C Walter Hodges was Illustrator of early Rosemary Sutcliff historical novels

Frontispiece Rosemay Sutcliff's The Eagle of the NinthC. Walter Hodges who illustrated some of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s early novels, including The Queen Elizabeth Story (1950), The Eagle of the Ninth  (1954), and The Shield Ring (1956) died in 2004. I recently came across  his obituary in The Independent newspaper. Some sections spoke in particular of his illustration work.

One of the outstanding author-illustrators of his time, C. Walter Hodges was also a leading scholar of the Shakespearean theatre. Hard-working to the point of perfectionism, he had a gentle demeanour and unfailingly sweet temper that brought him universal popularity in addition to well-earned professional respect. Illustrating over a hundred books while also writing a number of them himself, he played an important part in the general renaissance of children’s literature since 1945. 

… At the age of 10, he spent all his week’s pocket money on an exercise book composed of cream-laid paper on which he then wrote the first of his many books. Called “Walks in Our Museums”, this unpublished work describes the young Hodges going to sleep in various favourite museums and then finding himself transported to the past. This early love of history that was to stay with him for the rest of his life.

Going on to Goldsmiths’ College of Art in 1925, Hodges was taught by E.J. Sullivan, a well-known illustrator whose fluent line and dramatic use of shading was to make a lasting impression upon his own artwork. Equally fascinated by the stage, he took his first job in 1928 at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead, where he was responsible for both costumes and scenery. Unable, however, to live on a salary of 30 shillings a week, he eventually joined an advertising agency, which he found dull but more lucrative. Still looking for freelance work, he made his artistic breakthrough in 1931 when he received a commission from the Radio Times, an invaluable patron for many young artists. He went on to provide it with over 600 illustrations during the next 40 years.

… After the Second World War Hodges continued with his dual love of illustrating and the stage. In 1951 he was appointed designer to the Mermaid Theatre when it opened in St John’s Wood, with this position renewed when it re-emerged at London’s Puddle Dock eight years later. In 1964 he won the Kate Greenaway Medal for his Shakespeare’s Theatre (1964), a sumptuous book building on what had already become a consuming interest, first evident in his groundbreaking work of speculative scholarship The Globe Restored (1953). For some time closely involved with Sam Wanamaker’s doomed attempt to build a replica of the Globe theatre, Hodges became a valued scholar on the practical problems of trying to understand what exactly Shakespeare’s theatre would have looked like and how this would have affected his plays.

… All this time Hodges was also busy illustrating – his work for other writers including Elizabeth Goodge’s The Little White Horse (1946), William Mayne’s A Swarm in May (1955), Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword (1956) and novels of Rosemary Sutcliff from The Shield Ring (1956) to The Eagle of the Ninth (1970 Note from AL – they had it wrongly dated!) – and sometimes writing as well … …

Source: Obituary in The Independent

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

9 thoughts on “C Walter Hodges was Illustrator of early Rosemary Sutcliff historical novels”

  1. Further– it occurs to me that the confusion may have arisen because a book’s illustrator is not necessarily the illustrator used for the cover art. For example, my cover for “Simon” – the traveller showing Simon the model ship – was not done by Richard Kennedy but William Stobbs. There is another cover around for “Simon” whose illustrator I can’t identify, but it does have a Hodges look about it. The saga continues…

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  2. Sorry, me again- what can I say? Librarians just can’t resist a bookish mystery.. I’ve just come across a useful archive of children’s authors/illustrators which I thought I’d bring to your attention. Richard Kennedy is definitely listed as the sole illustrator for “Simon” here, btw.

    Here is the page for Rosemary Sutcliff.Illustrators are listed with her books where available.
    http://blog.moonshadowecommerce.com/WEBLOG-NAME/AuthorsIllustrators/st/rosemary_sutcliff/

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    1. Can’t have too many librarians (says another one!). Thanks for saving me the archaeological excavation that finding my copy of “Simon” would have entailed…

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  3. I’ve done a bit of checking and all the book listings indicate the first edition of Simon (1953) was illustrated by Richard Kennedy. Wikipedia has C. Walter Hodges credited as illustrating the first edition, and I’m wondering if it’s simply a case of error perpetuated.

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  4. Annd I’ve just checked my Oxford Children’s Library Richard Kennedy-illustrated edition of “Simon” and it’s actually dated 1959- don’t know where I got 1979 from :)

    Although I’m delighted that many of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books are been republished with edgy covers designed to appeal to modern teenagers, I’m rather sad that they’ve dumped all those wonderful old illustrations- I guess they are now considered too childish.

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  5. I have now checked. My 1953 edition is illustrated by Richard Kennedy. I had better go through all the books to check my understanding of who illustrated what!

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  6. I have the 1979 edition of “Simon”, illustrated by Richard Kennedy, as well, but I believe the first edition (1953) was illustrated by C. Walter Hodges.

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