John Cech


Randolph Caldecott, the noted British illustrator, began his first and last visit to the United States and eventually to Florida in November 1885. Born in 1846, Caldecott was nearly forty and near the end of his life at the time of the journey. Friends had encouraged him to spend the worst part of the winter of 1885-1886 in St. Augustine, Florida, and the American South, away from the bleak English weather that often threatened to break his fragile health. Caldecott suffered, for most of his relatively short life, from a heart condition, the aftereffects of a childhood bout with rheumatic fever. This trip to Florida was meant to be another of those recuperative interludes that friends and physicians periodically prescribed for him. Perhaps he hoped, with his characteristic good humor, as he had when he visited the south of France nearly ten years earlier, “that rheumatism may forget me and not recognize me on return to Albion’s shore.“ In 1885 he had less strength than he did when he wrote William Etches in 1873, to endure what he called those “smart attacks on the heart . . . causing that machine to go up and down like a lamb’s tail when its owner is partaking of the nourishment provided by bounteous Nature.“