by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas
This is one of my personal favorite pages from Princess April Morning-Glory. The ½ plate illustration presents the reader with an image of our heroine astride a detailed, anatomically-correct, rendition of a grasshopper. This page begins to reveal to the keen examiner that Letitia had more than passing knowledge of a key triad of natural sciences: zoology, botany, and biology.
In fact, in the years just preceding Letitia’s drawing Princess April Morning-Glory she was employed as a natural illustrator for a zoology professor at UCLA, or so my sometimes faulty and vague memories tell me. Her employment as an sketch artist would have lasted about one academic year and would have taken place between 1935-1939. As she talked about these memories with me, the image of an early twenty-something, making her way independent of her famous family, quite determined to forge and leave a unique creative path through life, one that did not involve performance art. For as much as Letitia resembled a movie star, she was loathe to ever sit in front of a camera, or speak in front of a group of people. To stand out in a crowd was not her style, as ironic as that may be, because I don’t believe she could have helped being anything but a stand-out beauty, inside and out. And to prove her loathing of cameras, I have no additional photos to show you of Letitia other than the one B&W portrait by Carlyle Blackwell Jr for Paul A. Hesse studios that is used on the book’s cover and interior; she had destroyed the rest of her photo-portraits when she was alive.
As we continue to follow the story-arc of Princess April Morning-Glory, we also see the continuation of the monomyth structure to the story-telling. With this page, Princess April has been resolutely put on a path of no return. Her homeland, the Enchanted Forest, has vanished, and she’s out in the Great World. The adventures for our heroine are just commencing, and that Letitia chose to illuminate the word ‘brave’ with a medieval knight-in-armor, signals the reader what qualities our heroine will need to possess to make it through the trials that await.
Until next week, dear readers,