Project Gutenberg's Dickens and His Illustrators, by Frederic G. Kitton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Dickens and His Illustrators 2nd. Ed. Author: Frederic G. Kitton Illustrator: Various Release Date: August 4, 2012 [EBook #40410] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK DICKENS AND HIS ILLUSTRATORS *** Produced by Pat McCoy, Chris Curnow and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive).
This Portrait was published during the Novelist's last visit to America (1867-68), by Fields, Osgood & Co., of Boston, their advertisement describing it as "an Authentic Portrait of Charles Dickens, drawn on stone by S. Eytinge, Jr., whose Illustrations of Dickens's Novels have been so popular." The late Mr. J. R. Osgood did not recall any actual sitting for the Portrait, but remembers that Eytinge often saw Dickens while making the drawing. The impression from which the present reproduction was made is particularly interesting on account of the quotation from "A Christmas Carol" in the autograph of Dickens.
Lent by Mr. Stuart M. Samuel.
FREDERIC G. KITTON
AUTHOR OF "CHARLES DICKENS BY PEN AND PENCIL," ETC.
WITH TWENTY-TWO PORTRAITS AND FACSIMILES OF
SEVENTY ORIGINAL DRAWINGS NOW REPRODUCED
FOR THE FIRST TIME
CHARLES DICKENS'S DAUGHTER
THESE NOTES UPON THE ILLUSTRATIONS
TO HER FATHER'S WRITINGS
are respectfully dedicated
BY THE AUTHOR
In the matter of pictorial embellishment, the writings of Charles Dickens may be regarded as occupying a unique position. The original issues alone present a remarkable array of illustrations; and when we remember the innumerable engravings specially prepared for subsequent editions, as well as for independent publication, we are fain to confess that, in this respect at least, the works of "Boz" take precedence of those of any other novelist. These designs, too, are of particular interest, inasmuch as they are representative of nearly every branch of the art of the book-illustrator; both the pencil of the draughtsman and the needle of the etcher have been requisitioned, while the brush of the painter has depicted for us many striking scenes culled from the pages of Dickens.
The evolution of a successful picture, as exhibited by means of preparatory sketches, is eminently instructive to the student of Art. The present volume should therefore appeal not merely to the Dickens Collector, but to all who appreciate the artistic value of tentative studies wrought for a special purpose. The absolute facsimiles, here given for the first time, enable us to obtain an insight into the methods adopted by the designers in developing their conceptions, those methods being further manifested by the aid of correspondence which, happily, is still extant.
Referring to Dickens's intercourse with his Illustrators, Forster significantly observes that the artists certainly had not an easy time with him. The Novelist's requirements were exacting even beyond what is[Pg viii] ordinary between author and illustrator; for he was apt (as he himself admitted) "to build up temples in his mind not always makeable with hands." While resenting the notion that Dickens ever received from any artist "the inspiration he was always striving to give," his biographer assures us that, so far as the illustrations are concerned, he had rarely anything but disappointments,—a declaration which apparently substantiates the statement (made on good authority) that the Novelist would have preferred his books to remain unadorned by the artist's pencil. That the vast majority of his readers approved of such embellishment cannot be questioned, for the genius of Cruikshank and "Phiz" has done much to impart reality to the persons imagined by Dickens. We are perhaps even more indebted to the excellent illustrations than to the Author's descriptions for the ability to realise the outward presentments of Pickwick, Fagin, Micawber, and a host of other characters, simply because the material eye absorbs impressions more readily than the mental eye.
That Dickens's association with his Illustrators was something more than mere coadjutorship is evidenced both in Forster's "Life" and in the published "Letters." From these sources we derive much information tending to prove the existence of a warm friendship subsisting between Author and Artists; indeed, the latter (with two or three exceptions) were privileged to enjoy the close personal intimacy of Dickens and his family circle. Recalling the fact that the Novelist not unfrequently availed himself of the traits and idiosyncrasies of his familiars, it seems somewhat strange that in the whole range of his creations we fail to discover a single attempt at the portraiture of an artist; for those dilettanti wielders of the brush, Miss La Creevy and Henry Gowan, can scarcely be included under that denomination.
[Pg ix]During the earlier part of this century the illustrators of books seldom, if ever, resorted to the use of the living model. Such experts as Cruikshank, Seymour, "Phiz," Maclise, Doyle, and Leech were no exceptions to this rule; but at the beginning of the sixties there arose a new "school" of designers and draughtsmen, prominent among them being Leighton, Millais, Walker, and Sandys. Those popular Royal Academicians, Mr. Marcus Stone and Mr. Luke Fildes (the illustrators respectively of "Our Mutual Friend" and "Edwin Drood"), are almost the only surviving members of that confraternity; they, however, speedily relinquished black-and-white Art in order to devote their attention to the more fascinating pursuit of painting. While admitting the technical superiority of many of the illustrations in the later editions of Dickens's works (such as those by Frederick Barnard and Charles Green), the collector and bibliophile claim for the designs in the original issue an interest which is lacking in subsequent editions; that is to say, they possess the charm of association—a charm that far outweighs possible artistic defects and conventions; for, be it remembered, these designs were produced under the direct influence and authorisation of Dickens, and by artists who worked hand in hand with the great romancer himself.
It is averred that "Phiz," who rightly retains the premier position among Dickens's Illustrators, placed very little value upon his tentative drawings, which, as soon as they had served their purpose, were either thrown upon the fire or given away incontinently to those who had the foresight to ask for them. Fortunately, the recipients were discriminating enough to treasure these pencillings, many of them having since been transferred to the portfolios of collectors. For the privilege of reproducing interesting examples I am indebted to Her Grace the[Pg x] Duchess of St. Albans, Mr. J. F. Dexter, Mr. M. H. Spielmann, Mr. W. H. Lever, Messrs. Robson & Co., the Committee of Nottingham Castle Museum, and others. I am especially grateful to Mr. Augustin Daly, of New York, for so generously permitting me to photograph the famous "Pickwick" drawings by Seymour, together with a hitherto unpublished portrait of that artist. The portrait of Dickens forming the frontispiece to this volume is reproduced from a unique impression of a very scarce lithograph in the possession of Mr. Stuart M. Samuel.
In order to give an effect of continuity to my Notes, I have lightly sketched the career of each Artist, introducing in chronological sequence the facts relating to his designs for Dickens. In several cases, the proof-sheets of these chapters have been revised by the representatives of the Artists to whom they refer, and for valued aid in this direction my cordial thanks are due to the Rev. A. J. Buss, Mr. Field Stanfield, Mr. A. H. Palmer, and Mr. F. W. W. Topham. Those of Dickens's Illustrators who are still with us have furnished me with much information, and have kindly expressed their approval of what I have written concerning them. I therefore avail myself of this opportunity of tendering my sincere thanks, for assistance thus rendered, to Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A., Mr. Luke Fildes, R.A., Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., and Sir John Tenniel, R.I., whose mark of approbation naturally imparts a special value to the present record. I am still further indebted to Mr. Stone and Mr. Fildes for the loan of a number of their original drawings and sketches for Dickens, which have not hitherto been published.
Owing to the circumstance that many of the so-called "Extra" Illustrations are now extremely rare, my list of them could never have been compiled but for advantages afforded me by collectors, in[Pg xi] allowing me to have access to their Dickensiana. The kind offices of Mr. W. R. Hughes, Mr. Thomas Wilson, Mr. W. T. Pevier, and Mr. W. T. Spencer are gratefully acknowledged in this connection, as well as those of Mr. Dudley Tenney of New York, who has rendered me signal service in respect of American Illustrations.
To Forster's "Life of Dickens" and to the published "Letters" I am naturally beholden for information not otherwise procurable, while certain interesting details concerning "Phiz's" drawings and etchings are quoted from Mr. D. C. Thomson's "Life and Labours of Hablôt K. Browne," which is more extended in its general scope than my previously-issued Memoir of the artist.
I am privileged to associate the names of Miss Hogarth and Mrs. Perugini with this account of Charles Dickens and his collaborateurs; to the former I am obliged for permission to print some of the Novelist's correspondence which has never previously been made public, while the latter has favoured me with the loan of photographic portraits. Finally, I must express my indebtedness for much valuable aid to George Cattermole's daughter, Mrs. Edward Franks, the "cousin" to whom the Novelist alluded in a letter to her father dated February 26, 1841, and to whose "clear blue eyes" he desired to be commended.
F. G. KITTON.
St. Albans, September 1898.
|LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS||xv|
|ROBERT W. BUSS||47|
|HABLÔT K. BROWNE ("PHIZ")||58|
|ILLUSTRATORS OF THE CHRISTMAS BOOKS||136|
|CLARKSON STANFIELD, R.A.||153|
|DANIEL MACLISE, R.A.||161|
|SIR JOHN TENNIEL||172|
|FRANK STONE, A.R.A.||175|
|SIR EDWIN LANDSEER, R.A.||180|
|F. W. TOPHAM||189|
|MARCUS STONE, R.A.||192|
|LUKE FILDES, R.A.||204|
|I.||ILLUSTRATORS OF CHEAP EDITIONS||219|
|II.||CONCERNING "EXTRA ILLUSTRATIONS"||227|
|III.||DICKENS IN ART||243|
|1.||Portrait of Charles Dickens||Sol. Eytinge, Junr.||Frontispiece|
|2.||Portrait of George Cruikshank||Baugniet||Facing page||1|
|3.||"Jemima Evans."—Sketches by Boz||G. Cruikshank||"||4|
|4.||"The Four Miss Willises."—Sketches by Boz||"||"||6|
|5.||"Thoughts about People."—Sketches by Boz||"||"||8|
|6.||"The Parish Engine."—Sketches by Boz||"||"||10|
|7.||Studies for Scenes and Characters.—Sketches by Boz||"||"||12|
|8.||"Mr. Bumble Degraded in the Eyes of the Paupers."—Oliver Twist||"||"||14|
|9.||"Mr. Claypole as he Appeared when his Master was Out."—Oliver Twist||"||"||16|
|10.||"Oliver Amazed at the Dodger's Mode of 'Going to Work.'"—Oliver Twist||"||"||18|
|11.||Studies for Bill Sikes, Nancy, and the Artful Dodger.—Oliver Twist||"||"||20|
|12.||Studies for Bill Sikes in the Condemned Cell.—Oliver Twist||"||"||22|
|13.||Study for "Fagin in the Condemned Cell."—Oliver Twist||"||"||24|
|14.||First Idea for "Fagin in the Condemned Cell" and other Sketches.—Oliver Twist||"||"||26|
|15.||Portrait of Robert Seymour||Taylor||"||29|
|16.||"Mr. Pickwick Addresses the Club."—The Pickwick Papers||R. Seymour||"||32|
|17.||"The Pugnacious Cabman."—The Pickwick Papers||"||"||34|
|18.||"Dr. Slammer's Defiance of Jingle."—The Pickwick Papers||"||"||36|
|19.||First Study for "The Dying Clown."—The Pickwick Papers||"||"||38|
|20.||"The Runaway Chaise."—The Pickwick Papers||"||"||40|
|21.||"The Pickwickians in Mr. Wardle's Kitchen."—The Pickwick Papers||"||"||42|
|22.||Portrait of Robert W. Buss||R. W. Buss||"||47|
|23.||Unused Design for the Title-Page.— The Pickwick Papers||"||"||48|
|24.||"The Break-down."—The Pickwick Papers||"||"||50|
|25.||"A Souvenir of Dickens"||"||"||52|
|26.||Dolly Varden.—Barnaby Rudge||"||"||54|
|27.||Florence Dombey and Captain Cuttle.—Dombey and Son||"||"||56|
|28.||Portraits of Hablôt K. Browne and Robert Young||From Photographs||"||58|
|29.||"A Sudden Recognition, Unexpected on Both Sides."—Nicholas Nickleby||H. K. Browne||"||64|
|30.||Studies for the Cheeryble Brothers.—Nicholas Nickleby.||"||"||68|
|31.||Master Humphrey and the Deaf Gentleman.—Master Humphrey's Clock||"||"||72|
|32.||"The Dombey Family."—Dombey and Son||"||"||76|
|33.||"Paul and Mrs. Pipchin."—Dombey and Son.||"||"||80|
|34.||"Mr. Peggotty's Dream comes True."—David Copperfield||"||"||84|
|35.||"Mr. Chadband 'Improving' a Tough Subject."—Bleak House||"||"||92|
|[Pg xvi]36.||Dolly Varden.—Barnaby Rudge||"||"||98|
|37.||Miss Haredale.—Barnaby Rudge||"||"||110|
|38.||Portrait of George Cattermole||From a Photograph||"||121|
|39.||Quilp's Wharf.—The Old Curiosity Shop||G. Cattermole||"||124|
|40.||The Death-bed of Little Nell (Two Studies).—The Old Curiosity Shop||"||"||126|
|41.||The Night Watchman and The "Maypole" Inn.—Barnaby Rudge||"||"||130|
|42.||The Murder at the Warren.—Barnaby Rudge||"||"||132|
|43.||Portrait of John Leech||Sir J. E. Millais, P.R.A||"||138|
|44.||"Richard and Margaret."—The Chimes||J. Leech||"||140|
|45.||"John, Dot, and Tilly Slowboy."—The Cricket on the Hearth||"||"||142|
|46.||"Caleb at Work."—The Cricket on the Hearth||"||"||144|
|47.||"The Tetterbys."—The Haunted Man||"||"||146|
|48.||Portraits of Richard Doyle and D. Maclise, R.A.||From a Photograph, and from the Painting by E. M. Ward, R.A||"||149|
|49.||Portraits of Clarkson Stanfield, R.A., and Frank Stone, A.R.A||From Photographs||"||153|
|50.||"War" and "Peace."—The Battle of Life||C. Stanfield, R.A||"||156|
|51.||"The Tower of the Chimes" and "The Spirit of the Chimes."—The Chimes||D. Maclise, R.A.||"||162|
|52.||"Milly and the Old Man."—The Haunted Man||F. Stone, A.R.A||"||176|
|53.||Portraits of Sir John Tenniel, R.I., and Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A||From a Photograph, and from the Painting by Sir F. Grant, P.R.A||"||180|
|54.||Portraits of F. W. Topham and Samuel Palmer||From Photographs||"||182|
|55.||"The Villa D'Este."—Pictures from Italy||S. Palmer||"||186|
|56.||Portrait of Marcus Stone, R.A||From a Photograph||"||192|
|57.||Studies for "Mr. Venus Surrounded by the Trophies of his Art."—Our Mutual Friend||Marcus Stone, R.A||"||194|
|58.||Monsieur Defarge and Doctor Manette.—A Tale of Two Cities||"||"||196|
|59.||"Black and White."—American Notes||"||"||198|
|60.||"Taking Leave of Joe."—Great Expectations||"||"||200|
|61.||Portrait of Luke Fildes, R.A||From a Photograph||"||204|
|62.||Study for the Head of Neville Landless.—The Mystery of Edwin Drood||L. Fildes, R.A||"||206|
|63.||Studies for Edwin Drood.—The Mystery of Edwin Drood||"||"||208|
|64.||Studies for Mr. Jasper.—The Mystery of Edwin Drood||"||"||210|
|65.||Study for "Good-bye, Rosebud, Darling."—The Mystery of Edwin Drood||"||"||212|
|66.||Study for Mr. Grewgious.—The Mystery of Edwin Drood||"||"||214|
|67.||Do. do. do. do.||"||"||216|
|68.||Portraits of Alfred Crowquill (A. H. Forrester) and Frederick Barnard, R.I||From Photographs||"||228|
|69.||Portraits of F. W. Pailthorpe and Charles Green, R.I.||"||"||232|
The Frontispiece Portrait of Charles Dickens was photo-engraved by Mr. E. Gilbert Hester, and the Collotype Plates were prepared and printed by Mr. James Hyatt.
This Portrait is a reproduction of a proof impression, showing the retouching by Cruikshank himself.
First Start in Life—Early Productions—"Sketches by Boz"—Introduction to Dickens—First and Second Series of the "Sketches"—Extra Plates—Additional Designs for the Complete Edition—Portraiture of Artist and Author—Historic Value of Cruikshank's Illustrations—Some Slight Inaccuracies—Frontispiece of the First Cheap Edition—Tentative Sketches and Unused Designs—"Oliver Twist"—Incongruities Detected in a Few of the Plates—Thackeray's Eulogium—Working Tracings and Water-Colour Replicas—Trial Sketches—A Note from Cruikshank to Dickens—Sketches of Bill Sikes in the Condemned Cell—How the Design for "Fagin in the Condemned Cell" was Conceived—A Criticism by Ruskin—The Cancelled Plate—Cruikshank's Claim to the Origin of "Oliver Twist"—Designs for Dickens's Minor Writings in Bentley's Miscellany—"The Lamplighter's Story"—Cruikshank's Last Illustration for Dickens—"Frauds on the Fairies"—The Artist's Remuneration—Death.
The name of George Cruikshank, which stands first in the long and imposing list of Dickens Illustrators, is familiar to every one as that of a pencil humorist of no common calibre, whose genius as a designer and whose marvellous skill as an etcher have evoked enthusiastic praise from John Ruskin and other eminent critics. He undoubtedly inherited his artistic talent from his father, who was not only an etcher and engraver, but (as George himself has recorded) "a first-rate water-colour draughtsman." So experienced an artist was therefore thoroughly capable of training his sons, George and Isaac Robert, for the same profession.
Like most boys, George dreamt of the sea, aspiring to become a second Captain Cook; but, happily, the death of his father compelled him to take up seriously the work of designing, in order that he might assist in maintaining his mother and sister. His first start[Pg 2] in life originated in a publisher seeing some of his sketches, which indicated such unusual talent that he was immediately engaged to illustrate children's books, songs, and other cheap literature peculiar to the period. Then the young artist essayed the more profitable arena of political caricaturing, distinctly making his mark as a satirist Realising at this time his imperfections as a draughtsman, he determined to acquire the art of drawing with correctness, entering the Royal Academy as a student; but, finding it difficult to work on pedantic lines, his resolution soon waned, and, after one course of study, he left the place for a short interval of—forty years! Although he never became the learned artist, nor was able to draw with academic accuracy, he wielded his pencil with a facility and vigour that delighted all beholders, and this deftness, combined with a remarkable sense of humour and satire, speedily brought him commissions from every quarter.
It was as a book-illustrator that George Cruikshank undoubtedly excelled, and some idea of his industry in this direction (during a period of eighty years of his busy life) may be obtained from G. C. Reid's comprehensive catalogue of his works, where we find enumerated more than five thousand illustrations on paper, wood, copper, and steel. This, however, by no means exhausts the list, for the artist survived the publication of the catalogue several years, and was "in harness" to the end of his long career. If the works described by Mr. Reid be supplemented by the profusion of original sketches and ideas for his finished designs, the number of Cruikshank's productions may be estimated at about fifteen thousand!
Before his introduction to Charles Dickens in 1836, the versatile artist had adorned several volumes, which, but for his striking illustrations, would probably have enjoyed but a brief popularity. His etchings and drawings on wood are invariably executed in an exceedingly delicate manner, at the same time preserving a breadth of effect unequalled by any aquafortiste of his day. "Only those who know the difficulties of etching," observes Mr. P. G. Hamerton, "can[Pg 3] appreciate the power that lies behind his unpretending skill; there is never, in his most admirable plates, the trace of a vain effort."
Sketches by Boz, 1833-36.Dickens's clever descriptions of "every-day life and every-day people" were originally printed in the Monthly Magazine, the Evening Chronicle and the Morning Chronicle, Bell's Life in London, and "The Library of Fiction," and subsequently appeared in a collected form under the general title of "Sketches by Boz." Early in 1836 Dickens sold the entire copyright of the "Sketches" to John Macrone, of St. James's Square, who published a selection therefrom in two duodecimo volumes, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. It was at this time that Charles Dickens first met the artist, who was his senior by about a score of years, and already in the enjoyment of an established reputation as a book-illustrator. That the youthful author, as well as his publisher, realised the value of Cruikshank's co-operation is manifested in the Preface to the "Sketches," where Dickens, after appropriately comparing the issue of his first book to the launching of a pilot balloon, observes: "Unlike the generality of pilot balloons which carry no car, in this one it is very possible for a man to embark, not only himself, but all his hopes of future fame, and all his chances of future success. Entertaining no inconsiderable feeling of trepidation at the idea of making so perilous a voyage in so frail a machine, alone and unaccompanied, the author was naturally desirous to secure the assistance and companionship of some well-known individual, who had frequently contributed to the success, though his well-known reputation rendered it impossible for him ever to have shared the hazard, of similar undertakings. To whom, as possessing this requisite in an eminent degree, could he apply but to George Cruikshank? The application was readily heard and at once acceded to; this is their first voyage in company, but it may not be the last." Each of the two volumes contains eight illustrations, and it may justly be said of these little vignettes that they are among the[Pg 4] artist's most successful efforts with the needle. Although highly popular from the beginning, the "Sketches" were now received with even greater fervour, and several editions were speedily called for. As the late Mr. G. A. Sala contended, the coadjutorship of so experienced a draughtsman as George Cruikshank, who knew London and London life "better than the majority of Sunday-school children know their Catechism," was of real importance to the young reporter of the Morning Chronicle, with whose baptismal name (be it remembered) his readers and admirers were as yet unacquainted.
During the following year (1837) Macrone published a Second Series of the "Sketches" in one volume, uniform in size and character with its predecessors, and containing ten etchings by Cruikshank; for the second edition of this extra volume two additional illustrations were done, viz., "The Last Cab-Driver" and "May-day in the Evening." It was at this time that Dickens repurchased from Macrone the entire copyright of the "Sketches," and arranged with Chapman & Hall for a complete edition, to be issued in shilling monthly parts, octavo size, the first number appearing in November of that year. The completed work contained all the Cruikshank plates (except that entitled "The Free and Easy," which, for some unexplained reason, was cancelled) and the following new subjects: "The Parish Engine," "The Broker's Man," "Our Next-door Neighbours," "Early Coaches," "Public Dinners," "The Gin-Shop," "Making a Night of It," "The Boarding-House," "The Tuggses at Ramsgate," "The Steam Excursion," "Mrs. Joseph Porter," and "Mr. Watkins Tottle."
Cruikshank also produced a design for the pink wrapper enclosing each of the twenty monthly parts; this was engraved on wood by John Jackson, the original drawing (adapted from one the artist had previously made for Macrone) being now in the possession of Mr. William Wright, of Paris. The subject of the frontispiece is the same as that of the title-page in the Second Series. The alteration in the size of the illustrations for this cheap edition necessitated larger plates, so that the artist was compelled to re-etch his designs. These reproductions, although on an extended scale, were executed with even a greater degree of finish, and contain more "colour" than those in the first issue; but the general treatment of the smaller etchings is more pleasing by reason of the superior freedom of line therein displayed. As might be anticipated, a comparison of the two sets of illustrations discloses certain slight variations, which are especially noticeable in the following plates: "Greenwich Fair;" musicians and male dancer added on left. "Election for Beadle;" three more children belonging to Mr. Bung's family on right, and two more of Mr. Spruggins's family on left, thus making up the full complement in each case. "The First of May" (originally entitled "May-day in the Evening"); the drummer on the left, in the first edition, looks straight before him, while in the octavo edition he turns his face towards the girl with the parasol. "London Recreations;" in the larger design the small child on the right is stooping to reach a ball, which is not shown in the earlier plate.
Additional interest is imparted to some of the etchings in "Sketches by Boz" owing to the introduction by the artist of portraits of Charles Dickens and himself, there being no less than five delineations of the face and figure of the youthful "Boz" as he then appeared. In the title-page of the Second Series (as well as in the reproduction of it in the octavo edition), the identity of the two individuals waving flags in the car of the balloon has been pointed out by Cruikshank, who wrote on the original pencil-sketch, "The parties going up in the balloon are intended for the author and the artist,"—which may be considered a necessary explanation, as the likenesses are not very apparent.
In the plates entitled "Early Coaches," "A Pickpocket in
Custody," and "Making a Night of It," Cruikshank has similarly[Pg 5]
[Pg 6] attempted to portray his own lineaments and those of Dickens; he was more successful, however, in the illustration to "Public Dinners," where the presentments of himself and the novelist, as stewards carrying official wands, are more life-like. There exist, by the way, several seriously-attempted portraits of Dickens by Cruikshank, concerning the earliest of which it is related that author and artist were members of a club of literary men known during its brief existence as "The Hook and Eye Club," and that at one of their nightly meetings Dickens was seated in an arm-chair conversing, when Cruikshank exclaimed, "Sit still, Charley, while I take your portrait!" This impromptu sketch, now the property of Colonel Hamilton, has been etched by F. W. Pailthorpe, and a similar drawing is included in the Cruikshank Collection at South Kensington. Among other contemporary portrait-studies (executed in pencil and slightly tinted in colour) is one bearing the following inscription in the artist's autograph: "Charles Dickens, Author of Sketches by Boz, the Pickwick Papers, &c., &c., &c.,"—an admission that seems to dispose of Cruikshank's subsequent claim to the authorship of "Pickwick."
It has been remarked that Cruikshank was so accurate in the rendering of details that future antiquaries will rely upon his plates as authoritative in matters of architecture, costume, &c. For example, in the etching of "The Last Cab-Driver," he has depicted an obsolete form of cabriolet, the driver being seated over the right wheel; and in that of "The Parish Engine" we may discover what kind of public fire-extinguisher was then in use—a very primitive implement in comparison with the modern "steamer." In the latter plate, by the way, we behold the typical beadle of the period, who afterwards figured as Bumble in "Oliver Twist." Apropos of this etching, Mr. Frederick Wedmore points out (in Temple Bar, April 1878) that it is "an excellent example of Cruikshank's eye for picturesque line and texture in some of the commonest objects that met him in his walks: the brickwork of the house, for instance, prettily indicated, the woodwork of the outside shutters, and the window, on which various lights are pleasantly broken. I know no artist," he continues, "so alive as Cruikshank to the pretty sedateness of Georgian architecture. Then, too, there is the girl with basket on arm, a figure not quite ungraceful in line and gesture. She might have been much better if Cruikshank had ever made himself that accurate draughtsman of the figure which he hardly essayed to be, and she and all her fellows—it is only fair to remember—might have been better, again, had the artist who designed her done his finest work in a happier period of English dress." Mr. Wedmore alludes to another etching in "Sketches by Boz" as being "perhaps the best of all in Cruikshank as proof of that sensitive eye for what is picturesque and characteristic in every-day London. It is called 'The Streets, Morning,' the design somewhat empty of 'subject,' only a comfortable sweep who does not go up the chimney, and a wretched boy who does, are standing at a stall taking coffee, which a woman, with pattens striking on pavement and head tied up close in a handkerchief, serves to the scanty comers in the early morning light. A lamp-post rises behind her; the closed shutters of the baker are opposite; the public-house of the Rising Sun has not yet opened its doors; at some house-corner further off a solitary figure lounges homeless; beyond, pleasant light morning shadows cross the cool grey of the untrodden street; a church tower and spire rise in the delicate distance, where the turn of the road hides the further habitations of the sleeping town."
It may be hypercritical to resent, on the score of inaccuracy, an
occasional oversight on the part of Cruikshank; but it is nevertheless
interesting to note that in the plate entitled "Election for Beadle,"
Cruikshank has omitted from the inscription on Spruggins's placard
a reference to "the twins," the introduction of which caused that
candidate to become temporarily a favourite with the electors; in
"Horatio Sparkins," the "dropsical" figure of seven (see label on
right) is followed by a little "1/2d." instead of the diminutive "3/4d."
mentioned in the text; in "The Pawnbroker's Shop" it will be
observed that the words "Money Lent" on the glass door should[Pg 7]
[Pg 8] appear reversed, so as to be read from the outside; while in the etching illustrating "Private Theatres," the artist has forgotten to include the "two dirty men with the corked countenances," who are specially referred to in the "Sketch."
The first cheap edition of "Sketches by Boz," issued by Chapman & Hall in 1850, contained a new frontispiece, drawn on wood by Cruikshank, representing Mr. Gabriel Parsons being released from the kitchen chimney,—an incident in "Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle."
George Cruikshank not unfrequently essayed several "trial" designs before he succeeded in realising to his satisfaction the subject he aimed at portraying. Some of these are extremely slight pencil notes—"first ideas," hastily made as soon as conceived—while others were subjected to greater elaboration, and differing but slightly, perhaps, from the etchings; on certain drawings are marginal memoranda—such as studies of heads, expressions, and attitudes—which are valuable as showing how the finished pictures were evolved. The majority of the designs are executed in pencil, while a few are drawn with pen-and-ink; occasionally one may meet with a sketch in which the effect is broadly washed in with sepia or indian-ink, and, more rarely still, with a drawing charmingly and delicately wrought in water-colours. Besides original sketches, the collection at the South Kensington Museum contains a series of working tracings, by means of which the artist transferred his subjects to the plates. There are no less than three different suggestions for the frontispiece of the first cheap edition of "Sketches by Boz," together with various renderings of the design for the wrapper of the first complete edition, in which the word "Boz" in the title constitutes a conspicuous feature, being formed of the three letters superimposed, while disposed about them are several of the prominent characters. Probably the most interesting in this collection is a sheet of slight sketches signed by the artist, although they are merely tentative jottings for his etchings. One of these pencillings (an unused subject) represents a [Pg 9]man proposing a toast at a dinner-table, doubtless intended as an illustration for "Public Dinners"; and here, too, are marginal studies of heads—including one of a Bill Sikes type—together with a significant note (apparently of a later date) in the autograph of Cruikshank, which reads thus: "Some of these suggestions to Chas. Dickens, and which he wrote to in the second part of 'Sketches by Boz'!"
A large number of studies for "Sketches by Boz" may also be seen in the Print Room of the British Museum, many of which are very slight. In some instances we find the same subject rendered in different ways, and it is worthy of note that a few of these designs were never etched; among the most remarkable of the unused sketches is a rough drawing for the wrapper of the monthly parts (octavo edition), with ostensible portraits of author and artist introduced. This collection includes "first ideas" for "Thoughts about People," "Hackney Coaches," "The Broker's Man," &c., and a careful examination shows that the sketches for the plates illustrating "Seven Dials" and "The Pickpocket in Custody" are entitled by the artist "Fight of the Amazons" and "The Hospital Patient" respectively. In one of the trial sketches for "The Last Cabman," the horse is represented as having fallen to the ground, the passenger being violently ejected from the vehicle.
Oliver Twist, 1837-39.On August 22, 1836, Charles Dickens entered into an agreement with Richard Bentley to edit a new monthly magazine called Bentley's Miscellany, and to furnish that periodical with a serial tale. George Cruikshank's services as illustrator were also retained, and his design for the wrapper inspired Maginn to indite, for "The Bentley Ballads," the "Song of the Cover," whence this characteristic verse is quoted:—
The first number of the Miscellany was issued in January 1837, and in February appeared the initial chapter of the editor's story, entitled "Oliver Twist, or, the Parish Boy's Progress," which was continued in succeeding numbers until its completion in March 1839, with etchings by Cruikshank.
The dramatic character of this stirring romance of low London life afforded the artist unusual scope for the display of his talent; indeed, his powerful pencil was far more suited to the theme than that of any of his contemporaries. The principal scenes in the novel proved most attractive to him, and he fairly revelled in delineating the tragic episodes associated with the career of Fagin and Sikes. These twenty-four etchings are on the same scale as those in the first collected edition of the "Sketches," but they are broader and more effective in treatment. In October 1838,—that is, about five months before completion in the Miscellany,—the entire story was issued by Chapman & Hall in three volumes post octavo, and there can be no doubt that its remarkable success was brought about in no small measure by Cruikshank's inimitable pictures. Nearly eight years later (in January 1846) a cheaper edition, containing all the illustrations, was commenced in ten monthly parts, demy octavo, and subsequently published in one volume by Bradbury & Evans. On the cover for the monthly numbers Cruikshank has portrayed eleven of the leading incidents in the story, some of the subjects being entirely new, while others are practically a repetition of the etched designs. The plates in this edition, having suffered from previous wear-and-tear, were subjected to a general touching-up, as a comparison with the earlier issue clearly indicates, such reparation (carried out by an engraver named Findlay, much to Cruikshank's annoyance) being especially noticeable in cases where "tones" have been added to wall-backgrounds and other parts of the designs. Apart from actual proof impressions, the "Oliver Twist" etchings are naturally to be found in their best state in Bentley's Miscellany, where they are seen in their pristine beauty. In some of the plates it will be observed that Cruikshank has introduced "roulette" (or dotted) work with excellent effect, although, of course, this disqualifies them as examples of pure etching. The first cheap edition of "Oliver Twist," issued in 1850 by Chapman & Hall, contains a frontispiece only by George Cruikshank, representing Mr. Bumble and Oliver in Mrs. Mann's parlour, as described in the second chapter.
It has been said that Cruikshank could not draw a pretty woman.
At any rate, he neglected his opportunity in "Oliver Twist," for he
fails in so depicting Rose Maylie, while his portrayal of Nancy is particularly
ugly and repelling, whereas she certainly possessed physical
charms not unfrequently found in women of her class. Although the
artist has imparted too venerable an appearance to the Artful Dodger,
he has seized in a wonderful manner the characteristics of criminal
types in his rendering of Fagin and Bill Sikes. In many of Cruikshank's
etchings the accessories are very àpropos, and sometimes not
without a touch of quiet humour. For example, in the plate representing
Oliver recovering from the fever, there is seen over the
chimney-piece a picture of the Good Samaritan, in allusion to Mr.
Brownlow's benevolent intentions with respect to the invalid orphan;
while in that depicting Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea,
may be noticed the significant figure of Paul Pry on the mantelshelf.
Some of the designs are marked by slight incongruities, which,
however, do not detract from their interest. In the etching "Oliver
Plucks up a Spirit," it will be observed that the small round table
which the persecuted lad overthrows during his desperate attack
upon Noah Claypole could not possibly assume, by such accidental
means, the inverted position as here shown. In the plate entitled
"The Evidence Destroyed," the lantern (according to the text) should[Pg 11]
[Pg 12] have been lowered into the dark well, but doubtless the error was intentional on the part of the artist, in order to secure effect; in "Mr. Fagin and his Pupil Recovering Nancy," the girl is represented as being exceedingly robust, whereas she was really "so reduced with watching and privation as hardly to be recognised as the same Nancy." Again, in the illustration depicting Sikes attempting to destroy his dog, we see in the distance the dome of St. Paul's, while, as a matter of fact, the desperate ruffian had not reached a point so near the metropolis when he thought of drowning the faithful animal. In "The Last Chance," where the robber contemplates dropping from the roof of Fagin's house to escape his pursuers, the rope (described in the letterpress as being thirty-four feet long) is barely half that length, and could never have extended to the ground; while the dog, who lay concealed until his master had tumbled off the parapet, must have been distinctly visible to all observers if he stood so prominently on the ridge-tiles as here indicated. The latter etching is one of the most fascinating of the series, for here Cruikshank has realised every feature of the dramatic scene,—the harassed expression on the evil face of the hunted criminal, the squalid tenements half shrouded by approaching darkness, the excitement of the people crowding the windows of the opposite houses; indeed, the tragic and repulsive element in the picture constitutes a remarkable effort on the part of the artist.
In the centre of the sheet the Artist has written: "Some of these suggestions to Chas. Dickens, and which he wrote to in the second part of 'Sketches by Boz.'"
In considering the story as a whole, it is difficult to say how much of the powerful impression we are conscious of may be due to the illustrator. In his famous eulogy on Cruikshank, Thackeray remarked: "We are not at all disposed to undervalue the works and genius of Mr. Dickens, and we are sure that he would admit as readily as any man the wonderful assistance that he has derived from the artist who has given us portraits of his ideal personages, and made [Pg 13]them familiar to all the world. Once seen, these figures remain impressed on the memory, which otherwise would have had no hold upon them, and the Jew and Bumble, and the heroes and heroines of the Boz Sketches, become personal acquaintances with each of us. O that Hogarth could have illustrated Fielding in the same way! and fixed down on paper those grand figures of Parson Adams, and Squire Allworthy, and the great Jonathan Wild." Again, with more especial reference to the "Oliver Twist" designs, the kindly "Michael Angelo Titmarsh" wrote: "The sausage scene at Fagin's; Nancy seizing the boy; that capital piece of humour, Mr. Bumble's courtship, which is even better in Cruikshank's version than in Boz's exquisite account of the interview; Sykes's farewell to his dog; and the Jew—the dreadful Jew—that Cruikshank drew! What a fine touching picture of melancholy desolation is that of Sykes and the dog! The poor cur is not too well drawn, the landscape is stiff and formal; but in this case the faults, if faults they be, of execution rather add to than diminish the effect of the picture; it has a strange, wild, dreary, broken-hearted look; we fancy we see the landscape as it must have appeared to Sykes, when ghastly and with bloodshot eyes he looked at it. As for the Jew in the dungeon, let us say nothing of it—what can we say to describe it?"
The complete set of twenty-four working tracings of the original designs for "Oliver Twist," some of which exhibit variations from the finished etchings, realised £140 at Sotheby's in March 1892. Water-colour replicas of all the subjects were prepared by Cruikshank in 1866 for Mr. F. W. Cosens, which the artist supplemented by thirteen smaller drawings and a humorous title-page, the entire series being reproduced in colour for an edition de luxe of "Oliver Twist," published by Chapman & Hall in 1894. The Cruikshank Collections in the British and South Kensington Museums include many of the artist's sketches and "first ideas" for the "Oliver Twist" [Pg 14]plates, as well as a number of the matured designs. Here are several trial sketches for the monthly wrapper of the first octavo edition, executed in pencil with slight washes of sepia added; the original drawings for "Rose Maylie and Oliver" (known to collectors as the "Fireside" plate, to which reference will presently be made), and for "Mr. Bumble Degraded in the Eyes of the Paupers" (with marginal sketches), the title of which is appended in Dickens's autograph, where, instead of "the eyes," the word "presence" was originally written. Here, also, we find the first sketch of Noah Claypole enjoying an oyster-supper, with the following query written by the artist: "Dr. Dickens, 'Title' wanted—will any of these do? Yours, G. Ck." The proposed titles are then given, thus: "Mr. Claypole Astonishing Mr. Bumble and 'the Natives';" "Mr. Claypole Indulging;" "Mr. Claypole as he Appeared when his Master was Out,"—the latter being adopted. On the back of a pen-and-ink drawing of "Oliver's Reception by Fagin and the Boys," Cruikshank suggested a different title, viz., "Oliver Introduced to the Old Gentleman by Jack Dawkins." A beautiful little water-colour drawing of the subject, entitled "Oliver Introduced to the Respectable Old Gentleman," is in the Print Room of the British Museum, where we may also discover a portrait of Oliver himself—a profile study of the head as seen in the drawing now referred to. On the back of a sketch of Mr. Brownlow at the bookstall (for the plate entitled "Oliver Amazed at the Dodger's Mode of 'Going to Work'") is the rough draft of an unsigned note in the autograph of Cruikshank, evidently addressed to Dickens:—
"Thursday Eg., June 15, '37.
"My dear Sir,—Can you let me have a subject for the second Plate? The first is in progress. By the way, would you like to see the Drawing? I can spare it for an hour or two if you will send for it."
The Inscription above the Sketch is in the Autograph of Dickens.
I am enabled to reproduce in facsimile a very interesting sheet of sketches for prominent characters in "Oliver Twist," containing no less than five studies of Fagin, including the "first idea" for the famous etching of the Jew in the condemned cell. Still more noteworthy are four studies of Bill Sikes in the condemned cell, evidently made early in the progress of the book, thus seeming to indicate that the artist conjectured this would be the fate of the burglar instead of the Jew; or is it possible that the existence of these studies may be considered as a corroboration of his assertion (in a letter to the Times, presently to be quoted) that he, and not Dickens, must be credited with the idea of putting either Sikes or Fagin in the cell?
Concerning Cruikshank's powerful conception of Fagin in the
condemned cell ("the immortal Fagin of 'Oliver Twist,'" as
Thackeray styled him), it is related by Mr. George Hodder (in
"Memories of my Time") that when the great George brought forth
this picture, where the Jew is seen biting his finger-nails and suffering
the tortures of remorse and chagrin, Horace Mayhew took an opportunity
of asking him by what mental process he had conceived such an
extraordinary notion; and his answer was, that he had been labouring
at the subject for several days, but had not succeeded in getting the
effect he desired. At length, beginning to think the task was almost
hopeless, he was sitting up in bed one morning, with his hand
covering his chin and the tips of his fingers between his lips, the
whole attitude expressive of disappointment and despair, when he
saw his face in a cheval-glass which stood on the floor opposite
to him. "That's it!" he involuntarily exclaimed; "that's just the
expression I want!" and by this accidental process the picture was
formed in his mind. Many years afterwards Cruikshank declared
this statement to be absurd, and when interrogated by Mr. Austin
Dobson, who met the artist at Mr. Frederick Locker's house in 1877,
he said he had never been perplexed about the matter, but attributed
the story to the fact that, not being satisfied whether the knuckles
should be raised or depressed, he had made studies of his own hand
in a glass, and illustrated his account by putting his hand to his
mouth, looking, with his hooked nose, wonderfully like the character[Pg 15]
[Pg 16] he was speaking of. Respecting another illustration in the story, where "The Jew and Morris Bolter begin to Understand each Other," Professor Ruskin observes that it is "the intensest rendering of vulgarity, absolute and utter," with which he is acquainted.
The latter portion of "Oliver Twist" was written in anticipation of the magazine, in order that the complete story might be promptly launched in volume form. The illustrations for the final chapters had consequently to be produced simultaneously and with all possible speed, so that the artist had no time to submit his designs to Dickens. One of these plates, viz., "Rose Maylie and Oliver," depicted a scene in the new home of the Rev. Harry Maylie; he, his wife, and mother, are seated by the fire, while Oliver stands by Rose Maylie's side. When Dickens first saw this etching he so strongly disapproved of it that the plate was forthwith cancelled and another design substituted; but, the book being then on the eve of publication, it was impossible to prevent a small number of impressions of this illustration being circulated, and copies of the work containing the scarce "Fireside" plate are therefore eagerly sought after by collectors. Dickens, in expressing to Cruikshank his disapprobation of this etching, undoubtedly realised the delicacy of the situation, in the possibility of injuring the susceptibilities of the artist, as the following carefully-worded intimation testifies:—
"I returned suddenly to town yesterday afternoon, to look at the latter pages of 'Oliver Twist' before it was delivered to the booksellers, when I saw the majority of the plates in the last volume for the first time.
"With reference to the last one—Rose Maylie and Oliver—without entering into the question of great haste, or any other cause, which may have led to its being what it is, I am quite sure there can be little difference of opinion between us with respect to the result. May I ask you whether you will object to designing this plate afresh, and doing so at once, in order that as few impressions as possible of the present one may go forth?
"I feel confident you know me too well to feel hurt by this enquiry, and, with equal confidence in you, I have lost no time in preferring it."
The Inscriptions are in the Autograph of the Artist.
It seems, however, that Cruikshank did not immediately proceed to carry out the author's wish, but endeavoured to improve the plate by retouching and adding further tints by means of stippling, &c. In the South Kensington Collection there is an early proof of the etching in which the shadow tints are washed in with a brush, and the fact that these alterations were subsequently carried out is established by the existence of a unique impression of the plate in its second state. This proof was probably submitted to Dickens and again rejected, for no impressions having the stippled additions are known to have been published. The substituted design, bearing the same title as the suppressed one, does not much excel it in point of interest, as the artist himself readily admitted; it represents Rose Maylie and Oliver standing in front of the tablet put up in the church to the memory of Oliver's mother, this etching appearing in Bentley's Miscellany and in all but the earliest copies of the book. The substituted plate (like many others in the volume) was afterwards considerably "touched up," for it will be noticed that in the earlier impressions Rose's dress is light in tone, while subsequently it was changed to black.
A very circumstantial story relative to Cruikshank's connection
with "Oliver Twist" was published in a Transatlantic journal
called The Round Table, and reprinted immediately after Dickens's
death in a biography of the novelist by Dr. Shelton Mackenzie,
who avers that he had been informed that Dickens intended to
locate Oliver in Kent, and to introduce hop-picking and other picturesque
features of the county he knew so well: that the author
changed his purpose, and brought the boy to London: and further,
that for such important alterations in the plot Cruikshank was
responsible. But the more remarkable portion of this narrative
is Dr. Mackenzie's account of his visit to Cruikshank in 1847,[Pg 17]
[Pg 18] at the artist's house in Myddleton Terrace, Pentonville, concerning which he writes:—
"I had to wait while he was finishing an etching, for which a printer's boy was waiting. To while away the time, I gladly complied with his suggestion that I should look over a portfolio crowded with etchings, proofs, and drawings, which lay upon the sofa. Among these, carelessly tied together in a wrap of brown paper, was a series of some twenty-five to thirty drawings, very carefully finished, through most of which were carried the now well-known portraits of Fagin, Bill Sikes and his dog, Nancy, the Artful Dodger, and Master Charles Bates—all well known to the readers of 'Oliver Twist'—and many others who were not introduced. There was no mistake about it, and when Cruikshank turned round, his work finished, I said as much. He told me that it had long been in his mind to show the life of a London thief by a series of drawings, engraved by himself, in which, without a single line of letterpress, the story would be strikingly and clearly told. 'Dickens,' he continued, 'dropped in here one day just as you have done, and, while waiting until I could speak with him, took up that identical portfolio and ferreted out that bundle of drawings. When he came to that one which represents Fagin in the condemned cell, he silently studied it for half-an-hour, and told me that he was tempted to change the whole plot of his story; not to carry Oliver Twist through adventures in the country, but to take him up into the thieves' den in London, show what their life was, and bring Oliver safely through it without sin or shame. I consented to let him write up to as many of the designs as he thought would suit his purpose; and that was the way in which Fagin, Sikes, and Nancy were created. My drawings suggested them, rather than his strong individuality suggested my drawings."
Forster naturally characterises this story as a deliberate untruth, related with "a minute conscientiousness and particularity of detail that might have raised the reputation of Sir Benjamin Backbite himself," and points out that the artist's version, as here narrated, is completely refuted by Dickens's letter to Cruikshank, which unquestionably proves that the closing illustrations had not even been seen by the novelist until the book was ready for publication. Cruikshank, on reading in the Times a criticism of Forster's biography, in which this charge against Dickens was commented upon, at once indited the following letter to that journal, where it appeared on December 30, 1871:—
"To the Editor of 'The Times.'
"Sir,—As my name is mentioned in the second notice of Mr. John Forster's 'Life of Charles Dickens,' in your paper of the 26th inst., in connection with a statement made by an American gentleman (Dr. Shelton Mackenzie) respecting the origin of 'Oliver Twist,' I shall be obliged if you will allow me to give some explanation upon this subject. For some time past I have been preparing a work for publication, in which I intend to give an account of the origin of 'Oliver Twist,' and I now not only deeply regret the sudden and unexpected decease of Mr. Charles Dickens, but regret also that my proposed work was not published during his life-time. I should not now have brought this matter forward, but as Dr. Mackenzie states that he got the information from me, and as Mr. Forster declares his statement to be a falsehood, to which, in fact, he would apply a word of three letters, I feel called upon, not only to defend the Doctor, but myself also from such a gross imputation. Dr. Mackenzie has confused some circumstances with respect to Mr. Dickens looking over some drawings and sketches in my studio, but there is no doubt whatever that I did tell this gentleman that I was the originator of the story of 'Oliver Twist,' as I have told very many others who may have spoken to me on the subject, and which facts I now beg permission to repeat in the columns of the Times, for the information of Mr. Forster and the public generally.
"When Bentley's Miscellany was first started, it was arranged that[Pg 19]
[Pg 20] Charles Dickens should write a serial in it, and which was to be illustrated by me; and in a conversation with him as to what the subject should be for the first serial, I suggested to Mr. Dickens that he should write the life of a London boy, and strongly advised him to do this, assuring him that I would furnish him with the subject and supply him with all the characters, which my large experience of London life would enable me to do.
"My idea was to raise a boy from a most humble position up to a high and respectable one—in fact, to illustrate one of those cases of common occurrence, where men of humble origin, by natural ability, industry, honest and honourable conduct, raise themselves to first-class positions in Society. And as I wished particularly to bring the habits and manners of the thieves of London before the public (and this for a most important purpose, which I shall explain one of these days), I suggested that the poor boy should fall among thieves, but that his honesty and natural good disposition should enable him to pass through this ordeal without contamination; and after I had fully described the full-grown thieves (the Bill Sykeses) and their female companions, also the young thieves (the Artful Dodgers) and the receivers of stolen goods, Mr. Dickens agreed to act on my suggestion, and the work was commenced, but we differed as to what sort of boy the hero should be. Mr. Dickens wanted rather a queer kind of chap, and, although this was contrary to my original idea, I complied with his request, feeling that it would not be right to dictate too much to the writer of the story, and then appeared 'Oliver Asking for More;' but it so happened just about this time that an inquiry was being made in the parish of St. James's, Westminster, as to the cause of the death of some of the workhouse children who had been 'farmed out,' and in which inquiry my late friend Joseph Pettigrew (surgeon to the Dukes of Kent and Sussex) came forward on the part of the poor children, and by his interference was mainly the cause of saving the lives of many of these poor little creatures. I called the attention of Mr. Dickens to this inquiry, and said that [Pg 21]if he took up this matter, his doing so might help to save many a poor child from injury and death; and I earnestly begged of him to let me make Oliver a nice pretty little boy, and if we so represented him, the public—and particularly the ladies—would be sure to take a greater interest in him, and the work would then be a certain success. Mr. Dickens agreed to that request, and I need not add here that my prophecy was fulfilled: and if any one will take the trouble to look at my representations of 'Oliver,' they will see that the appearance of the boy is altered after the two first illustrations, and, by a reference to the records of St. James's parish, and to the date of the publication of the Miscellany, they will see that both dates tally, and therefore support my statement.
Lent by Messrs. Robson & Co.
"I had, a long time previously to this, directed Mr. Dickens's attention to Field Lane, Holborn Hill, wherein resided many thieves and receivers of stolen goods, and it was suggested that one of these receivers, a Jew, should be introduced into the story; and upon one occasion Mr. Dickens and Mr. Harrison Ainsworth called upon me at my house in Myddleton Terrace, Pentonville, and in course of conversation I then and there described and performed the character of one of these Jew receivers, whom I had long had my eye upon; and this was the origin of 'Fagin.'
"Some time after this, Mr. Ainsworth said to me one day, 'I was so much struck with your description of that Jew to Mr. Dickens, that I think you and I could do something together,' which notion of Mr. Ainsworth's, as most people are aware, was afterwards carried out in various works. Long before 'Oliver Twist' was ever thought of, I had, by permission of the city authorities, made a sketch of one of the condemned cells in Newgate prison; and as I had a great object in letting the public see what sort of places these cells were, and how they were furnished, and also to show a wretched condemned criminal therein, I thought it desirable to introduce such a subject into this work; but I had the greatest difficulty to get Mr. Dickens to allow me to carry out my wishes in this respect; but I said I[Pg 22] must have either what is called a Christian or what is called a Jew in a condemned cell, and therefore it must be 'Bill Sikes' or 'Fagin;' at length he allowed me to exhibit the latter.
"Without going further into particulars, I think it will be allowed from what I have stated that I am the originator of 'Oliver Twist,' and that all the principal characters are mine; but I was much disappointed by Mr. Dickens not fully carrying out my first suggestion.
"I must here mention that nearly all the designs were made from conversation and mutual suggestion upon each subject, and that I never saw any manuscript of Mr. Dickens until the work was nearly finished, and the letter of Mr. Dickens which Mr. Forster mentions only refers to the last etching—done in great haste—no proper time being allowed, and of a subject without any interest; in fact, there was not anything in the latter part of the manuscript that would suggest an illustration; but to oblige Mr. Dickens I did my best to produce another etching, working hard day and night, but when done, what is it? Why, merely a lady and a boy standing inside of a church looking at a stone wall!
"Mr. Dickens named all the characters in this work himself, but before he had commenced writing the story he told me that he had heard an omnibus conductor mention some one as Oliver Twist, which name, he said, he would give the boy, as he thought it would answer his purpose. I wanted the boy to have a very different name, such as Frank Foundling or Frank Steadfast; but I think the word Twist proves to a certain extent that the boy he was going to employ for his purpose was a very different sort of boy from the one introduced and recommended to him by, Sir, your obedient servant,
"Hampstead Road, December 29, 1871."
In 1872 Cruikshank issued a pamphlet entitled "The Artist and the Author, a Statement of Facts," where he positively asserted that not only was he the actual originator of "Oliver Twist," but also [Pg 23]of many of Harrison Ainsworth's weird romances; that these authors "wrote up to his suggestions and designs," just as Combe did with regard to "Dr. Syntax" and Rowlandson's previously-executed illustrations. In another published letter, dated more than a year prior to that printed in the Times, the artist emphatically declared that the greater part of the second volume of "Sketches by Boz" was written from his hints and suggestions, and he significantly added, "I am preparing to publish an explanation of the reason why I did not illustrate the whole of Mr. Dickens's writings, and this explanation will not at all redound to his credit." Indeed, so thoroughly was he imbued with this conviction, that on April 20, 1874, in responding to a vote of thanks accorded him by the Mayor of Manchester for an address on Intemperance, he reiterated his statement relative to the origin of "Oliver Twist." The Mayor having referred to the artist's designs in Dickens's novels, Cruikshank intimated that the only work of the novelist he had illustrated was "Sketches by Boz"; his worship remarked, "You forget 'Oliver Twist,'" whereupon Cruikshank replied, "That came out of my own brain. I wanted Dickens to write me a work, but he did not do it in the way I wished. I assure you I went and made a sketch of the condemned cell many years before that work was published. I wanted a scene a few hours before strangulation, and Dickens said he did not like it, and I said he must have a Jew or a Christian in the cell. Dickens said, 'Do as you like,' and I put Fagin, the Jew, into the cell. Dickens behaved in an extraordinary way to me, and I believe it had a little effect on his mind. He was a most powerful opponent to Teetotalism, and he described us as 'old hogs.'"
