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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Frank Gillett

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Frank Gillett was a prolific illustrator between the late 1890s and his death in 1927, working for a wide range of periodicals and also illustrating a large number of books for Blackie & Son, most notably around 25 re-issues of G.A. Henty’s boys’ historical and adventure stories.

He was born in Worlingham, Suffolk, in 1874, and christened Edward Frank Gillett. His father, Jesse Gillett (1843-1893, born in Somerset) was the local curate; his mother, Eliza Marten (née Duplock, 1843-1908, born in Petersfield, Hampshire) was the daughter of a bookseller and stationer.

By 1881, Jesse Gillett had become the curate in Aldeby, Norfolk, just north of the border with Suffolk. Edward Frank was subsequently educated at Gresham’s School, Holt, Norfolk, after which, in around 1890, he became a clerk at Lloyd’s, moving to London and, alongside his older brother Frederick (also a Lloyd’s clerk) lodging with Frederick Daniels, a law writer, at 56 Thornton Street, Stockwell.

He began his career as an artist by submitting cartoons to the comic periodical Fun in 1895; within a year, he had become a full-time illustrator (despite apparently having had no formal artistic training), working for The Graphic, and later Black and White, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Bystander. In 1901, he was living with his widowed mother at 23 Gayton Road, Hampstead, along with six (of his eight) brothers and sisters, with his brother Frederick still working as a Lloyd’s clerk (he later became a journalist).

On 22 April 1903, at St. Augustine’s church, Highbury, Frank Gillett married Elsie Joanne Bastard, the daughter of a solicitor, born in Norwood, Surrey, in 1870. She died only nine years later, on 4 January 1912, at Brightside, Crouch End Hill, London, although her home address was 6 Aldred Road, West Hampstead. The marriage may well have been a difficult one, as Brightside appears to have been a psychiatric hospital. In the 1911 census, Frank Gillett was recorded as a visitor at Aldeby Hall, Norfolk, staying with Pascoe William Mickelburgh, a farmer. Three years later, in 1914, Frank married Mickelburgh’s daughter, Margaret Helen (born in February 1891), at Loddon, Norfolk.  The couple stayed on at the Aldeby Hall farm, later moving to Beccles, Norfolk.

As an artist, Gillett worked in pen and ink, watercolour and oils. One of his specialities was hunting scenes, but he was also a skillful caricaturist, as his sketches in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Bystander testify. In 1907 he was exhibiting with the Langham Sketching Club, with The Morning Post of 23 February 1907 commenting that “Of the younger members none show greater power and promise than Mr Frank Gillett with his splendid suggestion of momentarily observed movement...” He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1909, and in the same year he became a founder member of the Pencil Society, exhibiting at its inaugural exhibition at the New Dudley Gallery, Piccadilly. In 1921, he exhibited at the inaugural exhibition of the Society of Graphic Art in Piccadilly, and four years later he was exhibiting with the Pastel Society. His work also appeared at the Fine Art Society, the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, Liverpool’s Walker Art gallery, and the Royal Academy.

As well as The Graphic and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, he was also a prolific contributor to The Strand Magazine between 1910 and 1926. Amongst the other periodicals he contributed to were The Illustrated London News, Wide World Magazine, The Ludgate Monthly, Cassell’s Magazine, The Red Magazine, The Yellow Magazine, The Royal Magazine, The New Magazine, The Home Magazine, The Windsor Magazine, The Pillar-Box, The Sketch, The Detective Magazine, The Tatler, Sunday at Home, Chums and The Captain.

As an illustrator of books he concentrated almost exclusively on boys’ adventure, historical and school stories. He provided plates for a handful of books by Percy F. Westerman and F.S. Brereton between 1915 and 1920, but more importantly he was commissioned to illustrate a large number of G.A. Henty’s novels, re-issued by Blackie & Son between around 1917 and 1925. In most cases, this was limited to a colour frontispiece, with internal black and white plates supplied by other artists. He also illustrated re-issues of three of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novels in 1920, and between 1922 and 1927 he illustrated several school stories, by Richard Bird, Gilbert Jessop, Alfred Judd and Sydney Horler.

