English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. - How they Illustrated and Interpreted their Times.
by Graham Everitt
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The reputation of the "Political Sketches" was, however, ephemeral, and considering their popularity and the eagerness with which they were bought up at the time, it is surprising how completely they have passed into oblivion. The name of HB, or of John Doyle, is now not only "caviare to the general," but it is amazing how little until lately he was known even to men not altogether ignorant on the subject of satirical art. A gentleman to whom I am indebted for some valuable information, tells me that some three or four years since "a large number of original sketches (not the engravings) were catalogued and announced for sale at Christies'. I went," he says, "possibly to buy several, but (and it is curious as showing the decadent interest in the pictures) no sale took place, because I was told there was no one to buy. I think," my informant adds, "that I was the only person, or nearly the only person, in the room." Distinguished people, however, had been to look at the drawings, and among them the late Lord Beaconsfield.

The success of the artist produced, of course, a number of imitators. Their productions were of various degrees of merit; but like most imitations they generally accentuated the faults without reproducing the excellencies of the model. Some of them are entitled "Political Hits," "Royal Ramblings," "The Belgian Trip," "Parisian Trip," and so on; some are signed "Philo H. B.," "H. H.," "B. H.," while others have neither initials or signature. They comprise some eighty or a hundred plates at least, many of which were probably suppressed, whilst others no doubt served the useful purposes of the greengrocer, the bookbinder, or the trunk-maker; and if, as we are told—

"Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay, Might stop a hole to keep the wind away;"

there can be nothing after all very dishonourable or very surprising in their ultimate destination.

The artist died in 1868.


[113] Annual Register, 1836, p. 237.

[114] 1836, p. 244. Mr. Baldwin (one of the proprietors of the Standard newspaper) stated that "if the bill passed in its present shape, it would deteriorate his property fifty per cent., and would operate in the same way with all property of that description."—Ibid., p. 247.

[115] Greville's "Memoirs," pp. 3, 71.

[116] In which Lord Brougham took a special interest.

[117] Greville's "Memoirs," ii., p. 148.

[118] For the silly and spiteful observations made in this speech, see "Annual Register," 1825, p. 43.

[119] Greville's "Memoirs," iii. p. 85.

[120] Inverness Courier, Sept. 3rd (quoted in "Annual Register," 1854, p. 129).

[121] From a nervous habit he had contracted of twitching his nose Lord Brougham was known to his contemporaries by the nickname of "Jemmy Twitcher."

[122] On this occasion the Great Seal was reserved and for the time put in commission, the commissioners being Sir Charles Pepys (Master of the Rolls), Vice Chancellor Shadwell, and Mr. Justice Bosanquet. Eventually it was presented to Sir Charles Pepys (Lord Cottenham), and the slight produced such a stunning effect on Brougham that he retired from active public life for a time, and sought solace in the pursuit and study of literature and philosophy.

[123] For this interesting table, see "Annual Register," 1833, p. 83.

[124] "One whose name is unconnected with any honourable action, whose whole life has been one scene of skulking from dangers into which he had drawn others, and who is occupied from one end of the year to the other in devising plans of drawing enormous fortunes from squalid beggary."—Dr. Maginn.

[125] Vol. xciv., August, 1863.



John Leech, "born in Bennett Street, Stamford Street, 29th August, 1817, and baptized (son of John Leech, vintner) 15th November, at Christ Church, Blackfriars Road." Such is the entry I find in the manuscript diary of his friend the late Shirley Brooks, now before me, written a few days after the death of the gifted and lamented artist. The "John Leech, vintner," his father, here referred to, was at one time proprietor of the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill. A late commentator says he "was an Irishman, a man of fine culture, a profound Shakespearian scholar, and [presumably by way of apology—as if any such were needed] a thorough gentleman." Be this as it may, he was not successful as a landlord, and as a matter of fact depended in a great measure for his support upon the talents of his remarkably gifted son.


Leech was only seven years old when his father sent him to the Charterhouse. His arm had been broken by a fall from a pony, and the effects of this accident debarred him from taking an active part in the athletic sports of cricket, hockey, or football; but his nature inclined him nevertheless to manly exercises, and despite his excellence with the pencil, which was manifested at a remarkably early age, he is said to have preferred the lessons of Angelo the fencing, to those of Burgess the drawing, master. He was not distinguished at school as a classical scholar, and Latin verses in particular proved so serious a stumbling-block that he always got a schoolfellow to do them for him. His famous friend and fellow-pupil, Thackeray, carried an indelible personal reminiscence of the Charterhouse about him in the shape of a broken nose, a mark of distinction which was earned in a pugilistic encounter with another schoolfellow.

A reminiscence of John Leech's schoolboy days will be found in one of his illustrations to "Once a Week,"[126] which represents a schoolboy perched in the topmost branches of a tree overlooking the walls of the Carthusian playground. As the mail coaches bound to the north passed the Charterhouse walls in the old coaching days, the boys not seeing any just reason why they should be debarred from the exhilarating spectacle, notched the trees and drove in spikes at ticklish points, which enabled them to mount to the upper branches, whence they could watch the coaches at their leisure. The illustration referred to is labelled, A Coach Tree, but without this explanation the reader would scarcely suspect (the letterpress being of course silent on the subject) that the schoolboy represented in the illustration is the artist himself. Leech always retained a pleasant recollection of his old Carthusian school-days, and frequently attended the festivities of the Charterhouse.

His early aptitude for the pencil was developed when he was only three years of age. One of his early efforts attracted the attention of Flaxman the sculptor, who advised that he should "not be cramped with lessons in drawing; let his genius," he said, "follow its own bent, and he will astonish the world." This advice was so far followed, that we believe we are justified in saying that beyond the ordinary perfunctory drawing lessons obtained at school, he received no other artistic education during the rest of his life. His father, the "profound Shakesperian scholar" and "perfect gentleman," so little encouraged the bent of the boy's genius, that if he had had his way he would have driven this square peg into a very round hole. At sixteen years of age he took his son from the Charterhouse, and shortly afterwards apprenticed him to an eccentric person at Hoxton, nominally carrying on the profession of a surgeon, and rejoicing in the name of Whittle.

This Whittle proved a perfect study to the young artist, and it is possible that his connection with this eccentric personage had some influence in deciding him not to follow a profession for which he had but little sympathy. Whittle was a man of large frame and muscular development, so far at least as the upper part of his body was concerned, but the development extended no farther, his legs being formed on much more slender proportions. His tastes were decidedly athletic; he had rings let into the wall for the purpose of practising gymnastics, and delighted in posing before his amused pupils in the character of "The Dying Gladiator," "Hercules," and other antique statues. The few patients he possessed had small chance of professional attendance when Mr. Whittle was in training for a walking or running match, or any other amateur athletic engagement. "When," says Shirley Brooks, "lady patients, taking a walk, are suddenly surrounded by a hurrying and shouting crowd, in the middle of which, as they escape, they behold their medical adviser, in quaint attire, rushing to pick up stones with his mouth, an early termination of the relations between the healer and his patients is not impossible."[127] A person of this kind was obviously out of his element in a learned profession, and this Whittle eventually recognised, and descended to his level by marrying one of his patients, a widow who kept a neighbouring public. He found himself more "at home" behind the bar in his shirt sleeves, and with ready facility adapted himself to circumstances by drawing beer for his former pupils and patients. Various stories have been told of this eccentric personage, who is said (with what truth we know not) to have commenced life as a Quaker, and ended it eventually as a missionary.


Whittle the eccentric was afterwards immortalized by Leech as "Rawkins" in Albert Smith's "Adventures of Mr. Ledbury," which made their appearance in "Bentley's Miscellany." We cannot advise those who would enjoy a hearty laugh to do better than refer to Leech's comical etchings of The Return of Hercules from a Fancy Ball (on a wet night, without his latchkey), and the Last Appearance of Mr. Rawkins in Public, in which the rencontre of Mr. Whittle and some of his female patients already referred to is superbly realized.

When Mr. Whittle and his practice had finally parted company in the manner we have described, John Leech's indentures were transferred to Dr. John Cockle, afterwards physician to the Royal Free hospital. During part of his spasmodic medical course, he went through the mystic performance at one time known as "walking the hospitals," and at St. Bartholomew's varied his attendance at the anatomical lectures of Mr. Stanley—where he met other square pegs intended for round holes, Albert Smith and Percival Leigh—with sketches of his fellow-pupils and their medical lecturers. Many of these, the earliest of his sketches, were in the possession of his friend, the late Mark Lemon. Before his time was out, Leech luckily resolved to throw his medical studies to the winds, and to live wholly by the practice of his art.

