"She was my first love. We had not seen each other for years! Thanks. I'll have some more brandy. Hot this time, with some sugar, please."
The following week The London Library appeared. I bought it, and read "The Duke's Oak," all about Lord Briarrose and Lady Betty Buttercup and the runaway horses. The tree with the one branch gave the title to the story, and the Dashing Duke of Broadacres was the aristocratic acrobat—my friend the author!
The Savage Club is a remnant of Bohemian London. It was started at a period when art, literature, and the drama were at their lowest ebb—in the "good old days" when artists wore seedy velveteen coats, smoked clays, and generally had their works of art exhibited in pawnbrokers' windows; when journalists were paid at the same rate and received the same treatment as office-boys; and when actors commanded as many shillings a week as they do pounds at present. This typical trio now exists only in the imagination of the lady novelist. When first the little band of Savages met they smoked their calumets over a public-house in the vicinity of Drury Lane, in a room with a sanded floor; a chop and a pint of ale was their fare, and good-fellowship atoned for lack of funds. The Brothers Brough, Andrew Halliday, Tom Robertson, and other clever men were the original Savages, and the latter in one of his charming pieces made capital out of an incident at the Club. One member asks another for a few shillings. "Very sorry, old chap, I haven't got it, but I'll ask Smith." Smith replies, "Not a cent myself, but I'll ask Brown." Brown asks Robinson, and so on until a Croesus is found with five shillings in his pocket, which he is only too willing to lend. But this true Bohemianism is as dead as Queen Anne, and the Savages now live merely on the traditions of the past. His Majesty the King, when Prince of Wales, was a member of the Club, and an Earl takes the chair and entertains my Lord Mayor with his flunkeys and all. The Club is now as much advertised as the Imperial Institute, but the true old flavour is no more. No doubt some excellent men and good fellows are still in the Savage wigwam. Some Bohemians—a sprinkling of those Micawbers, "waiting for something to turn up"—keep up its reputation, but in reality it is only Savage now in name.
I was not thirty when I ceased to be a member. I had been on the committee, and had taken an active part in matters concerning it, until it changed its character and lost its true Bohemian individuality, and being a member of the Garrick Club, I found matured in it the element the Savage endeavoured at that time to emulate. Although I am still in my forties, few of those with whom I smoked the calumet of peace round the camp fire at a great pow-wow in the wigwam of the excellent Savages, alas! remain.
The old Grecian Theatre in the City Road was the nursery of many members of the theatrical profession, and authors too. Two well-known members of the Savage Club, Merritt and Pettitt, were writers of the common stuff necessary for the melodramas of the kind connected with their names. Merritt would have made an equal fortune if exhibited as the original fat boy in "Pickwick," or as a prize baby at a show. I suppose my readers are aware that it is not necessary to be a baby in order to be exhibited as one, for I recollect, in my Bohemian days, going down to Woolwich Gardens when the famous William Holland was manager of them, and accidentally strolling into a tent outside of which was a placard, "The Largest Baby in the World! 6d." I was not expected,—and the "Baby" was walking about in his baby-clothes, with little pink bows on his shoulders, smoking a horrible black clay pipe. He was the dwarf policeman in Holland's pantomime in the winter-time!
Merritt would have made a capital prize baby. He was tall, very stout, and possessed of a perfectly hairless, baby's face and a squeaky little voice. I shall never forget a prize remark this transpontine author made in the Savage Club, when an editor rushed in and said, "Have you heard the news? Carlyle is dead!" Merritt rose, and putting his hand on his chest, squeaked out, "Another gap in our ranks!"
A peculiar figure in Bohemia in those old days was "J." Pope, known as "Jope," brother of the late celebrated K.C. Jo was nearly as large as his brother, the well-known legal luminary, and Paul Merritt rolled into one, and wore his black wide-awake on the back of his pleasing, intelligent head. I saw him one sultry autumn evening leaning against a lamp-post in Chancery Lane to take breath.
"Hullo, Pope, where are you going?"
"My dear boy, let me lean on you a minute. I'm going up to the Birkbeck—to lecture—to lecture on 'Air, and How We Breathe!'"
As a contrast to the popular Doctor was a wit more popularly known, H. J. Byron—as thin as the proverbial lamp-post. Of course the stories about Byron would fill a volume, but there is one that is always worth repeating, and that is his reply to a vulgar and obtrusive stranger who met him at Plymouth, and said to him, "Mr. Byron, I've 'ad a walk hall round the 'Oe."
"Yes, old chap, and the next time you have a walk I advise you to walk all round the H."
In those merry gatherings I recall the familiar features of true Bohemians, when Bohemianism was at its best—not the ornamental names of those one finds mentioned in all reports of the famous gatherings, but of the members who really used and made the Club. Few of the outside public recollect, for instance, the name of Arthur Mathieson, who wrote and sang that pathetic ballad, "The Little Hero"; who also was an actor and writer of ability,—in fact, he was what is fatal to men of his class—a veritable Crichton. Being in appearance not unlike Sir Henry Irving, he was engaged by our leading actor to play his double in "The Corsican Brothers," and made up so like his chief that no one could possibly tell the difference between the two. One evening during the run of the piece an old Irishwoman who was duster of the theatre, and with whom the genial double of Sir Henry often had a friendly word, approached as she thought the familiar M., and in a rather frivolous mood innocently tickled the actor under the chin with her dusting-broom.
"My good woman, what do you mean?"
The poor Irishwoman dropped on her knees, clasped her hands and said, "The Saints protect me! it's the Masther himself—I'm kilt entoirely."
The "Masther," however, probably enjoyed the humour of it. Sir Henry, like his dear old friend Mr. J. L. Toole, has found a relief in occasional harmless fun. Toole, however, was irrepressible.
I was one day walking with him in Leeds (when he was appearing in the evening on the stage, and I on the platform). A street hawker proffered the comedian a metal pencil-case for the sum of a halfpenny. Toole made this valuable purchase. As soon as I left the platform that night, I found a note for me, inviting me to the theatre directly after the performance. Toole came back on to the stage, and making me an elaborate and complimentary speech, referring to me as "a brother artist in another sphere," etc., etc., presented me with the pencil! I made an appropriate reply, and we went to supper.
The following paragraph from the pen of Mr. Toole appeared in the Press the next day in London as well as the provinces:
"Brother artists, even when working in different grooves, do not lack appreciation of each other's work. After Mr. Harry Furniss's lecture in Leeds the other night, he and Mr. Toole foregathered; and the popular and genial actor presented the 'comedian of the pencil' with a very neat and handsome pencil-case, just adapted for the jotting down, wherever duty takes him, of those graphic sketches with which the caricaturist amuses us week by week."
I must confess I am sometimes guilty of mild practical jokes, but I am always careful to select reciprocative and kindred spirits—with such a spirit of practical joking as J. L. Toole, for instance. He and I have had many a joke at each other's expense. It so happened that when he was producing the great success, "The House Boat," he wintered at Hastings, where I had a house for the season, and we saw a great deal of each other. Toole was always what is called a bad study—that is, it was with great difficulty and pain he learnt his parts. On this occasion the time was drawing nearer and nearer for the production; he was getting more and more nervous about his new part, and I received a visit from his friend the late Edmund Routledge, asking me to protect "Johnny" from his friends—in other words, to keep his whereabouts dark, as he had to study. Toole had had one or two little practical jokes with me, which I owed him for, so having to rush up to town, I had the following letter written to him:
"DEAR MR. TOOLE,—I suppose you recollect your old friends in Smoketown when you performed one night at our Hall and did us the honour of stopping at our house over Sunday. You then kindly asked us all to stop with you when we went to London—a promise we have treasured ever since. We called at Maida Vale yesterday, but finding you were at Hastings I write now to say that we are on our way. Besides myself I am bringing dear Aunt Jane you will remember—now unfortunately a confirmed invalid—and my boy Tom who has got a bad leg, and Uncle William and his three daughters, and my dear Sue, who, I am sorry to say, is still suffering, but I think a week at Hastings will do us all a world of good—particularly to have you to amuse us all the time.
"Yours very truly,"
And a signature was attached which I could not myself read.
The next day in London a hansom pulled up close to where I was walking, and a friend of Toole's jumped out, and, seizing my hand, he said, "I say, Furniss, you travel about a lot, lecturing and all that kind of thing—do you know Smoketown?"
"Smoketown!" I said, "Smoketown!" (Truth to tell, at the moment I had quite forgotten all about my letter to Toole; then it dawned upon me.) "Oh, yes—well," I said; "I had one night there, and some frightful friends of Toole's bored my life out. He had invited them, I believe, to stop with him in London, and they—"
"Just the people I want. What's their name?"
"I forget that entirely."
"Can you read this?" he said, producing my letter.
"No," I said; "I can't read that signature."
"Do you know where they are likely to put up in town?"
"Not the slightest idea."
"I've tried every hotel in London."
"Temperance?" I asked.
"No, not one. Happy thought!—of course that is where they'll be."
"Try them all," I said, as I waved my hand. And off the cab rushed to visit the various temperance hotels in London.
The next day I returned to Hastings, and went straight to Mr. Toole's hotel. Getting the hall porter into my confidence, he sent up a message to Mr. Toole that a gentleman with a large family had arrived to see him; and the porter and I made the noise of ten up the stairs, and eventually the gentleman and family were announced at Toole's door. I shall never forget poor Toole, standing in an attitude so familiar to the British public, with his eye-glass in his hand and his eyes cast on the ground—he was afraid to raise them. As soon as he did, however, his other hand caught the first book that was handy, and it was flung at my head.