Unfortunately for Cruikshank's claim to the origin of "Oliver Twist," he allowed more than thirty years to elapse before making it public. When questioned on this point he would say that ever since [Pg 24]these works were published, and even when they were in progress, he had in private society, when conversing upon such matters, always explained that the original ideas and characters of these works emanated from him! Mr. Harrison Ainsworth has recorded that Dickens was so worried by Cruikshank putting forward suggestions that he resolved to send him only printed proofs for illustration. In a letter to Forster (January 1838) the novelist wrote, alluding to the severity of his labours: "I have not done the 'Young Gentleman,' nor written the preface to 'Grimaldi,' nor thought of 'Oliver Twist,' or even supplied a subject for the plate," the latter intimation sufficiently indicating that Dickens was more directly concerned in the selection of suitable themes for illustration than Cruikshank would have us believe. The author of "Sketches by Boz" abundantly testified in those remarkable papers that his eyes, like Cruikshank's, had penetrated the mysteries of London; indeed, we find in the "Sketches" all the material for the story of poor Oliver, where it is more artistically and dramatically treated. It is not improbable, of course, that from Cruikshank's familiarity with life in the Great City he was enabled to offer useful hints to the young writer, and even perhaps to make suggestions respecting particular characters; but this constitutes a very unimportant share in the production of a literary work. To what extent the interchange between artist and author was carried can never be satisfactorily determined; but of this there can be no doubt, that Cruikshank's habit of exaggeration, combined with his eagerness in over-estimating the effect of his work, led him (as Mr. Blanchard Jerrold remarks) "into injudicious statements or over-statements," which were sometimes provocative of much unpleasant controversy. It is, however, no exaggeration to say that the pencil of George Cruikshank was as admirable in its power of delineating character as was the mighty pen of Charles Dickens, and that in the success and popularity of "Oliver Twist" they may claim an equal share.
[Pg 25]Minor Writings in "Bentley's Miscellany." Certain humorous pieces written by Dickens for Richard Bentley were also illustrated by Cruikshank. The first paper, entitled "Public Life of Mr. Tulrumble, once Mayor of Mudfog" (published in January 1837), contains an etching of Ned Twigger in the kitchen of Mudfog Hall, and the next contribution, purporting to be a "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything" (September, 1838) is embellished with a very ludicrous illustration, entitled "Automaton Police Office and Real Offenders, from the model exhibited before Section B of the Mudfog Association." This design depicts the interior of a police-court in which all the officials are automatic—an ingenious rendering of the idea propounded by Mr. Coppernose to the President and members of the Association. To the second paper the artist also supplied a woodcut portrait of "The Tyrant Sowster," of whom he made no less than six studies before he succeeded in producing a satisfactory presentment of Mudfog's "active and intelligent" beadle.
In his juvenile days Dickens wrote a farce entitled "The Lamplighter," which, owing to its non-acceptance by the theatrical management for whom it was composed, he converted into an amusing tale called "The Lamplighter's Story." This constituted his share in a collection of light essays and other papers gratuitously supplied by well-known authors, and issued in volume form under the title of "The Pic Nic Papers," for the benefit of the widow of Macrone, Dickens's first publisher. The work, edited by Dickens, was launched by Henry Colborn in 1841, in three volumes, with fourteen illustrations by Cruikshank, "Phiz," and other artists. The first volume opened with "The Lamplighter's Story," for which Cruikshank provided an etching entitled "The Philosopher's Stone," the subject represented being the unexpected explosion of Tom Grig's [Pg 26]crucible. This was the last illustration executed by the artist for Dickens's writings, and it may be added that some impressions of the plate were issued in proof state "before letters," but these are exceedingly rare. Although for many years afterwards they continued fast friends, it may be (as Mr. Graham Everitt conjectures) that Cruikshank found it impossible to co-operate any longer with so exacting an employer of artistic labour as Charles Dickens, who remonstrated, with some show of reason, that he was the best judge of what he required pictorially,—an argument, however, which did not suit the independent spirit of the artist. Of his genius Dickens was ever a warm admirer, and remarking upon the exclusion of so able a draughtsman from the honours of the Royal Academy, because, forsooth! his works were not produced in certain mediums, the novelist pertinently asks: "Will no Associates be found upon its books one of these days, the labours of whose oil and brushes will have sunk into the profoundest obscurity, when many pencil-marks of Mr. Cruikshank and Mr. Leech will be still fresh in half the houses in the land?"
It will be remembered that George Cruikshank published a version of the Fairy Tales, converting them into stories somewhat resembling Temperance tracts. Dickens was greatly incensed, and, half-playfully and half-seriously, protested against such alterations of the beautiful little romances, this re-writing them "according to Total Abstinence, Peace Society, and Bloomer principles, and expressly for their propagation;" in an article published in Household Words, October 1, 1853, entitled "Frauds on the Fairies," the novelist enunciates his opinions on the subject, and gives the story of Cinderella as it might be "edited" by a gentleman with a "mission." This elicited a reply from Cruikshank (in a short-lived magazine bearing his name, and launched by him in 1854), which took the form of "A Letter from Hop-o'-my-Thumb to Charles Dickens, Esq.," commencing with "Right Trusty, Well-Beloved, Much-Read, and Admired Sir," the artist contending that he was justified in altering "a common fairy-tale" when his sole object was to remove objectionable passages, and, in their stead, to inculcate moral principles. There is no doubt, however, that Dickens's rebuke seriously affected the sale of the Fairy Library.
In 1847 Dickens instituted a series of theatrical entertainments
for certain charitable objects, the distinguished artists and writers
who formed the goodly company of amateur actors including George
Cruikshank. On one occasion they made a tour in the provinces,
giving performances at several important towns, and on the conclusion
of this "splendid strolling" Dickens wrote an amusing little jeu
d'esprit in the form of a history of the trip, adopting for the purpose
the phraseology of Mrs. Gamp. It was to be a new "Piljian's
Projiss," with illustrations by the artist-members; but, for some
reason, it was destined never to appear in the manner intended by
its projector. Forster has printed all that was ever written of the
little jest, where we find a humorous description of Cruikshank in
Mrs. Gamp's vernacular: "I was drove about like a brute animal
and almost worritted into fits, when a gentleman with a large shirt-collar
and a hook nose, and a eye like one of Mr. Sweedlepipe's
hawks, and long locks of hair, and wiskers that I wouldn't have no
lady as I was engaged to meet suddenly a turning round a corner,
for any sum of money you could offer me, says, laughing, 'Halloa,
Mrs. Gamp, what are you up to?' I didn't know him from a man
(except by his clothes); but I says faintly, 'If you're a Christian
man, show me where to get a second-cladge ticket for Manjester,
and have me put in a carriage, or I shall drop!' Which he kindly
did, in a cheerful kind of a way, skipping about in the strangest
manner as ever I see, making all kinds of actions, and looking and
vinking at me from under the brim of his hat (which was a good
deal turned up), to that extent, that I should have thought he meant[Pg 27]
[Pg 28] something but for being so flurried as not to have no thoughts at all until I was put in a carriage...." When Mrs. Gamp was informed, in a whisper, that the gentleman who assisted her into the carriage was "George," she replied, "What George, sir? I don't know no George." "The great George, ma'am—the Crookshanks," was the explanation. Whereupon Mrs. Gamp continues: "If you'll believe me, Mrs. Harris, I turns my head, and see the wery man a making picturs of me on his thumb-nail at the winder!" The artist took part in several plays under Dickens's management, but, although it is not recorded that he created great sensation as an actor, it seems evident that his impersonations met with the approval of the novelist, who was a thorough martinet in Thespian matters.
That George Cruikshank was by no means a prosperous man is perhaps explained by the fact that he never was highly remunerated for his work. "Time was," wrote Thackeray, "when for a picture with thirty heads in it he was paid three guineas—a poor week's pittance, truly, and a dire week's labour!" The late Mr. Sala declared that for an illustrative etching on a plate, octavo size, George never received more than twenty-five pounds, and had been paid as low as ten,—that he had often drawn "a charming little vignette on wood" for a guinea. On February 1, 1878, this remarkable designer and etcher—the most skilled book-illustrator of his day—passed painlessly away at his house in Hampstead Road, having attained the ripe old age of eighty-five. His remains were interred at Kensal Green, but were ultimately removed to the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral, where a bust by Adams perpetuates his memory.
 A set of the twenty-eight etchings, proofs before letters (First and Second Series), realised £30 at Sotheby's in 1889. Lithographic replicas of the plates in the Second Series were published in Calcutta in 1837.
 In a large water-colour replica of this subject, signed "George Cruikshank, Octr. 14th, 1873, in my 82nd year," the artist stated that the landscape represented the old Pentonville fields, north of London.
 The name of Sikes is frequently thus mis-spelt. It is odd that Dickens himself first wrote it "Sykes," as may be seen in the original manuscript of the story.
 This is, doubtless, a reference to an article by Dickens entitled "Whole Hogs," which appeared in Household Words, August 23, 1851, protesting against the extreme views of the Temperance party.
 In the original title on the plate, Ned Twigger's Christian name is incorrectly given as Tom.
 Cruikshank designed the illustrations for the "Memoirs of Grimaldi," 1838, but this work was merely edited by Dickens, and therefore does not come within the scope of the present volume.
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
Early Years—A Taste for High Art—Drawings on Wood for Figaro and Bell's Life in London—Essays the Art of Etching—Designs for "Maxims and Hints for an Angler"—Proposes to Publish a Book of Humorous Sporting Subjects—A "Club of Cockney Sportsmen"—Charles Whitehead and Charles Dickens—The Inception of "The Pickwick Papers"—Seymour's Illustrations—The Artist Succumbs to Overwork—Suicide of Seymour—Dickens's Tribute—Seymour's Last Drawing for "Pickwick"—"The Dying Clown"—His Original Designs—Seymour's Conception of Mr. Pickwick—Letter from Dickens to the Artist—"First Ideas" and Unused Sketches—A Valuable Collection—Scarcity of Seymour's "Pickwick" Plates—Design for the Wrapper of the Monthly Parts—Mrs. Seymour's Account of the Origin of "The Pickwick Papers"—An Absurd Claim Refuted—"The Library of Fiction"—Seymour's Illustrations for "The Tuggses at Ramsgate."
Concerning the artist who was primarily engaged in the illustration of "Pickwick," very little has been recorded, owing perhaps to the fact that his career, which terminated so tragically and so prematurely, was brief and uneventful. The following particulars of his life and labours, culled from various sources, will, I trust, enable the reader to appreciate Robert Seymour's true position respecting his connection with Charles Dickens's immortal work.
Born "in or near London" in 1798, Robert Seymour indicated at a very early age a decided taste for drawing, whereupon his father, Henry Seymour, a Somerset gentleman, apprenticed him to a skilful pattern-draughtsman named Vaughan, of Duke Street, Smithfield. Although this occupation was most uncongenial to young Seymour, it caused him to adopt a neat style of drawing which ultimately proved of much utility. He aspired to a higher branch of Art than [Pg 30]that involved in the delineation of patterns for calico-printers; but for a time he remained with Vaughan, pleasantly varying the monotony of his daily routine by producing miniature portraits of friends who consented to sit to him, receiving in return a modest though welcome remuneration. Still cherishing an inclination towards "High Art," he and a colleague named Work (significant patronymic!) deserted Vaughan, and, renting a room at the top of the old tower at Canonbury, they purchased a number of plaster-casts, lay-figures, &c., from which the two juvenile enthusiasts began to study with great assiduity. In Seymour's case tangible results were speedily forthcoming, for he presently painted a picture of unusually large dimensions, quaintly described by his fellow-student as containing representations of "the Giant of the Brocken, the Skeleton Hunt, the Casting of Bullets, and a full meal of all the German horrors eagerly swallowed by the public of that day." This remarkable canvas was, it seems, a really creditable work, and found a place on the walls of a gallery in Baker Street Baazar. Seymour, like many other ambitious young artists possessing more talent than pence, quickly realised the sad fact that, though the pursuit was in itself a very agreeable one, it meant penury to the painter unless he owned a private fortune or commanded the purse-strings of rich patrons. The artist's widow afterwards declared that he invariably sold his pictures direct from the easel; but there is no doubt that with him "High Art" proved a financial failure, and he reluctantly turned his attention to the more lucrative (if less attractive) occupation of designing on wood, for which he was peculiarly fitted by his previous practice in clean, precise draughtsmanship during that probationary period in Vaughan's workshop.
Seymour was endowed by Nature with a keen sense of the ludicrous, and this, aided by a knowledge of drawing, enabled him to execute designs of so humorous a character that his productions were immediately welcomed by the proprietors of such publications as Figaro and Bell's Life in London, to which were thus given a[Pg 31] vitality and a popularity they did not previously possess. Although at first the recompense was but scanty, hardly sufficient, indeed, to procure the necessaries of life, yet Robert Seymour felt it was the beginning of what might eventually resolve itself into a fairly remunerative vocation. His talent speedily brought him profitable commissions for more serious publications, while his pencil was simultaneously employed in sketching and drawing amusing incidents, especially such as related to fishing and shooting,—forms of sport which constituted his favourite recreation. Living at this time in the then rural suburb of Islington, he had many opportunities of observing the methods of Cockney sportsmen, who were wont to wander thither on Sundays and holidays, and whose inexperience with rod and gun gave rise to many absurdities and comic fiascos, thus affording the young artist abundant material for humorous designs.
Until 1827, Seymour confined his labours to drawing for the wood-engravers. He now essayed the art of etching upon plates of steel or copper, simulating the style and manner of George Cruikshank; he even ventured to affix the nom de plume of "Shortshanks" to his early caricatures, until he received a remonstrance from the famous George himself. Having attained some proficiency in both etching and lithography, he determined to make practical use of his experience, and in 1833 designed a series of twelve lithographic plates for a new edition of a work entitled "Maxims and Hints for an Angler," in which the humours of the piscatorial art were excellently rendered; he also executed a number of similar designs portraying, with laughable effect, the adventures and misadventures of the very "counter-jumpers" whose ways and habits came under his keen, observant eye. These amusing pictures, drawn on stone with pen-and-ink, and published as a collection of "Sketches by Seymour," achieved an immense popularity, and were chiefly the means of rendering his name generally familiar.
Seymour was very fond of horticultural pursuits, and took great pains in cultivating his own garden; but the result of his efforts in this direction proved disappointing, and when dilating upon his want of success, it was suggested that the misfortunes of an amateur gardener might be made the subject of some entertaining drawings. After pondering over this idea, and mindful of the fact that he still possessed a number of unpublished sketches reflecting upon the abilities of amateur sportsmen, he resolved upon reproducing some of a sporting character. His original notion was to bring out a work similar in plan to that of "The Heiress," a pictorial novel which he illustrated in 1830, and he first proposed the subject to the printseller McLean in 1835, and then to Spooner, the well-known publisher. The latter highly approved the project, and in discussing it they concluded it would be desirable to supplement the pictures with suitable letterpress. The undertaking was so far advanced that Seymour etched four plates, but, owing to unforeseen delays on the part of Spooner, the matter was held in abeyance for about three months, by which time Seymour determined to issue the work on his own responsibility, and to endeavour to get H. Mayhew or Moncrieff to write for it.
The Pickwick Papers, 1836-37.When, in February 1836, Edward Chapman (of Chapman & Hall) called upon him with reference to a drawing which the firm had commissioned him to undertake, the artist mentioned the scheme of a work to be illustrated by him, having, as a central idea, a "Club of Cockney Sportsmen." Chapman thought favourably of the notion, and proposed that it should be brought out in two half-guinea volumes; but Seymour, desiring the widest circulation, insisted on the plan he originally conceived, that of shilling monthly numbers. Then came the question, Who should prepare the requisite text? Leigh Hunt, Theodore Hook, and other prominent writers of the day declined to undertake it, and shortly afterwards Seymour, having just been reading "Sketches by Boz," the humour and originality of which highly delighted him, proposed that Dickens should be asked to contribute the letterpress.
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
Mr. Mackenzie Bell has given (in the Athenæum, June 11, 1887) a slightly different version of this part of the narration, and states that Charles Whitehead, an early friend of Dickens, "used constantly to affirm that he had been asked to write to Seymour's sketches, and that, feeling uncertain of being able to supply the copy with sufficient regularity, he [not Seymour] recommended Dickens for the task. This appears very likely to have been the case," adds Mr. Bell, "as at that time Whitehead, who was eight years older than Dickens, was already known as a facile and fecund writer, his coarse yet powerful romance of 'Jack Ketch' having been very popular for some time. It is even possible that 'The Pickwick Papers' may have been suggested to Dickens by a passage in the preface of 'Jack Ketch,' where a humorous allusion is made to the possibility of the author producing his more mature experiences under the unambitious title of 'The Ketch Papers,' a work which never appeared." It may be mentioned that Dickens had just sent in his MS. of "The Tuggses at Ramsgate" for "The Library of Fiction," edited by Whitehead, who was already familiar with the budding novelist's ability as an author. This carries us to the point whence Dickens takes up the thread of the story, as printed in the preface to the first cheap edition of "Pickwick" (1847), where he writes:—
"I was a young man of three-and-twenty when the present
publishers [Chapman & Hall], attracted by some pieces I was at
that time writing in the Morning Chronicle newspaper (of which one
series had lately been collected and published in two volumes, illustrated
by my esteemed friend George Cruikshank), waited upon
me to propose a something that should be published in shilling
numbers.... The idea propounded to me was that the monthly
something should be a vehicle for certain plates to be executed by
Mr. Seymour, and there was a notion, either on the part of that
admirable humorous artist or of my visitor (I forget which), that a[Pg 33]
[Pg 34] 'Nimrod Club,' the members of which were to go out shooting, fishing, and so forth, and getting themselves into difficulties through their want of dexterity, would be the best means of introducing these. I objected, on consideration, that although born and partly bred in the country, I was no great sportsman, except in regard of all kinds of locomotion; that the idea was not novel, and had been already much used; that it would be infinitely better for the plates to arise naturally out of the text; and that I should like to take my own way, with freer range of English scenes and people, and was afraid I should ultimately do so in any case, whatever course I might prescribe to myself at starting. My views being deferred to, I thought of Mr. Pickwick, and wrote the first number, from the proof-sheets of which Mr. Seymour made his drawing of the Club, and that happy portrait of its founder, by which he is always recognised, and which may be said to have made him a reality. I connected Mr. Pickwick with a club because of the original suggestion, and I put in Mr. Winkle expressly for the use of Mr. Seymour."
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
The first monthly part of "The Pickwick Papers" appeared early in April 1836, consisting of twenty-six pages of text and four etchings by Seymour. Judging from a letter written by Dickens at the time the scheme was first proposed, it seems that the illustrations were to have been engraved on wood. The artist was then excessively busy, for besides pledging himself to produce four plates for each monthly issue of "Pickwick," he had numerous other engagements to fulfil, so great was the demand for his designs. Although a rapid executant, the commissions he received from publishers accumulated to such an extent, that the excessive strain resulting from overwork at starvation prices began seriously to affect his health. Not only did the monthly supply of the "Pickwick" plates constitute an additional demand upon his mental resources, but he was harassed by the uncertainty of receiving from the printer the proofs from which he deduced his subjects, these sometimes being delayed so that very little time was allowed for the preparation of the plates. Unhappily [Pg 35]his brain was unable to bear such pressure; constant business worries and anxieties induced symptoms of insanity, and before he had completed the second quartette of etchings for "Pickwick," the unfortunate artist committed suicide. This deplorable act took place on April 20, 1836, in a summer-house in the garden at the back of his residence in Liverpool Road, Islington, where, by the aid of a string attached to the trigger of a fowling-piece, he deliberately sent the charge through his head.
Seymour, we are assured, had not the slightest pecuniary embarrassment; he was quite happy, too, in his domestic affairs, extremely fond of his family, and naturally of a very cheerful disposition. His melancholy fate caused a general feeling of regret among the public, with whom he was a great favourite, and to whom he was then better known than Dickens himself. In the second number of "Pickwick" appeared the following just tribute to the merits of the artist: "Some time must elapse before the void the deceased gentleman has left in his profession can be filled up; the blank his death has occasioned in the Society, which his amiable nature won, and his talents adorned, we can hardly hope to see supplied. We do not allude to this distressing event, in the vain hope of adding, by any eulogium of ours, to the respect in which the late Mr. Seymour's memory is held by all who ever knew him."
In the original announcement of "The Pickwick Papers" we read: "Seymour has devoted himself, heart and graver, to the task of illustrating the beauties of 'Pickwick.' It was reserved to Gibbon to paint, in colours that will never fade, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire—to Hume to chronicle the strife and turmoil of the two proud Houses that divided England against herself—to Napier to pen, in burning words, the History of the War in the Peninsula;—the deeds and actions of the gifted Pickwick yet remain for 'Boz' and Seymour to hand down to posterity." This projected collaboration, alas! was speedily frustrated by the unexpected tragedy, for Seymour had produced but seven plates when he terminated his[Pg 36] life, the following being the subjects of his designs in the order of their publication:
|"Mr. Pickwick Addresses the Club."|
|"The Pugnacious Cabman."|
|"The Sagacious Dog."|
|"Dr. Slammer's Defiance of Jingle."|
|"The Dying Clown."|
|"Mr. Pickwick in Chase of his Hat."|
|"Mr. Winkle Soothes the Refractory Steed."|
The Address issued with the Second Part contains an apology for the appearance therein of only three plates instead of four, as promised. "When we state," says the author, "that they comprise Mr. Seymour's last efforts, and that on one of them, in particular, (the embellishment to the Stroller's Tale,) he was engaged up to a late hour of the night preceding his death, we feel confident that the excuse will be deemed a sufficient one." Dickens had seen the unhappy man only once, forty-eight hours before his death, on the occasion of his visit to Furnival's Inn with the etching just referred to, which, altered at Dickens's suggestion, he brought away again for the few further touches that occupied him to a late hour of the night before he destroyed himself. In an unpublished letter (dated April 3, 1866) addressed by the novelist to a correspondent who required certain particulars respecting "Pickwick," he thus referred to the artist: "Mr. Seymour shot himself before the second number of 'The Pickwick Papers' ... was published. While he lay dead, [Pg 37]it was necessary that search should be made in his working room for the plates to the second number, the day for the publication of which was then drawing on. The plates were found unfinished, with their faces turned to the wall. It was Mr. Chapman who found them and brought them away."
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
In 1887 Messrs. Chapman & Hall appropriately celebrated the Jubilee of "The Pickwick Papers" by publishing an Edition de luxe, with facsimiles of the original drawings made for the work, or, rather, of as many of these as were then available. In the editor's preface it is stated that four out of the seven drawings etched by Seymour for "Pickwick" had disappeared, but it afterwards transpired that two of the missing designs remained in the possession of the artist's family, until they were sold to a private purchaser, who, in 1889, disposed of them by auction. Of these drawings, therefore, only one, viz., "The Sagacious Dog," is undiscoverable. The album in which the missing designs were found also contained other original drawings for "Pickwick," as well as the Dickens letter to Seymour and an excellent portrait of the artist; this important collection included the three published designs (viz., "Mr. Pickwick Addresses the Club," "The Pugnacious Cabman," and "Dr. Slammer's Defiance of Jingle,"—the latter differing slightly from the etching), together with the first sketch for "The Dying Clown," and two unpublished drawings (evidently alternative subjects, illustrating incidents in the fifth chapter), respectively representing "The Runaway Chaise" and "The Pickwickians in Mr. Wardle's Kitchen." All these drawings, except that of "The Dying Clown," are outlined with pen-and-ink, and the effects washed in with a brownish tint. Perhaps the most astonishing circumstance in connection with this collection is the extravagant sum it realised in the auction-room, for, as might be anticipated, many were anxious to secure so valuable a memento. The bidding was brisk until £200 was reached, when competition was confined to the representative of Mr. Augustin Daly (of New York) and another whose name is unrecorded, the result being[Pg 38] that the prize fell to Mr. Daly for £500—probably a record figure for such an item. No one experienced greater surprise at this enormous price than the purchaser himself, who assures me that, although he imposed no limit, it was never his intention to offer so fabulous an amount; indeed, the sum he had in his mind was not so much as a quarter of that at which this attractive album eventually fell to the hammer. Owing to the generosity of Mr. Daly, I am enabled to reproduce in facsimile the whole of these extremely interesting designs, which he brought to England expressly for this purpose.
Seymour's method of work was to sketch with pencil or pen the outline of his subject, and add the shadow effects by means of light washes of a greyish tint. A precision and neatness of touch characterise these "Pickwick" drawings, the most interesting of which is undoubtedly that representing Mr. Pickwick addressing the Club, a scene such as Seymour may have actually witnessed in the parlour of almost any respectable public-house in his own neighbourhood of Islington. Here we have the first delineation of the immortal founder of the famous Club, "that happy portrait," as Dickens said of it, "by which he is always recognised, and which may be said to have made him a reality." Seymour originally sketched this figure as a long thin man, the familiar presentment of him as a rotund personage having been subsequently inspired by Edward Chapman's description of a friend of his at Richmond named John Foster, "a fat old beau, who would wear, in spite of the ladies' protests, drab tights and black gaiters." It is curious, however, that in "The Heiress," illustrated by Seymour six years previously, we find in the second plate a character bearing a striking resemblance to Mr. Pickwick, and in "Maxims and Hints for an Angler" (1833), the artist similarly portrayed an old gentleman marvellously like him, both as regards physique and benignity of expression; indeed, this seems to have been a favourite type with Seymour, and thus it would appear that, in making Dickens's hero short and comfortable, he only reverted to an earlier conception.
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
The drawing which ranks second in point of interest is the artist's first idea for "The Dying Clown," illustrating "The Stroller's Tale." The original sketch is a slight outline study in pen-and-ink of the figures only, the facial expressions being cleverly rendered. In the Victoria edition of "The Pickwick Papers" a facsimile is given of a later and more developed version of the subject; this differs from the published etching, the alterations being the result, doubtless, of the criticism bestowed upon the drawing in the following letter addressed by Dickens to the artist,—apparently the only written communication from him to Seymour which has been preserved:—
"15 Furnival's Inn,
"Thursday Evening, April 1836.
"My dear Sir,—I had intended to write to you to say how much gratified I feel by the pains you have bestowed upon our mutual friend Mr. Pickwick, and how much the result of your labours has surpassed my expectations. I am happy to be able to congratulate you, the publishers, and myself on the success of the undertaking, which appears to have been most complete.
"I have now another reason for troubling you. It is this. I am extremely anxious about 'The Stroller's Tale,' the more especially as many literary friends, on whose judgment I place great reliance, think it will create considerable sensation. I have seen your design for an etching to accompany it. I think it extremely good, but still it is not quite my idea; and as I feel so very solicitous to have it as complete as possible, I shall feel personally obliged if you will make another drawing. It will give me great pleasure to see you, as well as the drawing, when it is completed. With this view I have asked Chapman and Hall to take a glass of grog with me on Sunday evening (the only night I am disengaged), when I hope you will be able to look in.
[Pg 40]"The alteration I want I will endeavour to explain. I think the woman should be younger—the dismal man decidedly should, and he should be less miserable in appearance. To communicate an interest to the plate, his whole appearance should express more sympathy and solicitude; and while I represented the sick man as emaciated and dying, I would not make him too repulsive. The furniture of the room you have depicted admirably. I have ventured to make these suggestions, feeling assured that you will consider them in the spirit in which I submit them to your judgment. I shall be happy to hear from you that I may expect to see you on Sunday evening.—Dear Sir, very truly yours,
In compliance with this wish, Seymour etched a new design for "The Stroller's Tale," which he conveyed to the author at the appointed time, this being the only occasion on which he and Dickens ever met. Whether the novelist again manifested dissatisfaction, or whether some other cause of irritation arose, is not known, but it is said that Seymour returned home after the interview in a very discontented frame of mind; he did nothing more for "Pickwick" from that time, and destroyed nearly all the correspondence relating to the subject. It has been stated that he received five pounds for each drawing, but it is positively asserted, on apparently trustworthy evidence, that the sum paid on account was only thirty-five shillings for each subject, and that the artist never relinquished the entire right which he had in the designs.
As in the case of "The Stroller's Tale," there are noticeable differences between the drawing and the etching of the last of Seymour's published designs, depicting Mr. Winkle and the Refractory Steed. In this plate it will be observed that, although the general composition is identical with that in the drawing, the positions of the horse's forelegs are reversed, and trees have been introduced on the left of the picture.
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
An examination of Seymour's etchings for "Pickwick" shows that, in the application of the dilute nitric acid to corrode the lines produced by the etching-point, the artist was greatly troubled, and, in order to save his designs and keep faith with the publishers and the public, he was probably compelled to apply for help in his need to one of the artist-engravers residing in his neighbourhood. It has been suggested that certain faults in his plates caused by defective "biting" were remedied by means of the engraving tool; but, so far as I have been able to discover, there is no evidence of this. His plates possess the quality of pure etching; indeed, in that respect they are superior to those by "Phiz" in the same work. It should, however, be noted that there are extant very few copies of "Pickwick" containing impressions from Seymour's own plates; perhaps in not more than one copy out of a hundred will they be found, and this scarcity is explained by the fact that when the plates suffered deterioration through printing, the artist's death prevented him from duplicating them, so that the subjects had to be copied and re-etched by "Phiz." Seymour reversed his designs upon the steel plates, so that when printed they appear exactly as originally drawn. There is reason to infer, from an entry in the artist's memorandum-book, that the first four subjects were etched before he showed them to Dickens, and that they were afterwards re-etched and modified in some degree to suit the author's views.
Besides these illustrations, Seymour is responsible for the design appearing on the green wrapper of the monthly parts, which was engraved on wood by John Jackson. A glance at this at once convinces us how strongly the "sporting" element was at first intended to predominate, for here are displayed trophies of guns, fishing-rods, and other sporting implements; at the top of the page is seen the veritable Winkle aiming at a sparrow, while below, seated on a chair in a punt, peacefully reposes Mr. Pickwick with his rod, watching for a "bite"; in the background of the picture may be[Pg 42] recognised Putney Church, as well as the old wooden bridge which once spanned the Thames at this point.
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
After the publication of "The Pickwick Papers" many veracious reports as to its origin were circulated. In some of these statements Dickens was entirely deprived of the credit of its inception, and partly to assert his claim, but principally because he believed his readers would be interested in the truth of the matter, he related the facts in the already-quoted Preface to the first cheap edition. About two years later he was considerably annoyed by the appearance of a pamphlet purporting to give "An Account of the Origin of the Pickwick Papers," the author of which was the "widow of the distinguished artist who originated the work." Mrs. Seymour printed in her brochure a distorted version of Dickens's Preface, and attempted a reply thereto, by which she endeavoured to show the fallacy of his statements. The following extract from this privately-printed pamphlet sufficiently indicates the tenor of Mrs. Seymour's attempt to prove that the honour belonged exclusively to the artist: "Mr. Dickens edited a work called 'The Pickwick Papers,' which was originated solely by my husband in the summer of 1835, and but for a cold (which brought on a severe illness) which he caught on Lord Mayor's Day, on taking his children to view the procession from the Star Chamber, would have been written, as well as embellished, by himself; this cause alone prevented him from doing so, as the numerous periodicals he was constantly engaged upon had greatly accumulated during his illness." Although such a claim, so seriously maintained, necessitated immediate refutation, Dickens allowed a considerable time to elapse before making a formal denial thereof. With a view to future action, however, he wrote to Edward Chapman for his recollections of the primary events in the history of the work, and accordingly received from him the following reply, [Pg 43]dated July 7, 1849: "In November  we published a little book called 'The Squib Annual,' with plates by Seymour, and it was during my visit to him to see after them that he said he should like to do a series of Cockney sporting plates of a superior sort to those he had already published. I said I thought it might do if accompanied by letterpress and published in monthly parts; and this being agreed to, we wrote to the author of 'Three Courses and a Dessert' (a Mr. Clarke). I proposed it; but receiving no answer, the scheme dropped for some months, till Seymour said he wished us to decide, as another job had offered which would fully occupy his time. And it was on this we decided to ask you to do it.... I am quite sure that from the beginning to the end nobody but yourself had anything whatsoever to do with it."
Further publicity was bestowed upon the subject in a letter contributed to the Athenæum of March 24, 1866, by Seymour's son, who not only repeated the principal arguments adduced by the pamphlet, but promised further particulars in a subsequent communication. Whereupon Dickens, rightly considering that the opportunity had now arrived for emphatically repudiating the whole story, forwarded the following letter for publication in the ensuing number of the Athenæum:—
"As the author of 'The Pickwick Papers' (and of one or two other books), I send you a few facts, and no comments, having reference to a letter signed 'R. Seymour,' which in your editorial discretion you published last week.
"Mr. Seymour the artist never originated, suggested, or in any way had to do with, save as illustrator of what I devised, an incident, a character (except the sporting tastes of Mr. Winkle), a name, a phrase, or a word, to be found in 'The Pickwick Papers.'
"I never saw Mr. Seymour's handwriting, I believe, in my life.
"I never even saw Mr. Seymour but once in my life, and that was within eight-and-forty hours of his untimely death. Two persons, both still living, were present on that short occasion.
[Pg 44]"Mr. Seymour died when only twenty-four [twenty-six] printed pages of 'The Pickwick Papers' were published; I think before the next three or four [afterwards corrected to "twenty-four"] were completely written; I am sure before one subsequent line of the book was invented."
[Here follows the account of Mr. Hall's interview with the novelist, as given in the Preface of the 1847 edition, and the letter thus continues:]
"In July 1849, some incoherent assertions made by the widow of Mr. Seymour, in the course of certain endeavours of hers to raise money, induced me to address a letter to Mr. Edward Chapman, then the only surviving business-partner in the original firm of Chapman & Hall, who first published 'The Pickwick Papers,' requesting him to inform me in writing whether the foregoing statement was correct."
A few days later Dickens wrote to his eldest son a letter in which he says:—
"There has been going on for years an attempt on the part of Seymour's widow to extort money from me by representing that he had some inexplicable and ill-used part in the invention of Pickwick!!! I have disregarded it until now, except that I took the precaution some years ago to leave among my few papers Edward Chapman's testimony to the gross falsehood and absurdity of the idea.
"But, last week, I wrote a letter to the Athenæum about it, in consequence of Seymour's son reviving the monstrosity. I stated in that letter that I had never so much as seen Seymour but once in my life, and that was some eight-and-forty hours before his death.
"I stated also that two persons still living were present at the short interview. Those were your Uncle Frederick and your mother. I wish you would ask your mother to write to you, for my preserva[Pg 45]tion among the aforesaid few papers, a note giving you her remembrance of that evening—of Frederick's afterwards knocking at our door before we were up, to tell us that it was in the papers that Seymour had shot himself, and of his perfect knowledge that the poor little man and I looked upon each other for the first and last time that night in Furnival's Inn.
"It seems a superfluous precaution, but I take it for the sake of our descendants long after you."
The "few papers" here alluded to were destroyed before the novelist's death, with the exception of Edward Chapman's confirmatory letter. Needless to say, both Mrs. Charles Dickens and Frederick Dickens entirely corroborated the novelist's assertions respecting his own share and that of Seymour in the origin of "Pickwick."
In concluding this account of a most unpleasant controversy, we may reasonably surmise that had not Seymour communicated his idea to Chapman, "Pickwick" would never have been written. The proposal for a book similar in character certainly emanated from the artist, and in this sense he was, of course, the originator of that work, while to him also belongs the honour of inventing, pictorially, the portraits of the Pickwickians. But it was "Boz, glorious Boz," who vitalised the happy conception, by imparting thereto such prodigality of fun and so much individuality that "The Pickwick Papers" at once leaped into fame, and, as all the world knows, was received with acclamation by every section of the public.
The Library of Fiction, 1836.Coincident with the publication of the first monthly number of "The Pickwick Papers," there appeared the initial part of a new serial called "The Library of Fiction," which, under the editorship of Charles Whitehead, was launched by the same publishers. Whitehead, whose name has already been mentioned in connection with "Pickwick," became acquainted with Dickens at the time the latter was writing [Pg 46]"Sketches by Boz," which he so much admired that he endeavoured to persuade the young author to contribute something of a similarly striking character to the projected "Library of Fiction." Dickens consented, and we find that his amusing little story, entitled "The Tuggses at Ramsgate," constitutes the opening paper. Several of the articles and tales in "The Library of Fiction" were illustrated, and it is interesting to note that Dickens's contribution to the first part was embellished with two designs by Robert Seymour, engraved on wood by Landells. It is generally considered that Seymour's woodcut illustrations are by far the best specimens of his talent, and the engravers of that day were exceedingly happy in reproducing the delicacy of touch and brilliancy of effect which distinguished the drawings made by him direct upon the blocks.
Seymour's first design represents the Tuggs family and their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Captain Waters, on the sands by the seaside, and it is interesting to learn that the fat man seated on a chair in front is said to be a portrait of the artist, as he appeared during the latter part of his life. The second illustration, depicting the incident of the irate Captain Waters discovering Mr. Cymon Tuggs behind the curtain, also formed the subject of George Cruikshank's etching for the little story when it was reprinted in the first edition of "Sketches by Boz," published about some three years later, and, in comparing the separate designs, we find that they are almost identical, except that the two prominent figures in the etching are in reverse of those in the woodcut.
 In another account (written by a contemporary of the artist) it is stated that Seymour was the natural son of Vaughan himself, and that the child bore the name of the mother, under whose care he remained until his father acknowledged the paternity, when he took the boy into his workshop.
 The artist's son asserts that the last plate Seymour etched for "Pickwick" (viz., "The Dying Clown") was submitted to Dickens a fortnight (not forty-eight hours, as recorded by Forster) before his death. It seems that Seymour's final drawing was for a woodcut, executed for John Jackson, the engraver, to whom the artist delivered it on the evening of the fatal day, April 20, 1836.
 R. W. Buss, the successor of Seymour as illustrator of "Pickwick," records that ten shillings was the price accorded to the artist for each plate.
 In 1889 Mrs. Seymour's own copy of this exceedingly scarce pamphlet (of which only three copies are known to exist) was purchased by Mr. Daly for £74 at Sotheby's. It contains a few slight corrections by Mrs. Seymour.
 The unpublished sketch by Seymour in Mr. Daly's collection, depicting the Pickwickians in Mr. Wardle's kitchen, illustrates a scene described on page 50, so that Dickens's memory was slightly at fault.
 This letter was first published in the Introduction, by the late Mr. Charles Dickens the Younger, to Macmillan & Co.'s edition of "The Pickwick Papers," 1892.
Alteration in the Plan of Publishing "Pickwick"—The Difficulty Respecting a New Illustrator—Buss Elected to Succeed Seymour—Studies Art under G. Clint, A.R.A.—His Painting of "Christmas in the Olden Time"—His Ignorance of the Etcher's Art—Practises Drawing in Pen-and-ink—"The Pickwick Papers"—Buss's First Plate Approved by the Publishers—Failure of Subsequent Attempts—Expert Assistance Obtained—Plates Cancelled—Buss Dismissed—Substituted Designs by "Phiz"—"Pickwick" Drawings by Buss—His Unused Designs for "Pickwick"—His Illustrations for Marryat, Ainsworth, &c.—Accurate Draughtsmanship—"The Library of Fiction"—Buss's Illustrations for "A Little Talk about Spring and the Sweeps"—His Paintings, Humorous and Historical—Some Dickens Pictures—Drawings of Scenes in "Dombey and Son"—An Unfinished Portrait of Dickens—Drawings on Wood for Charles Knight—Exclusion of the Artist Buss's Pictures from the Royal Academy—Endeavours to Obtain Pupils—Lectures on Art—His Wife and Daughter Establish a School for Girls—A Professor of Drawing and a Teacher of Science—Praiseworthy Industry—Death of the Artist.
Charles Dickens's brother-in-law, the late Mr. Henry Burnett, was a frequent visitor at the home of the novelist during the "Pickwick" period, and years afterwards he vividly recalled the consternation, disappointment, and anxiety of the young writer on receipt of the melancholy news concerning the distressing fate of Robert Seymour, the first illustrator of "The Pickwick Papers." Dickens greatly admired the productions of that unfortunate artist, and, realising how successfully he had so far portrayed the characters in the work, apprehended there would be much difficulty in discovering a draughtsman who could interpret him with equal felicity. Indeed, there was quite a dearth of suitable talent, the only artist then living capable of etching his own designs being George Cruikshank. Unfortunately, there was not much time for consideration, as the third number of "Pickwick" had to be provided for without delay.
The crisis brought about by the unexpected death of Seymour compelled Chapman & Hall to promptly carry into effect a resolution[Pg 48] they had formed of issuing future numbers of "The Pickwick Papers" on an improved plan, with a view to enhancing the attractiveness and popularity of the work. They determined that each succeeding number should consist of thirty-two pages of letterpress instead of twenty-four, and that there should be two illustrations in lieu of four—an arrangement which held good to the end. The difficulty respecting an illustrator to succeed Seymour had now to be grappled with, whereupon the publishers called to their assistance the eminent wood-engraver, John Jackson, who advised them to approach Robert William Buss, as being the only artist of his acquaintance likely to prove the most suitable for the purpose. Chapman & Hall acted upon this suggestion, and Buss, after much persuasion and at great personal inconvenience, agreed to temporarily relinquish very important engagements in order to assist them in their dilemma.
Robert William Buss is referred to in an address issued with the third part of "Pickwick" as "a gentleman already well known to the public as a very humorous and talented artist." He was born on August 29, 1804, in Bull-and-Mouth Street, St. Martin's-le-Grand, and in due course apprenticed to his father, an enameller and engraver on gold and silver. Like Seymour, he was inoculated with the prevailing mania for "High Art," and this inclination becoming too strong to be thwarted, his indulgent father not only permitted the cancelling of his indentures, but even defrayed the cost of a year's study in Art, placing him under his old friend George Clint, A.R.A. (a landscape painter, and subsequently the President of the Society of British Artists), whose son Alfred married the younger Buss's only sister. Having thus, at the age of twenty-one, gained some practical experience in his adopted profession, Robert Buss thought himself competent to start life on his own account by painting portraits and subject-pictures. In this direction he met with fair success, but it was as a painter of humorous incidents that he first made his reputation, these finding eager purchasers among well-known collectors and connoisseurs. Among his earliest achievements was a painting representing "Christmas in the Olden Time," which he exhibited in the gallery of the Society of British Artists in 1838. This work, however, although warmly praised by the critics, proved a most unhappy venture, as the price realised by the artist for what represented the result of a year's labour hardly recouped him for the expenses incurred by its production.
The Pickwick Papers, 1836-37.It was doubtless this painting with which Buss was occupied when Mr. Hall (of Chapman & Hall) called upon him respecting the illustrations for "Pickwick." "Taken quite by surprise," relates the artist, when recalling his association with Dickens's famous work, "I told him [Mr. Hall] I had never in the whole course of my life had an etching-needle in my hand, and that I was entirely ignorant of the process of etching, as far as practice was concerned. He assured me it was very easy to do, and that with my talent I was sure to succeed." After some hesitation, overcome by Mr. Hall's promise that consideration would be shown towards his want of experience, Buss yielded to the pressure thus put upon him, and consented to put aside his picture (although most anxious to complete it for exhibition at the Royal Academy), with a view to embarking upon his new undertaking.
In preparing studies for his pictures, Buss had accustomed himself
to the use of bold effects, obtained by means of chalk or black-lead
pencils of various degrees of hardness, blackness, and breadth of point.
He therefore deemed it necessary to undergo a course of training
which would enable him to impart to his work that delicacy of touch
so essential in the art of etching upon copper or steel, and devoted
himself almost day and night (as there was really no time to lose) to
practice in drawing with pen-and-ink,—a fact (he observes) "of which
Mr. Hall was utterly and entirely ignorant." There are still extant
a few of these experimental efforts (chiefly figures and faces copied
[Pg 50]from line engravings), including a sheet containing a dozen sketches of heads—studies of characters in "Pickwick," apparently based upon Seymour's etchings—which testify not only to his energy, but also to his rapidly-acquired skill in the adoption of what was to him a novel medium. In these drawings, by the way, he used ordinary ink for the general design, diluting it for the delicate shades and distant objects, thus assimilating the effect of his pen-and-ink work with the variations resulting from the "biting-in" and "re-biting" of etchings.
After labouring incessantly for a period of three weeks, the artist felt prepared to make his first attempt in etching, taking for his subject "Mr. Pickwick at the Review." Referring to this plate, he says: "Of course it was full of faults, inevitable to any one in the early stage of practice in etching. But it was shown to Messrs. Chapman & Hall, and approved by them, though not as one of the illustrations to be published. All this occupied much time, which was every hour becoming more and more valuable, as the date of publication was close at hand. I had barely time to prepare my two subjects for the next number of 'Pickwick' in pencil and submit them for approval to the publishers, who returned them, being much pleased with my efforts. The subjects I selected were the Fat Boy watching Mr. Tupman and Miss Wardle in the arbour, and the Cricket-Match." Buss now essayed to reproduce his designs upon the plates; but the result proved disastrous, the too violent action of the improperly diluted acid tearing up the etching-ground, which also broke up under the needle, creating sad havoc. Dreading the possible consequences of delay, he placed his original drawings in the hands of an expert engraver, to be copied on the plate and "bitten-in." "This work," remarks the artist, "he did very well indeed, but, as might have been expected, had I had time for thought, the free touch of an original was entirely wanting. The etching itself failed, but the 'biting-in' was admirably done. Time was up. The plates must be placed at once in the printer's hands, and so (there being no help for it) the plates were printed, the numbers stitched and duly published. Thus my name appeared to designs of which not one touch of mine was on the plates." Had opportunities been given, Buss would have cancelled these plates, and prepared fresh ones of his own etching. The immediate effect of this fiasco was the termination of his connection with "The Pickwick Papers," the artist being actually engaged in preparing designs for the succeeding number when he received a note informing him that the work had been placed in other hands. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that Buss felt this curt dismissal very keenly, for it must be remembered that he ventured upon the undertaking mainly to oblige the publishers, who, it appears, had promised him every consideration on account of his inexperience with the etching-needle.
Forster disposes of the subject of Buss's association with "Pickwick" in a very few words, merely observing that "there was at first a little difficulty in replacing Seymour, and for a single number Mr. Buss was interposed," thus intimating that the engagement was a temporary one. In commenting upon this, the artist's son, the Rev. Alfred J. Buss, expresses a belief that his father could not certainly have regarded it in this light. "Is it reasonable to suppose," he asks, in Notes and Queries, April 24, 1875, "that he would have consented to devote three weeks of his time, at the most valuable season to an artist, to the practice of an entirely new department of art, if it had been clearly stated that his engagement was of the transitory nature Mr. Forster would imply, and the more especially when we bear in mind that the price to be paid for the etchings was only fifteen shillings each?" It was Forster's scanty and misleading reference to Buss's engagement as illustrator of "Pickwick" which induced the artist to draw up for his children a concise and clear account of everything that transpired.
It is not recorded whether Buss and Dickens became personally
acquainted, nor, indeed, that they ever met. We may therefore[Pg 51]
[Pg 52] surmise that all business transactions were carried on through the publishers, who probably forwarded to the artist proofs of the letterpress in order that he might select therefrom the subjects for illustration. The third number of "Pickwick" contains the only two published etchings by Buss for that work, viz., "The Cricket-Match" and "The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion only." These plates, the effect of which was poor and thin, contrasted unfavourably with the Seymour etchings immediately preceding them, and were therefore suppressed as speedily as possible, others by "Phiz" (Hablôt K. Browne) being substituted before many copies had been issued. In one of the latter an entirely different design is given,—that is to say, instead of "The Cricket-Match," we have "Mr. Wardle and his Friends under the Influence of 'the Salmon,'" depicting an incident described in the succeeding chapter.
The drawings by Buss for "Pickwick" have fortunately been preserved. Besides the original designs for the published etchings, there are still in existence several tentative sketches prepared by the artist in anticipation of future numbers,—those, indeed, upon which he was at work when he received his congé. Some of these sketches are vigorously limned with pen-and-ink outlines and the effects laid in with a brush, while others are rendered in pencil supplemented by washes of indian-ink. The following is a complete list of Buss's original drawings for "Pickwick":—
Mr. Pickwick at the Review.—Unused design.—This subject was etched by the artist as a specimen of his work to be submitted to Chapman & Hall. Only two impressions are known to exist, while the plate itself was irretrievably injured through the surface being scratched with a piece of coarse emery paper.
The Cricket-Match.—Published design.
Lent by the Rev. F. Fleetwood Buss.
The Cricket-Match.—First sketch, varying entirely from the etching. The wicket-keeper is seen behind the fat man, receiving the ball full in his face.
The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion only.—Published design.
The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion only.—First sketch, varying from the etching. Tupman is represented on his knees by the side of Miss Wardle, who is holding a watering-pot, while the Fat Boy is seen behind, facing the spectator.
The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion only.—Second sketch, varying from the etching. Here Tupman is standing, with his left arm around Miss Wardle's waist, and the Fat Boy is in front, in much the same attitude as represented in the published design; indeed, there are very slight differences between this sketch and the accepted drawing.
Mr. Wardle and his Friends under the Influence of "the Salmon."—Unused design.
The Break-down.—Unused design. Pickwick, in an attitude of despair, stands facing the spectator; behind him Wardle is seen in the act of shaking his fist at the eloping party in the retreating chaise; while a postboy on the left holds the head of one of the horses belonging to the vehicle which has come to grief.
Mr. Winkle's First Shot.—Unused design. The central figure is Winkle, holding his gun; close by stands Snodgrass in an attitude of fear, while Pickwick and Wardle are sheltering behind a tree.
Study for the Title-Page.—Unused design. In this rough sketch Pickwick is the prominent personage, as he stands facing the spectator, with his right hand in the pocket of his smalls, and his left arm resting on what appears to be a mound of earth. Separately displayed upon the face of this mound are medallion portraits, in emblematical frames, of Pickwick, Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, while above all is suspended a female [Pg 54]figure typical of Fame, blowing a miniature trumpet and holding a laurel wreath over the head of Pickwick. The letters forming the words "Pickwick Club" are made up of various articles suggestive of conviviality and sport—such as corkscrews, bottles, wine-glasses, pistol, stirrup, &c.
These drawings sufficiently indicate that the artist possessed a decided power with the pencil, which he turned to good account shortly after the abrupt termination of his connection with "The Pickwick Papers." For example, in 1839 he successfully illustrated, by means of etching, Mrs. Trollope's diverting story, "The Widow Married," then appearing as a serial in the New Monthly Magazine, and among the more remarkable of his later efforts with the etching-needle are his designs for novels by Marryat, Ainsworth, and other well-known writers of the day, many of the plates being equal, in the matter of technique, to those by "Phiz," thus denoting that, had an opportunity been afforded him, he might have made his mark with "Pickwick." It may be said of Buss (as is asserted concerning Cruikshank) that his works, whether in colour or black-and-white, are regarded as affording authentic information respecting costumes and other accessories; for he was exceedingly conscientious in matters of detail, preferring to incur infinite trouble to secure accuracy rather than rely upon his imagination.
The Library of Fiction, 1836.Like Seymour, Buss was associated with Dickens in connection with that ephemeral work, "The Library of Fiction." Besides "The Tuggses at Ramsgate," the novelist wrote for its pages a paper called "A Little Talk about Spring and the Sweeps," containing an illustration drawn by Buss and engraved on wood by John Jackson, who, it will be remembered, introduced the artist to Chapman & Hall. This short tale was reprinted in the first complete edition of "Sketches by Boz," 1839, under the title of "The First of May," with an etching by Cruikshank depicting an incident differing entirely from that which forms the subject of Buss's woodcut.
Lent by the Rev. A. J. Buss.
As a painter of humorous scenes and historical events, Buss gained
considerable popularity. From 1826 to 1859 he contributed nearly
every year subject-pictures and portraits to the Exhibitions of the
Royal Academy, Suffolk Street Gallery, and British Institution, and
among his numerous canvases (many of which have been engraved)
may be mentioned:—Humorous—"The Biter Bit," "The March of
Intellect," "The Monopolist," "An Unexpected Reception," "Soliciting
a Vote," "Chairing the Member," "Mob Tyranny," "The Mock
Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme." Historical—"The Introduction
of Tobacco by Sir Walter Raleigh," "James Watt's First Experience
with Steam," "Hogarth at School," "Chantrey's First Essay in
Modelling," "Nelson's First Victory over the French Fleet." The
artist was also occasionally inspired by Shakespeare and Dickens,
and it is specially interesting to note that he painted at least three
pictures of scenes in the novelist's works, viz., "Joe Willet Taking
Leave of Dolly Varden" (from "Barnaby Rudge"), exhibited at
the Royal Academy in 1844, and now in a South Australian public
picture-gallery; "The Cricket's Chirp" (Peerybingle, Dot, and Tilly
Slowboy, from "The Cricket on the Hearth," Chirp the First), exhibited
at Suffolk Street, 1846; and a representation of Trotty Veck
peeping into the basket containing his dinner of tripe which his
daughter brings him. In an album of studies and notes for his
pictures (arranged by the artist for preservation as an heirloom) may
be found several sketches for the first-named subject, and in addition
to these are two small water-colour drawings, oval in form, of scenes
in "Dombey and Son," representing "Mr. Dombey more Magnificent
than Usual," and "Captain Cuttle visited by Florence Dombey," the
latter being especially well rendered. Whether these have ever been
engraved I am unable to say, but the probability is they have not.
Curiously enough, the last picture on Buss's easel purported to repre[Pg 55]
[Pg 56]sent "A Dream of Dickens." This unfinished canvas (still in the possession of a member of the artist's family) contains a portrait of the novelist seated in his study, with visions of scenes from his various works around him. The portrait is adapted from the well-known photograph by Watkins, while the incidents depicted are taken from the original illustrations.
Although Buss's large picture of "Christmas in the Olden Time" proved, for the artist, a financial failure, it benefited him in being the means of introducing him to Charles Knight (perhaps the most enterprising publisher of that day), who, recognising in the young painter a diligent student of manners and customs, engaged his services on the Pictorial Edition of Shakespeare's Works, "Old England," the Penny Magazine, and Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," all of which were issued under Knight's auspices. The Rev. A. J. Buss well remembers his father making these drawings on wood blocks, which were engraved by Jackson, Sly, and others, and recalls that, some years after, he obtained a commission from Mr. Hogarth, a printseller, to execute some Christmas subjects for reproduction by line-engraving.
After 1854 Buss's pictures were for some reason excluded from the Royal Academy Exhibitions, and this so seriously affected the sale of his work that he was compelled to have recourse to teaching drawing as a means of supplementing a precarious income. As early as 1843 he had issued circulars announcing a course of lessons in drawing on Dupin's method, having previously purchased many expensive models, and rented a room in Duke Street, Grosvenor Square; but all in vain, for not a single pupil was forthcoming! He then prepared a series of lectures on English Comic and Satiric Art, which he delivered in London and the chief provincial towns in England, these being illustrated by large diagrams.
Lent by the Rev. A. J. Buss.