His first work, published when he was eighteen years of age, was entitled "Etchings and Sketchings by A. Pen, Esq.," and consisted of four quarto sheets, containing slightly caricature sketches of oddities of London life, such as cabmen, policemen, street musicians, and the like. He next tried his hand at lithography, and produced some political satires not without ability; but these at best were merely the tentative efforts of an artist who had not yet discovered the bent of his genius, in consequence of being compelled to accommodate himself to the standard of his early patrons—the printsellers. Having drawn his design, Leech has been known in those early times to spend a weary day in search of a buyer, by carrying the heavy stone about with him from publisher to publisher. The style of these tentative efforts may be judged by the work which first brought him into notice, a poor caricature of Mulready's envelope in commemoration of the establishment of Sir Rowland Hill's cheap postage system, a reproduction of which will be found in a late "Biographical Sketch" by Mr. Kitton.[128] Although the pecuniary reward of this early effort was small, people began to ask by whom it was executed; thus it was that his subsequently well-known mark, the leech-bottle, first came into public notice.

Specimens of these tentative efforts are of course scarce, but occasionally the reader may fall in with odd numbers of the "Comicalities," issued some half century ago by the proprietors of "Bell's Life," in which may be found specimens of his early work among impressions from the designs on wood of Kenny Meadows, "Phiz," and even Robert Seymour.[129] Among these early efforts may also be named "The Boys' Own Series"; "Studies from Nature"; "Amateur Originals"; the "Ups and Downs of Life, or the Vicissitudes of a Swell"; and other etcetera.

When poor Seymour shot himself in 1836, the artist who was at first selected to fill his place as illustrator of "Pickwick" was Robert William Buss, who, failing however to supply the requirements of Charles Dickens, was (as we shall afterwards see) quickly discarded. Others, however, had applied to supply the place of the deceased artist, and among them were Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"), W. M. Thackeray, and John Leech; although the latter failed to secure the appointment, he appears to us of all others the one best fitted to pictorially interpret the author's creations. Thackeray was so little conscious of the bent of his own genius that he seems at this time to have had some thoughts of following the profession of an artist, but happily failed so completely that he was induced to follow up his alternative art of authorship, by which he achieved his fame and reputation. Notwithstanding his failure, his implicit faith in his own artistic powers remained unshaken to the end, in which belief he has been followed by one or two writers who might have known better.

It is not until 1840 that we find Leech had matured the style and manner which afterwards made him famous; and accordingly, in this year we find designs which are thoroughly worthy of his reputation. Among these may be named "The Children of the Mobility," seven lithographs (reproduced in 1875) dealing with the humorous and pathetic episodes of the London street arabs; "The Comic Latin Grammar"; "The Comic English Grammar"; and a now exceedingly rare jeu d'esprit, bearing the full title of "The Fiddle-Faddle Fashion Book and Beau Monde a la Francaise, enriched with numerous highly coloured figures of lady-like gentlemen,"[130] a most amusing skit upon the absurd fashion books of the period, containing four coloured plates of gentlemen (more than fifty figures) in male and female costume, posed in the ridiculous and well-known simpering style of those periodicals. All these works were produced in conjunction with Percival Leigh, one of the artist's fellow-students at St. Bartholomew's, and led directly to his engagement on the pages of Punch, which was started the following year.

Among the rarer works published in 1840, to which John Leech contributed the benefit of his assistance, may be mentioned a publication, entitled "The London Magazine, Charivari, and Courier des Dames" (Simpkin, Marshall & Co.), in which we find some portraits and other work altogether out of the range of his usual style of illustration. The tone of this publication was personal in the extreme. Charles Dickens had produced (among other publications) his "Pickwick Papers," "Oliver Twist," "Nicholas Nickleby," and at this time was engaged on the most touching and pathetic of his stories, "The Old Curiosity Shop," which was, however, so little appreciated by the editor of this scurrilous publication, that we find him perpetrating the following sorry libel on the writer and three of his contemporaries: "To cheesemongers and others! Ready for delivery, at a halfpenny per pound, forty tons of foundered literature; viz., Mrs. Trollope's 'Unsatis-factory Boy,'[131] 'Master Humphrey's Clock' (refer to the second meaning in 'Johnson's Dictionary': 'an unsightly crawling thing'!), Captain Marryat's 'Alas, Poor Jack'! and Turpis Ainsworth's 'Guy Fox':—

'An animal cunning, unsavoury, small, That will dirty your hands if you touch it at all.'"

So little merit had this critical periodical itself, that some rare etchings by Hablot Knight Browne and Leech to a novel entitled "The Diurnal Revolutions of David Diddledoff," which appeared in its pages, failed to keep the dreary serial alive, and a quarrel ensuing between the proprietors and himself, Browne was dismissed and Leech supplied his place. Leech's caricature of Mulready's postage envelope, already mentioned, appears to have led to others, and among them one by "Phiz," a circumstance which is referred to in the following attack: "Phiz has found a lower deep in the lowest depths of meanness. When Leech's admirable caricature of Mulready's postage envelope was pirated by every tenth-rate sketcher, Phiz steps in to complete the work of injustice, and advertises his caricature of the same subject at sixpence, thus both borrowing the design and underselling the artist upon whose brains he is preying as the fly upon the elk's. Well might Leech exclaim, 'Et tu, Brute!' (and you, you brute!) Leech is a genuine artist, while Phiz is only a bad engraver." By way of answer to this vulgar abuse, Phiz almost immediately afterwards produced his admirable illustration of Quilp and the Dog, in No. 18 of "Master Humphrey's Clock."

In the pages of this defunct periodical we find a long and virulent article on Benjamin D'Israeli, the late Lord Beaconsfield, from which we have disinterred the following remarkable prophecy. After referring to his celebrated parliamentary fiasco, and his own prophetic words on that memorable occasion: "You won't hear me now; but the time will come when you shall hear me!" the writer goes on to say: "That time has never since arrived. In vain did Benjamin parody Sheridan's celebrated saying ('It's in me, and by G—— it shall be out of me!'). He renewed his efforts repeatedly.... But though, in consequence of his (sic) moderating his tone into a semblance of humility, he is sometimes just listened to, he has never made the slightest impression in the house, and we may fairly predict he never will." The article is illustrated by a remarkable semi-caricature likeness of the late Lord Beaconsfield, then in his thirty-second year, which, although unsigned and altogether different from his well-known style, we can assign to no other hand than that of John Leech. We found our opinion on the fact that the previous portrait is by him; that none but his etchings appear in the latter portion of the book; and because the bird represented following the footsteps and mimicking the walk of the young statesman, is own brother to the celebrated Jackdaw of Rheims immortalized by Thomas Ingoldsby. So remarkable is the likeness, that the shadow of D'Israeli's follower and that of Saint "Jem Crow" of the Legends are identical.


In 1840 some of John Leech's sketches were brought to the notice of the Rev Thomas Harris Barham, which led to his engagement on the pages of "Bentley's Miscellany," from which moment his artistic position was secured. His first illustration was The Black Mousquetaire. Barham in describing the scene, regretted, oddly enough, that he had neither the pencil of Fuseli or Sir Joshua Reynolds at command, or had himself taken lessons in drawing:—

"Had I done so, instead Of the lines you have read, I'd have given you a sketch should have filled you with dread! Francois Xavier Auguste squatting up in his bed, His hands widely spread, His complexion like lead, Ev'ry hair that he had standing up on his head, As when, Agnes des Moulins first catching his view, Now right and now left, rapid glances he threw, Then shriek'd with a wild and unearthly halloo, Mon Dieu! v'la deux!! By the Pope there are two!!!"

Leech continued on the pictorial staff of "Bentley's Miscellany" ten years; his etchings therein commence with vol. viii. (1840) and (practically) end with vol. xxv. (1849).[132] Altogether he contributed to this sterling periodical some one hundred and forty etchings, illustrating (amongst numerous scattered papers) "The Ingoldsby Legends" (with Cruikshank); Henry Cockton's "Stanley Thorn"; Charles Whitehead's "Richard Savage"; Albert Smith's "Adventures of Mr. Ledbury," "Fortunes of the Scattergood Family," and "The Marchioness of Brinvilliers"; W. H. Maxwell's "Brian O'Linn," etc., etc.

From the time that he joined the Punch staff, in 1841, the life of John Leech was one of well-earned prosperity and happiness. His income at first gradually and then rapidly increased, and he moved from the attic which he occupied in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road, into a house of his own at Notting Hill. Shortly after this he married. Miss Ann Eaton was one of those English beauties that Leech delighted to draw; and it is related of him that he first met her walking in London, and, following her home, noted the house in which she lived, ascertained her name, procured an introduction, and straightway married her. The issue of this marriage was two children—a boy and a girl. The former—John George Warrington Leech, the miniature counterpart of his father in appearance and dress, and inheriting in a marvellous degree his talent for drawing—was unfortunately drowned at South Adelaide in 1876.

