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Saturday, July 22, 2017

J. H. Hartley

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

J. H. Hartley was a familiar artist to many readers of boys’ school stories in the 1920s, providing dustjackets to re-issues of novels by P.G. Wodehouse and R.S.Warren Bell, and he was also a noted illustrator of bible stories. Yet his life has always been something of a mystery – he was even overlooked in Brian Doyle’s groundbreaking Who’s Who of Boys’ Writers and Illustrators, published in 1964.

He was born in Leeds on 25 May 1876 and christened James Henry Hartley. His parents were both involved in the cloth/textile trades – in the 1881 census, the family was living at 6 Kennedy Street, Leeds, with James’s father, William Bennett Hartley (born in Leeds in 1845) working as a cloth dresser, and his mother Jessie (born in Edinburgh in 1848) working as a braider. Indeed, James’s working life began in the same trade – in 1888 he was awarded a Day Scholarship by Yorkshire College, Leeds, as a clothworker’s scholar (as reported in the Leeds Times, 6 October 1888), and in the 1891 census he was recorded as a clothier’s office boy, living with his parents at 4 New Lloyd Street, Leeds.

At some point in the 1890s, his career path changed and in the 1901 census, still living with his parents, at 23 Haddon Avenue, Headingley cum Burley, Leeds, he was recorded as a (freelance) lithographic artist. (his father had also changed career, being recorded as a confectioner’s warehouseman).

It is not known if Hartley received any artistic training or was self-taught. It is also not known what sort of work he was doing in his early career – his first-known published work is from around 1912, with the bulk of his work appearing in the 1920s and early 1930s.

In September 1904, in Leeds, he married Mary Elizabeth Wainwright (born in Leeds in 1881). Their first child, Albert Wainwright Hartley, was born in Glasgow in 1905, suggesting they were visiting Scotland at that time, and he was baptized in Leeds on 13 August 1905. They went on to have two other children: James Stanley in 1907 (possibly at 40 Chestnut Avenue, Headingley, Leeds, where Hartley was recorded as an artist in the 1908 Kelly’s Directory), and Dorothy Mary in 1910, also born in Leeds.

Shortly after the birth of their daughter, the family moved south, to 5 Woodhouse Terrace, Grove Road, North Finchley, with Hartley recorded in the 1911 census as an “Artist to Printers and Publishers”, working on his own account. He then set up in business with a partner, as The Hartley Cooke Studio, at his home address, although the First World War intervened, and in June 1916 he applied for exemption from military service, having been called-up under the provisions of the newly-introduced Military Service Act. (See National Archives, Ref. MH 47/55/32).

In his application he stated that his partner and two employees were already serving in the army, and that he was trying to keep his business going, as this was the sole means of support for his wife, three children and widowed mother. He was given a temporary exemption for three months. However, the army appealed, claiming that there was “no serious business hardship in this case as he will be able to carry on his business when he comes back.” Fortunately for Hartley, the appeal tribunal confirmed his 3 months exemption but varied the terms so that he was obliged to join the Volunteer Training Corps and carry out at least 12 drills per month. He subsequently applied for a renewal of his exemption, and was awarded another temporary exemption for three months at the beginning of November 1916.
On 12 March 1917 he was offered a position in the Drawing Office of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Edgware Road, Hendon, on a salary of £2 a week plus overtime, provided he was still exempt from military service. Unfortunately, the company seemed to have had little faith in Hartley’s artistic abilities, as the letter offering him the post explained that his duties “would be connected with the photo-copying of drawings.”

Hartley’s partner in the Hartley Cooke Studio was probably a descendant of Alf Cooke (1842-1902), who had founded what became a flourishing colour printing business in Leeds in 1866, and which had been taken over by his sons Harry and Alf after his death. Hartley’s first-known work was a series of colour plates and black and white illustrations for The Three Bears & The Babes in the Wood, written by W. Mord and printed and published by Alf Cooke Ltd. (of Leeds and London) in around 1912. (It also contained illustrations by E. North). Another illustration appeared in 1912 Brown Eyes and Blue, a collection of stories and rhymes for young children published by Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton.  Another early book illustrated by Hartley was Ethel Turner’s Flower of the Pine, published by Ward, Lock & Co. in 1914.

There is no trace of the Hartley Cooke Studio after 1917 (Hartley’s partner may well have been a casualty of the war), and by 1922 Hartley appears to have become either an employee of the publishers A. & C. Black, or contracted to them, as most of his published work appears to have been for them.

In particular, he was tasked with providing the dustjackets (with the illustration being repeated as a colour frontispiece) to many of the titles in Black’s “Boys’ and Girls’ Library.” Most notably, these included re-issues of the school stories by P.G. Wodehouse and R.S. Warren Bell, which had previously been published by Black in the two decades before the war. (Some of Bell’s stories had been published by George Newnes). Other boys’ school stories in the series with Hartley dustjackets were by R.A.H. Goodyear, L.H. Bradshaw and N. Hewitt. Only a few of the dustjackets carried Hartley’s signature, but his style is fairly distinctive.  One exception to this general rule was a 1924 edition of P.G. Wodehouse’s Mike, which had originally been published in 1909 with black and white illustrations by T.M.R. Whitwell – the 1924 reprint, retaining the original pictorial binding, had four colour plates by Hartley.

