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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Phil Ebbutt

PHIL EBBUTT
by
Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Phil Ebbutt could be said to have had two parallel careers—that of a serious artist, illustrating historical novels and similar works, and that of a caricaturist and comic artist. Both sides of his output were used by George and Edward Dalziel, the Victorian engravers, and his comic illustrations were later used by James Henderson & Co.

Ebbutt was born on 5 November 1866 and baptized, as Philip Guy Ebbutt, at St. John the Baptist Church, Croydon, Surrey, on 1 December 1866. He was the fifth of nine children of Alfred Charles Ebbutt (1833-1906), a highly successful upholsterer and cabinet-maker (at his death his estate was worth almost £1 million in today’s terms), and his wife Jane (née Close, 1837-1920), who had moved to Croydon after marrying in Bishopsgate, London, in 1858.

Philip may have been a sickly child, as at the time of the 1871 census, when was under 4 years old, he was recorded as a “Nurse Child” living with William Rackley, a labourer, and his wife at Victoria Place, Croydon.  (Having said, that, his parents were living apart at that time, his father in Croydon and his mother in Brighton). At the time of the 1891 census, the family, now reunited, was living at 1 Park Terrace, Park Lane, Croydon, with Alfred employing 35 men and 3 boys.

Phil Ebbutt received his artistic training at the Croydon School of Art (founded in 1868), along with his sisters Ethel and Blanche, with Philip being registered there aged only 13. After leaving the college he remained in Croydon, where he was a member of the Croydon Swimming Club and the Croydon Lacrosse team, until around 1887, when he moved briefly into central London, being recorded in the 1888 Electoral Register as occupying an unfurnished room at 1 Ryland Road, St. Pancras.

It was around this time that he began working for the Dalziel brothers, as they recalled in their memoir The Brothers Dalziel (published by Methuen & Co. in 1901):
Phil Ebbutt came to us on the recommendation of George R. Sims. He had a natural taste for drawing, and was quick at design. He worked much on our publication Jack and Jill, including political cartoons, and romances strictly historical. He also made many drawings for Fun, which were mostly of a social character. In all he was an industrious, willing worker, but his progress was hindered by an affliction of the eyes, which now and again demanded complete rest; though that, for a time, was got over and he went to work again.
In 1889 he contributed to the first number of The Daily Graphic (published by H.R. Baines & Co. and owned by Luson Thomas, who also owned The Graphic), and he also began contributing to periodicals such as The Quiver, The Lady’s Pictorial and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. His first book illustrations also appeared around this time. In 1885 he had provided 40 black and white illustrations for a re-issue of Harriet Martineau’s The Settlers at Home, and he also contributed to Hood’s Comic Annual for 1885 (and later years) and The Fun Almanac, both engraved and printed by the Dalziel brothers. In 1887 he illustrated three books by Henry T. Johnson, who was the editor of Fun and who went on to become an extremely prolific author.

At the time of the 1891 census Ebbutt was living with his parents and two of his sisters at 7 Epsom Road, Croydon. Three years later, on 4 December 1894, he married Edith Mary Prewett, at Warnham, Surrey  –  born in 1873, she was the daughter of William Thomas Gibbens Prewett, an extremely wealthy miller and corn merchant (he left an estate valued at over £2 million in today’s terms when he died in 1913). They remained in Croydon, where their only child, Hetty Eve, was born in 1899, and where Ebbutt joined the Surrey Art Circle. They later moved to 8 The Gables, Moring Road, Tooting, where Ebbutt was recorded in the 1901 census as a “Journalistic Artist”, working from home, and his wife as a journalist.

By then he had left The Daily Graphic, because of his poor eyesight, but he continued to work, contributing to The Strand Magazine and The Sunday Strand. He also illustrated a handful of books at the turn of the century, including a re-issue of Harriet Martineau’s Feats on the Fiord, The Cruise of the “Arctic Fox” by Gordon Stables, and The Prots: A Weird Romance by Montague Dudbroke, an early biological science fiction novel.

He subsequently began working for the publisher James Henderson, in particular supplying extra illustrations for a series of reprints of the Giantland stories in Young Folks Tales, written by Roland Quiz (i.e. Richard Quittenton), which had originally been illustrated by John Proctor. He also provided the covers for Henderson’s short-lived Rob Roy Library in 1903-04, and for many of the early numbers of the Nugget Library and Lion Library. He also contributed illustrations to Henderson’s weekly papers Nuggets and The Boys’ Champion Story Paper, as well as The Boy’s Own Paper and Chums, and The British Girls’ Annual. As an artist, he was described by John Medcraft (in The Story Paper Collector, October-December 1943) as “sound but lacking in versatility, he was at his best in school story illustrations.”

At the time of the 1911 census Ebbutt was living at 33 Hampstead Way, Hendon, recorded as an “Artist (Journalistic)”. His wife died in January 1914, and the following year he married Rosina Sarah Wheeler, born in Highgate on 17 October 1891, the daughter of Hyda Wheeler, a carpenter. By then Ebbutt appears to have more or less stopped working, presumably because of his failing eyesight—his last known book illustrations had appeared in 1910. He died at 68 Muswell Hill, Highgate, on 18 March 1926, leaving a small estate of just under £80.


PUBLICATIONS

Books illustrated by Phil Ebbutt
The Settlers at Home by Harriet Martineau, George Routledge & Sons, 1885 (re-issue)
Little Wide-Awake: An Illustrated Magazine for Children ed. By Mrs Sale Barker, George Routledge & Sons, 1888
Jockey Club Stories by Frank Barrett, The “Fun” Office, 1887
Through My Heart First by H.T. Johnson, The “Fun” Office, 1887
Honours Divided by Henry T. Johnson, The “Fun” Office, 1887
Jack of Hearts: A Story of Bohemia by Henry T. Johnson, The “Fun” Office, 1887
Raymi, or The Children of the Sun by Clive Holland, Cassell & Co., 1890
Wise and Otherwise by “Pansy”, George Routledge & Sons, 1890
Seaside Resorts: A Selection of the “Daily Graphic” Holiday Letters by J. Ashby-Sterry,,Office of the “Daily Graphic”, 1891
Feats on the Fiord: A Tale of Norway by Harriet Martineau, Ward, Lock & Co., 1900 (re-issue)
The Cruise of the “Arctic Fox” in Icy Seas Around the Pole by Gordon Stables, S.H. Bousfield, 1902
The Prots: A Weird Romance by M. Dudbroke, S.H. Boulsfield & Co., 1903
The Kidnapping of Peter Cray: A Story of the South Seas by Robert Leighton, John F. Shaw, 1903
Fortunatus: A Romance by J.H. White, Melville & Mullen, 1903
Lionel Harcourt, the Etonian by G.E. Wyatt, T. Nelson & Sons, 1904 (re-issue)
Three Little Preachers by Harold Murray, Religious Tract Society, 1910
The Story of Samson, James Henderson, 1910   (Bible Stories for Young Readers)

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