Bohemianism, when I arrived in London, was emigrating from the tavern of sanded floors and clay pipes into Clubland. Artists, authors, actors, and journalists were starting clubs of their own, simply to continue the same pot-house life without restraint; in place of turning the public-house into a club, they turned the club into a public-house. If journalists in Grub Street were at their worst in those days, artists were at their best. The great boom in trade which followed the Franco-German War produced a wave of extraordinary prosperity, which landed many a tramp struggling in troubled waters safely on the beach of fortune. Working men in the North were drinking champagne; some of them rose to be masters and millionaires. They tired of drinking champagne, they could not play the pianos they had bought, or enjoy the mansions they had built; but they could rival each other in covering their walls with pictures, so the poorest "pot-boiler" found a ready sale. The most indifferent daubs were sold as quickly as they could be framed. Artists then built their mansions, drank champagne, and played on their grand pianos. When I, still in my teens, first met these good fellows, I might have been tempted, seeing what wretched work satisfied the picture-dealer, to abandon black and white for colour; but already the boom was over. Artists, like their patrons, had found out their mistake. They had either to let or sell their costly houses, and have, with few exceptions, little to show now for those wonderful days of prosperity in the early seventies—which they still talk over in their clubs in Bohemia.
The few exceptions are the survival of the fittest. But the best of artists have never seen such a boom in art as that I saw in my early days in London. It cannot be denied that, from a fashionable point of view, picture shows are going down. Artists have had to stand on one side as popular Society favourites: the actors have taken their place. One has only to visit the studios on "Show Sundays" to see what a falling off there is. "Show Sunday" was, some years ago, one of the events of the year. From Kensington to St. John's Wood, and up to Hampstead, the studios of the mighty attracted hosts of fashionable people to these annual gatherings.
A familiar figure at these for many years was the genial Sir Spencer Wells, the well-known surgeon. He lived monarch of all he surveyed at Golder's Hill, Hampstead, and many a morning I met him when riding, and we jogged into town together. He was a capital raconteur, a happy wit, and told one incident I always recall to mind as I pass a house on the top of Fitzjohn's Avenue, where a few years ago lived, painted and "received" that Wilson Barrett of the brush, Edwin Long, R.A., a hard-working, self-made artist who amassed a fortune by successfully gauging the taste of the large middle-class English public in mixing religion with voluptuous melodrama. On the annual "Show Sunday" no studio was more popular than Long's. His subjects perhaps had something to do with it. They were in keeping with the Sabbath. The work too was as smooth and as highly finished as the most orthodox sermon. Ars longa est. Yes, said some cynic, but art is not Long. But anyway Long's art was commercially successful, and he was what is known as "a good business man."
As haberdashers in the days of crude advertising used to place men in costume at the shop door—a fireman when they were selling off a damaged salvage stock, or a sailor or, if a very enterprising tradesman, a diver, helmet and all, when selling off goods damaged from a wreck—so did this Academician, when exhibiting Biblical subjects on "Show Sunday," engage a Nubian model to stand at the door of his shop. This man had also to announce the names of the guests, and when the small, spectacled, simple man with the large smile gave his name, Sir Spencer Wells, the model pulled himself up to his full height and in his best English proudly and loudly announced to the crowd in the studio—
"The Prince of Wales!"
The effect was magical: all fell in line, ladies curtseyed, men bowed, when the Prince of Hampstead Heath entered. The artist looked as black as his model, and the visitors laughed.
At the other end of Fitzjohn's Avenue once lived that ever popular Academician, the late Mr. John Pettie. Mr. Pettie was a vigorous draughtsman and a beautiful colourist, and many of his portraits are very fine. He seemed to revel in painting a red coat—an object to many painters as maddening as it is to the infuriated bull. On one "Show Sunday" before the sending-in day of the Royal Academy, at which he exhibited, I recollect admiring a portrait of Mr. Lamb, the celebrated golfer, in his red coat, when the original of the portrait came into the studio. Not feeling very well, Mr. Pettie had to avoid the crowd of his admirers seeing him. There were a few exceptions, of which I was one. I had just left him when I saw Mr. Lamb before his picture. In this portrait the "bulger" golf club—which Mr. Lamb, I believe, invented, to the delight of the golfing world—is introduced. I ran back to Mr. Pettie and told him that there was a stupid man in the studio wanting to know why artists always draw golf clubs wrongly; that as a Scotchman he must protest against such a club, which was out of shape, like a club foot. "Tell him, mon, it's a bulger—Lamb's invention!" I returned. "He wants to know who Mr. Lamb is, and what is a bulger?—perhaps it's a new kind of hunting-crop and not a golf club at all?" In rushed Mr. Pettie, like an enraged lion, to slay the ignorant visitor, but in reality to shake hands with Mr. Lamb and explain my childish joke.
Leaving Pettie, I called at a studio near Hampstead occupied by a very clever Irish artist, who was very much depressed when I entered. Gazing in bewilderment at his picture for the Academy, representing Milton with his daughters in his garden at Chalfont St. Giles, he said—
"Furniss, I'm in an awful state entoirely over this picture. One of those critic fellows has been in here, and he tells me this picture won't do at all at all. I've painted in Milton's garden as I've seen it, but the critic tells me that these are all modern flowers and weren't known in the country in the poet's time. Now, what on earth am Oi to do?"
"Oh, don't bother about those critics," I said. "They know nothing. Milton was blind, don't you know, so how could he tell whether the flowers were correct or not?"
"Begorrah, Furniss, you're right. Oi never thought of that. It's just like those ignorant critic chaps to upset a fellow in this way."
MY CONFESSIONS AS A SPECIAL ARTIST.
The Light Brigade—Miss Thompson (Lady Butler)—Slumming—The Boat Race—Realism—A Phantasmagoria—Orlando and the Caitiff—Fancy Dress Balls—Lewis Wingfield—Cinderella—A Model—All Night Sitting—An Impromptu Easel—"Where there's a Will there's a Way"—The American Sunday Papers—I am Deaf—The Grill—The World's Fair—Exaggeration—Personally Conducted—The Charnel House—10, Downing Street—I attend a Cabinet Council—An Illustration by Mr. Labouchere—The Great Lincolnshire Trial—Praying without Prejudice.
Sir William Russell and I were called upon at a banquet in the City to respond to the toast of the Press. Sir William made one of his characteristic, graceful little speeches, reminiscential and modest. When I rose I was for a moment also reminiscential—but not modest. "My Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, and Masters of this Worshipful Company,—I appreciate the appropriateness in coupling my name with that of Sir William Russell, for both of us have made a noise in the world at the same time—Dr. Russell with his first war letters to the Times, and I in my cradle, for I came into this troubled world while others in arms were making a noise in the Crimea."
Naturally for this reason I have always taken an interest in the doings of that time; so it was quite con amore that I acted as "special" at the first Balaclava Celebration Banquet (1875), twenty years after "Billy" Russell's first war letters and my first birthday.
The roll-call on the occasion was funny, seeing that it was that of the "Light Brigade"—some were "light" and many were heavy—one I recollect was about eighteen stone. The banquet was held in the Alexandra Palace, Muswell Hill. The visitors, except the military—past or present—were shamefully treated. We had to stand all the time behind the chairs and wearily watch a scene not altogether elevating to lookers-on. We were not allowed a chair to sit on, nor any refreshment of any kind—not even if we paid for it; and I well recollect how hungry I was when I returned to my studio after a tedious journey at 1 in the morning, having had nothing to eat since 1 of the previous day. Such Red Tape was, I suppose, to illustrate the disgraceful arrangements of the commissariat in the Crimea! I was standing close to Miss Thompson (Lady Butler), who had just become famous by her picture "The Roll Call." She was making notes, and possibly intended painting a sequel to her celebrated picture. She was exhausted and tired, and no doubt too disgusted by such ungallant conduct on the part of the organisers of the banquet to touch the subject. Had she painted this particular roll-call I fear many of the figures would have had to be drawn out of the perpendicular.
Twenty years before one of the heroes was, possibly, a better and a wiser man, and tackled the "Rooshins" with greater dexterity than he displayed on this occasion in managing a jelly. He had waiters to right of him, waiters to left of him, and waiters behind him, but that jelly defeated him, although he charged it with fork, spoon, and finally with fingers.
From a very early age it was naturally my ambition to be introduced to Mr. Punch, but this was not to be just yet, and the first London paper for which I drew regularly was the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, which was started soon after I arrived in London. I continued to work for it until it was bought by the proprietor of the Illustrated London News, when I became a large contributor to that leading illustrated paper.
Most of my work for the Illustrated London News consisted of single and double pages of character sketches, in which Eton and Harrow cricket matches, Oxford and Cambridge boat races, tennis meetings, the Lawn at Goodwood, and many other scenes of English life were treated pictorially; but I also acted sometimes in the capacity of a special correspondent, and this duty sometimes took me into places far from pleasant.
On my twenty-fourth Christmas, the year after I was married, I recollect having to start off upon such a mission to the North of England, where, owing to strikes and labour disputes, most distressing scenes were taking place. Throwing myself into the work, I thoroughly ferreted out the distress which prevailed, pursuing my investigations into the very garrets of the poor starving creatures whose privacy I thus disturbed at the entreaty and under the escort of the district visitors and other benevolent people, whilst the criminal classes also came in for a share of my observation, which in this case was conducted under the sheltering wing of a detective.
I cannot, however, say that my energy met with its due reward, for such was the realism with which I had treated the subject allotted to me that the editor and proprietors of the Illustrated London News were reluctant to shock the susceptibilities of their readers by presenting them with such scenes, and I had to substitute for them sketches of soup kitchens, committee meetings and refuges. That the editorial decision was not a sound one was amply proved a few years later, when during a somewhat similar crisis Mr. G. R. Sims and the late Mr. Fred Barnard published work of a similar breadth and boldness with signal effect.
