The Diverting History of John Gilpin – Showing How He Went Farther Than He Intended, and Came Home Safe Again – Illustrated by Randolph Caldecott
This story, ‘The Diverting History Of John Gilpin’, was one of the first two books illustrated by Caldecott and was originally published in 1878. Written by William Cowper (1731 – 1800), the comic ballad tells the tale of a draper named John Gilpin, who rides a runaway horse. Cowper heard the story from Lady Anna Austen at a time of severe depression, and it cheered him up so much that he put it into verse. Ever since its first publication in 1782, the poem has continued to ‘cheer’ one and all who read it. Caldecott’s beautiful, full-colour illustrations only serve to further the good-natured humour and adventure of this poem.
Randolph Caldecott (1846 – 1886) was one of the most important British illustrators of the Victorian period. He transformed the world of decorated children’s books, with his delicate yet considered drawings and imaginative subject choices. Caldecott selected all the stories and rhymes he illustrated (and occasionally wrote) and frequently added to the stories himself. His delightful style and humour can still be enjoyed by young and old alike.