Illustration by Stephen Tennant
Illustration by Stephen Tennant

Works

Illustration by Stephen Tennant

The Bird's Fancy Dress Ball

The Bird’s Fancy Dress Ball contains the drawings Stephen produced when he was 13. The publication of the book was financed by his mother Pamela and accompanied Stephen’s first exhibition held at the Dorien Leigh Gallery in South Kensington in 1921, he was just 15.

 

“The drawings in the book have their foundations in Tennant’s schoolroom doodles and consist of anthropomorphic animals wearing fashionable attire. They are caricatures, satirical in nature, mocking vanities and sensibilities of society.”

 

‘The Owl’s hat was a failure, but, then, would she know how to dress, Even the moon looks scornful.’

‘The Swan’s beauty, always spoiled by a cross expression, was more than usually ineffectual here, for she made the mistake of landing, and so showed her unpleasant boots. It is always a mistake for ducks or swans to land, Now, a goose, whether in the water or not, is always graceful.’

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The Vein in the Marble

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“The Vein in the Marble is a book of verse, tales and illustrations formed through a collaboration between Stephen and his mother Pamela Grey, published in 1925. Pamela provided a series of short poems and morality tales for modern life. Stephen contributed the accompanying illustrations, peopled with a mix of Regency courtiers, nymphs and fairy tale characters. Stephen’s biographer Philip Hoare aptly describes the book as 'pure period whimsy'. The whole has a tendency towards sentimentality but Stephen's drawings and watercolours have a decorative, ethereal quality reminiscent of Beardsley.”

 

Stephen dedicated the book to his mother - 'To the most perfect of collaborators in great as in little things - my Mother.' On receiving their first copies of the book Pamela and Stephen were filled with joy. "We almost wept with excitement as we each finished our book! The child of our endeavours at last launched upon literature's perilous seas!" (letter from Stephen Tennant to Elizabeth Lowndes, December 1925). 

The White Wallet

“An anthology of poems and sayings collected by Pamela Grey, with decorations by Stephen, published in 1928. The Vein in the Marble and the present volume contain similar fanciful motifs, although there is evidence of a maturing style. The title derives from the white file in which the author collected her pieces.”

The back cover reads: “A book full of delightful and interesting things, the choice of which expresses the taste of the compiler; an anthology of extraordinary variety. There is more sequence than is found in most anthologies for passages occur from various pens developing the same thought, and the length of some of the excerpts give a sense of substance and order. This is a book of rare delicacy, distinction and charm." 

The White Wallet, The Vein in the Marble and The Bird's Fancy Dress Ball can be sourced by Beaux Booksa member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Many of Stephen's works can be purchased or sourced through them. 

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To My Mother

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No. 14 of Faber & Faber's Ariel Poems, it includes the poem by Siegfried Sassoon, To My Mother, illustrated by Stephen. Published in 1928, this is their first of three collaborations together. 

I watch you on your constant way,

In selfless duty long grown grey;

And to myself I say

That I have lived my life to learn

How lives like yours unasking earn

Aureoles that guide, and burn

In heart’s remembrance when the proud

Who snared the suffrage of the crowd

Are dumb and dusty browed . . .

For you live onward in my thought 

Because you have not sought

Rewards that can be bought.

And so when I remember you

I think of all things rich and true

That I have reaped wrought. 

In Sicily

No. 27 of the Ariel Poems series, it includes In Sicily, written by Siegfried with drawings by Stephen, was inspired by their travels together in Sicily, 1930. 

Because two can never again come back

On time’s one forward track,—

Never again first-happily explore

This valley of rocks and vines and orange-trees,

Half Biblical and half Hesperides, 

With dark blue seas calling from a shell-strewn shore:

By the strange power of Spring’s resistless green

Let us be true to what we have shared and seen,

And as our amulet this idyll save.

And since the unreturning day must die,

Let it forever be lit by an evening sky

And the wild myrtle grow upon its grave.

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Stephen & Siegfried in Sicily, 1930
Stephen & Siegfried in Sicily, 1930

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To The Red Rose

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No. 34 of the Ariel Poems series, published in 1931 and their final collaboration together, it includes the poem To The Red Rose by Siegfried and a single illustration of a rose by Stephen. The rose is a moss rose which Stephen references in a copy of Gerald Manley Hopkins by G.F. Lahey gifted to him by Siegfried which reads 'Given me by Siegfried in the time of moss-roses 1930’. 

Red rose, you have been told

By our transient English lounge

The fame that you enfold:

And to music you manifold,

Red rose, you have been snug.

 

All summering one thought

Tarries by a poet’s tomb

Whose wreath of rhyme has wrought

The rose of Time in bloom.

 

All passion in one power

To know what roses mean

Can dwell; and in one flower

All beauty that has been.

 

So I, in this moment’s gaze,

Your long perfection learn.

Tranced in transfiguring rays.

Red rose, I see you burn. 

Leaves From a Missionaries Notebook 

Leaves from a Missionary's Notebook, subtitled 'The Story of Felix Littlejohn. Missionary and Explorer’, reveals, through pictures and Tennant's swirling text, the adventures of a missionary sent to the South Seas. Although the book was completed in 1929, it was not published until 1937. It was republished in 1986 to celebrate Stephen’s eightieth birthday. The book is dedicated to E. M. Forster. 

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My Brother Aquarius 

“My Brother Aquarius contains 52 poems by Stephen Tennant, published in 1961. The verse looks back in time to past travels, lost romance and pastoral idylls, and has a strong autobiographical element. It was published by a local printer in Bournemouth and Tennant sent the book to friends and fellow writers, including W. H. Auden and Edmund Blunden. The title is derived from a line by Keats - "Crystalline brother of the belt of Heaven: Aquarius!" (Endymion). The book is dedicated to Barbara Hutton and the preface is written directly to Princess Bibesco.”

 

My Brother Aquarius is available to read on Lilium’s Compendium. 

Some Poems for the Friends of Stephen Tennant

“Dedicated to Rachel and David Cecil, these fifteen poems combine nature imagery, mysticism and an undertow of introspective melancholy: "Perfection is the Parcel you left to the last, - And then forgot to open! Never claimed; never rejected - The little queer parcel nobody wants." Published in 1963, Tennant's poems, like the poet himself, do not lack charm and the Firbankian lightness that he adopted early in life is still in evidence here thirty years on. But it was always said of Tennant that he was more serious than he appeared and there is a depth and intelligence at work in these poems summed up in the epigram from Plotinus: ‘To any vision must be brought an eye adapted to what is to be seen’.”

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Two Stories by Stephen Tennant

“These two stories by Tennant were printed by Elysium Press, which began in 1980 and often prints writings that are out of print or out of fashion, with a focus on the works of gay writers which "have been neglected or overlooked by the commercial trade" (per the Elysium Press website).

 

Over the course of nearly forty years, Tennant worked on the novel "Lascar", producing copious amounts of unpublished material; the two stories in this volume represent his rich writing style, largely unread and unknown by the public.” Published in 1995, with an introduction by Stephen’s biographer, Philip Hoare.