Austen Illustrators Henry and Charles Brock
Jane Austen gives a limited physical description of her characters and their surroundings and, as Laura Carroll and John Wiltshire point out in their essay "Jane Austen Illustrated" (2009: 68), that fact has given to illustrators a great opportunity to develop an image of the world she created. Thus, soon after the writer's death, illustrated editions of her work were published.
At first, printing techniques and financial cost made the inclusion of illustrations limited to one or two, generally as frontispiece. However, one objection could be made against those first attempts—the misrepresentation of her world as if it were part of the Victorian age, instead of the Georgian era.
It was in the 1890s when this changed, though scholars have argued how fortunate have been the more accurate portrayal of Jane Austen's time and the influence of those illustrations has been compared to the one that cinema and television adaptations have had a hundred years later. For example, Brian Southam claimed that:
"The serious effect of these illustrations... was in occupying the public imagination and in some part shaping a picturesque and sentimental image of the novels and the novelist sustained into the twenty-first century in the Regency costumery and "heritage" values perpetuated in the text of television and film" (2009: 56)Fortunate or unfortunate as it may be, starting in the 1890s, technology and art converged for two decades to give handsome editions of the Jane Austen novels, and thus creating a style which has often been qualified as a "chocolate-box" (Carroll and Wiltshire, 2009: 69) since not only those editions were lavishly illustrated, but were presented with a luxurious binding, characteristics that have turned them in highly valued and sought after by collectors. Among all the editions, here we focus on those which contain the illustrations by the Brock brothers.
Charles and Henry Brock were respectively the eldest and youngest sons of Edmund Brock, an expert in medieval and oriental languages who worked for Cambridge University Press, and Mary Ann Louise (nee Pegram). The marriage produced another two sons: Richard Henry, who was a landscape painter, and Thomas Alfred, a mathematician.
Charles Edmund (C.E.) Brock was born on 5 February 1870 in London, before the family moved to Cambridge, where Henry Matthew (H.M.) was born on 11 July 1875. They were trained at the studio of Henry Wiles and their career began in the early 1890s under the helm of Macmillan.
As they "were attracted to the architecture, furniture, and costume of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries" (Rogerson, Ian), they "set about gathering period artefacts for their studio", which they shared also with their brother Richard. This is one of the keys to their success as illustrators, since, with the help of family and friends who posed as models attired in those garments and placed in such settings, the Brocks were able to recreate very realistic scenes from the books they would illustrate.
The 1895 Pen-and-Ink Pride and Prejudice illustrations for Macmillan
Charles Brock was the first of the brothers to be noticed by the public with his ink illustrations for Thomas Hood's Humorous Poems (1893) and Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1894). His work resembled that of the so called "black and white school" led by Hugh Thomson, and this is perhaps one of the main reasons why Macmillan chose him to illustrate Pride and Prejudice in 1895 as part of its Illustrated Standard Novels, which also included an introduction by Austin Dobson.
Thomson could only be in charge of the other five Austen novels for Macmillan to complete the set, since the previous year he had illustrated Pride and Prejudice for an edition for George Allen, also known as the "Peacock edition", which was lavishly decorated with 160 drawings. It had been the first successful and largest attempt to portray the Austen characters in the manner of early 19th century instead of the Victorian attire and environment which former illustrators had given.
By accepting such a commission, Charles Brock's name became forever linked to Jane Austen's, and though comparisons with Thomson's work would be frequently made. Admittedly, that was inevitable; Thomson was a great illustrator and there was another equally talented, though lesser known, artist drawing many of the same scenes in a similar style. But impressions can be deceptive and, as some experts have asserted, Charles Brock's drawings could stand the comparison:
"They are every bit as attractive, just as delicate where delicacy is needed, and undeniably stronger and more certain where it is not. . . [Charles] gave more attention to faces than did Hugh Thomson, whose faces are often curiously indefinite" (Kelly: 1975).