Visiting slums, seeing death from want and misery on all sides, is certainly not the most pleasant way of spending the festive season. In company with detectives, clergymen, or self-sacrificing district visitors, you may swallow the pill with the silver on; but try it single-handed, and it is a very different affair. I was taken for some demon rent-collector prowling about, and was peered at through broken windows and doors, and received with language warm enough to thaw the icicles. The sketches I made during the weeks I spent in the haunts of want and misery would have made a startling volume, but time and money were thrown away, and only the perfunctory pictures were published. The public have no idea, or seldom think, of the great trouble and expense incurred in faithfully depicting everyday scenes. Still, it is not possible for a "special" even to see everything, or to be in two places simultaneously; and consequently, in ordinary pictorial representations, dummy figures are frequently looked upon as true portraits. One boat race, for example, is very much like another. Some years ago I executed a panoramic series of sketches of the University Race from start to finish, and as they were urgently wanted, the drawings had to be sent in the same day. Early in the morning, before the break of fast, I found myself at Putney, rowing up to Mortlake, taking notes of the different points on the way—local colour through a fog. Getting home before the Londoners started for the scene, I was at work, and the drawings—minus the boats—were sent in shortly after the news of the race. The figures were imaginary and unimportant, but one correspondent wrote to point out the exact spot where he stood, and complained of my leaving out the black band on his white hat, and placing him too near a pretty girl, adding that his wife, who had not been present, had recognised his portrait.
Yes, I must confess, one has often to draw upon the imagination even in serious "realism," Some years ago I went with a colleague of the pen to illustrate and describe the dreadful scenes which were said to take place in St. James's Park, where the poor people were seen to sleep all night on the seats. We arrived about 2 A.M. It was a beautiful moonlight night, but though we walked up and down for hours not a soul came in sight. My companion said, "It's a bad business; we cannot do anything with this." I replied, "We must not go away without something to show; now if you will lie down I will make a sketch of you, and then I will lie down and you can describe me."
One of the most "uncanny" experiences I ever had as a "special" I find graphically described by the late Hon. Lewis Wingfield, who accompanied me on the strange mission.
"Winter without. Snow. A sea of billows drifting across the sky, glittering, frosted—a symphony in metals—silver, aluminium, lead—rendered buoyant for the nonce, ethereal—as though the world were really gone Christmas mad, and, having a sudden attack of topsy-turvydom in its inside, had taken to showering its treasures about the firmament, instead of keeping them snugly put away in mines below ground. A sheet of snow, and bitter white rain driving still. A huge building looming black, its many eyes staring into the dark—lidless, bilious, vacant. This is a hospital. Or is it a factory, disguised with a veneer of the Puginesque? Or an aesthetic barrack? Or an artistic workhouse? Visible yet, under falling snow which has not had time to cover them, are flower-beds, shrub-plots, meandering walks. Too genteel and ambitious for the most aesthetic of workhouses or advanced of hospitals, we wonder what the building is; and our wonder is not decreased by seeing a postern opened in a huge black wall, from which a handful of conspirators creep silently. We rub our eyes. Are we dreaming? Is this, or is it not, the age of scientific marvels, levelling of castes, rampant communism, murder, agrarian outrage, sudden massacre?—the olla podrida which we are pleased to denominate enlightenment? That first black figure is James the Second. Heavens! The Jacobites live yet, and will join, doubtless, with the Fenians and Mr. Bradlaugh, and a posse comitatus of iconoclasts, to upset the reign of order, and add a thorn to the chaplet of our hard-run Premier. James the Second. Not a doubt of it. There he is—periwig, black velvet, and bugles. Where, oh where, is the Great Seal, with which he played ducks and drakes in the Thames? Yet no. This is no Jacobite plot, for His Majesty is followed by no troop of partisans on tiptoe in hose and doublet. He is not seeking to win his own again. A woodman trudges behind—we recognise him, for his name's "Orlando"—(Wingfield himself, in a beautiful costume, which he had made two years previously when playing the part of Orlando in a production of "As You Like It" in Manchester, the Calvert Memorial performance; Miss Helen Faucit (Lady Martin), Rosalind; Herman Merivale, Touchstone; Tom Taylor, Adam; and other well-known celebrities assisting). Then he describes me: "A muffled creature of sinister aspect. Short, auburn-locked, extinguished by a portentous hat, tripping and stumbling over a cloak, or robe, in whose dragging folds he conceals his identity as well as his power of volition, a weird and gruesome phantom. What—oh what—is this hovering ghost? He must be just defunct, for the purgatorial garments fit him not, he stumbles at every step, and when he trips an underdress is unveiled that's like a City waiter's. What is he—the arch conspirator—doing himself? He starts, tries to conceal a book, but we snatch it from him. Sketches! lots of sketches! caricatures, low and vulgar portraits of ourselves! 'What are you?' we scream, 'and why this orgy? Speak, caitiff, or for ever hold your peace!'
"Perceiving that we are in earnest and not to be trifled with, and glare with forbidding mien, the caitiff speaks in trembling accents. 'If you please,' he says, 'I'm the artist from the great illustrated journal; I'm drawing pictures of the lunatics. My disguise is beyond my own control, and trips me up, but I'm told it's becoming.' 'Lunatics!' we echo.
"'Yes,' the caitiff murmurs. 'This is the annual fancy dress ball at Brookwood Asylum. You and I and the doctors and attendants are the only sane people in the place. By-and-by the country gentry will be admitted, and then the tangle will be hopeless, for even in everyday life it's impossible to know who's mad and who isn't. How much more here?'
"We left the trembling caitiff to his secret sketching, and the despondency produced by his appearance. He was sane, was he? Then in him were we revenged on human nature, for sure never was mortal more oppressed by his gear and his surroundings."
The fact is that my editor, in sending his "young man," omitted to say that the invitation was crossed with "fancy dress only," so I arrived in ordinary war-paint. The Doctor was horrified. "This will never do. My patients will resent it. You must be in fancy dress." All my host could find was a seedy red curtain and an old cocked hat (had it been a nightcap I should have been complete as Caudle). I wrapped this martial cloak around me, and soon found myself in the most extraordinary scene, so graphically described by Wingfield. He was not alone in his scorn for me. The "Duke of York" had a great contempt for my appearance, but when introduced to him as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, he unbent, waved his bauble, and commanded me to be seated. The visitors eyed me suspiciously all the evening, and on my entering the supper-room, accompanied by the Doctor, they were seized with the idea that I must be a very dangerous case, and readily made room—in fact, made off. One of the poor patients was an artist, and showed me his sketch-book, the work of many, many months—a number of drawings in colour, stuck one on top of the other, resembling an elongated concertina, so that only the corners of the pages could be seen. The patients wore costumes designed and made by themselves, in marked contrast to their stylish keepers. Among the guests the county families were well represented, and garrison officers from a neighbouring depot formed a motley group which a looker-on, viewing the scene as in a kaleidoscope, would laugh at. One turn, and the next moment some incident might occur which an imaginative brain could easily work into a romance too touching to relate.
For some years I had quite a run of fancy dress balls, a craze at that time, acting as special artist for various periodicals, the Illustrated London News in particular. The ball above recorded was unique, but there is very little variety in such gatherings, where variety is the one thing aimed at, thus showing the limit of our English artistic invention. The ingredients of a ball of three hundred, say, would be as follows,—Thirty Marie Stuarts, ten Marguerites, twenty-eight Fausts, fifty Flower Girls, nine Portias, three Clowns, sixteen Matadores, thirty Sailors, twenty-five Ophelias, twenty-five Desdemonas, the remainder uniforms and nondescripts. Of course any popular figure, picture or play of the moment will be represented. When the relief of Mafeking took place, the number of Baden-Powells, tall, short, young, old, thin and stout, in the various fancy balls and bazaars appearing will be, as newspaper leader-writers say, "a fact fresh in the mind of the reader." Some years ago a portrait of the "missing Gainsborough," a picture of the Duchess of Devonshire, which mysteriously vanished from Agnew's gallery in Bond Street, was represented in dozens at the fancy balls of the period, and the Gilbert-Sullivan opera "Patience," supplied many a costume. My brother "special" on this occasion—Lewis Wingfield—was a Crichton of eccentricity. The son of an Irish peer, an officer in the Guards, he dressed as a ballet-girl and danced on the stage; was a journalist and wrote for Charles Dickens when that great novelist edited Household Words. Wingfield never did anything by halves, so in writing a series of articles for Dickens on the casual wards of London he personated a street photographer (having delicate hands he could not pretend to be a labourer), and wrote his experiences of the dreadful state of affairs existing in those days under the rule of Bumbledom. The last he sought relief at was situated close to Golden Square. Here he was very harshly treated, and when he left he rapidly changed into his usual clothes, drove up to the establishment as one of the life patrons (all his family had for years supported the charity), and had the satisfaction of dismissing the overbearing overseer, to the wretch's chagrin. Wingfield related this incident with great glee.
Anxious to find out the amount niggers made on the Derby Day, he decided to go as a burnt-cork nigger himself; but it is impossible to do this unless you are of that ilk, for like the business of the beggars and street performers, everything is properly organised; there is a proper system and superintendent to arrange matters. After some difficulty he managed to get introduced as the genuine article, and at 4 in the morning had to stand with the other Ethiopian minstrels at "Poverty Junction," between Waterloo Bridge and Waterloo Station, while lots were drawn for positions on the course. As luck would have it, Wingfield drew a pitch opposite the Grand Stand, where at least he would be among his own acquaintances. All the niggers had to walk to Epsom, unless it happened some friendly carter could be induced to offer a seat. Had four-in-hands come along Wingfield might have been saved a walk, but costers were to him unknown. By lunch-time he was heartily sick of his new life. However, he was determined to carry it through. In the evening, after his long, hot day's work, he found he had to wait for the policeman's train. After the half-million people had returned to London, he was allowed to crawl into a carriage, and being thoroughly tired he fell asleep in a corner of the compartment. But the police wanted some entertainment, and waking him up, said:
"Now then, darky, tune up! we can pay you as well as the toffs; let's have a song!" They had a concert all the way, Wingfield singing the solos. The hat was sent round and a collection made, and to the bitter end Wingfield had to bang away at his banjo and squeak with what little voice he had left. This nearly finished him. Arriving at Victoria, he hailed a hansom. One driver after another eyed him scornfully and passed on. He then for the first time realised that it is not a customary thing for an itinerant nigger to drive about London in hansoms, even on Derby Day. So he dragged himself wearily along the streets until he happened to meet an intimate friend. To him he explained matters, and his friend called a hansom for him and paid the driver as well before he would take up his dusky fare. He thought the fact of his driving a street nigger a great joke, and made merry over his passenger as he passed the other drivers. But he was very much astonished when he drove up in front of quite an imposing dwelling and saw the door opened by a footman as the nigger toiled up the steps.
