned physics that is a quite obvious question.
2017-12-17, update: 2020-04-11
[…] When [The Hunting of the Snark] was published in 1876 it was illustrated by Henry Holiday who, though a very talented artist, failed to capture the surreal nature of Carroll’s poem. The illustrations for this edition however, provided by Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake, are the perfect accompaniment. Peake’s drawings have an uneasy bubbling quality, blending with the silly and macabre feel of the words […]
Nothing against Mervyn Peake’s illustrations, but already this illustration (even without the yellow lines and dots which I added) might contain more elements of “surreal nature” than what you find in Mervyn Peake’s illustrations. I like those playful weeds (or animals?) in the lower left corner of Holiday’s illustration.
That’s not the only thing which that corner has to offer.
Another popular path (not) to understand The Hunting of the Snark has been stated more than three times: Some call Carroll’s poem “nonsense”. It isn’t.
Anyway, I don’t think that Holiday failed to convey to us graphically what Carroll meant. The price for his achievement perhaps was that Holiday’s illustrations are less eye pleasing than illustrations like Peake’s.
Holiday’s illustrations are as grotesque as Carroll’s poem.
2018-02-16, updated: 2020-02-01
[left]: Illustration to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876) by Henry Holiday: The Vanishing (detail from lower left side depicting some weeds which seem to have some fun with each other)
[right]: John Martin: The Bard (ca. 1817, detail from lower left side, retinex filtered and vectorized, then slightly horizontally compressed)
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2018-02-17, updated: 2020-02-01
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2017-12-17, updated 2019-03-10