"Brock often achieves a telling interaction between his characters, where Thomson's are often, in comparison, listless. . . And in general, Brock makes much more use of body language, his figures have more eye contact with one another, his style has a theatrical and often comic dynamism Thomson's lack (Carroll and Wiltshire 2009: 74-75).
"Thomson's Elizabeth looks too juvenile. C.E. Brock's Elizabeth is just right—mature enough to lock horns with Mr Darcy. . . Thomson's illustration is rather static. C.E. Brock's shows more 'mouvement'" (Parker, 1989).
Mr. Collins proposing to Elizabeth Bennet, by Hugh Thomson (left) and C.E. Brock (right).
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The 1895 Macmillan edition of Pride and Prejudice includes forty pen-and-ink illustrations by Charles E. Brock, one of them used as the frontispiece. It was his first illustrated Austen novel and the largest he made for one of them, but it was not to be the last nor the best.
Macmillan reprinted this Pride and Prejudice edition several times during the 20th century, so it is not as rare as other Brock-illustrated editions of the Austen novels and thus relatively easy to obtain at second-hand bookstores and at reasonable prices. In his Bibliography of Jane Austen, David Gilson has classified this edition as E 79.
Later in the 20th century, some publishers used these illustrations but filled them with colour without Charles E. Brock's intervention or permission, with very poor results, much like what happened to the black and white films coloured to appeal or suit the taste of the late-20th-century public.
Eight of these 1895 black and white illustrations (one as frontispiece and seven other inserted) also appeared in an American edition of Pride and Prejudice in the early 20th century. Gilson catalogues it as E 100: Pride and Prejudice. New York: The Century Co., 1902. The English Comédie Humaine, First series, No. 5.
Mr. Darcy presenting a letter to Elizabeth Bennet, by C.E. Brock; 1895 Macmillan edition (left), coloured American edition, late 20th c. (right).
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In addition, Macmillan also reprinted some of these illustrations in abridgements of the novel.
The 1898 Pen-and-Ink Drawings Tinted in Watercolour in The Novels of Jane Austen (in 10 Volumes) for Dent and Co.; the First Illustrations in Colour
By 1896, Charles E. Brock was an established and reputed illustrator and sought after by other publishers. He illustrated other works like Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1897) and Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (1898). Henry was also beginning to be recognized, thanks to his drawings for W.M. Thackeray's Ballads and Songs (1896) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford (1898).
But it was their introduction to the established London publisher J.M. Dent which brought the next great achievement by Brock in relation to Jane Austen, and this time it would not only be Charles, but Henry, too.
Back in 1892 Dent had already published what is considered the first deluxe set of the novels in ten volumes with an introduction by R. Brimley Johnson and "monochrome grey-brown wash drawings" (Gilson, 2005) attributed to William Cubbitt Cooke. However, by 1898 a new printing technique that allowed inclusion of illustrations in colour had emerged—lithography, and Dent asked both Charles and Henry to create a new set of illustrations for the six Jane Austen novels.
The brothers agreed to share the task in equal parts: five volumes each, six illustrations per volume, one as frontispiece. Charles was in charge of Sense and Sensibility (volumes 1 and 2), Emma (volumes 7 and 8) and Persuasion (volume 10), while Henry was responsible for Pride and Prejudice (volumes 3 and 4), Mansfield Park (volumes 5 and 6) and Northanger Abbey (volume 9).
The number of illustrations—sixty in total—would seem "a modest degree of illustrations" (Kelly) in comparison to Charles' previous attempt or with what Thomson and Chris (Christiana) Hammond had made with any other Austen novels, but as printing in colour increased costs, there had to be fewer illustrations. This by no way represents a lesser achievement; on the contrary, it was to be the first time the novels by Jane Austen were to be illustrated in colour and with the high standard of period representation that had already been set by Hugh Thomson and Charles Brock himself.