As an artist Wingfield was ambitious. Finding, as he told me, that he could never be a great artist, he preferred not to be one at all. On his walls were large classic paintings, not likely ever to find their way to the walls of anyone else. But he tried his hand at popular art as well. A scene in a circus, for instance, was one subject. A pretty little child was engaged to sit in his studio, but as that day he was going to Hengler's Circus to paint the background he, to the delight of the child, took her with him. The little girl played about in the ring, and was noticed by Mr. Hengler, who asked her if she would like to be dressed up and play in the same ring at night. This led to the child becoming a professional. She enchanted everyone as Cinderella. Her name was Connie Gilchrist. I fell in love with her myself when I was in my teens and first saw her as Cinderella. Afterwards when I came to London I was as ignorant as a Lord Chief Justice as to who Connie Gilchrist was; but I recollect a model sitting to me recommending my writing to her younger sister for some figures she thought her sister would suit. The day was fixed, but by the morning's post I received a letter from the young lady to say that Mr. Hollingshead, of the Gaiety Theatre, had sent for her, and she could not sit to me. She was Connie Gilchrist, and I believe this was the last engagement she had accepted as a professional model.
Telegram from the editor of the Illustrated London News:—"Election, Liverpool, see to it at once." So I did. On arriving in the evening, I rushed off to a "ward meeting," To my surprise the artist of a rival paper sat down beside me. He did not frighten me away, but candidly confessed that he had seen a private telegram of mine saying I was starting, and his editor packed him off by the same train. Ha! I must be equal to him! I sat up all night and drew a page on wood, ready for engraving, and sent it off by the first train in the morning. It was in the press before my rival's rough notes left Liverpool. One would hardly think, to see candles stuck in my boots, that the hotel was the Old Adelphi. I trust the "special" of the future will find the electric light, or a better supply of bedroom candlesticks. All day again sketching, and all night hard at work, burning the midnight oil (I was nearly writing boots). A slice of luck kept me awake in the early morning. A knock at my door, and to my surprise a friend walked in who had come down by a night train for a "daily" and seeing my name in the visitors' book had looked me up, thinking I could give him some "tips." "All right," I said; "a bargain: you sit for me and I'll talk. Here, stand like this"—the Liberal candidate. "Capital! Now round like this"—the Conservative. "Drawn from life! And after another day of this kind of thing, I reached home without having had an hour's sleep. Oh! a "special's" life is not a happy one.
Great political excitement, there is no doubt, turns men's heads. Once I recollect finding a most dignified provincial politician in this state, and necessity compelled me to turn him into a sketching-stool. Mr. Gladstone was speaking at Bingley Hall, Birmingham, and although close to him on the platform, I could not, being only five feet two, see over the heads of others when all stood to cheer. I mentioned this fact to my neighbour. "Oh, you must not miss this scene!" he said, and quickly, without ceremony, he had me on his back, his bald head serving as an easel. It has struck me since that had this old gentleman, a big man in his native town, and still bigger in his own estimation, seen himself as others saw him at that moment, the probability is that he would not have felt anything like so kindly to me as I did to him.
Another instance of a special artist having to depend upon his wits was when I found myself at a big central manufacturing town, sent down in a hurry from London by the Illustrated London News to illustrate a most important election meeting—an election upon which the fate of the Government of the day depended. When I arrived the mills had been closed, crowds were in the streets, and it would have been a simple matter to have got into Mafeking compared with getting into the hall in which the meeting was at the time being held.
If there is one thing I dislike more than another it is a crowd, particularly an electioneering crowd. Political fever is a bad malady, even when one is impervious to it, if he has to fight his way through an infected mob. Quickly slipping round to the principal hotel, and finding there the carriages engaged for the celebrities of the meeting, I got into one and was driven rapidly up to the hall, cheered by the mob, who doubtless looked upon me as some active politician. Had I put my head out of the window and promised them any absurdity, I believe they would have chosen me their member on the spot. Arriving at the hall, I was received by the tipstaffs, who, probably not catching my name distinctly, thought as the hotel people had done, that I was sent down in some official capacity, and politely ushered me to the platform, where I was given a seat in the front row.
Ah, you little know the difficulties of the poor artist in running his subjects to earth. When in New York I was specially engaged by the New York Herald to contribute a series of studies of the leading public men. These were to appear in the Sunday edition.
Those Sunday papers! What gluttons for reading the Americans are! The first Sabbath morning I was in the States I telephoned in an off-hand sort of way from my bedroom for "some Sunday papers." I went on dressing, and somehow forgot my order, but on leaving, or rather attempting to leave, my room afterwards, I found to my astonishment the doorway completely blocked with newspapers to the quantity of several tons. I rang my bell vigorously. The attendant arrived, and seemed considerably amused at my look of consternation. He explained to me that these were five of the Sunday papers, and added apologetically that they were all he could get at present. If I had stayed to read through that pile I should be in the States now.
The first "subject" I was requested to caricature was the celebrated sensational preacher, Dr. Parkhurst. When I arrived at his church it was crowded to the doors, and I could not get near him. A churchwarden told me to sit down where I was, but I put my hand to my ear and shook my head, as much as to say "I do not hear you." Then one churchwarden said to the other churchwarden, "This man is deaf, he doesn't hear; I was telling him to sit down—"
"Pardon me, but are you speaking?" I whispered. "I regret to say that I am very deaf. I came specially from London to hear your great preacher, and I should not like to return without gratifying this one desire I have."
"Say, is your wife here to-day?" asked one churchwarden of the other.
"No, she is sick at home."
"Could not you squeeze this funny little Britisher into your pew?"
"Guess I could."
So they beckoned to me to follow them, and I was ushered up the aisle and sat under the Doctor. The result of that little manoeuvre was that I did my work in peace, although sadly troubled to see his face in consequence of the church being dark and the reading lamp hiding portion of it.
In America introductions are superfluous, so knowing Dr. Parkhurst came over in the Germanic, the same ship that I travelled in some months later, I walked boldly after the service into his room, shook him by the hand, and mentioned in a familiar way the officers of the ship, the storm, and other matters connected with his journey, and in that way had the chance of ten minutes' chat and a closer observation of his facial expression.
It may happen, even when everything is carefully prepared to make the visit of a special artist easy and comfortable, that work may be difficult to accomplish. I must go to the United States for an illustration of what I mean.
Some years ago I met Max O'Rell at a London club, and was introduced by him to a very English-looking gentleman with an American accent, who immediately said:
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Furniss. When you come over to the States we must put you on the grill!"
What did he mean? I looked at Max. Max turned pale, and seemed for a moment to lose his self-possession, then hurriedly whispered in my ear:
"Jolly good fellow—very witty—president of strange club in America where they chaff their guests—see my last book!"
I recollected reading about a club that goes in for roasting as well as toasting its guests, and replied:
"Strange!" I said. "I always thought the Americans were in advance of the English; yet here in my country we do not put the Furniss on the grill, but the grill on the furnace!"
Max laughed and looked relieved, and said:
"You'll do—they'll let you off easy. A Frenchman can't stand chaff, so I sat down."
He had stood the fire of the enemy upon the field of battle, but he couldn't stand the fusillade of wit from the Americans at their dinner table.
The stranger was no other than Major Moses P. Handy, afterwards "Chief of Department of Publicity and Promotion at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago;" so when I found myself in the "Windy City" as an unattached "special" from the Old World to the New "World's Fair," I called at Rand-McNally Buildings, not to be put on the grill, but to be put in possession of some facts concerning that great "Exposition."
Sometimes there is a great deal in a name. For instance, the late Major Handy at once indicated the man—handy, always ready with tongue, hands and legs. He handed me round the city, told me of its wonders, and sent me off enraptured to the "Exposition." Here I was met by one of the staff, and escorted all over the skeleton of what eventually proved to be the most wonderful "Exposition," Exhibition, World's Fair, or whatever you like to call it, that the New World had ever seen.
The gentleman in possession who met me and acted as my guide was a clean-cut featured, smooth-faced, typical American, "full of wise saws and modern instances" and—tobacco juice. He had a merry wit, and his running commentary would have been invaluable "copy" to America's pet humourist, Bill Nye.
I had a pencil in the pocket in one side of my coat, and a note-book in the pocket in the other side, but the carriage in which I was driven about rushed on so over the rough ground and "corduroy roads" and hills and chasms, that I found it a matter of utter impossibility to get the pencil and the book out together, and, therefore, the facts I give about the "Exposition" may want verification, for my worthy guide kept firing them into me with the rapidity of a Maxim or a Hotchkiss.
"Now here is the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. Guess the largest building ever erected—1,641,223 feet long, 17,894 feet high—" Down goes the trap on one side, plunging into some excavation, like a double-harnessed Roman chariot. However, we scrambled up again, but I had lost the important figure of the width of the building. Now I don't for a moment wish to imply that my guide was exaggerating, but this rather reminds me of a story told of an American visiting England, and his host there one day remarked to him:
"My dear fellow, we are delighted with you here—in fact, you are quite a favourite; but you will excuse me if I tell you that you possess one failing pretty general with your countrymen—you do exaggerate so!"
"Guess I kean't help it, but if you'll just kindly give me a kick under the table when I'm going too far I'll pull up sharp!"
With this agreement they went out to dinner that evening, and among other topics the conversation turned upon conservatories. Captain de Vere said that he had a conservatory 200 feet long, but that the Duke of Orchid had one nearly 1,000 feet long. The American here struck in with:
"I reckon, gentlemen, you're talking about conservatories. Now there's a friend of mine in Amurrca, a private gentleman, who has a conservatory 5,000 feet long, 3,000 feet high, and" (kick)—"oh!—2 feet wide!"
