Edwards, Lionel

About the author

Lionel Edwards (Lionel Dalhousie Robertson Edwards,1878–1966) was the son of a doctor’s third marriage. His education he described as being of “a halting and irregular character”, due to his family’s “straitened circumstances,” and probably too to Lionel Edward’s attention being elsewhere. The head of the London crammer to which he was sent in an attempt to fit him for the Army reported he was “more interested in artistic than in military matters”. Fortunately, Edwards’ mother rose above the Victorian convention that artists were low, and allowed him to study art. He studied with W Frank Calderon, the animal specialist, and was elected a member of the London Sketch Club at the age of 20 (he was at that time the youngest member).

The first drawings he sold were of the Chillingham wild cattle, and were published in Country Life, for which he went on to produce many illustrations. In 1902 he visited Exmoor, and there held his first solo exhibition in 1904. Everything sold, and with the proceeds he was able to hire horses and explore Exmoor, which became a lasting love.

He was extremely keen on hunting, and over his life, hunted with 91 different packs. His first horse he acquired from a job-master who was in desperate need of money, and knocked on the door of Edwards’ studio late one night offering him a horse for £15, which he had to collect at daybreak. He handed over the money, and duly collected a well bred, though one eyed, pony. The pony was initially kept at the stables of Edwards’ aunt, unknown to her until Edwards had to confess after the coachman queried the increasing forage bills. Like Cecil Aldin, Edwards hacked out of London to hunt, though there was of course much less of London to hack out of in those days.

Edwards volunteered as a remount officer when World War I broke out, (as did Aldin, Armour and Munnings). The last section of his book Horses and Ponies (Country Life) contains sketches from his time in service. That section is my favourite in the book; it has an urgency and life the other sections lack. He described his four years at the remount depot as “nothing but horse. This to me was interesting, although I’m afraid I did not take the same interest in the men that I did in the horses!” He had managed to do the occasional picture for Country Life during the war, but felt, like Cecil Aldin, who was in much the same position, that four years focused elsewhere had “freshened his outlook.”

After he was demobilised, Edwards moved with his family to Buckholt, a Victorian house which was his home for the rest of his life. His output was prolific; he wrote 30 books, and illustrated many more. He is probably best known for his hunting scenes; he understood the ins and outs of hunting, and was able to match the technical accuracy vital to his audience with something beautiful. Stella Walters said: “He understood hunting from the inside – the implications of weather conditions, of hound work, and of horsemanship, and the esoteric niceties of costume and equipment. This knowledge, allied to his eye for a country, placed him in a unique category as a sporting artist.” He only ever took on one pupil: Peter Biegel, whose style is very similar to his teacher’s, but without quite his flair. Edwards continued to paint and draw until the end of his life, and died on 14th April 1966, when he had a stroke as he was about to leave for a painting commission in Wales.

Lionel Edwards wrote four non fiction titles for children. Two were Picture Puffins on breeds (one cattle and one horses and ponies), and the other two dealt with pony care, as well as including some information on breeds. He illustrated over 30 pony books. Perhaps the best is the edition of Black Beauty he did in 1954 for Ward Lock. He had already completed an edition of Anna Sewell’s classic for Peter Lunn in 1946, but this had just one colour plate; the frontis. The Ward Lock edition has 24, and is one of the best interpretations of Black Beauty, with the horses at the forefront, and no intrusive updating or reinterpretations.

Eyre and Spottiswoode, for whom Edwards did several illustrations – principally the Adam series for Eleanor Helme – tended towards a minimalist approach with their dustjackets. The majority consist of a black and white drawing dramatised a little by the application of colour, though when, as with Suitable Owners and Shank’s Pony, this is beige, it’s not much of a dramatisation. This style of dustjacket does have the unfortunate affect of deadening virtually everything; and it’s especially sad when you compare these titles with their contemporaries. Putnam’s Tally Ho and Macmillan’s edition of Kipling’s The Maltese Cat are Lionel Edwards at his best; they are things of beauty.

Lionel Edwards’ best pictures capture the moment brilliantly. One of my particular favourites, which is not in a pony book at all, is his picture Remounts Arriving from the USA, Southampton Docks, 1915. It’s an extraordinary moment caught in time.

Finding the books

Not all of the pony books illustrated by Lionel Edwards are horribly expensive. The most expensive now are first editions of Moorland Mousie, the Pamela MacGregor Morris titles, Primrose Cumming’s The Great Horses and the Captain H Dent titles. The rest of the titles are generally reasonably priced, though this may well change. A couple of years ago The Great Horses was positively reasonable in price, but it isn’t at the moment. All that may well change one way or the other, of course.


I haven’t illustrated this bibliography for copyright reasons. Rosentiel’s, who hold the copyright in Lionel Edwards’ works, have prints available of some of his works.

Links and sources
Stella Walker: Lionel Edwards (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2005)
Lionel Edwards: Reminiscences of a Sporting Artist, Putnam, 1947
Lionel Edwards: Horses and Ponies, Country Life,
Paul Robinson: Sporting Illustrator Lionel Edwards, Book and Magazine Collector, 1995(?)

Further reading
Paul Robinson: A Bibliography of Books Illustrated by Lionel Edwards, RI (no longer in print)
JNP Watson: Lionel Edwards, Master of the Sporting Scene, 1986


children’s books written and illustrated by lionel edwards

Our Horses
Picture Puffin, 1945

My First Horse (essay contributed)
Peter Lunn, 1947

Our Cattle
Picture Puffin, 1948

Getting to Know Your Pony
Collins, 1948

pony books illustrated by lionel edwards

Golden Gorse: Moorland Mousie
Country Life, 1929

Moyra Charlton: Tally Ho
Putnam, 1930

Golden Gorse: Older Mousie
Country Life, 1932

Eleanor Helme: Mayfly the Grey Pony
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1935

Rudyard Kipling: The Maltese Cat
Macmillan, 1936

Elizabeth Sprigge: Pony Tracks
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1936

“Heather”: Riding with Reka
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1937

V E Bannisdale: Riders of the Hills
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1939

V E Bannisdale: Back to the Hills
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1940

Frances Pitt: Betty
Country Life, 1943

Daphne Winstone: Flame
Peter Lunn, 1945

Eleanor Helme: Shank’s Pony
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1946

Primrose Cumming: The Great Horses
Dent, 1946

Anna Sewell: Black Beauty
Peter Lunn, 1946

Pamela MacGregor Morris: Topper
Noel Carrington, 1947

Pamela MacGregor Morris: High Honours
H F & G Witherby, 1948

Eleanor Helme: Suitable Owners
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1948

Capt C H Dent: The Copper Horse
Hutchinson, 1948

Nicholas Kalashnikoff: Jumper
Peter Lunn, 1948

Kathleen Herald: Sabre the Horse from the Sea
A & C Black, 1948

Eleanor Helme: White Winter
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1949

Kathleen Herald: The Mandrake
A & C Black, 1949

Capt C H Dent : Head High, Hands Low
Hutchinson, 1949

Pamela MacGregor Morris: Lucky Purchase
Gryphon Books, 1949

Pamela MacGregor Morris: Exmoor Ben
Gryphon Books, 1950

Eleanor Helme: Dear Busybody
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1950

Pamela MacGregor Morris: The Amateur Horsedealers
Gryphon, 1951

Capt C H Dent: Second Fiddle, Son of Viola
Hutchinson, 1951

Esmé Hamilton: Rainbow and Speedy
Bodley Head, 1952

Anna Sewell: Black Beauty
Ward Lock, 1954