Thus the new 10-volume set of Jane Austen's novels by J.M. Dent with illustrations by C.E. and H.M. Brock appeared in 1898 with great success. These "pen and ink drawings tinted in watercolour" gave a more exact and detailed period representation than ever before. It is classified by Gilson as E 90 and as he clearly notes, each volume included a frontispiece and five inserted plates, all in colour. They are bound in a now green-greyish gilt cloth and the covers presents a girl in Regency attire.
Covers of the J.M. Dent 1898 editions of Austen's novels illustrated by C.E. and H.M. Brock
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Gilson also adds, guided by what Kelly had affirmed, that this edition was reissued one year later "with a further four illustrations added to each volume" (Kelly, p. 53), which would mean forty illustrations more. However, so far no other 1899 edition than the one that Gilson classifies as E 93, also known as "The Temple Edition," has been traced, and this does not include the preface by Brimley Johnson as the 1892 and 1898 editions did, nor four new illustrations per volume by the Brocks; on the contrary, each volume includes only one of the illustrations as frontispiece and nothing more, which of course means it has only a sixth of the original 1898 illustrations.
From 1900 to 1905 or 1906, Dent reprinted the original 1898 ten-volume edition with all six illustrations per volume and the same decorative cover. It has to be mentioned that in addition to Charles E. Brock's illustrations, Volume 1 (Sense & Sensibility vol. 1) also includes a coloured drawing of the Rice portrait of Jane Austen.
The American reproduction of the 1898 illustrations took eight years to appear. In 1906, they were issued in New York by Frank S. Holby, also in ten volumes—since the publisher used the same text setting by Dent—but with an introduction by William Lyon instead of R. Brimley Johnson. This edition is also known as "The Old Manor House Edition" and Gilson catalogues it as E 106.
Reproductions of 1898 C.E. Brock illustrations from Emma, British (left) and American (right).
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As Gilson points out, the 1898 Brock illustrations were reprinted on several occasions in the United States during the 20th century: by Dana Estes & Co (in Boston), Himebaugh (in both New York and Magnolia, Mass.), Brentano (in New York), Macrae Smith Co. (in Philadelphia), and Colonial Press Company (in Boston and New York), under very different names, such as "Chawton Edition," "Winchester Edition," and "Manydown Edition," and also in 10 volumes or less, since some publishers chose to issue each novel in a single volume, for example, "The Rittenhouse Classics." All of them are relatively easy to find at second-hand bookstores, but prices vary and in some cases are overpriced.
Nevertheless, it is important to point out differences between the British reproductions of these 1898 Brock illustrations issued by Dent and the American reproductions. The British copies by Dent include below each illustration their respective title in handwriting. The American editions do NOT include the title below. The British copies also have a richer reproduction of colours and details in comparison to the American ones, which look more faded and perhaps yellowed. And of course, it goes without saying that the American editions do not have the richly decorated covers as the originals by Dent.
This set of illustrations constitutes the second most-valued Brock illustrations of the novels written by Jane Austen. The original British copies by Dent are rare to find and thus more looked-for than the American ones. More recently these illustrations have been reproduced in the deluxe Easton Press editions.
Gilson also notes about E 106 that the illustrations also appeared in the 12 volumes of The Novels and Letters of Jane Austen, which means two more volumes than those issued in 1898. Volume 11 of this collection includes Lady Susan, The Watsons and some of the letters, and Volume 12 the rest of the letters (those that appeared in the Brabourne edition), but as Gilson comments, the illustrations included in these two additional volumes are not by the Brocks, but coloured reproductions of Ellen Hill's drawings (taken from her sister Constance's book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends) as frontispieces and photographs of places related to Jane Austen.
An illustration of Chawton Manor House by Ellen Hill, from the original book (left) and the coloured reproduction (right).