But had I heard the figures representing the width of the building, I don't suppose they would have been in the same absurd proportion as this, for not all the shin-kicking in the world would have deterred my entertaining and conversational conductor.
"You must assemble together in your mind's eye all the mighty structures already existing in the world to form any idea of the magnitude of this tremenjious edifice before you. It is sixteen times as large as St. Peter's Cathedral at Rome, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral would nestle together in its ventilating shaft, and the whole of the armies of Europe could sit down comfortably to dinner in the central hall. The Tower of London would be lost under one of the staircases, and fifty Cleopatra's Needles stuck one on top of the other would not scratch the roof. The building cost fifty million six hundred and eighty-four thousand two hundred dollars seventy-five cents, and——" On dashed the horses in their wild career.
Down we went, I thought into the bed of Lake Michigan, but in an instant we were up again, my hat in one direction and my stick in another, and I was well shaken before being taken to the next building.
"Say, Mr. Furniss, the roads are not complete yet, but you mustn't mind these little ups and downs. Guess these horses would pull through anything—brought 'em right away from the fire-engine shed, considerable fresh!"
At this moment a train came puffing along laden with masses of ironwork for the central building. The horses shied at the smoky monster, turned a somersault (at least, so it seemed to me), and we nearly took a header into the lake again; but the charioteer managed to turn them just in time, and the fiery fire-engine steeds snorted past their iron brother, eclipsing even his noise and steam.
I now began to feel thoroughly happy, but I kept a watchful eye on those gee-gees, and as we skipped over impromptu bridges, whizzed round the corners of newly-made piles, and bumped over incomplete parapets, I quite enjoyed myself; but somehow or other I couldn't quite manage to catch all the marvellous details respecting the buildings we were passing. I was qualifying myself for the Volunteer Fire Brigade. But our steeds were reined in for a moment while my guide pointed out to me the Dairy Building.
"I reckon, sir," he said, "that dairy will be an eye-opener. It'll be sooperb, and I guess it won't be long after the opening of the show that they'll be turning out gold-edged butter!"
Off we go again, over mounds and down dykes, jumping rocks and shooting rapids, and I am certain that had our conveyance been a milk-cart, butter, gold-edged or otherwise, would have been produced pretty soon. We pull up with a jerk opposite the Agricultural Building.
"The building is 5,000 by 8,000 feet, design bold and heroic. On each corner and from the centre of the building are reared pavilions."
"Indeed!" I said. "Are they reared by incubators, or upon some special soil from the fertile tracts of the Far West?"
My guide did not evidently deem my question worthy an answer, and continued:
"Surmounted by a mammoth glass dome 460 feet high, constructed on purpose to accommodate the giant Pennsylvania pumpkin we're having raised specially for the Exposition. That pumpkin will be hollowed out, and 600 people will be able to sit down together at once in its interior."
"Now we'll go to the Transportation Building," said my indefatigable conductor to the driver.
"Bless me!" I thought; "is this a convict prison? Are we to have visitors from Sing Sing, and am I to see some of my friends from Portland and Dartmoor? Will there be a model of the Bastille, and a contingent of escaped refugees from the mines of Siberia? Or is the building an enormous concern for the transport of visitors to and from the Exposition?"
"Say, Mr. Furniss, this is the most original conception in the whole Exposition. You'll see contrasted here every mode of transport, and a complete train, with a display of locomotives never before attempted, will be quite stupendous! To quote the guidebook: 'There will be at least 100 engines exhibited, and placed so as to face each other,' and every day we will have a steam tournament. Guess it will be a case of the survival of the fittest of the engines when they meet! Visitors fond of railway accidents can be despatched with a completeness only to be witnessed in the stock-yards of this great city!"
This ghastly suggestion had the effect of making me feel more comfortable than ever.
We had been some hours driving through this wonderful skeleton city. The last dying rays of the setting sun, sinking behind the sweeping prairies of the far, far West, lit up the horizon with a blood-red glow, and, as the shades of evening began to descend and envelop the embryo Exposition, the driver turned the horses' heads whence we had come—towards the sunset.
The animals snorted, their nostrils inflated, their eyes glistened, and, with tails erect, they tore off straight ahead at a tremendous rate. They couldn't understand why they had been driven aimlessly about all this time; but now they saw the glare, as they thought, of the fire—the glare they had been accustomed to regard as the beacon to guide them to their goal—a goal which had to be reached with lightning speed.
It seemed as if we were flying through a beautiful place destroyed by the ravages of fire, for in the dim evening light the outlined houses gave one the impression that they formed a city dead, not a city newly-born.
Away to the Wild West of the Exposition we flew, and were eventually pulled up outside of one of the larger and more complete buildings. My faculties had been about all shaken out of me by this time, and I was so bewildered by the chaos of figures in my brain—all that were left of the volumes that had been poured into my ears—that I had to be all but lifted out of the fire-engine trap by my good guide. He said, in an undertone:
"Now I'm going to show you something we keep a profound secret."
Making a supreme effort, I dispersed temporarily the armies of figures conflicting in my unfortunate head, and became once more a rational being, so as to appreciate fully this visual tit-bit reserved to the last. We entered the structure. What was it? A mortuary, a dissecting-chamber, or a pantomime property-room? Numbers of ghost-like beings with bared arms streaming with an opaque-white liquid appeared to be engaged in some ghoulish machinations. Mutilated figures of gigantic creatures lay strewn about in reckless confusion. It seemed as if pigmies were butchering giants; and in the dim, weird light among these uncanny surroundings my jumbled imagination whispered to me that, after all, this stupendous Exhibition I had just rushed through could not possibly be the work of the insignificant little men who swarmed all over the colossal buildings in such ridiculously absurd proportion to their pretended handiwork.
No, these giants had performed this herculean undertaking, and were now being cut up—the reward of many who attempt such ambitious tasks. In reality, though, this charnel-house was the sculptors' studio, in which were modelled the gigantic figures which were to be placed on the buildings and about the grounds.
Now were I to design a model for a statue to be placed in the Exposition, it would certainly be one of my excellent and entertaining companion, who proved himself a model conductor, a model of an American gentleman, and one who is justly proud, as all Americans must be, of the greatness and thoroughness of the most splendid and most interesting Exhibition ever recorded in the annals of their great country.
* * * * *
One day I slipped up to 10, Downing Street, to make a note of that very ordinary, albeit mystical, abode of English Premiers and officials. The eagle eye of the policeman was upon me, and he was soon at my side subjecting me to minute examination. My explanation satisfied him that the only lead I had about me was encased in wood for the purpose of drawing, and that the substance in my hand was not dynamite, but innocent indiarubber, for wiping out people and places only of my own creation. "Ah, sir, there ain't much to see there, unless the 'all porter's a-lookin' out of the winder. But you ought ter be 'ere in the mornin' and see the Premier a-shavin' of 'imself, with a piece of old lookin'-glass stuck up on the winder ter see 'imself in—just wot the likes of us would do!"
So I, as a "special," was allowed to make a sketch of the outside of the famous No. 10. Not long afterwards I happened to be standing in the same place with a number of journalists and a crowd of the public when a political crisis drew all attention to the Cabinet, the members of which were arriving at intervals, recognised and cheered by the curious. As the door opened to allow one of the members of the Cabinet to enter, a certain official noticed me standing on the opposite side of the street. To my surprise he beckoned to me, and said, "I have been waiting to see you, Mr. Furniss, for a long time. I have some sketches in the house here I want you to see whenever you can honour me with a visit."
"No time like the present moment," I said.
Before the official realised that the present moment was a dangerous one for the admittance of strangers I was taken into the house. While examining the works of art in the official's private room a knock came to the door, which necessitated his leaving me. The moment of the "special" had arrived—now or never for a Cabinet Council! I was down the passage, and in a few minutes stood in the presence of the Cabinet, when Mr. Gladstone, the Premier, was addressing Lord Granville and the others, who were seated, and just as the Duke of Devonshire (then Lord Hartington) pushed by me into the room, I was seized by the alarmed official. Of course I apologised for my stupidity in taking the wrong turning, and I asked him about Mr. Gladstone's three mysterious hats in the hall, which he informed me Mr. Gladstone always had by him,—three hats symbolic of his oratorical peculiarity of using the well-known phrase, "There are three courses open to us."
I patted Lord Hartington's dog on the head, and had quietly taken my departure before the official was called into the Cabinet and questioned about the "spy" who had so mysteriously interrupted their proceedings.
But what was perhaps a more daring and difficult feat than seeing a Cabinet Council was to disturb the "Sage of Queen Anne's Gate" in his semi-official residence. It so happened some few years ago I was commissioned by an illustrated paper to make a drawing of a peculiar scene that took place in the House of Commons. It was Mr. Gladstone's only appearance in the Strangers' smoking-room of the House, into which he had been lured by the Member for Northampton to attend a performance of a thought reader, which Mr. Labouchere had arranged perhaps to show his serious interest in the business of the country connected with our great Houses of Parliament. Not being present at this show, I had no means of getting material, and, being in a hurry, I boldly drove up to the house of the "Sage of Queen Anne's Gate." And as I always treat people as they treat others, I thought that a little of the Laboucherian cheek (shall I substitute the word for confidence?) would not be out of place in this instance. The servant took my card, and brought back the message that Mr. Labouchere was not at home. As I was at that moment actually acting the character of the "Sage," and remembering the stories, true or untrue, which he so delights in telling himself about his own coolness in matters probably not less important than this, I asked the servant to allow me to write a letter to Mr. Labouchere, and I was shown into his study, where I sat, and intended to sit, until Mr. Labouchere made his appearance. From time to time the servant looked in, but the letter was never written. And my thought-reading proved correct. Without my pen and pencil I drew Mr. Labouchere. He eventually came downstairs, and gave me all the information I required.
