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Fairy Song

by Alison Davidson-Arnott

Fairy Song

Fairies were a popular subject in Victorian culture. They allowed people to escape from the harsh realities of working life, and the overwhelming advances in science and engineering. I chose to illustrate “Fairy Song,” a poem published in 1838, because it incorporates several themes common to Victorian fairy illustration. The poem avoids any mention of new nineteenth-century technology and uses exoticism as a means of escape. I have included these and other elements in my illustration. In the top left-hand corner, there is an “exotic”-looking building and the fairies' dresses are draped and flowing in order to evoke an earlier time. I have included a mixture of British and tropical plants and butterfly wings in the style of Richard Doyle’s In Fairyland, which is designed to be both comforting and escapist. The fairies are somewhat eroticized; they have long hair that is unbound and flows freely around them and while they are dressed, their clothing reveals the lines of their bodies. The two fairies at the bottom lean towards each other in a manner that could be interpreted as suggestive. The distancing effect of temporal and spatial shifts would make this acceptable to Victorian sensibilities. Although this poem is from a Victorian periodical, I have illustrated it as though it were to be reprinted in an illustrated book in the 1870s. I have used full colour in a manner that would have been possible to print at that time.