Eleanor Vere Boyle

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Eleanor Vere Boyle
Born (1825-05-01)1 May 1825
Auchlunies, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Died 29 July 1916(1916-07-29) (aged 91)
Brighton, East Sussex, England
Occupation Illustrator, Writer
Nationality English
Period 19th century
Genre Children's Literature

Eleanor Vere Boyle (1 May 1825 – 29 July 1916) was an English artist and author of the Victorian era.[1] She has been considered the most important female illustrator of the 1860s.[2]

She was born in Scotland, the youngest daughter of Alexander Gordon of Ellon Castle, Aberdeenshire. In 1845 she married Richard Cavendish Boyle (1812–86), a younger son of the 8th Earl of Cork; R. C. Boyle served as the rector of Marston Bigot in Somerset (1836–75) and later as Queen Victoria's chaplain. Because of her social position, she rarely exhibited or sold her artwork — actions that would have been déclassé in the standards of her time and place. She did allow a rare exhibition of her art at Leighton House c. 1902. Consistently, in both her visual art and her books, she employed her initials, E. V. B., to mask her identity.[3]

Boyle applied her skill as a watercolorist to illustrate children's books. In 1852, a small volume titled Child's Play matched Boyle pictures with traditional nursery rhymes like "Little Boy Blue." She illustrated a wide range of similar books, including Tennyson's The May Queen (1860) — she was a friend of the poet — and the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1875) — she depicted the Beast as a sabre-toothed panther. In 1868 she illustrated Sarah Austin's translation of Friedrich Wilhelm Carové's The Story Without an End; and in 1872 she became one of the first British artists to illustrate the stories of Hans Christian Andersen,[4] and set a new standard of quality for Andersen illustration.[5]

Boyle was familiar with many of the Pre-Raphaelites; Dante Gabriel Rossetti called her "great in design."[6] She was a cousin of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, another woman artist of her era.[7]

In 1893 Boyle published A Book of the Heavenly Birthdays, a small aid to meditation that combined her watercolors with poetry by William Morris, Christina Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walter Savage Landor and others. The book provides an example of "the eschatological thrust of much of her work...."[8]

Boyle was interested in garden design; she re-created the Evelyn garden at Huntercombe Manor in Burnham, Buckinghamshire from 1872 on.[9] She wrote books on gardening, like her Days and Hours in a Garden (1884), A Garden of Pleasure (1895), and Seven Gardens and a Palace (1900). Her The Peacock's Pleasaunce (1908) is a collection of belle-lettrist essays.

Three of her children, two sons and a daughter, pre-deceased her. She was survived by a son and daughter.

Other works by E. V. B.

  • A Child's Summer (1853)
  • In the Fir-Wood (1866)
  • A New Child's Play (1877)
  • A London Sparrow at the Colinderies (1887)
  • A Midsummer-Night Dream (1887)
  • Ros Rosarum ex Horto Poetarum: Dew of the Ever-Living Rose (1889)
  • Sylvana's Letters to an Unknown Friend (1900)


  1. Michael McGarvie, "Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825–1916): Artist and Illustrator; Her Life, Work, and Circle," Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, Vol. 26 (1982), pp. 94-145.
  2. Morna Daniels, Victorian Book Illustration, London, British Library, 1988.
  3. Christopher Wood, Victorian Painting, Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1999; p. 323.
  4. Donald Haase, ed., The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales, Westport, CT, Greenwood, 2008; p. 472.
  5. Russell Ash, ed., Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen, San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1992; p. 9.
  6. Julia Thomas, Pictorial Victorians, Athens, OH, Ohio University Press, 2004; p. 68.
  7. Claire Busby, "Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford: A Feminist Intervention in the Perception of Art?," Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 19 No. 2 (Autumn 1998 – Winter 1999), pp. 17-23.
  8. Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Christina Rossetti and Illustration, Athens, OH, Ohio University Press, 2002; p. 161.
  9. Nikolaus Pevsner and Elizabeth Williamson, Buckinghamshire, London, Penguin, 1994; pp. 63, 97.

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