Little Lord Fauntleroy: Illustrators: Reginald Birch (1856-1943)

Figure 1.--This color drawing closly followed one of Reginald Birch's original classic drawings. Click on the image to compare.

Famed illustrator Reginald Birch was the original and best known illustrator of . He was an established illustrator even before he illustrated Mrs. Burnett's classic. He also illustrated her Secret Garden. Born in 1856, he was still illustrating books in the 1930s. He must have witnessed tremendous changes in his long life span. He died in 1943.


Famed Anglo-American illustrator Reginal Birch was born in London during 1856. His family moved to America at 6 years of age and he grew up in San Francusco. He returned to Europe for studies in Germany (Munich) and Italy. I have few details, however, on his childhood or how he was dressed as a boy.


Reginald Birch’s distinctive drawings first appeared in St. Nicholas during the 80s, and he was one of their most prolific artists throughout this decade and the one that followed. Birch, by the way, influenced more than art: his illustrations for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy earned him the undying hatred of several generations of small boys -- their fond mamas, emulating Birch’s depiction of the "manly" young hero of the story, dressed their sons in velvet suits with large lace collars, and coaxed their hair into lovely long ringlets.

Figure 2.--This is one of the drawings from the original 1886 edotion of "Little Lord Fauntleroy". Notice Cedric's tam.

Birch was a noted illustrator of the day, regularly illustrating stories in America's legendary St. Nichlos Magazine. On l'appela le "Gibson des enfants" pour ses innombrables dessins à la plume parus dans le Saint-Nicolhas américain. Presumably Birch met Mrs. Burnett through their work at St. Nicholas. He was personaly chosen by her to illustrate her immensly popular book.

Original Drawings

A U.S. publisher has contated HBC. The Director of New Product Development is researching because of a 1937 edition he did for The Night before Christmas. She is trying to find where Birch's original artworks are housed/archived. They are thinking of re-releasing this book. We would be interested in any information HBC readers may have about the current location of th original Birch drawings.

Clothing Depicted

The original Birch drawings show Cedric wearing a sailor hat, black velvet suit, large (but not huge) pointed lace collar without ruffles, a sash, black stockings, and patent shoes. Birch primarily drew Cedric wearng the famed velvet suits and lace collars that have become known as Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. The velvet suit is not the only outfit Cedric is pictured in. An home with mother he is already wrearing a light-colored Fauntleroy suit with a lace collar. But once in England he wears the black velvet suit. It is some what difficult to tell from the illustrations whether Cedric is wearing kneepants or knickers. They do seem to blouse out slightly at the knees so they arecprobably knicker pants--but very trim fitting knickers. He also wears a sailor suit, appropriately enough for the ocean voyage to England. He also has a non-descript light colored kneepanrs suit (figure 2). His headwear is commonly a tam, but he wears a wide-brimmed hat with his sailor suit. One interesting aspect of the Birch drawings is the fact that children on the Earl's estate are depicted wearing smocks. It is unclear, but they do not seem to be children's smocks, but rather the smovks worn by agricultural workers. The Birch drawings were done in 1885. We are unsure how common smocks were at the time. They certainly were common in the early 19th century, but were going out of style by the late 19th century. It is likely that Birch's drawings here were a bit of nostalgia, but there were likeky still p;aces in England that smocks were still worn at the time.

Figure 3.--This color drawing by Birch was one of a seies redrawn for the 1937 edition of the Burnett classicclosly followed one of Reginald Birch's original classic drawings.

Hair Styles

One interesting point is that Cedric in the Birch drawings had long hair, but they were not done into the carefully curled ringlets that many boys, especially American boys were to wear with their Fauntleroy suits. Even Vivian Burnett's hair was not done in ringlets. All of the Birch drawings show Cedric with light0-colored, long flowing locks down to his shoulders. None of the drawings show his hair doine in ringlets. Sepite this, however, many American mothers chose to add ringlet curls to complete their sons' Fauntlerouy look. I am not sure where the connection between ringlet curls and Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits began. It must have been in Ameica as the ringlets cirls worn with Fauntleroy suits were more common here than in Europe.

Other Illustrators

The many illustrators that followed Burnett often did not closely folow the book or the first illustrator. Some other illustrators did depict cCedric with ringlet curls. Little Lord Fauntleroy appeared in suits and stockings of many colors.


Birch was later to claims that his career was almost wrecked because of the critical odium attached to Little Lord Fauntleroy. Here we have no actual details on the impact on his career. His illustrations for Little Lord Fauntleroy were certainly some of the most famous ones that he did.