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The 1907-1909 Watercolours for the Six Novels - The Dent and Co. English Idylls Series
According to Ian Rogerson (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography):
"Because of their versatility and willingness to take on such a wide variety of work, it is believed that the Brocks did not command the respect publishers accorded Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, who were much less prolific. As a result, they did not have the opportunity to work on the lavish picture books issued by such publishers as Heinemann and Hodder and Stoughton between the turn of the [20th] century and 1914."However, such a dismissive assessment could not be entirely supported, since as Rogerson also points out, precisely during those years both Henry and Charles had been elected to the Royal Institute (1906 and 1908 respectively) and their work had been exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Institute of Painters.
Furthermore and most important to Janeites, in those years Charles E. Brock achieved what might be considered his finest work ever: the delicate watercolours for Dent's English Idylls series (1904-1909), which were a great success from the start and which led Dent to include a new resetting (one novel per volume) of the six complete Austen novels in the series. Meanwhile, Henry contributed with pen drawings for the English Essayist series, also by Dent.
The English Idylls series usually had over twenty watercolour illustrations for each work and in the case of the novels by Jane Austen, Charles E. Brock created twenty-four illustrations per novel, which includes a frontispiece and the decorated title page "in a sort of Wedgwood style" (Kelly). That is a total of one hundred and forty-four watercolours for Jane Austen's novels, the largest and greatest work by Charles E. Brock for her novels.
Dent published two novels per year, beginning in 1907 with Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice, then Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park in 1908 and closing with Emma and Persuasion in 1909. Gilson classifies these watercolour illustrated editions as E 114, E 116 , E 120, E124, E 127 and E 129 respectively. Very correctly, Kelly mentions that each of the novels was issued "in green cloth, with green leather spine and gilt top edges." By this time, Dent had associated with E.P. Dutton in New York for the publication of the series in the United States, as it is duly noted in the decorated title page that the edition was edited both by Dent and Dutton.
With the exception of the title page, the remaining 23 watercolours from each novel were reprinted in 1921 by William Glaisher, London. However, a year later Dent and Dutton also reissued the set as "The Novels of Jane Austen" series (E 147 in Gilson's bibliography) but reduced the illustrations to sixteen of the twenty-four original 1907-1909 plates, that is, with eight illustrations less. Nevertheless more can be said about these reprintings which make the original copies of 1907 to 1909 as the most valuable, most sought-after Brock illustrated editions of the Austen novels so far.
One of the differences is that although the 1922 copies were bound with replicas of the original cover and also included the title page, the total number of illustrations and the year of publication were erased from the latter since, as it has been said, they did not include as many illustrations. There might be some explanations for these changes; for example, at the end of the First World War, printing costs made it impossible to reprint the entire twenty-four illustrations per novel, so Dent and Dutton could only afford only to reprint some.
Between 1933-34, Dent engaged in another "resetting" of Jane Austen's novels, this time in seven volumes to include Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon, the cancelled chapter of Persuasion and the "Plan of a Novel" in the seventh volume, but the successful association with the Brocks seem to have been broken, since this time the edition had illustrations by Maximilien Vox—only eight "faint drawings in ink and coloured crayon" (Gilson, 2005).
These Vox illustrations were probably less expensive to print than the Brock watercolours, yet they may not have been as well-received, since by 1945 both Dent and Dutton reprinted Pride and Prejudice again with only sixteen Brock watercolours, and from the 1950s to the 1970s reprinted the set of six novels as The Works of Jane Austen Illustrated by C.E. Brock (E 181 in Gilson), keeping only sixteen illustrations per novel.
The richly decorated bindings from the English Idylls series had been abandoned as well as the title page; instead, the reprintings were in "light blue green cloth, with spines lettered in gilt and dustwrappers reproducing" (Gilson, 1997) one of the watercolours. Those later reprints are relatively easy to find at second-hand bookstores, but as happens with the American editions which include the 1898 illustrations, prices vary and may be overpriced: The key to distinguish them from the original 1907-1909 editions are the number of illustrations (only sixteen of the total twenty-four), they do not include the title page, and the binding is more simple.
More recently in 2006, a selection of the watercolours (67 out of 144) has been included—along with the Hugh Thomson ink drawings—in Jane Austen - The Illustrated Library, published by Robert Frederick Ltd. which can be obtained through second-hand sellers.
