"As to the dresses of these children in their fairy state (we shall sometimes have them mixing in Society, and supposed to be real children; and for that they must, I suppose, be dressed as in ordinary life, but eccentrically, so as to make a little distinction). I wish I dared dispense with all costume; naked children are so perfectly pure and lovely, but Mrs. Grundy would be furious—it would never do. Then the question is, how little dress will content her? Bare legs and feet we must have, at any rate. I so entirely detest that monstrous fashion high heels (and in fact have planned an attack on it in this very book), that I cannot possibly allow my sweet little heroine to be victimised by it."
Another monstrous fashion he condemns refers to a picture of his grown-up heroine in London Society:
"Could you cut off those high shoulders from her sleeves? Why should we pay any deference to a hideous fashion that will be extinct a year hence? Next to the unapproachable ugliness of 'crinoline,' I think these high-shouldered sleeves are the worst things invented for ladies in our time. Imagine how horrified they would be if one of their daughters were really shaped like that!"
I did make a note of a horrified mother with a nineteenth century malformation, but I did not send it to the author, as it struck me, when re-reading his letter, he was possibly serious. Still we had Sylvie's dress, Mrs. Grundy, crinolines, and high heels to discuss:
"As to your Sylvie I am charmed with your idea of dressing her in white; it exactly fits my own idea of her; I want her to be a sort of embodiment of Purity. So I think that, in Society, she should be wholly in white—white frock ('clinging' certainly; I hate crinoline fashion): also I think we might venture on making her fairy dress transparent. Don't you think we might face Mrs. Grundy to that extent? In fact I think Mrs. G. would be fairly content at finding her dressed, and would not mind whether the material was silk, or muslin, or even gauze. One thing more. Please don't give Sylvie high heels! They are an abomination to me."
Then for months we corresponded about the face of the Heroine alone. My difficulty was increased by the fact that the fairy child Sylvie and the Society grown-up Lady Muriel were one and the same person! So I received reams of written descriptions and piles of useless photographs intended to inspire me to draw with a few lines a face embodying his ideal in a space not larger than a threepenny-piece. By one post I would receive a batch of photographs of some young lady Lewis Carroll fancied had one feature, or half a feature, of that ideal he had conjured up in his own mind as his heroine.
He invited me to visit friends of his, and strangers too, from John o' Groats to Land's End, so as to collect fragments of faces. A propos of this I wrote in an artists' magazine a brief account of artists' difficulties with the too exacting author. (It is quite safe to write anything about Judges and Dons: they never read anything.) I described how I received the author's recipe for constructing the ideal heroine. I am not to take one model for the lady-child or child-lady. I am to take several; for all know no face—at least, no face with expression, or with plenty of life or good abilities, or when showing depth of religious thought—is perfect. I am therefore to go to Eastbourne to see and study the face of Miss Matilda Smith, in a pastry-cook's shop, for the eyes. I am to visit Eastbourne and eat buns and cakes, gazing the while into the beauteous eyes of Miss Smith. Then in Glasgow there is a Miss O'Grady, "with oh, such a perfect nose! Could I run up to Scotland to make a sketch of it?" A letter of introduction is enclosed, and, as a precaution, I am enjoined that I "must not mind her squint." But I do mind, and I am sure the blemish would sadly mar my proper judgment of the lovely feature for gazing on which those eyes have lost their rectitude. For the ears a journey to Brighton to see Miss Robinson, the Vicar's daughter, is recommended. No, she may listen, think I, to the "sad sea-waves," or to her father's sermons, but never to any flattery from me. The mouth I shall find in Cardiff—not an English or Welsh mouth, but a sweet Spaniard's Senora Niccolomino, the daughter of a merchant there. In imagination I picture that cigarette held so lovingly in those perfect lips. But I am to draw an English heroine of fifteen innocent summers—how those curly wreaths of pearly smoke would disenchant my mind of the spell of youth and innocence! For the hair I must go to Brighton; for the figure to a number of different places. In fact, my author had mapped out a complete tour for me. Had he never heard the old story of the artist who was determined to paint a perfectly correct figure, strictly in accordance with the orthodox rules of art? As he painted a portion he covered it up, and so went on until the figure was complete. When it was finished he tore off the covering. The result was hideous! He went mad! I feel sure that fate would have been mine had I attempted to carry out Lewis Carroll's instructions. I therefore worked on my own lines with success. As his biographer states: "Meanwhile, with much interchange of correspondence between author and artist, the pictures for the new fairy tale, 'Sylvie and Bruno,' were being gradually evolved. Each of them was subjected by Lewis Carroll to the most minute criticism—hypercriticism, perhaps, occasionally." Still he was enthusiastic in his praise, and absurdly generous in his thanks. He was jealous that I would not disclose to him who my model was for Sylvie. When dining with us many a smile played over the features of my children when he cross-questioned me on this point. Repeatedly he wrote to me: "How old is your model for Sylvie? And may I have her name and address?" "My friend Miss E. G. Thomson, an artist great in 'fairies,' would be glad to know of her, I'm sure," and so on.
The fairy Sylvie was my own daughter! All the children in his books I illustrated were my own children; yet this fact never struck him! He visited us in the country when I was at work, and I soon afterwards received the following letter:
"Thanks. I was not aware that the boy, whose photo I sent you, had far-apart eyes. If you think (and you are quite the best judge of the point) that these eyes are needed in order to give to the face the fun and roguery I want expressed, by all means retain them.
