Last time we were there, I met a delightful young children’s writer working at the Spanish Quarter (a living history complex) who shared this gem with me: Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) is buried there. He had traveled to the climate in an attempt to improve his ailing health, but died soon after arriving, a month shy of his 40th birthday. The Caldecott Medal , given to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children” was first awarded in 1938.
On our previous trip, and again this time, I went to pay my respects at his grave. [This year I was particularly keen to go, since next weekend I’m heading up to a Highlights Founders Workshop
for illustrators. Yee-hi! I’ve been to one other – on poetry.]
Evergreen Cemetery is unassuming and off the beaten path, but peaceful and well maintained. My only real company both times included birds (woodpeckers, a hawk, and others) and squirrels and some lively Florida bugs.
The grave is maintained by the Friends of the Library of St. Johns County, Inc., and the Randolph Caldecott Society of America . A 2005 plaque on the grave reads: “…As a tribute to his life and art, this burial site is designated a Literary Landmark by Friends of Libraries USA.”
One of my favorite books is Randolph Caldecott’s Picture Books (Huntington Library Classics, 2007), which includes copies of nine of the works in the Library’s collection (songs and rhymes made into books), including The Three Jovial Huntsmen and The Diverting History of John Gilpin. I particularly like the note in the introduction that in Sing a Song for Sixpence, Caldecott “ didn’t want children to think that the maid had permanently lost her nose to the blackbird…,” and therefore he added a verse:
The Maid was in the Garden
Hanging out the Clothes-;
There came a little Blackbird,
And snapped off her Nose.
But there came a Jenny Wren
And popped it on again.
The book is beautifully bound with thick, creamy pages perfectly setting off the sepia line drawings and colored wood engravings which still seem fresh today.
Quoting from the Randolph Caldecott Society of America website:
A friend of Mr. Caldecott, Fredrick Locker-Lampson, summed up Randolph Caldecott's work with these words: "It seems to me that Caldecott's art was of a quality that appears about once in a century. It had delightful characteristics most happily blended. He had a delicate fancy, and humor was as racy as it was refined. He had a keen sense of beauty and to sum up all, he had charm."
For more delightful, racy, charming poetry, visit Irene for the Poetry Friday Roundup .