Leech's hand appears for the first time in the fourth number of Punch (7th August, 1841),[133] to which he contributed the well-known full-page illustration of Foreign Affairs. His first cartoon, A Morning Call, will be found at page 119 of vol. ii., and the reader will find it worth his while to refer to it for the purpose of comparing it with the later and better work with which he afterwards enriched the pages of this famous serial, which mainly through his instrumentality was steered into the current of prosperity which carried it—after a time of considerable doubt and perplexity—[134] steadily onwards. One of Punch's most celebrated contributors has borne testimony to the value of his services. "Mr. Punch," says Thackeray in reviewing his friend's contributions in 1854, "has very good reason to smile at the work and be satisfied with the artist. Mr. Leech, his chief contributor, and some kindred humourists with pencil and pen, have served Mr. Punch admirably.... There is no blinking the fact that in Mr. Punch's cabinet John Leech is the right-hand man."[135] That this was true is proved by the fact that during his connection with Punch, extending over a period of three and twenty years, he executed no less than three thousand pictures, of which at least six hundred are cartoons.[136] No wonder that when he lay dead, Shirley Brooks—another valued contributor, and afterwards editor of Punch—mournfully acknowledged that the good ship had lost its "mainsail."[137]


Most admirable examples of his designs on wood will be found in the first three volumes of "The Illuminated Magazine," a delightful serial which appeared in 1843-4, which also contains a series of etchings on copper of unusual size and brilliancy. Associated with him on the pages of this periodical, which is now seldom met with, were his friends Thomas Hood and Mark Lemon, Douglas Jerrold and Laman Blanchard, Albert Smith and Angus Bethune Reach, Samuel Lover and Kenny Meadows. The world was young with authors and artists alike in those days; the youngest of the band were William Hepworth Dixon, then aged twenty-two; John Leech, twenty-six; and Wilkie Collins, literally not "out of his teens," one of whose earliest literary productions we find here under the title of "The Last Stage Coachman," illustrated by Hine. In these volumes appeared Douglas Jerrold's delightful allegory of the "Chronicles of Clovernook," to which the veteran Kenny Meadows contributed some of the most quaint and original of his sketches.

John Leech's portrait appears in three of the Punch sketches—two only of which are due to his own hand; the first in January, 1846, in one wherein a servant maid is depicted as saying, "If you please, sir, here's the printer's boy called again;" again, in January, 1847, where we find him playing the clarionet as one of the orchestra at Mr. Punch's Fancy Ball. Other performers are—Mayhew, cornet; Percival Leigh, double bass; Gilbert a Beckett, violin; Richard Doyle, clarionet; Thackeray, piccolo; Tom Taylor, piano; while Mark Lemon, the conductor, appeals to Jerrold to somewhat moderate his assaults on the drum. Another hand portrays him seven years later, as armed with a porte crayon he rides his hobbyhorse at an easel which does duty for a hurdle, Jerrold is playing skittles, Thackeray holds the bat at a game of cricket, and Mark Lemon is engaged at rackets.


Amongst the early literary contributors to Punch were Mark Lemon, Horace Mayhew, Gilbert a Beckett, Stirling Coyne, W. H. Wills, H. P. Grattan, Douglas Jerrold, Percival Leigh, and Dr. Maginn. Albert Smith joined the staff through the introduction of his friend Leech; Thackeray was a later acquisition, in 1844. It was scarcely to be expected that the brilliant and the lesser wits who shed their lustre on the early volumes of Punch, and were brought together at the weekly council dinners, would invariably agree;—Jerrold and Thackeray, for instance, entertained a sort of constitutional antipathy to one another, and the latter, it must not be forgotten, was (in the words of Anthony Trollope) "still struggling to make good his footing in literature" at the time he joined the ranks of the Punch parliament. Jerrold could not veil his contempt for Albert Smith, angrily asking Leech at one of the Punch gatherings, with reference to the former's free and easy method of addressing his friend, "Leech, how long is it necessary for a man to know you before he can call you 'Jack'?" When A Beckett announced his "Comic History of England," in 1846, the strong mind of Jerrold recoiled in horror from what he deemed a sacrilege. Writing to Charles Dickens in reference to the announcement, he said, "After all, life has something serious in it. It cannot be all a Comic History of Humanity. Some men would, I believe, write the Comic Sermon on the Mount. Think of a Comic History of England! The drollery of Alfred! the fun of Sir Thomas More in the Tower! the farce of his daughter begging the dead head, and clasping it in her coffin, on her bosom! Surely the world will be sick of this blasphemy!" "The Comic History of England" appeared, notwithstanding, and was followed afterwards by the "Comic History of Rome;" and however we may sympathize with the honest indignation of Jerrold, and condemn the questionable taste of A Beckett, we have at least to thank the latter for some of the drollest and most original designs which ever emanated from the pencil of John Leech.

The eccentric and original costumes in which he draped the classical characters of Rome appear to have been a favourite idea with the artist. Shirley Brooks relates that he first made his acquaintance at a fancy ball given at the house of their mutual friend, the late John Parry. "Leech's costume," says the late editor of Punch, "I well remember. It was something like Charles Mathews, as chorus to Medea. The black trousers and patent leather boots of decorous life were below; but above was the classic tunic. Then in addition he wore a fine new hat, round which, instead of around his head, was the laurel wreath; and the Greek ideal was brought into further discomfiture by a pair of spectacles and an exceedingly neat umbrella." This comical idea will be found ridiculously amplified in his amazing designs to "The Comic History of Rome."


Medical student, novelist, dramatist, humourist, and showman—for some of us still remember his diorama of "The Overland Route"—the most fortunate venture of Albert Richard Smith (to give him his full name) was his ascent of Mont Blanc, which formed the theme of a well-remembered lecture, in which his perils amid rocky pinnacle, snow-field, and glacier lost nothing by the graphic mode in which they were related. This "ascent," by the way, proved a source of profit to others besides himself; and we should be curious to know the number of Chamounix guides and hotel-keepers who were enabled through his indirect means to retire into private life. The memory of Albert Smith is deservedly cherished by the inhabitants of the distant Savoyard valley, for he made the ascent of the "Monarch of Mountains" popular among his countrymen, and thereby sowed the seed of a succession of golden harvests, of which the primitive but thoroughly wide-awake peasantry were by no means slow to profit. Dissimilar in many respects, Albert Smith and John Leech had this bond of sympathy between them, that both were old friends, and both had nominally studied for the medical profession; and whilst Leech attained at St. Bartholomew's that practical knowledge of anatomical drawing which did him such good service in his artistic career, Albert Smith at Middlesex Hospital and the Hotel Dieu appears to have picked up that intimate acquaintance with London and Parisian student life which he displays in the "Adventures of Mr. Ledbury."

The "New Monthly" for 1844 contains two etchings by Leech to "The Lord of Thoulouse" and "The Wedding Day," which seem to call for notice, because they are not to be found in the collected edition of the "Ingoldsby Legends." In the collected edition he shows us little Jack Ingoldsby before he entered the fatal cellar, while in the "New Monthly" we see him lying dead at the feet of the weird buccaneer, who points with grim irony at the little corpse by way of caveat to those who would broach his wine. From the "New Monthly" etching George Cruikshank borrowed the idea for his illustration of the same subject in the 1864 edition. There is a difference, of course, but the fact will become ridiculously patent to any one who has an opportunity of comparing the two designs. This, by the way, is not the only instance in the '64 edition in which Cruikshank borrowed his idea from John Leech,[138] which at one time he would have scorned to do, a fact which affords the strongest possible evidence of the decadence of George's once unrivalled powers of invention, imagination, and fancy.

Leech it will be remembered obtained a footing on the staff of "Bentley's Miscellany" at the time when George Cruikshank was leaving it. Cruikshank, however, was an admirer of the genius of Leech, and when they laid him in his untimely grave in Kensal Green Cemetery, on the 4th November, 1864, the veteran artist was among the crowd of distinguished men who looked sorrowfully on. The influence which George Cruikshank exercised upon the genius of Leech will be apparent to any one who has given attention to the early etchings of the latter. This influence will be particularly discernible in the illustrations to "Richard Savage" and "The Marchioness of Brinvilliers." Both were men of genius, but Leech's fancy was of a tamer kind, and little inclined him in the direction of the supernatural or the terrible. Leech, for instance, never produced anything which equalled Fagin in the Condemned Cell; The Murder of Sir Rowland Trenchard; Xit Wedded to the Scavenger's Daughter; Jack o' Lantern; or the reverie of the Triumph of Cupid. We shall find but few diabolicals in his gallery of pictorial subjects, notwithstanding which there is not a fiend in the whole of Cruikshank's demon ranks who equals Leech's devil in Thomas Ingoldsby's legend of "The House-warming."

It may seem invidious to institute a comparison between the two men. Some, indeed, may hold that a comparison is impossible; but we will quickly show that such a comparison is not only possible but unavoidable. George Cruikshank, for instance, might or might not have illustrated the "Comic Histories" of England and of Rome better than John Leech; we may fancy, however, his hand on the Surtees' novels, the odd men, the strange coats, the eccentric women, the podgy "cockhorses," the wonderful dogs that would have put in an appearance in the various sporting scenes and incidents which form the subject of these "horsey" romances; we should like, for instance, to see what he would have made of the pretty serving woman who figures in the frontispiece of "Ask Mamma;" how he would have treated the fair "de Glancey"; how he would have grouped and dressed his figures at The Handley Cross Ball; how he would have treated poor old Jorrocks when he fell into the shower bath. But, admirable as are Leech's book illustrations and etchings, it is in the minor designs which he executed for Punch during the short quarter of a century allotted to him that we must seek for Leech's genius: it is these little drawings which place him in the front rank of nineteenth century graphic satirists. They are characterized by genuine humour and satire, unalloyed with a single trace of ill-humour, exaggeration, or vulgarity. It was in this direction that the artistic instincts of poor Robert Seymour inclined him; but his imagination and invincible tendency to exaggerate, inherited from the caricaturists who preceded him, failed to bear him beyond the limited sphere of cockney sports and cockney sportsmen in which his soul delighted. Here, we have the swells and vulgarians, the flunkies and servants, the old men and maidens, the soldiers, the parsons, the pretty women of English everyday life, placed in situations more or less embarrassing, but presenting nevertheless perfect types of the respective classes thus harmlessly and admirably satirized. In this lies their chief value, and as years roll on and the Punch volumes become scarce, this value will necessarily increase.


