By now, most of the guys that read the headline are half-way down the street. It happens. And in case any remaining non-romantic-types are still lingering, this is where you may gracefully exit, rummage around in the fridge for leftover wings, and plop yourself on the couch for the latest brain-dead hockey game that might be airing. The rest of you may stay with me.
I’m one of those odd-balls who much prefers a chic ﬂick over sports of almost any kind. Unless it’s barrel jumping. On second thought, even barrel jumping. A thick glaze will cover my eyes if you mention in my presence any major league team, the latest trade, or any nonsensical abbreviation like ERA, RBI, and TKO. So please stop it.
On the other hand, it’s nearly embarrassing to admit I have a rather large mental stockpile of quotes originating from Jane Austin works. I know: It’s sad. And to think I could have been such a gifted purveyor of useless sports facts.
Now here’s an interesting fact about Jane Austin’s 1811 work, “Sense and Sensibility:” It has been illustrated at least six times, and is still considered fair game for artists intent on bringing the author’s words to life.
One of the earliest – if not THE earliest – to illustrate the novel was William Greatbatch, whose work graced the pages of the 1833 edition. Calling them “illustrations” might be a stretch, because they were metal engravings done with all the care and precision one might expect from oﬃces of the Her Majesty’s Treasury. While they may not have represented the full ﬂavor of Jane Austin’s words, doubtless they were lavish ornamentation in their day.
Hugh Thomson was perhaps the ﬁrst to truly illustrate “Sense and Sensibility” in the best sense. His 1896 work carries the ﬂavor – both comic and pathetic – of the romantic tome. Thomson’s illustrations come from the same mold as Charles Dana Gibson, of “Gibson Girl” fame, and have the same nostalgic, feminine feel. To Thomson’s credit, the original illustrations were digitally cleaned up for a 2008 edition, proving that his work is as timeless as the words it supports.
British illustrator C.E. Brock took his turn for a 1908 edition, with lively watercolors framed within light ornamentation and a snippet of text set in Edwardian script. The ﬁgures are handled with a superb sense of form and drama that harkens to a younger contemporary in America – N.C. Wyeth.
Maximilien Vox illustrated a 1933 edition of the novel. Not only was Vox an illustrator, but he was also a writer, journalist, critic, publisher and historian of typography. Perhaps the French chap spread himself a bit thin. His work is decidedly dated and on the weak side. Pastel hued washes don’t help the illustrations that are overshadowed by his predecessors’ work. A great deal of fresh vision was needed after the Vox version.
Sonny Liew did just that. The Singapore-based illustrator added a breath of fresh air to the Marvel Comic [GASP!] adaptation of Jane Austin’s novel published in 2010. The illustrations walk a ﬁne line between being honest to the original novel and upholding the look of a classic, comic book. It might raise the hackles of every purist, but it works.
“Esteem him! Like him!” The lines still hold their elegance, even when written in all-caps Comic Sans.
A year after Liew’s interpretation, Niroot Puttapipat illustrated the Bath Bicentenary Edition of “Sense and Sensibility” The illustrator, who goes by the name Himmapaan, is a native of Thailand and is a product of Kingston University. For such a young artist, he brings massive guns to the drawing board. Himmapaan has technical skill higher than the stratosphere. The look of his work is heavy on the Arthur Rackham end of the spectrum. In fact, they seem to be diﬀerent in name only. Himmapaan also exudes a slight Russian ﬂavor in his illustrations on occasion, especially when the subject is folkloric.
With British credentials in hand, it is no wonder he was chosen for the special edition of the novel. Himmapaan slightly softened his normal handling of ﬁgures for this project, giving them extra innocence and femininity, while retaining strong edges and solid form. The only critique of the special edition is that it contains too few of his illustrations, but that might also be it’s highest praise. Leaving the reader begging for more, I am certain, is a characteristic of the die-hard Jane Austin fan.