Although Rackham is often remembered for his work with fairy tales and children's literature, he also illustrated numerous other works that lie outside these realms. Indeed, his first significant commission was for Anthony Hope's The Dolly Dialogues
(1894). This was not only the first book published that was illustrated wholly by Rackham but also the first time his name was linked with a work of known literary merit. While his four halftone black-and-white illustrations bear little resemblance to his later work, the cover serves to provide a very early forerunner of his late style. His illustration style developed quickly over the next four years, as his sixteen full-page black-and-white illustrations for Frances Burney's Evelina
(1898) prove. Three years later his style became identifiably "Rackham" - at least in terms of his use of line - as the pre-Raphaelite maiden in Queen Mab's Fairy Realm
Rackham published The Ingoldsby Legends (1898) during this early period, returning to it in 1907 and reissuing it as a deluxe edition. Although the frontispiece of the 1907 edition is distinctive, with its witches and black cats flying in the air, many of the other illustrations lack consistency and several have been redrawn from the 1898 edition.1 A far more interesting work was de la Motte Fouque's Undine (1909), with its overtones of art nouveau style along with Rackham's characteristic use of line and depiction of fairies, wizened old men, and beautiful maidens.
World War I (1914-1918) had a significant impact on Rackham's work. Although he published a few deluxe editions during these years, his illustrations also appeared in three books printed in aid of royal wartime charities: Princess Mary's Gift Book
(1914), King Albert's Book
(1914), and The Queen's Gift Book
(1915). These books contained stories, essays, poems, and illustrations by many of the leading writers and artists of the time. Rackham's color illustrations for these works were generally unremarkable, but their inclusion in these books indicates the high level of his reputation at the midpoint of his career.
Of the deluxe editions published during the war years, the most memorable was his edition of Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1915), which was reprinted seven times during the next thirty years. Here he adapted and softened the style used by Cruickshank during the Victorian era, producing illustrations that seem more Victorian than the originals. Avoiding the typical portrayal of the Cratchit family Christmas dinner, Rackham instead chose to illustrate Bob Cratchit outdoors, and the subdued use of light combined with Cratchit's skinny legs and top hat contribute to an overall warm feeling, despite the icy street.
In 1926 Rackham illustrated his second deluxe edition of Shakespeare with The Tempest
, which was "an excitingly original edition"2 that demonstrated Rackham's experimentation with modern styles. In addition to the marked influence of Persian miniature paintings on these pictures, Rackham's lines appear cleaner, more graceful, and more organic than in almost any of his other works. Moreover, as Gettings has pointed out, the harmony between real and imaginary does not come at the expense of the real, as was Rackham's usual practice.3
Two other literary classics followed in deluxe editions: Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1928) and Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield (1929). For the former Rackham designed a dramatic cover with a somewhat scratchy style, showing the headless horseman at the top and goblins at the bottom of the page. In contrast, The Vicar of Wakefield seems dreary and conventional. Rackham employed period costumes and scenic landscapes for most of the illustrations.
1 Those illustrations that Rackham reworked appear with both the original 1898 date and the revised 1907 date next to his signature.
2 Hudson, Arthur Rackham, 119.
3 Fred Gettings, Arthur Rackham (London: Studio Vista, 1975), 150.