A shy and unobtrusive member of the society in which he moved, and which delighted in the enjoyment of his friendship, John Leech was the keenest of observers, noting and satirizing as no one before his time had attempted, or indeed had been able to do, the cant and hypocrisy, the pride and selfishness, the upstart and arrogant exclusiveness, the insular prejudices and weaknesses, which form a part of our national character; but doing this, he loved his countrymen and countrywomen for their finer qualities, and hated the bungling foreigners who presume to caricature them without the barest knowledge of their subject. This is the secret of the hearty abhorrence which Leech always testified for Frenchmen. The ignorance of his countrymen on the subject of English women has been amusingly ridiculed by one of the most distinguished of their own writers—Eugene Sue, in his novel of "Mathilde":—"That an Englishwoman! Nonsense; there is nothing more easy to recognise than an Englishwoman; you have only to look at her dress; it is simple enough, in all conscience! A straw bonnet all the year through; a pink spencer; a Scotch plaid petticoat, and bright green or lemon-coloured boots; you may see the costume any day in Les Anglaises pour rire, at the Varietes. We all know it is a Vaudeville, and it would not be publicly acted unless it were authentic. I repeat it once more, ever since this world has been a world, Englishwomen—real genuine Englishwomen—have never been differently dressed." M. Taine, who devoted himself to the study of our language and literature, and spent much time amongst us, has (if I remember rightly) admitted the errors which prevail amongst his countrymen and women with reference to ourselves; but such observers as M. Taine and M. Sue are unfortunately rare in France, and many have essayed to depict us, with as much knowledge of their subject as our Sir John Maundeville possessed when he sat down to write his absurd but quaint and amusing "Book of Voiage and Travaile." John Leech resented this deplorable ignorance on the part of our neighbours; and the Punch volumes are filled with biting sarcasms on French habits, manners, and sentiments, which were keenly felt, because, unlike the English who figure at the Varietes or in French caricatures, in the dirty men who regard with astonishment the English washstand at the exhibition, the cabs full of hirsute monstrosities, the "Flowers of the French army," the grimy Revolutionists of Leicester Square—the hundred and one Frenchmen who figure in the satires of John Leech, the Parisian recognises compatriots whose ridiculous lineaments have been too faithfully reproduced to render identification a matter of doubt or difficulty.

Leech executed very few illustrations for Dickens; and the amusing blunder which he perpetrated in "The Battle of Life," in allowing the lady to elope with the wrong man, and the "horror and agony" of the author in consequence thereof, have been set forth in Forster's "Life." The mistake was discovered too late for correction, and remains a curious proof of the carelessness with which distinguished artists will sometimes read the manuscript of an author however illustrious.

The Surtees' novels afford singular evidence of the keenness of John Leech's critical observation. An ardent lover of sport himself, and a frequent attendant at the "Pytchley," when he went a day's hunting it was his custom to single out some fellow disciple of Nimrod that happened to take his fancy, keeping behind him all day, noting his attitudes in the saddle, and marking every item of his turn-out, to the last button and button-hole of his hunting coat. It was in this way that he obtained the correctness of detail which renders his famous sporting etchings so wonderfully true to nature. Strange to say, notwithstanding his knowledge of every detail of the huntsman's dress, even to the number of buttons on his coat, he himself, with reference to his own outfit, invariably presented in the hunting field a somewhat incongruous appearance. Either he would wear the wrong kind of boots, or would dispense with some detail which on the part of an enthusiast would be considered an unpardonable omission. Leech, however, was not what is called a "rough rider," his constitutional nervousness prevented him indeed from making a prominent figure in the hunting field, and his friends attributed this want of attention to detail in dress to his sensitiveness to criticism, and his unwillingness to place himself in any position which would be likely to incur it.


[126] Vol. iii., 1860.

[127] Shirley Brooks in the Illustrated London News, 19th Nov., 1864.

[128] George Redway, 12, York Street, Covent Garden.

[129] They include also some (pirated) impressions from the designs of George Cruikshank, which set that irritable genius, as might have been expected, in a fume.

[130] Chapman & Hall, 186, Strand, 1st November, 1840.

[131] "Adventures of Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy."

[132] He subsequently returned to it for a short time only.

[133] The serial commenced 17th July, 1841.

[134] That this was the case, see Mr. Joseph Hatter's "With a Show in the North;" see also a remarkable letter of Mr. William Tegg in the Athenaeum of 16th October, 1875.

[135] Thackeray in the Quarterly.

[136] I calculate that the minor drawings number about 2,500; if to these we add 638 cartoons, we get a sum total of over 3,100 illustrations for Punch alone. If we say nearly 1,000 for Mr. Surtees' sporting novels, without taking into account Leech's other work, we may form some notion of his untiring industry.

[137] MS. Diary of Shirley Brooks (October 31st, 1864).

[138] Compare, for instance, Leech's Black Mousquetaire in the original edition with Cruikshank's reproduction of the same subject in the '64 edition.



We have seen that at the time John Leech commenced work as a comic artist, the art of caricature was practically dead; it was not therefore at all surprising, under the circumstances, that he should reverse, as it were, the order of things: commence as an illustrator of books, and finish his career as a graphic humourist. Although his first contribution to Punch commences in the fourth number, his cartoons so called (from which, in accordance with the plan of this work we now proceed to select a few examples) seem to us to call for little mention before the year 1843.


His Royal Highness Prince Albert, who held high rank in the British army by virtue of his exalted position, was most unjustly suspected in those early Punch days of a desire to interfere unduly with its administration. He took, however, much interest in the dress and comfort of the British soldier; and those who remember what military costume was in 1843, will admit that there was room for improvement. Changes were made indeed, but these changes can hardly be said to have been made in the direction of either comfort, convenience, or good taste. The "Albert hat" (as it was called), one of the ugliest, most ungainly, and preposterous of military shakoes that was ever invented, made its appearance about this time, and the idea was credited (rightly or wrongly) to the amiable prince. Constant reference to this preposterous invention is made in the pages of Punch, and the prince's questionable taste in the matter of military costume is specially satirized in Leech's amusing cartoon entitled Prince Albert's Studio.

Mr. O'Connell, at a great Repeal meeting held in September, 1843, had expressed a hope that he should be able to give his dupes "as a new year's gift a parliament on College Green." No one knew better than himself the absurdity of such a promise. Had he named the first of April for the presentation instead of the first of January, it would have been more appropriate, and at least equally veracious. A great Repeal meeting was intended to be held in October at Clontarf, three miles from Dublin, at which certain supporters of the movement were to have attended on horseback and paraded in the character of the "Repeal Cavalry." This meeting the Irish executive prohibited by proclamation, and on the 14th, O'Connell and other prominent leaders were arrested, and held to bail on a charge of conspiracy. On the 24th of May, 1844, the Irish judges sentenced him to twelve months' imprisonment, and a fine of L2,000. The cartoon of The Probable Effects of Good Living and no Exercise refers to this result; but Punch on this occasion was wrong. O'Connell proved "too many" for the Irish lawyers. He appealed by writ of error to the Lords, and on the 4th of September the judgment was reversed.[139] Sir James Graham, the Home Secretary, and the government to which he belonged, had encountered much odium in consequence of the opening of certain letters which had passed through the post office. The result was the appointment of a Committee of Secrecy by both Houses to inquire into the official practice, and it would appear from their report that every administration had been in the habit of exercising this espionage under the authority of a warrant of the Secretary of State. The sins of the past as well as of the present were visited on the head of Sir James, who sought to throw the responsibility on higher powers; and in reference to this, Sir James Graham and Sir Robert Peel figure respectively as Sairey Gamp and Betsey Prig, after Phiz's well-known drawing. Sir James indeed seemed to have had rather a facility for getting himself into trouble. There was much excitement in and out of the House with reference to the additional grant to Maynooth College. In the course of the debates, Sir James Graham retracted an expression which he said had fallen from him in the heat of debate, viz. that concession in favour of Ireland had reached its utmost limit, and hoped that his actions had proved better than his words. Among the subsequent cartoons by Leech, he figures as Peel's Dirty Little Boy. "Drat the boy," says Dame Peel (as she chastises him), "he's always in a mess." Towards the close of the debate two remarkable speeches were delivered by Lord John Russell and Sir Robert Peel, both of whom concurred in the necessity of a conciliatory policy towards Ireland. This rapprochement between the two leaders of the opposite camps, and the leanings of Sir Robert in the direction of a Liberal policy, are referred to in Leech's cartoons of How do you Like the New Whig? and the Premier's Fix (Peel between Free Trade and Protection), the last borrowed from one of Cruikshank's drawings. The Railway Juggernaut of 1845 (also suggested by Cruikshank's well-known etching), refers to the then mania for dabbling in railway shares.

