Friday, 25 September 2009

Charlotte Hough

Charlotte Hough didn't illustrate many pony books, but she did do one cover of which I'm particularly fond: Margaret Stanley Wrench's The Rival Riding Schools. I love the impression you get of vivid life you get: I feel that I'm looking in on an intense bit of childhood secrecy, and I like the shaggy pony, standing there patiently while the humans get on with being odd.



When I began to research Charlotte Hough, I turned up more than I'd bargained for. Until I read The Times’ Obituary, I had no idea that Charlotte Hough was the mother of the author Deborah Moggach, or that she had been involved in a celebrated case when she was accused of murder.

Helen Charlotte Hough (pronounced How) was born in Hampshire on May 24, 1924, and died on December 31, 2008. Her father, a doctor, was 50 when she was born. Her mother was much younger, and she had a rather dislocated childhood, as her father refused to contribute to her upbringing. She was educated at Frensham Heights, a progressive school, and then went into the WRNS. She married Richard Hough, who was in the RAF, and had five children, one of whom was stillborn.

Neither Charlotte nor her husband had any professional qualifications, so early married life was a battle. As Charlotte could draw, she took her drawings round publishers, and was taken on to illustrate children’s books. The earliest book I have found which she illustrated was M E Atkinson’s House on the Moor, published in 1948. The first true pony book she illustrated was Christine Pullein-Thompson’s I Carried the Horn.


She illustrated two more titles for Christine Pullein-Thompson: Goodbye to Hounds and Riders from Afar., and also one of my favourite of Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s titles, Prince Among Ponies.



Her pony book illustration spanned just three years, ending with Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty in 1954: a rite of passage which many pony book illustrators undertook. (I haven’t included her own Morton’s Pony here, as I’m not certain whether or not it counts as a pony book, not yet having seen a copy.) I think her drawings are lively, and often fun, but they never seem to have engendered the same affection that other equine illustrators have.

After 1954, she illustrated a few more children’s books, but none of them were pony books: perhaps her heart was not in it, as she concentrated in this later period on her own books. These were mostly published by Faber and Faber, and as far as I know, most were aimed at younger children, though she wrote a detective story for adults in 1980, The Bassington Murder.
The murder in which she was involved has sad resonances now, when euthanasia is much in the news: what we might perhaps now regard as an act of mercy was regarded very differently by the law then.

After her marriage ended in divorce, Charlotte Hough had several voluntary jobs before she became a Samaritan in the early 1980s. She was asked to visit four elderly women regularly, and this she did, becoming very close to them. One of them, Annetta Harding, had crippling arthritis and was nearly blind. She had told Charlotte Hough that she intended to take her own life when the pain became too much. That day came, and Charlotte agreed to stay with her until the end. Annetta Harding’s house was locked at 10.00 pm, and so, to avoid Charlotte becoming implicated in her death, Annetta Harding wanted her to leave before then. When 10.00 pm came, Annetta Harding was in a coma, but not yet dead, so Charlotte used one of the plastic bags which Annetta Harding had put by in case she needded them to finish the process, to smother her.

She confided in a fellow Samaritan what she had done, and the Samaritan told the police. Charlotte Hough was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 9 months for attempted murder, of which she served 6. Her time in prison was not easy: the English class system did not serve her well, but she eventually blended into the background, and tended the prison gardens. Her time in prison gave her much sympathy for women who did not emerge, as she did, to a family and many supporters, and she was a member of PEN, (of which Josephine Pullein Thompson was President).
For more details of her bibliography, see my page here.

3 comments:

callmemadam said...

The poor woman! I'll never look at my M E Atkinsons in the same way again. Thanks for the pronunciation tip! I'd mentally thought 'Huff'.

Jane Badger said...

Yes - I do feel for her. It must have seemed like a bad dream at first, only it was unfortunately one she didn't wake up from.

JS Huntlands said...

Set in today’s day and time, Me and My Best Friend is about a young boy, his faithful companion and their exciting adventures.

Henry and Liam are the best of friends and they do everything together. They can run and play all day long. But when Henry the puppy gets tired and tries to take a nap, three-year-old Liam keeps waking him, wanting him to play some more. Will Henry get any rest?

Get your children involved with this beautifully illustrated book. Your child will love to match up words and pictures, and find Liam, who keeps hiding in his bedroom. Perfect for the young reader!




About the Author

J.S. Huntlands is the author of Nick Twisted Minds and is currently working on more books in this series, as well as 23 more books in the Me and My Best Friend series. Huntlands is a full-time writer, as well as a mom to a wonderful four-year-old boy. This book is dedicated to her son in hopes that he never forgets his best friend.