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Image of Heneage Lloyd and his sister

Thomas Gainsborough
Heneage Lloyd and his sister
Britain, c. 1750
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
no. 710


Most of the art I love was painted in or about St. Ives. I am not very susceptible to Thomas Gainsborough, or the whole school of dynastic portraits of which he was a notable perpetrator. But for me the heart-stopping picture in the Fitz is nevertheless a Gainsborough - his picture of Heneage Lloyd and his sister Lucy. The two children are arm in arm, and are shown in an Arcadian garden. They look out of the canvas at us unsmiling and alert. Lucy holds an arrow, her brother holds a bow. Someone has bought for Heneage, perhaps for this very portrait, a suit of clothes that are far too large for him: his stockings are wrinkled on his stick-like legs, his waistcoat is hitched around his waist, and would surely fall almost to his knees if he stood up in it. He looks too frail to meet the expectation of growth that those clothes contain.

I have written a great deal for children and about children, and this painting speaks to me about that mysterious state. I call it mysterious because everybody has been a child, and yet childhood can be understood only when one grows beyond it. Yet one can never leave it; among all the many people an adult is, the child they once were remains a central presence. The peaceful Arcadian garden in which these two seem to have been playing as Cupids embodies an idea of childhood as protected, happy and safe which is surely usually false, but is a trope of mythological power, and still what most adults hope to achieve for the children in their care.

I suppose the immense pathos that I sense in this picture arises from the unknowability of the future of these two at the moment they were painted. The way the present scene contains both past and future is a major subject of the art I practise- the art of novel writing. The novel had barely begun in England at the time of this picture, but it seems to me that Thomas Gainsborough depicted his subjects with a novelist’s eye.

© Jill Paton Walsh, 2008


Image of Jill Paton Walsh

Jill Paton Walsh

Image of Knowledge of Angels

Houghton Mifflin

Jill Paton Walsh CBE (b. 1937)

Born Gillian Bliss in London in 1937, Jill Paton Walsh was educated at St Michael's Convent, North Finchley, London before reading English at St Anne's College, Oxford. From 1959 to 1962 she taught English at Enfield Girl’s Grammar School in London. In 1961, she married Anthony Paton Walsh; now deceased, they have one son and two daughters.

An author committed to children’s literature, Paton Walsh was awarded The Chicago Herald Tribune Book World Prize for Firewood in 1970, the Whitbread Prize (for a children's novel) for The Emperor's Winding Sheet in 1974, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Prize for Unleaving in 1976, the Universe Prize for A Parcel of Patterns and the Smarties Grand Prix for Gaffer Samson's Luck in 1984. The recipient of an Arts Council Creative Writing Fellowship from 1976 to 1978, Paton Walsh was a 'permanent visiting faculty member' of the Centre for Children's Literature, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts from 1978 to 1986, a Whitbread Prize judge in 1984. She served on the management committee of the Society of Authors and is now on The Society’s Council. She has contributed articles and reviews to many journals and is currently 'adjunct British board member' of Childrens' Literature New England.

More recently Paton Walsh has written for adults and Knowledge for Angels, a fable set on a remote pre-reformation Christian island, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994. She is also the author of four detective stories - The Wyndham Case, A Piece of Justice, Debts of Dishonor and The Bad Quartro - and in 1998 evoked critical acclaim for the completion of Dorothy L. Sayer’s unfinished novel Thrones, Dominations.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Paton Walsh was awarded a CBE for services to literature in 1996.

Jill Paton Walsh now lives in Cambridge, with her second husband John Rowe Townsend.

UCP 2008

Related Links

Selected Bibliography

J. Paton Walsh, Hengest's Tale, Macmillan, 1966; 5th edition 1988

J. Paton Walsh, Fireweed, Macmillan, 1970 – The Chicago Herald Tribune Book World Prize, 1970

J. Paton Walsh, The Emperor's Winding Sheet, Macmillan, 1974 – Whitbread Prize, 1974

J. Paton Walsh, Unleaving, Macmillan, 1976; 4th edition 1985 – The Boston Globe-Horn Book Prize, 1976

J. Paton Walsh, A Chance Child, Macmillan, 1978 – Phoenix Prize, 1998

J. Paton Walsh, A Parcel of Patterns, Viking Kestrel, 1984 – Universe Prize, 1984

J. Paton Walsh, Gaffer Samson's Luck, Viking Kestrel, 1984 – Smarties Prize Grand Prix, 1984

J. Paton Walsh, The Wyndham Case - Imogen Quy Mystery 1, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1993

J. Paton Walsh, Knowledge of Angels, Colt Books Cambridge, 1994 - shortlisted for the Booker Prize, 1994

J. Paton Walsh, A Piece of Justice - Imogen Quy Mystery 2, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1995

J. Paton Walsh, completion of novel by Dorothy L Sayers, Thrones, Dominations, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998

J. Paton Walsh, Debts of Dishonour - Imogen Quy Mystery 3, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2006

J. Paton Walsh, The Bad Quarto - Imogen Quy Mystery 4, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2006

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