‘Asleep in the moonlight’. Plate 16 (the final illustration). 1870. Coloured wood engraving by Edmund Evans. 7¼ x 12 inches. Most of Doyle’s subjects are described in bright local colour, but here he deploys a combination of subdued greens and grisaille, the tones of sleep, mourning, and the nocturnal. Though normally engaged in dynamic activity, the characters are languorously disposed in attitudes that echo the rhythms of the branches and leaves, a device that stresses their status as mystical creatures of nature. Illuminated only by the moon, which carries with it connotations of mystery and magic, the image evokes a certain mystery. Doyle amplifies its effects by including an unsettling object at the bottom right – a broken tombstone, which acts as a linkage between the worlds of sleep and death. At the same time, the profusion of a super-charged nature implies the endless pattern of dying and living, in echo of the alternation between sleeping and being awake. Seemingly straightforward, the design epitomizes Doyle’s ambivalence and suggestiveness, even when he seems to be at his sweetest and most lyrical. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Photograph and text by Simon Cooke. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.


Doyle, Richard, and William Allingham. In Fairyland. London: Green and Co., 1870 [1869].

Created 10 September 2021