Between the two stools of Free Trade and Protection, Sir Robert, as might have been anticipated, ultimately fell through; an event which is chronicled in vol. x., the idea in this instance being taken from the celebrated drawing in the late Mr. Clarke's "Three Courses and a Dessert," the cartoon of Peel driving the vehicle of Protection, which has broken down, bearing the title of The Deaf Postilion. A change of ministry took place in 1846, little Lord John replacing Sir Robert Peel as "First Lord of the Treasury." He cuts an amazingly queer figure (in vol. xi.) in the ex-premier's huge hat, vast coat, and voluminous waistcoat and inexpressibles. Little Lord John was an enduring subject of Punch's satire during that statesman's somewhat unsatisfactory political career, and Leech was never weary of comparing him with his far more brilliant and able contemporary. Here we have the pair figuring as Dombey and Son (Dombey being Sir Robert, and the son Lord John), "Mr. Dombey was in a difficulty. He would like to have given him (the boy) some explanation involving the terms circulating medium, currency, depreciation of currency, paper, bullion, rates of exchange, value of precious metals in the market, and so forth." The Portrait of a Noble Lord in Order refers to one of those exhibitions of want of tact, taste, and temper in which Lord Brougham would seem to have delighted.[140] "Who calls me to order?" cries the "noble and learned" lord, "Who calls me to order? Pooh! Pooh! Fiddle-de-dee! I never was in better order in my life. Noble lords don't know what they are about;" a conspicuous and aggressive appurtenance of the "noble and learned," by the way, is his preposterous umbrella. One of the most barbarous and disgraceful of London neighbourhoods in 1847, and for many years afterwards, was Smithfield; the present generation can form no idea of the state of things thirty years ago, which is referred to in the cartoon of Punch and the Smithfield Savages, the artist borrowing his idea from West's well-known picture of "Penn's Treaty with the Indians." The odious matrimonial swindle perpetrated by Louis Philippe with the idea of ultimately seating a member of his family on the Spanish throne, which has cast an indelible stain on his memory, had now been found out, and attracted universal indignation. We find him, in reference to this shameless piece of business, figuring as the Fagin of France after Condemnation, the idea being suggested of course by Cruikshank's famous etching in "Oliver Twist." Retribution overtook the mercenary monarch in the year of disquietude and national unrest—1848; foreign kings and potentates were sent flying in all directions, and Louis Philippe, who, like the rest of his family had learnt nothing by misfortune, was among the first to go. Put Out, one of the best of the artist's political cartoons, represents an armed ouvrier clapping the cap of liberte by way of extinguisher on the French candle (King Louis). Uneasy were the heads which wore crowns in that year; and to the throned and unthroned sovereigns, the former of whom watched these untoward events with nervous interest, John Leech presented a seasonable gift in the form of A Constitutional Plum Pudding, served up by Mr. Punch on Magna Charta, and curiously compounded of "Liberty of the Press," "Common Sense," "Order," "Trial by Jury," "Religion," and "True Liberty of the Subject."

Among the sovereigns who had a peculiarly insecure seat at this period was Mastai Ferretti, better known as Pope Pius IX. His temporal power was weak, whilst his spiritual dominion, as might have been expected, had never been much stronger. To bolster up the former, and at the same time find employment for his troops, Louis, Prince President of the French Republic, sent an army to Rome, thus affording matter for the speculation of his countrymen, who were puzzled to know what possible concern a French Republic could have with the affairs of the Papacy. Allusion to this is made in Leech's cartoon of The French Cock and the Roman Eagle, in which the bird of higher caste, chained and fettered, is unable to offer anything like fair resistance to his unwilling antagonist. In a Bright Idea, we have the apostle of peace (whose uncompromising arguments in its favour have driven us before now in the direction of war) figuring as a recruiting sergeant, and endeavouring to enlist the "Iron Dook."


In no country perhaps are women more cruelly used than among the poorer classes of England, while in no country under the sun is greater sympathy expressed for the weaker sex; a paradox which was strikingly exemplified in 1850. The Austrian General Haynau in that year paid a visit to this country. Some time before he had earned unenviable notoriety by his treatment of the wives and daughters of Hungarian insurgents who fell into his hands, and it was reported, probably with much exaggeration, that regardless of sex and condition he had subjected these hapless fugitives to the indignity of corporal punishment. The rising had been however some time repressed, and there was every reason to believe that in this country at least the rumour had been forgotten. Among the sights the General had been recommended to visit in London was the celebrated brewery of Messrs. Barclay & Perkins, and no sooner was his presence discovered, than he was simultaneously attacked by the draymen, and narrowly escaped with his life. He got small sympathy from Punch, who, in vol. xix., presented Leech's Sketch of a Most Remarkable Flea found in General Haynau's Ear. "Who's Dat Knocking at de Door?" is a question put by Johnny Russell to old Joe (Hume), who once in every session in those days stood knocking at the door with his banjo labelled, "Extension of the Suffrage."


Macaulay, writing in 1840,[141] referred to the progress of what he happily termed "The Catholic Revival of the Nineteenth Century." This revival was never more clearly exemplified than at the very time the temporal power was most seriously endangered. Such of the temporal power, indeed, as was left to it has gone, probably for ever; while the spiritual power of the Papacy, at least in Protestant England, as must be patent to any one who has given the subject the smallest attention, has unostentatiously but enormously increased, especially within the last twenty years. The year 1850 was remarkable for what was then known among us as the "Papal Aggression," and Punch and his "right-hand man" were exceedingly angry. Among the cartoons which they fulminated on the occasion were the following: The Guy Fawkes of 1850 [i.e. the Pope] Preparing to Blow up all England; The Thin End of the Wedge [the Pope trying with his jemmy, labelled "Roman Archbishopric of Westminster," to force the doors of the English Church]. It is both a singular and significant circumstance, that at this time the Ritualists, or rather Puseyites, were helping on the work of Rome by promoting, if not schism, at least dissension in the Church of England by advocating the strictest attention to the letter instead of the spirit of the rubric and liturgy. We find, in special reference to the assistance thus, in some cases we believe unconsciously, rendered to the Romish Church, The Puseyite Moth flying into the Roman Catholic candle; and Fashion in 1850, or a Page for the Puseyites, in which we see the Bishops of Lincoln, Oxford, and Exeter dropping the hot poker of Puseyism, and the Pope, as monkey, making a catspaw of poor Pus(s)ey [the Doctor lately deceased]; again, in vol. xx., Punch (a boy) inquires of an episcopal showman, who holds the model of a church on his stand, "Please, Mr. Bishop, which is Popery and which is Puseyism?" To which the episcopal showman replies, "Whichever you like, my little dear"; another cartoon represents a Puseyite parson who has received "warning" from his cook. Inquiring the reason of her dissatisfaction, he receives the following reply: "Well, sir, the fact is I aint equal to them Fast days; for what with a hegg here, and a hegg there, and little bits of fish for breakfastes, and little bits of fish for dinners, and the sweet omelicks, and the fried and stewed hoysters, and the Bashawed lobsterses, and one think and the hother, there's so much cooking that I aint even time to make up a cap!" Another influential person besides Mr. Punch was terribly indignant at this aggressive movement on the part of the Papacy, and loudly avowed his determination to go any length to put a stop to it. This was my Lord John Russell, who, after vapouring like "ancient Pistol," quietly sneaked off after his usual fashion, and did nothing. He got, however, a well-merited dressing from Leech, who showed him up in his true character in a contemporary number as The Boy who Chalked up "No Popery," and then Ran Away. It was these Papal satires (as we shall afterwards see) which led to the secession from Punch, and the consequent loss to satiric art, of one of its most genial and capable professors, the late Richard Doyle;[142] a loss followed (if we may so term it) by a compensating gain. Richard Doyle's place was almost immediately taken by an artist of great and exceptional power, for more than twelve years the friend and coadjutor of John Leech—Mr. Tenniel, who makes his first appearance in Punch's twentieth volume.