He also provided illustrations for several girls’ stories, although identifying some of these is difficult in the absence of his signature.

His other main area of work was as an illustrator of bible stories, beginning in 1923 with no fewer than 50 colour illustrations for A. & C. Black’s The Bible Story: A Connected Narrative Retold from Holy Scripture, written by Rev. James Baikie. Similar titles illustrated by Hartley included The Beautiful Book of Bible Stories by June Morton (Partridge, 1931) and Bible Picture Stories (Partridge, 1931). Also worth mentioning are his two covers for stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and published by John Lane the Bodley Head: A Fighting Man of Mars (1932) and Tarzan and the City of Gold (1936).

What Hartley did after the mid-1930s is not known, as no books carrying his illustrations after this date are known. When his wife died in the Prince of Wales Hospital, Tottenham, on 6 August 1935 he was living at 111 Lichfield Grove, Finchley, the probate record recording that he was a commercial artist. Lichfield Grove was also his address when his son James married in 1937. He died on 27 December 1961 at Walnut Tree Cottage, Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton, Shropshire, leaving an estate valued at £2,950. Probate was granted to his sons – Albert Wainwright was recorded as being a technical author, and James Stanley as a chartered architect. James died in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1987, and Albert died in Bournemouth in 1995.


Boys’ stories (all published by A. & C. Black, London)
Dormitory Eight by R.S. Warren Bell, 1922 (re-issue)
The Head of Kay's by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922 (re-issue)
The White Feather by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922 (re-issue)
Smith's Week by R.S. Warren Bell, 1923 (re-issue)   
Greyhouse Days by R.S. Warren Bell, 1923 (re-issue)    
The Three Prefects by R.S. Warren Bell, 1923 (re-issue)    
Tales of St. Austin's by P.G. Wodehouse, 1923 (re-issue)    
The Gold Bat by P. G. Wodehouse, 1923 (re-issue)    
Green at Greyhouse by R.S. Warren Bell, 1924 (re-issue)   
The Secret Seven by R.S. Warren Bell, 1924 (re-issue)    
The Fifth Form at Beck House by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1924   
Mike by P.G. Wodehouse, 1924 (re-issue)       
The Pothunters by P.G. Wodehouse, 1924 (re-issue)    
A Prefect's Uncle by P.G. Wodehouse, 1924 (re-issue)    
Tales of Greyhouse by R.S. Warren Bell, 1925 (re-issue)   
The Mystery of Markham by R.S. Warren Bell, 1925 (re-issue)  
Three Joskins at St. Jude's by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1925
The Smiths of Scarlett's House by N. Hewitt, 1925   
The Right Sort by L.H. Bradshaw, 1926 (re-issue)    
The New Boy at Baxtergate by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1926   
Between the Wickets by Jack Hobbs, 1926   
Exiled from School by Andrew Home, 1926 (re-issue)   
J.O. Jones by R.S. Warren Bell, 1927 (re-issue)    
Up Against the School by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1927       
An Exciting Term at Monks Eaton by N. Hewitt, 1927   
By A Schoolboy's Hand by Andrew Home, 1927 (re-issue)  
With Wat at Wintergleam  by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1928       

Girls’ stories
Flower of the Pine by Ethel Turner, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914
Her Mighty Youth by Anemone J. Napier, A. & C. Black, 1924
Bringing Up Dinah by Jocelyn C. Lea, A. C. Black, 1927
A Girl’s Adventures in Korea by Agnes Herbert, A. & C. Black, 1927
The House of Doug by Bertha Leonard, Sampson Low, Marston & Co. 1927
Philippa at School by S.K. Ensdaile, A. & C. Black, 1928
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin, A. & C. Black, 1930   
More About Revbecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin, A. & C. Black  1930
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, A. & C. Black, 1933

Bible stories
The Bible Story by Rev. J. Baikie, A. & C. Black, 1923
The Beautiful Book of Bible Stories, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1931
Bible Picture Stories by June Morton, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1931

Other children’s books
The Three Bears and Babes in the Wood by W. Mord, Alf Cooke Ltd., 1912
Brown Eyes and Blue, Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton, 1912
The Book of London for Young People by G.E. Mitton, A. & C. Black, 1922
A Naval Alphabet by M. Berkeley, A. & C. Black, 1922
Baby’s Pretty Stories by Florence Hardy, Humphrey Milford, 1923
Mother Gooses’s Nursery Tales by l. Edna Walter, A. & C. Black, 1923

Other books
Christmas Carols, A & C Black, 1922
Peeps at English Folk Dances by Violet Alford, A. & C. Black, 1923
The Story of the Highland Regiments by Frederick Watson, A. & C. Black, 1925
Face to Face with Napoleon by O.V. Caine, A. & C. Black, 1930
Tales of English Castles and Manors by Elizabeth W. Grierson, A. & C. Black, 1931
A Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1932
Dover-Ostend by Taffrail, Hodder & Stoughton, 1933
London Watercolours, A. & C. Black, 1935
Tarzan and the City of Gold by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1936


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  2. Hartley also provided the dust jacket artwork for the 1935 A. and C. Black edition of P. G. Wodehouse's Enter Psmith, a slightly revised version of the second half of Mike. A tiny image of it is at