Other Ink Illustrations for Cassell and Nelson
Pride and Prejudice Illustration by C.E. Brock, original unknown, found on an eBay auction of the image only; possibly from 1913 Cassell and Co. edition
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After those beautiful watercolours, Charles E. Brock would work with Pride and Prejudice on two more occasions, but not for Dent. In 1913, Cassell and Company, Ltd. published a Pride and Prejudice edition (E 137 in Gilson). Apparently, it included a "frontispiece in colour and three other plates in black and white half-tone inserted," all of them new (Gilson, 1997). Unfortunately, a copy of this edition seems untraceable.
After the First World War and with the Depression, everybody was affected by the financial crisis, including the Brocks and the publishing houses. Before that, the brothers had illustrated articles and stories for magazines like Punch, The Strand Magazine, etc., but with the crisis their work on books became more limited. Charles managed to obtain a commission to illustrate with more watercolours some of Dickens' works (Pickwick Papers, Christmas Tales, Nicholas Nickleby and Martin Chuzzlewit for Harrap) and he returned for the last time to Jane Austen.
In 1932, T. Nelson and Sons reprinted Pride and Prejudice for his "Nelson's Famous Book Series" and managed to include eight new ink drawings by Charles E. Brock (one as frontispiece). Unfortunately, that last attempt could not rival with his previous masterpieces; it is in fact even below his first—the 1895 ink drawings for the Macmillan edition. Gilson mentions this edition in the remarks to E 113.
Eight years later, on 28 February 1938, Charles E. Brock died in Cambridge aged 58 years old. At his elder brother's death, Henry took over some of this commissions, yet save for the 1898 illustrations he was never involved in any other Austen project. Henry Matthew Brock died on 21 July 1960 in the same city.
Thus an era ended, for though many more illustrators have contributed since then with images of the Jane Austen novels, there has never been a splendour compared to the one in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first one of the twentieth.
Illustrations like those by the Brocks in that period contributed to influence the readers and create "the popular conception or image of 'Jane Austen', a turning point in the history of Jane Austen's cultural reputation. . .that was only to be superseded and rivalled by Chapman's 1923 edition, which was similarly to have an impact on the reception of the author" (Carroll and Wiltshire, 2006: 68-69, 75) and visually repeated only by the boom of the 1995 cinema and television adaptations.
This work could not have been done without the assistance of a few friends to whom I am deeply indebted. First, Robin Hutchinson, who did part of the library and bibliographical research and transcribed some quotes, allowing me to organize more coherently my empirical knowledge of the editions. To Mags and Kali Pappas, who first showed some of the watercolours on their websites and thus made me appreciate the Brocks' work. And to Jason Cook who first guided me into the maze to understand why there are so many versions of the Brock illustrations.
Carroll, Laura and John Wiltshire (2006). "Jane Austen Illustrated" in Johnson, Claudia and Laura Tuite (eds.), A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture, 56). Wiley-Blackwell, Singapore.
Gilson, David (1997). A Bibliography of Jane Austen. New Introduction and Corrections by the author. Delaware : Oak Knoll Press.
Gilson, David (2005). "Later publishing history, with illustrations" at Todd, Janet (ed.). Jane Austen in Context. New York : Cambridge University Press.
Kelly, C.M (1975). The Brocks: A Family of Cambridge Artists and Illustrators. London & Edinburgh: Charles Skilton Ltd.
Parker, Keiko (1989). "Illustrating Jane Austen" in Persuasions, no. 11. December, 1989. USA. JASNA. Available on-line at:
Rogerson, Ian. Entry for the "Brock family" in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Southam, Brian (2006). "Texts and Editions" in Johnson, Claudia and Laura Tuite (eds.), A Companion to Jane Austen (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture, 56). Wiley-Blackwell, Singapore.
Copyright © 2012 by Cinthia García Soria.