The long peace which followed the national and European struggle with Napoleon had produced a curious effect upon ourselves. While Russia took advantage of the lull to recruit her colossal forces, and Prussia to perfect the military system which took us so much by surprise half a century afterwards, we, on the other hand, wearied with our long and arduous struggle, had fallen asleep, and dreamed pleasantly that the "Millennium" was at hand. With this idea apparently in our minds, we inscribed on the walls of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Scriptural text which tells us that "swords shall be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, neither shall they learn war any more." A significant commentary on the text was found in the fact that many of the exhibits at the "World's Fair" consisted of cannon, rifles, and other lethal instruments of improved method and construction, intended for the wholesale destruction of the human race. We read the Scriptural text, and viewed these exhibits as relics of a barbarism which had existed six and thirty years before, oblivious of the circumstance that an incompetent general had "wiped out" a British army in Afghanistan, and that we had crushed the empire of Runjeet Singh on the banks of the Sutlej not so many years before. The closing of the Exhibition is commemorated by a cartoon, in which Leech shows us the famous Amazon putting on her bonnet and shawl, chatting the while with Hiram Power's Greek Slave, who, habited in "bloomer" costume, prepares likewise to take her departure. Allusion to the bribery and corruption prevalent at a notorious borough of that day is made in a sketch which depicts the Horror of that Respectable Saint, St. Alban's, at Hearing the Confession of a St. Alban's Elector.


Remarkable results were destined to follow the year of unrest—1848. Louis Philippe had been replaced in France by Louis Napoleon, who seems to have been elevated to the Presidency of the Republic because he was considered to be so absolutely harmless, the principle followed being analogous to that observed at the election of a Pope, which has resulted more than once in an unpleasant surprise for the cardinal electors. Those who had formed a low estimate of his abilities, found that Louis was no longer the "half-saved" youth of Boulogne and Strasburg; that he had learnt some stern lessons in the hard school of adversity; that he had developed, moreover, a firm and decided will of his own. We thought it a hazardous experiment on the part of French Republicans, for Louis held a craze on the subject of his uncle's "ideas," and the craze had sufficient "method" to induce us to believe that he was the last man who would have been selected to fill the presidential chair. As a refugee in England, we had given him small credit for sagacity; and as an emperor and a man, history has already said of him that he was cunning, unreliable, and thoroughly unscrupulous. Although a comparison between the two men is impossible, there was at least this similarity between the two Napoleons, that both were indebted for their elevation to the imperial purple to a revolution; here, however, all resemblance ceased. The first Napoleon relied upon himself alone, while Louis was advised by counsellors and adventurers wiser and more unscrupulous than himself, and who were prepared to back his fortunes with a view of advancing their own. At the close of 1851, Europe was electrified by the unexpected and dastardly blow delivered by these men, and by means of a "great crime," the history of which has been so graphically related by Victor Hugo, Louis Napoleon, Prince President of the Republic, found himself master of the destinies of France. The event is referred to by John Leech in the cartoon of France is Tranquil!!! which she cannot well fail to be, seeing that we find her bound hand and foot; a chain-shot fastened to her foot, and a sentry menacing her with his bayonet. The next volume shows us the Prince President in the act of being measured by his military tailor, while he offers money to his cast-off mistress Liberte, her mother (France) looking indignantly on. Immediately behind, a priest (in allusion to the support which the Papal party were receiving from this "eldest son of the Church") helps himself from a plate of money which stands by the President's side; the floor is littered with miscellaneous articles,—bayonets, knapsacks, imperial and other crowns, crosses of the legion of honour, the code Napoleon,—and, in reference to Louis's craze on the subject of his uncle and his "ideas," one of Napoleon's old boots. On a stool stands a bust of the first Napoleon, and on a chair to the right a roll of "Imperial purple."

By the year 1853, the only persons who steadily shut their eyes to the signs of the times, and continued steadfastly to believe in the immediate advent of the "Millennium," were the peace-at-any-price party (represented by Messrs Bright and Cobden), the members of the Peace Society, and the very strange people who obstinately opposed any attempt on the part of England to provide for her national safety by putting her defences in order. To the Peace Society, Leech especially addressed his cartoon of No Danger, which represents a donkey braying in front of a loaded cannon; while to the mischievous lunatics who opposed any scheme of national defence, he dedicated an appropriate gift in the shape of A Strait Waistcoat Worked by the Women of England.[143] By this time John Bull had awoke from his dreams, and tacitly admitting that the time for conversion of his swords into ploughshares and his spears into pruning hooks had scarcely arrived, adopted the far more sensible method of sending his troops to the camp at Chobham by way of getting them acclimatized to the trials and vicissitudes of wind and weather. This step leads of course to a number of little pleasantries. In one cartoon we see an officer of household cavalry parting his hair in front of his cuirass, whilst a soldier servant brings him his shaving water in a bucket; another, entitled A Cold in the Head, represents an officer in this melancholy condition, who requests his servant to bring him his bucket of gruel as "sool as he has tallowed his loze." John, in fact, had been aroused from his slumbers by the Emperor Nicholas, who, thinking it a good time to appropriate Turkey, was suspected of having offered a slice to Austria. The rumour is referred to in the cartoon of The Old 'Un and the Young 'Un, in which we see the Russian and Austrian Emperors at table with a bottle of port between them, "Now then, Austria," says Nicholas, "just help me to finish the Port(e)." In another cartoon, John Bull nails the Russian eagle to his barn door, remarking to his French friend the while, that he "wouldn't worry the Turkeys any more." Lord Aberdeen, who, notwithstanding the signs of the times, refused like Nicholas to believe in a war with England, is represented placidly smoking the Pipe of Peace over a barrel of gunpowder.

Thanks to Messrs Bright and Cobden, who obstinately persisted in opposing the popular feeling which had set in steadily in the direction of war,—thanks to the exertions of the Peace Society, who were not restrained from sending certain zealous members of their body to the Emperor Nicholas, who not unnaturally supposed that these broad-brimmed gentlemen represented the sentiments of the great English people,—but thanks above all to the French Emperor and his astute advisers, who were enabled to take advantage of the state of English feeling to hoodwink the "great nation" by the prospect of an alliance with a great and respectable power, the year 1854 found us in actual conflict with Russia, starting off after our usual fashion with a handful of men to attack the strongest fortress in Europe, provided with an unlimited supply of men and metal and inexhaustible stores of warlike materiel of all kinds. In vol. xxvi. we see Her Majesty Throwing the Old Shoe after her Guards, who, for the first time since 1815, are seen setting out on foreign service. Another cartoon, which has reference to our Bombardment of Odessa, is divided into two parts, in one of which we see Lord Aberdeen (whose dream of peace had been so rudely dissipated), and in the other Nicholas of Russia, both reading the newspaper. Says Aberdeen, "Bombardment of Odessa! Dear me, this will be very disagreeable to my imperial friend!" Says the Emperor, "Bombardment of Odessa! Confound it! this will be very annoying to dear old Aberdeen!" In November, 1854, occurred our disastrous victory of Inkermann, in which scarcely four thousand English troops found themselves opposed by forty thousand Russians and drove them into flight. No thanks, however, to our allies, who—with the exception of sixty brave Zouaves and their lieutenant, who played truant from their regiment to give us timely assistance—either looked on or absolutely ran away.[144] Spectators of this battle were two of the Imperial family, a circumstance alluded to in vol. xxvii. by Leech's cartoon of The Russian Bear's Licked Cubs, Nicholas and Michael.


Picton remarked of our officers, when en route to Waterloo, that with fifty thousand of his own men, and French officers at their head, he would march from one end of Europe to the other. But both the quality of French officers and soldiers had deteriorated at the time of the Crimean War, and was destined still further to deteriorate until the utter unsoundness of their military discipline was laid bare years afterwards by Prussia. The French had no generals, while we had one general and an excellent body of soldiers. Unquestionably the Russian war did us the service of thoroughly exposing the rottenness of our military system so far as concerned the officering of the army. The principle followed was precisely that complained of by Sir Thomas Picton forty years before; there was no actual test of fitness until it came to be subjected to the practical test of emergency; money invariably had the advantage of merit, not only in the appropriation of first commissions, but in the purchase of subsequent regimental grades, which were given in exchange for pecuniary value, and not as a reward for military efficiency. The material thus obtained was splendid as regards manliness and bravery, but something more than these were wanted in the absence of a leader like the great Duke; and although the type selected is an extreme one, the result may be indicated by my Lord Cardigan, who, though equal to any amount of endurance and heroism, proved himself incapable of the exercise of the smallest particle of common sense. The scandal of the then existing system of purchase was aptly exposed by the artist in vol. xxviii., where we find a rich titled old lady in a shop served by military counter-jumpers, one of whom, wrapping up a lieutenant-colonelcy for her boy, inquires, in the well-known jargon of the trade, "What is the next article?" in answer to which she expresses a wish to have "a nice majority for his little brother"; a wounded officer with his arm in a sling timidly inquires the price of a captain's commission, and turns wearily away on finding the preposterous price (L3,694) is wholly beyond his means. Fortunately for us (for events proved that in trusting to French assistance we were leaning on a broken reed indeed!) the Russian rank and file, besides being badly led, were as inferior to our own in endurance and pluck as they were superior to us in the mere matter of numbers. Justly wondering why forty thousand men, supported by twenty thousand reserves, had failed to hold their own against a mere handful of British infantry, Nicholas nevertheless treated the result apparently in a philosophical spirit, and calmly asked his people to wait for "Generals Janvier and Fevrier." But the brave man's heart was broken, and when February came it found the Imperial prophet a corpse.[145] The death of this great and disappointed man is forcibly commemorated by Leech's memorable cartoon of General Fevrier Turned Traitor. Lord John Russell, true to his character of "Lord Meddle and Muddle," had done nothing for us at the Congress, and in The Return from Vienna, Her Majesty catches the frightened little statesman by the collar and angrily asks him, "Now, sir, what a time you have been! What's the answer?" To her Lord John—"Please 'M—there is—is—is—is—isn't any answer."

