Dicky, Knight-Errant, is a ‘ripping yarn’ of a brave 9-year-old Boy Scout, Richard John Stanley, who, dressed in his full scout uniform, complete with hat, lanyard and stave, rescues damsels in distress and helps capture a German spy. Although rather long and wordy by today’s standards, the story is cleverly constructed with each chapter covering a different part of the Scout’s code.
First published in 1916, Dicky, Knight-Errant, is one of around 26 children’s books written by Auckland author Isabel Maud Peacocke (1881 – 1973). The Library holds two copies of the book; both are handsome hard-back editions printed on quality paper and include illustrations by the popular English illustrator Harold Copping (1863 – 1932).
By chance, the originals of two of these illustrations by Copping are held in Special Collections in a collection of papers relating to Peacocke’s life and work.1 The originals are skilfully executed and have obviously been framed in the past, perhaps to hang on the walls of Peacocke’s study. To see Copping's artwork for the cover, click on the photo.
The collection also contains many other treasures; family photographs, ephemera, poems, sheet music and manuscripts, which document Peacocke’s early life and work as a journalist, poet, playwright, and author.
Although little known today, Peacocke’s children’s books were so popular during the 1920s and 30s that she was rated sixth – after Edith Howes and Charles Dickens - in a 1926 survey of children’s favourite authors by the Canterbury Public Library. Author Pat Lawlor described Peacocke as a writer of 'prodigious output' and 'one of the most active and cheerful women in New Zealand'.2
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
Fairgray, J. (ed). (2006). Isabel Maud from Devonport. Auckland: Devonport Library Associates (Inc.)
Gilderdale, B. (1991). Introducing twenty-one New Zealand children’s writers. Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton
2 Macdonald, C., Penfold, M., & Williams, B.R. (ed.). (1991). The Book of New Zealand Women. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books
1Peacocke, Isabel Maud. Literary papers, 1893-1954. MSS & Archives 94/5. Special Collections, University of Auckland Library
Peacocke, I.M. (1916). Dicky Knight-Errant. London: Ward, Lock & Co