During the period of struggle for a livelihood, the artist's wife and daughter came nobly to his assistance by establishing, in 1850, the North London Collegiate School for Ladies (as it was then designated), which developed into the leading school in the cause of Female Education. In order to give it a higher grade than other similar seminaries had then attained, Buss not only became its professor of drawing, but teacher of science too, first devoting himself to the study of Chemistry, Botany, Human Physiology, Mechanics, Hydraulics, &c., and he soon became qualified for his self-imposed responsibilities. His artistic capabilities here stood him in good stead, for they enabled him to prepare large diagrams with which to illustrate his lectures; in addition to this, he made his own models for demonstrating the science of Mechanics—thus proving the power he possessed of adapting himself to circumstances, in the earnest desire to obtain a living and in his love for wife and children. "I do not think," observes the Rev. A. J. Buss, when corresponding with me on this subject, "I ever knew a man so industrious as my father. I have a clear remembrance almost from my childhood of his industry,—early morning in his painting-room—up to late hours drawing on wood and etching. He deserved better fortune than he secured; and I have only learnt to admire him the more, the more I think of his career."
At the death of his wife, the artist led a very retired life, in a studio most picturesquely fitted up with ancient furniture, and here it was that he devoted the latter years of his life in preparing for publication his lectures on Art, being aided and encouraged in his congenial task by his affectionate daughter, the late Frances Mary Buss, who subsequently gained high distinction in connection with Education. This profusely-illustrated volume, printed for private circulation, was issued in 1874, and bore the following title: "English Graphic Satire, and its relation to Different Styles of Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving. A Contribution to the History of the English School of Art."
Robert William Buss died at his residence in Camden Street, Camden Town, on February 26, 1875, in his seventy-first year. The end came very quietly and painlessly to him who had fought the battle of life so honestly and so fearlessly.
 The picture afterwards changed hands for six or seven times the amount originally received by the painter. It eventually became the property of his daughter, the late Miss Frances Mary Buss, for many years the Head-mistress of the North London Collegiate School for Girls, in the Drawing-School of which institution this interesting canvas now hangs.
 This design has been reproduced by photo-lithography, impressions of which may occasionally be found in copies of "Pickwick."
 The two cancelled etchings by Buss have been copied on steel, but, being printed on India paper, are not likely to be mistaken for the original plates. Impressions of the Buss etchings are exceedingly scarce, only about seven hundred copies of the number containing them having been circulated.
 Reproduced in facsimile in the Victoria edition of "Pickwick," 1887.
 Reproduced in facsimile in the Victoria edition of "Pickwick," 1887.
An Illustrator required for "Pickwick"—Leech and Thackeray offer their Services—Thackeray's First Meeting with Dickens—"Mr. Pickwick's Lucky Escape"—Leech's Specimen Drawing—Hablôt K. Browne ("Phiz") Elected to Succeed Buss—His Etching of "John Gilpin's Ride" Awarded a Silver Medal—His Designs for "Sunday Under Three Heads" and "The Library of Fiction"—Mr. J. G. Fennell's Reminiscences of the Artist—Thackeray's Congratulations to "Phiz"—A Modest Banquet—"Phiz" as an Etcher—Assisted by Robert Young—Their First Plate for "Pickwick"—An All-Night Sitting—Particulars Concerning a "First Edition" of "Pickwick"—The Success of the Work Assured—The Sobriquet of "Phiz"—The Artist's Signatures—Method of Preparing the "Pickwick" Illustrations—Variations in Duplicated Plates—George Augustus Sala's Opinion of the "Pickwick" Plates—The Etchings Criticised—"Phiz's" Original Drawings for "Pickwick"—His Tentative Designs—Differences between the Drawings and the Etchings—Dickens's Hints to the Artist—"Phiz's" Sketch of Mr. Pickwick—A Series of New Designs—Vignettes for the Library Edition—Woodcuts for the Household Edition—Frontispiece for "The Strange Gentleman"—Illustrations for "Sketches Of Young Gentlemen" and "Sketches of Young Couples"—Sale of the Original Drawings—"Nicholas Nickleby"—Dickens and "Phiz" in Yorkshire—The Prototype of Squeers—A Significant Memorandum—Mr. Lloyd's Recollections of William Shaw, a Yorkshire Pedagogue—The "Nickleby" Etchings Criticised—Particulars Concerning the Plates—The Original Drawings—A Missing Design—Dickens's Instructions to "Phiz"—Variations in the Illustrations—Pictorial Wrapper—Vignettes for the Library Edition.
HABLÔT K. BROWNE ("PHIZ")
From an Unpublished Photograph
Lent by Mr. Gordon Browne, R.I.
Lent by Mr. R. Young.
It is certainly extraordinary that within the space of a few weeks
two vacancies for the post of illustrator of "Pickwick" should
have occurred. It was about the beginning of June 1836 (the
date of the publication of the third part, containing his two etchings)
when Buss unexpectedly received the intimation that his services
would be no longer required, and no sooner had this fact become
known than there was quite a rush of aspiring artists eager to offer
their professional aid, among them being several who had already
made a reputation as draughtsmen—such as "Crowquill" (Alfred
Forrester), Lee, and others. It is of special interest to learn that
John Leech and William Makepeace Thackeray were also desirous
of obtaining the appointment, but the honour was destined for another.
Thackeray had practised etching for some years, having, while an
undergraduate at Cambridge, taken lessons of an engraver and printseller
named Roe, who carried on his profession in the University
town, and under that gentleman's superintendence he etched a series
of plates illustrative of college life, which were first published in
1878. Possessing a natural gift for drawing, the famous satirist (in
his early days) earnestly desired to follow Art as a profession, and
so far encouraged his bent by copying pictures in the Louvre; but
his studies seem to have been of a desultory character, and of little
value in making him a sound draughtsman. When, on returning
to London, he heard that a designer was required for the "Pickwick"
illustrations, he immediately sought an interview with Dickens at
his rooms in Furnival's Inn, taking with him some specimens of
his work, and more than twenty years afterwards, in responding to
the toast of "Literature" at the Royal Academy banquet, he thus
referred to the memorable incident: "I can remember when Mr.
Dickens was a very young man, and had commenced delighting
the world with some charming humorous works, of which I cannot
mention the name, but which were coloured light green and came
out once a month, that this young man wanted an artist to illustrate
his writings, and I recollect walking up to his chambers with two
or three drawings in my hand, which, strange to say, he did not
find suitable. But for that unfortunate blight which came over my
artistical existence, it would have been my pride and my pleasure
to have endeavoured one day to find a place on these walls for one
of my performances." Although at the time he was doubtless surprised
at, and sorely disappointed by, "Boz's" want of appreciation,
he afterwards acknowledged there was some justification for it, and
good-humouredly alluded to the rejection of his services as "Mr.
[Pg 60]Pickwick's lucky escape." Who can say whether "Vanity Fair" and "Esmond" would ever have been written had this mighty penman been elected to succeed Buss?
Thackeray's schoolfellow and life-long friend, John Leech, also submitted a design to Chapman & Hall, in the hope of being successful where others had failed, but the little drawing, slightly tinted in colours, depicting the amusing scene in the Bagman's story of Tom Smart and the high-backed chair, did not indicate the possession by the artist of the necessary qualifications. He was accordingly dismissed; but it was reserved for this amiable man and accomplished draughtsman not only to adorn with his pencil the pages of the "Carol" and other Christmas books of Charles Dickens, but to be afterwards honoured by the friendship and esteem of England's great novelist.
Sunday under Three Heads, 1836.As all the world knows, the privilege of illustrating Dickens's most popular work was secured by Hablôt Knight Browne ("Phiz"), this clever designer being rightly regarded as artistic exponent-in-chief of Dickens's creations. At this time he had barely attained his majority, and, unlike Cruikshank, who came to the pictorial embellishment of "Sketches by Boz" and "Oliver Twist" with a distinct reputation, was an almost untried artist. About his eighteenth year, while serving his apprenticeship with the Findens, the well-known line-engravers, Browne was awarded a silver medal offered for competition by the Society of Arts for "the best representation of an historical subject"—a large etching portraying John Gilpin's famous ride through Edmonton. Apropos of this etching Mr. Mason Jackson writes in the Athenæum, June 11, 1887: "Mr. Chapman (of Chapman & Hall) was delighted with 'John Gilpin's Ride,' and forthwith applied to Browne, who thus succeeded Seymour and Buss as the illustrator of 'Pickwick.'" After a careful comparison of [Pg 61]dates, I venture to point out the probability that it was not with a view to the illustration of "Pickwick" that Edward Chapman paid his first visit to Browne, as generally supposed, but for the purpose of engaging his services as designer of some woodcuts for a pamphlet which the firm was about to publish, entitled "Sunday under Three Heads—As it is; As Sabbath Bells would make it; As it might be made." This brochure, written by Dickens under the pseudonym of "Timothy Sparks," is prefaced by a Dedication dated June 1836, and was therefore in progress prior to the publication of the fourth number of "Pickwick," containing "Phiz's" first designs, which appeared during the following month. When, in after years, Mr. Morton Brune enquired of the artist concerning his share in this little production, he replied: "The work of Dickens mentioned by you was illustrated by me when quite a youngster, and I am sorry to say I can give no information about it—recollecting nothing whatever." Besides a trio of heads (printed on both wrapper and title-page), there are three full-page illustrations, engraved by C. Gray and Orrin Smith. This excessively scarce pamphlet was issued as a protest against the extreme views of Sir Andrew Agnew and the Sabbatarian party, and had immediate reference to a Bill "for the better observance of the Sabbath," then recently rejected in the House of Commons by a small majority. "Sunday under Three Heads" was originally published at two shillings, and now realises as much as £10 in the auction-room. There are two or three facsimile reprints in existence, but the reproductions of the woodcuts are comparatively poor.
It should be mentioned that "Phiz" (together with Seymour and Buss) assisted in the illustration of "The Library of Fiction," published by Chapman & Hall in 1836-37, so that his artistic efforts [Pg 62]were by no means unfamiliar to the firm at this time. In his design facing page 293 of the first volume of that work there may be discovered the figure of an obese individual who is the very counterpart of Tony Weller.
The Pickwick Papers, 1836-37.An intimate friend of Hablôt K. Browne, Mr. John Greville Fennell (formerly of the Field journal), confirms my opinion that the artist's earliest association with the writings of Dickens was his connection with "Sunday under Three Heads"; but, as the engravings in that pamphlet only bore the designer's initials, it is more than probable that Browne himself was then an absolute stranger to the future novelist. Within a very brief period, however, certain events conspired to bring about the beginning of an acquaintance which ripened into a friendship that never ceased during Dickens's life-time. Mr. Fennell writes: "It was I who, while superintending E. & W. Finden's establishment, sold his first drawing to Adolphus Ackermann, and induced him (H. K. B.) to reproduce Buss's two illustrations (viz., The Cricket-Match and The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion only), which I sent down to Chapman & Hall." It was apparently through Mr. Fennell's intervention that the publishers were enabled to recognise Browne's ability as an etcher, and to discover in the specimens submitted to them that he was the very man to occupy the position then recently vacated by Buss. He first heard of his appointment from his generous rival, Thackeray, who at once made his way to the artist's abode in Newman Street for the purpose of congratulating him, and it is said that they immediately repaired to a neighbouring public-house, where a banquet consisting of sausages and bottled stout was held in honour of the occasion.
At this juncture, Browne (who considered line-engraving too tedious a process) suspended operations at Finden's establishment, and, through the friendly auspices of Mr. Fennell, his indentures were [Pg 63]cancelled two years before they had expired. In conjunction with a kindred spirit, he hired a modest room as a studio, and employed his time in the more congenial pursuit of water-colour drawing. As the result of a solemn compact between them to produce three drawings daily, Browne, who worked very rapidly, was enabled to pay his share of the rent by the proceeds of his labours. In order to familiarise himself with the human form, he attended the evening class at the "Life" School in St. Martin's Lane, having as a fellow-pupil that famous painter of the "nude," William Etty, who afterwards joined the ranks of the Royal Academicians.
In 1836 (when in his twenty-first year) Browne had acquired considerable facility with his pencil, and soon proved that his selection as the illustrator of "Pickwick" was thoroughly justified. By means of the training he had undergone at the Findens, he had obtained a mastery over the difficulties and mysteries of etching, which now proved eminently serviceable. Buss declared that "Phiz" was by no means an expert when he commenced working for "Pickwick," being compelled to obtain help from an experienced engraver named Sands, who "touched up the drawings with his own needle, adding shade where required, and then applied the acid and did all the necessary 'biting-in' and 'stopping-out.'" The facts, however, are rather over-stated, as witness that early effort (perhaps unknown to Buss), viz., the etching of John Gilpin, which was undoubtedly unaided work, testifying that the artist was then quite capable of running alone. It is acknowledged, however, that, so far as the "biting-in" was concerned, he invariably secured co-operation, not on account of his own incapacity, but merely to save time, and for this purpose he generally sought and obtained the requisite help of his quondam fellow-apprentice, Robert Young.
Browne speedily communicated to Mr. Young the welcome intelligence respecting the "Pickwick" appointment; indeed, we are told that he went at once to his friend's chambers, and on entering said, [Pg 64]"Look here, old fellow: will you come to my rooms to assist me with a plate I have to etch?" Mr. Young, who was still in the employ of Finden, had acquired such a thorough knowledge of the art of biting-in designs upon steel plates, that Browne realised the importance of securing his co-operation without delay, and, happily for him, his friend readily acceded to his wish; whereupon "Phiz" suggested that he should take his key with him, as they might be late. The design having already been drawn upon the plate, the two conspirators devoted the entire night to the operation of biting-in, the outcome of which was the production of the plate depicting the eventful meeting of Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller at the old White Hart Inn, perhaps the most notable illustration in the book. Mr. Young's share of the undertaking consisted in the application and manipulation of acid, which corroded the plate where exposed by the needle—a troublesome and delicate operation, requiring considerable experience, as, by too lengthy or too brief a subjection of the metal to the action of the acid, the plate would be ruined, and the labour of the artist rendered of no avail.
Mr. Young writes in reply to my enquiry respecting this and subsequent collaboration: "I did not bite-in the whole of 'Phiz's' etchings. I was some years abroad, during which he had assistance from two engravers, Sands and Weatherhead. 'Phiz' was quite capable of doing this part of the work himself, for he had two or three years' practice during his apprenticeship at Finden's; but he had no time for such work, being always fully occupied in etching or drawing on wood."
Above the Sketch is written the following, in the autograph of Dickens:—"I don't think that Smike is frightened enough [or that Squeers is] earnest enough, for my purpose."
Lent by Mr. M. H. Spielmann.
The title-page of "Pickwick" intimates that the volume contains "Forty-three illustrations by R. Seymour and Phiz," thus ignoring Buss's contributions. The fact is (as stated in the preceding chapter) that only a few copies of Part III., containing the two plates by Buss, were issued, these being quickly superseded by a couple of new designs by Browne; therefore, a copy of an absolutely first edition of the book should include seven etchings by Seymour, two by Buss, and thirty-four by "Phiz." Two plates, viz., "The Fat Boy Awake on this Occasion only" and "Mr. Wardle and his Friends under the Influence of 'the Salmon'" were etched for Part III. (after those in Part IV.), to take the place of Buss's cancelled designs. In early copies of the first edition all the plates were printed without titles, and throughout the first twelve numbers each plate bore only a reference in figures to the page which it was intended to illustrate. In the remaining numbers (Parts XIII. to XX.) the reference figures were withheld, the plates showing in the first published copies neither figures, titles, nor publishers' imprint.
For the first three parts of "The Pickwick Papers" there was so limited a demand that the publishers seriously contemplated a discontinuance of the work, a fate which, from the same cause, threatened Thackeray's famous novel, "Vanity Fair," in the early stages of its career. Happily, such a disaster was averted by the appearance in the fourth part of Sam Weller, who at once achieved such enormous popularity that the sale went up by leaps and bounds, the number of copies disposed of increasing from a few hundreds to several thousands. This was an extremely happy augury, not only for author and publishers, but for the young artist whose connection with the book began at this critical time, and the extraordinary circulation so suddenly imparted to the work was doubtless principally instrumental in obtaining for him other commissions, with which he was soon overflowing. Browne's earliest printed plates are signed "Nemo," and referring to this he says: "I think I signed myself as 'Nemo' to my first etchings (those of No. 4) before adopting 'Phiz' as my sobriquet, to harmonise—I suppose—better with Dickens's 'Boz.'" The third and succeeding plates bear the signature of "Phiz," a sign-manual which presently became well known to all readers of the novels of Dickens, Ainsworth, and Lever. Although he seldom appended his surname to his designs, we not unfrequently find (in his woodcuts especially) the initials "H.K.B.," in lieu of the more familiar pseudonym. It seems the public could never quite realise that the different signatures were those of the same artist, and were wont to remark that "Browne's work was better than Phiz's."
The "Pickwick" illustrations were produced in couples, that is, two subjects were etched on one plate, this being printed at a single operation and the sheets afterwards divided. "Phiz" was exceedingly rapid in his work when time was limited, and could design and etch a plate in the course of a day, and have it bitten-in and ready for the printer by the next morning. Unlike Seymour, he almost invariably drew his subjects on the steel without reversing them, so that they appeared reversed in the printing; it is evident, however, that he sometimes failed to remember this when preparing his designs, so that occasionally we find that his figures are left-handed, and other similar incongruities. Doubtless, the artist's motive in thus copying his drawings directly upon the plate was to facilitate operations, for in this way he could dispense with the aid of a mirror.
A noteworthy consequence of the increased sale of the "Pickwick" numbers was the serious deterioration of the plates caused by friction in printing, as for every impression the plate must be inked and the superfluous ink removed by wiping with the hand. In those days the process called "steel-facing," by means of which the etched or engraved surface is hardened, was unknown, so that, comparatively, only a few impressions could be struck off before the plate indicated any appreciable sign of wear-and-tear. The designs were therefore etched in duplicate, and this appears to have commenced at the date of the publication of the tenth part of "Pickwick." The system of duplicating the plates readily accounts for the interesting variations observable in different copies of the first issue; as, for example, the faces in the illustration delineating Mr. Pickwick's first meeting with Sam Weller are much improved in the replica, while other details are greatly altered; in the original plate portraying Mr. Pickwick in the pound, there are two donkeys and four pigs, while the later impression has but one donkey and two pigs; in the etching where Master Bardell is seen kicking Mr. Pickwick, the boy was first drawn with his head down, but was subsequently represented with it raised, the attitudes of Snodgrass and Winkle being also slightly changed;[Pg 67] the second version of the plate entitled "The Break-down" (which, by the way, bears a remarkable resemblance to Buss's unused drawing of the same subject) differs considerably from the first, and this remark applies to many of the other designs; but it is chiefly in the earlier plates that these variations are particularly noticeable. It is by no means surprising that such unimportant alterations exist, for an artist like "Phiz" would find it infinitely tiresome to slavishly copy, line for line, the original designs, especially if he saw an opportunity for improving them.
The late George Augustus Sala held the opinion that Hablôt Browne's earlier illustrations to "Pickwick" are "exceedingly humorous, but exceedingly ill-drawn," and believed that it was the amazing success of the author which spurred the artist to sedulous study, thus conducing in a remarkable degree towards the development of his faculties. Remembering, however, that "Phiz" had only just attained his majority, we cannot but admire the deftness and skill he then displayed in so difficult an art as etching, for, although some of the illustrations are marked by a certain grotesqueness, these plates are marvels of technique.
In the preface to the first edition of "The Pickwick Papers" we read: "It is due to the gentleman, whose designs accompany the letterpress, to state that the interval has been so short between the production of each number in manuscript and its appearance in print, that the greater portion of the illustrations have been executed by the artist from the author's mere verbal description of what he intended to write." It was customary at this time for Dickens to call upon Browne, and hastily explain his intentions respecting the chapters to be illustrated, and from notes then made by the artist the requisite designs were evolved. This satisfactorily accounts for certain inaccuracies in the plates, for which, however, "Phiz" cannot justly be censured; for example, in the etching representing Mr. Pickwick hiding behind the door of the young ladies' seminary, the cook should have been the only person shown beyond the threshold; and[Pg 68] in the plate depicting the discovery of Jingle in the Fleet, we see Job Trotter standing behind Mr. Pickwick, whereas, according to the text, he had not entered the room at that precise moment. On the other hand, we may detect some defects for which "Phiz" must be held responsible; as, for instance, the inaccurate perspective of the mantelshelf in the plate entitled "The Red-nosed Man Discourseth," and the absence of proportion in the size of the figures of Mr. Pickwick and the old lady in the etching portraying Christmas Eve at Mr. Wardle's, a similar anomaly appearing in the etching of Mr. Pickwick's encounter with Mrs. Bardell in the Fleet. Again, there surely never existed so enormous a sedan-chair as that from the roof of which Mr. Pickwick expostulates with Sam Weller when he attacks the executive of Ipswich, or that into which Mr. Winkle bolts in his robe de nuit. In the skating scene, curiously enough, there is no indication of skates being worn by any member of the company. "Phiz" sometimes posed his figures in attitudes which, if not physically impossible, are unnatural and unpicturesque; it must be admitted, however, that he usually succeeded where George Cruikshank invariably failed, that is, in delineating pretty women, of whom his skilled pencil has given us quite an extensive gallery.
A set of proofs of "Phiz's" plates sold for twenty guineas at Sotheby's in 1889. A reprint of "Pickwick," published at Launceston, Van Diemen's Land, in 1838-39, was illustrated by means of lithographic copies (signed "Tiz") of some of the original etchings. At the same time there appeared an American edition, issued in parts by Turney, New York, with facsimiles of the plates engraved on steel.
Lent by Mr. J. F. Dexter.
It fortunately happens that, with two exceptions, the original drawings by "Phiz" for "The Pickwick Papers" have been preserved; the missing designs are "Mr. Wardle and his Friends under the Influence of 'the Salmon'" and the vignette for the title-page, where Tony Weller is seen ducking Stiggins in the horse-trough. Photogravure reproductions of all the existing designs (some having Dickens's autograph) were published in the Victoria edition by Chapman & Hall in 1887. The majority of the drawings were executed in pencil or pen-and-ink, the effects washed in with a brush, the remainder being entirely brushwork. The following is a list of "Pickwick" designs by "Phiz" such as were merely tentative, and therefore never etched:—
Mr. Winkle's First Shot.—Trial sketch, illustrating an incident in the seventh chapter. A sketch of the same subject was made by Buss.
Christmas Eve at Mr. Wardle's.—Trial sketch, varying but slightly from the approved design.
The Goblin and the Sexton.—First sketch, in pencil, varying considerably from the etching. An attenuated sprite, with sugar-loaf hat and arms akimbo, is seated on the top of a flat gravestone beside Gabriel Grub, who, pausing in the act of raising a bottle to his lips, gazes with astonishment at his uncanny visitor. Behind is seen a church porch.
The Goblin and the Sexton.—Second sketch, similar in character, but more complete. Positions of figures reversed, and the goblin more robust. In the published etching the artist has introduced as a background a view of an ecclesiastical building, which bears some resemblance to St. Alban's Abbey.
The Warden's Room.—Trial sketch, varying considerably from the approved design. The attitudes of dancer and seated figure are different, the man in the bed adjoining Mr. Pickwick's throws up both arms and one leg, while in either hand he holds a nightcap and beer-jug. Other figures are introduced on the right.
In comparing the drawings with the plates, important variations
are sometimes apparent. In the remarkable etching, "The Election
at Eatanswill," the artist has introduced fresh figures, while others
are altered; in "Mr. Pickwick in the Pound," we see in the
first state of the etching two donkeys and four pigs, instead of one[Pg 69]
[Pg 70] donkey and three pigs, as in the drawing; in "Job Trotter encountering Sam in Mr. Muzzle's Kitchen," the pretty housemaid was originally represented sitting on Sam Weller's knee; in "The Valentine," the artist's first intention was to portray Tony Weller without hat and cape; and in "Conviviality at Bob Sawyer's," a human skeleton is visible behind Mr. Ben Allen, which was omitted in the etching.
The interest of a few of these drawings is considerably enhanced by the fact that they contain instructions and suggestions in the autograph of Dickens. The first so treated is "Mrs. Leo Hunter's Fancy-dress Déjeuné," the drawing differing in many respects from the etching, chiefly in the attitudes and arrangement of the figures; under it the author has written: "I think it would be better if Pickwick had hold of the Bandit's arm. If Minerva tried to look a little younger (more like Mrs. Pott, who is perfect), I think it would be an additional improvement." The design was altered in accordance with the spirit of the criticism, and we find Minerva, instead of a plump and matronly personage, the very opposite in the matter of physique. It is worthy of note that in the first state of the etching the face of the Russian officer in the rear bore too close a caricature resemblance to that of Lord Brougham, the subsequent change in his appearance being due to some remonstrance against the artist's freedom. The drawing depicting Mr. Pickwick's first interview with Serjeant Snubbin contains the following hint from the author: "I think the Serjeant should look younger, and a great deal more sly and knowing; he should be looking at Pickwick too, smiling compassionately at his innocence. The other fellows are noble.—C. D." As a matter of fact, the drawing is more successful than the etching, the Serjeant's face in the former indicating that it had been obliterated and altered to suit Dickens's idea. In the original design for the etching representing "Mr. Winkle's Situation when the Door 'Blew to,'" the artist portrayed Mr. Winkle holding the candlestick in front of him; but Dickens objected to this,[Pg 71] and wrote at the top of the drawing: "Winkle should be holding the candlestick above his head, I think. It looks more comical, the light having gone out" The change was made, but the curious thing is, neither author nor artist remembered the fact that at the moment depicted Mr. Winkle had actually discarded the useless candlestick. Under the same drawing Dickens penned the following comment: "A fat Chairman so short as our friend here, never drew breath in Bath;" "Phiz" has also written in the margin: "Shall I leave Pickwick where he is or put him under the bed-clothes? I can't carry him so high as the second floor.—H. K. B." (Mr. Pickwick's rooms are described as being in the "upper portion" of the house, but it would seem that Dickens had originally placed him on the "second floor," which suggests that the text was altered to suit the illustration. In reply to this query the author wrote: "I would leave him where he is decidedly. Is the lady full dressed? She ought to be.—C. D." Mr. Pickwick was left accordingly; likewise the fat chairman, whose abnormal obesity was reproduced in the etching as it appears in the drawing. In the sketch of "Mr. Winkle Returns under Extraordinary Circumstances," the artist had not made Sam Weller and the housemaid quite as Dickens desired, whereupon the novelist appended the following queries: "Are Sam and the housemaid clearly made out; and [would it not be be]tter if he was looking on with his arm roun[d Mary?] I rayther question the accuracy of the housemaid." As the sketch, in its present state, realises Dickens's ideas, we may assume that it was altered by the artist before he transferred his design to the plate; indeed, there seems to be evidence of this in the blurred appearance of the young couple in the drawing, in the margin of which "Phiz" has written the following instructions about the biting-in: "The outlines of the figures I have etched with a broad point unintentionally; bite them slightly, that they may not be too hard, especially Pickwick." The last of the drawings containing the novelist's handwriting is that illustrating "The Ghostly [Pg 72]passengers in the Ghost of a Mail," this bearing the unusual signature, "Charles his + mark Dickens," by which the novelist evidently meant to express his satisfaction with the artist's treatment of the subject. In the "English Humorists" Exhibition held in London a few years since, there was a capital study by "Phiz" of Mr. Pickwick, apparently an enlarged replica of the familiar figure and pose as seen in Seymour's illustration of him as he appeared when addressing the Club; it is a water-colour drawing on buff paper, supplemented by marginal sketches of the head and bust of Pickwick with his hat on, together with two studies of hats; upon the side of the drawing is inscribed the following memorandum: "Nankeen tights, black cloth gaiters, white waistcoat, blue coat, brass buttons, square cut in the tails."
Beneath the Sketch is written the following, in the autograph of Dickens:—"Master Humphrey Admirable. Could his stick (with a crooked top) be near his chair? I misdoubt the deaf gentleman's pipe, and wish he could have a better one."
Lent by Mr. J. F. Dexter.
In 1847 "Phiz" prepared six new designs for "The Pickwick Papers," which were delicately engraved on wood; the series was issued independently, and simultaneously with the first cheap edition of the book. These drawings are undoubtedly superior to the etchings, being the more matured work of the artist. The following were the subjects chosen: "Mr. Winkle's First Shot," "The Effects of Cold Punch," "Mr. Pickwick at Dodson and Fogg's," "The Kiss under the Mistletoe," "Old Weller at the Temperance Meeting," "The Leg of Mutton 'Swarry.'" "Phiz" also contributed to each of the two volumes of the Library Edition (1858-59) a vignette illustration for the title-page, the subjects being Mr. Pickwick and the Wellers, and Sam Weller with the Pretty Housemaid; they were engraved on steel from the original drawings in water-colours. In 1867 the artist was seized with a form of paralysis, the use of the right hand being so greatly impaired that he was unable to make the forefinger and thumb meet; this compelled him to hold the pencil or brush in a clumsy fashion, and to draw with a sort of sweeping movement of the whole arm. It was under such distressing conditions that in 1873-74 he executed a commission to illustrate Chapman & Hall's Household Edition of "The Pickwick Papers." These fifty-seven designs are necessarily extremely poor in treatment, and painfully indicate the effect of the injury his hand had sustained; indeed, the wonder is that he could draw at all. It must be admitted, however, that much of the feebleness of the woodcuts is due to the engraver, as the original outline sketches (which were transferred to the boxwood blocks and there developed) exhibit in a wonderful degree both freedom and precision of touch. A small collection of these drawings was sold at Sotheby's in December 1887, each drawing realising the average price of seven pounds. Sets of the "Pickwick" designs in the Household Edition, coloured by F. W. Pailthorpe, have been issued as "extra" illustrations.
The Strange Gentleman, 1837.In 1836, as soon as Dickens terminated his connection with the Reporters' Gallery in the House of Commons, he was induced to take a considerable interest in the then newly-erected St. James's Theatre, and even essayed to write for his friend J. P. Harley ("as a practical joke," he afterwards explained) a comic burletta called "The Strange Gentleman," which was adapted from "The Great Winglebury Duel" in "Sketches by Boz." The little farce was published by Chapman & Hall during the following year with a frontispiece by "Phiz," the subject of the plate being suggested by the concluding scene, where the Strange Gentleman proposes marriage to Julia Dobbs; the two seated figures are vigorously drawn, and on a larger scale than those in the "Pickwick" designs. "The Strange Gentleman" is perhaps the rarest of Dickens's writings, and the extraordinary sum of £45 was realised at Sotheby's in August 1892 for an exceptionally fine copy. It has since been beautifully reprinted in facsimile, with a new frontispiece etched by F. W. Pailthorpe.
Sketches of Young Gentlemen, 1838.
[Pg 74]In the same year Chapman & Hall published a booklet (anonymously written by E. Caswell) entitled "Sketches of Young Ladies," by "Quiz," with six etchings by "Phiz," the author of which was erroneously believed to be Charles Dickens, whose literary style it somewhat resembled. The "Young Ladies" being referred to here in a rather ungallant fashion, Dickens essayed (as a kind of protest) a similar work, in which he pokes fun at the idiosyncrasies of youths of the sterner sex. Like its predecessor, the "Sketches of Young Gentlemen" were written anonymously, and similarly contained six etched illustrations by "Phiz."
Sketches of Young Couples, 1840.In 1840 there appeared a third booklet, entitled "Sketches of Young Couples;" of this Dickens was also the unavowed author, while "Phiz" contributed the usual six etchings. In the third of these designs (only two of which are signed) we are reminded of his presentment of the Kenwigses in "Nicholas Nickleby," the illustrations for which story were then occupying the artist's attention. These little productions were issued in green paper covers, decorated with designs by "Phiz."
The sets of six original drawings for "Sketches of Young Ladies" and "Sketches of Young Gentlemen" realised £40 and £39 respectively at Sotheby's in 1897.
Nicholas Nickleby, 1838-39.In the advertisement announcing the publication of "Nicholas Nickleby," it was stated that each monthly part would be "embellished with two illustrations by 'Phiz'." This is not strictly accurate, for to the twenty parts the artist contributed but thirty-nine plates, the full complement, however, being made up with a portrait of the author (as the frontispiece), engraved by Finden from the painting by D. Maclise, A.R.A.
The most interesting of the "Nickleby" plates are undoubtedly[Pg 75] those depicting scenes at Dotheboys Hall, that representing Squeers at the Saracen's Head containing the most familiar presentment of its amiable proprietor. Thus, as he stood mending his pen, the novelist and artist saw the living prototype, and had taken mental notes of the odd figure, who, as will presently be related, was among the several schoolmasters they interviewed.
It was the novelist's intention to expose in this story the terrible abuses practised in the cheap boarding-schools of Yorkshire, and, in order that he might realise their true character, he determined to investigate for himself the real facts as to the condition of those notorious seminaries. Accordingly, at the end of January 1838, he and "Phiz" started on this memorable journey, in bitterly cold weather, and, visiting several schools in the locality, they came into direct contact with the proprietors. One of these was William Shaw, the identical schoolmaster who, some years previously, had been heavily fined for what was represented at the trial as gross maltreatment of his pupils. According to the following entry in the novelist's private diary (under date February 2, 1838), there can be no doubt that he had this individual principally in his mind when delineating the infamous Squeers:—"Mem.—Shaw, the schoolmaster we saw to-day, is the man in whose school several boys went blind some time since from gross neglect. The case was tried, and the verdict went against him. It must have been between 1823 and 1826. Look this out in the newspapers." Mr. Lloyd, a well-known Glasgow comedian, who spent twelve months in Shaw's school at Bowes, Yorkshire, afterwards testified to the truth of the outward appearance of the man as described by Dickens and portrayed by the artist in the pages of the novel, "allowing, of course, for both being greatly exaggerated. A sharp, thin, upright little man, with a slight scale covering the pupil of one of his eyes. Yes, there he stands, with his Wellington boots and [Pg 76]short black trousers, not originally cut too short, but from a habit he had of sitting with one knee over the other, and the trousers being tight, they would get 'rucked' half-way up the boots. Then, the clean white vest, swallow-tailed black coat, white necktie, silver-mounted spectacles, close-cut iron-grey hair, high-crowned hat worn slightly at the back of his head—and there you have the man." It certainly seems remarkable that Mr. Lloyd and others who knew Shaw recollect him as a most worthy and kind-hearted gentleman, but this perhaps is explained by certain facts concerning him and his school that were published in the Athenæum, February 1894, together with a commentary upon a reprint of the trial in which he was the defendant.
It is a curious fact that several Yorkshire schoolmasters actually claimed to be the prototype of Squeers; indeed, a member of the fraternity (probably Shaw himself) declared that he remembered being waited on by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversation while the other took his likeness; "and although" (says the author in his preface to the story) "Mr. Squeers has but one eye, and he has two, and the published sketch does not resemble him (whoever he may be) in any other respect, still he and all his friends know at once for whom it is meant, because the character is so like him." I think there can be no doubt that both Dickens and "Phiz," when delineating Squeers, reproduced too closely the idiosyncrasies of one individual, and that the author's description, as well as the artist's presentment, bore so obvious a likeness to Shaw, that he became the scapegoat for others worse than himself, and suffered accordingly.
The "Query" written beneath the Drawing is in the autograph of the Artist. It was addressed to Dickens, and reads as follows:—"Qy. Whether 'twere better to have him standing thus, stiff as a poker, with a kind of side glance at his daughter,—or sitting, as in the other?" The Etching differs considerably from the Drawing.
Lent by Mr. J. F. Dexter.
In some of the etchings may be discovered slight incongruities (as, for example, in the first plate, where Ralph Nickleby's hat is too small for his head), while in others there is a palpable touch of exaggeration. In the illustration, "The Country Manager Rehearses a Combat," the artist has omitted to introduce the figure of the landlord who ushered into the managerial presence Nicholas and Smike, and the broad-swords should have been basket-hilted weapons. In the etching, where Nicholas instructs Smike in the art of acting, Nicholas wears the rapier on the wrong side, this oversight doubtless resulting from the non-reversal of the design upon the plate. The "Nickleby" illustrations are, as a whole, very successful; in many instances the expressions are capitally rendered, although it is to be regretted that the artist did but scant justice to the physical attractions of Kate Nickleby and Madeline Bray.
There were sixty-three quarto plates etched for the thirty-nine illustrations in the story, each plate carrying two designs; some of these were etched three times, while in seven instances the quarto plate was reproduced no less than four times. In none of these duplicated plates will be found such marked variations in detail as may be noted in the replicas of the "Pickwick" designs, so that the collector need only seek for well-printed impressions.
All the original drawings for "Nickleby," with one exception, are still in existence; they were disposed of on July 16, 1880, in Robinson & Fisher's auction-rooms, when they realised in the aggregate rather more than a hundred pounds. The missing design is that depicting Nicholas in his capacity as tutor in the Kenwigs family. These drawings are executed in pencil and wash, some being especially valuable by reason of marginal notes in the autograph of the novelist. At the top of the original sketch for "A Sudden Recognition, Unexpected on Both Sides" (kindly lent by Mr. M. H. Spielmann for reproduction), Dickens has pencilled a note to the artist, a portion of which (that within the brackets) has been cut away: "I don't think that Smike is frightened enough [or that Squeers is] earnest enough, for my purpose,"—a criticism which was apparently not productive of much alteration in the direction indicated, unless effected in the sketch before the subject was etched.
The late Mr. F. W. Cosens, who possessed several preliminary
studies of the Kenwigs children, had in his collection a note from
Dickens giving minute instructions to "Phiz" respecting the design
[Pg 78]for the plate entitled "Great Excitement of Miss Kenwigs at the Hairdresser's Shop." The novelist desired his illustrator to depict "a hairdresser's shop at night—not a dashing one, but a barber's. Morleena Kenwigs on a tall chair, having her hair dressed by an under-bred attendant, with her hair parted down the middle and frizzed up into curls at the sides. Another customer, who is being shaved, has just turned his head in the direction of Miss Kenwigs, and she and Newman Noggs (who has brought her there, and has been whiling away the time with an old newspaper) recognise, with manifestations of surprise, and Morleena with emotion, Mr. Lillivick, the collector. Mr. Lillivick's bristly beard expresses great neglect of his person, and he looks very grim and in the utmost despondency."
The original drawing for "Nicholas Starts for Yorkshire" presents several important variations from the published plate, the positions of the figures being considerably altered, the most remarkable differences being that Ralph Nickleby and Squeers in the sketch are placed on the side opposite the coach and more in the background, the coachman reading the way-bill is transferred to the spot where Squeers now stands, while there is another coachman looking over his shoulder, who is omitted in the etching; the coachman with the whip (as seen in the plate) was not introduced in the sketch. For the monthly parts "Phiz" designed a pictorial wrapper; on either side of this wood-engraving is a corpulent figure mounted on tall stilts, surmounted by an allegorical scene typifying Justice, with cornucopia, &c., and below is seen the culprit Squeers wading through a river, guided by imps carrying lanterns.
For the two volumes of the Library Edition of "Nicholas Nickleby" (1858-59) "Phiz" prepared small designs, delicately tinted in water-colours, which were engraved on steel as vignettes for the title-pages; the subjects represented are "The Nickleby Family" and "The Mad Gentleman and Mrs. Nickleby," the original drawings realising £14 each at Sotheby's in 1889.
 According to the following anecdote, Thackeray did not over-estimate his own powers as a draughtsman. Mr. M. H. Spielmann tells us that after Edmund Yates had started an illustrated magazine, which had but a brief existence, Thackeray wrote to him: "You have a new artist on The Train, I see, my dear Yates. I have been looking at his work, and I have solved a problem. I find there is a man alive who draws worse than myself!"
 As early as 1837 Browne designed (as an advertisement for Bentley) a little woodcut (now very rare) in which he depicted Charles Dickens leading by the lappel of his waistcoat a burly and perspiring porter, who is seen carrying a huge bale of copies of Bentley's Miscellany, of which magazine the novelist was then the editor.
 So far as I am aware, no illustration by "Phiz" of this subject is extant.
 The words in brackets are unfortunately cut off the sketch.
 The early volumes in the Library Edition, issued during 1858-59, have only vignettes on the title-pages. The later issues of this edition (1862-68) contain several illustrations, some of these being reprints of the plates in the first edition, while others were specially designed.
 Among the few drawings executed by "Phiz" for Punch, there is a representation of an orthodox pettifogging attorney perched upon a stool, whose portrait is that of the very Squeers. It constitutes one of a series of "Punch's Valentines," and was published in the second volume, 1842.
 The "Nickleby" plates were copied by J. Yeager for the first American edition of the story.
"Master Humphrey's Clock"—A Quaint Advertisement—Woodcuts instead of Etchings—"Phiz's" Contributions—Instances of his Exaggerated Grotesqueness—Mr. Frederic Harrison's Comment—A Powerful Design—Illustrations in "The Old Curiosity Shop" Criticised—Ruskin's Attack upon the Designs in "Barnaby Rudge"—His Admiration of the Woodcut of "Barnaby and Grip"—"Phiz's" Frontispieces—His Letter to Dickens—An Amusing Epistle from Dickens to his Publisher—A "Clock Dinner"—Original Drawing of Master Humphrey and the Deaf Gentleman—Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition of "Barnaby Rudge"—Vignettes for the Library Edition—New Designs for "Master Humphrey's Clock"—Portraits of Dolly Varden, Little Nell, and Barbara—Sale of Water-Colour Drawings—"Martin Chuzzlewit"—The Illustrations Characterised—How they were Prepared—Slight Errors by "Phiz"—The Original Drawings—Minute Instructions from Dickens to the Artist—A Humorous Rejoinder—Sale of the "Chuzzlewit" Designs—Vignettes for the Library Edition—"Dombey and Son"—The Plates Etched in Duplicate—Introduction of the Oblong Form of Illustration—Method of Obtaining Chiaroscuro—Some Anomalies in the Etchings—Working under Difficulties—Dickens's Anxiety Respecting the Designs—Studies for Mr. Dombey—A Letter of Instructions—Hints to the Artist—Dickens Disappointed—The Etching of "Mrs. Pipchin and Paul"—"Doctor Blimber's Young Gentlemen"—A Remarkable Oversight—Explicit Directions from Dickens to "Phiz"—Original Drawings for "Dombey and Son"—Slight Variations from the Etchings—"Dombey" Sketches Presented to Dickens—A Portrait of Little Paul—Pictorial Wrapper—Extra Plates—Criticism by Dickens—Portraits of Alice and Florence Dombey—Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition—Vignettes for the Library Edition.
Master Humphrey's Clock, 1840-41.Charles Dickens's next work, entitled "Master Humphrey's Clock," which comprises "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Barnaby Rudge," was first issued in weekly instalments, as well as the customary monthly parts, the new venture being thus announced: "Now wound up and going, preparatory to its striking on Saturday, the 28th March, Master Humphrey's Clock, Maker's name—'Boz.' The Figures and Hands by George Cattermole, Esq. and 'Phiz.'" A novel feature of this undertaking was the illustra[Pg 80]tions, which were not etched as hitherto, but engraved on wood and dropped into the text, the total number of designs being one hundred and ninety-four, including three frontispieces and twenty-four initials. Of these "Phiz" produced by far the greater proportion, he being responsible for no less than a hundred and fifty-three, including two frontispieces and all the initials; the subjects of many of the latter, by the way, have no connection with the letterpress. Some of the drawings are unsigned, while others have appended to them the artist's initials or monogram, occasionally reversed. At this time "Phiz" was almost as anonymous as "Boz," but when "Master Humphrey's Clock" ultimately appeared in volume form, his identity was fully established on the title-page as "Hablôt Browne." The result of a careful analysis of the illustrations discloses the fact that "Phiz" produced sixty-one for "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Barnaby Rudge" respectively, and seven for the miscellaneous papers relating to "The Clock," exclusive of the initials. The greater number of figure-pieces fell to his pencil, while the architectural subjects were entrusted to his coadjutor, George Cattermole.
A subsequent and more complete Drawing of this subject is included in the Duchess of St. Albans' Collection.
Lent by Mr. J. F. Dexter.
In many of the drawings (admirably engraved by S. Williams, Landells, Gray, and Vasey) Browne hardly did himself justice, their exaggerated grotesqueness tending to deprive these little pictorial compositions of much of their artistic value. Observe, for example, the repulsive features of Kit, his mother, and the child in the tenth chapter of "The Old Curiosity Shop," and note how positively diabolical are his representations of Sampson Brass and his sister, and of Dick Swiveller. It is difficult to believe that the terrible-looking creature intended for the Marchioness, in the fifty-seventh and sixty-fifth chapters, would ever have developed into a "good-looking" girl, as she really did, according to the text. It is probably such unpleasing illustrations as these which induced Mr. Frederic Harrison in The Forum to condemn, with exceeding severity, the artist's propensity for caricature; "the grins, the grimaces, the contortions, the dwarfs, the idiots, the monstrosities of these wonderful sketches could not be found in human beings constructed on any known anatomy." Other woodcuts are of course excellent, especially those in which Mr. Pickwick and the Wellers are resuscitated. One of the most striking, however, is the weird water-scape showing the corpse of Quilp washed ashore—a vista of riparian scenery which, for the sense of desolate breadth and loneliness it suggests, it would be difficult to excel. An illustration deserving special examination is the tailpiece for the chapter immediately following the end of "The Old Curiosity Shop," where the artist has depicted Master Humphrey in his arm-chair, surrounded by Lilliputian figures, among which may be recognised some of the principal actors in the story.
A careful comparison of the illustrations with the text of "The Old Curiosity Shop" reveals certain slight inaccuracies on the part of the artist. For example, in the twenty-seventh chapter we read that Quilp leant upon his stick as he beckoned to the boy carrying his trunk, whereas "Phiz" depicts him raising the stick. In the woodcut portraying Kit and his party at Astley's Theatre, the umbrella should be held by Barbara's mother, and not Kit's. Again, in a subsequent chapter, we are told that Sampson Brass's hat was "grievously crushed," but "Phiz" has represented it with the crown suspended by a single thread,—a striking instance of his tendency to exaggeration. The careful reader will also note (in the seventeenth chapter) that the stilt on the right leg of the "young gentleman" in "Grinder's lot" is at least twelve inches shorter than its fellow, and that Mrs. Jarley's horse (in the twenty-sixth chapter) is considerably out of proportion with its surroundings; the caravan, too, is incorrectly drawn, and Mrs. Jarley with the drum should have been placed upon the platform of the van. The inherent humour of "Phiz" was often àpropos, an amusing instance being discoverable in the illustration of Miss Monflathers and her young ladies (in the thirty-first chapter), where the inscription on the board above the wall reads, "Take notice—Man traps."
Although the designs in "Barnaby Rudge" are not entirely[Pg 81]
[Pg 82] exempt from the charge of exaggeration, they are, on the whole, more pleasing. The artist seems to have fairly revelled in the scenes depicting the rioters, and, while failing in his conception of Sir John Chester, he successfully realised the more picturesque figures of Barnaby and Maypole Hugh, the latter being admirably limned. Professor Ruskin, however, in his "Ariadne Florentina," denounces these woodcuts in language more caustic even than that of Mr. Frederic Harrison: "Take up," he says, "for an average specimen of modern illustrated works, the volume of Dickens's 'Master Humphrey's Clock' containing 'Barnaby Rudge.'... The cheap popular Art cannot draw for you beauty, sense, or honesty; and for Dolly Varden, or the locksmith, you will look through the vignettes in vain. But every species of distorted folly or vice ... are pictured for your honourable pleasure on every page, with clumsy caricature, struggling to render its dulness tolerable by insisting on defect." The drawing of Barnaby and the Raven (the final illustration in the second volume) is one of the few the author of this pungent criticism can bring himself to admire. "The raven," he observes, "like all Dickens's animals, is perfect; and I am the more angry with the rest because I have every now and then to open the book to look for him." Respecting these woodcuts, it may be pointed out that Dickens omitted to mention which arm Joe Willet was deprived of "in the defence of the Salwanners." Curiously enough, "Phiz" similarly fails to assist us in deciding the point, as, in the illustrations depicting him after the war, he is seen minus the right arm in four instances, while in another woodcut it is the left which has disappeared.
The frontispieces designed by Browne for the second and third volumes are both elaborate and fanciful. In the first is seen an enormous hour-glass containing a crowd composed of some of the minor characters in the story, while surrounding it are representations of the more prominent persons. It was originally intended that George Cattermole should execute this drawing, but, being prevented[Pg 83] by illness, it fell into the hands of "Phiz," who thereupon wrote to the novelist:—
"My Dear Dickens,—Will you give me some notion of what sort of design you wish for the Frontispiece for second volume of Clock? Cattermole being put hors de combat—Chapman with a careworn face (if you can picture that) brings me the block at the eleventh hour and requires it finished by Wednesday. Now, as I have two others to complete in the meantime, something nice and light would be best adapted to my palette, and prevent an excess of perspiration in the relays of wood-cutters. You shall have the others to criticise on Tuesday.—Yours very truly,
Hablôt K. Browne."
In the frontispiece to the third volume is portrayed an ornamental clock, at the summit of which is seated Master Humphrey, while on either side and at the base are introduced the presentments of Barnaby with his raven and other individuals in the tale. "Phiz" was also responsible for the elaborate design on the wrapper of the weekly numbers.
The following amusing epistle, having reference to the initial letter drawn by "Phiz" for the sixty-fifth chapter, was addressed by Dickens to a member of his publishing firm, Edward Chapman, the "precipice" here mentioned being a humorous allusion to the latter's approaching marriage:—
"Broadstairs, Thursday, 16th September 1841.
"My Dear Sir,—Know for your utter confusion, and to your lasting shame and ignominy, that the initial letter HAS BEEN provided, that it was furnished to the artist at the same time as the subject—and that it is a
—which stands for Double—Demnible—Doubtful—Dangerous[Pg 84]—Doleful—Disastrous—Dreadful—Deuced—Dark—Divorce—and Drop—all applicable to the Precipice on which you stand.
"Farewell! If you did but know—and would pause, even at this late period—better an action for breach than—but we buy experience. Excuse my agitation. I scarcely know what I write. To see a fellow-creature—and one who has so long withstood—still if—will nothing warn you?"In extreme excitement
"My hand fails me.
PUT IT OFF
P.P.P.S.—AND LEAVE ME
I MEAN THE STRAND ONE."
On the conclusion of the second volume of "Master Humphrey's Clock," a dinner was given by Dickens to celebrate the event. Serjeant Talfourd presided, and the guests included those engaged in the production of the work. "Phiz," in accepting the invitation to be present, wrote as follows:—
33 Howland Street .
"My Dear Dickens,—I shall be most happy to remember not to forget the 10th April, and let me express a disinterested wish that, having completed and established one 'Shop' in an 'extensive line of business,' you will go on increasing and multiplying suchlike establishments in number and prosperity till you become a Dick Whittington of a merchant, with pockets distended to most Brobdignag dimensions.—Believe me, yours very truly,
"Hablôt K. Browne.."
In the published version the figure of Rosa Dartle (on the left) is omitted, and David's hat is placed upon the table.
Lent by Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans.
[Pg 85]Through the courtesy of Mr. J. F. Dexter, I am enabled to reproduce in facsimile one of the original designs for "Master Humphrey's Clock," depicting Master Humphrey and the Deaf Gentleman. This drawing, executed in pencil, differs slightly from the engraving; underneath it Dickens has written, "Master Humphrey ADMIRABLE. Could his stick (with a crooked top) be near his chair? I misdoubt the deaf gentleman's pipe, and wish he could have a better one."
To the first cheap edition of "Barnaby Rudge," 1849, "Phiz" contributed the frontispiece,—a drawing on wood (engraved by W. T. Green) representing Dolly Varden, with Hugh hiding in the bushes. In the Library Edition (1858-59) the stories were published independently, each in two volumes, with pretty vignettes on the title-pages, specially designed by the same artist and engraved on steel. The original drawings were delicately tinted in water-colours, the subjects being Little Nell and her Grandfather, Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness, Dolly Varden and Joe Willet, Barnaby and Hugh. In these engravings the female characters are much more charmingly conceived than are those in the woodcuts.
In 1848, when the first cheap edition of the story appeared, Hablôt Browne made four new designs as "Extra Illustrations" for "The Old Curiosity Shop," viz., Little Nell and her Grandfather, the Marchioness, Barbara, and the Death of Little Nell. They were beautifully engraved in stipple, and issued as an independent publication by the artist and his coadjutor, Robert Young, whose joint venture it was. In the following year they produced a similar set of four plates illustrating "Barnaby Rudge," viz., Emma Haredale, Dolly Varden, Mrs. Varden and Miggs, and Hugh and Barnaby. The portraits of the various characters were engraved by Edwards and Knight, under the superintendence of Browne and Young. The original drawing of Dolly Varden, one of "Phiz's" happiest conceptions, is in the possession of Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans, together with an unengraved study for Emma Haredale. There are[Pg 86] extant, in Mr. J. F. Dexter's collection, two other studies for the Dolly Varden plate, neither of which has been reproduced; the same gentleman also owns the drawings of Nell and Barbara, the latter being slightly different from, and superior to, the engraving.
A complete series of original water-colour drawings by "Phiz" for "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Barnaby Rudge," including an unused design for a tailpiece, were sold at Sotheby's in 1897, and realised £610. These drawings were executed as a commission for Mr. F. W. Cosens.
Martin Chuzzlewit, 1843-44.Browne's versatile pencil was again actively employed in embellishing the story begun by Dickens soon after his return from America in 1842, and to this he contributed forty etchings. Here the figures are drawn on a larger scale than usual, thus affording more scope for the delineation of character.
The frontispiece is a most elaborate design, representing the principal characters and incidents in the story, with Tom Pinch at the organ as a central idea. In the illustration where Mark Tapley is seen starting from his native village for London, "Phiz" exhibits his sense of the picturesque in the old gables and dormers of the ancient tenements in the background, while that depicting "Mr. Pecksniff on his Mission" is an excellent verisimilitude of such a locality as Kingsgate Street of fifty years since. But the etching in "Chuzzlewit" which may be described as the artist's happiest effort as a comic creation is that where Mrs. Gamp "propoges" a toast. Here he has admirably illustrated the text,—the two midwives in friendly chat, surrounded by bandboxes and other accessories, while behind are seen the immortal Sarah's rusty gowns, which, depending from the bedposts, "had so adapted themselves by long usage to her figure, that more than one impatient husband, coming in precipitately at about the time of twilight, had been for an instant stricken dumb by the supposed discovery that Mrs. Gamp had hanged herself."
[Pg 87]All the designs for "Martin Chuzzlewit" were etched on quarto plates, two on each plate. Five of these plates were etched three times, these including, besides the frontispiece and vignette title, the first six illustrations in the book, and two which appeared in the fourteenth number, viz., "Mr. Pinch Departs to Seek his Fortune," and "Mr. Nadgett Breathes, as Usual, an Atmosphere of Mystery." A careful examination of different copies of the first edition will disclose minute variations in these particular illustrations, worthy of special mention being the vignette title, where, in the earliest impressions, the £ mark is incorrectly placed after the figures in the amount of reward on the bill.