* * * * *
London was in darkness. To quote the papers, "Foggy obscuration rested over the greater part of its area." And I, in common with millions of others, was having my breakfast by gaslight, when I received an editorial summons to attend the trial of the Bishop of Lincoln at Lambeth Palace. Soon a hansom was at the door, with two lamps outside and one within; the latter smelt most horribly, and I found out later on that it leaked and had ruined my new overcoat. With an agility quite marvellous under the circumstances the horse slipped its slimy way over the greasy streets to Lambeth, and dashed through the fog over Westminster Bridge in a most reckless manner, which disconcerting performance was partly explained by its suddenly stopping at the stable door of Sanger's and refusing to budge. I was partially consoled by the fact that we were just opposite St. Thomas's Hospital, so that I should be in good hands if the worst befell. The fog becoming even denser, Sanger's became veiled from the sight of our fiery steed, which thereupon consented to slide on towards Lambeth Palace. A sharp turn brought us to the gateway, where stood a hearse and string of mourning coaches. Was I too late? Had the Bishops passed sentence, and had the loved one of Lincoln really been beheaded?
My fears on this point were relieved by a policeman, who restrained my driver's energetic endeavours to drive through the wall of the Palace, and as my password was "Jeune" (November would have been more appropriate on such a morning) I was allowed inside the gates. Here I could not see my hand, or anyone else's, in front of me, and after stumbling up some steps and down some others I finally flattened my nose against a door. Policeman No. 2 suddenly appeared, and turned his bull's-eye upon me. I felt that I was doomed to the deepest dungeon beneath the castle moat; I thought of the whipping-post I have read of in connection with the Palace; of the Guard Room with its pikes and instruments of torture, and I trembled. Luckily, however, the rays of the lantern fell upon the note in my hand, addressed to Francis Jeune, Q.C., and the good-natured "All right, sir. Go hup. 'E's a-speakin' now," came as a reprieve.
I stumble into the large historic hall known as the Library, wherein the great trial of the Bishop of Lincoln is being held. The weird scene strongly resembles the Dream Trial in "The Bells," where the judges, counsel, and all concerned are in a fog. I expect the limelight to flash suddenly upon the chief actor, the Bishop of Lincoln, as he takes the stage and re-acts the part that has caused the trial. The only lights in the long and lofty Library, excepting the clerical and legal, are a dozen or two wax candles and a few oil-lamps—of daylight, gaslight, or electric light, nothing. I can hear the voice of Jeune, Q.C., which gladdens my heart amid these sepulchral surroundings, but I see him not. As my eyes gradually become accustomed to the strange scene, I find that it is composed of three distinct "sets," which present the appearance of a muddled-up stage picture when the flats go wrong, and you have a part of the Surrey Hills, a corner of Drury Lane and a side of a West End drawing-room run on at the same time.
At the further end of the Library we have the Church, very High Church, represented by an Archbishop and five Bishops; also a Judge, in a full-bottomed wig, who has evidently got in by mistake. Then we have the Law, represented by a row of Q.C.'s, their juniors, and attendants; and then a chorus of ordinary people and common, or Thames Policemen. These are separated by red ropes and some red tape; the latter I cut with my self-written passport—my note to the Q.C. who still addresses the Court.
I have come here to see the Bishop of Lincoln, and I roam about in the fog to find him. Ah, that figure! there he is! I immediately sketch him, only to find out that the individual in question is the Clerk of the Court, or whatever the title of that functionary's equivalent may be in Lambeth Palace. What vexes me is that whenever I enquire the whereabouts of the Bishop, a warning finger is raised to the lips to denote silence. The Bishops sit round three tables, on a raised platform. In the centre is the Archbishop of Canterbury; on his right the mysterious Judge, in full wig and red robes; here is the Vicar-General, Sir James Parker Deane, Q.C.; next to him sits Assessor Dr. Atlay, Bishop of Hereford, who looks anything but happy, his hair presenting the appearance of being blown about by a strong draught, while his hand is raised to his face, suggesting that the draught had caused toothache. The portly Bishop of Oxford on his right, like the other corner man, the Bishop of Salisbury, scribbles away at a great rate in a huge manuscript book or roll of foolscap. On the left of the Archbishop sits the Bishop of London, who severely interrogates the Counsel, and evidently relishes acting the schoolmaster once more. The Bishop of Rochester, sitting on London's left, supplies the element of comedy as far as facial expression goes, and his wide-open mouth and papers held in front of him lead me to expect him to burst into song at any moment. But where is the Bishop—the Bishop of Lincoln? Ah, now I see him, in one of those side courts, and I forthwith sketch him, marvelling at my stupidity in not identifying him before. I write his name under the sketch, and show it to one of the reporters. He scribbles "Wrong man" across it. Done again! I write, "Then where is he?" He waves me away, as Mr. Jeune is quoting some extraordinary document six hundred years old in reply to Sir Horace Davey's authority, which only dates back five hundred and ninety-nine years. It suddenly occurs to me that the Bishop is beside his Counsel at the other end of the long table, but, alas! there is a candle in front of him. This is all I can see, so I make my way to the other side of the table, only to discover that my Bishop is an old lady. I write on a piece of paper, "Where does the Bishop of Lincoln sit?" and take it to an official. It is too dark to read, so some time is lost while he takes my memorandum to a candle. He looks across at me, and points to a corner.
At last! good! The old gentleman in the corner is in plain clothes, it is true, but still he looks every inch a Bishop. I cautiously approach to a coign of vantage close beside him, and have just finished a careful study of him, when he turns round to me and whispers, "Please, sir, can you tell me which is the Bishop of Lincoln?" I shake my head angrily, and move away. This is really humbug. I'll bide my time, and take Counsel's opinion—I'll ask Mr. Jeune. He is just occupied in answering the hundred and seventh question of the Bishop of London, and is being "supported" by Sir Walter Phillimore. Indeed, it amuses me to see the way in which these two clever Counsel, when in a fog (and are we not all in one?), hold an animated legal conversation between themselves, and totally ignore the Bishops—not that the latter seem to mind, for they scribble away merrily. An evil suspicion creeps into my head that they are seizing the opportunity to write their next Sunday's sermons.
In the meantime I discover that one of the little side courts is converted into a studio, with an easel and canvas. I approach my brother brush, feeling that he, or she, or both (for a lady and a gentleman were jointly at work upon a picture of the Trial, in black and white—the black was visible, but there was no chance of seeing the white) will tell me where I can catch a glimpse of the Bishop of Lincoln. I whisper the question. But a "Hush!" goes up from the H'Usher, and the artists, sympathising with me in my dilemma, obtain a candle and point out the Bishop to me in their picture. I slip away in search of that face. Its owner ought to be near his Counsel. The severe Sir Horace Davey sits writing letters; next him is the affable Dr. Tristram, then the rubicund Mr. Danckwerts, but no Bishop—in fact, there is no one of public interest to be seen; probably they have not come, as to-day is to be a half-holiday. It is now one o'clock, and the Bishops rise to go to the Levee. I pounce upon Francis Jeune, Q.C., and gasp, "Where, oh, where is the Bishop of Lincoln? Quick! I want to sketch him before he leaves." "Oh, he's not here—never comes near the place!"
The play is over for the day. I have seen "Hamlet" with the Prince left out.
THE CONFESSIONS OF AN ILLUSTRATOR—A SERIOUS CHAPTER.
Drawing—"Hieroglyphics"—Clerical Portraiture—A Commission from General Booth—In Search of Truth—Sir Walter Besant—James Payn—Why Theodore Hook was Melancholy—"Off with his Head"—Reformers' Tree—Happy Thoughts—Christmas Story—Lewis Carroll—The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—Sir John Tenniel—The Challenge—Seven Years' Labour—A Puzzle MS.—Dodgson on Dress—Carroll on Drawing—Sylvie and Bruno—A Composite Picture—My Real Models—I am very Eccentric—My "Romps"—A Letter from du Maurier—Caldecott—Tableaux—Fine Feathers—Models—Fred Barnard—The Haystack—A Wicket Keeper—A Fair Sitter—Neighbours—The Post-Office Jumble—Puzzling the Postmen—Writing Backwards—A Coincidence.
If I confess as a caricaturist, surely I need not caricature my confessions by any mock-modesty. Although I have illustrated novels, short stories, fairy tales, poems, parodies, satires, and jeux d'esprit, for the realistic, the fanciful, the weirdly imaginative and the broadly humorous, as my Punch colleague, E. T. Milliken, wrote, my more distinctive, natural and favourite metier is that of graphic art. This intimate friend, in publishing his "appreciation" of me, put in his own too highly-coloured opinion of my black and white work in this direction. I blush to quote it:
"And they are in error who imagine Mr. Furniss's powers to be substantially limited to political satire or Parliamentary caricature. Much of the work he has already given to the public, and perhaps more of that which he has not yet published, but of which his chosen familiars are aware, will prove that in more serious or imaginative work, in strong, vivid realism as well as in frolic fancy, in landscape as well as in life, in the picturesque as well as in the humorous, he can display a notable mastery."
This confession of one of my "chosen familiars" I have the pluck to reprint, as an answer to those unknown strangers who so frequently write me down as "a conventional comic draughtsman of funny ill-drawn little figures." "What shall I call him?" said one; "a master of hieroglyphics?" Well, if I am commissioned to draw humorous hieroglyphics, I do my best to master their difficulties. Caricature pure and simple is not the art I either care for or succeed in practising as well as I do in my less known more serious and more finished work. When I joined Punch, at the age of twenty-six, I had had nine-tenths of my time previous to that occupied (ever since I was fifteen years of age) in drawing far more elaborate and finished work than would be in keeping in a periodical such as Punch. Punch required "funny little figures," and I supplied them; but my metier, I must confess, was work requiring more demand upon direct draughtsmanship and power. I am a funny man, a caricaturist, by force of circumstances; an artist, a satirist, and a cartoonist by nature and training. The one requires technical knowledge—in the other, "drawing doesn't count." The more amateurish the work, the funnier the public consider it. The serious confession I have to make is that I have been mistaken for a caricaturist in the accepted and limited meaning of the term.
