[Four Handmade Poetical Booklets with 20 Original Watercolor and Gouache Illustrations by W.H. Leggett of Pontiac, Michigan, 1943–1947].
Captivating collection of four handmade booklets made by William H. Leggett augmented with 20 of his original watercolor illustrations with gouache highlights.
Leggett’s booklets are true artist’s books. They were written, illustrated, decorated, and bound by him as a unique artifacts.
The booklets, which were made from 1943 to 1947, were sent as gifts by the Pontiac, Michigan artist to his adult granddaughter, Miss Marguerite E. Hondelink of Rochester, New York. Each booklet contains an original poem or poetical greeting, apparently written by Leggett, accompanied by his captioned illustrations.
The four poems are entitled “Musings,” “Christmas Greeting. 1946 – Belated,” “Scenes in California,” and “Thou.” The poetical texts are religious or spiritual in nature and are successfully accompanied by Leggett’s impressionistic and moody watercolors.
The earliest booklet, “Musings,” dates from February 1943 and was “…illustrated for Margaret [sic] E. Hondelink Hoping it may detract [distract?] her mind for a few minutes from the terrible war.” Eight watercolor illustrations with heavy gouache highlights illustrate the poem.
Opposite a scene of dawn or twilight, for example, are the verses “Touched by a light / that hath no name / A Glory never sung — / Aloft on sky / and mountain wall / Are God’s Great pictures hung.”
The edge of each illustration is highlighted in gold. It appears that Leggett also attempted to “gild” the edges of each leaf by applying this same gold watercolor.
The poetical “Christmas Greeting. 1946 — Belated” was made by Leggett in “His 88th year.” This poem tells in simple vignettes the story of Jesus’ Nativity. Its three original tipped-in watercolor illustrations are captioned “The Annunciation,” “The Wise Men,” and “The Flight into Egypt.”
Somewhat pictorial, the images evoke more ethereal or spiritual feelings. Figures in white and the star of the “Wise Men” are the main focus. Surrounding each illustration, Leggett has drawn a frame in crayon.
The third booklet contains three original watercolors with heavy gouache highlights illustrating the poem, “Scenes in California.” Dated February 3, 1947, the poem evokes images of a “Priestess,” “ancient philosophy,” “the beauty of life,” and “myrtle breathing its fragrance into space.”
The carefully composed images almost give the impression of theatrical stage drawings. Mysterious figures are positioned in two of the “scenes.” The third illustration shows the sun rising or setting over water.
The final booklet contains the poem “Thou.” The 1947 poem is intriguingly signed at the end: “An Artist Musician[‘]s teaching to Her students, metamorphosed by W.H. Leggett…in gratitude.” The booklet contains six original watercolor illustrations with gouache highlights.
The watercolors in this booklet are captioned “Thou,” Thine to release,” “Thou Quickened,” “A Sweet, Sweet, memory,” Lendest a Glory,” and “The Long night traveler.” Each accompanied by thoughtful and calming verse. The illustrations are in both portrait and landscape format.
William H. Leggett’s impressionistic watercolors capture the mood of his spiritual poems. Small in format, they serve as excellent illustrations for his poetical booklets. A contemporary source notes his popularity as an artist in his home town: “As a hobby Mr. Leggett many years ago took up painting, and some of his work in water colors now occupy places in many homes in Pontiac and elsewhere.”
Description: [Four Handmade Poetical Booklets with 20 Original Watercolor and Gouache Illustrations by W.H. Leggett of Pontiac, Michigan, 1943–1947].
[Pontiac, Michigan, 1943–1947]. ff.; ff.; ff.; and ff. (double fold). Booklets. Wrappers, ribbon tied. Ranging in size from 5½ x 4¼ inches to 7¼ x 5½ inches. Text of booklets hand lettered; with a total of 20 tipped-in original watercolor and gouache illustrations; some added crayon decorations and two tipped-in illustrations from printed sources. One booklet accompanied by its original postmarked mailing envelope. Minor chipping at edges of some leaves; overall, very good.
Ref. RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project: LEGGETT of ELY, CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND and WEST FARMS (BRONX), NEW YORK. [and:] Mortimer Allen Leggett (1837–1930) — Find A Grave Memorial [and:] William Haight Leggett (1859–1954) — Find A Grave Memorial accessed online. Griffis, The Rutgers Graduates in Japan… (Rutgers, 1916), p30.
The news article “Music Has Filled 89 Years for Famous Pontiac Settler” in The Pontiac Daily Press March 3, 1948 provides biographical information for William H. Leggett (1859–1954), music teacher, violinist, violin collector, and water color artist. According to this article, Leggett kept a studio address of 101 N. Saginaw Street in Pontiac, Michigan since at least 1923. Circa the 1910s, Leggett seduced a pupil 30 years his junior, making her mother ill for a week (see below).
William Haight Leggett (1859–1954) was the son of Mortimer A. Leggett (1837–1930), “Pontiac’s pioneer fiddler” and former New York City newspaper editor. His sister, Mary Leggett Abel, would teach music for many years at the Detroit Conservatory of Music.
From what we glean, Leggett was a prolific and long-lived music teacher and violinist. Further, it was noted that “for many years [he] produced good work as an artist, liking water colors the best.”
On January 23, 1916, Leggett ended up in The Washington Post for a scandalous affair. Leggett had seduced one of his pupils, 30 years his junior, whom he eventually married. This young woman eventually sought to divorce Leggett.
Leggett’s mystical ways were apparently active during the courtship of this young woman, including that of sending nude photos. On the witness stand, Mrs. Leggett’s mother describes reading the older man’s correspondence to her daughter, one day before the amorous couple eloped:
I said to Mr. Leggett when I sent my little girl to him to take music lessons I thought that he was an honorable man; that he would not make love to her during lesson hours. He asked me if I could still think of him as an honorable man, and I told him no; that if he had learned to care for her he should have come to me. He said he was not a praying man, but that he had been down on his knees praying for the honor of his family. I told him that Eleanore did not care for him as a wife should, that it was simply girlish infatuation. I asked him to leave her alone for one year.
The mother became physically ill reading these missives:
Mrs. Knight testified that “soul-mate” notes written by Leggett, which she found on her daughter’s dresser, opened her eyes to the state of affairs between the two. [Mother:] ‘I took my daughter on my lap and told her that she did not love him as a wife should love her husband,’ she said. ‘I told her the music lessons would have to stop. [Attorney:] ‘What were the notes like?’ Attorney Sloman asked on cross-examination. ‘They were trashy.’ [Attorney:] ‘You thought it was dishonorable on his part to want to marry your daughter?’ [Mother:] ‘No, I thought it was dishonorable for a teacher to make love to his student during lesson hours.’
The recipient of these four manuscripts, Marguerite E. Hondelink, is shown in the 1940 US Federal Census as being a white single woman, born in Japan in 1907, living in Rochester, New York, living at home. Marguerite is a music teacher at a local high school. Her father, Garret D. Hondelink, was a clergyman, a missionary to Japan, a native of Michigan. We assume Leggett instructed Marguerite in music in Michigan.