Book Illustrations

Birch illustrated the classic first edition of Little Lord Fauntleroy. The popular image of the young hero, Cedric Erol, is still based on those illustrations. The illistrations are truly wonderful. Certainly they are the best black and line drawings ever done to illustrate the book. That is why many subsequent illustrators redrew hus drawings instead of recreating new scenes. Of course the demand for color illustrations has prevent the use of the Birch drawings in many modern editions. He also illustrated other editions as well as many other books.

Little Lord Fauntleroy: First Edition, 1886

The first edition of Francis Hodgson Burnett's book Little Lord Fauntleroy was illustrated by Reginald Birch. The image of Little Lord Fauntleroy, Cedric Erol, was largely set by the Birch drawings. Actual descriptions of costumes were very limited in the book itself. Many subsequent editions of the book, both Americam, foreign were illustrated by others. None of these illustrations, however, were to have the influence of Birch's originals. Many used the Birch drawings as a model. Others came up with a wide variety of fanciful outfits.

Figure 4.--.

Little Lord Fauntleroy: Second Edition, 1887

The second edition of Francis Hodgson Burnett's book Little Lord Fauntleroy was also illustrated by Reginald Birch. Presumably they are the same illustrations as in the first edition. The coy we have was publushed in Londin by Frederick Warne and Company. The actual printing was done by Rochard Clay and Sons at London and Bungay. I'm not sure where Bungay was.

Little Lord Fauntleroy, ? Edition, 1930

BURNETT,Frances Hodgson, Little Lord Fauntleroy. ill. Reginald Birch. 1930.

Little Lord Fauntleroy, ? Edition, 1937

Birch for the 1937 edition of Little Lord Fauntleroy redrew many of his original illustrations in color.

Other articles and books

Other magazine articles and books illustrated by Reginald Birch include:

Burnett, Little Lord Fauntleroy, éd. Scribner, 1886.

Betty’s Sunday by A.J.H. St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks. Ed. Mary Mapes Dodge. New York: Century Co. Volume 14, No. 9 (July 1887), 673.

Small and Early Tudor Jenks. St. Nicholas. Volume 16, No. 9 (July 1889), 684.

Figure 5.--This is a Birch drawing from "The Prince and the Brewer Boy".

The Prince and the Brewer's Son by Elizabeth Balch. St. Nicholas. Volume 17, No. 1 (November 1889), 53.

"The Story of Prince Fairyfoot" (1890)

"Little Saint Elizabeth" (1890)

"Behind the White Brick"(1890)

"Frontispiece" St. Elizabeth (1890)

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. Giovanni and the Other: Children Who Have Made Stories. 193 + 16 ad pp. Illustrated with 9 plates from etchings by Reginald Birch. Original green cloth, stamped dec. in gilt, darker green & purple, purplish-brown endpapers. First American Edition. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1892.

"Illustrissimo Signor Bebe" (1892)

"The Tinker's Tom" (1892)

Louisa May Alcott, Little Men, éd. Little, 1901.

BALDWIN,James, The Story of Roland. ill. R.B. Birch. Scribner, 1911.

Reginald Birch Dame Quimp's Quest by Ellen Manly Pen, brush and ink on paper. December 1922.

Erckmann-Chatrian, Marie-Thérèse, 1933.

Stockton,Frank R., The Reformed Pirate: stories from The Floating Prince, Ting-a-ling Tales, & The Queen's Museum. ill. Reginald Birch. 1936.

The Night before Christmas (Harcourt Brace, 1937). Ill. Reginald Birch.

Savery, Constance. Birch, Reginald [Illus. by]. : MOONSHINE IN CANDLE STREET. : NY: Longmans, Green ; 1937 ; First Edition ; 149 pp. ; Blue cloth; Good Plus Condition; w/6 b&w illustrations by REGINALD BIRCH.

Reginald Birch--His Book, edited by Elisabeth Hamilton, Harcourt Brace 1939, edition unstated. Dozens of Birch illustrations from the 1880s to the 1930s along with his poetry and prose.


Two illustrations by Reginald Birch for tales by Frances Burnett:In One of the Boxes and "There she is," They would cry.

Bonnie May, illustrated by Reginald Birch, was an immediate success and established Dodge's reputation as an author. Its theme was simple. Bonnie May, a child of the theater, sees through the clear eyes of a young person the hypocrisy of many conventions of respectable life which are taken for granted. To her the stage has always been a reality and the life of conventional people seems to be artificial. It is they who are acting a part. Reviewers were generous with their praise.

Two Little Pilgrim's Progress Frances Hodgson Burnett, University Microfilms, 1966, beautiful illus. by Reginald Birch, story of children's adventure to the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893.


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Created: April 27, 1999
Last updated: April 23, 2003