"It is the ambition of every low comedian to play Hamlet, that of every caricaturist to be able to paint a picture which shall be worthy of a place on the walls of the National Gallery," are my own words on the platform; but I do not essay to play Hamlet on the platform, nor do I paint pictures for posterity in my studio. Therefore I do not place myself in the category of either, for I am neither a low comedian nor am I strictly and solely a mere caricaturist. This fact is perhaps not generally known to the public, but it is known to the publishers, and when a Society Church paper wished to present a series of supplements—portraits of the leading clergy—I was selected as the artist. The portrait of Canon Liddon, which is here very much reduced, is one of these.
And furthermore I received a commission from General Booth, which unfortunately, through pressure of work, I was unable to undertake, to make a study of Mrs. Booth, who was at the time on her death-bed, suffering from cancer, which the General was "exceedingly anxious" to reproduce and issue to his Army, as he had "never yet been able to secure a good photograph, although frequent attempts had been made by eminent London photographers."
I must confirm, a confession I made some years ago to the editor of the Magazine of Art regarding some of the difficulties with which artists illustrating books have to contend. In that I questioned whether authors and artists worked sufficiently together. Few authors are as conscientious as Dickens was, or, in fact, care to consult with their illustrators at all. In operatic work the librettist and composer must work hand in hand. Should not the artist do likewise?
Undoubtedly there are some writers who take great trouble to see their subject from the artistic standpoint. One sensational writer with whom I am acquainted will make a complete model in cardboard of his "Haunted Grange," so as to avoid absurdities in the working out of the tale. The "Blood-stained Tower" is therefore always in its place, and the "Assassin's Door" and "Ghost's Window" do not change places, to the bewilderment of the keen-witted reader. Many writers, on the other hand, show an extraordinary carelessness, or, shall I say, agility? "Hilarity Hall" or "Stucco Castle" is supposed to be a firm erection, capable of withstanding storm, or, if necessary, siege; whereas the artist too often detects the author turning it inside out and upside down to suit his convenience, like the mechanical quick-change scenes in our modern realistic dramas.
It may seem strange, but I have never found over-conscientiousness in seeking to secure "local colour" meet with the slightest reward. Two instances among many similar experiences which have fallen to my lot will serve to show my ground for making this observation.
Those who have read Sir Walter Besant's delightful but little known "All in a Garden Fair" (it is interesting to know that this was semi-autobiographical, and that its original title was "All in a Garden Green") will recollect the minute description of the locality in which the opening scenes take place. The author and I "talked it over." He told me the exact spot where the story was laid—a village a good many miles from London. The next day, provided with exact information, my wife and I went by train to the station nearest to the village in question, and then, taking a "trap," went on a voyage of discovery. First, however, we endeavoured to gain some useful directions from the proprietor of the hotel where we lunched, but, to our surprise, he knew of no such village. The driver of our "conveyance" was equally unlearned concerning the object of our search.
"Strange," said I, "how these country people ignore all the beauties and graceful associations that are around them—they don't even know of the existence of this idyllic village."
Nothing daunted, I undertook to pilot the party to the place, and after a lovely drive we reached the spot where the village ought to be. Here I saw a kind of model hotel, and, I think, a shanty of some description; the rest was an ordinary English landscape. I hardened my heart, and patiently sketched the building, which, of course, was not there at the period the story referred to, and some details of the place where a village only existed in the author's imagination.
When next I saw Sir Walter Besant, he tried to console me with the assurance that there certainly must have been a village there some centuries ago!
Besides being a wit and a delightful conversationalist, Sir Walter was the most practical and businesslike of authors. It was a treat to meet him, as I frequently did, walking into Town, and enjoy his vivacious humour. I recollect one morning, speaking of illustrators, mentioning the fact that Cruikshank always imagined that Dickens had taken "Oliver Twist," merely endowing it with literary merit here and there, and palming it off as his own!
"Ah!" said Besant, "how funny! Do you know, I overheard two of my little girls talking a few mornings ago, and one said to the other, 'Papa does not write all his stories, you know—Charlie Green helps him.'"
(Green was at the time illustrating Besant's "Chaplain of the Fleet.")
My second instance occurred about the same period. The author was the most delightful and entertaining of literary men of our time, Mr. James Payn. I was selected to illustrate the serial story in the Illustrated London News, and as in that also the author minutely describes the scene of the semi-historical romance, I, being a thoroughly conscientious artist, visited James Payn, then editor of Cornhill, in his editorial den in Waterloo Place, to talk the matter over. My notes were: "Jetty—Lovers meet—Ancient church—Old houses." But the "Jetty" was the important object—I must get that. I therefore started for the South Coast. Again I was forced to bow down before my author's wonderful powers of imagination, for once more, in company with my wife, with a hireling to carry my sketching stool and materials, I walked a great distance in search of the jetty. Vain, vain! not a ghost of a jetty was to be seen. The menial could not enlighten us. At last we unearthed the "oldest inhabitant," who took us back to where a few sticks in the water alone marked where it stood "a many years ago." I tried to develop some of the powers of the late Professor Owen, when he constructed an animal from the smallest bone, and succeeded in "evolving" a jetty from the green remains of four wooden posts.
I forgave Payn as I forgave Besant. Both men were as genial as they were eminent, and but for the circumstances of illustrating their stories I might not have enjoyed their acquaintanceship. I also illustrated Payn's most charming story, "The Talk of the Town," for Cornhill Magazine. I never enjoyed any work of the kind so well as this—it has always been my regret Payn did not write another of the same period. I recollect, when I first saw him in Waterloo Place, I had just read an article of his in which he gave a recipe for getting rid of callers, which was to bring the conversation to an abrupt termination, say absolutely nothing, but steadfastly stare at your visitor until he left. I can vouch for its being a simple and effective plan.
When I entered his editorial sanctum the genial essayist received me most cordially, and looked the picture of comfort, surrounded as he was by a heterogeneous collection of pipes. Presently, through the clouds of smoke through which he had chatted in that lively, vivacious manner peculiarly his own, he knocked the ashes out of his finished pipe and mutely stared point-blank at me till I, like the pipe, went out also. But before making my exit I reminded him that I had read the article I refer to, up to which he was no doubt acting, and that I was pleased and interested that he practised the doctrine he preached. Possibly this remark of mine was unexpected, and therefore somewhat disconcerted him for a moment, for he quickly replied, "Not at all! not at all! Fact is, I was rather upset before you came in by a miserable man who called to see me, and at the moment I was, a propos of him, thinking of a funny story about Theodore Hook I came across last night I never heard before. Poor Hook was at a smart dinner one evening, but instead of being as usual the life and soul of the party, he proved the wet blanket on the merry meeting, despite the fact that he, in all probability, had imbibed his stiff glass of brandy to get him up to his usual form before entering the house at which he was entertained. This most unusual phase of Hook's character surprised everybody present, so much so that his host ventured to remark that the volatile Theodore did not seem so merry as usual.
"'Merry? I should think not! I should like to see anyone merry who has gone through what I have this afternoon!'
"'What was that?' asked everyone, with one voice.
"'Well, I'll tell you,' said Hook. 'I have just come up from York in the stage coach, and I was rather late in taking my seat; the top was occupied to the full, so I had no alternative but to become an inside passenger. The only other occupant of the interior was a melancholy individual rolled up in a corner. He had donned his great-coat, the collar of which was turned right up over his ears. He stolidly sat there, never uttering a word, until I became fascinated by his weird appearance. By-and-by the sun sank below the western horizon, the inside of the coach became darker and darker, and more ghastly seemed the cadaverous stranger as the blackness increased. The strain was too much for me. I could not keep silent another minute.
"'My good sir,' I said, 'whatever is the matter with you?'"
"'I'll tell you,' he slowly muttered. 'Some months ago I invested in two tickets in a great lottery, but when I told my wife of the speculation I had indulged in she nagged and nagged at me to such a frightful extent that at last I sold the tickets.'
"'Well, do you know, sir, to-day those two numbers won the two first prizes, and those two prizes represent a sum of money of colossal magnitude!'
"'Goodness gracious me!' I shouted. 'If that had happened to me it would have driven me to desperation! In fact I really believe that I should have been frantic enough to cut my throat!'
"'Why, that's just what I have done!' replied the stranger, as he turned down his collar. 'Look here!'"
This ghastly tale reminds me of one of my earliest and most trying experiences in illustrating stories. I had made a very careful drawing to illustrate a startling episode in a novel by Mrs. Henry Wood. Naturally it was designed on a block, and represented the hero having just swallowed poison after committing a murder. The face in the drawing was everything, and I had taken the greatest pains to depict in the distorted features all the authoress desired—in fact, I was rather proud of it. The authoress was pleased, and the block was sent to the engraver. I was then about twenty—photographing a drawing on to wood was unknown, and process work was not invented—all drawings were made on boxwood and engraved by hand. To my horror the engraver returned the block to me a week afterwards with an apologetic note. The face had been destroyed in the engraver's hands, and he had "plugged the block"—that is, another piece of wood had been inserted where the hero's head had been, and whitened over, for me to draw another. The rest of the design had been engraved. That face gone! How could I conjure it up again on that unsightly, isolated patch of block, with all the rest of the drawing engraved and therefore my lines undiscernible? I did my best. When it was printed it was seen that the face did not fit on the neck properly, and to my chagrin I received a sarcastic letter from the editor to inform me that I had made a mistake. The hero had swallowed poison and had not, as I supposed, cut his head off!
Another illustration of the conscientious illustrator in search of the truth. I had to introduce the Reformers' Tree, Hyde Park, into a picture. Now we are always hearing about the Reformers' Tree in reference to demonstrations in the Park, so I went in search of the historical stump. The first person to whom I put a question as to its whereabouts pointed to a huge tree in flourishing condition. I had just sketched in its upper branches when it somehow occurred to me that it would be just as well to ask someone else and make assurance doubly sure. This time I interrogated a policeman.