In the majority of the "Chuzzlewit" etchings there is a vigour and precision of touch indicating the artist's riper experience. It must, however, be admitted that a few of the plates are so feeble in execution in comparison with the rest as to suggest that "Phiz's" drawings were copied on the plate by a less expert etcher. An instance of this poverty of execution will be found in the first design, depicting "The Meekness of Mr. Pecksniff and his Charming Daughters," and the fact that this plate is unsigned seems significant; in reply to my enquiry respecting it, Mr. Robert Young assured me that "no one ever copied or etched plates for Browne; he traced the subject on the steel himself, and etched every line before it was bitten in. I know no reason for the omission of his signature to any of his plates."
In a few instances the artist has not strictly followed the text. For example, in the plate where Mr. Pecksniff calls upon Mrs. Gamp, the pie-shop is placed next door, whereas it is clearly described as being next door but one. In the etching of Mark Tapley "finding a jolly subject for contemplation," instead of Mark's name being inscribed in full upon the "Rowdy Journal" door, his initials only should appear, "in letters nearly half a foot long, together with the day of the month in smaller type;" the four horses harnessed to the coach in which Tom Pinch departs to seek his fortune ("Phiz's" horses, by the way,[Pg 88] are always well drawn) are described as "greys," while in the plate only one is thus represented. Such discrepancies, however, although interesting to note, are unimportant. As usual, we find in the accessories (such as the titles of books and pictures) sly touches of humour peculiarly àpropos of the principal theme. "Phiz's" design for the wrapper of the monthly parts is emblematical of the story; here "silver spoons" and "wooden ladles," as embodied in the original title, play a conspicuous part.
The "Chuzzlewit" drawings, all of which have been preserved, are executed in pencil, some having washes of neutral tint. They vary but slightly from the etchings, the greatest differences being noted in the first two designs, this doubtless arising from the difficulty experienced by the artist in immediately seizing the author's meaning. In one special instance Dickens favoured his illustrator with very precise instructions. Respecting the American scenes, the artist desired more details than usual, so he received from the novelist the following letter (now in Mr. J. F. Dexter's collection), giving particulars for the plate representing "The Thriving City of Eden, as it appeared in Fact."
"Martin and Mark are displayed as the tenants of a wretched log hut (for a pattern whereof see a vignette brought by Chapman & Hall) in a perfectly flat, swampy, wretched forest of stunted timber in every stage of decay, with a filthy river running before the door, and some other miserable log houses distributed among the trees, whereof the most ruinous and tumble-down of all is labelled 'Bank and National Credit Office.' Outside their door, as the custom is, is a rough sort of form or dresser, on which are set forth their pot and kettle and so forth, all of the commonest kind. On the outside of the house, at one side of the door, is a written placard, 'Chuzzlewit and Co., Architects and Surveyors,' and upon a stump of tree, like a butcher's block, before the cabin, are Martin's instruments—a pair of rusty compasses, &c. On a three-legged stool beside this block sits Martin in his shirt sleeves, with long dishevelled hair, resting his head upon his hands[Pg 89]—the picture of hopeless misery—watching the river and sadly remembering that it flows towards home. But Mr. Tapley, up to his knees in filth and brushwood, and in the act of endeavouring to perform some impossibilities with a hatchet, looks towards him with a face of unimpaired good humour, and declares himself perfectly jolly. Mark, the only redeeming feature. Everything else dull, miserable, squalid, unhealthy, and utterly devoid of hope—diseased, starved, and abject. The weather is intensely hot, and they are but partially clothed."
The artist, naturally bewildered by such elaborate directions, has written underneath this note: "I can't get all this perspective in, unless you will allow of a long subject—something less than a mile!"
For the plate, "Martin Chuzzlewit Suspects the Landlady," two drawings were prepared, but the second was probably only to guide the biter-in of the steel as to the effect of light and shade required; for it occasionally happened that "Phiz" had not time to give verbal instructions to his assistant, when he would send a rough indication of what was needed in the matter of chiaroscuro. In the original drawing representing "The Meekness of Mr. Pecksniff and his Charming Daughters," the figure of Tom Pinch differs from the plate, and shows signs of having been quickly sketched in, as though the first idea was not to introduce him at all; in a second delineation of the same subject this figure is limned with greater care.
The original designs for "Chuzzlewit" were disposed of at Sotheby's in 1889 for £433, 13s., the beautifully-finished drawing of the frontispiece realising £35, while that of "Mrs. Gamp 'Propoges' a Toast," rightly considered as one of the artist's chef-d'œuvres, was purchased for £35, 10s.
To the Library Edition (1858-59) "Phiz" contributed a vignette for the title-page of each of the two volumes of "Martin Chuzzlewit," which were engraved on steel from the original water-colour drawings. The subject of the first design is almost a repetition of the etching in the original issue, and depicts the "Meekness of Mr. Pecksniff and his Charming Daughters," the ladies being certainly more attractive in the[Pg 90] later conception. In the second vignette we see Mrs. Gamp and Betsy Prig, at the moment when the latter, in her wrath, denied the existence of the memorable Mrs. Harris.
Dombey and Son, 1846-48.Among the forty illustrations prepared by "Phiz" for "Dombey and Son" will be found some of the artist's happiest efforts. By this time his experience with the etching-needle enabled him to execute his designs upon the steel plates with wonderful facility and dexterity, and continual practice had made him almost perfect in this particular branch of art. All these plates were etched in duplicate; the greater number were drawn on quarto plates, having two subjects on each as usual, but the frontispiece, the last four illustrations, and the duplicates of three others were etched singly on steels of octavo size.
The duplicates do not vary much; that in which an alteration is most noticeable, although hardly perceptible, is "Abstraction and Recognition," the bills on the wall near Alice in one plate being less mutilated than in the other. There was such a large circulation of the book in part form that the printing from the plates could not be executed quickly enough, the etchings being rarely sent in until the last minute; so that it became necessary to resort to lithographic transfers until the duplicate plates could be etched. In "Dombey and Son" the artist first introduced the oblong form of illustration, this lending itself more appropriately to the subjects so treated, and in succeeding novels we find a fair sprinkling of designs of this shape. When nearing the end of the story he essayed, with considerable success, a new method of obtaining chiaroscuro, and he afterwards adopted it whenever striking effects were required. The only plate in "Dombey" so treated is "On the Dark Road," on which, by means of a ruling-machine, a tint had been placed before the subject was drawn, and, by a process of biting-in, stopping-out, and burnishing, an effect [Pg 91]resembling mezzotint was obtained. The machine was kept in Mr. Young's studio at Furnival's Inn, and could be manipulated by a boy, the operation of "ruling" being a purely mechanical one; it was the subsequent treatment by acid and burnisher, in reproducing the tones of the original drawing, that required the knowledge of an expert.
A few anomalies may be discovered in the "Dombey" plates. In the various representations of Captain Cuttle the artist has depicted him, in two instances, with the hook upon the left arm instead of the right. When comparing the three plates portraying Sol Gills's little back-parlour, certain little discrepancies are apparent, such as the altered position of the model of a brig, &c. In the plate entitled "The Wooden Midshipman on the Look-out," Florence is delineated as a well-developed young woman, whereas, according to the text, she was then but a mere child of fourteen. In the same illustration the artist has drawn a pair of horses (or rather their heads) which can have no possible connection with the omnibus near by, although they are evidently intended to be associated therewith. In the etching "Abstraction and Recognition," Alice and her mother standing in the archway are much too tall; it is interesting to note here the advertisement on the wall of Cruikshank's "Bottle," which may be considered as denoting the popularity of that remarkable series of pictures, then being issued. Two palpable errors are discoverable in the illustration entitled "On the Dark Road," for not only does the driver hold the reins in the wrong hand, but it will be seen that the wheels of the rapidly-moving carriage are really represented as stationary, while the "off" wheels are omitted altogether. In the last plate but one, the figure of Florence is not sufficiently visionary, and therefore fails to convey the author's meaning respecting the conscience-stricken Dombey.
Hablôt Browne invariably laboured under some disadvantage when designing his illustrations for Dickens; indeed, he was sometimes compelled to draw his inspiration merely from the author's verbal explanation or reading of a particular passage; so it is not[Pg 92] surprising that we discover an occasional discrepancy. In the case of "Dombey," he experienced a difficulty of another kind, for during the writing of the story Dickens was living at Lausanne in Switzerland, and the sketches had to be sent there for his criticism and approval, which not only caused delay, but gave the artist some trouble in understanding the suggestions made by the author when returning the drawings.
In the Etching the figure of Jo is placed on the opposite side of the picture.
Lent by Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans.
Several letters from Dickens to Forster at this time express solicitude concerning these plates. Writing from Lausanne on the 18th of July 1846, he said: "The prints for illustration, and the enormous care required, make me excessively anxious." A nervous dread of caricature on the face of his merchant-hero had led him to indicate by a living person the type of city gentleman he would have had the artist select. "The man for Dombey," he explained, "if Browne could see him, the class man to a T, is Sir A—— E——, of D——'s;" and this is all he meant by his reiterated urgent request, "I do wish he could get a glimpse of A., for he is the very Dombey." It seems, however, that the "glimpse of A." was impracticable, so it was resolved to send, for selection by himself, glimpses of other letters of the alphabet—actual heads as well as fanciful ones—and the sheetful of sketches forwarded for this purpose contains no less than twenty-nine typical Dombey portraits, comprising full-length and half-length presentments, as well as studies of heads in various poses, but with the same hard characteristic expression. Against four of them "Phiz" has placed little arrows, to indicate that (in his opinion) they best accorded with the author's conception. The Dombey actually etched was not, after all, an absolute transcript of these tentative ideas, but seems to be a combination of several; and it is curious to note that, in the various representations of the proud city merchant as seen in the plates, "Phiz" did not keep religiously to the same type. That Dickens considered the artist's presentment as satisfactory is proved by his remark to Forster, "I think Mr. Dombey admirable," this doubtless referring to the illustration entitled "Mr. Dombey and the World." In a fragment of a letter preserved by Mr. J. F. Dexter may be read a few instructions to the artist with reference to the delineation of Mr. Dombey and his second wife: "It is a part of his character that he should be just the same as of yore. And in the second subject, I should like Edith Granger to possess the reader with a more serious notion of her having a serious part to play in the story. I really hardly know, however, what [part] beyond an expression of utter indifference towards Mr. Dombey...."
In the letter to Forster already quoted, the novelist sent (for transmission
to the artist) a few hints for the earlier designs: "Great
pains will be necessary with Miss Tox. The Toodle family should
not be too much caricatured, because of Polly. I should like Browne
to think of Susan Nipper, who will not be wanted in the first number.
After the second number, they will all be nine or ten years older,
but this will not involve much change in the characters, except in
the children and Miss Nipper." After the completion of the first
two plates, Dickens seems to have been in better heart about his
illustrator, for, again writing to Forster from Lausanne, he said:
"Browne seems to be getting on well. He will have a good subject
in Paul's christening. Mr. Chick is like D., if you'll mention that
when you think of it." Then, a little later: "Browne is certainly
interesting himself and taking pains." He seems, however, to have
been greatly disappointed with the designs in the second number,
viz., "The Christening Party" (which he anticipated would be a
success) and "Polly Rescues the Charitable Grinder," declaring them
to be so "dreadfully bad" (in the sense of not keeping strictly to the
text) that they made him "curl his legs up." This failure on the
part of the artist caused him to feel unusually anxious in regard to
a special illustration on which he had set much store, intended for
the number he then had in hand. Communicating with Forster[Pg 93]
[Pg 94] anent this, he said: "The best subject for Browne will be at Mrs. Pipchin's; and if he liked to do a quiet odd thing, Paul, Mrs. Pipchin, and the Cat, by the fire, would be very good for the story. I earnestly hope he will think it worth a little extra care." On first seeing the etching of this subject, he was sorely displeased, and could not refrain from thus expressing himself to Forster: "I am really distressed by the illustration of Mrs. Pipchin and Paul. It is so frightfully and wildly wide of the mark. Good Heaven! in the commonest and most literal construction of the text it is all wrong. She is described as an old lady, and Paul's 'miniature arm-chair' is mentioned more than once. He ought to be sitting in a little arm-chair down in the corner of the fireplace, staring up at her. I can't say what pain and vexation it is to be so utterly misrepresented. I would cheerfully have given a hundred pounds to have kept this illustration out of the book. He never could have got that idea of Mrs. Pipchin if he had attended to the text. Indeed, I think he does better without the text; for then the notion is made easy to him in short description, and he can't help taking it in." It is certainly strange that the sketch for this subject was not submitted to Dickens for approval before it was etched. We are told by Forster that the author felt the disappointment more keenly because "the conception of the grim old boarding-house keeper had taken back his thoughts to the miseries of his own child-life, and made her, as her prototype in verity was, a part of the terrible reality." In justice to the artist, it must be conceded that the etching of this subject seems to be an excellent rendering of the description of the scene as conveyed in the letterpress.
"Phiz" sometimes complained that Dickens did not send him more than a few printed lines as a guide to the subject to be illustrated, and, being kept in ignorance as to the context, he found it difficult to delineate the characters as well as the novelist might wish. Occasionally, as we have seen, he received quite a lengthy note when at work upon the designs, these communications sometimes[Pg 95] being partly literal extracts from the text and partly condensation, such as the following:—
"Paul (a year older) has left Mrs. Pipchin's and gone to Doctor Blimber's establishment at Brighton. The Doctor only takes ten young gentlemen. Doctor Blimber's establishment is a good hot-house for the young mind, with a forcing apparatus always at work. Mental green peas are produced there at Christmas, and intellectual asparagus all the year round. Every description of Greek and Latin vegetable is got off the driest twigs of boys under the frostiest circumstances. Mrs. Blimber is fond of the boys not being like boys, and of their wearing collars and neckerchiefs. They have all blown before their time. The eldest boy in the school—young Toots by name, with a swollen nose and an exceedingly large head—left off blowing suddenly one day, and people do say that the Doctor rather overdid it with him, and that when he began to have whiskers he left off having brains. All the young gentlemen have great weights on their minds. They are haunted by verbs, noun-substantives, roots, and syntactic passages. Some abandoned hope half through the Latin Grammar, and others curse Virgil in the bitterness of their souls. Classical Literature in general is an immense collection of words to them. It's all words and grammar, and don't mean anything else.
"Subject—These young gentlemen out walking, very dismally and formally (observe it's a very expensive school), with the lettering, Doctor Blimber's young gentlemen as they appeared when enjoying themselves. I think Doctor Blimber, a little removed from the rest, should bring up the rear, or lead the van, with Paul, who is much the youngest of the party. I extract the description of the Doctor. [Here follows a quotation from the eleventh chapter.]
"Paul as last described, but a twelvemonth older. No collar or neckerchief for him, of course. I would make the next youngest boy about three or four years older than he."
A remarkable oversight on the part of "Phiz" with reference to[Pg 96] this plate is immediately observable, for while Dickens explicitly states the number of Dr. Blimber's pupils as ten, the artist has introduced no less than seventeen young gentlemen. Concerning the illustration, "Major Bagstock is Delighted to have that Opportunity," there is extant an interesting letter (dated March 10, 1847) from Dickens to "Phiz" (printed for the first time in Mr. D. C. Thomson's Memoir of H. K. Browne), in which the novelist is very explicit respecting his requirements:—
"My Dear Browne— ... The occasion of my coming home makes me very late with my number, which I have only begun this morning; otherwise you should have been fed sooner.... The first subject I am now going to give is very important to the book. I should like to see your sketch of it if possible.
"I should premise that I want to make the Major, who is the incarnation of selfishness and small revenge, a kind of comic Mephistophilean power in the book; and the No. begins with the departure of Mr. Dombey and the Major on that trip for change of air and scene which is prepared for in the last Number. They go to Leamington, where you and I were once. In the Library the Major introduces Mr. Dombey to a certain lady, whom, as I wish to foreshadow dimly, said Dombey may come to marry in due season. She is about thirty, not a day more—handsome, though haughty-looking—good figure, well dressed, showy, and desirable. Quite a lady in appearance, with something of a proud indifference about her, suggestive of a spark of the Devil within. Was married young. Husband dead. Goes about with an old mother, who rouges, and who lives upon the reputation of a diamond necklace and her family. Wants a husband. Flies at none but high game, and couldn't marry anybody not rich. Mother affects cordiality and heart, and is the essence of sordid calculation. Mother usually shoved about in a Bath chair by a page who has rather outgrown and outshoved his strength, and who butts at it behind like a ram, while his mistress steers herself languidly by a handle in front. Nothing the matter with[Pg 97] her to prevent her walking, only was once when a Beauty sketched reclining in a Barouche, and having outlived the Beauty and the Barouche too, still holds to the attitude as becoming her uncommonly. Mother is in this machine in the sketch. Daughter has a parasol.
"The Major presents them to Mr. Dombey, gloating within himself over what may come of it, and over the discomfiture of Miss Tox. Mr. Dombey (in deep mourning) bows solemnly. Daughter bends. The native in attendance bearing a camp-stool and the Major's greatcoat. Native evidently afraid of the Major and his thick cane. If you like it better, the scene may be in the street or in a green lane. But a great deal will come of it; and I want the Major to express that as much as possible in his apoplectic Mephistophilean observation of the scene, and in his share of it."
The design was promptly executed and submitted to Dickens, who, in a letter to the artist dated five days later, expressed his approval thereof: "The sketch is admirable," he wrote,—"the women quite perfect. I cannot tell you how much I like the younger one. There are one or two points, however, which I must ask you to alter. They are capital in themselves, and I speak solely for the story.
"First—I grieve to write it—that native—who is so prodigiously good as he is—must be in European costume. He may wear earrings and look outlandish and be dark brown. In this fashion must be of Moses, Mosesy. I don't mean Old Testament Moses, but him of the Minories.
"Secondly, if you can make the Major older, and with a larger face—do.
"That's all. Never mind the pump-room now, unless you have found the sketch, as we may have that another time. I shall 'propoge' to you a trip to Leamington together. We might go one day and return the next.... Don't mind sending me the second sketch. It is so late."
In Mr. J. F. Dexter's collection there is a pencil-sketch by "Phiz" for this subject (evidently an earlier conception than that submitted to Dickens), in which the incident is depicted as occurring at the seaside (probably Brighton), while, curiously enough, the figure of Mr. Dombey is omitted. Another interesting drawing, also owned by Mr. Dexter, is a tentative sketch (in blue ink) for "The Dombey Family," under which the artist has written the following query: "Whether 'twere better to have him [Mr. Dombey] standing thus, stiff as a poker, with a kind of side glance at his daughter—or sitting, as in the other?" In the etching we see that Mr. Dombey is represented as seated, while Florence is transferred to the other side of the picture.
Through the kind courtesy of Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans, I have been enabled to examine the original "working" drawings for "Dombey and Son," all of these, with one exception (viz. "Polly Rescues the Charitable Grinder," which has mysteriously disappeared), being in the possession of her Grace. The majority of the designs were not reversed when copied upon the steels, and this accounts for some of the incongruities already referred to. In certain cases the drawings are sketched with blue ink and the effects lightly washed in; others are in pencil, or pencil and brushwork combined.
This Drawing, which was designed for the series of extra plates for "Barnaby Rudge," has never been engraved. The published portrait of Dolly is a reproduction of a subsequent Drawing.
Lent by Mr. J. F. Dexter.
In comparing the drawings with the plates, certain unimportant variations are discoverable; for example, in the drawing of "Paul's Exercises," the candlestick is placed on the table, and more to the right, instead of being raised on a pile of books; in "Major Bagstock is Delighted to have that Opportunity," the figure of the "Native" is differently posed, besides being almost erased, in consequence, perhaps, of Dickens's criticism; in "Coming Home from Church," the ringers hold two bells in either hand. On one of the drawings Dickens has placed his initials, while in the corner of another, "Secret Intelligence," the artist has written the words, "Better, eh?" whence we may infer that a previous sketch had been submitted. It seems likely that "Phiz" made two or three trial sketches for every etching in the book, as there are still in existence other tentative designs for some of the subjects above referred to.
Writing to the editor of the Daily News (December 30, 1882), Dr. Edgar A. Browne, the artist's son, says: "Dickens's delight in the ['Dombey'] illustrations as a whole was, as a matter of fact, very great, and was expressed (doubtless with some characteristic exaggeration) so forcibly, that my father gave him the original designs, which were acknowledged in the following letter:—
"'Devonshire Terrace, Thirteenth June, 1848.
"'My Dear Browne,—A thousand thanks for the Dombey sketches, which I shall preserve and transmit as heirlooms.
"'This afternoon, on Thursday, I shall be near the whereabout of the boy in the flannel gown, and will pay him an affectionate visit. But I warn you now and beforehand (and this is final, you'll observe) that you are not agoing to back out of the pigmental finishing said boy; for if ever I had a boy of my own that boy is
and, as the demon says at the Surrey,
'I CLAIM MY VICTIM,'
HA! HA! HA!!
at which you will imagine me going down a sulphurous trap, with the boy in my grasp—and you will please not to imagine him merely in my grasp, but to hand him over.
"'For which this is your warrant and requirement.
(Signed) Charles Dickens.
"'Witness—William ╋ Topping,
The allusion to "the boy in the flannel gown" has reference to
a portrait of Little Paul, painted by "Phiz" as a present to Dickens.[Pg 99]
[Pg 100] Miss Hogarth informs me, however, that she has no recollection of this picture, nor of the "Dombey" sketches.
"Phiz," as usual, designed the pictorial wrapper for the monthly parts, concerning which Dickens wrote: "I think the cover very good; perhaps with a little too much in it, but that is an ungrateful objection." The criticism was justified, however, for the design, though ingeniously conceived, certainly errs on the side of over-elaboration.
The success attending the sale of the extra plates for "Master Humphrey's Clock" encouraged a repetition of this form of independent publication, and a similar series of portraits were produced of the principal characters in "Dombey and Son." Four capital plates, consisting of portraits of Little Paul, Florence, Edith, and Alice, were designed by Browne, and engraved on steel (in stipple and line) by Edwards and Knight, under the superintendence of the artist and Robert Young, whose joint venture it was. The engravings were published with Dickens's sanction concurrently with the story; the original impressions are now very scarce, but the plates still exist in good condition, and have recently been reprinted. Dickens was much pleased with these delightful portraits, and in a hitherto unpublished letter to the artist (dated January 5, 1847) he thus referred to the drawings: "I think Paul very good indeed—a beautiful little composition altogether. The face of Florence strikes me as being too old, particularly about the mouth. Edith, not so handsome as in the little drawings, and something too long and flat in the face. The better Alice of the two, decidedly that which is opposite Edith." There are extant as many as six pencil-sketches for the portrait of Alice, presenting slight variations in pose and expression, and Mr. Dexter owns an interesting study (in pencil and red chalk) of Florence Dombey, which has never been engraved.
Almost simultaneously with the production of the above portraits, "Phiz" designed and etched eight additional plates containing full-[Pg 101]length presentments of Mr. Dombey and Carker, Mrs. Skewton, Old Sol and Captain Cuttle, Miss Tox, Mrs. Pipchin, Major Bagstock, Miss Nipper, and Polly Toodle. This undertaking was entirely a speculation of the artist, the plates being also issued in sets by Chapman & Hall. Dr. Browne informs me that the original drawings were unexpectedly discovered by him, rolled up and dirty, and were afterwards included in the Memorial Exhibition of his father's works at the Liverpool Art Club in 1883.
The first cheap edition of "Dombey and Son," 1858, includes a frontispiece by "Phiz," representing the flight of Carker. The artist also contributed to each of the two volumes of the Library Edition (1858-59) specially-designed vignettes, engraved on steel, the subjects being Mr. Dombey and the second Mrs. Dombey, and Paul with Florence at the seaside.
 An American edition (published in 1844) contains fourteen clever replicas of the "Dombey" etchings.
 In Mr. Andrew Lang's opinion, these sketches for Mr. Dombey look like "a collection of criminal butlers."
"David Copperfield"—The Designs prepared in Duplicate—"Phiz's" Portrait of Mr. Micawber—Peggotty's Hut—Trifling Errors in the Plates—Original Drawings—Designs for "I Make myself Known to my Aunt"—Variations in the Etchings—Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition—Vignettes for the Library Edition—"Bleak House"—Plates partly Duplicated—Some Curious Inaccuracies—Skimpole successfully Portrayed—"Phiz" takes Mental Notes—Original Drawings—Alterations in the Plates—The "Bleak House" Illustrations Criticised—Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition—Vignettes for the Library Edition—"Little Dorrit"—Illustrations Unsigned—"Machine-ruled Designs"—A Letter from Dickens respecting one of the Plates—Original Drawings—Pictorial Wrapper—"A Tale Of Two Cities"—A Letter from "Phiz" to his Son—Dickens Forestalled—An Unpublished Design—Last of Dickens's Stories Illustrated by "Phiz"—The Artist's Conjectures as to the Cause of the Severance—His Tender Regard for the Novelist—His Antecedents—Apprenticeship at Finden's—Exhibits at the Royal Academy—Inability to Draw from "the Life"—Some Letters to Dickens—"The Pic Nic Papers"—An Early Reminiscence of Dickens—"Phiz's" Remuneration—From Prosperity to Adversity—Serious Illness—A Broken-down Old Man—Paralysis—A Pathetic Grievance—Applies for a Government Pension—Recognition by the Royal Academy—Decline of Imagination and Power of Invention—Death of the Artist—Mr. J. G. Fennell's Tribute—"Phiz's" Shyness—An Extraordinary Commission—Water-colour Replicas of the Dickens Illustrations—Vignettes for the Library Edition of "Sketches by Boz" and "Oliver Twist"—"Phiz's" Fellow-Apprentice, Coadjutor, and Friend—Etching the Plates—Mezzotint Effects—Furnival's Inn—A Note from "Phiz" to his Colleague—Mr. Robert Young's Autobiographical Sketch.
David Copperfield, 1849-50.In "David Copperfield," the most fascinating of Dickens's novels, it cannot be said that "Phiz" quite rose to the occasion. Although some of these plates he never excelled, the majority are marked by a certain hardness and stiffness of treatment, and are conspicuously deficient in that vigour and deftness of touch which characterise his previous efforts.
As in the case of "Dombey and Son," the whole of the designs were etched in duplicate, the replicas differing but slightly from the[Pg 103] originals. About half of the series were executed singly on octavo steels, instead of in couples on the usual quarto plates. In one of the designs, viz., "The River," the artist has again resorted to the ruling-machine for attaining the desired effect, but the result is poor and meagre. He has succeeded admirably in his presentment of Micawber, respecting which Dickens wrote to Forster: "Browne has sketched an uncommonly characteristic and capital Mr. Micawber for the next number." The most pleasing of all these etchings, however, are those in which the boy-hero figures, such as those depicting him with the "friendly waiter" at the bar of the public-house, and as, with battered hat and ragged raiment, he "makes himself known to his aunt."
It has been asserted that "Phiz" at this period sometimes grew careless, and that Dickens did not exercise that particular surveillance over the artist's work which he customarily bestowed upon it in the early days. For example, the novelist thus describes Peggotty's odd residence, an old boat drawn up on land and fashioned into a house: "There was a delightful door cut in the side, and it was roofed in, and there were little windows in it." He never refers to it as an inverted boat, although it is so delineated by "Phiz,"—indeed, the inference is that the vessel stood upon its keel, for elsewhere it is mentioned as being left "high and dry," as though it were a boat that had been washed ashore. If such was the novelist's conception, it seems strange and unaccountable that he should have accepted without a protest the artist's misrepresentation of Peggotty's home. Curiously enough, there might have been seen within recent years, on the open Denes at Yarmouth, an inverted boat similarly converted into a cosy residence, the existence of which apparently gives actuality to "Phiz's" drawing.
In some of the etchings may be discovered a few trivial errors; for instance, in the plate entitled "Somebody Turns Up," Mrs. Heep is left-handed, an oversight which (as in previous cases) is doubtless the result of the etching being in reverse of the original[Pg 104] design, although "Phiz" was generally careful to remember this when preparing his sketches. Strange to relate, in the scene depicting divine service at Blunderstone Church, he has omitted the officiating clergy! In "My First Fall in Life," the horses (especially the leaders) are undoubtedly disproportionate, and the same criticism applies to the figures in the illustration depicting the unexpected arrival of David and his friend at Peggotty's fireside. In the etching of "The River," the scene should have been reversed, and from this point of view (the river-side at Millbank) the dome of St. Paul's is not visible, although it is shown in the picture. Another curious mistake is apparent in the interesting plate entitled "Our Housekeeping;" here David is seen struggling with a loin of mutton, whereas in the text the joint is distinctly described as a boiled leg of mutton. It is amusing to note the appropriate character of the pictures adorning the walls of some of "Phiz's" interiors. In the etching of "The Friendly Waiter and I" he has thus introduced the scene illustrating the familiar fable of the Fox and the Stork; in "Changes at Home" we have the Return of the Prodigal Son and the Finding of Moses in the bulrushes; and in the plate delineating Steerforth and Miss Mowcher will be noticed over the fireplace a scene from Gulliver's adventures in Brobdingnag, an allusion to the diminutive proportions of the remarkable dwarf who was "so volatile."
Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans possesses the complete series of "working" drawings for "David Copperfield." Like the "Dombey" designs, these highly-finished drawings are executed chiefly in pencil and the effects washed in with indian-ink, while a few are in pencil only. Of that well-known design, "I Make myself Known to my Aunt," there exist no less than three tentative sketches; the first (on which the artist has written "Or—so—so?") represents Miss Trotwood sitting "flat down on the garden-path,"—a pose which, although accurate enough according to the text, was rightly deemed inartistic, whereupon the artist prepared another design, and submitted it to Dickens. In the second picture (where "Phiz" has[Pg 105] queried, "Or—so?"), the lady stands erect, but the pathetic appearance of David is lost, and the composition of the background proves less fortunate. In the etching "Phiz" combined the two designs,—that is, he used the first drawing, but substituted the standing figure of Miss Trotwood for the seated one. On the margin of the second design the artist (in a humorous mood) has limned an unmerciful caricature of the whole incident. The third tentative drawing for this subject, believed to be the first sketch, was sold at Sotheby's in 1887 for £6, 15s.; it is now in the collection of Mr. Thomas Wright, of Paris.
With the sketch for "The Friendly Waiter and I" the novelist was delighted. "Phiz" originally represented David as wearing a long jacket, but this not being quite in accordance with Dickens's idea, he wrote asking the artist to "put Davy in a little jacket instead of this coat, without altering him in any other respect," which was accordingly done.
In the drawing for the plate entitled "My Magnificent Order at the Public-house," the form of the two large spirit-vessels behind David are more jug-shaped than in the etching. The "little white hat," by-the-way, as here worn by David, is just such head-gear as Dickens himself disported when a boy. In the drawing of David on the box-seat of the coach, "My First Fall in Life," the western towers of Canterbury Cathedral are indicated in the distance, but these are omitted in the etching. In the scene, "Mr. Micawber Delivers some Valedictory Remarks," certain faint lines are observable near the principal figure, indicating that he was originally delineated in a different attitude. The effective sketch of "The Wanderer" portrays more of the woman's figure than is visible in the plate. In the design entitled "Our Housekeeping," the frame of a mirror or picture is introduced on the wall behind David, but this was afterwards considered superfluous; and in the drawing of "The Emigrants," Mr. Micawber grasps a telescope, which does not appear in the plate. The drawing of "Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True" varies considerably from the etching, for not only is David seen wearing a hat[Pg 106] (which in the etching is placed upon the table), but the artist has included a fourth figure, that of Rosa Dartle, who, seated in the chair, leans her head upon her arms above the table. The introduction of Miss Dartle is, of course, incorrect, as she had left the room before Mr. Peggotty entered; but the error was detected, and the necessary alteration effected in the published design.
"Phiz's" pictorial wrapper for the monthly parts is replete with detail, around the title in the centre being displayed various figures apparently exemplifying the Seven Ages of Man, with Dame Fortune crowning the whole.
The first cheap edition of "David Copperfield," 1858, contained a frontispiece by "Phiz," engraved on wood by Swain, representing Little Em'ly and David as children on Yarmouth Sands; to the Library Edition (1858-59) the artist contributed two vignettes (engraved on steel), the subject in the first volume being Little Em'ly and David by the sea, and for the second, another version of the etching entitled "Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True."
Bleak House, 1852-53.In the forty illustrations for "Bleak House" the artist introduced a greater variety of subjects, and resorted more frequently to the use of the ruling-machine, no less than ten being so treated with considerable success. "Phiz" etched one complete set of the plates and duplicates of the machine-ruled designs, which were repeated probably because they could not so readily withstand the wear-and-tear of the printing.
A very few of the "Bleak House" illustrations are signed. In some of them the details do not entirely accord with the letterpress, a noteworthy instance of this inaccuracy being found in the etching entitled "Miss Jellaby," who is represented as dipping her forefinger in the egg-cup, whereas we are told that it was her "inky middle finger." A more important oversight in the same picture is the introduction of the infant Jellaby in the bed, who was not in the room at all, as a careful reading of the text readily discloses. In two[Pg 107] instances, Turveydrop père is depicted without the false whiskers he customarily wore, and in the illustration of "The Smallweed Family," the son is incorrectly omitted. It is perhaps worth noting an odd mistake on the part of the artist—in the etching entitled "Consecrated Ground" he has represented the iron gates in a manner to lead one to suppose they could not be opened; it is unfortunate, too, that, in this pathetic scene (in which, by the way, the chiaroscuro is curiously forced) he partly destroys its sentiment by inappropriately introducing on the left the comical shadow of a man in the act of drinking from a tankard. With reference to one of the characters in "Bleak House" Dickens wrote to Forster: "Browne has done Skimpole, and helped to make him singularly unlike the great original." The "great original" was, of course, Leigh Hunt, a fact which the novelist himself did not so successfully disguise, and subsequently paid the penalty for his indiscretion.
"Phiz" invariably depended upon his imagination or memory for his scenes and characters; as the artist himself expressed it, he would merely go "to have a look at a thing," and then be able to prepare his picture without further aid. For instance, before designing the weird illustration of "The Lonely Figure" in "Bleak House," he visited a lime-pit, in order to see what the big crushing-wheels were like that he desired to introduce, and made a mental note of them without leaving the seat of his trap.
Besides the original "working" drawings for "Dombey and Son" and "David Copperfield," Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans also possesses those for "Bleak House." They vary considerably in treatment, some being carefully rendered, while those reproduced with the mezzotint shading are very broadly and vigorously executed by means of a soft lead-pencil, the lights heightened with chinese-white. In comparing the drawings with the etchings, slight variations may here and there be noted; for example, in the design for "Mr. Guppy's Entertainment," Mr. Jobling was first seen wearing his hat, but this was partly obliterated and the contour of the head afterwards drawn in; in[Pg 108] "Visitors at the Shooting Gallery," the figure of Mr. George is slightly different in pose, while the sword rests on his shoulder; in "Mr. Smallweed Breaks the Pipe of Peace," Miss Smallweed stands a short distance from her father's chair, holding his "long clay;" in the charming design representing "Lady Dedlock in the Wood," we see Ada coming up behind her ladyship, the figure of Charley (differently posed) being transferred to the other side of the picture. A more remarkable alteration, however, occurs in the design "Mr. Chadband 'Improving' a Tough Subject." Chadband's attitude is entirely changed from that in the etching, and Jo is placed on the other side of the drawing, with his back to Guster, while a cat reposes upon an ottoman near Mrs. Snagsby. In the drawing of "Attorney and Client," the face of Mr. Vholes is of a type differing from the published version, and his arms rest upon the desk; also, there is no waste-paper basket, and the deed-box is nearer the table. Mr. J. F. Dexter has another sketch for this illustration (presumably an earlier one), in which Richard Carstone stands with his back to the table, with his right hand pressed despondingly against his forehead. The original drawings for the sombre scenes, although more effective than the etched reproductions, are remarkably crude in treatment—a criticism which applies more especially to those depicting, "The Lonely Figure" and "The Night." The etchings of these subjects are technically superior to the drawings, their quality, however, being principally owing to the results obtained by means of the ruling-machine. The late Mr. James Payn once expressed the belief that it was "Phiz's" selection of subjects such as these which made him so acceptable an illustrator to Dickens.
In 1882, a writer in The Academy, who considered the illustrations in "Bleak House" as being practically perfect, said of them: "Not only is the comic side, the even fussily comic, such as 'The Young Man of the Name of Guppy,' understood and rendered well, but the dignified beauty of the old country-house architecture, or the architecture of the chambers of our Inns-of-court, is conveyed in brief touches; and there is apparent everywhere that element of terrible suggestiveness which[Pg 109] made not only the art of Hablôt Browne, but the art of Charles Dickens himself, in this story of 'Bleak House,' recall the imaginative purpose of the art of Méryon. What can be more impressive in connection with the story—nay, even independently of the story—than the illustration of Mr. Tulkinghorn's chambers in gloom; than the illustration of the staircase of Dedlock's own house, with the placard of the reward for the discovery of the murderer; than that of Tom All Alone's; the dark, foul darkness of the burial-ground under scanty lamplight, and the special spot where lay the man who 'wos wery good to me—he wos!'? And then again, 'The Ghost's Walk,' and once more the burial-ground, with the woman's body—Lady Dedlock's—now close against its gate. Of course it would be possible to find fault with these things, but they have nothing of the vice of tameness—they deliver their message effectually. It is not their business to be faultless; it is their business to impress."
The design for the monthly wrapper is emblematical of the Court of Chancery, the artist availing himself of this opportunity of indulging in humorous pencillings reflecting upon the integrity of lawyers. "Phiz" contributed the frontispiece to the first cheap edition, 1858, representing Mr. Jarndyce and his friends in Bell Yard. He also designed the usual vignettes for the two volumes in the Library Edition (1858-59), which were engraved on steel; in the first is delineated Lady Dedlock and Jo, and in the second we behold Lady Dedlock and Esther Summerson in the wood, the latter composition much resembling the original etching of the same incident.
Little Dorrit, 1855-57.Among the illustrations in "Little Dorrit" there are some as feeble in execution as there are others remarkable for exceptionally vigorous treatment; and it is worthy of note that, whereas in "Bleak House" the artist began partly to relinquish the custom of appending his familiar nom de guerre to the plates, in "Little Dorrit" not a single design bears his signature.
[Pg 110]An examination of the "Dorrit" etchings discloses the fact that no less than eight are toned by means of the ruling-machine, the result being even more satisfactory than usual. The first of these "ruled" plates represents the interior of a French prison, and the effect of deep gloom, enhanced by a few bright rays of light darting through the barred window, is remarkable for its Rembrandt-like chiaroscuro. Pleasantly contrasting with this sombre subject there is the plate depicting "The Ferry," a delightfully rural view, with trees and winding river, and that entitled "Floating Away," where the moon, rising behind the trees, imparts a romantic aspect to the scene. The old house in the last illustration but one, "Damocles," indicates "Phiz's" power in expressing the picturesqueness of ancient architecture, and his appreciation of the effect of light as it falls upon quaintly-carved door and window. The plate entitled "Mr. Flintwinch has a Mild Attack of Irritability" is probably one of the most forcible etchings ever executed by "Phiz," and it is difficult to conceive that the same master-hand was responsible for the apparently inexperienced work to be found in an earlier illustration, "Little Mother," the execution of which is as timid and lifeless as the other is bold and expressive.
"Phiz" etched one complete set of the plates, and duplicated the tinted subjects, the variations from the originals being slight and unimportant. Of the forty illustrations, thirty-four are on octavo plates containing single subjects, and three are quarto plates having two subjects on each.
Designed for the series of extra plates for "Barnaby Rudge." This Drawing differs from the published Engraving.
Lent by Her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans.
A part of "Little Dorrit" was composed in France, and on July 2, 1856, Dickens informed the artist that he was returning to Boulogne the next day, and desired him to make the illustration of "The Pensioner Entertainment" "as characteristic as ever you please, my little dear, but quiet." This plate proved a decided success. When, early in 1857, the novelist was again in London, "Phiz" forwarded for his inspection a sketch for the etching entitled "An Unexpected After-dinner Speech," which, however, did not quite realise Dickens's idea; whereupon the artist received a letter (printed for the first time in Mr. Thomson's Memoir) suggesting certain improvements, afterwards duly carried out. "In the dinner scene," he wrote, "it is highly important that Mr. Dorrit should not be too comic. He is too comic now. He is described in the text as 'shedding tears,' and what he imperatively wants is an expression doing less violence in the reader's mind to what is going to happen to him, and much more in accordance with that serious end which is so close before him. Pray do not neglect this change."
Dickens seems to have been much pleased with the artist's original drawings of "Flora's Tour of Inspection" and "Mr. Merdle a Borrower," which he characterised as "very good subjects—both." Of the latter he said: "I can't distinctly make out the detail, but I take Sparkles to be getting the tortoise-shell knife from the box. Am I right?"
Only a few of the drawings for "Little Dorrit" have been available for my inspection. Two of these, viz., "Mr. Merdle a Borrower" and "Under the Microscope" (now in Mr. J. F. Dexter's collection), are executed in pencil and wash, the second design not being reversed in the etching. As usual, the pictorial wrapper for the monthly parts was designed by "Phiz." The central picture represents Little Dorrit emerging from the gates of the Marshalsea; above is placed the despondent figure of Britannia in a bath-chair, attended by figures emblematical of the Circumlocution Office, while at the base of the design is seen a mixed assemblage of people, including some of the more prominent characters in the story.
A Tale of Two Cities, 1859.Although "A Tale of Two Cities" was written specially for the
pages of All the Year Round, it appeared concurrently
in the familiar monthly numbers, with illustrations
by "Phiz." The artist, in writing to his son Walter,
said: "A rather curious thing happened with this
book. Watts Phillips, the dramatist, hit upon the very same identical
plot: they had evidently both of them been to the same source
in Paris for their story. Watts's play ['The Dead Heart'] came[Pg 111]
[Pg 112] out with great success, with stunning climax, at about the time of Dickens's sixth number. The public saw that they were identically the same story, so Dickens shut up at the ninth number, instead of going on to the eighteenth as usual." Whether this explanation is correct or not, the fact remains that "A Tale of Two Cities" was brought to a conclusion in the eighth number (not the ninth, as stated by "Phiz"), being therefore less than half the usual length of Dickens's serials.
As in the case of "Little Dorrit," the artist's signature does not appear in any of the sixteen etchings contributed by "Phiz" to this novel. It has been pointed out that the French personages in the pictures are not characteristic of the period, there being but little attempt at archaeological accuracy in the costumes. Only one set of the illustrations was prepared, none being etched in duplicate; they were executed on eight quarto steels, each bearing two designs. Of the original drawings for "A Tale of Two Cities" I have seen only one (now in Mr. J. F. Dexter's collection), and this was never etched. The sketch in question, which is vigorously executed with pencil and brush, depicts the incident of the stoppage at the Fountain, and constitutes an excellent subject for illustration.
The artist's design for the monthly wrapper is composed of distinct scenes separated by dividing lines. At the top of the page is St. Paul's Cathedral as viewed from the Thames, and at the base the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame is represented, while around are displayed some of the prominent characters in the story.
"A Tale of Two Cities" is the last of the novels containing illustrations by "Phiz," for, with the completion of the final plate in that story, there came a severance of that fortuitous collaboration between novelist and artist which had been maintained during a period of twenty-three years. As there is no evidence of any actual rupture between them, it is fair to surmise that a legitimate desire on the part of Dickens for a new illustrator constituted the actual reason for that severance. "Phiz" naturally felt aggrieved at "Dickens's strangely[Pg 113] silent manner of breaking the connection," and could only surmise the reason; for, in an undated letter to Mr. Robert Young, written presumably a short time before the publication of the succeeding story, he said: "Marcus [Stone] is no doubt to do Dickens. I have been a 'good boy,' I believe. The plates in hand are all in good time, so that I do not know what's 'up,' any more than you. Dickens probably thinks a new hand would give his old puppets a fresh look, or perhaps he does not like my illustrating Trollope neck-and-neck with him—though, by Jingo, he need fear no rivalry there! Confound all authors and publishers, say I. There is no pleasing one or t'other. I wish I had never had anything to do with the lot."
The amicable relationship that had subsisted between the author and his principal illustrator was not strained by this event. As a matter of fact, the artist ever entertained a tender regard and admiration for the famous romancer with whom he had so long been associated, and we may readily believe what a writer in the Frankfurt Zeitung tells us when he says: "Just after the death of Charles Dickens, 'Phiz' was considerably affected by the mere mention of the name of that illustrious novelist, which seemed to stir up in his breast feelings of regret at losing such a friend."
Hablôt Knight Browne, as designer of the plates for ten of the fourteen principal novels by "Immortal Boz," is justly termed "the illustrator of Dickens." His name and fame are similarly identified with the works of Lever and Ainsworth, while, in addition to this, his familiar signature ("Fizz, Whizz, or something of that sort," as Tom Hood used to say, when endeavouring to recall the artist's sign-manual) may be found appended to innumerable etchings and woodcuts. He was born at Kennington, London, in July 1815, being the ninth son of William Loder Browne, who is somewhat indefinitely described as "a merchant." The artist's forefathers were of French descent, the original name (according to tradition) being Le Brun, a member of which family emigrated to England[Pg 114] after the Massacre of St Bartholomew in 1572. His ancestors lived in London in the early part of the last century and adopted the essentially English cognomen of Browne. With regard to the artist's baptismal names, it is interesting to learn that the first (Hablôt) was the patronymic of a Colonel (or Captain) who was engaged to marry a sister of "Phiz," but was killed in a charge of Napoleon's Garde Impériale at Waterloo, while the second (Knight) was received from Admiral Sir John Knight, an old friend of the family; thus, in respect of names, was the artist associated with both Army and Navy.
"Phiz" inherited a strong artistic faculty, and, when a boy, was encouraged to cultivate his wonderful talent for drawing by his brother-in-law, Mr. Elhanan Bicknell, the well-known Art patron, who took so keen an interest in his welfare that he offered to defray all expenses of a thorough art education. It was through Mr. Bicknell's generosity that the youth was apprenticed to Finden, the engraver, who, it appears, more than once complained that his protégé persisted in covering with comic figures the entire margins of the plates entrusted to him, thus indicating the humorous bent of his mind. In after years he took occasional lessons in painting, but he never distinguished himself as a painter, although he occasionally exhibited at the Royal Academy and other public galleries. The only regular training he ever had was at Finden's; but the work he was required to perform there proved much too irksome and monotonous for one who, like "Phiz," possessed ideas so eminently original and fanciful. As in the case of his two famous contemporaries, Cruikshank and Leech, "Phiz" could never accustom himself to draw from the living model, which accounts, of course, for his conventional treatment of the human figure; his representations of moving crowds, as well as other scenes of life and character, being drawn either from recollection or by the aid of a few slightly-pencilled memoranda.
It is unfortunate for my present purpose that nearly all the[Pg 115] correspondence which passed between author and artist should have been destroyed. I am enabled, however, to print one or two brief notes indicating their friendly and familiar relationship. In 1841, "Phiz" supplied some etchings to "The Pic Nic Papers," a collection of essays edited by Dickens and produced for the benefit of Mrs. Macrone, the widow of the well-known publisher, who had been left in impoverished circumstances. In reply to an inquiry on the part of the novelist respecting the illustrations, the artist wrote:—
"My Dear Dickens,—I have just got one boot on, intending to come round to you, but you have done me out of a capital excuse to myself for idling away this fine morning. I quite forgot to answer your note, and Mr. Macrone's book has not been very vividly present to my memory for some time past, for both of which offences I beg innumerable pardons. I think by the beginning of next [week] or the middle (certain) I shall have done the plates, but on the scraps of copy that I have I can see but one good subject, so if you know of another, pray send it me. I should like 'Malcolm' again, if you can spare him.—Yours very truly,
"Very short of paper.
Hablôt K. Browne."
The following terse epistle is undated, which is characteristic of "Phiz's" letters:—
"My Dear Dickens,—I am sorry I cannot have a touch at battledore with you to-day, being already booked for this evening, but I will give you a call to-morrow after church, and take my chance of finding you at home.—Yours very sincerely,
"Hablôt K. Browne."
On March 15, 1847, when forwarding to the artist some written instructions respecting a "Dombey" illustration, the novelist made an interesting allusion to an early incident in his own life. "I wish you[Pg 116] had been at poor Hall's funeral, and I am sure they would have been glad.... He lies in Highgate Cemetery, which is beautiful.... Is it not a curious coincidence, remembering our connection afterwards, that I bought the magazine [The Monthly Magazine, Dec. 1833] in which the first thing I ever wrote was published ["A Dinner at Poplar Walk"] from poor Hall's hands? I have been thinking all day of that, and of that time when the Queen went into the City, and we drank claret (it was in their [Chapman & Hall's] earlier days) in the counting-house. You remember?"
"Phiz" received fifteen guineas each for his early plates, but sometimes agreed to accept smaller fees; he estimated that it took him ten days to prepare and etch four designs. Being a bad business man, he never raised his prices, the consequence being that his income was not what it should have been for one who so long held a unique position as an illustrator of popular books. During the first ten or twelve years of his professional life he was comparatively prosperous, but when etching as a means of illustrating went out of favour, and he became somewhat indifferent concerning this method of work, his income suffered considerably. The artist did not actually experience financial difficulties, however, until he was seized with a serious illness in 1867, said to have been partly caused by his having slept in a draught at a seaside house. After five months of great suffering he again essayed to use his pencil, but it soon became obvious to his friends that his health was completely shattered, and that, in less than six months, he had become a broken-down old man. The worst trouble of all was a partial paralysis of the right arm and leg, which he persisted in calling "rheumatism," and in consequence of which his hand lost its cunning. Then it was that the demand for his work practically ceased. "I don't know where to turn or what to do," he wrote in 1879. "I have at last come to a full stop, and don't see my way just yet to get on again. My occupation seems gone, extinct; I suppose I am thought to be used up, and I have been long enough [Pg 117]before the public. I have not had a single thing to do this year, nor for some months previous in the past year."
In 1878, at the suggestion of his friend Mr. Luke Fildes, R.A., "Phiz" applied to Government for a pension. The petition was prepared by Mr. Robert Young, but the result was unfavourable. Happily he received unexpected assistance from another quarter, in the shape of a well-deserved annuity from the Royal Academy, awarded in recognition of his distinguished services to Art. Ever hopeful of being restored to health, he began on his recovery to again use his pencil, but the crippled condition of his right hand, together with the rapid decline of his fanciful imagination and power of invention, made it impossible for him to produce anything worthy of his past reputation. At length his affliction became so pronounced that all hope of recovery was abandoned, and on the 8th of July 1882 the famous "Phiz" breathed his last, in his sixty-seventh year. He spent the end of his busy life in the quiet seclusion of Hove, and his last resting-place is on the summit of a hill on the northern side of the extra-mural cemetery at Brighton.
"Phiz's" many excellent qualities far outweighed any defects in his character. A life-long friend of the artist, Mr. John Greville Fennell, writes thus to me: "No man knew more of Hablôt Browne than I did, for though he was very reticent to most, he never, I believe, concealed anything from me. We used to wander together in the country for two or three weeks or more at a time, and a man more full of fun, when he had thrown off the 'harness,' I have not known in my large acquaintance." His naturally modest disposition eventually developed into a remarkable shyness, and this, when coupled with a dislike of publicity, was often misconstrued as pride. Even Dickens had considerable difficulty in persuading him to meet a few friends and spend a pleasant evening. When he did accept such invitations, he invariably tried to seclude himself in a corner of the room or behind a curtain. In former years he was occasionally prevailed upon to attend certain dinners given by Dickens to celebrate[Pg 118] the completion of his stories; and the novelist sometimes succeeded in inducing him to accept invitations to join him for a brief holiday by the sea, as we learn from a communication addressed to Forster, and dated from Bonchurch during the "Copperfield" days, in which Dickens said: "Browne is coming down when he has done his month's work." Eventually, all desire for social intercourse ceased, "Phiz" preferring to lead the life of a recluse in his country home.
A short time prior to his severe illness in 1867, Hablôt Browne received an extraordinary commission from Mr. F. W. Cosens, one of his most liberal patrons, who solicited the artist to make coloured replicas of the entire series of his published designs for the works of the great novelist. In a letter to me on this subject in 1882, Mr. Cosens said: "I remember to have had only two or three interviews with him, and, as a stranger, found him shy and nervous. I desired to secure any sketches he might have of the illustrations to Dickens, but understood him to say he had none, as he drew them on the blocks [plates]. He evidently did not like the drudgery of reproduction, and named such terms as he thought would deter me; but finding the honorarium was of great importance to him, the bargain was struck. The work extended over some years, and the later productions evince haste and inferiority. The work can hardly be called water-colour drawing, as it is simply sketching, slightly heightened by colour-washing." Strange to say, "Phiz" did not possess copies of Dickens's novels, so he borrowed Mr. Cosen's set, and from these he executed the tinted replicas. At the sale of Mr. Cosen's library at Sotheby's in 1890, this interesting collection, numbering 405 drawings, was disposed of for the aggregate sum of £671.
It should be mentioned in conclusion, that, besides the vignettes already described as having been prepared by "Phiz" for the Library Edition (1858-59), he also designed for that edition the following subjects, which were executed in water-colours and, like the rest, engraved on steel:—Mr. Trott and the "Boots," illustrating "The[Pg 119] Great Winglebury Duel" in "Sketches by Boz;" Mr. Bumble and Oliver, for "Oliver Twist;" Scrooge and Marley, for the series of Christmas Books; and a Vineyard Scene, which appropriately decorates the title-page of "Pictures from Italy."
Although, as already stated, Hablôt Browne was quite capable of biting-in his own designs upon the steel plates, he had not sufficient time to devote to this part of his work. From the "Pickwick" days onward the artist was fortunate in securing the services of his fellow-apprentice in Finden's studio, Mr. Robert Young, who was afterwards his partner in many artistic ventures, and always his most intimate friend and admirer. When at Finden's, Mr. Young acquired the art of biting-in, a process which, although to some extent a mechanical one, requires a considerable amount of artistic knowledge and manipulative skill, for there is nothing to guide the etcher as to the required effect, except in some cases a rough indication on paper. It was Mr. Young's duty, after each plate was bitten-in, to go over it with a graver and join any lines which in the etching had become broken or rotten. For biting-in and finishing the two subjects on one plate he received from Chapman & Hall (with whom he had a separate account) the sum of three guineas. Browne's ruling-machine for producing the mezzotint effects was kept in his colleague's room at Furnival's Inn, where, more than half-a-century ago, he and the artist took chambers for business purposes and to be near the publishers. These quarters, which were situated in the south-west corner of the Inn, have been lately demolished, together with the chambers at No. 15, rendered famous by the fact that the earlier portion of "Pickwick" was there written.