Frank Gillett died on 1 May 1927 at the London Hospital, Stepney, although his home address was Northgate Street, Beccles. He left an estate values at £2,876 (around £160,000 in today’s terms). It is not known where and when his wife died.


Books Illustrated
All published by Blackie & Son unless stated otherwise.
Thorndyke Manor: A Tale of Jacobite Times by Mary C. Rowsell, 1889
Ned Myers, or A Life Before the Mast by J. Fenimore Cooper, 1899
Teresa of Watling Street by Arnold Bennett, Chatto & Windus, 1904
Stories from English History by John Aston, Henry Frowde/Hodder & Stoughton, 1911
The Sword of Freedom: A Tale of the English Revolution by Charles Gilson, Henry Frowde/Hodder & Stoughton, 1912
The Dispatch Riders: The Adventures of Two British Motorcyclists in the Great War by Percy F. Westerman, 1915
Wild Sports of the West by W.H. Maxwell, Gresham Pub. Co., 1915
A Naval Venture: The Story of an Armoured Cruiser by T.T. Jeans, 1916
From the Nile to the Tigris: A Story of Campaigning from Western Egypt to Mesopotamia by F.S. Brereton, 1918
With Allenby in Palestine: A Story of the Latest Crusade by F.S. Brereton, 1919
With the Allies to the Rhine: A Story of the Finish of the War by F.S. Brereton, 1919
The Children’s Year: Talks to the Church’s Children on the Church’s Season by G.R. Oakley, S.P.C.K., 1919
Phyllis in France by May Wynne, 1919
With Beatty off Jutland: A Romance of the Great Sea Fight by Percy F. Westerman, 1920
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R. L. Stevenson, British Books, 1920
The Black Arrow by R.L. Stevenson, British Books, 1920
Treasure Island by R.K. Stevenson, British Books, 1920
The Making of Michael: The Story of a Broken Holiday by L.M. Middleton, 1922
Their London Cousins by L.M. Middleton, 1921
Won by a Try: A Story of Public School Life by Gunby Hadath, Cassell & Co., 1922
The Story of “Les Miserables” by Isabel C. Fortey, 1922
The Third Jump, and Other Stories by Richard Bird, 1923
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, 1923
Toilers of the Sea by Isabel C. Fortey, 1923
Dawson’s Score, and Other School Stories by Richard Bird, 1924
Cresley of Cressingham by Gilbert Jessop, Cassell & Co., 1924
Trouble at Wyndham by Richard Bird, 1925
Forrester’s Fag by Alfred Judd, 1926
That Fellow Hagan! By Sydney Horler, Cassell & Co., 1927
Trilby by George du Maurier, Collins, 1929

Re-issues of novels by G.A. Henty
All published by Blackie & Son (circa 1915-1925).
The Lion of the North
The Bravest of the Brave
St. George for England
In the Reign of Terror
In the Irish Brigade
Through the Sikh War
A Jacobite Exile
On the Irrawaddy
When London Burned
With Cochrane the Dauntless
In Greek Waters
To Herat and Cabul
The Tiger of Mysore
The Treasure of the Incas
Both Sides the Border
A Knight of the White Cross
The Young Carthaginian
For the Temple
Captain  Bayley’s Heir
The Cat of the Bubastes
By Pike and Dyke
Condemned as a Nihilist
Beric the Briton
In the Heart of the Rockies
With the Allies to Pekin
At Aboukir and Acre
In the Irish Brigade
The Dragon and the Raven
St Bartholomew’s Eve

1 comment:

  1. I happen to be a Gillett (prou: Gil-Let) and have traced the family tree back a few generations so was absolutely delighted to come across your article. I'm also an artist, however do technical work these days very much in a draftsman's style.