|From Flower Fairies of the Summer by C.M. Barker|
Peter Pan, the play, was written in 1904 and came out in book form in 1911. In the early 20th century the ears of the British nation seemed particularly tuned to the sound of beating fairy wings. In 1916 "The Allies Fairy Book" was published, in an attempt to raise morale in WW1. Queen Mary, wife of George V, sent postcards to friends and family decorated with fairy art. In 1914 their daughter, Princess Mary, had a gift book published to raise funds for the war effort; included in it were two stories about fairies. These were illustrated by Claude Arthur Shepperson.
|Princess Mary's Gift Book|
Their claim set off a heated public debate and their cause was taken up by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. He steadfastly believed in the supernatural and used the photographs in his book "The Coming of Fairies" (1922)
Into this milieu came Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairies. I'm sure there are many who have been inspired by her paintings. My favourite has always been the Rose Fairy.
|from Flower Fairies of the Summer by C.M. Barker|
Apart from pure enchantment I value the Flower Fairy books for their botanical accuracy; C.M. had an arrangement with the botanical gardens at Kew to send her specimens. The rhymes that accompany the illustrations manage to include a fair bit of information regarding each plant.
"In shady shrubby places, right early in the year,
I lift my flowers' faces-O come and find them here!
My stems are thin and straying, With leaves of glossy sheen,
The bare brown earth arraying, For they are ever-green"
from The Song of the Periwinkle
I also discovered other names for plants, allowing me to finally match up a name with the correct flower.
"Old-Man's Beard is Wild Clematis; its flowers are called Traveller's Joy"
The fairies have a robustness that differentiates them from other depictions. They were modelled on real children from C.M.'s sister's nursery school. To me it just adds to the charm.
|Wood Sorrel Fairy|
To my mind the flower fairies need to be discovered on a rainy afternoon by a child of just the right age . If you have a special little person in your life tuck a copy on a bookshelf and let serendipity take care of the rest.
Images of the Flower Fairies are taken from prints which can be purchased from the Flower Fairy website.
The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies is my recommendation for HolleyGarden's book review. Follow the link or click on the Book Review button to the right. The review always has a wide range of interesting books submitted by a diverse and random group of garden bloggers.