Mr. Young acted as Browne's assistant in the manner described during the greater part of the years of "Phiz's" popularity, and his co-operation extended not only to the Dickens illustrations, but to the thousand-and-one designs that embellished the works of other writers. The following brief note (quoted from Mr. Thomson's[Pg 120] Memoir) is a specimen of the many communications which constantly passed between the artist and his coadjutor:—
"My Dear 'Co,'—Pray help me in an emergency. Put a bottle of aquafortis in your pockets, wax and all other useful adjuncts, and come to me to-morrow about one or two o'clock, and bite in an etching for me, ferociously and expeditiously. Can you?—will you?—oblige, Yours sincerely,
H. K. Browne."
Mr. Robert Young, who is now in his eighty-second year, has recently favoured me with a few facts concerning himself, which are not devoid of interest in the present record. Writing from Norham-upon-Tweed, he says: "I was born in Dalkeith in 1816, educated in France, and, on leaving school, was apprenticed to Finden, the engraver, where my friendship with 'Phiz' commenced, which closed with his death. Some years ago I was presented with a clerkship in the Admiralty, and retired on a pension in 1878, which enables me to pass my last days in this humdrum village. I am, as you see, very old, have many infirmities, and cannot always remember past events."
 Partner in the firm of Chapman & Hall.
Lent by the Artist's Daughter, Mrs. Edward Franks.
First Acquaintance with Dickens—Declines Offer of Knighthood—Favourite Subjects for Pictures—"Master Humphrey's Clock"—A Letter from Dickens respecting the Illustrations—Cattermole's Designs Copied on Wood by "Phiz" and Samuel Williams—Some Dickens Correspondence—Minute Directions to the Artist—Design for Frontispiece—Useful Hints and Suggestions—The "Maypole" Inn—"Grip," the Raven—Subjects for "Barnaby Rudge"—An Unpublished Letter from Cattermole to Dickens—Closing Chapters of the Story—The Novelist Approves of the Illustrations—Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition of "The Old Curiosity Shop"—Water-colour Drawings of "Little Nell's Home" and "Little Nell's Grave"—Dickens's Gratitude to Cattermole—Death of the Artist—His Vivacity and Good-fellowship.
Born at Dickleburgh, Norfolk, in the year 1800, George Cattermole was a dozen years the senior of Charles Dickens. His acquaintance with the novelist began in 1838, and when, in the following year, he married Miss Elderton, a distant connection of the author of "Pickwick," the friendship subsisting between the two men ripened into sincere affection. George Cattermole had been elected a member of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours as early as 1833, which indicates that his reputation was already well established, and in 1839 he had achieved such distinction in Art that he received the offer of knighthood,—an honour he modestly declined. The subjects he loved to portray were scenes from mediæval history, fiction, or ballad literature, and he revelled in depicting incidents of bygone times, with their manners and customs, their architecture and costumes, in the representation of which he has been considered the chief exponent. It was this antiquarian feeling, as well as his powerful imagination and vivid fancy, which excited the admiration of John Ruskin, whose favourable criticisms of the artist's early productions proved of infinite service.
Master Humphrey's Clock, 1840-41. [Pg 122]George Cattermole had already enjoyed considerable experience as an illustrator of books, and had made drawings of buildings and scenery described in Scott's novels, when, in 1840, Dickens invited him to collaborate with D. Maclise, R.A., and Hablôt K. Browne ("Phiz") in designing the woodcuts for "Master Humphrey's Clock." The earliest intimation received by the artist respecting the projected publication was contained in the following letter, dated January 13, 1840:—
"My Dear Cattermole,—I am going to propound a mightily grave matter to you. My new periodical work appears—or I should rather say the first number does—on Saturday, the 28th of March.... The title is 'Master Humphrey's Clock.' Now, among other improvements, I have turned my attention to the illustrations, meaning to have woodcuts dropped into the text, and no separate plates. I want to know whether you would object to make me a little sketch for a woodcut—in indian-ink would be quite sufficient—about the size of the enclosed scrap; the subject, an old quaint room with antique Elizabethan furniture, and in the chimney-corner an extraordinary old clock—the clock belonging to Master Humphrey, in fact, and no figures. This I should drop into the text at the head of my opening page.
"I want to know, besides—as Chapman & Hall are my partners in the matter, there need be no delicacy about my asking or your answering the question—what would be your charge for such a thing, and whether (if the work answers our expectations) you would like to repeat the joke at intervals, and if so, on what terms? I should tell you that I intend to ask Maclise to join me likewise, and that the copying, the drawing on wood, and the cutting will be done in first-rate style.... I want to talk the matter over with you, and wish you would fix your own time and place....— Faithfully yours
[Pg 123]We gather from this letter that Cattermole was then unaccustomed to drawing upon the wood block, and therefore executed his designs upon paper, to be afterwards copied upon wood by a practical hand. In the next communication, dated a few days later, it will be seen that the artist agreed to Dickens's proposals (preferring, however, to select his own subjects), and that "Phiz's" pencil was made available for copying purposes; the drawing here referred to being that of the "old quaint room" which forms the heading of the first chapter of "Master Humphrey's Clock." The novelist wrote:—
"I think the drawing most famous, and so do the publishers, to whom I sent it to-day. If Browne should suggest anything for the future which may enable him to do you justice in copying (on which point he is very anxious), I will communicate with you. It has occurred to me that perhaps you will like to see his copy on the block before it is cut, and I have therefore told Chapman & Hall to forward it to you.
"In future, I will take care that you have the number to choose your subject from. I ought to have done so, perhaps, in this case; but I was very anxious that you should do the room...."
The artistic skill of the eminent draughtsman and engraver, Samuel Williams, was at first similarly requisitioned for copying purposes, as proved by the signature appended to the illustration of Little Nell's room in the initial chapter of "The Old Curiosity Shop," the original drawing of which was undoubtedly supplied by Cattermole, who, before very long, was enabled to dispense with these professional services.
Judging from the amount of correspondence still extant, Dickens was constantly in communication with Cattermole respecting the illustrations for "Master Humphrey's Clock." In a letter dated March 9, 1840, he said:—
"I have been induced, on looking over the works of the 'Clock,' to make a slight alteration in their disposal, by virtue of which the story about 'John Podgers' will stand over for some little time, and[Pg 124] that short tale will occupy its place which you have already by you, and which treats of the assassination of a young gentleman under circumstances of peculiar aggravation. I shall be greatly obliged to you if you will turn your attention to this last morsel as the feature of No. 3, and still more if you can stretch a point with regard to time (which is of the last importance just now), and make a subject out of it, rather than find one in it. I would neither have made this alteration nor have troubled you about it, but for weighty and cogent reasons which I feel very strongly, and into the composition of which caprice or fastidiousness has no part....
"I cannot tell you how admirably I think Master Humphrey's room comes out, or what glowing accounts I hear of the second design you have done. I had not the faintest anticipation of anything so good, taking into account the material and the despatch."
The text of "Master Humphrey's Clock" afforded the artist many congenial themes for his pencil. The story of Little Nell evidently fascinated him, and the various subjects selected for illustration were lovingly dealt with. An interval of several months elapsed before the following instructions were received by him respecting future designs:—
"I sent the MS. of the enclosed proof, marked 2, up to Chapman & Hall from Devonshire, mentioning a subject of an old gateway, which I had put in expressly with a view to your illustrious pencil. By a mistake, however, it went to Browne instead.
Lent by Mrs. Edward Franks.
"The subject to which I wish to call your attention is in an unwritten number to follow this one, but it is a mere echo of what you will find at the conclusion of this proof marked 2. I want the cart, gaily decorated, going through the street of the old town with the wax brigand displayed to fierce advantage, and the child seated in it also dispersing bills. As many flags and inscriptions about Jarley's Wax Work fluttering from the cart as you please. You know the wax brigands, and how they contemplate small oval miniatures? That's the figure I want. I send you the scrap of MS. which contains the subject.
"Will you, when you have done this, send it with all speed to Chapman & Hall, as we are mortally pressed for time...."
For some reason, the drawing of Mrs. Jarley's cart was not executed by Cattermole; perhaps he was otherwise occupied at the moment, so that the work fell to Browne, whose initials are appended. Concerning the frontispiece the novelist offered some valuable suggestions, of which the artist readily availed himself:—
"Will you turn your attention to a frontispiece for our first volume, to come upon the left-hand side of the book as you open it, and to face a plain printed title? My idea is, some scene from 'The Curiosity Shop,' in a pretty border, or scroll-work, or architectural device; it matters not what, so that it be pretty. The scene even might be a fanciful thing, partaking of the character of the story, but not reproducing any particular passage in it, if you thought that better for the effect.
"I ask you to think of this, because, although the volume is not published until the end of September, there is no time to lose. We wish to have it engraved with great care and worked very skilfully; and this cannot be done unless we get it on the stocks soon. They will give you every opportunity of correction, alteration, revision, and all other -ations and -isions connected with the fine arts."
In this design will be found Cattermole's only representations of Mr. Pickwick and the two Wellers. In the following letter (dated December 21 ), some hints were given as to the treatment of one of the most charming illustrations in the series, viz., the picturesque parsonage-house which was the temporary home of Little Nell and her Grandfather. The lanthorn here referred to is not only omitted from the drawing, but we fail to find it mentioned in the text:—
"Kit, the single gentleman, and Mr. Garland go down to the[Pg 125]
[Pg 126] place where the child is, and arrive there at night. There has been a fall of snow. Kit, leaving them behind, runs to the old house, and, with a lanthorn in one hand and the bird in its cage in the other, stops for a moment at a little distance with a natural hesitation before he goes up to make his presence known. In a window—supposed to be that of the child's little room—a light is burning, and in that room the child (unknown, of course, to her visitors, who are full of hope) lies dead.
"If you have any difficulty about Kit, never mind about putting him in...."
The next letter contained useful suggestions for the delineation of the most pathetic scenes in "The Old Curiosity Shop."
(1.) "The child lying dead in the little sleeping-room, which is behind the open screen. It is winter-time, so there are no flowers; but upon her breast and pillow, and about her bed, there may be strips of holly and berries, and such free green things. Window overgrown with ivy. The little boy who had that talk with her about angels may be by the bedside, if you like it so; but I think it will be quieter and more peaceful if she is quite alone. I want it to express the most beautiful repose and tranquillity, and to have something of a happy look, if death can.
(2.) The child has been buried inside the church, and the old man, who cannot be made to understand that she is dead, repairs to the grave and sits there all day long, waiting for her arrival, to begin another journey. His staff and knapsack, her little bonnet and basket, &c., lie beside him. 'She'll come to-morrow,' he says when it gets dark, and goes sorrowfully home. I think an hour-glass running out would help the notion; perhaps her little things upon his knee or in his hand.
"I am breaking my heart over this story, and cannot bear to finish it."
Lent by Mr. S. J. Davey and Mrs. Edward Franks.
In the first of these two delightful drawings the artist rightly omitted the figure of the boy, and in order to emphasise the sense of repose in that humble death-chamber, he introduced a bird, which is seen perched upon the window-ledge, while the hour-glass (suggested for the second picture) seemed to him more appropriate here. Cattermole made two or three sketches of No. 1 before he quite satisfied the author, who had asked him to carry out certain alterations, these resulting in such a marked improvement that Dickens wrote: "I cannot tell you how much obliged I am to you for altering the child, or how much I hope that my wish in that respect didn't go greatly against the grain." "Will you do me," he asks, in the same letter, "a little tailpiece for the 'Curiosity' story?—only one figure if you like—giving some notion of the etherealised spirit of the child; something like those little figures in the frontispiece." This little allegory formed the closing illustration.
"Barnaby Rudge" immediately followed "The Old Curiosity Shop," under the collective title of "Master Humphrey's Clock." For the first chapter of this stirring romance Cattermole provided a charming illustration, depicting the old "Maypole" Inn, which, however, was not intended to portray the "delicious old inn" opposite Chigwell churchyard, referred to by Dickens in a letter to Forster at this time, it being an entirely fanciful design. When the novelist saw the drawing on wood of this subject he was delighted. "Words cannot say how good it is," he wrote to the artist. "I can't bear the thought of its being cut, and should like to frame and glaze it in statu quo for ever and ever." On January 28, 1841, he queried:—
"I want to know whether you feel ravens in general and would
fancy Barnaby's raven in particular? Barnaby being an idiot, my
notion is to have him always in company with a pet raven, who is
immeasurably more knowing than himself. To this end I have been
studying my bird, and think I could make a very queer character
[Pg 128]of him. Should you like the subject when this raven makes his first appearance?"
Two days later, he again pressed the question:—
"I must know what you think about the raven, my buck; I otherwise am in this fix. I have given Browne no subject for this number, and time is flying. If you would like to have the raven's first appearance, and don't object to having both subjects, so be it. I shall be delighted. If otherwise, I must feed that hero forthwith."
But Cattermole apparently declined the privilege of introducing to the world a presentment of the immortal "Grip,"—an honour which therefore fell to "Phiz's" pencil. On January 30, 1841, Dickens despatched to the artist some printed slips describing Gabriel Varden's house, "which I think [he said] will make a good subject, and one you will like. If you put the 'prentice' in it, show nothing more than his paper cap, because he will be an important character in the story, and you will need to know more about him, as he is minutely described. I may as well say that he is very short. Should you wish to put the locksmith in, you will find him described in No. 2 of 'Barnaby' (which I told Chapman & Hall to send you). Browne has done him in one little thing, but so very slightly that you will not require to see his sketch, I think."
On February 9th the artist received the following request:—
"Will you, for No. 49, do the locksmith's house, which was described in No. 48? I mean the outside. If you can, without hurting the effect, shut up the shop as though it were night, so much the better. Should you want a figure, an ancient watchman in or on his box, very sleepy, will be just the thing for me.
"I have written to Chapman and requested him to send you a block of a long shape, so that the house may come upright, as it were."
From this note, and a subsequent one in which Dickens commands the artist to put "a penny pistol to Chapman's head and demand the blocks of him," we learn that Cattermole had by this time accustomed himself to copying his designs upon wood, and could dispense with that[Pg 129] kind of assistance. His drawing of the dilapidated but picturesque old country inn, "The Boot," whither the rioters resorted, is, I believe, a direct transcript from an old print representing the place as it appeared at the time referred to, 1780; the woodcut is in reverse of the print. Here are two letters (dated July 28th and August 6th, 1841, respectively) that fairly bristle with details of scenes, in chapters liv. and lvi., which the artist was desired to depict:—
"Can you do for me by Saturday evening—I know the time is short, but I think the subject will suit you, and I am greatly pressed—a party of rioters (with Hugh and Simon Tappertit conspicuous among them) in old John Willet's bar, turning the liquor taps to their own advantage, smashing bottles, cutting down the grove of lemons, sitting astride on casks, drinking out of the best punch-bowls, eating the great cheese, smoking sacred pipes, &c., &c.; John Willet fallen backward in his chair, regarding them with a stupid horror, and quite alone among them, with none of the Maypole customers at his back?
"It's in your way, and you'll do it a hundred times better than I can suggest it to you, I know."
"Here's a subject for the next number.... The rioters went, sir, from John Willet's bar (where you saw them to such good purpose) straight to the Warren, which house they plundered, sacked, burned, pulled down as much of it as they could, and greatly damaged and destroyed. They are supposed to have left it about half-an-hour. It is night, and the ruins are here and there flaming and smoking. I want—if you understand—to show one of the turrets laid open—the turret where the alarm-bell is, mentioned in No. 1; and among the ruins (at some height if possible) Mr. Haredale just clutching our friend, the mysterious file, who is passing over [Pg 130]them like a spirit; Solomon Daisy, if you can introduce him, looking on from the ground below.
"Please to observe that the M. F. wears a large cloak and slouched hat. This is important, because Browne will have him in the same number, and he has not changed his dress meanwhile. Mr. Haredale is supposed to have come down here on horseback pell-mell; to be excited to the last degree. I think it will make a queer picturesque thing in your hands.... P.S.—When you have done the subject, I wish you'd write me one line and tell me how, that I may be sure we agree."
In sending to Dickens for approval a sketch of the ruined home of Mr. Haredale, the artist enclosed the following letter, now printed for the first time:—
"My Dear Dickens,—I cannot hope you will make much out of the accompanying sketch. I suppose the spectator to be placed upon the roof of one of the wings of the Warren House, and towards him are rushing ... [Rudge] and Mr. Haredale as they issue from a small door in the tower, whereunto is attached (as part and parcel of the same) the bell-turret. A small closet through which they pass to the roof has been dismantled, or rather thrown down and carried by the fire and the other spoilers; on the grass below is rooted Solomon Daisy in an ecstasy of wonder, &c., &c.; beyond are clouds of smoke a-passing over and amongst many tall trees, and all about are heard the tenants, frightened rooks, flying and cawing like mad.—In haste, my dear Charles,
Clapham, Aug. 12 .
Lent by Mr. S. J. Davey.
It will be observed that the incident depicted in this illustration takes place in utter darkness, while the published woodcut represents a daylight scene. This remark also applies to the subject of the next letter (dated August 19, 1841), which was treated by the artist in a similar manner; the effect of torchlight being entirely absent from the picture necessarily deprives it of much dramatic character:—
"When Hugh and a small body of the rioters cut off from the Warren beckoned to their pals, they forced into a very remarkable postchaise Dolly Varden and Emma Haredale, and bore them away with all possible rapidity; one of their company driving, and the rest running beside the chaise, climbing up behind, sitting on the top, lighting the way with their torches, &c., &c. If you can express the women inside without showing them—as by a fluttering veil, a delicate arm, or so forth, appearing at the half-closed window—so much the better. Mr. Tappertit stands on the steps, which are partly down, and, hanging on to the window with one hand and extending the other with great majesty, addresses a few words of encouragement to the driver and attendants. Hugh sits upon the bar in front; the driver sitting postilion-wise, and turns round to look through the window behind him at the little doves within. The gentlemen behind are also anxious to catch a glimpse of the ladies. One of those who are running at the side may be gently rebuked for his curiosity by the cudgel of Hugh. So they cut away, sir, as fast as they can.
"P.S.—John Willet's bar is noble."
There were yet a few more illustrations required for the closing chapters of "Barnaby Rudge," concerning which the artist received very precise instructions from the author. For example, on September 14, 1841, Dickens forwarded to his illustrator the following "business letter, written in a scramble just before post-time," the directions having reference to incidents in chapters lxxiii., lxxxi., and lxxxii.:—
"Firstly, Will you design, upon a block of wood, Lord George Gordon, alone and very solitary, in his prison, and after your own fancy; the time, evening; the season, summer?
"Secondly, Will you ditto upon a ditto, a sword-duel between Mr. Haredale and Mr. Chester, in a grove of trees? No one close by. Mr. Haredale has just pierced his adversary, who has fallen, dying, on[Pg 131]
[Pg 132] the grass. He (that is, Chester) tries to staunch the wound in his breast with his handkerchief; has his snuff-box on the earth beside him, and looks at Mr. Haredale (who stands with his sword in his hand looking down on him) with most supercilious hatred, but polite to the last. Mr. Haredale is more sorry than triumphant.
"Thirdly, Will you conceive and execute, after your own fashion, a frontispiece for 'Barnaby'?
"Fourthly, Will you also devise a subject representing 'Master Humphrey's Clock' as stopped; his chair by the fireside empty; his crutch against the wall; his slippers on the cold hearth; his hat upon the chair-back; the MSS. of 'Barnaby' and 'The Curiosity Shop' heaped upon the table; and the flowers you introduced in the first subject of all withered and dead? Master Humphrey being supposed to be no more.
"I have a fifthly, sixthly, seventhly, and eighthly; for I sorely want you, as I approach the close of the tale; but I won't frighten you, so we'll take breath.
"P.S.—I have been waiting until I got to subjects of this nature, thinking you would like them best."
Owing to an illness from which Cattermole was then suffering, the frontispiece here referred to was designed by Hablôt Browne. A few days later, the author bethought him of an incident earlier in the story (chapter lxix.), which required an illustration, and anent this he despatched the following note:—
"Will you, before you go on with the other subjects I gave you, do one of Hugh, bareheaded, bound, tied on a horse, and escorted by horse-soldiers to jail? If you can add an indication of old Fleet Market, and bodies of foot-soldiers firing at people who have taken refuge on the tops of stalls, bulk-heads, etc., it will be all the better."
Lent by Mr. Augustin Daly.
This letter is the last (of those which have been preserved) having reference to George Cattermole's artistic association with "Master Humphrey's Clock." Of the one hundred and ninety-four illustrations contained in this work, thirty-nine were designed by him, these comprising fourteen for "The Old Curiosity Shop," fifteen for "Barnaby Rudge," and ten for the "Clock" chapters; his signature, "G.C.," appended thereto has occasionally been mistaken for the initials of George Cruikshank, to whom some of these designs have been incorrectly attributed. There can be no doubt that George Cattermole's drawings greatly enhanced the popularity of the work, for nothing could be happier than his facile treatment of such subjects as the "Maypole" Inn, the interior of the Old Curiosity Shop, and Quilp's Wharf; while especially effective are his representations of the old church in the village where Little Nell died. This picturesque little structure really exists at Tong, in Shropshire, and, with its splendid carving and magnificent monuments, presents the same attractive appearance which inspired both Dickens and his illustrator. The novelist was so much charmed with Cattermole's designs in "The Old Curiosity Shop" that he could not refrain from expressing to the artist his warm appreciation of them. "I have so deeply felt," he wrote, "your hearty and most invaluable co-operation in the beautiful illustrations you have made for the last story, that I look at them with a pleasure I cannot describe to you in words, and that it is impossible for me to say how sensible I am of your earnest and friendly aid. Believe me that this is the very first time that any designs for what I have written have touched and moved me, and caused me to feel that they expressed the idea I had in my mind. I am most sincerely and affectionately grateful to you, and am full of pleasure and delight."
In concluding this account of George Cattermole's illustrations for the writings of Dickens, it only remains to add that he prepared a special design as the frontispiece for the first cheap edition of "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1848), an admirable drawing on wood, excellently engraved by Thomas Williams, depicting "Little Nell in the Church."
On the completion of "Master Humphrey's Clock," the author[Pg 133]
[Pg 134] commissioned Cattermole to make two water-colour drawings of scenes in "The Old Curiosity Shop," one representing "Little Nell's Home," while the other (now in the Forster Collection at South Kensington) portrays "Little Nell's Grave" in the old church, this being an enlarged version of the woodcut. These drawings are excellent examples of Cattermole's work, and were highly valued by the novelist, who, in a letter to the artist (dated December 20, 1842), expressed his sincere approval of them. "It is impossible," he said, "for me to tell you how greatly I am charmed with those beautiful pictures, in which the whole feeling, and thought, and expression of the little story is rendered, to the gratification of my inmost heart; and on which you have lavished those amazing resources of yours with power at which I fairly wondered when I sat down yesterday before them. I took them to Mac [Maclise] straightway in a cab, and it would have done you good if you could have seen and heard him. You can't think how moved he was by the old man in the church, or how pleased I was to have chosen it before he saw the drawings. You are such a queer fellow, and hold yourself so much aloof, that I am afraid to say half I would say touching my grateful admiration; so you shall imagine the rest...."
After two years of failing health and much acute suffering, George Cattermole closed an anxious and laborious life on the 24th of July, 1868, the end being undoubtedly hastened by the almost simultaneous deaths, in 1862, of a much-loved son and daughter. Dickens, who sincerely lamented the loss of this cherished friend, actively interested himself on behalf of his widow and young children (who were left in a very distressed condition) by starting a fund for their relief.
It needs but an examination of the correspondence that passed between Charles Dickens and George Cattermole (in which, during later years, the novelist playfully addressed his friend as "My dear Kittenmoles") to prove how deep was their mutual affection. The artist's natural vivacity and good-fellowship caused him to be a great favourite, and those of his family who survive recall with delight[Pg 135] the "red-letter" days when Dickens, Thackeray, Landseer, and other kindred spirits foregathered at the Cattermole residence in Clapham Rise, on which occasions the genial company retired after dinner to brew punch in the studio—a picturesque apartment adorned with armour and tapestry and carved furniture, indicative of the artist's tastes, and strongly reminiscent of his most characteristic pictures.
 "Mr. Pickwick's Tale," in the first chapter.
 See headpiece to "First Night of the Giant Chronicles."
 See illustration in "The Old Curiosity Shop," chap, xxvii.
 Macready, upon whom the death of Little Nell had a painful effect, was much impressed by this illustration, as an entry in his diary testifies: "Found at home ... an onward number of 'Master Humphrey's Clock.' I saw one print in it of the dear dead child that gave a dead chill through my blood. I dread to read it, but must get it over."
 A modern public-house still stands upon the site, in Cromer Street, Gray's Inn Road. It retains the original sign.
 See Plate. Both sketch and letter are in the collection of Mr. Augustin Daly, of New York, to whom I am indebted for the opportunity of reproducing them.
It was nothing less than an inspiration when, in 1843, Dickens conceived the idea of "A Christmas Carol," the composition of which induced in him such mental excitement, that when it was completed he "broke out like a madman." Its extraordinary popularity encouraged him to prepare a similar story for publication at the end of the following year, this being succeeded by three others, all of them appearing during the festive season, in a binding of crimson cloth embellished with gold designs. Not the least interesting feature of these handsome little volumes is the illustrations, mainly owing to the fact that they were designed by the leading black-and-white artists of the day, including three Royal Academicians and one Associate of the Royal Academy. Of this talented company only one member survives,—Sir John Tenniel, whose pencil is still actively employed in the pages of Punch. The following table denotes the number of designs supplied by each artist to the Christmas Books.
Analysis of Illustrations.
|Artist||A Christmas Carol, 1843.||The Chimes, 1845.||The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846.||The Battle of Life, 1846.||The Haunted Man, 1848.||Total.|
The engravers were the Dalziel Brothers (14 subjects), T. Williams (11), W. J. Linton (10), Martin and Corbould (8), Smith and Cheltnam (5), Groves (3), Thompson (3), F. P. Becker (2), Gray (2), Swain (2), Green (1). Four designs were etched on steel by John Leech, thus making up the full complement of illustrations.
Leech's Early Attempts at Drawing—Medical Studies—First Published Work—Desires to Illustrate "Pickwick"—Becomes Acquainted with Dickens—"A Christmas Carol"—Sale of the Original Drawings—"The Chimes"—Leech Misinterprets his Author—"The Cricket on the Hearth"—An Altered Design—The Artist's Humour Exemplified—"The Battle of Life"—Sale of Original Drawings—Unpublished Letters by Leech—A Grave Error—"The Haunted Man"—Leech's Method of Work—Artistic Value of his Sketches—Ruskin's Criticism—Leech as an Actor—A Serious Accident—Dickens as Nurse—Ill-health—A Fatal Seizure—Sir John Millais' Portrait of Leech.
John Leech, the leading spirit of Punch for more than twenty years, was born in London in 1817, his father (an Irishman of culture) being a vintner, and at one time the proprietor of the London Coffee-House on Ludgate Hill, then the most important of the large City hotels. As the elder Leech showed some skill as a draughtsman, we may reasonably assume that from him the son inherited a talent for drawing, by means of which he was destined, before many years had passed, to astonish the world by his humour and originality. When a mere lad, he exhibited such aptitude and dexterity with the pencil, that Flaxman, the famous sculptor, pronounced these precocious efforts to be wonderful, and exclaimed: "That boy must be an artist; he will be nothing else or less." Notwithstanding this recommendation, young Leech (after a course of schooling at the Charterhouse, where he had William Makepeace Thackeray as a fellow-pupil) was entered by his father at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, with a view to his adopting the medical profession; but his penchant for drawing and sketching proved irresistible, and he gained more repute among the students by means of his life-like (but good-natured) caricatures, than for any ability he may have displayed in hospital work. On leaving St. Bartholomew's, he was placed under an eccentric practitioner named Whittle (whom Albert Smith has immortalised as Mr. Rawkins), and subsequently under Dr. John Cockle, afterwards Physician to the Royal Free Hospital.
Leech, however, gradually relinquished his medical studies, and resolved to live by his pencil. He was only eighteen years of age when he published his first venture, "Etchings and Sketchings, by A. Penn, Esq.," comprising a collection of slightly caricatured sketches of various odd characters to be met with on the streets of London. Shortly after this maiden effort there appeared upon the scene the initial number of the celebrated "Pickwick Papers," and when, in the second number, the sad death was announced of Robert Seymour, the illustrator, Leech immediately conceived the idea of seeking election as his successor. "Boz" at this time was absolutely unknown to him except by that strange pseudonym, so the ambitious young artist communicated his desire to the publishers, Chapman & Hall, to whom he sent as a specimen of his powers a clever drawing, delicately tinted in colour, of that familiar scene in "Pickwick" where Tom Smart sits up in bed and converses with the animated chair. Thackeray (it will be remembered) also aspired to the position coveted by Leech, but neither possessed the necessary qualifications.
In those early years Leech designed numerous illustrations for
Bells Life in London, and concocted schemes of drollery with his
literary friends which resulted in the publication of such humorous
productions as the "Comic Latin Grammar," "Comic English
Grammar," &c. In August, 1841, he contributed his first drawing
to Punch (the fourth number), this being the forerunner of many
hundreds of pictures, chiefly of "life and character," bearing the
[Pg 140]familiar sign-manual of a leech wriggling in a bottle. The artist's connection with Punch gave him a great opportunity, for he was thus enabled to come before the public, week after week, with an endless succession of scenes in high life and low life, now of the hunting-field and now of the river,—always with something that could not fail to delight the eye and to excite good-natured laughter. His deftness and versatility naturally brought many commissions from publishers anxious to secure the aid of his prolific pencil, so that besides his weekly contribution to Punch he was occupied in preparing designs for other works, notably Douglas Jerrold's Shilling Magazine, Hood's Comic Annual, and "The Ingoldsby Legends."
A Christmas Carol, 1843.The year 1843 was memorable to John Leech, for then he first became acquainted with the author of "Pickwick." By whom the introduction was brought about is not quite clear; perhaps the credit of it may be awarded to Douglas Jerrold or Thomas Hood. In the above-mentioned year Leech's services were obtained for the illustration of "A Christmas Carol," for which he prepared eight designs; four of these were etched on steel, the impressions being afterwards coloured by hand, while the remaining four were drawn on wood, and beautifully engraved by W. J. Linton. The popularity of the "Carol" (the pioneer of all Dickens's Christmas Books, and, indeed, of Christmas literature generally) proved enormous, and much of its success was undoubtedly due to the attractive designs of John Leech, who entered so thoroughly into the spirit of this charming little allegory. In 1893 the original drawings, with the exception of that entitled "Scrooge's Third Visitor," were sold at Sotheby's for 155 guineas, and afterwards catalogued by a London bookseller at £240—a considerable advance on the price paid to the artist and engraver, which was just under £50. This interesting series of drawings (two of them tinted in colours) had hitherto remained in the possession of a daughter of the artist.
The figure of Richard was altered in the published design.
By Permission of the Art Museum Committee of theCorporation of Nottingham.
[Pg 141]The Chimes, 1845.To "The Chimes" Leech contributed five illustrations, the original drawings for which realised 66 guineas at Sotheby's in 1893. Some of these slight pencillings now form part of the Leech Collection at Nottingham Castle, including the first sketch for the illustration referred to by Dickens (in a letter to his wife) as being, together with a sketch by Doyle for the same story, so unlike his ideas that he invited both artists to breakfast with him one morning, and, "with that winning manner which you know of, got them, with the highest good-humour, to do both afresh." The design in question appears in the "Third Quarter," in which two scenes are represented, the upper one depicting Margaret in her garret, while in the lower compartment appears Richard, with "matted hair and unshorn beard," as he enters Trotty Veck's cottage. The artist misunderstood his author, and delineated, instead of Richard as described in the text, an extremely ragged and dissipated-looking character, with a battered hat upon his head. When the novelist saw it, the drawing had already been engraved, but the woodcut was promptly suppressed; there still exists, however, an impression of the cancelled engraving, which is bound up with what is evidently a unique copy of "The Chimes" (now the property of Mr. J. F. Dexter), where blank spaces are left for some of the woodcuts; this particular copy is probably the publishers' "make up," and had accidentally left their hands.
The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846."The Cricket on the Hearth" is embellished with seven designs by Leech. The original sketch for one of these illustrations, representing John and Dot seated by the fire, indicates that it was Leech's intention at first to introduce Tilly Slowboy nursing the baby; but it was apparently considered that her presence in the picture destroyed the domestic harmony of the scene, so the figure was omitted, and a separate woodcut made of the subject for a subsequent chapter. It is interesting to compare Leech's illustration of Caleb Plummer[Pg 142] and his blind daughter at work with a similar design by Doyle in the same chapter, the vigorous character of the former happily contrasting with the more restrained treatment of the latter. In the final woodcut of "The Dance," Leech's sense of humour (not always devoid of exaggeration) has free play, for here not only do we see the human characters in the story indulging in the pleasant exercise, but observe that, in one corner, the carrier's pets, Boxer and the cat, are similarly disporting themselves, while even the artist's signature (in the opposite corner) of a leech in a bottle is placed upon a couple of lively legs, and is kicking away with an abandon worthy of the occasion.
The Battle of Life, 1846.In Dickens's fourth Christmas Book, "The Battle of Life," John Leech is represented by three illustrations, all of which are designed in the manner characteristic of these little volumes, in having one scene superimposed upon another. The original sketches for two of these woodcuts, viz., "The Parting Breakfast" and "The Night of the Return," are in the South Kensington Museum, while the third drawing has found its way to America, whither so many Dickens relics have departed. When, in June 1893, some highly-finished replicas of these designs were disposed of at Sotheby's, they realised the extraordinary sums of £35, 10s., £17, 10s., and £20, 10s. respectively. In the Forster Collection at South Kensington there are two very interesting letters, addressed by Leech to the biographer of Dickens, having special connection with these illustrations. The first (dated November 16, 1846) refers to the breakfast scene, and from it we gather that there was a very limited time for preparing the designs:—
The figure of Tilly Slowboy was omitted in the published Drawing, a separate Illustration being made of that portion of the Design.
Lent by Mr. W. H. Lever.
"My Dear Forster,—I really cannot say off-hand how many illustrations I can make within the week; indeed, I am so embarrassed by the conditions under which I am to make my share of the drawings that I hardly know what to do at all. Conscientiously, I could not make Clemency Newcome particularly beautiful. If you will read a little beyond the words 'plump and cheerful,' you will find the following: 'But the extraordinary homeliness of her gait and manner would have superseded any face in the world. To say that she had two left legs and somebody else's arms, and that all four limbs seemed to be out of joint, and to start from perfectly wrong places,' &c., &c. Again, she is described as having 'a prodigious pair of self-willed shoes,' and a gown of 'the most hideous pattern procurable for money.' The impression made upon me by such a description as I have quoted certainly is that the character so described is both awkward and comic. Of course I may be wrong in my conception of what Dickens intended, but I imagine the lady in question a sort of clean 'Slowboy.' The blessed public (if they consider the matter at all) will hold me responsible for what appears with my name; they will know nothing about my being obliged to conform to Maclise's ideas. I cannot tell you how loath I should be to cause any delay or difficulty in the production of the book, or what pain it would give me to cause either Dickens or yourself any annoyance. I confess I am a little out of heart.—Believe me ever yours faithfully,
"John Forster, Esq."
Maclise, who also provided illustrations to "The Battle of Life," was anxious that his own type of character for Clemency Newcome should be reproduced in the designs by Leech; hence that artist's protest. Writing again two days later on the subject, Leech said:—
"My Dear Forster,—Perhaps I was wrong in using the word 'conditions' in my note to you—I should have said 'circumstances,'[Pg 144] and by being 'embarrassed' by them I meant that I found it very harassing to do work (that I am for several reasons anxious to do well) under the constant feeling that I have too little time to do it in; and also I meant to convey to you that the necessity (which I certainly supposed to exist) of preserving a sort of resemblance to the characters as conceived by Mr. Maclise made it a rather nervous undertaking to me. It seems I expressed myself clumsily, as the tone of my note appeared to you anything but what I intended it to be. Any suggestion from you I should always consider most valuable. I send you one drawing, completed this morning at four o'clock, and I assure you I would spare neither time nor any personal comfort to show my personal regard for both yourself and Dickens.
"I should not like to promise more than two other drawings, if Saturday is positively the last day. I might be able to do more, but I should not like to promise, and fail. Pray overlook any glaring defects in the block I send, and believe me yours faithfully,
"John Forster, Esq., &c. &c.
"P.S. I should like, if there is no objection, that Linton should engrave for me."
Lent by Mr. W. H. Lever.
It was natural that, remembering the excellent reproductions of his wood-drawings in the "Carol" and "The Chimes," Leech should express a wish that Linton might also engrave those in "The Battle of Life;" but the signatures appended to the cuts show that, doubtless for some sufficient reason, the artist's wish was not respected.
In his third design for "The Battle of Life" Leech committed an extraordinary blunder, the result (it must be confessed) of carelessly studying his author. In this illustration, where the festivities to welcome the bridegroom at the top of the page contrast with the flight of the bride represented below, Leech gravely erred in supposing that Michael Warden had taken part in the elopement, and has introduced his figure with that of Marion. This curious mistake, which might have been avoided had the drawing been submitted to Dickens, was not discovered until too late for remedy, and it is highly characteristic of the novelist, of the true regard he felt for the artist, that he preferred to pass it silently. The most remarkable thing of all is (as Forster has pointed out), nobody seems to have noticed the unfortunate oversight, although it must be obvious to every attentive reader that it makes great havoc of one of the most delicate episodes in the story. The feelings of the author, on realising the seriousness of this terrible misconception on the part of the artist, may be readily imagined. Writing to his biographer, he said: "When I first saw it, it was with a horror and agony not to be expressed. Of course I need not tell you, my dear fellow, Warden has no business in the elopement scene. He was never there! In the first hot sweat of this surprise and novelty, I was going to implore the printing of that sheet to be stopped, and the figure taken out of the block. But when I thought of the pain this might give to our kind-hearted Leech, and that what is such a monstrous enormity to me, as never having entered my brain, may not so present itself to others, I became more composed; though the fact is wonderful to me. No doubt a great number of copies will be printed by the time this reaches you, and therefore I shall take it for granted that it stands as it is. Leech otherwise is very good, and the illustrations altogether are by far the best that have been done for any of my Christmas Books...."
 Concerning this design, of which a facsimile is given in the Victoria edition of "The Pickwick Papers," 1887, a correspondent received the following interesting communication from a representative of Dickens's publishing firm:—
"May 2nd, 1888.
"Dear Sir,—The history of the drawing by Leech of 'Tom Smart and the Arm-chair' is, that at the time there was a difficulty about the artist for illustrating 'Pickwick,' Mr. Leech sent it in as a specimen of his ability to illustrate the work. This was in the year 1836, and it was in the possession of my predecessor, Mr. Edward Chapman, until twenty-five years ago, when it came into my possession.—Faithfully yours,
 Facsimiles of these have already appeared in my Memoir of John Leech. A duplicate sketch (more completely carried out) of "The Parting Breakfast" will be found in the Print Room of the British Museum, but there is, I believe, some doubt as to its authenticity. The late Mr. G. A. Sala pointed out that the engraving of this subject contains an astonishingly good likeness of that admired comedian, Robert Keeley, as the old servant Britain.
 As I write, the decease of that admirable artist and engraver is reported from New Haven, U.S.A. W. J. Linton was born in London in 1812, and had therefore attained a venerable age, spending the latter portion of his life in America. During an extremely active career he produced, among other literary works, a valuable and comprehensive history of the art of which he was undoubtedly the most capable exponent. Mr. Linton, who may justly be termed the father of modern wood-engraving, carried on the tradition of Bewick, and was a thorough champion of the "white-line school." As a zealous Chartist he took an active and prominent part in politics, and, in addition to this, he was a voluminous writer both in poetry and prose, his works including "The English Republic," "Claribel, and other Poems," "A Life of Whittier," &c.
"The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain"—the last of the Christmas stories—contains five designs by Leech, and one of the original sketches is here reproduced, through the courtesy of the Museum authorities at Nottingham Castle. They are not among Leech's happiest efforts, and do not compare favourably with the vignettes in "A Christmas Carol."
By Permission of the Art Museum Committee of the Corporation of Nottingham.
Like Cruikshank, "Phiz," and other contemporary book-illustrators, John Leech never worked from models, relying chiefly upon his retentive memory; he seldom made sketches of any kind, but merely jotted down such useful memoranda of bits of scenery and character, details of particular costume, &c., as could be recorded in a little note-book which he invariably carried about with him. When developing an idea for a drawing, he would first make a slight outline of the subject upon paper of the size required, then trace it down upon the wood-block, and finally complete the picture with care and deliberation. The only lessons in etching he ever had he received from George Cruikshank; but it was as a draughtsman on wood that he excelled, his etchings (of which those in the "Carol" are among the best) not being technically equal to those of either Cruikshank or "Phiz," nor do they exhibit that sense of freedom and spontaneity visible in his published drawings. The late George du Maurier, his friend and colleague on Punch, tells us that Leech "drew straight on the wood block, with a lead-pencil; his delicate grey lines had to be translated into the uncompromising coarse black lines of printer's ink—a ruinous process; and what his work lost in this way is only to be estimated by those who know." In giving an account of Leech's work, Professor Ruskin points out a fact not generally known, viz., that from an artistic standpoint his first sketches for the woodcuts are much more valuable than the finished drawings, even before those drawings sustained any loss in engraving. "The first few lines in which he sets down his purpose are invariably, of all drawing that I know," says the eminent critic, "the most wonderful in their accurate and prosperous haste." Dickens remained a constant admirer of Leech's genius, and when, in 1848, there appeared a collection of lithographs, where the artist humorously depicted "The Rising Generation," the novelist indited for The Examiner a glowing eulogium upon the work of his friend, in the course of which he declared that he was "the very first Englishman who had made beauty a part of his art." It was from Dickens that Leech occasionally accepted happy thoughts for Punch, and it will be remembered that he frequently availed himself (as did Sir John Tenniel subsequently) of "Phiz's" designs for Dickens, whenever he thought they could be appropriately converted into political cartoons.
John Leech occasionally associated himself with the amateur theatrical performances organised by Dickens, but it must be admitted that, owing to his naturally modest and retiring disposition, he did not achieve great distinction as an actor. In 1849, while on a visit to the novelist at Bonchurch, he was stunned by a huge wave when bathing, and was put to bed with "twenty of his namesakes on his temples." Congestion of the brain ensued, and Dickens, who proved one of the most attentive of nurses during this anxious time, proposed to Mrs. Leech to try magnetism. "Accordingly," he wrote to Forster, "in the middle of the night I fell to, and after a very fatiguing bout of it, put him to sleep for an hour and thirty-five minutes. A change came on in the sleep, and he is decidedly better. I talked to the astonished Mrs. Leech across him, when he was asleep, as if he had been a truss of hay."
Incessant brain-work induced in John Leech a peculiar irritability,
and he was so much affected by street noises, even such as would
escape ordinary attention, that he was compelled at length to resort
to the device of double windows. Eventually this abnormal sensitiveness
told so seriously upon his health that he was ordered to
Homburg for change of scene; but, on returning to his London home
in the autumn of 1864, he was still strangely susceptible to noise of
all kinds. In addition to this, the artist suffered acutely from angina[Pg 147]
[Pg 148] pectoris, and on October 29, 1864, he was seized with an attack of that terrible disease, which, alas! proved fatal. Dickens was sadly overcome by the death of this kindly man, and attributed, thereto his inability to make progress with "Our Mutual Friend," upon which he was then engaged. Around the artist's grave there assembled, on a bright autumn day, many who were distinguished in Art and Literature, in honour of him they sincerely mourned, grieving for the loss of a spirit, so gentle and graceful, that had just passed away.
The portrait of John Leech reproduced for this work is from a beautiful water-colour drawing by his friend, the late Sir John E. Millais, P.R.A., representing the artist in the prime of life. This interesting and valuable presentment of the great pictorial humorist was purchased in 1892 by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, and during the previous year a reproduction of it was given, at my suggestion, as the frontispiece to the biography of John Leech by Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A. Another intimate friend of Leech, Mr. Holman Hunt, informs me that he considers this drawing by Millais as undoubtedly the best portrait of the artist.
Lent by Mrs. Henry Doyle.
Inherits a Talent for Drawing—Not Permitted to Study from Models—No Regular Training in Art—A Skilful Amateur—Precocious Sense of Humour—Fanciful Designs—Doyle Joins the Punch Staff—Instructed in Drawing on Wood—His Sign-manual—Retirement from Punch—Not Acquainted with Dickens—His Illustrations for "The Chimes"—Elves and Goblins—An Oversight by the Artist—"The Cricket on the Hearth" and "The Battle of Life"—Doyle's Original Sketches for the Christmas Books Dispersed.
With the single exception of John Leech, Richard Doyle contributed the greatest number of illustrations to the Christmas Books, three of these little volumes containing, in the aggregate, ten designs by him. He was born in London in 1824, his father, John Doyle, being the famous caricaturist, "H.B.," whose political cartoons created much sensation in their day. At an early age Richard Doyle proved that he inherited a talent for drawing, and was encouraged in this direction by his father, who (strange to say) would not allow him to study from the living model, preferring that the boy should be taught "to observe with watchful eye the leading features of the object before him, and then some little time after to reproduce them from memory as nearly as he could." He had no regular training in art, except such as he was privileged to enjoy in his father's studio, the result being that (as Mr. M. H. Spielmann reminds us in his "History of Punch") he never attained a higher position than that of an extremely skilful amateur, "whose shortcomings were concealed in his charming illustrations and imaginative designs, but were startlingly revealed in his larger work and in his figure-drawing.... He was saved by his charm and sweetness, his inexhaustible fun and humour, his delightful though superficial realisation of character, and his keen sense of the grotesque."
Richard Doyle's precocious sense of humour is exemplified in his[Pg 150] illustrations for the Comic Histories, executed by him when fifteen years of age, but which were posthumously published. An extraordinary power of fanciful draughtsmanship distinguishes the majority of his designs, so that his pencil was in frequent request for works which demanded the display of this special faculty, such as Leigh Hunt's "Jar of Honey," Ruskin's "King of the Golden River," "Pictures from the Elf World," Planché's "Old Fairy Tales," &c. In 1843, when the artist was only nineteen, he was installed as a member of the regular pictorial staff of Punch, and received instruction in drawing on wood from Joseph Swain, the engraver for that journal. Richard Doyle was familiarly known to his intimate friends as "Dicky Doyle," which probably suggested his sign-manual of a little dicky-bird perched upon his initials, R.D.,—a signature that may be found appended to a very considerable number of cuts designed for Punch during a period of seven years—that is, until his retirement therefrom in 1850.
The Chimes, 1845.Although Doyle furnished illustrations to three of Dickens's Christmas Books, there is no evidence that he was ever personally acquainted with the novelist. No reference is made to the artist by Forster, nor does it appear that any correspondence passed between him and Dickens, the necessary instructions being apparently transmitted through the publishers. The earliest Christmas story with which we find him associated is "The Chimes," to which he supplied four illustrations, viz., "The Dinner on the Steps," "Trotty at Home," "Trotty Veck among the Bells," and "Margaret and her Child." His designs embellish the initial pages of each chapter, and are treated in a decorative and fanciful manner. In the first of these it will be noticed that the upper portion consists of a representation of the tower of St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street,—a subject repeated by Clarkson Stanfield, R.A., in a subsequent illustration. In the other woodcuts the artist exhibits his acknowledged skill in delineating elves[Pg 151] and goblins, that depicting Trotty among the Spirits of the Bells affording a delightful example of his wonderful power in portraying goblin-like creatures, with their weird expressions and varied postures. Apropos of this engraving, a curious oversight has been discovered by the Rev. H. R. Haweis, for Doyle has introduced only three bells, thus seeming to have forgotten that four are required to ring a quarter! The subject of the remaining design, where Margaret, with her babe, kneels at the river's brink, is replete with pathos, the impression of desolation and despair being admirably rendered by means of a few simple lines.
The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846.The next Christmas story, "The Cricket on the Hearth," contains three illustrations by Doyle, one for each chapter, as before. The first really comprises two distinct subjects, separated by a quaintly-designed initial letter; in the upper drawing is seen John Peerybingle's cart on its journey, preceded by Boxer, while below we are presented with an ideal scene of domestic happiness, where John and Dot are seated before the fire in their humble home. The first page of "Chirp the Second" contains a capital picture of Caleb Plummer and his blind daughter Bertha, busily at work among the toys; in the last design, illustrating the opening lines of "Chirp the Third," the honest carrier is observed reclining his head upon his hand in silent grief, while comforting spirits hover around him.
The Battle of Life, 1846.Dickens's fourth Christmas Book, "The Battle of Life," includes three designs by Doyle, which are also introduced as embellishments of the initial pages of the different chapters. They are much bolder in treatment, however, than the artist's earlier drawings, and do not possess the artistic charm appertaining to his illustrations in "The Cricket on the Hearth." The most successful are the vignette subjects at the top of each page, which are charming little studies.
[Pg 152]It is unfortunate that no original sketches for these illustrations are available for reproduction. A member of the artist's family declares that they were dispersed, principally as gifts to friends, and that their present destination is unknown.
On December 10, 1883, Richard Doyle was struck down by apoplexy as he was quitting the Athenæum Club, and died on the following day. Thus passed away not only one of the most graceful limners of Fairyland that England has produced, but one who will long be remembered for his many noble qualities of heart and mind.
Lent by Mr. Field Stanfield.
Lent by Mrs. Kate Perugini.
Apprenticed to a Heraldic Painter—Goes to Sea—Meets Douglas Jerrold—Scene-painting—Exhibits at the Royal Academy—Becomes Acquainted with Dickens—A Memorable Trip to Cornwall—The Logan Stone—Illustrations for "The Chimes"—A Labour of Love—A Present and a Letter from Dickens—Illustration for "The Cricket on the Hearth"—A Quaint Epistle, signed "Henry Bluff"—Illustrations for "The Battle of Life"—Dickens's Opinion of Stanfield's Designs—Illustration for "The Haunted Man"—Another Gift from Dickens to the Artist—A Drawing of the "Britannia" Steam-ship—Private Theatricals—A Remarkable Act-Drop—Declining Health—Death of the Artist—Dickens's Eulogium—"The Most Lovable of Men."
First a sailor, then an artist and a Royal Academician, William Clarkson Stanfield acquired the reputation of being the greatest marine-painter of his time. Born in 1793, he was brought up to the sea, and at sea (curiously enough) was thrown into the companionship of Douglas Jerrold, who, like himself, was ordained to make his mark in a very different profession.
When about twelve years old Clarkson Stanfield was apprenticed to a heraldic painter in Edinburgh, but an intense longing for the career of a sailor resulted in his entering the merchant service in 1808. Four years later he was pressed into the Royal Navy, and while on board the King's ship Namur in 1814 (where he first met Jerrold, then a midshipman), his talent for drawing was discovered, whereupon he was sent ashore at Sheerness to assist in the painting and decoration of the Admiral's ball-room, his work giving so much satisfaction that he was promised his discharge from the Navy—a promise, however, that was not fulfilled. After another interval of three or four years he finally left the sea, having been temporarily disabled by a fall, and procured an engagement as scene-painter at the East London Theatre, for he had already essayed this branch of Art on board ship. So eminently satis[Pg 154]factory were his pictorial achievements in East London that he obtained a similar position at the Edinburgh Theatre, and thence, in 1822, in conjunction with his friends David Roberts and Nasmyth, he was employed in a like capacity at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. From that time his success in Art was assured.
Stanfield had already exhibited in the Royal Academy, and year by year his work in this and other Institutions continued to excite interest and admiration, by reason of the simple truthfulness of all his representations. Usually, but not invariably, he preferred to depict scenes in which his nautical experience could be made available, and his natural gifts permitted him to combine with the genuine sailor-like feeling displayed in the treatment of his subjects a poetical sentiment which considerably enhanced the charm of his productions. In 1832 Stanfield was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and three years later he attained full honours. It will thus be seen that he had gained a very dignified position in the world of Art before even the name of Charles Dickens became known to the reading public,—as a matter of fact, the future novelist was at that date writing the earliest of those wonderful sketches which appeared under the nom de guerre of "Boz."
Clarkson Stanfield, who was Charles Dickens's senior by about nineteen years, made the acquaintance of the novelist late in the "Thirties," when began those affectionate relations subsisting between the two distinguished men. "I love you so truly," observed Dickens to the artist, in a letter dated August 24, 1844, "and have such pride and joy of heart in your friendship, that I don't know how to begin writing to you." Two years previously Stanfield joined Dickens and his friends Forster and Maclise in their famous trip to Cornwall,—three memorable weeks, overflowing with enjoyment and fun; the artists made sketches of the most romantic of the halting-places, one of these being a drawing of the Logan Stone by Stanfield (now in the Forster Collection at South Kensington), where are seen the figures of himself and his three fellow-travellers.
[Pg 155]The Chimes, 1845.In 1844 Dickens conceived the idea of a second Christmas Book, "The Chimes," and what more natural than that he should desire to enlist the services, as illustrator, of so skilled a draughtsman as Clarkson Stanfield? It was decided to depart from the plan adopted in regard to the "Carol," by engaging more than one artist, thus imparting an agreeable variety to the designs. Stanfield, eager to gratify his friend, did not require much persuasion to co-operate in the pictorial embellishment of the little volume, for which he provided two choice drawings, viz., "The Old Church,"—a faithful representation of the "old London belfry" of St. Dunstan's in Fleet Street,—and "Will Fern's Cottage,"—a pretty bit of landscape scenery, such as the artist knew so well how to depict. With these Dickens was charmed, and in a letter to his wife he said: "Stanfield's readiness, delight, wonder at my being pleased with what he has done is delicious."
Stanfield, it appears, would not accept payment for these drawings, preferring that they should be considered as tokens of friendship. Dickens, however, could not pass over so generous an act without some acknowledgment, and this took the form of a silver claret-jug, which was presented (as the inscription records) "In Memory of 'The Chimes.'" Accompanying the gift was the following letter, dated October 2, 1845, where allusion is made to the succeeding Christmas Story:—
"My Dear Stanny,—I send you the claret-jug. But for a mistake, you would have received the little remembrance almost immediately after my return from abroad.
