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Non Better a Belloc: Cautionary Tales for Children reviewed
on November 1, 2002
Edward Gorey's first major posthumous publication is like a newly forged work, with freshness and originality. Published several times since 1907, Harcourt's reprint of "Cautionary Tales for Children" contains sixty-one new illustrations enfolding the 95-year old verse, and the result is very satisfying.
Gorey created these illustrations several years ago, but for some reason, chose not publish them while he was alive. Gorey's Victorian style is a delightful fit for Belloc's verse. In fact, those already familiar with Belloc's Cautionary Tales or Cautionary Verses series may very well conclude that they were strong influences for Gorey's "The Beastly Baby", "The Gashlycrumb Tines", "The Epipleptic Bicycle" and others. Certainly, many of the verses in Cautionary Tales feel like they could have been written by Gorey: "Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion", "Henry King, Who chewed on bits of String, and was early cut off in Dreadful Agonies", "Matilda, Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death", and so on. Unlike the original cartoonish illustrations by Blackwood, Gorey's illustrations simply set the stage - the big moment is then played out in the imagination. It is Edward Gorey's delightful magic, at work.