Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frank Godwin and Treasure Island



The story goes that Robert Louis Stevenson was on holiday in the Scottish Highlands and one rainy day came upon his stepson Lloyd, applying watercolors to a map he'd made of an imaginary isle. Lloyd described Stevenson's attention;

"....as I was finishing it, and with his affectionate interest in everything I was doing, leaned over my shoulder, and was soon elaborating the map and naming it. I shall never forget the thrill of Skeleton Island, Spyglass Hill, nor the heart-stirring climax of the three red crosses! And the greater climax still when he wrote down the words "Treasure Island" at the top right-hand corner! And he seemed to know so much about it too —— the pirates, the buried treasure, the man who had been marooned on the island ... . "Oh, for a story about it", I exclaimed, in a heaven of enchantment ..."


Stevenson, who had been in a writer's block of late, dutifully hunkered down and blazed through the creation of Treasure Island.


My father had a hard-bound copy of Treasure Island in the house and it was the first novel I ever read. It bore the signature of my grandfather on the inside cover "From Dad, To Edmund J. Clohessy Jr., - Christmas 1930".

- thanks, Matthew for scanning the book-cover!



By the time the already-worn volume fell into my hands I must have seen the famous 1934 movie version with Wallace Beery as Long John Silver, Lionel Barrymore playing Billy Bones, and Jackie Cooper as the boy Jim Hawkins. My father and I were very fond of such bygone silver-screen gems, and his breadth of knowledge about the stars and their signature roles was a tantalizing thread that fueled my imagination. But, the fact that my father had read the book prior to, even, the 1934 movie version added to the intensity of interest he conveyed to me, to whom, like many 6 or 7 year old boys, a fine tale about pirates and lost treasure was as gasoline tossed on the fire.



As in all things, bookwise, artwise - lifewise - "Hunger is the best appetizer".

The book had but 4 colored - painted! - illustrations by Frank Godwin. Godwin is much lesser known than Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth whose names are synonymous with vivid swashbuckling scenes of the classic pirate books. Nonetheless, he stands on his own with graceful
rendering, exquisite coloring, and fine characterizations. Godwin also did outstanding work on Stevenson's Kidnapped and Hagedorn'sThe Book of Courage as seen below.



Four illustrated plates from Godwin were just enough to drive me round the bend, imaginatively speaking, and supply my own inner scenery.

to add some music to the proceedings, and forge a link to the previous post, here is a pirate-themed musical sketch ( i couldn't get a copy of his Henry Martin) of Donovan's taken from a live performance;Moon In Capricorn

30 comments:

frostatmidnight said...

Hi Tom, I finally started a new blog after all this time! I just finished a class up at Oxford and so have a little more free time now.

I absolutely love the illustration of the boat here and Stevenson was an amazing author.

Kristine

Matthew H Camp said...

In an age of mass production, your words are a reminder of the meaning of a single book

a particular copy of that specific story from a certain time

where its life intersected yours

a book illuminated from within by the light of that particular memory

Tom the Piper's Son said...

Thanks much for the beautifully put comment Matthew. That about captures entirely my feeling for many books, and that one in particular.

Tom the Piper's Son said...

For Kristine and Matthew -
Kristine with regards to your wour wonderful post on the library of King Ashurbanipal and Matthew on your comment and also posts on creative writing; Here is a poem by the beat poet gregory Corso upon finding a manuscript of Shelley's in the Harvard library - thanks in advance to Michael leddy of Orange Cart Art blog for posting this recently!


I Held A Shelley Manuscript


My hands did numb to beauty
as they reached into Death and tightened!

O sovereign was my touch
upon the tan-inks's fragile page!

Quickly, my eyes moved quickly,
sought for smell for dust for lace
for dry hair!

I would have taken the page
breathing in the crime!
For no evidence have I wrung from dreams--
yet what triumph is there in private credence?

Often, in some steep ancestral book,
when I find myself entangled with leopard-apples
and torched-skin mushrooms,
my cypressean skein outreaches the recorded age
and I, as though tipping a pitcher of milk,
pour secrecy upon the dying page.

Gregory Corso

Tom the Piper's Son said...

oops, thats Orange Crate Art!

Elizabeth said...

Pirates rather topical!
Hope it all turns out well off Africa.
Yes the illustrations are stunning.Thanks for visiting my blog
small dog now has his own
www.ewix2.blogspot.com

Trombonology said...

"Moon in Capricorn" was so well chosen to accompany Stevenson and Godwin.

I have a Godwin for you here.

I'm using it, though in another medium and humble compared with your beautiful examples, to complete the circle with Donovan ... and ... well, let's say "The Beat Generation."

I loved this glimpse into your boyhood. Thanks, lad.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I love tomclohessy.blogspot.com! Here I always find a lot of helpful information for myself. Thanks you for your work.
Webmaster of http://loveepicentre.com and http://movieszone.eu
Best regards