" ... I need not say how much I should value another little sketch from your extraordinary hand in this year's small volume, to which Mac again does the frontispiece. But I cannot hear of it, and will not have it (though the gratification of such aid to me is really beyond all expression), unless you will so far consent to make it a matter of business as to receive, without asking any questions,[Pg 156] a cheque in return from the publishers. Do not misunderstand me—though I am not afraid there is much danger of your doing so, for between us misunderstanding is, I hope, not easy. I know perfectly well that no terms would induce you to go out of your way, in such a regard, for perhaps anybody else. I cannot, nor do I desire to, vanquish the friendly obligation which help from you imposes on me. But I am not the sole proprietor of these little books; and it would be monstrous in you if you were to dream of putting a scratch into a second one without some shadowy reference to the other partners, ten thousand times more monstrous in me if any consideration on earth could induce me to permit it, which nothing will or shall.
"So, see what it comes to. If you will do me a favour on my terms, it will be more acceptable to me, my dear Stanfield, than I can possibly tell you. If you will not be so generous, you deprive me of the satisfaction of receiving it at your hands, and shut me out from that possibility altogether. What a stony-hearted ruffian you must be in such a case!—Ever affectionately yours,
The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846.The "small volume" here alluded to was "The Cricket on the Hearth," for which Stanfield prepared one illustration, viz., "The Carrier's Cart."
Lent by Mr. Field Stanfield.
The Battle of Life, 1846.To the fourth Christmas Book, "The Battle of Life," Stanfield contributed three beautiful little designs, representing respectively "War," "Peace," and "The 'Nutmeg Grater' Inn." Happily, I am enabled to present facsimiles of the original sketches (very slight in treatment) of the first two subjects, through the courtesy of the artist's son, Mr. Field Stanfield. The story was written at Lausanne, and, during Dickens's absence in Switzerland, Forster succeeded in enlisting Stanfield as one of the illustrators as a glad surprise for [Pg 157]the author, who, on being informed of the fact, wrote to his biographer: "Your Christmas Book illustration-news makes me jump for joy." Forster intimates that these "three morsels of English landscape," delineated by Stanfield, had a singular charm for Dickens at the time, who referred to the illustrations altogether as by far the best that had been done for any of the Christmas Books. "It is a delight," he remarked concerning Stanfield's designs, "to look at these little landscapes of the dear old boy. How gentle and elegant, and yet how manly and vigorous they are! I have a perfect joy in them."
The Haunted Man, 1848.The last of the Christmas Books, viz., "The Haunted Man," contains three illustrations by this artist, viz., "The Lighthouse," "The Exterior of the Old College," and "The Christmas Party in the Great Dinner Hall." In the first subject, which is decidedly the most successful, Stanfield found a most congenial theme, for here his knowledge of sailors and of the dangers of the sea proved serviceable. With regard to his designs for these little annuals, it appears that the artist could not be prevailed upon to accept payment for them, Dickens's protests notwithstanding. He consequently became the recipient of another gift—a pair of handsome silver salvers, bearing the simple inscription, "Clarkson Stanfield from Charles Dickens," in recognition of his friendly collaboration, and these are now in the possession of one of the artist's sons.
American Notes, 1850.There is another illustration by Stanfield to which some allusion must be made. This is an admirable water-colour drawing of the Britannia, the steamship that conveyed Dickens to America in 1842. The drawing was made with a view to reproduction as the frontispiece for the first cheap edition of "American Notes," and the following hitherto unpublished letter (dated May 11, 1850) to[Pg 158] Edward Chapman (of Chapman & Hall), is of interest in this connection:—
"Dear Sir,—Mr. Stanfield will draw the packet-ship for the frontispiece to the 'American Notes.' He says lithograph is better than wood for that kind of subject; please let me know immediately whether it will suit us to lithograph it.—Faithfully yours,
The suggestion was found impracticable, so it was decided that the drawing should be made on wood. The block was therefore forwarded to the artist, who complained to Dickens of its imperfect surface, whereupon the novelist despatched to Edward Chapman this brief missive, dated May 22:—
"Dear Sir,—Mr. Stanfield wonders you didn't send him a paving-stone to draw upon, as send a block in this unprepared state. I send you his drawing to do the best you can with. It costs nothing, and I wish it to be kept very clean and returned to me.—Faithfully yours,
It may be inferred from this letter that the drawing was copied upon the wood-block by the engraver himself, whose name (T. Bolton) is appended to the frontispiece. The original picture was purchased at the sale of Dickens's effects in 1870 for the sum of £110, 5s., by the late Earl of Darnley, for many years the novelist's friend and neighbour.
Clarkson Stanfield, whose intimacy with the Dickens family was very close, used to take part in their Christmas sports and gambols, and in connection with the private theatricals at Tavistock House his services as scene-painter were invaluable. Apropos of this, the novelist once wrote to Frank Stone, A.R.A.: "Stanfield bent on desperate effects, and all day long with his coat off, up to his eyes in distemper colours." Again: "If Stanfield don't astonish 'em [the[Pg 159] audience], I'm a Dutchman. O Heaven, if you could hear the ideas he proposes to me, making even my hair stand on end!" For Wilkie Collins's drama, "The Lighthouse," produced at Tavistock House, the artist painted a very remarkable act-drop representing the Eddystone Lighthouse, concerning which it may be observed that, although it occupied the great painter only one or two mornings, it realised at the novelist's death nearly a thousand guineas!
Dickens, when writing to Stanfield, frequently adopted nautical expressions, in allusion to the artist's experiences as a seaman. He sometimes addressed him as "Old Tarpaulin," "Old Salt," "Messmet," &c., and as an example of this I here reprint a letter, written on an occasion when Stanfield innocently demanded of Dickens to be informed of the amount due for a pair of candlesticks that the novelist had sent him:—
"My Dear Stanny,—In reference to the damage for the candlesticks, I beg to quote (from 'The Cricket on the Hearth,' by the highly popular and deservedly so Dick) this reply:
'I'll damage you if you inquire.'
Son of a sea-cook,
During the last ten years of his life Stanfield's health became less strong, and he was obliged in some measure to retire from the congenial circle of his artistic and literary associates, continuing, however, to take great delight in his art. Stanfield breathed his last on May 18, 1867. His death proved a great blow to Dickens, who, in a note of sympathy to Mr. George Stanfield, observed: "No one of your father's friends can ever have loved him more dearly than I always did, or can have better known the worth of his noble character." To the famous painter, for whom he ever entertained a strong affection, the novelist had dedicated "Little Dorrit," and, as a tribute to his memory, wrote (in All the Year Round) a sympathetic eulogium upon his departed friend of thirty years, where, after alluding to the artist as "the National historian of the Sea," he says: "He was a charitable, religious, gentle, truly good man. A genuine man, incapable of pretence or of concealment. He was the soul of frankness, generosity, and simplicity. The most genial, the most affectionate, the most loving, and the most lovable of men."
 From "The Letters of Charles Dickens." Mr. Field Stanfield informs me that it is quite certain the candlesticks were not a gift from Dickens to his father. It would seem most probable that there may have been some accident during theatrical preparations, for which the artist considered himself responsible, and that Dickens undertook to repair the misfortune himself.
His Precocious Talent—Studies Anatomy—Enters the Royal Academy Schools—Gains a "Travelling Studentship"—Elected a Royal Academician—Declines the Presidency—Introduced to Dickens—A Lifelong Friendship—"Master Humphrey's Clock"—Maclise Essays an Illustration—"The Chimes"—A Reading by Dickens and a Sketch by Maclise—His Original Drawings—"The Cricket on the Hearth"—An Unpublished Letter from Maclise—"The Battle of Life"—Dickens's Appreciation of Maclise's Illustrations—The Artist's Correspondence with Forster Respecting his Designs—His Anxiety Concerning the Engraving—An Indignant Letter—"Little Dirty Scratches"—Maclise Dispenses with the Living Model—Dickens's Relations with the Artist—A Memorable Trip—Picture of the Waterfall at St. Nighton's Cave—A Portrait of Dickens—An Interesting Pencil-Drawing—Death of "Grip"—The Raven Immortalised by Maclise—A Letter of Sympathy—The Artist's Declining Health—His Death a Severe Shock to Dickens—The Novelist's Tribute to his Memory.
Among a host of intimate friends, none was more beloved by Dickens than the warm-hearted Irish artist, Daniel Maclise, whose fine genius and handsome person charmed all who knew him. Maclise was the son of a Scotch soldier quartered at Cork, and was born in that city on January 25, 1811, being thus the novelist's senior by about a year. As a child he exhibited great facility in executing caricatures, and was soon enabled to support himself by the sale of his sketches. It was at first intended that he should adopt the surgical profession, with which object he studied anatomy under Dr. Woodroffe, but, like John Leech, he did not take kindly to the science of healing, preferring (as did Leech) the more congenial pursuit of Art. Accordingly, in 1827, Maclise entered the Royal Academy Schools, where he made such rapid progress, that two years later his work was admitted to the Exhibition of the Royal Academy. Although, in 1831, the fortunate young painter received the gold medal entitling him to the "Travelling Studentship," he elected to remain in England, having already visited Paris and[Pg 162] studied at the Louvre and the Luxembourg. Achieving success after success as a painter of Shakesperian scenes, portraits, &c., he became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1836, and attained full honours in 1840. In 1866 he was offered the Presidency, but, as did Sir Edwin Landseer during the previous year, he declined that distinction.
Master Humphrey's Clock, 1840-41.It was in the year of his election as Associate that Maclise was introduced by Forster to Charles Dickens, and we learn that the tastes and pursuits of the three friends were so congenial that thenceforth they were inseparable,—this affectionate intercourse being maintained without interruption for nearly thirty years. When, in 1840, Dickens contemplated the publication of "Master Humphrey's Clock," it was his intention to endeavour to secure the valuable co-operation of Maclise as an illustrator of that work, in conjunction with George Cattermole. Forster states that there seems to have been a desire on Maclise's part to try his hand at an illustration, but he did not remember that it bore other fruit than "a very pleasant day at Jack Straw's Castle, where Dickens read one of the later numbers to us." That Maclise's wish was actually realised, however, is proved by the fact that in the fifty-fifth chapter of "The Old Curiosity Shop" there is a design by him representing Little Nell and the Sexton. Why this should have been his only contribution to the pages of "Master Humphrey's Clock" has never been explained, but it is not improbable that the artist was too busily occupied with his paintings just at this time, and therefore unable to devote serious attention to black-and-white work.
The Chimes, 1845.Maclise had been much engaged in book-illustration (sometimes signing himself "Alfred Croquis") when, in 1844, it was proposed that he should provide designs for Dickens's second Christmas Book, "The Chimes." This little story was written in Italy, and, during Dickens's absence, the necessary arrangements respecting the illustrations were made by Forster. It may be incidentally mentioned that, eager to try the effect of the story, the novelist journeyed to England for the express purpose of reading it aloud to his friends at Forster's residence in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the memorable incident being depicted by Maclise in an amusing pencil-sketch, afterwards reproduced for Forster's biography. Maclise became responsible for the frontispiece and decorative title-page of "The Chimes," both of these fanciful designs gracefully portraying elves and fairies, spirits of the bells, and allegorical figures typifying Love, Life, and Death. The original drawings, now in South Kensington Museum, were delicately executed in pencil, and engraved on steel by F. P. Becker. With reference to these illustrations, the artist wrote:—
"My Dear Forster,—I wonder if it would be possible to make the paper of the book an inch bigger, that is, to increase the width of margin around the letterpress, without much additional expense. I wish you to put the question. I do not think my design too large, but it would marvellously increase the elegance of the look of the book. I must say the 'Carol' book is the very climax of vulgarity in its mise en planches.—Au revoir..
It was, of course, considered inadvisable to depart from precedent by acting upon the above suggestion. Dickens was highly pleased with the artist's designs, and, writing to his wife on December 2, 1844, he said: "Mac's frontispiece is charming."
The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846.To the third Christmas Book, "The Cricket on the Hearth,"
Maclise also contributed the frontispiece and decorative
title-page, which were engraved on wood
instead of steel. These designs are replete with
quaint fancy, the frontispiece being especially worthy
of attention, comprising, as it does, no less than ten miniature tableaux,
[Pg 164]the chief of these representing a homely scene, where the Carrier and his wife are seated by the fireside, their babe being rocked in its cradle by the fairies, while above the steaming kettle is perched that good spirit, the Cricket. The following undated letter is interesting on account of its connection with this Christmas story:—
"My Dear Forster,— ... I write to ask if you have a moment to see B[radbury] and E[vans] about these blocks for my little designs. I wrote to D[ickens] Saturday, and there came to me such a small pair that I instantly sent them back. Then on Saturday evening two more came; one of them will do—but as you understand the matter, and last year even got the book enlarged a little, I want you to say that I must have a block for the frontispiece the exact size of the leaf on which the frontispiece of the 'Chimes' is. I have made a little sketch to be placed on the wood, and some of the little shapes come as close to the edge of the page as this line I make—|. I want the wood as high and as wide as that page—but oh! my I—on, if it could but be—the page I mean, not the wood,—a little—so much larger, ah! I should be happy for life. Tell B. and E. this and ask D. to insist on it. Mind, I am not exceeding the present paper of the 'Chimes,' but for the look of the book it would be very important—and they have sent me a block much smaller than that page, whereas I cannot afford one-hundredth part of a pin's point. I know 'tis vain to write to them—so trouble you, and I want the blocks—in an hour!!!—Ever most faithfully,
The Battle of Life, 1846.The artist prepared for "The Battle of Life" not only the customary frontispiece and title-page, but two additional designs for the later portion of the story. Dickens, who was in Paris at the time, was delighted when he heard of this, and in a letter to a friend observed: "Forster writes me that Mac has come out with tremendous vigour in the Christmas [Pg 165]Book, and took off his coat at it with a burst of such alarming energy that he has done four subjects!" Of these, the principal is the frontispiece, representing the Dance round the Appletree, but the most successful design is that depicting "The Sisters,"—a graceful composition, and the last drawing produced by the artist for Dickens.
Remembering the novelist's keen appreciation of Maclise's illustrations in the preceding Christmas Books, it seems somewhat strange that the artist should have thus emphatically expressed himself to Forster in the following letter, evidently indited in a moment of pique:—
"My Dear F.,—It is clear to me that Dickens does not care one damn whether I make a little sketch for the book or not. However, if you think that the appearance of the volume should be as like the former ones as possible, I will with even pleasure gulp down my jealousy and draw on the wood that apple-tree, &c., for a frontispiece. In which case you must shut up that same subject to Doyle—as I saw in his sketch last night. But I do this at your bidding, and not at all for D., and on the whole would much prefer not engaging in the matter at all.—Yours truly,
Apparently some little misunderstanding had hurt the susceptibilities of the artist, but, happily, it was speedily removed, for he presently wrote in a more conciliatory spirit:—
"My Dear Forster,—I have received the blocks and will make the design of the apple-tree and the girls dancing—so keep that subject sacred to me. B[radbury] and E[vans] have sent the block as large as the last, but as I do not approve the look of the design without margin, I intend to keep this one within bounds. They have sent me a smaller one for title-page. Now I propose, and I know it will improve the appearance of the little book, not to cram in another design there with the title—a printed title in type has always still been necessary—but if you like I will make another design for the body of[Pg 166] the book. That one, perhaps, the lover of Marion's interview with her—and Clemency. I hope very much you will see no good objection to this proposition—or will you propose a second subject?—Ever yours truly
Again, a few days later:—
"My Dear Forster,— ... I write to say that you will find me at the Athenæum to-morrow at five o'clock. Do not be later. I hope then to bring with me the drawing on the block for the frontispiece—the girls dancing; for the other, I will do what you like, the girls and the Doctor, Marion reading, &c., or the lover of Marion's interview with her, and Clemency outside the door, &c. We will agree to-morrow.—Very truly yours,
"I hope there may be time enough then not to hurry it."
The following letter probably refers to the allegorical design on the title-page, depicting the triumph of Virtue over Vice, in which the figures (with one exception) are nude: although, from an allusion to "that tree," it might be suggested that it was the frontispiece:—
"My Dear Forster,—I suppose the stern moralist, Thackeray, would have described the last design I made lecherous, libidinous, lustful, lewd, and loose; but I meant it to be pure and 'mi-ld as the moo-n-beams.'
"... I only write to tell you, if you can exercise any control over its fate, that it may be placed in the hands of as good a wood-man as possible, and that he be recommended to spare that tree-e-.
"I fear that my character is gone abroad, and that I am a dog with a bad name....—Ever yours,
Both the frontispiece and title-page were excellently rendered on wood by John Thompson, one of the foremost engravers of the day.[Pg 167] Maclise, however, had hoped the work would have been entrusted to others, for he observed to Forster: "I am annoyed that neither Williams nor Dalziel are to do that little design. Some one called here and took it away on Monday, and he said that there was not time (the old excuse) to do it justice." Judging from the following trenchant remarks, the artist was anything but gratified by the engraved reproductions of these drawings when they appeared in print:—
"My Dear F.,—I can never hope to get you to understand how I am mortified and humiliated by the effect of these damnable cuts. It really is too much to be called upon to submit to, to be shown up in these little dirty scratches and to have one's name blazoned as if one was proud of them. I wish to Heaven you would have my name cut out from the corners, that at least I might have the benefit of the doubt as to which of the blots is mine. I would give anything that I had kept to my original notion and had nothing to do with the thing.... I wish you had left me that last one; I would have tried to beguile myself with a belief that it might be improved. My curses light upon the miserable dog that produced it—I don't mean myself.—Ever yours,
"And what is the good of employing Thom[p]son—if the demon printers are to ruin them with their diabolic press?"
Maclise, like other draughtsmen on wood, doubtless often experienced a sense of disappointment when their delicately-pencilled drawings were hurriedly engraved and submitted to the arbitrary treatment of printer's ink. In this way those subtle touches upon which the artist prided himself were lost for ever, so that the designs appear coarse and crude. Such was obviously the case with regard to the illustrations now under consideration, notwithstanding the fact that they bear the signatures of thoroughly experienced engravers. It is a fact worth recording here that Maclise did not draw from life the figures in his designs for the Christmas Books. Indeed, it was[Pg 168] a matter of astonishment to his brother artists that, even when working upon his more important canvases, he very rarely resorted to the use of the living model, his singular facility in composition leading him, perhaps, too often to dispense with the study of the human form; yet his works, although possessing a mannered look, are distinctively marked by characteristics of individual as well as general nature.
As already intimated, the friendship subsisting between Dickens and Maclise was of a kind the most sincere, and it was naturally coupled with a true admiration which each entertained for the genius of the other. Dickens never tired of praising the talent of the artist, whom he thought "a tremendous creature, who might do anything," and recalled with delight those halcyon days when Maclise accompanied Clarkson Stanfield, Forster, and himself on that memorable Cornish trip in 1842, one result of which was a charming painting (now in the Forster Collection at South Kensington) of the Waterfall at St. Nighton's Keive, near Tintagel, into which the artist introduced as the principal feature a young girl carrying a pitcher, the model for whom was Dickens's sister-in-law, Miss Georgina Hogarth. It should be remembered that one of the finest of the early portraits of Dickens himself was painted by Maclise in 1839, at the instigation of Chapman & Hall, with a view to an engraving for "Nicholas Nickleby," the reproduction duly appearing as the frontispiece. The original picture was presented to Dickens by his publishers, and at the sale of the novelist's effects in 1870 this very interesting canvas was purchased for £693 by the Rev. Sir E. R. Jodrell, by whom it was bequeathed to the National Gallery, where it may now be seen. Maclise is responsible also for another excellent portrait of the novelist at the same youthful period—a slight pencil-drawing (executed in 1843) representing him with his wife and her sister.
The premature death of Dickens's raven, immortalised in "Barnaby Rudge," was formally notified to Maclise by the novelist in the form of a letter narrating the details of that domestic calamity.[Pg 169] The artist forwarded the missive to Forster, together with a sketch purporting to represent "Grip's" apotheosis, while to Dickens himself he dispatched (March 13, 1841) the following letter, which does not appear in the published collection, and is one of a very few letters extant that were addressed by him to the novelist:—
"My Dear Dickens,—I received the mournful intelligence of our friend's decease last night at eleven, and the shock was great indeed. I have just dispatched the announcement to poor Forster, who will, I am sure, sympathise with us in our bereavement. I know not what to think of the probable cause of his death,—I reject the idea of the Butcher Boy, for the orders he must have in his (the Raven's) life-time received on account of the Raven himself must have been considerable. I rather cling to the notion of felo de se—but this will no doubt come out upon the post-mortem. How blest we are to have such an intelligent coroner as Mr. Wakley. I think he was just of those melancholic habits which are the noticeable signs of your intended suicide, his solitary life, those gloomy tones,—when he did speak, which was always to the purpose. Witness his last dying speech, 'Hallo! old girl,' which breathes of cheerfulness and triumphant recognition,—his solemn suit of raven black, which never grew rusty. Altogether his character was the very prototype of a Byron hero—and even of a Scott—a Master of Ravenswood. He ought to be glad he had no family. I suppose he seems to have intended it, however, for his solicitude to deposit in those Banks in the garden his savings was always very touching. I suppose his obsequies will take place immediately.
"It is beautiful, the idea of his return, even after death, to the [Pg 170]scene of his early youth and all his associations, and lie with kindred dusts amid his own ancestral graves after having made such a noise in the world, having clearly booked his place in that immortality-coach driven by Dickens. Yes, he committed suicide; he felt he had done it and done with life. The hundreds of years! what were they to him? There was nothing more to live for—and he committed the rash act.—Sympathisingly yours,
It is evident from the following epistle, addressed to Forster at the time when "Dombey and Son" was appearing in monthly numbers, that Maclise, while acknowledging his intense admiration of the novelist's powers, could not bring himself to appreciate certain of his youthful creations:—
"My Dear Forster,—I think it very great—the old nautical-instrument-seller novel, and most promising. I'm never up to his young girls—he is so very fond of the age of 'Nell,' when they are most insipid. I hope he is not going to make another 'Slowboy'—but I am only trying to say something, and to find fault when there is none to find. He is absolutely alone.—Ever yours,
In 1870 Maclise's health began seriously to fail him; he appeared languid and depressed, and in April of that year he succumbed to an attack of acute pneumonia, predeceasing the novelist by only a few weeks.
Dickens experienced a severe shock on hearing of the death of this steadfast and genuine friend, and when, three days later, he returned thanks for "Literature" at the Royal Academy dinner (his final appearance in public), he offered a most affectionate, graceful, and eloquent tribute to the memory of him who had just passed away. "For many years," he said, "I was one of the two most intimate friends and most constant companions of the late Mr. Maclise. Of his genius in his chosen art I will venture to say nothing here, but[Pg 171] of his prodigious fertility of mind and wonderful wealth of intellect, I may confidently assert that they would have made him, if he had been so minded, at least as great a writer as he was a painter. The gentlest and most modest of men, the freshest as to his generous appreciation of young aspirants, and the frankest and largest-hearted as to his peers, incapable of a sordid or ignoble thought, gallantly sustaining the true dignity of his vocation, without one grain of self-ambition, wholesomely natural at the last as at the first, 'in wit a man, simplicity a child,' no artist, of whatsoever denomination, I make bold to say, ever went to his rest leaving a golden memory more pure from dross, or having devoted himself with a truer chivalry to the art-goddess whom he worshipped." These were the last public words of Charles Dickens, and they were uttered when the speaker was far from well, and when, indeed, he was himself nearing the brink of the Great Unknown.
 This and the succeeding letters from Maclise to Forster are now printed for the first time.
 There was practically no enlargement.
 Replying to Mr. W. J. O'Driscoll's application for the loan of any of the artist's correspondence, with a view to publishing them in his Memoir of Maclise, Dickens stated that a few years previously he destroyed an immense correspondence, expressly because he considered it had been held with him and not with the public. Thus we have been deprived of valuable records which would have thrown additional light upon the friendly intercourse subsisting between the novelist and many of his distinguished contemporaries.
Cartoons for Punch—Book Illustrations—A Self-Taught Artist—Becomes Acquainted with Dickens—Designs for "The Haunted Man"—A Wonderful Memory of Observation—An Interview with Dickens—Knighthood.
Sir John Tenniel, the doyen of the Punch staff, is undoubtedly best known as the designer and draughtsman of the cartoon published weekly in that journal. This famous pictorial satirist succeeded Richard Doyle on Punch in 1850, and since 1861 (with the exception of a few brief intervals) he has supplied the subject of the principal engraving with unfailing regularity. Confining himself almost entirely to black-and-white drawing, Sir John has produced, during a long and active career, a large number of book-illustrations, such as those embellishing certain editions of "Æsop's Fables," "The Ingoldsby Legends," "Lalla Rookh," and "The Arabian Nights," while those charming designs in the late "Lewis Carroll's" "Alice in Wonderland," with its sequel, "Through the Looking-Glass," will be readily remembered. In Once a Week may also be found many of his illustrations.
Sir John Tenniel was born in London in 1820. Although for a time he attended the Royal Academy Schools, he is practically a self-taught artist, and exhibited his first picture when sixteen years of age. After this initial success he continued to paint and exhibit pictures both in oil and water-colours, but soon realised that he could exercise his facile pencil with greater advantage, his designs possessing a refinement and good taste, coupled with a sense of humour—characteristics suggesting the thought that to him may be attributed the establishment of the connection between "High" Art and what may be termed "Grotesque" Art.
The Haunted Man, 1848.Prior to joining the Punch staff—that is to say, in 1847—Sir (then Mr.) John Tenniel became acquainted with Charles Dickens, who invited the young artist to contribute (in conjunction with Clarkson Stanfield, R.A., John Leech, and Frank Stone, A.R.A.) some designs to "The Haunted Man," published in 1848. Accordingly, in this Christmas Book we find him represented by six illustrations, consisting of the frontispiece, engraved title-page, and four other designs, the latter appearing at the opening of the chapters. The frontispiece is a remarkable achievement in respect to the decorative border surrounding the central picture,—a beautifully-fanciful treatment of elf-like and other figures, typifying Good and Evil, the drawing being admirably engraved on wood by Martin and Corbould. In the second chapter the artist has represented the Tetterby family, which it is interesting to compare with a similar group of the Tetterbys by John Leech in the same chapter. Sir John Tenniel's final drawing is a successful attempt to portray, in the form of allegory, Night receding before Dawn.
Except in painting, Sir John Tenniel never resorts to the use of the living model for his figures, but depends entirely upon a wonderful memory of observation. Apropos of his collaboration with the novelist, he has favoured me with the following note:—
"My 'artistic association' with Charles Dickens began and ended simply with my poor little contributions towards the illustration of 'The Haunted Man.' There was no written correspondence between us that I can remember, and I believe I had but one interview with Dickens on the subject, when he gave me certain hints as to treatment, &c. &c. &c. Only that, and nothing more!
"As to what became of the original sketches I have not the remotest idea; probably I gave them away—or, more probably still, they were one day consigned to the waste-paper basket. At all events, and after an interval of about forty-five years, it is perhaps [Pg 174]scarcely surprising that I should have long since forgotten all about them."
It should be mentioned that, as in the case of Leech, many of Sir John Tenniel's Punch cartoons are adapted from illustrations in the works of Dickens, these happily suggesting the political situation of the moment. This subject is fully treated in my paper on "Dickens and Punch" in the English Illustrated Magazine, August 1891.
Sir John is one of the oldest members of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours. In June 1893 the distinction of knighthood was conferred upon the veteran artist, his name having been included in the list of Royal birthday honours, at the recommendation of Mr. Gladstone, whose face and figure he has so frequently delineated; thus for the first time were the claims of black-and-white draughtsmen deservedly recognised. Sir John Tenniel's busy pencil continues to be effectively employed in the pages of Punch; but he remains, alas! the sole survivor of the band of clever artists whose designs adorn the Christmas Books of Charles Dickens.
Early Career—Intimacy with Dickens—Illustrations for "The Haunted Man"—Selects his Own Subjects—A Letter from Dickens—His Approbation of the Drawing of "Milly and the Old Man"—Hints from the Novelist to the Artist—Amateur Theatricals—Frank Stone's Portrait of Lieutenant Sydney Dickens—His Election as Associate of the Royal Academy—His Portraits of 'Tilda Price, Kate Nickleby, and Madeline Bray—His Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition of "Martin Chuzzlewit"—Sudden Death.
Frank Stone, A.R.A., father of Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A., was privileged to join the ranks of Dickens Illustrators. This distinguished artist, born in 1800, was the son of a Manchester cotton-spinner, which business he also followed until twenty-four years of age, when he abandoned mercantile pursuits in favour of Art. During the early portion of his professional career, which was begun in London under very modest and unassuming conditions, he made pencil-drawings for Heath's "Book of Beauty," and presently became successful as a painter in water-colours. His engaging personality and innate abilities caused him to be welcomed in both literary and artistic circles, and in this way he secured the warm friendship of Dickens, Thackeray, and other celebrities of the day.
The Haunted Man, 1848.Frank Stone's intimacy with Charles Dickens was especially close. In 1845 the artist, with his family, went to reside in Tavistock House, Tavistock Square, remaining there until 1851, when it became the home of Dickens. In the interval the novelist's fourth Christmas Book, "The Haunted Man," was published, for which Frank Stone prepared three designs, representing respectively "Milly and the Old Man," "Milly and the Student," and "Milly and the Children." As indicated by the following letter (dated November 21, 1848), the novelist dispatched[Pg 176] proofs of the letterpress to the artist, in order that he might select his own subjects:—
"My Dear Stone,—I send herewith the second part of the book, which I hope may interest you. If you should prefer to have it read to you by the Inimitable rather than to read it, I shall be at home this evening (loin of mutton at half-past five), and happy to do it. The proofs are full of printer's errors, but, with the few corrections I have scrawled upon it, you will be able to make out what they mean.
"I send you on the opposite side a list of the subjects already in hand from the second part. If you should see no other in it that you like (I think it important that you should keep Milly, as you have begun with her), I will in a day or two describe you an unwritten subject for the third part of the book."
"Subjects in hand for the Second Part.
1. Illuminated page. Tenniel. Representing Redlaw going upstairs, and the Tetterby family below.
2. The Tetterby Supper. Leech.
3. The boy in Redlaw's room, munching his food and staring at the fire."
A preliminary sketch (in pencil and indian-ink) for the first subject was immediately submitted to the novelist for approval, and elicited the following reply:—
"We are unanimous.
"The drawing of Milly on the chair is CHARMING. I cannot tell you how much the little composition and expression please me. Do that, by all means.
"I fear she must have a little cap on. There is something coming in the last part about her having had a dead child, which makes it yet more desirable than the existing text does that she should have that little matronly sign about her. Unless the artist is obdurate indeed, and then he'll do as he likes.
"I am delighted to hear that you have your eye on her in the students' room. You will really, pictorially, make the little woman whom I love...."
Lent by Mr. Marcus Stone. R.A.
The original sketch of Milly on the chair has fortunately been preserved, and has been kindly lent for reproduction by Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A. The drawing of the old man in the published engraving is hardly so satisfactory as the delineation of him in the sketch. The second illustration, "Milly and the Student," was duly executed; it is a very graceful design, the pose of the male figure being excellently rendered. Respecting the third illustration, the novelist communicated to the artist the following facts, to assist him in realising the principal theme:—
"There is a subject I have written to-day for the third part, that I think and hope will just suit you. Scene—Tetterby's. Time—morning. The power of bringing back people's memories of sorrow, wrong, and trouble has been given by the ghost to Milly, though she don't know it herself. As she comes along the street, Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby recover themselves and are mutually affectionate again, and embrace, closing rather a good scene of quarrel and discontent. The moment they do so, Johnny (who has seen her in the distance and announced her before, from which moment they begin to recover) cries 'Here she is!'and she comes in, surrounded by the little Tetterbys, the very spirit of morning, gladness, innocence, hope, love, domesticity, &c. &c. &c. &c.
"I would limit the illustration to her and the children, which will make a fitness between it and your other illustrations, and give them all a character of their own. The exact words of the passage I enclose on another slip of paper. Note: There are six boy Tetterbys present (young 'Dolphus is not there), including Johnny; and in Johnny's arms is Mulock, the baby, who is a girl.... Don't wait to send me the drawing of this. I know how pretty she will be with[Pg 177]
[Pg 178] the children in your hands, and should be a stupendous jackass if I had any distrust of it...."
(Slip of paper enclosed.)
"'Hurrah! here's Mrs. Williams!' cried Johnny.
"So she was, and all the Tetterby children with her; and as she came in, they kissed her and kissed one another, and kissed the baby, and kissed their father and mother, and then ran back and flocked and danced about her, trooping on with her in triumph.
"(After which she is going to say, 'What, are you all glad to see me too! Oh, how happy it makes me to find every one so glad to see me this bright morning!')"
The amateur theatricals brought author and artist constantly together, Frank Stone being an actor of some ability. The immortal Mrs. Gamp, in describing the members of that famous company of players, alludes to Frank Stone as "a fine-looking portly gentleman, with a face like an amiable full moon." He became the recipient of many nicknames, that of "Pump" (or "Pumpion") being one by which Dickens sometimes addressed him, and it was both pleasantly intended and jocularly received. In 1849 the artist painted the portrait of the novelist's fifth son, Lieutenant Sydney Dickens, who was buried at sea in 1872, his death being due to a sharp attack of bronchitis when on his way home.
Frank Stone exhibited at the Society of Painters in Water-Colours from 1833 to 1846, and was elected a member of that Society in 1842. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1838, his election as an Associate taking place in 1851. The artist, on receiving a commission from Dickens for a picture, painted a presentment of "'Tilda Price," the fiancée of the genial John Browdie in "Nicholas Nickleby," the picture realising the sum of £42 at the sale of the novelist's effects in 1870. This and two other paintings by Stone (portraits of Kate Nickleby and[Pg 179] Madeline Bray) were engraved on steel by Finden, and published ("with the approbation of Charles Dickens") by Chapman & Hall in 1848; the plates were intended for insertion in the first cheap edition of "Nicholas Nickleby." Besides his illustrations for "The Haunted Man," he also designed the frontispiece for the first cheap edition of "Martin Chuzzlewit" (1849), which depicts Mark Tapley on the sick-bed; this drawing was engraved on wood by T. Bolton.
The sudden death of Frank Stone in 1859 caused Dickens heartfelt sorrow. "You will be grieved," he wrote to Forster on November 19, "to hear of poor Stone. On Sunday he was not well. On Monday went to Dr. Todd, who told him he had aneurism of the heart. On Tuesday went to Dr. Walsh, who told him he hadn't. On Wednesday I met him in a cab in the Square here [Tavistock Square], and he got out to talk to me. I walked about with him a little while at a snail's pace, cheering him up; but when I came home, I told them that I thought him much changed, and in danger. Yesterday at two o'clock he died of spasm of the heart. I am going up to Highgate to look for a grave for him."
First Acquaintance with Dickens—Designs an Illustration for "The Cricket on the Hearth"—Elected a Royal Academician—Receives the Honour of Knighthood—Declines the Presidency of the Royal Academy—Severe Illness and Death.
Charles Dickens first became acquainted with Sir Edwin Henry Landseer during the "Nickleby" period, and ever entertained the highest admiration and personal regard for this famous artist, to whom Thackeray once referred as "a sort of aristocrat among painters." Sir Edwin was an artist by hereditary right and family instinct, being the eldest son of the well-known engraver, John Landseer, A.R.A. He was born in London in 1802, and at the age of thirteen exhibited two pictures at the Royal Academy, thus proving that he possessed most exceptional powers as a draughtsman even at this early period.
The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846.It is perhaps not generally remembered that Sir Edwin Landseer has a just claim to be numbered among the Illustrators of Dickens. Though he made but a single design, it is indubitably a masterpiece, and suffices to indicate the admirable skill acquired by this great painter in depicting what may be considered his favourite subject—the dog. The charming little woodcut of "Boxer"—the irrepressible companion of John Peerybingle, in "The Cricket on the Hearth"—defies criticism.
Lent by the Artist.
The dog's head was added by Sir Edwin himself.
In 1825, Sir Edwin (then Mr.) Landseer was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and five years later he attained the full honours, from which date might be chronicled a long and regular catalogue of pictures exhibited by him, year by year, either at the British Institution or on the walls of the Royal Academy. In 1850 he received the honour of Knighthood, and, at the death of Sir Charles Eastlake in 1865, was offered the Presidency of the Royal Academy,—a distinction which he could not be induced to accept. In 1871 a severe illness paralysed his powerful pencil; from this illness the artist never recovered, and two years later the mournful intelligence of his death was announced, his mortal remains being interred in St. Paul's Cathedral. In private life Sir Edwin was one of the most kind and courteous of men and warmest of friends,—qualities of mind and heart which endeared him to all with whom he came in contact.
A Self-taught Artist—Exhibits at the British Institution and the Royal Academy—Marriage with John Linnell's Daughter—Visits Italy—His Sketches of Italian Scenery—Elected an Associate, and afterwards a Member, of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours—An Etcher and Draughtsman on Wood—His Designs for "Pictures from Italy"—A Letter from Dickens—The Artist's Method of Work—The Villa D'Este—His Drawings Difficult to Reproduce—Elaborate Instructions to Engravers—Literature a Favourite Amusement—Fondness for Reading Aloud—Admires the Novels of Dickens—Illness and Death.
During Charles Dickens's very brief connection with the Daily News, at the time of its foundation in 1846, he contributed to its columns a series of "Travelling Sketches," descriptive of his experiences in Italy, and of his impressions concerning the scenery, institutions, and social aspects of the people in that beautiful country. Shortly after the publication of the concluding paper, these "Sketches" were re-issued in book form, under the title of "Pictures from Italy," with vignette illustrations on wood by Samuel Palmer.
Lent by Mr. F. W. W. Topham.
Lent by Mr. A. H. Palmer.
Samuel Palmer, who was born in Newington, London, in 1805, was to a great extent a self-taught artist, his first successes dating from his fourteenth year, when he was represented by two pictures at the British Institution and three at the Royal Academy, his work from that time being frequently seen at one or the other gallery. In 1837 (that is, while "Pickwick" was in course of publication) he married the eldest daughter of John Linnell, the famous portrait and landscape painter, leaving England soon afterwards with his young wife for Italy. Here they stayed two years—years of such persistent and enthusiastic study that the sketches and elaborate drawings of some of the finest Italian scenery which the artist brought back, very numerous though they were, are no measure of the influence which the sojourn in the land of his favourite poet, Virgil, had upon his after-life and upon his artistic labours.
Samuel Palmer is chiefly remembered by his charming water-colour drawings, but it seems that in his early years he preferred painting in oils, whence he afterwards gradually drifted into the use of the former medium, his election as Associate of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours in 1843 determining his future career. He was a most successful etcher, his plates being admired by the connoisseur for the beauty of technique therein displayed. Concerning his efforts with the needle, Mr. P. G. Hamerton says that Samuel Palmer was one of the most accomplished etchers who ever lived, and that "there is more feeling, and insight, and knowledge in one twig drawn by his hand than in the life's production of many a well-known artist." It must be admitted, however, that the occasional drawings executed by him for the wood-engraver do not indicate equal ability as a draughtsman on wood. In early days he actually attempted, in emulation of his intimate friend Edward Calvert, to engrave upon wood some of his own designs, this fact testifying to the extraordinary influence exercised by William Blake over the contemporary work of such young artists as Palmer, Calvert, and the rest of the "Ancients," as they jocosely dubbed themselves.
Pictures from Italy, 1846.The first drawings executed upon the wood-block by Palmer and
intended as book-illustrations were apparently the
designs for "Pictures from Italy;" these are four in
number, representing the Street of the Tombs, Pompeii;
the Villa D'Este at Tivoli, from the Cypress Avenue; the Colosseum
of Rome; and a Vineyard Scene. One of the artist's memorandum-books
contains an entry recording the receipt from the publishers
of twenty guineas for these drawings. Samuel Palmer and Charles
[Pg 184]Dickens were never on terms of intimacy; however the acquaintance originated has never transpired, nor does the artist's son, Mr. A. H. Palmer, remember his father ever referring to the subject. It is probable that the novelist's attention had been directed to Palmer's excellent rendering of Italian scenery, which had attracted considerable notice among artists, and that, having met him, he found a degree of warm enthusiasm for that scenery which was so unusual, that he felt convinced that the illustrating of the "Pictures" could not be placed in better hands. Palmer accepted the commission, but, like all his drawings that were destined to be engraved on wood, it somewhat perplexed him, for reasons presently to be explained. A correspondence of a formal business character ensued, and of the few letters still extant I am enabled to print the following, which endorses the belief that an interview had taken place between author and artist.
Wednesday, Thirteenth May, 1846.
"Dear Sir,—I beg to assure you that I would on no account dream of allowing the book to go to press without the insertion of your name in the title-page. I placed it there myself, two days ago.
"I have not seen the designs, but I have no doubt whatever (remembering your sketches) that they are very good.
"Dear sir, faithfully yours,
"Samuel Palmer, Esq."
Two of the woodcuts, viz., those printed on the first and last pages of the little book, were designed to allow the text to be dropped in. Sketches (or rather finished drawings) were made on paper before the subjects were copied by the artist upon the wood-blocks, which drawings, by the way, are much inferior to the artist's water-colours of the same or similar subjects. It seems evident, from the word "On" being tentatively introduced at the top of the original sketch of the Villa D'Este, that this illustration was at first intended to be[Pg 185] placed at the beginning of the chapter entitled "Going through France," instead of appearing (as it eventually did) in conjunction with the opening lines of the preliminary chapter,—"The Reader's Passport." It was apparently Palmer's proposal to insert on the block a decorative letter "S," but Dickens, in a letter to the artist, says, "I am afraid I cannot comfortably manage an S. What do you say to the word 'On'? Could you possibly do that?"
With regard to the treatment of these illustrations, there is no doubt that they are faithful representations of Nature, adapted from sketches made on the spot. As a matter of fact, it was directly contrary to the artist's habit and principles to transcribe a sketch detail for detail. Although the character of his drawing was somewhat involved, rendering more difficult the work of the engraver, the woodcuts (which bear no signature) are most carefully executed. Notwithstanding this, Mr. A. H. Palmer assures me that these designs, and the rendering of them by the wood-engraver, were not of a kind to which the artist could look back with much satisfaction.
Mr. A. H. Palmer still retains in his possession a drawing on wood by his father of the Villa D'Este, the second illustration in "Pictures from Italy," which was apparently discarded because the artist had omitted to reverse his design, and therefore could not be properly adapted to the particular page for which it was prepared. Those who are familiar with the freedom and vigour of Samuel Palmer's work from Nature will realise at a glance that he was not at his ease upon wood. In the margin of this drawing the artist pencilled the following instructions to the engraver, who had not entirely succeeded in producing the more subtle effects:—
"I wish the thin cypress to be very much as it appears upon the block—not lighter. Now that the trees have been darkened, it will be necessary to leave the lines of the building quite as thick as they are drawn, letting them gradually gain more strength as they come[Pg 186] downwards towards the steps. The degree of sharpness with which the drawing terminates toward the letterpress is just what I wish."
From this and the following notes, minutely written upon the two retouched proofs of the engraving of this subject, we discover how very much too sanguine the artist was as to the result of the translation of his work, the voluminous directions clearly indicating his solicitude respecting the treatment of microscopic details in his design, the alleged importance of which would be quite beyond the comprehension of an ordinary engraver. Palmer subsequently learnt by experience that his drawing on wood was practically untranslatable as he preferred to offer it for engraving.
MS. Notes on the First Proof.
"(1.) In both proofs the top of the cypress is very indistinct, which greatly injures the design.
"(2.) From A to B the illuminated side of the cypress has lost its tint in both impressions, which is ruinous to the effect, as the eye can no longer follow it as a simple object distinct from the building from the top to the bottom of the design. The top of the building, too, in both impressions, is nearly invisible, as if the inking had failed. It is very important that this should be rectified, so as not to appear in the printing of the work, as otherwise it will spoil the whole work. I have worked upon building and cypress a little in pencil to show how they ought to have come even in a faint impression.
"(3.) Opposite this mark the light on the cypress stems has been carried down a little lower, and two or three fine threads of light have been introduced into the shadowed side (which are intended to be scarcely perceptible) to remove a blottiness in the dark.
"(4.) The touches on the steps, the statue, and the whole of the lower part of the trees and ground, though not very numerous, are very important to the finish of the foreground.
[Pg 187]"(5.) The darkest lines in the great vase have been thinned in the slightest degree.
"(6.) Close to C the thickness of a black line on the edge of the cypress has been split.
"(7.) From E down to F a minute speck of light has here and there been inserted on the outline of the cypress foliage to split some blots of dark which will be seen on the untouched proofs, and which were rather harsh.
"(8.) The light flashing on the steps ought to make thinner without removing the outline of the arm of the statue. The foot resting upon the pedestal should be indicated. The action of the other leg thrown back is shown in the retouching by the removal of the black line.
"(9.) The getting the upper part of the slender cypress of as full a tint as I have given it here seems to me so important that if it can be done in no other way, I think a piece should be inserted into the block to effect it. In the drawing on the block it was like this, which I have retouched with pencil."
Lent by Mr. A. H. Palmer.
"(1.) Opposite are a few touches on the slender cypress—two very thin lines of light on the stem. Specks of light on the foliage.
"(2.) There is a thick black line on the block, thus ) which I have here crossed with specks of white; although it is in the body of the tree, it kills the fine work on the Villa.
"(3.) The thickness of outline on the light side of this vase unfinishes the foreground. I have altered it.
"(4.) The thick outline on this leaf unfinishes everything about it."
Thus we discover how fastidious to a degree was the artist in his desire that every subtle touch of his poetic pencil should be reproduced—a result which, as he quickly perceived, it was impossible to achieve.
Samuel Palmer took a still keener delight in Literature than he did[Pg 188] in Art. An insatiable but punctilious reader, the novels of Dickens and Scott were among the very few works of fiction which he read aloud to members of his own household. Mr. A. H. Palmer informs me that he has known his father to be so engrossed by reading aloud one of Dickens's finer and more exciting passages, that the announcement and entry of a visitor served to stop the reading only for a few moments; the crisis past, he laid down the book and apologised. Literature, indeed, constituted the chief pleasure of his simple life—a life that, at one period at least, would have been almost insupportable without the consolation afforded by books. Early in May, 1881, he became, alas! too ill to work, and on the twenty-fourth of that month he passed peacefully away, leaving behind him a reputation which is blameless.
 Palmer was elected a Member of this Society in 1854.
 "Etching and Etchers," 3rd edition, 1880.
Illustrations for "A Child's History of England"—Begins Life as a Writing-Engraver—Designs for Books—Exhibits at the Royal Academy—Elected an Associate of the New Society of Painters—Retires from the Society—Elected a Member of the Old Society of Painters in Water-Colours—First Visit to Spain—Fatal Illness—Some Pictures Inspired by Dickens's Stories—Histrionic Ability—The Artist as a Juggler.
A Child's History of England, 1852-53-54.During the years 1851-52-53, there appeared in the pages of Household Words one of Charles Dickens's less familiar writings, "A Child's History of England." On its completion as a serial, the little work was issued in three 16mo volumes, each containing a frontispiece by F. W. Topham. These illustrations were engraved on wood, each consisting of a circular design, printed in black, and surrounded by an ornamental border of a light mauve colour, the latter enclosing familiar scenes from English History, viz., Alfred in the Neatherd's Cot; Canute reproving his Courtiers; Edwy and Elgiva; Eleanor and Fair Rosamond. The decorative border with its four tableaux remained unchanged, but the subject of the central illustration varied, that in the first volume depicting a girl reading to two children; in the second, Alfred the Great receiving instruction in reading from his mother, Queen Osburgha; while in the third there is a more modern representation of a similar incident.
Francis William Topham, who was born at Leeds in 1808, enjoyed the privilege of being numbered among the personal friends of Charles Dickens. He entered professional life as a writing-engraver, and his first design was for a label required by a well-known firm of pin manufacturers. From this modest beginning he advanced to more artistic work, and was soon busily engaged in engraving plates for[Pg 190] pocket-books, &c. During the several years he was thus occupied he engraved many original designs for book-illustrations, and in 1832 began to exhibit pictures; his works after this date being frequently seen at the Royal Academy and other London galleries. In 1842 he was elected an Associate of the New Society of Painters in Water-Colours, of which body he became a full member in the following year. He, with several other members, left the New Society after a comparatively short time, and was immediately elected into the Old Society of Painters in Water-Colours—the present Royal Water-Colour Society—to the Exhibitions of which the majority of his more important productions were contributed. It was in Spain, whither he first went in 1852-53, that he found subjects most congenial to his tastes, and there, in that land of sunny skies, he was seized with a fatal illness in 1877, expiring at Cordova on March 31st of that year.
Topham was a great admirer of the works of Charles Dickens, and selected from them the subjects of some of his most successful pictures. One of these—a water-colour drawing executed in 1851—illustrates a scene in "Barnaby Rudge," where children flock round the half-witted hero as he and his mother pass through her native village; the drawing was presented by the artist to Dickens, and realised at the sale of the novelist's effects the sum of £115, 10s. This picture was followed by another from "The Old Curiosity Shop," representing Little Nell and her Grandfather in the tent, making bouquets for the racecourse, which was also a gift to Dickens, being subsequently disposed of at the above-mentioned sale for £288, 15s. It is also recorded that the artist, in 1856, produced a drawing portraying "Little Nell in the Churchyard," which some five years after the novelist's death found a purchaser for £325, 10s.
F. W. Topham proved a welcome addition to Dickens's company of distinguished amateur actors, and concerning his histrionic ability the artist's son, Mr. Frank W. W. Topham (himself an eminent painter), thus writes: "My father had, from quite a young man, a great love of acting, at which he was considered unusually good. One of my earliest[Pg 191] recollections of a play was one acted at the St. James's Theatre, in which my father, Sir John Tenniel, the late Francis Holl, A.R.A. (the engraver), and others took part, for the benefit of the Artists' Benevolent Fund. I do not know if my father owed his introduction to Dickens to his acting, but have an impression that he did,—certainly it was the cause of their after intimacy."
Apropos of their "splendid strolling," and the fun incidental thereto, Dickens observed to his wife, in a letter dated from Clifton, November 13, 1851: "I forgot to say that Topham has suddenly come out as a juggler, and swallows candles, and does wonderful things with the poker very well indeed, but with a bashfulness and embarrassment extraordinarily ludicrous."
The Artist's Boyish Admiration of Dickens's Stories—His Delineation of Jo, the Crossing-Sweeper—A Present and a Letter from Dickens—First Success as a Painter—Death of his Father—Desires to Become an Illustrator of Books—Befriended by Dickens—Initial Attempt at Drawing upon Wood—Frontispiece for the First Cheap Edition of "Little Dorrit"—The Artist's Début as a Black-and-White Draughtsman—His Designs for "Our Mutual Friend"—The Pictorial Wrapper—Suggestions from Dickens—Portrait of Silas Wegg—Preliminary Sketches for the Illustrations—Valuable Hints for the Artist—Realism in his Designs—The Prototype of Mr. Venus—Photography upon Wood—Defective Engraving—Sale of the Original Sketches—Illustrations for Cheap Editions—Relinquishes Black-and-White Drawing—Elected a Royal Academician—Popularity of his Pictures—Intimacy with Dickens—Private Theatricals.
It will be remembered that "A Tale of Two Cities," the last of Dickens's novels containing Hablôt Browne's designs, was succeeded by "Our Mutual Friend," the initial number of which appeared on May 1, 1864. In this story Dickens repeated an early experience in having woodcut illustrations instead of the customary etchings, availing himself of the services of an artist whose style and method of work differed very considerably from those of "Phiz." The new recruit was Mr. Marcus Stone, who now holds high rank among Royal Academicians.
As the son of the novelist's cherished friend, Frank Stone, A.R.A., who partly illustrated "The Haunted Man," Mr. Marcus Stone was brought by force of circumstances into early communication with the author of "Pickwick." Born in 1840, he soon indicated by his penchant for Art that he inherited his father's talent, becoming in course of time a painter even more distinguished; for Frank Stone did not live to attain full honours of the Royal Academy. Mr. Marcus Stone proudly confesses that, even as a mere lad, Charles Dickens's romances proved most fascinating to him, and he recalls an interesting incident as evidence of this influence. When, in 1852-53, the dramatic story of "Bleak House" appeared in serial form, he eagerly read each number as it came out, and was much attracted by the novelist's rendering of Jo, the crossing-sweeper, being quick to perceive the artistic capabilities of the scenes in which that pathetic character is introduced. In the eleventh chapter a specially touching reference is made to the poor outcast—that memorable occasion when he softly sweeps the step of the gateway leading to the loathsome graveyard in which was buried the man who had been "wery good" to him. Dickens's vivid description of the weird picture at once induced Marcus Stone (then twelve years of age) to try his hand at depicting it with his pencil. While so engaged the novelist entered the room, and, looking over his shoulder, he immediately recognised the subject of the sketch, whereupon he encouragingly observed, "Well, now, that is very good. You will have to give that to me." Accordingly, on completion, the little drawing was sent to Tavistock House. About a year afterwards the young artist received a copy of "A Child's History of England," containing the author's autograph, and accompanied by the following note, dated December 19, 1853:—
"My Dear Marcus,—You made an excellent sketch from a book of mine which I have received (and preserved) with great pleasure. Will you accept from me this little book? I believe it to be true, though it may be sometimes not as genteel as history has a habit of being.—Faithfully yours,
Even at the early age of three or four, Mr. Marcus Stone evinced
a desire to become an artist,—a wish that was never discountenanced.
In his seventeenth year he ostensibly began his career as a painter,
but his father, who was then an invalid, could not for that reason
[Pg 194]efficiently direct the course of his son's studies. Indeed, Mr. Marcus Stone never had any systematic training in the details of his profession, and what he learnt during his boyhood was, for the most part, casually "picked up" in his father's studio. At this time he painted a picture called "Rest," representing a knight in armour lying under a tree, and this, the first of his productions accepted by the Royal Academy, excited much favourable comment, the work being especially remarkable on account of the juvenility of the artist, who, as he himself intimates, was really ten years before his time.
In November 1859, shortly after his initial success in the world of Art, Mr. Marcus Stone mourned the death of his father, an event rendering it imperative that, in entering upon a career which not unfrequently fails to yield a golden harvest, he should have a powerful helping hand. Among those of his father's friends who recognised this necessity was Charles Dickens, who, with characteristic promptitude and energy, exerted his influence on behalf of the young man. Besides other kind actions, the novelist introduced him to Thomas Longman, the publisher, to whom he wrote: "I am very anxious to present to you, with the earnest hope that you will hold him in your remembrance, young Mr. Marcus Stone, son of poor Frank Stone, who died suddenly but a little week ago. You know, I daresay, what a start this young man made in the last Exhibition, and what a favourable notice his picture attracted. He wishes to make an additional opening for himself in the illustration of books. He is an admirable draughtsman, has a most dexterous hand, a charming sense of grace and beauty, and a capital power of observation. These qualities in him I know well to my own knowledge. He is in all things modest, punctual, and right; and I would answer for him, if it were needful, with my head. If you will put anything in his way, you will do it a second time, I am certain."
