"The Story of Prince Lucio": G.K. Chesterton and the Visual Imagination

  • Daniel Gabelman King's Ely Senior School
  • Jeremiah Romano Mercurio Columbia University
Keywords: Chesterton, Prince Lucio, fairy tale, unpublished, manuscript, Prince Wildfire, Lucian, Oldershaw, MacDonald, Golden Key, William Blake, illustration, illustrated, introduction, introductory

Abstract

G.K. Chesterton’s fragmentary, unpublished fairy tale “The Story of Prince Lucio” is a rich artifact of Chesterton’s writing process that demonstrates the centrality of his visual imagination to his compositional methods. Now held in the New York Public Library’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division, the manuscript is replete with illustrations and doodles. These drawings reveal the fact that Chesterton completed many of these images before composing the story’s linguistic text, and they also place him within a tradition of idealist illustrators like William Blake who sought to capture not realistic detail but eternal truth. While the story of Lucio’s adventures is tantalizingly incomplete, this verbal-visual fragment illuminates an important but understudied aspect of Chesterton as a writer and artist.  

Author Biographies

Daniel Gabelman, King's Ely Senior School

Daniel Gabelman is Head of English at King’s Ely Senior School in Cambridgeshire, England, and previously taught English at Eastbourne College in East Sussex. He received his Ph.D. from the University of St Andrews where his thesis focused on the fairy tales of George MacDonald. In addition to George MacDonald, Daniel has published articles and chapters on various 19th- and early 20th-century writers such as Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, J.M. Barrie, G.K. Chesterton, and C.S. Lewis. His first monograph entitled George MacDonald: Divine Carelessness and Fairytale Levity was published by Baylor University Press in 2013. With Jeremiah Mercurio, he is currently completing a monograph on literary doodling in the long nineteenth century, focusing on the relationship between doodles and linguistic text in the manuscripts, notebooks, and libraries of such authors as William Makepeace Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, and G.K. Chesterton.

Jeremiah Romano Mercurio, Columbia University

Jeremiah Romano Mercurio is Head of Humanities and History at the Columbia University Libraries. He previously served at Fairfield University, in Connecticut, as a senior reference librarian and adjunct English professor and at Haverford College, in Pennsylvania, as a research librarian and visiting professor of writing. He received his Ph.D. from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, for a thesis titled Fantasy as a Mode in British and Irish Literary Decadence, 1885-1925, which explores the role of fantasy and language in Anglophone Decadent literature. His research and teaching interests include fin-de-siècle literature and illustration, book and textual studies, literary doodling, and critical information literacy. With Daniel Gabelman, he is currently completing a monograph on literary doodling in the long nineteenth century, focusing on the relationship between doodles and linguistic text in the manuscripts, notebooks, and libraries of such authors as William Makepeace Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm, and G.K. Chesterton.

Published
2019-01-09
Section
Articles