An English general in those days was so scarce a commodity that in Lord Raglan we seemed absolutely to have exhausted the supply: one old incapable was replaced by another, until the dearth of English military ability became at length nothing less than an absolute scandal. In What we must Come to, reference is made to this lamentable state of things, wherein an old woman in bonnet and shawl, with a capacious umbrella, applies for a post to Lord Panmure (the Minister of War), "Oh, if you please, sir, did you want a sperity old woman to see after things in the Crimea? No objection to being made a Field Marshal, and glory not so much an object as a good salary"; in another (A Grand Military Spectacle) we find the heroes of the campaign engaged in inspecting the Field Marshals, a pair of decrepid, purblind, old men seated in arm chairs; in the third we recognise the amiable Prince Consort, who was most unjustly suspected in those days of a desire to interfere in the administration of our military matters—it would be moonshine to term it military system, as we had none. The New Game of Follow my Leader is a palpable hit at a practice common enough too in those days. Applications were frequently made by officers for leave to return home on the plea of "urgent private affairs," and you were astonished to see gentlemen walking about whose duty it was to be with their regiments in the Crimea. In the cartoon referred to, a long line of soldiers is drawn up in front of the general's tent; a little drummer boy steps out of the ranks, and making the usual salute inquires, "Please, general, may me and these other chaps have leave to go home on urgent private affairs?"

A more unsatisfactory state of things for the belligerents all round than this miserable Crimean conflict can scarcely well be imagined. Lord Raglan, who had learned war by practical experience under the eye of the great Duke himself, speedily realized the fact that he had been made the victim of French military jealousy and imbecility, the leaders having been selected not on account of their military efficiency, but solely for attachment to the cause of the Emperor. The battle of the Alma had been won without the assistance of the French, who for all practical purposes might just as well have been away.[146] Marshal St. Arnaud, who, to do him simple justice, was at this time dying literally by inches, had refused to follow up the defeated Russians,[147] whose retreat a competent French general must have converted into an absolute rout; whilst, had he followed the advice and wishes of Lord Raglan, we should probably have entered Sebastopol in a fortnight, instead of having to wait three years for an event which was afterwards accomplished at a ruinous waste of time, men, materiel, and money.[148] We had defeated the Russians at Inkerman without French assistance,[149] whilst the timidity and professional jealousy on that occasion of Marshal Canrobert had again failed to turn our success into a crushing disaster for the enemy.[150] If England was dissatisfied, Russia was still more discontented, and her strength moreover at this time well-nigh exhausted. Efforts in the direction of peace were being made by Austria, which are referred to in the cartoon, Staying Proceedings (vol. xxx.), wherein plaintiff John Bull instructs his solicitor Clarendon (who is setting off for Paris bag in hand), "Tell Russia," says angry John, "tell Russia if he doesn't settle at once I shall go on with the action;" but so unprofitable to us in the end was the arrangement effected by the solicitor, that the action was settled after all on the terms of each party having to pay their own costs. This preposterous result is referred to in the admirable sketch entitled Swindling the Clarendon, wherein landlord Bull angrily expostulates with his two waiters (Louis Napoleon and Palmerston), "What!" says John, "quite the gentleman! Why he has left nothing but a portmantel of bricks and stones, and gone off without paying the bill."[151]

Just complaints were made in the papers of 1857 of the arrangements, or rather want of arrangements, at the Royal levees. The space was circumscribed and the crush frightful, and ladies returned from the ceremony with torn dresses and dishevelled hair, just as if they had been engaged in some feminine battle-royal. To accustom them to this uncomfortable but apparently inevitable ordeal, John Leech, in one of the very best of his sketches (vol. xxxii.), suggested a Training School for Ladies about to Appear at Court, where we see charming women in court dresses leaping over forms, crowding beneath barriers, and going through a vigorous course of saltatory exercises, to prepare them for what they might expect at the ceremony; the floor is strewn with broken fans, gloves, feathers, watches, and jewellery; while one fat old lady, who, in attempting to scramble beneath the barrier has become a permanent fixture, presents a truly comical appearance.


The war was at an end; the "Eastern Question," as it was called in the political jargon of that day, had been settled for the next twenty years, and John Bull had now leisure to sit down to count the cost, and consider the value of the French alliance, and the quality of the assistance he had derived from French generalship and the French army. The result of John's calculation was eminently unsatisfactory to himself, for he felt that while he had done all the hard work and nearly all the fighting, the French, as might have been expected, had arrogated to themselves all the praise. John in his secret heart was angry; he felt he had been drawn into a contest from which he personally derived little advantage, and from which he emerged nominally triumphant at a ruinous waste of men and money; the Frenchman, on his part, was doubtful of the reality of the gloire he claimed for himself, and distinctly conscious, moreover, that the English soldiers looked coldly on the French army and its achievements.[152] The result was a feeling of secret dissatisfaction on both sides, which found, however, no actual expression until an unexpected circumstance afforded opportunity for its manifestation. The war had been succeeded by a period of inaction, a state of things always dreaded by Louis, who was now harassed by plots and conspiracies, and a certain foreigner connected, or supposed to be connected, with one of these had sought and found an asylum on our shores. Certain valorous French colonels, desirous of displaying their loyalty at a cheap cost, presented an address to his Majesty, which contained the following intemperate passage:—"Let the miserable assassins—the subaltern agents of such crimes—receive the chastisement due to their abominable attempts; but also, let the infamous haunt where machinations so infernal are planned be destroyed for ever.... Give us the order, sire, and we shall pursue them even to their places of security." French military composition, even in the time of the first Napoleon, was never of the highest order of merit, and the third Napoleon, whose policy it was to distract the attention of his people from reflecting on the questionable means by which he had attained his position, never lost an opportunity of earning popularity with any class of his subjects, particularly with the army. He suffered this quintessence of bombastic absurdity to appear in the pages of the official Moniteur, whence it was duly copied by the English newspapers, and afforded us the most intense amusement. Punch answered this valorous appeal with Leech's celebrated cartoon (in vol. xxxiv.) of Cock-a-doodle-do! wherein the French cock, habited in the uniform of a French colonel, crows most lustily on his own dunghill. This remarkable caricature possesses a singular historical interest, as it exactly expresses the feeling which pervaded England for some time after the close of the Crimean war. The hostile spirit towards Frenchmen which formed a part of John Leech's nature, once aroused was not easily allayed, and in the same volume he gives us specimens of Some Foreign Produce that Mr. Bull can very well Spare, in which he angrily includes French conspirators, vile French women, organ grinders (the artist's peculiar abomination), and other foreign refuse of an objectionable character. Further on, he follows up the subject in A Discussion Forum (!) as Imagined by our Volatile Friends, which represents a party of English conspirators from a French point of view. They wear the peaked hats, long cravats, long hair, boots, and inexpressibles peculiar to the Reign of Terror, and carry knives, revolvers, axes, and other weapons of destruction; a speaker occupies the rostrum, and below him sits the registrar with a bowl of blood, in which sanguinary fluid the proceedings are supposed to be recorded. The opposite picture, A Discussion Forum (!) as it is in Reality, shows us a number of foolish, ignorant, harmless youths, smoking pipes, drinking brandy and water, and discussing politics (so far as they are capable of understanding them) in a tavern club-room. Returning once more to his attacks on what he justly deemed the Romanizing tendency of the practices of certain members of the English Church, he gives us the cartoon of Religion a la Mode, in which a handsome woman is about to "confess" to a truculent and knavish looking ritualist. In the distance appears John Bull with his horsewhip, "No, no, Mr. Jack Priest," says he; "after all I have gone through, I am not such a fool as to stand any of this disgusting nonsense." Some sensation was created this year by a private fete which was given by a member of the aristocracy at Cremorne Gardens. It occasioned considerable talk at the time, and as Ritualism was then in the ascendant amongst certain female leaders of fashion, Leech gives us (in vol. xxxv.) a powerful picture, entitled Aristocratic Amusements, in which John Thomas asks his mistress (a magnificent specimen of the artist's handsome women) as he puts up the steps of her carriage, whither she would wish to be driven,—"Confession or Cremorne, my lady?"

