Though collected for generations, Doyle's illustrations have attracted only limited scholarly attention. Rodney Engen's critical biography of 1983 is the most substantial analysis, although it does not consider such key ingredients as Doyle's disturbing use of fairy imagery. A detailed psychoanalytical reading of his work would undoubtedly yield fresh insights, as would a consideration of the cultural contexts in which he operated. Such omissions perpetuate the assumption that the art of Dicky Doyle is as fey and insubstantial as his boyish nickname.

Scholarship has also been impeded by omissions in his bibliography. Engen and Hambourg give the impression that all of his books have been catalogued, but this is not the case. While researching Doyle at the Longman Archive, University of Reading, in 1983, I came across a letter to the publisher Longman in which the artist tersely complains about lack of payment for his illustrations to verse by Thomas Moore. No such publication is listed in any source and it was not until 2003, while browsing in an antiquarian book shop in Stratford-on-Avon, England, that I came upon Moore's Songs, Ballads, and Sacred Poems, published by Longman's in 1852. This book contains an unsigned pictorial title-page by Doyle, and could only be the work he refers in the unpublished letter. There are, I suspect, other discoveries to be made, and fresh perspectives to be considered.


Victorian Web Victorian Illustration Richard Doyle

Last modified 5 November 2009