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Saturday, September 02, 2017

W. E. Wightman

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

W.E. Wightman had a short but productive career as an illustrator of children’s books between around 1920 and his early death nine years later.

He was born in 1889 in Basford, Nottinghamshire, and christened William Ernest Wightman. His father, William Henry Wightman, born in Bulwell, Nottingham in 1860, was a lace designer and the son of a glass-maker; his mother, Mary Jane (née Tinley, born in Tipton, Staffordshire), was the daughter of a railway station clerk. At the time of the 1901 census, the family was living at 35 Bobbers Mill Road, Nottingham, which had been the family home for at least a decade.

Ten years later, William Ernest Wightman was an art student in London, boarding at 115 Ivanhoe Road, Camberwell, with Eliza Charlotte Grover, a 58 year-old widow, and her daughter Violet. There were two other boarders, one of whom, 23 year-old Stanley R.H. Rogers, was also an art student. Where Wightman and Rogers were studying is not known. (Rogers later emigrated to America, where he became a aircraft engineer before being drafted into the American army in 1917.)

Wightman also served in the First World War, initially with the Royal Field Artillery, then with the 17th Lancers, and finally with the Motor Machine Gun Service. As a Temporary Lieutenant in Belgium, he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation in The London Gazette (1 February 1919) reading:
When the gun teams came under very heavy machine-gun fire from the cross roads near Gheluvelt, 28th September, 1918, he dismounted all four guns and took up positions in the infantry line. But for this action the guns and teams were in great danger of being put out of action. He showed great courage in the open under heavy fire, and subsequently handled his guns with great ability.
Wightman had married Alice Thorpe in Belper, Derbyshire, in 1916. He left the army on 2 November 1920, and immediately began his new career as an artist, with one of his first pictures, of H. Rider Haggard’s heroine Ayesha (from his novel She) appearing in The Strand Magazine in December 1920. His first book illustrations also appeared in 1920, in Constance Harvey’s novel The Head versus the School. Nothing by him has been traced for the following two years, but in 1923 he began a brief association with the publishers Blackie & Son and Ward, Lock & Co., mainly illustrating school stories. He also provided illustrations for annual such as Blackie’s Boys’ Budget, Girls’ Budget and Blackie’s Boys’ Annual, and Cassell’s British Girls’ Annual. In 1924, he began providing illustrations for Cassell & Co.’s The New Magazine and Cassell’s Magazine. He went on work for C. Arthur Pearson’s The Royal Magazine, and, from 1926 onwards, for The Graphic, The Bystander, The Sphere and The Wide World Magazine.

He died, of bronchopneumonia and influenza and aged only 40, on 10 February 1929, at his home at 2 Claremont Road, Twickenham, leaving a small estate, worth £590, to his widow.

As an illustrator, his black and white drawings were well-executed and often lively, and he was clearly highly-regarded by magazines such as The Bystander and The Sphere. But he was, perhaps, a strange choice as an artist for boys’ books—his schoolboys could rarely be described as good-looking, and he seemed to be have a fixation with one particular hairstyle...


Books Illustrated
The Head versus the School by Constance Harvey, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1920
The School Jonah by St. John Pearce, Ward, Lock & Co., 1923
The War of the Wireless Waves by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1923
Honour First: A Tale of the ‘forty Five by Herbert Strang, O.U.P., 1923
Schoolgirl Kitty by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1923
The School in the South by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1923
Young Rookwood at School by R.A.H. Goodyear, Ward, Lock & Co., 1924
The Rival Schools by Rowland Walker, Ward, Lock & Co., 1924
The Mystery of the Mine by George Richmond, Blackie & Son, 1924
Captain Peggie by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1924
The Boys of Ringing Rock by R.A.H. Goodyear, Ward, Lock & Co., 1925
Chris in Canada: A Tale by Dr G.F. Clarke, Blackie & Son, 1925
Sylvia’s Secret: A Tale of the West Indies by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1925
A Sixth Form Feud by Harold Avery, Ward, Lock & Co., 1926
Blake of the Modern Fifth by R.A.H. Goodyear, Ward, Lock & Co., 1926
Joan’s Best Chum by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1926
The Valley of a Thousand Deaths by Conrad H. Sayce, Blackie & Son, 1926
Her Own Kin: A Tale of Flood and Fortune by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1926
Di the Dauntless by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1926
The Call of the Jungle by Robert Noel Rivers, Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1926
Carton’s Cap and Other School Stories by Richard Bird, Blackie & Son, 1927 *
Blue Brander: A Story of Adventure and Australian School Life by D. Lindsay, Ward, Lock & Co., 1927
Maurice Pomeroy by H. Elrington, Ward, Lock & Co., 1927
The Head versus the School by Constance Harvey, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1927
An Eventful Term by Dora Chapman, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1927
Just the Girl for St. Jude’s by Ethel Talbot, Cassell & Co., 1927
The Captain of Stannard’s by Michael Poole, Blackie & Son, 1928
Rival Schools at Schooner Bay by R.A.H. Goodyear, Ward, Lock & Co., 1928
At School with Rachel by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1928
The Treasure of the Tropics by Bernard Cronin, Ward, Lock & Co., 1928

* The title page incorrectly gives Frank Gillett as the illustrator

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