Brian Froud and Ari Berk, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters (Harry N. Abrams, 2005)

The third volume exploring the world of notorious Lady Angelica Cottington, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters brings us a collection of her correspondence, saved and carefully pressed along with more of her victims . . . er, specimens . . . in another insanely fascinating companion to her Pressed Fairy Book. Though 'verified and presented' by the esteemed scholars Brian Froud and Ari Berk, Lady Cottington's scrapbook of letters and receipts is noted in the foreword by these noted authorities as "its provenance being highly questionable and its subject being of such an obscure nature." They do go on to point out that Angelica Cottington had lived a very sequestered life, and that the possibility of contact with so many famed personalities was unlikely. It is even suggested by some that the fairies themselves compiled this book as a prank, and some were pressed betwixt the pages while carrying out their little joke, but Berk and Froud deny this possibility.

Certainly it is not outside the realm of possibility that Lady Cottington was acquainted with some of the notables purported to have written to her. Madam Blavatsky and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would certainly have shared Lady Cottington's interest in the fairy world! Carl Jung is noted as having been the Cottington family's therapist. Clearly the note from Oscar Wilde complete with menu for one of his parties is something that a kind man would have written back to a young fan, though one does wonder if young Angelica Cottington would truly have written a letter to Wilde at the precocious age of but four years!

Still, it is enlightening to find Wendy Darling's perspective on fairies (". . . .and to be sure, for a very long time I would rather have squashed Tinkerbell than said 'good morning'. . . .") from a letter kindly forwarded by J.M. Barrie himself. And apparently Andrew Lang did not fully approve of the young Cottington's artistic endeavours with squashed fairies. A note from Rackham asking for advice must certainly have been exciting for Lady Cottington.

This reproduction of Lady Cottington's scrapbook is a delightful read, full of little scraps of enticing artwork and beautifully "preserved" fairies. The letters are fascinating, though as the curators point out, they can be a bit confusing because they are arranged in an order understood only by Lady Cottington herself. Overall, though, this just ads to the charm of exploration.

Highly recommended for fairy lovers and historical scholars alike.

[Mia Nutick]

 

You can find more about Lady Cottington and her world at The World of Froud.