Treasure of the month - February 2009
"Coo-o" by Charles Bennett
February's Treasure is an image by the children's illustrator and author Charles Henry Bennett (1828-1867) from his book The Sorrowful Ending of Noodledoo, held in the Robinson Library's Chorley Collection.
The book contains a collection of stories written by Bennett, each story relating the tale of a particular animal or bird; Bennett incorporates animal sounds and birdsong into conversations which take place amongst the animals and birds, sometimes cleverly rendering them into like-sounding words in the English language. The stories are accompanied by twelve hand-coloured plates of Bennett's own illustrations, each signed with his trademark "CHB" symbol.
The illustration depicted here accompanies the tale of a young pigeon named Pouter and his beloved Dove, and includes an example of the popular and playful Victorian practice of replacing the words in a letter with pictures. Pouter woos Dove with the love-letter; his deft skills in the art of picture-letter writing clearly pay off, for the reader is told: "when the Dove got the letter, she felt that her heart was gone, so she just said 'COO-O, COO-O!'…"
Click here to see the letter in close-up with a full "translation".
Bennett explains in his dedication that his inspiration for writing the book came from stories he told to his son, Georgey, who was confined to bed during a long bout of illness. He explains:
|But the little boy, and his brothers and sisters, grew so fond of these stories, that nothing would serve but they must go out with Father early in the morning, to hear for themselves what the Birds and the Beasts said to each other; and Father, not forgetting that other little folk might have sick tempers, wrote these sayings down, and drew pictures about them, and here they are.|
Bennett, Charles H. The Sorrowful Ending of Noodledoo, with the Fortunes and Fate of her Neighbours and Friends. (London, 1865).