"No, that ain't it; that there row of hoaks is wot people calls the Reformers' Tree."
I started another sketch on the strength of this statement, but feeling a bit dubious over his assertion that the one tree was comprised of a whole row, I tackled the "oldest inhabitant," an ancient and pensioned park-keeper, who luckily hove in sight.
"Hover there," he replied, gruffly, pointing to a stump that resembled the sole remaining molar the old man possessed.
This stump was picturesque. It must be the Reformers' Tree. Result—another sketch, which I showed to the gatekeeper at the Marble Arch.
"Reformers' Tree? Why, there ain't no such thing in the Park." And I really believe there isn't. It is a myth, and merely exists in the fertile brain of the descriptive author or the imagination of the agitator.
After James Payn's "Talk of the Town" no book has given me such pleasure to illustrate as F. C. Burnand's "Incompleat Angler." The combination of the picturesqueness of Isaak Walton with the humour of Burnand could not be otherwise, but most unfortunately the form of its publication ruined the effect of the drawings. Over this, too, the author and I talked—no, not exactly—to be exact we laughed over it. I dined with Burnand, and afterwards in his study he read it to me, and as he frankly admitted he never laughed so much at anything before.
The illustrator's difficulties by no means end when the author is satisfied. Many authors give you every facility, and hamper you with no impossibilities; but then steps in the editor, especially if he be the editor of a "goody" magazine. Novels will be novels, and love and lovers will find their way even into the immaculate pages of our monthly elevators. I once found it so, and certainly I thought that here was plain sailing. A tender interview at the garden gate. She "sighed and looked down as Charles Thorndike took her hand"—unavoidable and not unacceptable subject. Lovers are all commonplace young men with large eyes, long legs, and small moustaches (villains' moustaches grow apace); moreover, lovers, I believe, generally take care to avoid observation; but no! it appears that "our subscribers" have a stern code which may not be lightly infringed. A letter from the editor rebukes my worldly ways:
"DEAR SIR,—Will you kindly give Charles Thorndike a beard, and show an aunt or uncle or some chaperon in the distance; the subject and treatment is hardly suitable otherwise to our young readers."
Sometimes a publisher steps in and arranges everything, regardless of all the author and artist may cherish.
Years ago a well-known but not very prosperous publisher sent for me, and spoke as follows:
"Now, Mr. F., what I want is to knock the B.P. with Christmas. The story is all blood and murder, but don't mind that—you must supply the antidote; put in the holly and mistletoe, plenty of snow and plum-pudding (the story was a seaside one in summer time). I like John Tenniel's work—give us a bit of him, with a dash of Du Maurier and a sprinkling of Leech here and there; but none of your Rembrandt effects—they are too dark, and don't print up well. Never mind what the author says; he hasn't made it Christmas, so you must!"
It is equally difficult to comply with an editorial request such as this: "The story I send you is as dull as ditch-water; do please read it over and illustrate it with lively pictures."
But some authors are their own publishers, and they are then generally more careful of the illustrations. Perhaps the most exacting of all authors was "Lewis Carroll."
The name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is practically unknown outside of Oxford University, where he was mathematical lecturer of Christ Church; but the name and fame of "Lewis Carroll," author of those inimitable books for children, both young and old, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-glass and what Alice found there," are known and beloved all over the world. His first book for children, "Alice's Adventures," was published at a time exactly to suit me. I was just eleven—the age to be first impressed by the pen of Carroll and the pencil of Tenniel.
When I, a little, a very little boy in knickerbockers, first enjoyed the adventures of Alice and worshipped the pen and the pencil which recorded them, I little thought I would some day work hand in hand with the author, and when that day did arrive I regretted that I had not been born twenty-two years before I had, for for me to follow Tenniel was quite as difficult and unsatisfactory a task as for Carroll to follow Carroll. The worst of it was that I was conscious of this, and Lewis Carroll was not. Fortunately for me Sylvie was not like her prototype Alice; the illustrations for Sylvie would not have suited Tenniel as Alice did. I therefore did not fear comparison, but what I did fear was that Carroll would not be Carroll, and Carroll wasn't—he was Dodgson. I wish I had illustrated him when he was Carroll; that he was not the Carroll of "Alice" is plainly indicated in his life in the following passage: "The publication of 'Sylvie and Bruno' marks an epoch in its author's life, for it was the publication of all the ideals and sentiments which he held most dear. It was a book with a definite purpose; it would be more true to say with several definite purposes. For this very reason it is not an artistic triumph as the two 'Alice' books undoubtedly are; it is on a lower literary level, there is no unity in the story. But from a higher standpoint, that of the Christian and the philanthropist, the book is the best thing he ever wrote. It is a noble effort to uphold the right, or what he thought to be the right, without fear of contempt or unpopularity. The influence which his earlier books had given him he was determined to use in asserting neglected truths.
 "The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll," by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood (Fisher Unwin).
"Of course the story has other features—delightful nonsense not surpassed by anything in 'Wonderland,' childish prattle with all the charm of reality about it, and pictures which may fairly be said to rival those of Sir John Tenniel. Had these been all, the book would have been a great success. As things are, there are probably hundreds of readers who have been scared by the religious arguments and political discussions which make up a large part of it, and who have never discovered that Sylvie is just as entrancing a personage as Alice when you get to know her."
The character of the book was a bitter disappointment to me. I did not want to illustrate a book of his with any "purpose" other than the purpose of delightful amusement, as "Alice" was. Tenniel had point-blank refused to illustrate another story for Carroll—he was, Tenniel told me, "impossible"—and Carroll evidently was not satisfied with other artists he had tried, as he wrote me: "I have a considerable mass of chaotic materials for a story, but have never had the heart to go to work to construct the story as a whole, owing to its seeming so hopeless that I should ever find a suitable artist. Now that you are found," etc. That was in 1885, and we worked together for seven years. Tenniel and other artists declared I would not work with Carroll for seven weeks! I accepted the challenge, but I, for that purpose, adopted quite a new method. No artist is more matter-of-fact or businesslike than myself: to Carroll I was not Hy. F., but someone else, as he was someone else. I was wilful and erratic, bordering on insanity. We therefore got on splendidly.
Of course it was most interesting to me to study such a genius at such a time, and in recording my experiences and impressions of Lewis Carroll my object is not so much to deal with the actual illustration to those ill-conceived books "Sylvie and Bruno," but to deal with my impressions of the man obtained by working with him for so long, for to have known the man was even as great a treat as to read his books. Lewis Carroll was as unlike any other man as his books were unlike any other author's books. It was a relief to meet the pure simple, innocent dreamer of children, after the selfish commercial mind of most authors. Carroll was a wit, a gentleman, a bore and an egotist—and, like Hans Andersen, a spoilt child. It is recorded of Andersen that he actually shed tears, even in late life, should the cake at tea be handed to anyone before he chose the largest slice. Carroll was not selfish, but a liberal-minded, liberal-handed philanthropist, but his egotism was all but second childhood.
He informed my wife that she was the most privileged woman in the world, for she knew the man who knew his (Lewis Carroll's) ideas—that ought to content her. She must not see a picture or read a line of the MS.; it was sufficient for her to gaze at me outside of my studio with admiration and respect, as the only man besides Lewis Carroll himself with a knowledge of Lewis Carroll's forthcoming work. Furthermore he sent me an elaborate document to sign committing myself to secrecy. This I indignantly declined to sign. "My word was as good as my bond," I said, and, striking an attitude, I hinted that I would "strike," inasmuch as I would not work for years isolated from my wife and friends. I was therefore no doubt looked upon by him as a lunatic. That was what I wanted. I was allowed to show my wife the drawings, and he wrote: "For my own part I have shown none of the MS. to anybody; and, though I have let some special friends see the pictures, I have uniformly declined to explain them. 'May I ask so-and-so?' they enquire. 'Certainly!' I reply; "you may ask as many questions as you like!' That is all they get out of me."
But his egotism carried him still further. He was determined no one should read his MS. but he and I; so in the dead of night (he sometimes wrote up to 4 a.m.) he cut his MS. into horizontal strips of four or five lines, then placed the whole of it in a sack and shook it up; taking out piece by piece, he pasted the strips down as they happened to come. The result, in such an MS., dealing with nonsense on one page and theology on another, was audacious in the extreme, if not absolutely profane—for example:
"And I found myself repeating, as I left the Church, the words of Jacob, when he 'awaked out of his sleep,' surely the Lord is in this.
"And once more those shrill discordant tones rang out:—
"'He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk Descending from a bus; He looked again, and found it was— A Hippopotamus.'"
These incongruous strips were elaborately and mysteriously marked with numbers and letters and various hieroglyphics, to decipher which would really have turned my assumed eccentricity into positive madness. I therefore sent the whole MS. back to him, and again threatened to strike! This had the desired effect. I then received MS. I could read, although frequently puzzled by its being mixed up with Euclid and problems in abstruse mathematics.
I soon discovered that I had undertaken a far more difficult task than I anticipated, for in the first letter of instructions I received from the author he frankly acknowledged I had my work "cut out." "Cut out" suggests dressmaking, the very subject first chosen for discussion and correspondence.
The extraordinary workings of this unique mind are shown by quotations from his letters to me:
"I think I had better explain part of the plot, as to these two—Sylvie and Bruno. They are not fairies right through the book—but children. All these conditions make their dress rather a puzzle. They mustn't have wings; that is clear. And it must be quite the common dress of London life. It should be as fanciful as possible, so as just to be presentable in Society. The friends might be able to say 'What oddly-dressed children!' but they oughtn't to say 'They are not human!'
"Now I think you'll say you have 'got your work cut out for you,' to invent a suitable dress!"
How I wish I had had those dresses cut out for me! The above instructions were quickly followed by other suggestions which added to my already scanty idea of a costume suitable to Kensington Gardens and to fairyland! I was thinking this difficulty would be lessened if the story took place in winter, when I received another letter, which I must frankly confess rather alarmed me: