Drawn From Memory/Drawn From Life

 I can't claim any credit for finding this absolutely delightful volume, which daughter number two discovered in an op shop. She read it first and said, with total accuracy, 'I think this is your kind of book, Mum.'

Drawn From Memory and Drawn From Life are the autobiographical accounts of the childhood and youth of Ernest Shepard, best known as the illustrator of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books (before the infernal Disney Corp got their hands on them and ruined them forever). These two charming books, collected in one volume, are Shepard's memories, illustrated throughout with his own pictures (including some he drew as a child, which are astoundingly good).

The first book covers a year or so of Shepard's childhood when he was about seven or eight, and the second book picks up about a year later and carries us on through his schooling, adolescence, years as an art student, and eventual marriage when he was 24. Between the two volumes lies the death of his mother, which he describes briefly in an introduction to book 2, and says it was years before the cloud of sorrow lifted. Otherwise, he doesn't dwell on her illness or loss at all, a sharp contrast to a modern misery memoir which would have talked of nothing but!

This quiet, domestic account of an Edwardian childhood brought me immense joy, though I was very sad about his mother, and also shocked to learn that his father died at the age of 56, which seems extremely young (the three children were all grown up by this time). Shepard's wife, "Pie" (Florence Chaplin), who by his account was the more talented artist of the pair, seems to have vanished from the historical record almost without a trace -- there is a lovely account of her painting a huge mural for the nurses' dining hall at St Guys Hospital, which it's a pity to have lost. This is the world of Edith Nesbit's books and it was gorgeous to see it from another angle.

Coincidentally, while my daughter was reading this, we happened to watch the film Goodbye Christopher Robin on TV, in which the character of adult Ernest Shepard makes a cameo appearance!


  1. Susan Green
    Gosh, I wish my son would trawl the Op Shops for me...this looks like it would be right up my alley, also. Have you ever read anything by Gwen Raverat? She was an English wood engraver and illustrator, but wrote a beautiful and often very funny memoir of an Edwardian Oxford childhood called "Period Piece". Which I think I loaned to someone and never got back. Get your daughter to look out for that one, too!

  2. Ooh, no, I've never heard of Gwen Raverat, but that sounds wonderful! I will definitely watch out for that one. I should say that my daughter was hunting for herself and only lent it to me afterwards :( so it wasn't really for me!