Lent by the Artist.
Little Dorrit, 1861.The opportunity soon arrived when the novelist's interest in the [Pg 195]son of "poor Frank Stone" assumed a very practical form, for at this juncture it occurred to him to test the artistic capabilities of Marcus Stone, probably without any intention of permanently ousting "Phiz." The young protégé, however, possessed no knowledge of etching, and, indeed, had gained but little experience in any other form of illustration. Fortunately, the art of drawing upon wood (then much in vogue, but now practically obsolete) needed very little training in the hands of one skilled in the use of the pencil, so that Dickens was induced to favour Marcus Stone by agreeing to the adoption of the readiest means of producing his designs for the engraver. It is not generally known that the artist's first attempt at drawing on wood was the frontispiece for the first cheap edition of "Little Dorrit" (1861), which, although showing marked ability, is by no means equal to his subsequent efforts. Marcus Stone was fortunate in making his début as a black-and-white draughtsman at the time when a remarkable array of talent presented itself in the pages of the Cornhill Magazine, just then launched by Thackeray, the illustrations for which were supplied by Millais, Fred. Walker, Sandys, and Leighton—a new school of designers, whose admirable pencillings could not fail to inspire the younger members of the craft.
Our Mutual Friend, 1864-65.Mr. Marcus Stone, who was scarcely twenty-one years of age when he first essayed the art of book-illustration, rightly considers that one of the most important events of his life was the receipt of the commission to illustrate "Our Mutual Friend," and, doubtless, he fully realised at the time how valuable was the prestige arising from such collaboration with so popular a writer as Charles Dickens. This story, like those which preceded it, was issued in monthly parts, the first instalment appearing in May 1864. At the beginning the novelist was about four numbers in advance, but he lost his advantage as the tale progressed, until at length he found himself in a position necessitating the preparation of each number month by month, as[Pg 196] required by the exigencies of publication. Before the initial number could be circulated, a pictorial wrapper was requisitioned, for which Mr. Stone designed a series of tableaux embodying somewhat allegorically the leading characters and incidents, and displaying prominently in the centre the title of the story, the word "Our" being dropped in over one of the subjects. A preparatory sketch was submitted to Dickens, who, while thoroughly approving thereof, made certain proposals tending to its improvement. Writing to the artist (February 23, 1864) he said:
"I think the design for the cover excellent, and do not doubt its coming out to perfection. The slight alteration I am going to suggest originates in a business consideration not to be overlooked. The word 'Our' in the title must be out in the open like 'Mutual Friend,' making the title three distinct large lines—'Our' as big as 'Mutual Friend.' This would give you too much design at the bottom. I would therefore take out the dustman, and put the Wegg and Boffin composition (which is capital) in its place. I don't want Mr. Inspector or the murder reward bill, because these points are sufficiently indicated in the river at the top. Therefore you can have an indication of the dustman in Mr. Inspector's place. Note, that the dustman's face should be droll, and not horrible. Twemlow's elbow will still go out of the frame as it does now, and the same with Lizzie's skirts on the opposite side. With these changes, work away!..."
These Studies were prepared for the First Cheap Edition of "A Tale of Two Cities."
Lent by the Artist.
Before executing this drawing for the wrapper, the artist had received from Dickens a few general hints as to the points to be illustrated, beyond which he had little to guide him. "Give a vague idea," said the novelist, "the more vague the better." Mr. Stone desired to introduce Silas Wegg into his composition, but the description of the mercenary old ballad-monger was so indefinite that he was compelled to ask Dickens if he had absolutely decided in his own mind whether Silas's wooden leg was the right or the left one. Judging by his reply, the novelist had evidently overlooked this detail, for he said, "It's all right—please yourself;" whereupon the doubtful point was settled by the artist, who placed the timber limb on Wegg's left side. Mr. Stone recalls an interesting circumstance in the fact that Dickens laid special stress upon a certain incident which he desired should be hinted at by the artist in his design for the monthly cover. "One of the strongest features of the story," observed the novelist, "will be the death of Eugene Wrayburn after the assault by the schoolmaster. I think," he added, "it will be one of the best things I have ever done." Dickens, however, changed his mind, for Wrayburn does not die.
It is a recognised fact among illustrators of works of fiction that authors are usually devoid of what Mr. Stone aptly designates a sense of "pictorialism,"—that is to say, the subjects selected by them for illustration invariably prove to be unsuitable. Charles Dickens (according to Mr. Stone's experience) was a noteworthy exception to the rule, although he usually afforded the artist free scope in this matter, sending him the revised proof-sheets of each number, that he might make his own choice of the incidents to be depicted; and it is worthy of remark that in no instance did the novelist question the propriety of his selection. A preliminary sketch for each illustration was forwarded to Dickens, who returned it to the artist with suggestions, and with the title inscribed by him in the margin. The finished drawings upon the wood were never seen by the novelist, as they were dispatched by Mr. Stone to the engravers immediately on completion.
Mr. Marcus Stone affirms that he was much hampered by Dickens
with respect to these designs, for the novelist, hitherto accustomed
to the diminutive scale of the figures in Hablôt Browne's etchings, was
somewhat imperative in his demand for a similar treatment of the
illustrations for "Our Mutual Friend." The author, it seems, was
usually in an appreciative mood whenever a sketch was submitted for
approval, now and then favouring his illustrator with information that
often proved indispensable. With reference to the drawing entitled
"The Boffin Progress," he wrote: "Mrs. Boffin, as I judge of her[Pg 197]
[Pg 198] from the sketch, 'very good indeed.' I want Boffin's oddity, without being at all blinked, to be an oddity of a very honest kind, that people would like." Concerning a second sketch for another proposed illustration, he observed: "The doll's dressmaker is immensely better than she was. I think that she should now come extremely well. A weird sharpness not without beauty is the thing I want." Towards the close of the first volume Dickens wrote to the artist from Paris the following letter respecting subsequent designs:—"The sooner I can know about the subjects you take for illustration the better, as I can then fill the list of illustrations to the second volume for the printer, and enable him to make up his last sheet. Necessarily that list is now left blank, as I cannot give him the titles of the subjects, not knowing them myself.... I think the frontispiece to the second volume should be the dustyard with the three mounds, and Mr. Boffin digging up the Dutch bottle, and Venus restraining Wegg's ardour to get at him. Or Mr. Boffin might be coming down with the bottle, and Venus might be dragging Wegg out of the way as described."
The story, when concluded, was issued in two volumes, each containing twenty illustrations, engraved by Dalziel Brothers and W. T. Green in almost equal proportions. Mr. Marcus Stone regards these early efforts in black-and-white art as very immature, and believes he could have achieved greater results if he had been less handicapped by certain harassing restrictions. That these clever designs possess the charm of unconventionality is undeniable, while in addition to this they are marked by an originality of treatment which may be attributed to the fact that each drawing is the fruit of many careful studies of figures and accessories, these imparting an air of reality to the scenes depicted. Notable instances of this may be observed in the first frontispiece, entitled "The Bird of Prey," in which is represented a characteristic portion of the river-bank below London Bridge (probably Rotherhithe), and in the last engraving "Not to be Shaken Off," the snow-covered lock-gates in this illustration having been drawn from a sketch of the gates still existing on the Regent's Canal, Hampstead Road.
This Study was prepared for the Library Edition of "American Notes."
Lent by the Artist.
Mr. Stone enjoys the distinction of having introduced to Dickens's
notice the original of that remarkable personage, Mr. Venus. Early
in 1864, the artist was engaged upon a painting representing a "loafing"
deserter being marched off under arrest, while some busy workmen
temporarily suspend their labours in order to watch the military
procession as it wends its way along a public thoroughfare. The
artist desired to introduce into the composition a begging dog, but, not
succeeding to his own satisfaction, he consulted a brother-artist (well
known for his clever delineation of animals), who said, "Why don't
you go to Willis? He will soon find you a dog, and 'set him up' for
you." Willis was a taxidermist, who lived on the north side of St.
Andrew's Street, near Seven Dials, and to him Mr. Stone at once
stated his requirements, with the result that in the course of a few days
the stuffer of skins went to Mr. Stone's studio accompanied by a dog
such as the artist had described. The animal being deemed suitable,
its fate was sealed, and there is a touch of pathos in the recollection
that the little creature made such friendly overtures to the artist during
the interview that he felt very much averse to authorising its destruction.
However, sad to relate, he hardened his heart, and the poor beast
was "set up" accordingly. On the evening of the day when Mr.
Stone first called upon Willis, and observed the strange environment
resulting from the man's occupation, he was invited by Dickens to go
with him to the play, and between the acts the novelist enquired if he
knew of any peculiar avocation, as he wished to make it a feature
of his new story,—"it must be something very striking and unusual,"
he explained. The artist immediately recalled Willis as he appeared
when "surrounded by the trophies of his art," and informed Dickens
that he could introduce him to the very thing. Delighted with the
suggestion, the novelist appointed "two o'clock sharp" on the follow[Pg 199]
[Pg 200]ing day, for a visit to Willis. It happened that the man was absent when they called, but Dickens, with his unusually keen power of observation, was enabled during a very brief space to take mental notes of every detail that presented itself, and his readers were soon enjoying his vivid portrayal of that picturesque representative of a curious profession, Mr. Venus. The novelist was so elated by the discovery that he could not refrain from confiding the secret to Forster: "While I was considering what it should be," he wrote, "Marcus, who has done an excellent cover, came to tell me of an extraordinary trade he had found out, through one of his painting requirements. I immediately went with him to St. Giles's to look at the place, and found—what you will see."
Mr. Stone visited Willis's shop two or three times for the purpose of sketching, in order that he might effectively introduce the more salient features into his drawing. The illustration gives an approximate representation of that dingy interior, with its "bones warious; bottled preparations warious; dogs, ducks, glass eyes, warious;" but, in delineating the proprietor, the artist did not attempt to give a true presentment of Willis, whom, by the way, Dickens never saw, and who never suspected that it was his own establishment which figures in the story.
In all the illustrations there is that happy delineation of character which indicates how admirably the artist understood his author. Perhaps the most successful designs are those where Rogue Riderhood appears, particularly that in which we behold the thankless ruffian at the moment of his recovery from "that little turn-up with Death;" while among other drawings deserving attention special mention must be made of those containing the quaint and pathetic figure of Jenny Wren, and of that entitled "The Boofer Lady," the latter denoting Mr. Stone's ability, even at this early date, in depicting a pretty woman,—an art in which he has since displayed such consummate skill.
In the engraved version of this Design, Pip is seen wearing a "bowler" hat.
Lent by the Artist.
Mr. Marcus Stone claims the credit of bringing into repute the [Pg 201]now universal custom of duplicating drawings upon wood-blocks by means of photography, his illustrations for Anthony Trollope's story, "He Knew He was Right," being the first thus treated. The adoption of this plan secures the preservation of the original designs, and therefore renders them available for comparison with the engraved reproductions. Mr. Stone, nevertheless, is by no means satisfied with the engraver's treatment of his work, nor is this surprising when we critically examine such deplorable examples of wood-engraving as instanced in the illustrations entitled "The Garden on the Roof" and "Eugene's Bedside." In one of the designs, that representing "The Boffin Progress," it will be noticed that the wheels on the "off-" side of the Boffin chaise are omitted, an oversight (explains Mr. Stone) for which the engraver is really responsible.
The original sketches for "Our Mutual Friend" were disposed of by the artist, many years ago, to the late Mr. F. W. Cosens, who desired to add them to his collection of Dickensiana. At the sale in 1890 of that gentleman's effects at Sotheby's, the series of forty drawings (some of which were executed in pen-and-ink and others in pencil) sold for £66, the purchaser acting for a well-known firm of American publishers. The drawings were subsequently bound up in a copy of the first edition of the story, and the treasured volume now reposes in the library of a New York collector.
Illustrations for Cheap Editions.Mr. Stone is naturally best known as a Dickens illustrator through his designs for "Our Mutual Friend." In addition to these, however, he has essayed some illustrations (engraved on wood by Dalziel Brothers) for cheap issues of the works of the great novelist, of which the following is a complete list:—
From this record it will be seen that (with the exception, perhaps, of the frontispiece for "A Tale of Two Cities") all the above-mentioned designs were executed prior to those for "Our Mutual Friend." It was hardly to be anticipated that Mr. Stone's pencil would rival the work of his more experienced contemporaries, yet it will be seen that these illustrations are characterised by the very essential quality of always telling their story. Mr. Stone much regrets that he never had the opportunity of doing himself justice in black-and-white Art. Needless to say, he revels in subjects appertaining to a bygone age, as they afford considerable scope for pictorial treatment, and one of the novels he would have most enjoyed to illustrate is "Barnaby Rudge," because of the picturesque period in which the story is laid. In response to my enquiry why he did not undertake the illustration of Dickens's next and final romance, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," Mr. Stone explains: "I had entirely given up black-and-white work when 'Edwin Drood' was written, and was making an ample income by my pictures. I was not in the field at all." Indeed, black-and-white drawing possessed little to attract the young artist, who, preferring the more alluring charm of colour, had already begun to acquire a reputation as a painter. In 1877 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and ten years later was advanced to the full rank of Academician. During the last twenty years his most popular pictures have been his groups of interesting lovers and pathetic maidens; for, after exhibiting in eighteen Academy Exhibitions various presentments of human passion, he at last decided to limit himself to the one which makes the widest[Pg 203] appeal to all sorts and conditions of men and women, such as those subtle domestic dramas in which love plays the leading rôle.
Mr. Marcus Stone's intimacy with Charles Dickens originated while his father, Frank Stone, and the novelist were living not more than a couple of houses apart; but it should be understood that the elder artist and the author of "Pickwick" were friends many years before they were neighbours. From the days of his childhood until the famous writer breathed his last, Mr. Stone spent a portion of every year of his life at Dickens's abode. "I saw him," he observes, "under the most natural and simple conditions, and my affection and regard for him were intense. Dickens was one of the shyest and most sensitive of men, as I have reason to know, for I saw him constantly at his own home, often for weeks together. He used to treat me as though I were his son. Nothing was more delightful than the way in which he shared our pleasures and pursuits. His influence was like sunshine in my life whilst his own lasted." Mr. Stone occasionally took part in private theatricals at Tavistock House, where the novelist had installed "The Smallest Theatre in the World," and the artist has pleasant recollections of his own share in the various plays, such as Planché's fairy extravaganza, "Fortunio," in which he impersonated the Captain of the Guard, and Wilkie Collins's "The Frozen Deep," where, as an Officer in the British Navy, he had but three words to say.
 Curiously enough, "Phiz" had already selected the same subject as an illustration for the succeeding number, an early proof of which was forwarded by Dickens to Mr. Marcus Stone, in order to direct his attention to the coincidence.
 This picture was entitled "Silent Pleading" and represents a tramp with a child in his arms, who are discovered asleep in a shed by the squire and the village constable.
 This subject was chosen.
 This picture, called "Working and Shirking," was exhibited at the Royal Academy during the same year.
An Illustrator Required for "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"—Charles Alston Collins Offers his Services—His Design for the Wrapper—He Prepares Sketches for the First Number—Ill-Health—The Project abandoned—Death of Mr. Collins creates a Dilemma—"The Fellow for 'Edwin Drood'" Discovered—Luke Fildes, R.A.—His Drawing of "Houseless and Hungry"—Specimens of his Black-and-White Drawings Submitted to Dickens—A Complimentary Letter from the Novelist—Mr. Fildes Elected to Illustrate "Edwin Drood"—First Meeting of Author and Artist—A Pen-Portrait of Dickens—A Memorable Interview—Pictorial Exactness—Working under Difficulties—Studies from the Life—Successful Realisation of Types—The Opium-Smokers' Den—Cloisterham—The Artist's Method of Executing his Designs—The Engraved Reproductions—The Finale of the Story Hinted at—Mr. Fildes Invited to Gad's Hill—Suggestion for the Last Drawing—Death of Dickens—"The Empty Chair"—A Visit to John Forster—A Curious Coincidence—Pleasing Reminiscences of Dickens—Mementoes of the Novelist—Unpublished Drawings for "Edwin Drood."
When Mr. Marcus Stone, R.A., had completed his designs for "Our Mutual Friend," he determined to relinquish black-and-white drawing and to concentrate his energy upon painting; but for this, it is probable that his skilled pencil would have been requisitioned for Charles Dickens's last story, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." That the re-engagement of Hablôt Browne as illustrator of that unfinished romance was not contemplated may be attributed chiefly to the fact that, in 1867, the clever artist whose name and fame will ever be associated with the writings of Dickens was unhappily struck with severe paralysis, and consequently his hand had lost its cunning. The assistance of either of these draughtsmen being, therefore, out of the question, the novelist was compelled to seek a new illustrator, and at this crisis his son-in-law, Charles Alston Collins (brother of Wilkie Collins), intimated that he would like to undertake the necessary designs for "Edwin Drood," or rather to test his powers in that direction. Although he occupied himself, in a desultory fashion, with both Literature and Art, Charles Collins had been bred a painter, and achieved a notable position among the young artists of the Pre-Raphaelite School. He favoured the pen, however, rather than the pencil, his fugitive pieces being distinguished for the most part by humour of a charming quality. Dickens had great faith in his artistic talent, and accordingly (on September 14, 1869) sent his publishers the following note: "Charles Collins wishes to try his hand at illustrating my new book. I want him to try the cover first. Please send down to him at Gad's Hill any of our old green covers you may have by you." The pictorial wrapper was satisfactorily completed, whereupon Charles Collins began to prepare sketches for the first number, an undertaking which he looked upon rather as an experiment. Ill-health, alas! proved a serious obstacle, and, after making a futile endeavour to realise his conceptions, he was compelled to abandon the project altogether. It has been suggested that, as the leading incidents portrayed by him on the cover were intended to prefigure the course of the narrative, Charles Collins must have obtained a clue to the "mystery" involved in the story. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence that he had the faintest notion of the meaning of the enigmatical little tableaux of which his design consists; on the contrary, it is asserted that he merely received the novelist's verbal directions without obtaining any hint as to their real significance. Charles Alston Collins died in 1873 in his forty-fifth year, having "borne much suffering, through many trying years, with uncomplaining patience." He was a son-in-law of Charles Dickens, whose younger daughter, Kate, he married in 1860, the occasion being signalised by much rejoicing on the part of the novelist's friends and neighbours at Gad's Hill.
The speedy relinquishment by Charles Collins of the illustrating
of "Edwin Drood" caused something of a dilemma. Dickens being
again without an illustrator, he appealed for advice to his friends
Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Millais, R.A., and Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A.,[Pg 205]
[Pg 206] who promised to aid him in searching for a suitable artist. Shortly afterwards there was published in the initial number of The Graphic an engraving entitled "Houseless and Hungry," depicting a crowd of vagrants of both sexes awaiting admission to the workhouse,—a picture at once so powerfully conceived and so pathetic in sentiment that it immediately attracted the attention of Sir John Millais, who immediately hastened in a cab to Dickens's rooms at Hyde Park Place, bearing in his hand a copy of the new journal. Striding into the study, and waving The Graphic above his head, the famous painter exclaimed, "I've got him!"
"Got whom?" inquired the novelist.
"The fellow for 'Edwin Drood,'" replied Millais, as he threw the paper down on the table.
No sooner had Dickens examined the picture than he became similarly enthusiastic in his praise, and wrote forthwith to his publishers, requesting them to communicate with the artist, Mr. Samuel Luke Fildes, now a popular Royal Academician, but who was then comparatively unknown in the world of Art. At the period referred to, Mr. Fildes was a young man of five-and-twenty, who had but just begun to make his mark as a draughtsman in black-and-white. After some desultory study of drawing and painting at Chester and Warrington, he came to London in 1862 for the purpose of seeing the Great Exhibition, and was so impressed that he determined to make his future home in the Metropolis. In the following year he gained a scholarship at the South Kensington Schools, and afterwards became a student of the Royal Academy. The Cornhill, Once a Week, and other magazines then in the ascendant, owed much of their popularity to the beautiful designs by Millais, Leighton, and similarly distinguished artists, and these remarkable productions inclined Mr. Fildes to adopt book-illustration as a stepping-stone towards painting. Good-fortune attended his efforts, and in June 1869, by which time he had achieved a position as a black-and-white draughtsman, he received an intimation from Mr. W. L. Thomas that he had conceived the idea of publishing a new illustrated paper, eventually called The Graphic, and suggested that he should draw something effective, the subject to be the artist's own choice, for publication therein.
Lent by the Artist.
"I went home," says Mr. Fildes, "and, at ten o'clock on a terribly hot night, I sat with a piece of paper and sketched out the idea for 'The Casuals.' Some few years before, when I first came to London, I was very fond of wandering about, and remember beholding somewhere near the Portland Road, one snowy winter's night, the applicants for admission to a casual ward." Recollecting the incident, Mr. Fildes endeavoured to reproduce this scene as a subject likely to prove acceptable to the manager of The Graphic, and it was that very picture which, as already related, led to the artist's introduction to the famous novelist.
Messrs. Chapman & Hall, who had been authorised to write to Mr. Fildes respecting the illustration of "Edwin Drood," desired him to submit specimens of his black-and-white work, and at the same time expressed a hope that, as they had no recollection of having seen representations of beautiful women in any of his drawings, he would enclose a few examples of his ability in that direction, for the very important reason that in Charles Dickens's new story would appear two attractive heroines. Mr. Fildes immediately dispatched a parcel containing various illustrations designed by him for the magazines, and promised to execute, for the novelist's inspection, two or three drawings of scenes from one of his stories. A few days later the artist became the recipient of a very complimentary letter, in which Dickens said: "I beg to thank you for the highly meritorious and interesting specimens of your art that you have had the kindness to send me. I return them herewith, after having examined them with the greatest pleasure. I am naturally curious to see your drawing from 'David Copperfield,' in order that I may compare it with my own idea. In the meanwhile, I can honestly assure you that I entertain the greatest admiration for your remarkable powers."
In accordance with his own proposal, Mr. Fildes prepared two or[Pg 207]
[Pg 208] three designs from "Copperfield," one of which fulfilled the requisite condition that it should contain a representation of a pretty girl, the subject selected being the scene depicting Peggotty embracing Little Em'ly after the announcement of her betrothal to Ham. Dickens considered these drawings so eminently satisfactory that he desired the artist to call upon him at his temporary residence, No. 5 Hyde Park Place, for the purpose of consulting him regarding the illustrations for "Edwin Drood." The eventful day at length arrived when author and artist met for the first time, and the auspicious occasion is thus pleasantly recalled in the following note from Mr. Fildes (written for "Charles Dickens by Pen and Pencil"), in response to my inquiry respecting his earliest impressions of the novelist's personality:—
"I can tell you so little of Dickens that is 'terse, graphic, or vivid.' It's so long ago! He passed by me so like a vision. At least it seems so to me now. When I first saw him, I felt a little oppressed—I don't know why—he loomed so large, and was so great in my imagination. He rose from his writing-table to greet me. He was dressed in dark clothes; I cannot quite recall the cut of coat, but it was loose and unbuttoned,—a black silk neckerchief was loosely tied, with hanging ends, round his throat. His general appearance, with the 'cut' of his head, gave me the idea—perhaps reminded me somehow—of one who was, or had been, connected with the sea. But I thought so much of the Man, and had so affectionate a respect, that it never occurred to me then nor since to take an inventory of his features or the details of his clothes. I could possibly be contradicted on nearly every point were I to attempt it. What I do remember—and it is as clear to me as yesterday—is the indescribable sweetness and kindness of manner—a frank affectionate way that drew me towards him the moment I saw him. I don't know what it was, or how—perhaps his smile, the clasp of his hand, the drawing me down to sit beside him—but I felt like one does with one's own father, that you 'get on with' when a boy. That impression never left me."
This figure appears in the Illustration entitled 'At the Piano.' Vide "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
Lent by the Artist.
When, at this memorable interview, Dickens had expressed his requirements, Mr. Fildes (as he himself informs me) explained to the novelist that, while fully appreciating the honour of being selected as illustrator of "Edwin Drood," he would be compelled most reluctantly to forego the privilege if it were really a sine qua non that the designs should be of a humorous character, following the lead of the versatile "Phiz." He conceived it advisable to make it clearly understood, there and then, that comic drawing was not his metier, and ventured to remind the novelist that his stories, in view of the fact that they possessed an intensely serious side as well as a jocular one, lent themselves admirably to a graver style of Art. After pondering for a moment, Dickens observed that he was "a little tired" of being regarded by his illustrators mainly as a humorist,—a remark, however, which he qualified in a manner that did not at all suggest dissatisfaction with those artists, but implied, rather, that he was not averse to the more solemn incidents in his writings being considered by his pictorial interpreters; his agreement with Mr. Fildes in this respect might well have arisen from what he knew would be the leading characteristic of his last romance (certainly not humorous), which would give scope only to the "serious" artist. The interview resulted in the appointment of Mr. Fildes as illustrator of the forthcoming story, and in a letter to James T. Fields (of Boston, U.S.A.) the novelist said: "At the very earnest representations of Millais (and after having seen a great number of his drawings), I am going to engage with a new man; retaining, of course, C. C.'s [Charles Collins's] cover." So content was Dickens with his choice of this artist, that he could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction to his friends.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1870.As the date fixed for the publication of the first number of "Edwin
Drood" was rapidly approaching, it became necessary
that Mr. Fildes should immediately begin to prepare
his designs. Receiving the proof-sheets of each
number, he studied them so diligently and carefully
that he allowed no incident or personal trait to escape him.[Pg 209]
[Pg 210] Indeed, Dickens himself (as Mrs. Meynell tells us in The Century of February 1884) was astonished at the way in which his mind found itself mirrored in that of his coadjutor, both as regards the pictorial exactness of inanimate things and the appreciation of individual human character. The artist, however, was at first considerably perplexed in being kept in total ignorance of the plot, as Dickens volunteered no information respecting either the characters or the various parts they played, and although Mr. Fildes was much puzzled, before the plot began to develop, in discovering who was the hero and who the villain of the story, he hesitated to interrogate the novelist, because he surmised that there was a particular motive for his reticence. "He did, at my solicitation," observes Mr. Fildes, "occasionally tell me something—at first charily—for he said it was essential to carefully preserve the 'mystery' from general knowledge to sustain the interest of the book, and later he appeared to have complete confidence in my discretion."
Dickens, it seems, was seldom in advance with his manuscript, and each number was barely completed in time for the printers, thus necessitating excessive promptitude on the part of the engravers as well as the designer. The subjects of the earlier illustrations were selected by the author, who marked on the proofs the particular incidents to be depicted. In thus trotting after the novelist, the artist experienced a sense of restraint, and felt unable to do himself justice. At length, when Dickens proposed that one of the incidents to be delineated should be that in which John Jasper steals up a winding staircase in absolute darkness with murder on his face, Mr. Fildes courteously protested by pointing out the artistic disadvantages of illustrating such a scene, adding that it was already so graphically recounted that further elucidation became superfluous. Apropos of this, Mr. M. H. Spielmann remarks: "It is curious to observe how Dickens's dramatic sense obtruded itself when arranging for the drawings. He would always wish that scene or tableau to be illustrated on which he had lavished the whole force and art of his descriptive powers—naturally [Pg 211]the one that least required or justified illustration." By this time the novelist realised the advisability of leaving the responsibility of selection in the hands of the artist, who thenceforth was relieved of the limitations and restrictions hitherto imposed upon him.
The figure on the right was introduced in the Illustration entitled "On Dangerous Ground."
Vide "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
Lent by the Artist.
The requisite consultations between Dickens and his illustrator were invariably held at Hyde Park Place. Whenever practicable, Mr. Fildes made sketches from the life of suitable types for the characters in the story, and was fortunate in securing living models for the principal personages. Over the type of Jasper there was much discussion, the artist making several attempts before he obtained an exact portrait of the choirmaster; and so successful and sympathetic were this and other delineations of character, that Dickens was delighted with them, declaring them to be like veritable photographs of the people themselves. The backgrounds, too, were drawn from actual scenes, as, for example, the opium-smokers' den which figures in the first and last illustrations; this was discovered by the artist somewhere in the East End of London; the exact spot he cannot recall, nor does he believe that Dickens had any particular den in his mind, but merely described from memory the general impression of something of the kind he had observed many years before. The architectural details introduced in the illustration, "Durdles Cautions Mr. Sapsea against Boasting," were drawn from a careful sketch made within the precincts of Rochester Cathedral, although in the published design there is substituted a gateway different from that existing at this spot, in order to assist, no doubt, in promoting the novelist's obvious intention of disguising the identity of "Cloisterham." In the engraving entitled "Good-bye, Rosebud, darling!" it is very easy to recognise the quaint courtyard of Eastgate House in Rochester High Street. In the river scene we obtain a glimpse of Putney Church and of the picturesque wooden bridge which, until a few years ago, spanned the Thames at that point; while in a third illustration, [Pg 212]"Under the Trees," the artist availed himself of a sketch (made some time previously) of the cloisters at Chester Cathedral.
Concerning another of these designs, viz., "Mr. Grewgious Experiences a New Sensation," it may be mentioned that not only was this cosy interior actually drawn from a room in Staple Inn, but that the original of the capacious arm-chair in which Rosa is seated still remains in the artist's possession, it being almost the sole survivor of the furnishing items which formed part of his bachelor establishment.
It is interesting to learn that Dickens, who placed such great confidence in his illustrator, did not consider it essential that preliminary sketches should be submitted to him. Mr. Fildes's original studies for his designs were vigorously executed with chalk upon tinted paper, the high-lights being emphasized with chinese-white; the finished drawings were made upon paper and then photographed upon boxwood blocks. The engraving was at first entrusted to Dalziel Brothers, one of the best-known firms of wood-engravers of that day, but after the first two engravings were completed, Mr. Fildes intimated to the novelist a wish that the work of reproduction might be transferred to a former colleague of his, Charles Roberts, whereupon Dickens thus wrote to the late Frederick Chapman, of Chapman & Hall: "Mr. Fildes has been with me this morning, and, without complaining of Dalziel, or expressing himself otherwise than as being obliged to him for his care in No. 1, represents that there is a brother-student of his, a wood-engraver, perfectly acquainted with his style and well understanding his meaning, who would render him better. I have replied to him that there can be no doubt that he has a claim beyond dispute to our employing whomsoever he knows will present him in the best aspect. Therefore, we must make the change; the rather because the fellow-student in question has engraved Mr. Fildes's most successful drawings hitherto."
Lent by the Artist.
An examination of the illustrations discloses the fact that ten out of the full complement of twelve bear the signature of C. Roberts. In some instances, however, the result is disappointing, for the delicate tone-values which mark the original drawings are not apparent in the reproductions. This defect is chiefly due to the technical difficulties caused by the thick photographic film covering the surface of the wood-blocks, which curled up under the point of the graver; unengraved portions of the picture were thus lost, and the engraver, although carefully copying the missing portions, seldom succeeded in reproducing the characteristic touch of the artist. Mr. Fildes, perhaps, is hypercritical, for those who had not compared the engraved replicas with the original designs were delighted with these decidedly effective illustrations, while Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., quick to recognise the unusual ability displayed in them, wrote to the novelist complimenting him on securing so facile and graceful an interpreter of his text,—a comment with which Dickens was much gratified. As events proved, Mr. Fildes was as receptive as Dickens was impressive, and "vividly as Dickens saw the creatures of his brain, he saw them no otherwise than as they lived by this quick and sympathetic pencil."
For reasons already explained, Dickens never wholly confided
to his illustrator his intentions respecting the plot of the story. A
part of the "mystery," however, was (in a sense) surprised out of him
by the keenness and care with which the artist took up a suggestion.
Mr. Fildes informs me that it happened in this way: "I noticed in
the proof of the forthcoming number a description of Jasper's costume
so markedly different from what I had been accustomed to conceive
him as likely to wear, that I went at once to Dickens to ask him if
he had any special reason for so describing him. It was a matter of
a neck-scarf. Whereupon Dickens, after some little cogitating, said
he had a reason, and that he wished the scarf to be retained, and,
after some hesitation, told me why. He seemed to be rather troubled
at my noticing the incident, and observed that he feared he was
'paying out' the 'mystery' too soon, unconsciously doing so; for, he
said, he trusted to the 'mystery' being maintained until the end
of the book. He seemed to me to think it was essential to do so,[Pg 213]
[Pg 214] and especially enforced me to secrecy respecting anything I knew or might divine. This description of my interview with the novelist on the occasion in question gives, of course, only the sense of what transpired, and I do not pretend to quote exactly any of his words, or any phrase he may have used." The scarf was, in fact, the instrument of murder, employed by Jasper as the means of strangling the young breath of Edwin Drood on the night of the great gale.
Mr. Luke Fildes having made so shrewd a guess respecting the important part to be played by Jasper in the story, Dickens thought fit to confide in him some details concerning the final scene. Principally, perhaps, with this object in view, he invited the artist to spend a few days with him at Gad's Hill, in order that he might become familiar with the neighbourhood in which many of the scenes in "Edwin Drood" are laid. The novelist promised him that, if he were a good pedestrian, he would introduce him to some of the most charming scenes in Kent, and they would visit together the picturesque Hall at Cobham with its famous gallery of paintings, Cobham Park and village, and other interesting places in that locality. In the course of conversation during this interview, Dickens (who evidently anticipated much enjoyment from the little holiday) recalled that, when a boy, he had seen in Rochester a gaol or "lock-up," and significantly added that Mr. Fildes should make a note of one of the prison cells, which would do admirably to put Jasper in for the last illustration—thus pretty clearly foreshadowing the conclusion of the story. "I want you to make as good a drawing," said Dickens, "as Cruikshank's 'Fagin in the Condemned Cell,'"—a suggestion which Mr. Fildes did not approve, as any attempt on his part to treat the subject in the Cruikshankian manner might be resented as an obvious plagiarism, although a comparison of the two designs would have proved interesting.
This figure appears in the Illustration entitled "Mr. Grewgious has his Suspicions." Vide "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
Lent by the Artist.
It was decreed, alas! that Mr. Fildes's visit to Charles Dickens's "little Kentish freehold" would never be realised while the great writer lived. On the morning of the appointed day, Dickens intended making his usual weekly call at the office of All the Year Round, and was to have been accompanied on his return by Mr. Fildes. That very day, however, the artist (whose luggage was packed ready for departure) took up the newspaper, and was startled to read the melancholy intelligence that Dickens was no more. This terribly sudden death changed everything; but in order to fulfil the novelist's express desire, the artist was invited (after the funeral) to stay with the Dickens family. "It was then," remarks Mr. Fildes, "while in the house of mourning, I conceived the idea of "The Empty Chair," and at once got my colours from London, and made the water-colour drawing a very faithful record of his library."
The death of Dickens had an extraordinary effect on Mr. Fildes,
for it seemed as though the cup of happiness had been dashed from
his lips. Following the example of Mr. Marcus Stone, he decided to
abandon black-and-white illustration and direct his entire attention to
painting, with what success all the world knows. In 1879 he was
elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and attained full honours
eight years later. The first picture that brought him into notice was
"Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward" (exhibited at the
Royal Academy in 1874), this being elaborated from The Graphic
drawing, "Houseless and Hungry," which, as already described, led
to his acquaintance with the author of "Pickwick." While occupied
with this important canvas, Mr. Fildes was desired by Forster to
call upon him, and, on entering the study, he was interrogated respecting
his welfare; for Forster apparently opined that the demise of the
novelist, and the consequent termination of his illustration-work for
"Edwin Drood," might have caused the young artist some embarrassment.
After listening intently to Mr. Fildes's description of the
subject he was then painting, Forster suddenly exclaimed, "How
very strange! You are exactly depicting a scene witnessed by
Dickens himself many years ago. I have just copied his letter
referring to it, which has never been out of my possession;" and
[Pg 216]from an accumulation of papers on his desk (for he was then preparing his biography of the novelist) he abstracted the missive in which the novelist alluded to the unfortunate outcasts as "dumb, wet, silent horrors—sphinxes set up against that dead wall, and none likely to be at the pains of solving them until the general overthrow." Mr. Fildes was so struck by this coincidence, that he sought and obtained permission to quote Dickens's forcible sentence under the title of his picture when printed in the Academy Catalogue.
Mr. Luke Fildes has many pleasant recollections of Charles Dickens to impart. "He was extremely kind to me," observes the artist, "and, when living in Hyde Park Place, asked me to many of his entertainments. He was almost fatherly, seeming to throw a protecting air over me, and always elaborately introducing me to his guests." The artist still cherishes, as valued mementoes, a little memorandum porcelain slate bound in leather, a quill pen with the blue ink dried upon it, and a square sheet of blue paper, which were given to him by Miss Hogarth, who found them on the novelist's desk just as he had left them.
When Dickens died, only three numbers of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" had been published. The illustrations for the ensuing portion of the story, as completed up to the time of his brief but fatal illness, had yet to be executed, and it is interesting to know that the titles for these were composed by the artist. With a view to future numbers, Mr. Fildes had made several drawings in Rochester, including the choir of the Cathedral and the exterior of Eastgate House (i.e. "The Nuns' House"), which were never utilised; he also painted a view of Rochester Castle and Cathedral as seen from the Medway, this being reproduced as a vignette for the engraved title-page. The artist invariably signed his drawings "S. L. Fildes;" but in the vignette here referred to the signature incorrectly appears as "J. L. Fildes."
This figure appears in the Illustration entitled "Up the River." Vide "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."
Lent by the Artist.
It will readily be conceded that Mr. Fildes's illustrations for Dickens's final romance are remarkable for a serious and sound draughtsmanship, while the life-like delineation of the various characters, as well as the pictorial exactitude of backgrounds and accessories, invite careful study and examination. Without unduly disparaging the excellent etchings by Cruikshank and "Phiz," it must be admitted that there is a vitality appertaining to Mr. Fildes's designs which imparts to them a reality not always discoverable in the illustrations produced by those admirable artists.
 By a curious coincidence, this scene is almost identical with that depicted by Seymour on the wrapper for the monthly parts of "Pickwick."
 An engraved reproduction of this picture appeared in The Graphic Christmas number, 1870.
ILLUSTRATORS OF CHEAP EDITIONS
C. R. Leslie, R.A.—Design for "Pickwick"—Washington Irving's Tribute to the Artist—Portrait of "Dickens as Captain Bobadil"—T. Webster, R.A.—His Picture of "Dotheboys Hall"—A. Boyd Houghton—Illustrations for "Hard Times" and "Our Mutual Friend"—G. J. Pinwell—Illustrations for "The Uncommercial Traveller"—Interesting Portrait of the Novelist—F. Walker, A.R.A.—Illustrations for "Reprinted Pieces" and "Hard Times"—Illustrators of the Household Edition—C. Green, F. Barnard, J. Mahoney, E. G. Dalziel, F. A. Fraser, G. Thomson, H. French, A. B. Frost, and J. McL. Ralston—Charles Green's Illustrations for "The Old Curiosity Shop," "Great Expectations," and the Christmas Books—F. Barnard, the Premier Illustrator of Dickens—The Novels Illustrated by him—His Favourite Model—Tragic Death of the Artist—An American Household Edition—New Designs by C. S. Reinhart, T. Worth, W. L. Sheppard, E. A. Abbey, A. B. Frost, and T. Nast—Illustrations by J. McLenan—F. O. C. Darley—His Reputation as a Draughtsman—His Designs for an American Household Edition Engraved on Steel—Independent Illustrations—Death of the Artist—Sir John Gilbert's Designs for "Holiday Romance"—G. G. White—S. Eytinge—Prolific Contributor to Books and Periodicals—His Picture of "Mr. Pickwick's Reception"—Designs for the Diamond Edition, &c.—Character Sketches—Dickens's Admiration of the Artist's Conceptions—Gives a Sitting for his Portrait—A Unique Print—Eytinge Visits Gad's Hill—Illustrations by H. Billings for "A Child's Dream of a Star"—The "Christmas Carol" Designs by Gaugengigl and Chominski—"The Cricket on the Hearth" Designs by Marold and Mittis, and L. Rossi—Some Dickens Illustrations by J. Nash, T. W. Wilson, J. E. Christie, and G. Browne—Designs by E. J. Wheeler for "Tales from Pickwick"—Illustrations by Phil May, Maurice Greiffenhagen, and Harry Furniss—Coloured Frontispieces for the Temple Library Edition.
C. R. Leslie, R.A.Besides the illustrators of the original issues of Charles Dickens's novels there are other distinguished artists concerning whose designs for the cheaper editions some mention should be made in the present work. Besides Clarkson Stanfield, R.A., who has already been referred to as supplying the frontispiece to the first cheap issue of "American Notes," Dickens was under a similar obligation to two other Royal Academicians, Leslie and Webster, for frontispieces to the first cheap edition of "Pickwick" (1847) and "Nicholas Nickleby" (1848) respectively. Charles Robert Leslie, of whom Thackeray once said that no artist possessed so much as he "the precious quality of making us laugh kindly," found a suitable subject in the twelfth chapter of "The Pickwick Papers," his illustration representing[Pg 220] Mrs. Bardell fainting in the arms of Mr. Pickwick,—an incident that had already been depicted by "Phiz." The original picture by Leslie—which was a commission from Dickens—is a cabinet-painting in grisaille or monochrome; it realised £137, 11s. at the sale of the novelist's effects in 1870, and is now the property of Mr. William Wright, of Paris. It seems probable that Dickens owed his introduction to this artist through the friendly intervention of Washington Irving, who, in May 1841, thus wrote to the novelist: "Do you know Leslie the painter, the one who has recently painted a picture of Queen Victoria? If you do not, I wish you would get acquainted with him. You would like one another. He is full of talent and right feeling. He was one of my choice and intimate companions during my literary sojourn in London. While I was making my early studies with my pen, he was working with his pencil. We sympathised in tastes and in feelings, and used to explore London together, and visit the neighbouring villages, occasionally extending our researches into different parts of the country. He is one of the purest and best of men, with a fine eye for nature and character, and a true Addisonian humour." In 1846 Leslie produced his well-known picture of Dickens as Captain Bobabil, in Ben Jonson's play, "Every Man in his Humour," which was exhibited in the Royal Academy the same year; shortly afterwards the painting was reproduced in lithography by T. H. Maguire, impressions of which (especially those that were coloured) are now very scarce.
T. Webster, R.A.The first cheap edition of "Nicholas Nickleby" was embellished by means of a frontispiece engraved on wood by T. Williams from the picture by T. Webster, R.A., which (like Leslie's) was painted for the novelist. This exquisite painting (measuring only ten inches by seven inches) depicts the familiar scene at Dotheboys Hall, where Mrs. Squeers administers the much-dreaded brimstone and treacle; at the Dickens sale the interesting little picture realised the substantial sum of £535, 10s. It is said that the artist was so thorough and so persistent in illustrating the humours of boys' schools that he earned the sobriquet of "Dotheboys Webster."
A. B. Houghton and G. J. PinwellThe first cheap editions of later works were graced with frontispieces from the pencils of two artists better known as draughtsmen than as painters. These were A. Boyd Houghton, who designed the frontispiece for "Hard Times" (1865) and "Our Mutual Friend" (1867), and G. J. Pinwell, who furnished an illustration for "The Uncommercial Traveller" (1865)—all of which were engraved on wood by the Dalziel Brothers. In 1868 Pinwell likewise contributed four excellent woodcut illustrations to the Library Edition of the same work, and it is interesting to note [Pg 221]that in one of these, "Leaving the Morgue," he has introduced a full-length presentment of the novelist. Associated with the Library Edition we find the name of Fred. Walker, A.R.A., whose position as a designer in black-and-white F. Walker, A.R.A.stands high in the first rank of English masters. This clever artist prepared four illustrations respectively for "Reprinted Pieces" and "Hard Times" (1868), and for refinement of execution they have probably never been excelled. Fred. Walker, the painter of those world-famous pictures known as "The Harbour of Refuge," "The Bathers," "The Lost Path," &c., died prematurely of consumption in 1875, at the age of thirty-five, a loss which all artists and art-lovers have never ceased to deplore. The Library Edition of the "Christmas Stories" is illustrated by F. A. Fraser, H. French, E. G. Dalziel, J. Mahoney, Townley Green, and Charles Green, fourteen woodcuts in all.
After Dickens's death, that is, during 1871-79, Chapman & Hall issued a Household Edition of his novels, ensuring their further popularity by inserting entirely fresh illustrations. The artists selected for this undertaking were Charles Green, Fred. Barnard, J. Mahoney, E. G. Dalziel, F. A. Fraser, Gordon Thomson, H. French, A. B. Frost, and J. McL. Ralston, nearly all of whom had already been represented in the Library Edition. In commenting upon these designs, it may be remarked that, of his numerous illustrators, Dickens has never been more sympathetically interpreted than by Charles Green and Fred. Barnard.
Charles Green.The thirty-two illustrations contributed by Charles Green to the Household Edition of "The Old Curiosity Shop" contrast most favourably with those by "Phiz" in the original issue; these drawings, which, for the most part, were made upon paper by means of the brush-point, are entirely free from the gross exaggeration and caricature which impart such grotesqueness to the majority of the figure subjects by Hablôt Browne for this story. Mr. Green's design for the wrapper enclosing each part of the Crown Edition of the novelist's works (subsequently published by Chapman & Hall) is cleverly conceived, for here he has introduced all the leading personages, happily grouped around the principal figure, Mr. Pickwick, who occupies an elevated position upon a pile of books representing the novels of Dickens. A few years ago Messrs. A. & F. Pears commissioned Mr. Green to design a number of illustrations for a series of their Annuals, the artist's services being specially retained for the following reprints of Dickens's Christmas Books: "A Christmas Carol" (1892), twenty-seven drawings; "The Battle of Life" (1893), twenty-nine drawings; "The Chimes" (1894), thirty drawings; and "The Haunted Man" (1895), thirty drawings. His latest productions as a Dickens [Pg 222]illustrator consist of a series of ten new designs, reproduced by photogravure for the Gadshill Edition of "Great Expectations," recently published by Chapman & Hall. Undoubtedly Mr. Green's most important work in connection with Dickens is to be found in his water-colour drawings of scenes from the novels, of which a complete list is given in the chapter entitled "Dickens in Art."
Fred. Barnard.Fred. Barnard has come to be considered, par excellence, the illustrator of the famous novelist; indeed, he has been not inaptly termed "the Charles Dickens among black-and-white artists." Like Dickens himself, he was essentially a humorist, and his designs, although never lacking in infectious humour, had always something in them which raised them above the commonplace. To his skilful and vigorous pencil the Household Edition is indebted for the majority of the illustrations appearing therein, as the following list testifies: "Sketches by Boz," "Nicholas Nickleby," "Martin Chuzzlewit," "Barnaby Rudge," "Master Humphrey's Clock" (incidental chapters), "David Copperfield," "Dombey and Son," "Bleak House," "Christmas Books," "A Tale of Two Cities," "Hunted Down," "Holiday Romance," and "George Silverman's Explanation,"—making a grand total of nearly four hundred and fifty drawings. There is no doubt that Fred. Barnard "knew his Dickens" as well as any man, and he produced (independently of the foregoing designs) a number of pictures and drawings of characters and scenes from the novels, to which special reference is made in the next chapter.
Mr. M. H. Spielmann informs me that, for the purposes of his Dickensian subjects, the model who sat to Barnard was the late well-known French. The tragic death (in his fiftieth year) of this popular artist in September 1896 is not yet forgotten. He had accustomed himself to the pernicious habit of smoking in bed, and falling asleep (under the influence of a powerful drug) while his pipe was yet alight, the bedding caught fire, with the result that he was suffocated by the smoke, his body being much burned.
American "Household Edition."The Household Edition was simultaneously published in London and New York, Harper & Brothers having arranged with Chapman & Hall to be supplied with clichés of the illustrations. For some reason, however, the English engravings do not appear in several of the volumes thus issued in America, there being substituted for them a similar number of entirely new designs by the following American artists: C. S. Reinhart ("Nicholas Nickleby," "The Uncommercial Traveller," and "Hard Times"), Thomas Worth ("The Old Curiosity Shop"), W. L. Sheppard "Dombey and Son"), E. A. Abbey, R.A. ("Christmas Stories"), A. B. Frost "Sketches by Boz"), and Thomas Nast ("Pickwick" and "American Notes").
Mr. Nast has also illustrated various Dickens subjects for American magazines, and independent works such as "Gabriel Grub" (from "Pickwick"), issued by McLoughin as a Christmas book. Mr. Frost is likewise responsible for twelve illustrations engraved on wood for an edition of "Pickwick" published a few years ago by Ward, Lock & Co., of London and New York; and there is a design by him in Scribner's Magazine, December 1897, entitled "That Slide," and depicting the familiar scene described in the thirtieth chapter of "Pickwick." In 1859 Harper & Brothers printed "A Tale of Two Cities" as a serial in Harper's Weekly, with thirty-four woodcut illustrations by a New York artist, J. McLenan, and in the following year the same firm similarly produced "Great Expectations," with twenty-seven illustrations by that artist, the first chapter appearing in November 1860. Both stories were subsequently issued in volume form by T. B. Peterson & Brothers, of Philadelphia.
F. O. C. Darley.Perhaps the best of Dickens's American illustrators was Felix Octavius Carr Darley, a most eminent and successful "character" draughtsman, whose productions are both original and clever. When, in 1860, an octavo edition (also designated the Household Edition) was prepared by W. A. Townsend & Co. of New York, it was proposed that the services of Darley and Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Gilbert should be secured as illustrators for the new venture, this resulting in the American artist executing nearly the whole of the vignette designs, all of which assumed the form of frontispieces. He had already prepared more than five hundred illustrations for an edition of Cooper's novels, so it is probable that the excellence of those drawings led to his engagement in a like capacity for this Household Edition of Dickens. His designs, which were beautifully engraved on steel, are very refined both as regards conception and execution, and are especially interesting as indicating an intelligent appreciation, on the part of a Transatlantic artist, of the novelist's characterisation, the extravagant and grotesque being instinctively avoided. Darley, although born in Philadelphia in 1822, was the son of an English actor; his natural gift for drawing was properly encouraged, and he developed into one of the most efficient book-illustrators of his time; in addition to this he achieved a distinct reputation through the production of large prints, such as "The Village Blacksmith," "The Unwilling Labourer," "The Wedding Procession," "Washington's Entry into New York," and other popular subjects. The Dickens series of designs have recently been reprinted by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. (Boston and New York) for their Standard Library Edition. Darley also prepared six drawings for a little work entitled "Children from Dickens's Novels," and subsequently painted a series of eight familiar scenes from Dickens, which were reproduced as photo-etchings and issued in sets; these afterwards appeared in an Imperial Edition of the novelist's works by Estes & Lauriat, Boston, U.S.A. Darley continued[Pg 224] to occupy himself with his art up to the end of his life, but withdrew in his latter years from the cities to his home at Clayton, Delaware, where he died, March 27, 1888.
Sir John Gilbert, R.A.The small number of frontispieces furnished by Sir John Gilbert to W. A. Townsend & Co.'s Household Edition are reprinted, with those of Darley, in Houghton, Mifflin & Co.'s Standard Library Edition. It is perhaps not generally known that, in 1868, four woodcut illustrations were specially designed by Sir John for one of Dickens's minor productions, "Holiday Romance,"—a short story written expressly for Our Young Folks, a magazine published by Ticknor & Fields, of Boston, U.S.A. In the original announcement we read that the artist had "consented to waive his decision not to draw again on wood, in order to give additional interest to Mr. Dickens's 'Romance,'" by which it may be inferred that these are among the last examples of Sir John's skill in that direction. For the initials in "Holiday Romance," a Transatlantic artist, G. G. White, was responsible. Sir John Gilbert, R.A., P.R.W.S., also produced a series of "Pickwick" illustrations, now exceedingly rare, particulars of which will be found in the next chapter. This accomplished painter and prolific designer died so recently as October 5, 1897, in his eightieth year, and of him it has been truly observed that in his most distinctive line—viz., illustration—we can look in vain for his equal. It is recorded that he must have contributed no fewer than thirty thousand subjects to the pages of The Illustrated London News alone, besides supplying innumerable designs to The London Journal and other publications. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that Sir John Gilbert stands out pre-eminently the great popular illustrator of the Victorian era.
Sol. Eytinge.Among the American illustrators of the writings of Dickens, an important place must be conceded to Sol. Eytinge, who was born in New York in 1833. He began to draw at a very early age, and for forty years was a most industrious illustrator of books, papers, and magazines. For a long time he was connected with Harper & Brothers, but subsequently became the chief artist of Every Saturday, published by Fields, Osgood & Co., to which he contributed many Dickensian subjects, notably a large picture entitled "Mr. Pickwick's Reception," representing Sam Weller introducing to Pickwick the leading characters in the various novels. To the Diamond Edition of Dickens's works, launched by Ticknor & Fields in 1867, Eytinge made several full-page drawings, each of the principal stories containing sixteen illustrations, all of which were engraved on wood. He also made some drawings for a volume of "The Readings of Mr. Charles Dickens," and subsequently prepared a series of character sketches, [Pg 225]which were etched for the "Dickens Dictionary [of Characters]," published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. in their Standard Library Edition. Concerning Sol. Eytinge's illustrations Dickens said: "They are remarkable alike for a delicate perception of beauty, a lively eye for character, a most agreeable absence of exaggeration, and a general modesty and propriety which I greatly like." On the whole these pictures are well done, although it must be admitted that the artist has not always succeeded in satisfactorily interpreting his author. When the novelist last visited America (1867-68), his portrait was painted by Eytinge, probably from sittings, and it is now in the possession of Mr. W. E. Benjamin of New York. A lithographic reproduction of this painting, by the artist himself, was published by Ticknor & Fields of Boston and New York in 1868, copies of which are now seldom met with. I am enabled, through the kindness of Mr. Stuart M. Samuel, to include in this volume a replica of a particularly interesting impression of this rare print, on which Dickens has written the concluding words of "A Christmas Carol:" "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One." In the summer of 1869 Eytinge visited the novelist at Gad's Hill, in company with Lowell and Fields, on which occasion they together explored the slums of East London, including the opium-dens so faithfully described in "Edwin Drood." The artist has now been dead for some years; during the latter part of his career he lived in retirement, on account of ill-health.
I have not attempted to enumerate all the illustrators who have executed drawings for the innumerable editions of the works of Charles Dickens, produced by various publishing houses both at home and abroad, as their name is Legion. There are, however, two or three artists, not already mentioned, to whom a slight reference may fittingly be made. In 1871, Fields, Osgood & Co. reprinted Dickens's beautiful and pathetic sketch entitled "A Child's Dream of a Star," with ten full-page drawings by an American artist, Hammatt Billings, which were engraved on wood by W. J. Linton. The imprint of another Transatlantic publisher, S. E. Cassino, appears on the title-page of a choice edition of "A Christmas Carol," 1887, quarto size, containing twenty-four photogravure reproductions of new designs by J. M. Gaugengigl and T. V. Chominski, which forms an attractive item for the collector of fine books. This work was also on sale in England by G. Routledge & Sons, who, in 1894, brought out a diminutive edition of "The Cricket on the Hearth," very tastefully printed by Guillaume of Paris, and containing several little woodcuts designed by Marold and Mittis. The same story was included in the reprints of Dickens's Christmas Books published by A. & F. Pears, having twenty-five clever illustrations by Lucius Rossi, carried out in a style somewhat similar to those by Charles Green. Particular interest attaches to certain volumes published by Cassell & Co., entitled "Gleanings from Popular[Pg 226] Authors" (1882, &c.), as they contain several illustrations of Dickens scenes by Joseph Nash, Fred. Barnard, T. Walter Wilson, J. E. Christie, and Gordon Browne, the son of the famous "Phiz." To a booklet entitled "Tales from Pickwick" (G. Routledge & Sons, 1888), Mr. E. J. Wheeler contributed seven original and well-executed designs.
Messrs. Chapman & Hall's recently-published Gadshill Edition of "Hunted Down" and "George Silverman's Explanation" contains three designs by Mr. Maurice Greiffenhagen, who, like Mr. Phil May, now figures as an illustrator of Dickens for the first time. Mr. Greiffenhagen is also preparing six original drawings for "American Notes" and "Pictures from Italy," which will be reproduced by photogravure for the same Edition, while another well-known artist, Mr. Harry Furniss, has been commissioned to provide four illustrations of a like character for "The Uncommercial Traveller."
As I write, another edition of "David Copperfield" is announced for early publication by Mr. George Allen, the special feature of which will be the thirty-six designs by a new Dickens illustrator, Mr. Phil May, whose admirable draughtsmanship is familiar to us; there will also be issued a limited number of sets of the illustrations,—full-size facsimiles of the drawings, signed by the artist and accompanied by descriptive text. Messrs. J. M. Dent & Co. are preparing an edition of Dickens's Works for their Temple Library, an interesting feature of which will be a series of coloured frontispieces, from original drawings by Miss L. M. Fisher, Mr. F. C. Tilney, and W. C. Cooke.
 The later volumes of the Library Edition were issued at intervals during 1862-1868.
 The Library Edition of "The Uncommercial Traveller" also contains four illustrations signed "W.M.," which are much inferior to Pinwell's designs.
 During the printing of this work, the death was announced of Mr. Charles Green, R.I., who succumbed to a painful illness of long standing.
 For many of these particulars I am indebted to Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.'s Standard Library Edition of Dickens's Works.
CONCERNING "EXTRA ILLUSTRATIONS"
Independent Publications—Unauthorised Designs—List of Additional Illustrations—Dickens's Calendars, Relief Scraps, &c.—"Alfred Crowquill"—His Etchings in Bentley's Miscellany—An Admirable Vocalist—His Illustrations for "Pickwick Abroad"—Kenny Meadows—"The Nestor of Punch's Staff"—His Drawings in the Illustrated London News—His Work Criticised—A Civil-List Pension—A Delightful Raconteur—T. Onwhyn—His Signatures of "Sam Weller, Junr.," and "Peter Palette"—Illustrates Cockton's Novels—Plates for "Pickwick" Recently Discovered—"Jacob Parallel"—A Punning Advertisement—His Designs for "Charley Chalk"—F. W. Pailthorpe—The only Survivor of the "Old School"—A Friend of George Cruikshank—Coloured Plates—C. D. Gibson—His Drawing of the Pickwick Club—His Individuality of Style.
Since the publication of "The Pickwick Papers" there have appeared, from time to time, a number of designs illustrating the novels of Charles Dickens which were issued independently of the particular stories that inspired them, and generally without letterpress. Artists and publishers alike thus availed themselves of the enormous popularity achieved by Dickens's writings, confident in the belief that financial success would attend their efforts. Among those responsible for the designing of what are usually termed "Extra Illustrations" were many well-known draughtsmen of the day, including Hablôt K. Browne ("Phiz"), Sir John Gilbert, R.A., Onwhyn, Kenny Meadows, Alfred Forrester ("Crowquill"), and, more recently, Fred. Barnard and F. W. Pailthorpe. It must, however, be admitted that, with regard to certain productions by artists less skilled in the use of the pencil or etching-needle, such attempts to interpret Dickens's conceptions conspicuously fail.
In particular instances the publication of supplementary plates was approved by Dickens, but, for the most part, these independent illustrations were really unauthorised, the booksellers merely trading on the popularity of the novels (especially the earlier ones), which afforded unlimited scope for pictorial treatment. That there must have been a fairly constant demand for them is proved by their number and variety, nearly every form of reproductive art being made available for these designs, including steel-engraving, etching, wood-engraving, lithography, chromo-lithography, photogravure, &c. Some of the scarcer sets realise high[Pg 228] prices, and are naturally much in request. In the following list, which, I believe, is practically complete, I have included a few Dickens illustrations that were published in periodicals, in some cases with letterpress; although these cannot strictly be regarded as "Extra Illustrations," they are not without interest to the collector of such ephemeral productions. The names of the artists are alphabetically arranged.
J. Absolon and F. Corbeaux.
Barnaby Rudge.—Four engravings on steel by Finden, from drawings by Absolon and Corbeaux. Crown 8vo, green wrapper, price one shilling. To accompany the first Cheap Edition, 1849. London: Chapman & Hall, 186 Strand, n.d.
These designs were portraits of the principal characters, viz., Dolly Varden and Barnaby Rudge, by J. Absolon; Emma Haredale and Miss Miggs, by F. Corbeaux—the latter plate forming the frontispiece.
Character Sketches from Dickens.—Six lithographs, portraits of Mrs. Gamp, Alfred Jingle, Bill Sikes and his Dog, Little Dorrit, Sidney Carton, Pickwick. Elephant folio. London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, N.D. . Afterwards issued as photogravures (20 in. by 14-1/2 in.), price one guinea. Reproductions on a reduced scale, etched by C. W. Walker, were published by Estes & Lauriat, New York, n.d.
Character Sketches from Dickens.—Second Series. Six photogravures. Portraits of the two Wellers, Caleb Plummer and his Blind Daughter, Rogue Riderhood, Mr. Peggotty, Little Nell and her Grandfather, Mr. Pecksniff. Same publishers, 1884.
Character Sketches from Dickens.—Third Series. Six photogravures. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, Uriah Heep, Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness, Betsy Trotwood, Captain Cuttle, Mr. Micawber. Same publishers, 1885.
The entire series of eighteen plates were republished in Mr. Thomas Archer's "Charles Dickens: Gossip about his Life, Works, and Characters," issued by the same firm. Sixteen of these Character Sketches were subsequently reproduced in a cheap form, and presented to the readers of Cassell's Family Magazine upon the occasion of its enlargement in December 1896.
Lent by Mrs. F. Barnard.
Two series of "Character Sketches," reproduced by photogravure, were included in "Gebbie's Select Portfolios of Literature and Art," Gebbie & Husson Co. (Limited), Philadelphia, 1888-89. Eighteen of these were executed from the above designs by F. Barnard, five from drawings by other artists, and one from a photograph, the six additional subjects being portraits of characters not comprised in Barnard's gallery, viz., Henry Irving as Jingle, Mr. Toole as the Artful Dodger, Lotta as the Marchioness, Jo the Crossing-Sweeper, Newman Noggs, Mr. Squeers and Mr. Snawley, Montagu Tigg introduces himself to Martin Chuzzlewit and Tom Pinch.
The India-Proof Edition was issued in portfolios, green and buff, with embossed design in gold and colour.
The Shakespeare-Dickens Combination Company.—Published in Lika Joko, an Illustrated Weekly Conducted by Harry Furniss, from November 17, 1894, to February 23, 1895.
W. G. Baxter.
Studies From Charles Dickens. Two series of portraits of the principal characters, twenty-two in each series. Published in Momus, an illustrated comic weekly periodical, Manchester, from September 25, 1879, to February 2, 1882. A selection from these portraits were reprinted in C. H. Ross's Variety Paper, February 1888.
C. B. Bracewell.
Barnaby Rudge.—Etching of Barnaby, with a view of the "Boot" Inn. (The only impression I have seen is in Mr. J. F. Dexter's Collection.)
H. K. Browne ("Phiz").
Pickwick.—"Illustrations to the Cheap Edition of the Works of Mr. Charles Dickens." Six Illustrations to The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Engraved [on wood] from the Original Drawings by "Phiz." Green wrapper, small 8vo, price one shilling, N.D. . London: Darton & Clark, Holborn Hill; Joseph Cundall, 12 Old Bond Street; John Menzies, Edinburgh; Cumming & Ferguson, Dublin; James Macleod, Glasgow. And sold by all Booksellers in Town and Country. The word "misletoe" is mis-spelt in the title on one of the woodcuts. (See p. 72.)
The Old Curiosity Shop.—"Four Plates, engraved [in stipple] under the superintendence of Hablôt K. Browne and Robert Young, to illustrate the first Cheap Edition of 'The Old Curiosity Shop.'" Price one shilling. Green wrapper. The subjects are: Little Nell and her Grandfather, the Marchioness, Barbara, and The Death of Little Nell. "Published with the[Pg 229]
[Pg 230] Approbation of Mr. Charles Dickens." London: Chapman & Hall, 1848. Also proofs on india-paper, one shilling each portrait. A few sets coloured, now very scarce. (See p. 85.)
Barnaby Rudge.—"Four Plates, engraved [in stipple] under the superintendence of Hablôt K. Browne and Robert Young, to illustrate the Cheap Edition of 'Barnaby Rudge.'" Portraits of Emma Haredale, Dolly Varden, Barnaby and Hugh, Mrs. Varden and Miggs. "Published with the Approbation of Mr. Charles Dickens." London: Chapman & Hall, 186 Strand, 1849. Issued in green wrapper, price one shilling. A few sets coloured, now very scarce. These and the preceding designs were re-engraved by E. Roffe in 1889. (See p. 85.)
"Little Nell" and "Dolly Varden." Engraved on steel by Edwin Roffe, from hitherto unpublished drawings by Hablôt K. Browne. On india-paper, the impression limited to 100 proofs, with remarques printed in black, and 100 with remarques in brown, after which the remarques were cancelled. These plates were accompanied by explanatory text, and issued in a leatherette case, price 10s. 6d. Published by Frank T. Sabin, 3 Garrick Street, W.C., and John F. Dexter, 16 Minford Gardens, West Kensington, 1889.
Dombey and Son.—"The Four Portraits of Edith, Florence, Alice, and Little Paul. Engraved [on steel] under the superintendence of R. Young and H. K. Browne. From Designs by Hablôt K. Browne. And Published with the Sanction of Mr. Charles Dickens." London: Chapman & Hall, 186 Strand, 1848. In green wrapper, price one shilling. These engravings were also published as proofs on india-paper, 4to, price one shilling each portrait. Some sets coloured.
Dombey and Son.—"Full-length Portraits of Dombey and Carker, Miss Tox, Mrs. Skewton, Mrs. Pipchin, Old Sol and Captain Cuttle, Major Bagstock, Miss Nipper, and Polly. In Eight Plates, Designed and Etched by Hablôt K. Browne, and published with the Sanction of Mr. Charles Dickens." London: Chapman & Hall, 186 Strand, 1848. In green wrapper, price two shillings. Some sets coloured. The series of twenty plates, viz., "The Old Curiosity Shop," "Barnaby Rudge," and "Dombey and Son," were recently reprinted on india-paper, and issued by F. T. Sabin in a portfolio, price £2, 10s. (See pp. 100-101.)
Master Humphrey's Clock.—No. 1. Portraits of Master Humphrey, Little Nell, and the Old Man, with remarks on each character, and an address, stating that "The following sketches are the commencement of a series illustrating the principal characters in 'Master Humphrey's Clock,' to appear at monthly intervals, in parts similar to the present." Etchings by[Pg 231] "Brush." London, printed for the proprietor by W. T. Davey, 16 Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell; published by W. Britain, 11 Paternoster Row, 1840. Price one shilling.
Characters From Dickens.—Full-length studies of the principal characters. Published in Jack and Jill, 1886.
Twenty Scenes From the Works of Dickens.—Designed and etched by Christopher Coveny, with letterpress descriptions. Sydney: Printed for Thos. H. Fielding by John Sands, 374 George Street, 1883. 4to.
The subjects of eleven of these plates are taken from "Pickwick." A duplicate plate (No. 7), representing Mr. Pickwick and his friends on the ice, is also included, the subject being re-etched and the design altered because the first plate too much resembled "Phiz's" rendering of this scene.
"Alfred Crowquill" (Alfred Henry Forrester).
Pictures Picked from the Pickwick Papers.—Forty lithographs (etchings on stone) by Standidge & Co., from drawings by "Alfred Crowquill," comprising nearly two hundred subjects. Issued in ten parts (or sheets), buff illustrated wrappers, from May 1 to November 9, 1837. Price of each part, one shilling plain, two shillings coloured. Published complete in lavender-tinted wrapper, demy 8vo, and in cloth. London: Ackermann & Co., 96 Strand . The plates in Part I. only are signed. Reproductions have also been issued, etched on copper by F. W. Pailthorpe and published by F. T. Sabin, 1880. Price, coloured, £2, 15s., uncoloured, £1, 18s. Within the last few years sets of the "Crowquill" plates have been catalogued at twenty guineas. (See also "Thomas Onwhyn.")
F. O. C. Darley.
Scenes From Dickens.—Eight photo-etchings, from original paintings—the last productions of this American artist. Issued in a portfolio, and afterwards printed in the Imperial Edition of the novelist's works by Estes & Lauriat, Boston, U.S.A.
Scenes from the Pickwick Papers.—Designed and drawn on stone by Augustus Dulcken. Four plates, oblong folio, illustrated wrapper. Under each plate is a descriptive quotation. London: Bickers & Bush, 1 Leicester[Pg 232] Square, N.D. . Proofs, 10s. 6d. Very scarce. The subjects of the designs are: (1) Death of the Chancery Prisoner; (2) Meeting of the Ebenezer Temperance Association; (3) The Leg of Mutton "Swarry;" (4) The Old Man's Tale about a Queer Client. On the wrapper are depicted portraits of Pickwick, Sam Weller, and Alfred Jingle; and scenes representing the Shooting Party at Wardle's, and Mrs. Weller entertaining Stiggins.
J. W. Ehninger.
Dickens Characters.—Photographic reproductions of drawings by J. W. Ehninger. Cabinet size, price one shilling each portrait. Published by W. A. Mansell & Co., 316, 317 (now 405), Oxford Street, London, 1876. The series included the following: Mr. Pickwick, Sam Weller, The Fat Boy, Rev. Stiggins, Mrs. Gamp, Mr. Pecksniff, Little Nell and her Grandfather, Dolly Varden, Florence and Paul Dombey, Edith Dombey (two versions), Little Em'ly, and Little Dorrit.
C. D. Gibson.
The People of Dickens.—Six large photogravures from original drawings. Issued in a portfolio, proofs, 20s. London: John Lane; New York: R. H. Russell, 1897. These drawings were originally made for an American publication called The Ladies' Home Journal, and were reprinted in Black and White at intervals during 1896-97.
Sir John Gilbert, R.A.
Pickwick.—"Appleyard's Edition. Price 2d. Plates to illustrate the Cheap Edition of the Works of Mr. Charles Dickens. From original designs by John Gilbert, Esq. Engraved [on wood] by Messrs. Greenaway & Wright." Eight monthly parts, post 8vo, each containing four plates engraved on wood. Buff illustrated wrappers. Part 4 was issued with Part 5 in one wrapper, and the same condition was observed regarding Parts 7 and 8, the price of these double numbers being fourpence. Some of the designs are printed on the front of the wrappers, and on the inside of the back of the last wrapper appears a list of the thirty-two plates, with pagination. A limited number were printed on india-paper. London: E. Appleyard, 86 Farringdon Street, N.D. . These excellent plates are extremely rare.
Nicholas Nickleby.—"Appleyard's Edition. Price 2d. Plates to illustrate the Cheap Edition of the Works of Mr. Charles Dickens." Thirty-two designs, engraved on wood by Greenaway & Wright, and published in parts. Post 8vo. The first instalment (with portrait of Squeers on a buff illustrated wrapper) contains four designs, which were all that Gilbert produced, the remainder (unsigned) being by inferior artists, the majority engraved by C. M. Gorway. Published complete in a yellow illustrated wrapper by E. Appleyard, 86 Farringdon Street, London. Price 1s. 6d.
Lent by the Artist.
Lent by Mr. Townley Green, R.I.
"The Cricket on the Hearth."—Six woodcut Portraits of the Principal Characters. Unsigned. The Pictorial Times, Dec. 27, 1845.
"Pickwickian Illustrations."-Twenty etched designs, demy 8vo. Ornamental paper wrapper, having title printed in gold on a black label. Price 5s. London: T. McLean, Haymarket, 1837. All the plates bear the title, "Pickwickian Illustrations" as a headline, and, with the exception of the last four, are numbered; the last four bear the publisher's imprint. A set of these scarce etchings was recently catalogued at twenty guineas.
"Kyd" (J. Clayton Clarke).
The Characters of Charles Dickens.—A series of original water-colour drawings, signed with monogram, J.C.C. A collection of these, 241 in number, realised ten guineas at the Cosens sale in 1890. Mr. Thomas Wilson possesses 331 drawings by "Kyd," which probably include those formerly owned by the late Mr. F. W. Cosens.
A series of twenty-four of these drawings were reproduced by chromo-lithography, small 4to, illustrated boards, and published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, London, Paris, and New York, N.D.
The Characters of Dickens.—Studies of a few of the leading personages in the novels. The Fleet Street Magazine, 1887.
W. Maddox and H. Warren.
"Little Nell" and "Mrs. Quilp."—Engraved by Finden from drawings by W. Maddox and H. Warren respectively, for the first Cheap Edition of "The Old Curiosity Shop," 1848. London: Chapman & Hall. Kenny Meadows designed a portrait of "Barbara" for the same work.
Dickens Characters.—"Gallery of Comicalities."—"London Particulars." This series of portraits (some of which are signed with the artist's initials) include Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Charley Bates, Sam Weller, Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble. Each portrait is accompanied by a poem of forty lines. Published in Bell's Life in London, 1838.
Heads From "Nicholas Nickleby."—Portraits of twenty-four of the principal characters, "from drawings by Miss La Creevy." Six parts, demy 8vo,[Pg 233]
[Pg 234] price 6d. each. London: Robert Tyas, Cheapside, N.D. . The separate parts were enclosed in a buff illustrated wrapper, having at each corner a portrait of a member of the Nickleby family, and in the centre a representation of Miss La Creevy, seated before a portrait of "Boz" (after S. Laurence). Included among the advertisements in the first number is an announcement of this production, with an engraving depicting Miss La Creevy at work. The illustrations are here said to be "etched by A. Drypoint," but they are really woodcuts. The following explanatory statement, which forms part of the announcement, is not without interest: "These 'Heads' will comprise Portraits of the most interesting individuals that appear in 'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,' selected at the period when their very actions define their true character, and exhibit the inward mind by its outward manifestations. Each Portrait will be a literal transcript from the accurate and vividly minute descriptions of this able and graphic author, and will present to the eye an equally faithful version of the maiden simplicity of Kate Nickleby—the depravity of Sir Mulberry Hawk—the imbecility of his dupe—the heartless villainy of the calculating Ralph—the generosity of the noble-minded Nicholas—the broken spirit of poor Smike—and the brutality of Squeers. These and many others furnish subjects for the display of the Artist's genius, and will form an interesting and most desirable addition to the work." The "Heads" were also issued in a collected form, in a green wrapper and in cloth, and were republished in "The Scrap Book of Literary Varieties," the names of the characters being changed into brief descriptive titles, such as "Miniature Painter" instead of "Miss La Creevy." Cloth, 8vo. London: Edward Lacy, 74 St. Paul's Churchyard, N.D.
"Barbara."—Engraved by Finden, and published with two plates by W. Maddox and H. Warren to illustrate the first Cheap Edition of "The Old Curiosity Shop," 1848. Price 7d. London: Chapman & Hall.
Thomas Onwhyn ("Sam Weller," "Peter Palette").
Illustrations to the Pickwick Club.—Thirty-two plates by "Samuel Weller." "The local scenery sketched on the spot" The majority are signed "Samuel Weller, delt.;" a few bear the artist's initials, "T.O.," while others have no signature appended. Issued in eight monthly parts, green wrappers, demy 8vo, one shilling each, and published complete in one volume, boards, price 9s. London: E. Grattan, 51 Paternoster Row, 1837. According to the announcement on the cover of Part I., there were to have been ten parts, and india-proof impressions, 4to, price 2s. Some of the unsigned plates are much inferior to those bearing Onwhyn's signature. A set of these "Pickwick" plates, in the original parts, have been catalogued at fifteen guineas. Lithographic replicas were issued in small 8vo by J. Newman,[Pg 235] 48 Watling Street, 1848, for insertion in the first Cheap Edition of "Pickwick." Twelve of these plates (etched by J. Yeager) were included in a "new edition" of "Pickwick" published by Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, Philadelphia, 1838, and reprinted in 1850. (See also "Alfred Crowquill.")
Illustrations to the Pickwick Club.—Twelve etchings on steel, 1847. Published in green wrapper by A. Jackson, 224 Great Portland Street, in 1894. Prices, per set, india-proofs 30s.; coloured by Pailthorpe, 25s.; plain, 18s.
Illustrations to "Nicholas Nickleby."—"Edited by 'Boz.' By Peter Palette, Esq." Forty etchings, comprising ten portraits and thirty scenes. Issued in nine parts, demy 8vo, price one shilling each, green and buff wrappers, having a design representing an easel with a palette affixed. Published at intervals from June 30, 1838, to October 31, 1839, and subsequently as a volume. London: E. Grattan, Paternoster Row, 1839. The publisher, when launching these designs, seemed unable to determine the exact number of parts in which they should appear. On the wrappers of Parts 1 to 5 it is stated that they would be completed in eight parts; on the wrappers of Parts 6 and 7, in ten parts; and on that of Part 8, in nine parts. Parts 1 to 5 contain four plates each, 6 to 8 contain five plates each, and 9 contains five plates, thus making the full complement of forty designs. The work was afterwards republished by Grattan & Gilbert, 51 Paternoster Row, and again reprinted (circa 1847)—thirty-two plates only, which were styled "proofs"—in small 4to, on buff paper. About the same time a similar number of these designs were issued as lithographs, in eight parts, small 4to. Newman, N.D.
In 1897, Mr. George Allen, of 156 Charing Cross Road, issued india-proof impressions from the thirty-two original steel plates for "Pickwick," and from thirty-eight for "Nickleby," the edition being strictly limited to 250 sets for each work. Price £5, 5s. per set. Cloth portfolio, 12 by 9 inches, with title-page and list of subjects. The plates have been well preserved.
H. M. Paget.
Pickwick Pictures.—Six character sketches, printed in colours, with letterpress. Crown 8vo. Illustrated wrapper. London: Ernest Nister, 24 St. Bride Street, E.C. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 31 West Twenty-Third Street, N.D.
F. W. Pailthorpe.
Pickwick.—Twenty-four etchings, from original drawings, of scenes not previously illustrated. Impl. 8vo. Illustrated wrapper. London: Robson & Kerslake, 1882. Price two guineas the set, proofs on india-paper (before letters), three guineas.
Pickwick.—Three vignette titles, etched in 1892 for an extended version of the Victoria Edition. An original tinted drawing (unpublished) of "Gabriel Grub and the Goblin" is included in Mr. Thomas Wilson's Collection.
Oliver Twist.—Twenty-one etchings. London: Robson & Kerslake, 23 Coventry Street, Haymarket, 1886. Only fifty sets printed, a few of which were coloured by the artist, also proofs on india-paper, in portfolio.
Great Expectations.—Twenty-one etchings. London: Robson & Kerslake, 23 Coventry Street, Haymarket, 1885. Only fifty sets printed, a few of which were coloured by the artist; also proofs on india-paper, in portfolio.
Mr. Pailthorpe has designed and etched frontispieces (some coloured) for reprints of the following: "The Strange Gentleman" and "The Village Coquettes," 1880 (C. Hindley); "Is She His Wife?" "Mr. Nightingale's Diary," and "The Lamplighter," 1887 (Robson & Kerslake). The first set of impressions of the frontispiece for "The Village Coquettes" was coloured, after which the plate disappeared, so that no plain impressions could be issued. The only uncoloured print, taken before the completion of the etching, is included in Mr. Thomas Wilson's Collection. This plate was the artist's second attempt at designing.
Mr. Pailthorpe has etched a portrait of Samuel Weller writing his love-letter, for "The Origin of Sam Weller" (Jarvis & Son), 1883; the frontispiece and vignette-title for "A New Piljian's Projiss, written by Mrs. Gamp, edited by Charles Dickens," 1890 (unpublished); etched borders containing characters and scenes from Dickens, for Mr. William Wright, of Paris. The artist also designed six new plates for the "Memoirs of Grimaldi," which, however, were only edited by Dickens.
"Jacob Parallel's Hands to Humphrey's Clock; or, Sketches from the Clock Case."—Twelve etchings on steel, illustrating "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Barnaby Rudge." Two parts, Impl. 8vo, green illustrated wrappers, price two shillings each. London: G. Berger, Holywell Street, Strand, N.D [1840-41]. A series of illustrations of the principal scenes and portraits of the characters, ten for the first story and two for the second. The design on the wrapper represents Master Humphrey standing on a chair winding up the clock, against which rests a framed portrait of "Boz."
Barnaby Rudge's Portrait Gallery.—During the serial issue of "Barnaby Rudge," Mr. W. Britain, 11 Paternoster Row, advertised on one of the weekly wrappers (August 28, 1841) a series of twenty "splendid engravings" by this artist, price twopence, but I have never seen them.
"Sibson's Racy Sketches of Expeditions, from the Pickwick Club."—Ten etchings, with letterpress, demy 8vo, green illustrated wrappers, price 2s. 6d. London: Sherwood, Gilbert & Piper, 1838. The design on the wrapper depicts Dickens standing on Mr. Pickwick's head, holding aloft an enormous quill pen, the pseudonym "Boz" appearing on his coat-sleeves." The above title is printed on the wrapper, but on the title-page it runs thus: "Sketches of Expeditions, from the Pickwick Club." The Preface reads as follows: "Originally the Pickwick Club appeared with four Illustrations: but since Death chilled the life-depicting hand of poor Seymour, two Embellishments have disappeared, while eight pages of letterpress have been added. These papers, thus arranged, bursting as they do with incident, and intoxicated as they are with wit, must have come before the public without Illustrations for many of their most striking scenes. Reader, were it not so, these Sketches had never seen the light of your eyes. The artist's hope is (may you find it not a vain one) that these humble efforts may afford some of the pleasure he enjoyed when imagining them.—11 Buckingham St., Portland Place, London. January 1st, 1838." A copy of this scarce work realised £18 at Sotheby's in 1895.
"Illustrations of Master Humphrey's Clock."—Seventy-two etchings, issued during the publication of this work, 1840-41. Eighteen parts, each containing four plates, some with remarques. Impl. 8vo, green wrappers, price one shilling each part. Afterwards issued in two volumes. London: Robert Tyas, Paternoster Row, 1842. Only seventy plates are mentioned on the title-page and in the index. On some of the wrappers is a vignette of a clock, and on others we find a representation of Master Humphrey sitting on a chair. These plates are exceedingly scarce in the original parts as issued, sets having been catalogued at twenty-five guineas. Copies of some of the Sibson designs were etched by J. Yeager for contemporary publication in a Philadelphia edition of "Barnaby Rudge," together with similar replicas of a few of "Phiz's" woodcuts which appeared in the authorised English edition.
F. Stone, A.R.A.
Nicholas Nickleby.—"Three Portraits of Kate Nickleby, 'Tilda Price, and Madeline Bray, from original paintings by Frank Stone, engraved [on steel] by Edward Finden, and published with the approbation of Mr. Charles Dickens." For the first Cheap Edition of "Nicholas Nickleby." Crown 8vo, green wrappers, price one shilling. Proofs on india-paper, 4to, one shilling[Pg 238] each portrait. London: Chapman & Hall, 186 Strand, 1848. The engraved titles are as follow: "Kate Nickleby sitting for her Portrait," "'Tilda Price dressing for the Tea Party," and "Madeline Bray pausing in her Work." (See pp. 178-9).
"The Dickens Aquarelles. First Series."—"Twelve Original Character Illustrations of the Pickwick Papers." Portfolio, illustrated boards. New York. J. W. Bouton, 1152 and 706 Broadway, 1888.
"The Dickens Aquarelles. Second Series."—"Twelve Original Character Illustrations of 'The Old Curiosity Shop.'" Portfolio, illustrated boards. Same publisher and date. These inferior drawings are crudely coloured by hand, the name of each Character being written in the margin.
Nicholas Nickleby.—"The Baron von Grogzwig." Lithograph, Impl. 8vo. "Sketches by Weld Taylor, No. 1." London: J. Mitchell, 33 Old Bond Street, N.D. In 1838 Weld Taylor reproduced by lithography the beautiful portrait of "Boz" by S. Laurence.
C. H. Wall.
Martin Chuzzlewit.—Four woodcuts, 8vo, green illustrated wrapper, price sixpence. London: Hexall & Wall, 113 Strand.
Nelson P. Whitlock.
Dickens Illustrations.—"Twenty-four Original Sketches from the Writings of Charles Dickens." 4to. No publisher's imprint, N.D.
T. C. W.
"Illustrations to Master Humphrey's Clock."—Four lithographs, illustrating the first portion of the story. Impl. 8vo. No publisher's imprint, N.D. Issued without a wrapper. Only two of these plates are signed (T. C. W.), and under each appears a descriptive quotation.
W. C. W.
Pickwick.—Twelve woodcut portraits of "Pickwick" characters, first published in "Sam Weller's Jest Book," issued in penny numbers, and afterwards in Nos. 48, 51, 52 of a weekly paper called The Casket (Dec. 2, 23, 30, 1837) in twopenny numbers. London: Berger & Co., Holywell Street, and Piggott & Co., Fleet Street, 1837.
"Original Illustrations to the Pickwick Papers."—Four parts, each containing four designs. Price 2d. each part. Small 8vo. Green illustrated wrapper, depicting portraits of fourteen Pickwickian characters. London: W. Strange, Paternoster Row, N.D. . These woodcuts were intended for binding in the first Cheap Edition. On the wrapper of Part I. it is announced that the work would be completed in eight parts, and that four engravings would be issued monthly; but it is believed that the fourth part was the final one.
In 1838, a number of woodcut portraits of Dickens Characters were published in The Penny Satirist and in Cleave's Penny Gazette of Variety (Late the London Satirist), afterwards called Cleave's Gazette of Varieties. These woodcuts consist of a series of twelve "Portraits of Oliver Twist" and twelve "Characters from 'Nicholas Nickleby,'" with descriptive quotations, &c., and were enlarged copies of the figures in the original etchings by Cruikshank and "Phiz." They were afterwards re-issued on a broad sheet, with the title, "Cleave's Twelfth-Night Characters," and sold by J. Cleave, 1 Shoe Lane, Fleet Street.
In 1841, Cleave issued a work called "Parley's Penny Library," in which were introduced selections (in the form of dialogues) from "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Barnaby Rudge," then in course of publication. They were illustrated by means of wood-engravings, the majority of those in "Barnaby Rudge" being enlarged copies from "Phiz's" original designs. These woodcuts (twelve in number) were also reprinted, with the title, "Cleave's Gallery of Comicalities—Recollections of Barnaby Rudge."
On the wrapper of the fourth weekly number of "Master Humphrey's Clock" (April 25, 1840) appears the following announcement: "Cheap illustrations of Boz. Now publishing, on a broad-sheet, nearly as large as The Times, price 2d. 'The Twist and Nickleby Scrap Sheet,' with twenty-four engraved portraits. Also, price 2d., 'Sam Weller's Scrap Sheet,' containing forty portraits of all the Pickwick characters. The above sheets are[Pg 240] enriched with poetic effusions by A. Snodgrass, Esq., M.P.C., and will be found worthy the attention of all who desire 'to laugh and grow fat;' they are alike fit for the scrap-book of the mansion or the walls of the cottage." These scarce sheets were issued by Cleave, having doubtless first been published in his Gazette.
Certain dramatised versions of Dickens's stories, by E. Stirling and others (published by John Duncombe & Co., 10 Middle Row, Holborn), contain frontispieces etched by Findlay, which are worthy of the Collector's attention. Besides these, innumerable Dickens illustrations have appeared from time to time, embracing every form of reproductive art. Calendars, relief scraps, booklets, &c., &c., both in colour and in black-and-white, are brought out by enterprising firms year by year, and merely to catalogue them would now be practically impossible.
NOTES ON SOME OF THE ARTISTS.
"Alfred Crowquill."—The actual name of the artist who favoured this pseudonym was Alfred Henry Forrester. Born in 1804, he began his career as a draughtsman when eighteen years of age, distinguishing himself rather by his correctness than by serious forms of illustration. At the death of Seymour in 1836, he competed with "Phiz," Thackeray, Leech, and others for the vacant post as illustrator of "Pickwick," but without success. For a time he belonged to the staff of Bentley's Miscellany, and many of his etchings appeared in that journal during 1840-43. He was able to use his pen and pencil with equal facility and ability; in addition to this he was an admirable vocalist, and we are told that most of the Christmas pantomimes of his day were indebted to him for clever designs, devices, and effects. Forrester was also a member of the Punch staff, where, owing to his happy and genial disposition, he was highly popular. Besides his "Pickwick Pictures," there are other designs by him possessing a Dickensian interest, viz., the illustrations which he supplied to a curious production entitled "Pickwick Abroad; or, The Tour in France," which was launched by G. W. M. Reynolds in 1839. "Alfred Crowquill" died in 1872, aged sixty-eight.
Kenny Meadows.—This clever draughtsman (who abandoned the use of his first Christian name, Joseph), was the son of a retired naval officer, and was born at Cardigan in 1790. He has been described as "the Nestor of Punch's staff," and not only did he contribute many humorous designs to the pages of the Fleet Street journal during the 'forties, but he frequently prepared elaborate drawings for the Illustrated London News, in the early volumes of which may be found his most successful delineations. His representations of fairy subjects, although marked by mannerisms, were in great request.[Pg 241] His work is hardly remembered in this generation, but to speak of Kenny Meadows "is to recall the typical art of the illustrator and (such as it was) of the comic draughtsman of the first half of the century."
During his last years Kenny Meadows's services as an illustrator of books were rewarded by a pension from the Civil List of £80 per annum. He was a boon companion, a delightful raconteur when at the club, and a jovial, roystering Bohemian when he left it. This generous and kind-hearted man died in 1874, when he had almost completed his eighty-fifth year.
It is worth recording that a highly-finished drawing, in pen and ink and sepia, of Ralph Nickleby, designed by Kenny Meadows as an illustration for his series of "Heads from 'Nicholas Nickleby,'" realised £7, 10s. at Sotheby's in 1893, the drawing being about twice the size of the engraving.
T. Onwhyn.—This artist, best known perhaps by his Extra Illustrations to "Pickwick" and "Nicholas Nickleby," was the son of a bookseller in Catherine Street, Strand. He signed his Dickens etchings with a pseudonym, adopting in the one instance that of "Sam Weller, Junr.," and in the other that of "Peter Palette." Onwhyn also prepared several plates for "Valentine Vox" and other novels by Cockton. He occasionally contributed to Punch, but was more accustomed to the etching-needle than the pencil, his drawing on wood being hard and unsympathetic. This popular book-illustrator died in 1886, having then relinquished drawing for a period of sixteen years.
The twelve plates etched by Onwhyn in 1847 to illustrate the first Cheap Edition of "Pickwick" were intended for independent publication, to compete with the series of extra engravings by Gilbert; but before there was time to complete the necessary arrangements the set of etchings produced by him in 1837 were re-issued. This took the artist by surprise, and he therefore abandoned the idea of circulating the new designs. The plates were put aside, and their existence forgotten until 1893, when they were unearthed by the Onwhyn family, and subsequently purchased by Mr. Albert Jackson, of Great Portland Street, who published them in 1894.
"Jacob Parallel."—The etched illustrations by this artist for "Master Humphrey's Clock" are decidedly crude, contemporary criticisms notwithstanding. Their publication was announced in a somewhat original manner on the wrappers of Dickens's work, when the latter was launched in weekly numbers. One of these advertisements begins thus: "A clock is of no use without hands! Then, buy 'Hands to Master Humphrey's Clock.'" Concerning these curious illustrations a contemporary critic punningly observed: "These 'Hands' are, upon the face of them, a very striking matter, and no clock ought to be wound up without them.... They give the finish[Pg 242] that was wanted to the 'Clock,' and the public will, we have no doubt, keep them going."
In 1840, a book was published in parts (by G. Berger, Holywell Street), entitled " Charley Chalk; or, The Career of an Artist," with illustrations by "Parallel." These designs were declared to be "superior to many in 'Nickleby,'" while the volume itself was described by reviewers as "another 'Pickwick,'" and as "the only work fit to stand by the side of 'Boz.'"
F. W. Pailthorpe.—This essentially humorous artist and etcher, who is still living, may be correctly designated the only survivor of the "old school" of book-illustrators, as represented by Cruikshank and "Phiz." Mr. Pailthorpe was a personal friend of the former, to whom he sometimes alludes as "dear old George Cruikshank," and doubtless this association with the famous designer considerably influenced the style and manner of Mr. Pailthorpe's work. Indeed, this seems obvious to any one who compares the many Dickens plates drawn and etched by him with similar designs by the illustrator of "Sketches by Boz" and "Oliver Twist." A noteworthy feature of Mr. Pailthorpe's illustrations for Dickens's works is that a limited number of impressions have been coloured by his own hand, and the designs so treated are, in that respect, reminiscent of John Leech's plates for "A Christmas Carol."
Mr. Pailthorpe, by reason of his unique position as the sole representative of the "old school" of book-illustrators, has received commissions from publishers to copy the etched designs by other artists, in cases where the original plates have been lost or are otherwise inaccessible. He has thus reproduced "Crowquill's" "Pickwick" illustrations, the two cancelled designs by Buss for the same work, two of Onwhyn's illustrations for "Nickleby," and, quite recently, the two etchings by Cruikshank for the Mudfog Papers; these replicas have just appeared in the Gadshill Edition now being issued by Chapman & Hall.
Charles Dana Gibson.—This young American artist, who has frequently contributed to a New York journal called Life, recently essayed to illustrate Dickens by means of a series of cleverly-executed drawings representing some of the principal characters and incidents. The most satisfactory is his picture of the Pickwick Club, the portrait of Mr. Pickwick himself being capitally depicted. There is a distinct individuality of style in Mr. Gibson's work, rendered for the most part in pen-and-ink, and marked by a simplicity of treatment which is eminently attractive and effective. Although great ability in draughtsmanship distinguishes all his drawings, it may be contended that he is not invariably fortunate in realising the novelist's conceptions. Mr. Gibson's drawings of Dickens subjects have been excellently reproduced on both sides of the Atlantic.
DICKENS IN ART
Paintings of Scenes and Characters in Dickens's Novels—Portraits of Dolly Varden and Kate Nickleby Painted for the Novelist by Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A.—A Humorous Advertisement—Sale of the Two Pictures—Mr. Frith's Recollections—Mr. James Hamilton Presents to Dickens his Sketch of "What are the Wild Waves Saying?"—The Artist Rewarded for his Generosity—Water-Colour Drawings by Charles Green—How they Originated—An Interesting Series.
The novels of Charles Dickens are an interminable storehouse of subjects for pictures, so it is not surprising that they have always exercised a fascination over painters. The following is a list merely of those pictures that have come under my notice,—a collection which, doubtless, could be much amplified by reference to the catalogues of the Royal Academy and other important Art galleries.
W. A. Atkinson.—"Little Nell and the two Gravediggers" ("The Old Curiosity Shop"). Royal Academy, 1856.
Fred. Barnard.—"Sidney Carton" ("A Tale of Two Cities"). Exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1882.
"Horatio Sparkins" ("Sketches by Boz"). Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, 1885.
W. H. Bartlett.—"'The sea, Floy, what is it always Saying?'" ("Dombey and Son").
Edgar Bundy, R.I.—"Barnaby Rudge at the Country Justice's." Institute of Painters in Oil-Colours, 1896.
R. W. Buss.—"Peerybingle, Dot, and Tilly Slowboy" ("The Cricket on the Hearth").
"Joe Willet taking leave of Dolly Varden" ("Barnaby Rudge").
"Trotty Veck and his Dinner" ("The Chimes"). (See p. 55.)
G. Cattermole.—"Little Nell's Home" ("The Old Curiosity Shop"), 1842.
"Little Nell's Grave" (companion picture), 1842. (See p. 134.)
Horace H. Cauty.—"Bebelle looking out for the Corporal" ("Somebody's Luggage"). Society of British Artists, 1880.
Herbert Dicksee. "The Grandfather at the Grave of Little Nell." Royal Academy, 1887.
W. Maw Egley.—"The Marchioness Playing Cribbage in Dick Swiveller's Sick-Room" ("The Old Curiosity Shop"). Royal Academy, 1898.
F. Edwin Elwell.—"Charles Dickens and Little Nell." A bronze group, purchased by the Fairmount Park Art Association for the Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, U.S.A. The figure of Little Nell was exhibited at the Art Club, Philadelphia, and awarded the Gold Medal, while the entire group obtained a prize at the Columbian Exhibition. When exhibited in England, this work of Art met with warm approval, and the sculptor offered it to the London County Council, but the emphatic wish of Dickens (as expressed in his Will) prohibited their acceptance of this interesting memorial.
W. P. Frith, R.A.—"Dolly Varden," 1843. Also replicas and other portraits, including one representing her with Emma Haredale. (See pp. 246-7.)
"Kate Nickleby at Madame Mantalini's." Royal Academy, 1843.
"The Jailer's Little Daughter Feeding 'the Birds in the Cage.'" ("Little Dorrit").
"Little Dorrit Visits Arthur Clennam at the Marshalsea."
The first portrait of Dolly Varden was engraved by C. E. Wagstaffe in 1843; the third (now in South Kensington Museum) was reproduced in mezzotint by S. W. Reynolds; the fourth, "Dolly Varden and Emma Haredale," was engraved by S. W. Reynolds and G. S. Shury in 1845. The second portrait of Dolly, which was painted for Dickens, has never been engraved; there are in existence, however, a few impressions of a chromo-lithographic reproduction (now very scarce) of Mr. Frith's original sketch for the picture, the publication of which was unauthorised. The portrait of Kate Nickleby was engraved by W. Holl, A.R.A., and published in 1848 exclusively for the members of the National Art Union for Ireland.
The "Dorrit" pictures were painted in 1859, and engraved on steel by Lumb Stocks, R.A., as vignettes for the Library Edition, then in course of publication.
W. Gale.—"Mr. F.'s Aunt" ("Little Dorrit"). Royal Academy, 1857.
When Wilkie Collins saw this clever picture at the Academy, he was so much impressed that he wrote at once concerning it to Dickens, who replied (May 22, 1857): "I am very much excited by what you tell me of Mr. F.'s Aunt. I already look upon her as mine. Will you bring her with you?" The painting was purchased by Dickens through Collins, and realised at the sale of the novelist's effects the sum of sixty guineas.
Florence Graham.—"Little Nell seated in the Old Curiosity Shop." Engraved in mezzotint by Edward Slocombe, and published by Buck & Reid, 179 New Bond Street, 1888.
Large Drawings in Water-Colours.
Charles Green, R.I.—"Gabriel Varden Preparing to go on Parade" ("Barnaby Rudge").
"Tom Pinch and Ruth" ("Martin Chuzzlewit").
"Nell and her Grandfather at the Races" ("The Old Curiosity Shop").
"Captain Cuttle and Florence Dombey."
"Little Dorrit's Visit to her Sister at the Theatre."
"Mr. Turveydrop's Dancing Academy" ("Bleak House").
"Mr. Mantalini and the Brokers" ("Nicholas Nickleby").
"The Pickwick Club."
Small Drawings in Water-Colours.
"Barnaby Rudge with the Rioters."
"Simon Tappertit addressing the Rioters at the 'Boot' Tavern" ("Barnaby Rudge").
"Dolly Varden's Visit to Miss Haredale" ("Barnaby Rudge").
"Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness" ("The Old Curiosity Shop").
"Dick Swiveller and Fred. Trent in the Old Curiosity Shop."
"Sam Weller's Valentine."
James Hamilton.—"What are the Wild Waves Saying?" ("Dombey and Son").
Edgar Hanley.—"Dolly Varden." Royal Academy, 1883.
E. Hunter.—"Little Charlotte's Writing-Lesson" ("Bleak House"). Royal Academy, 1858.
C. R. Leslie, R.A.—"Mr. Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell." Painted for Dickens and engraved for the first Cheap Edition of the "Pickwick Papers." (See p. 220.)
Eleanor E. Manly.—"'It's Cobbs! It's Cobbs!' cries Master Harry. 'We are going to be married, Cobbs, at Gretna Green. We have run away on purpose'" ("Boots at the Holly Tree Inn"). Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, 1893.
Mrs. McIan.—"Little Nell Reading Inscription on the Tombstone." Presented to Dickens by the artist.
Fred. Morgan.—"Little Nell and her Grandfather." Royal Academy, 1883.
R. H. Nibbs.—"Peggotty's Hut" ("David Copperfield"). Royal Academy, 1852.
Charles W. Nicholls.—"What are the Wild Waves Saying?" ("Dombey and Son"). Engraved by G. H. Every, and published by A. Lucas, 37 Duke Street, Piccadilly, 1881.
Kate Perugini.—"Brother and Sister.—'Oh, Floy!' cried her brother, 'how I love you! how I love you, Floy!' 'And I you, dear.' 'Oh, I am sure of that, Floy'" ("Dombey and Son"). Royal Academy, 1893.
"Little Nell." Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, 1885.
Mary S. Pickett.—"Little Nell in the Old Church." Royal Academy, 1898.
A. J. Raemaker.—"What are the Wild Waves Saying?" Sculpture.
J. Halford Ross.—"Our Mutual Friend." Eight Original Drawings in Water-Colour, illustrating incidents in the story.
H. R. Steer, R.I.—"The Ball at Dr. Blimber's Establishment" ("Dombey and Son").
"Little Nell and her Pet Bird." Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, 1888.
"Nicholas Nickleby Interposes on Smike's Behalf." Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, 1897.
Lawson Stewart.—"'A Quiet Happy Place—A Place to Live and Learn to Die In.'" The Graveyard in "The Old Curiosity Shop." Institute of Painters in Water-Colours, 1885.
Frank Stone, A.R.A.—"'Tilda Price," "Madeline Bray," and "Kate Nickleby." These three pictures were painted for Dickens. (See pp. 178-9.)
F. W. Topham.—"Barnaby Rudge and his Mother." Presented to Dickens by the artist. (See p. 190.)
"Little Nell and her Grandfather in the Tent, making Bouquets for the Racecourse." Presented to Dickens by the artist. (See p. 190.)
H. Wallis.—"The Devotion of Sydney Carton" ("A Tale of Two Cities").
T. Webster, R.A.—"Dotheboy's Hall: The Brimstone and Treacle Scene." Painted for Dickens, and engraved for the first Cheap Edition of "Nicholas Nickleby." (See p. 220.)
In the above list the most interesting picture, in many respects, is Mr. Frith's "Dolly Varden." The artist was quite a young man, just rising into fame, when (in 1843) he made great success with several charming presentments of the locksmith's bewitching daughter, and on seeing one of these (described by Dickens as "Dolly with the bracelet"), the novelist so much admired it that he commissioned Mr. Frith to paint another portrait of her, together with a companion picture of Kate Nickleby. Writing shortly afterwards to the artist, whose acquaintance Dickens then made, he said, in reference to an engraving of the subject by C. E. Wagstaffe: "I saw an unfinished proof of Dolly at Mitchell's some two or three months ago: I thought it was proceeding excellently well then. It will give me great pleasure to see her when completed." The two pictures, when finished, were hung in the dining-room of the novelist's house. At the expiration of a few years, the portrait of Kate Nickleby was sent to Ireland (by Mr. Frith's desire) for the purpose of being engraved, and was delayed there so long that Dickens began to feel impatient. Accordingly, one morning he forwarded to the artist the following document, indited by himself:—
"Advertisement.—To K—e N—y.—The Young Lady in Black, K.N.—If you will return to your disconsolate friends in Devonshire Terrace your absence in Ireland will be forgotten and forgiven, and you will be received with open arms.[Pg 247] Think of your dear sister Dolly, and how altered her appearance and character are without you. She is not the same girl. Think, too, of the author of your being, and what he must feel, when he sees your place empty every day!
"October Tenth, 1848."
For each of these remarkable canvases Mr. Frith received the by no means extravagant sum of twenty pounds, that being the price demanded by him. At the sale of Dickens's effects, however, the portrait of Dolly Varden realised a thousand guineas, while that of Kate Nickleby found a purchaser, on the same eventful occasion, for two hundred guineas—a tribute alike to author and artist. Mr. Frith has favoured me with some interesting information respecting his presentments of Dolly Varden:—
"The picture of 'Dolly Varden' which I painted for Dickens was never engraved. Before I began it I made a study of the figure, but only the half-length, down to below the waist. This study was bought by Sir R. Rawlinson, who allowed (without asking my permission) a most villainous chromo-lithograph to be made from it, and one day to my horror I saw it in a shop-window. For anything I know to the contrary, many of these things may have been sold. The original completed picture never left Dickens's possession from the time it was finished till he died, nor was it ever exhibited. The portrait of Dolly (the 'laughing' Dolly) now in the South Kensington Museum, was bequeathed by Forster, who had it from Frank Stone, for whom I painted it. I painted two copies of the 'laughing' Dolly, but I don't know what became of them. I also painted two pictures in which Dolly figures in company with Emma Haredale—in one she is feeling in her pocket for a letter addressed to Miss Haredale, and in the other she is disdainfully treating Miss Haredale's hints about Joe Willet—she throws up her head and 'hopes she can do better than that, indeed!' I have just remembered another—a small half-length—in which she is looking at herself in a mirror and giving her curls a 'killing twist.' I have no idea where these pictures are. I may add that when Dickens came to see (on completion) my portraits of Dolly Varden and Kate Nickleby, which I painted expressly for him, he told me they were 'exactly what he meant.' This, of course, delighted me. They led to a friendship which lasted till his death." It will be remembered that in 1859 the novelist gave sittings for his portrait by Mr. Frith, which was painted as a commission from Forster, by whom it was bequeathed to the Nation. This portrait, now at South Kensington, occupies the most important place between the earlier portraits of Dickens by Samuel Laurence, Maclise, and R. J. Lane, and the later presentments of him by photography.
It is not generally known that Mr. Frith once had the privilege of illustrating [Pg 248]a Dickens novel, àpropos of which the artist writes: "I told Dickens one day when he was sitting for his likeness that I should like to be allowed to illustrate one of his books. He seemed pleased, and proposed 'Little Dorrit.' I forget to whom I sold the pictures, and where they are now I know not." The two paintings were beautifully engraved on steel by Lumb Stocks, R.A., as vignettes for the Library Edition, 1858-59.
The sketch by an American artist, Mr. James Hamilton, of "What are the Wild Waves Saying?" has a little history attached to it. While Dickens was in Philadelphia, during his last visit to America, he expressed a wish to purchase a painting of this subject,—one of the artist's most successful productions,—but, much to the novelist's regret, it had already been sold. The original sketch was still available, however, and with this Dickens was so greatly pleased that he immediately offered to buy it; whereupon the artist insisted on presenting it to the famous author of "Dombey and Son." Soon afterwards, Mr. Hamilton was agreeably surprised to receive a set of Dickens's novels, containing a pleasant inscription in the novelist's autograph.
The titles of Mr. Charles Green's admirable series of Dickens pictures were supplied to me by the artist himself, who favoured me with a complete list shortly before his death. In reference to these remarkable drawings I have received the following communication from Mr. William Lockwood, of Apsley Hall, Nottingham, for whom they were painted on commission: "The first work of Mr. Green's that really attracted my attention was his famous water-colour Race drawing, entitled, I believe, 'Here they come!' I saw that at a friend's house, and was so struck with admiration of Mr. Green's delicate sense of humour, subtle rendering of character, and fine drawing, that I at once told my friend of my great appreciation of Charles Dickens, and saw that, in my opinion, Mr. Charles Green would make the very best illustrator of his day of that great man's work. I then sought an introduction to Mr. Green, which resulted not only in my beautiful series of drawings, but in a warm friendship with the artist. In the execution of these pictures Mr. Green found most congenial work, and I think fully justified my judgment of his special power. When the series was exhibited at our local museum, it attracted universal admiration and the delighted appreciation of all classes." Mr. Lockwood has generously lent these pictures to many London galleries, including the English Humorists' Exhibition, held at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours in 1889.
 That Mr. Frith did not always entertain such an absolute objection to this reproduction is testified by the following memorandum written by him on a copy of the print now in the collection of Mr. W. R. Hughes:—"This is a very good chromo-lithograph from the first study for the picture painted by me for the late Charles Dickens. (Signed) W. P. Frith, December 23, 1884."
REFERENCES TO THE PRINCIPAL WORKS
Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
Edinburgh & London
Missing punctuation has been added and obvious punctuation errors have been corrected.
Archaic words and alternate spellings have been retained with the exception of those noted below.
Page 13: "Syke's" changed to "Sykes's" for spelling consistentcy (Sykes's farewell to his dog).
Page 67: "especally" changed to "especially" (the original designs, especially if he saw an opportunity for improving them.)
Page 73: "than" changed to "that" (It was under such distressing conditions that in 1873-74 he executed a commision).
Page 81 and 88: "apropos" changed to "àpropos" for consistentcy ("Phiz" was often àpropos) and (sly touches of humour peculiarly àpropos of the principal theme.)
Page 136: "encourged" changed to "encouraged" (Its extraordinary popularity encouraged him to prepare a similar story).
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