Misfortune, the proverb tells us, makes us acquainted with strange associates. The Emperor Louis, during his early exile, had picked up certain undesirable acquaintances, who were in the habit in after life of forcing themselves on his notice after a peculiarly disagreeable and dangerous fashion. His unfaithfulness to the principles of the brotherhood of which he and they had been members, had seriously exercised the minds of certain of these quondam acquaintances, who had given forcible expression to their feelings by attempting his assassination. The pear-shaped hand grenades of Orsini and his fellow-conspirator were the fruit of Louis's early connection with the secret societies of the Carbonari. They indicate the forces which controlled the policy of the Third Napoleon, and obliged him constantly to pick quarrels with his neighbours for the double purpose of employing his army and of keeping the attention of his restless subjects and quondam acquaintances distracted from himself. As the advisers upon whom he depended were removed by death, the absence of military capacity which his habitual reticence had concealed was manifested by his extraordinary ignorance of the weakness of the force which he had at his disposal, and the utter rottenness of its organization. Meanwhile Italian assassins warned Louis's advisers of the desperate insecurity of the tenure by which they held their own position, and of the necessity of distracting the attention of the restless spirits who made it their business to inquire into their master's title. Within a year, therefore, of the execution of Orsini and his friend, a quarrel was fastened on the Austrian ambassador, which reminded us of the first Emperor's insult to our own Lord Whitworth, and the Imperial word went forth that Italy was to be freed "from the Alps to the Adriatic."[153] Although Louis was unable to accomplish this programme, he was enabled by great good fortune, the aid of Sardinia, the execrably bad generalship of the Austrians, and the military prestige which still attached to the French name, to pave the way for this result; and Austria was not only humbled, but had moreover to surrender Venetia to Sardinia. No sooner was the war over, than Louis was suspected of casting longing eyes at the territories of his brave little ally,[154] and in A Scene from the New Pantomime, he figures as clown, holding a revolver in his hand, with a goose marked "Italy" in his capacious pocket, assuring Britannia (a stout elderly woman who looks suspiciously on) that his intentions were of the most honourable description.

In the sketch entitled The Next Invasion, Landing of the French (Light Wines), and Discomfiture of Old General Beer (vol. xxxviii.), we have a pictorial prophecy which has not borne fulfilment. Although the so-called vin ordinaire made some progress among us for a time, it was soon discovered that a low class of wine, which the French themselves would not drink, was being manufactured for the English market, and that good sound claret remained (as might have been anticipated) as dear, if not dearer, than ever. The climate and constitution of John Bull do not enable him to appreciate the merits of "red ink" as a table beverage, and in the end old General Barleycorn rallied and drove the invaders out of the popularity they had for a time achieved.

* * * * *

And here we break off—for reasons which will be apparent in our next chapter—the further consideration of the graphic satires of the late John Leech. Before passing on to other matters, we are bound to say that we regard them rather for what they might have been than for what we actually find them. Had they been executed with the same materials and under the same conditions as the graphic satires of Gillray or Cruikshank, or still better, in the manner in which the sporting pictures to the late Mr. Surtees' novels were produced, we have no hesitation in saying that they would have distanced anything in the nature of caricature which had gone before. Unfortunately, the productions of the modern caricaturist (if, indeed, we may term him one) have no reasonable chance, it being apparently taken for granted that a modern public will not invest in caricatures of an expensive character.[155] Moreover, he has no longer any hand in the completion of his picture, the wood-block being cut up into segments, each entrusted to a different hand, and executed with materials with which the older caricaturists had nothing to do, and under conditions of pressure and haste to which they were happily strangers. Hence it is, that while the admirable satires of John Leech enhance the value of the Punch volumes themselves, taken singly, not only will they not command a fiftieth part of the price asked and given for the coloured but inferior productions of an earlier school, but they are to all intents and purposes valueless. Leech himself has often been known to say to friends who admired his composition on the wood block:—"Wait till Saturday, and see how the engraver will have spoiled it." We will subject the justice of these observations to a practical test. Let the reader compare an ordinary Punch cartoon with one of the tinted lithographs issued from the Punch office during the artist's lifetime under the title of The Rising Generation, and he cannot fail to be struck with the enormous advantages possessed by the latter. These last have their price, and command, by reason of their scarcity, a comparatively high one.


[139] The prosecution, however, answered its purpose. The funds of the Repeal Association were nearly exhausted by the contest, the influence of the "Liberator," as he was called, was destroyed, and he himself was more guarded and circumspect in his language. He died three years afterwards.

[140] See the "Political Sketches of HB."

[141] Edinburgh Review, October, 1840.

[142] See Chapter xviii.

[143] The national defences, such as they are, being an accomplished fact, these strange people are now making themselves active in the promotion of the last suicidal mania—the Channel Tunnel!

[144] Vide Kinglake's "Invasion of the Crimea."

[145] There are of course curious stories about as to the cause of the Emperor's death: for one of these see "Journal of the Rev. J. C. Young," vol. ii. p. 331.

[146] Figures will conclusively prove who bore the burden and heat of the day. The English loss was: killed, 25 officers, 19 sergeants, 318 rank and file; 81 officers, 102 sergeants, and 1,438 rank and file wounded. The French loss was simply 60 killed and 500 wounded. The Russian loss in killed and wounded was 5,709.

[147] Kinglake's "Invasion of the Crimea," 6th edition, 1877, vol. iii. p. 305.

[148] Kinglake's "Invasion of the Crimea," 6th edition, 1877, vol. iii. p. 349.

[149] At 8.30 a.m. the Russians had 17,000 infantry and 100 guns opposed to 3,600 English with 36 guns and 1,600 French infantry and 12 guns [Ibid. vol. vi. p. 321]. Three hours later on, Canrobert had under his orders 9,000 fresh men, who remained inactive: "So far as concerned any active exertion of infantry power, our people were now left to fight on without any aid from the French"—Ibid. pp. 416, 417.

[150] Ibid. vol. vi. pp. 439, 440.

[151] A more telling commentary on our useless waste of blood and treasure could scarcely be found. Truly they manage these things better in Germany.

[152] See the remarkable expressions of dissatisfaction wrung from the placid Lord Raglan on various occasions, and the very free manner in which the English officers expressed themselves when the 7th French leger regiment ran away from the Russians at Inkerman for the second time.—Kinglake's "Invasion of the Crimea," 6th edition, 1877, vol. vi. pp. 327-8, 344-5.

[153] Louis was fond of these theatrical announcements, which answered the purpose he designed, of attracting the sympathy of the impressionable French people. The following is a short summary of the mode in which Italy was really freed "from the Alps to the Adriatic":—Lombardy was surrendered to Sardinia 11th July, 1859; the treaty ceding Savoy and Nice to France was signed 24th March, and approved by the Sardinian Parliament 29th May, 1860. The French troops retired from Italy the same month. Garibaldi landed at Marsala 11th May, 1860, and entered Naples on the 18th of August. The kingdom of Italy was recognised by Great Britain 31st March, 1861. In 1864 Florence was declared the capital of Italy. The French troops left Rome in November, 1865. Venetia was ceded to France by Austria 3rd July, 1866. They retired from the Quadrilateral in October, 1866; Venice was annexed to Italy the same month; the Italian troops entered Rome in September, 1870, when Napoleon III. was no longer able to interpose, and it was incorporated in the Italian kingdom in October.

[154] See previous note.

[155] Since the above was written, a weekly paper has been established, which promises to promote the revival of caricature art.


JOHN LEECH (Continued).

Giovanni. What do the dead do, uncle?—do they eat, Hear music, go a hunting, and be merry, As we that live?

Francesco de Medicis. No, Cuz; they sleep.

Giov. ... When do they wake?

Frances. When God shall please.

WEBSTER'S White Devil; or, Vittoria Corombona (1612), Act 3.

Many of our readers will remember the exhibition at the Egyptian Hall, in 1862, of John Leech's "Sketches in Oil," the subjects being enlarged reproductions from selected examples of his minor drawings for Punch. To his friend Mark Lemon is due the credit of this idea, which was carried out after the following manner:—The impression of a block in Punch being first taken on a sheet of india-rubber, was enlarged by a lithographic process; the copy thus obtained was transferred to stone, and impressions obtained on a large sheet of canvas. The result was an outline groundwork, consisting of his own lines enlarged some eight times the dimensions of the original drawing, which the artist then proceeded to fill up in colour. His knowledge of the manipulation of oil colours was, however, slight, and his first crude attempts were made under the guidance of his friend Mr. Millais. The first results can scarcely be said to be satisfactory; a kind of transparent colour was used, which allowed the coarse lines of the enlargement to be distinctly visible, and the finished production presented very much the appearance of an indifferent lithograph slightly tinted. In a short time, however, he conquered the difficulty; and, instead of allowing the thick, fatty lines of printer's ink to remain on the canvas, he removed them—particularly as regards the outlines of the face and figure—by means of turpentine. These outlines he re-drew with his own hand in a fine and delicate manner, and added a daintiness of finish, particularly in flesh colour, which greatly enhanced the value and beauty of the work. He nevertheless experienced some difficulty in reproducing in these enlargements the delicacy of touch and exactness which characterized the original drawings, and would labour all day at a detail—such as a hand in a certain position—before attaining a result which entirely satisfied himself. The catalogue of this exhibition may be cited in evidence of Leech's characteristic modesty. "These sketches," it said, "have no claim to be regarded or tested as finished pictures. It is impossible for any one to know the fact better than I do. They have no pretensions to a higher name than that I have given them—'Sketches in Oil.'"

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