"It had occurred to me to write and beg that, if Arundel did not furnish all requisite models for drawing from life, you would let all portions of pictures which would have to be done without models or wait till you return to town, wait. But as I think you definitely told me that you never do the finished pictures except from life, I presume the petition to be superfluous."
When I received this letter at Arundel my second boy was sitting in his bathing costume on a garden-roller on the lawn for a picture of Bruno sitting on a dead mouse. I was chaffing my model about flirting with a young lady he met at a children's garden party, and threatened to inform his sweetheart in London, when he assured me with knowingness, "Fact is, papa, the young lady here is all right for the country, you know—but she would never do in town!"
It was the same idea as Lewis Carroll's about models.
As I have brought my family into this, I may mention that there is one picture in "Sylvie and Bruno" (vol. i., p. 134) which brings back to me the only sorrowful hour I had in connection with the otherwise enjoyable work. My wife was very ill—so ill it was a question of life and death. Expert opinion was called in, and the afternoon I had to make that drawing—with my own children as models—the "consultation" was being held in my wife's room. Carroll was on his way from Oxford to see the work, and I was drawing against time. It's the old story of the clown with the sick wife. Caricaturists are after all but clowns of the pencil. They must raise a laugh whatever their state of mind may be. For a long time I never would show Lewis Carroll my work, for the simple reason I did not do it. He thought I was at work, but I was not. That's where my acting eccentricity came in. I knew that I would have to draw the subjects "right off," not one a month or one in six months. Correspondence for three months, as a rule, led to work for one week. Isolated verse I did let him have the illustrations for, but not the body of the book. This was my only chance, and I arrived at this secrecy by the following bold stroke.
Lewis Carroll came from Oxford one evening, early in the history of the work, to dine, and afterwards to see a batch of work. He ate little, drank little, but enjoyed a few glasses of sherry, his favourite wine. "Now," he said, "for the studio!" I rose and led the way. My wife sat in astonishment. She knew I had nothing to show. Through the drawing-room, down the steps of the conservatory to the door of my studio. My hand is on the handle. Through excitement Lewis Carroll stammers worse than ever. Now to see the work for his great book! I pause, turn my back to the closed door, and thus address the astonished Don: "Mr. Dodgson, I am very eccentric—I cannot help it! Let me explain to you clearly, before you enter my studio, that my eccentricity sometimes takes a violent form. If I, in showing my work, discover in your face the slightest sign that you are not absolutely satisfied with any particle of this work in progress, the whole of it goes into the fire! It is a risk: will you accept it, or will you wait till I have the drawings quite finished and send them to Oxford?"
"I—I—I ap—appreciate your feelings—I—I—should feel the same myself. I am off to Oxford!" and he went.
I sent him drawings as they were finished, and each parcel brought back a budget of letter-writing, each page being carefully numbered. This is the top of page 5 in his 49,874th letter. I am not sure if I received all the remaining 49,873 letters in the seven years. To meet him and to work for him was to me a great treat. I put up with his eccentricities—real ones, not sham like mine.—I put up with a great deal of boredom, for he was a bore at times, and I worked over seven years with his illustrations, in which the actual working hours would not have occupied me more than seven weeks, purely out of respect for his genius. I treated him as a problem, and I solved him, and had he lived I would probably have still worked with him. He remunerated me liberally for my work; still, he actually proposed that in addition I should partake of the profits; his gratitude was overwhelming. "I am grateful; and I feel sure that if pictures could sell a book 'Sylvie and Bruno' would sell like wildfire."
Perhaps the most pleasant confession I have to make is my fondness for children. They always interest and amuse me more than "grown-ups." The commonplace talk is to them unknown; it is full of surprises.
Perhaps the nursery's record of my family is not longer or any more interesting than the sayings and doings of the youngsters of any other family; still a few extracts may interest those who, like myself, are interested in first impressions.
My eldest, just entering on his teens, had as companions two brothers and one sister. Hearing there was an addition to this little family group, he, dressed in flannels, ran into my studio, bat in hand, "Papa, is it a boy or a girl?"
"Oh, I am so glad. I do want a wicket-keeper, and Dorothy can't wicket-keep a bit."
A stoutly-made little fellow of eight, to his mother, who happened to be extremely thin:
"Oh, mother, I do believe you must be the very sweetest woman in the world!"
"Thanks very much, Lawrence. But why so affectionate? What do you want?"
"I don't want anything. I only know you must be the very sweetest woman in the world."
"Really, you are too flattering. Why this sudden outburst of affection?"
"Well, you know, I've been thinking over the old, old saying, 'The nearer the bone the sweeter the meat.'"
Children, I think, have the art of "leading up" to jokes better than adults. They hear some strange remark, they naturally analyse it, and it suggests an application. For instance, this brat possibly objected to some portion of meat at table. His mother had reminded of the old saying, "The nearer the bone the sweeter the meat." Thin mother,—there's the application.
One of my youngsters ran into the drawing-room at five o'clock tea. A lady visitor thus addressed him:
"Come here, my little man. I suppose when you grow up you will be an artist, like your father?"
"My father is not an artist."
"Oh, my dear, he is an artist."
"Oh, no, no, no, my father is not an artist—he's only a black and white man. I am going to be an artist in all colours."
My own children have been my models, not only for Lewis Carroll's books, but for all my drawings of children. I have three boys and one girl. Dorothy is now a successful artist, and Lawrence is, at the age of eighteen, a professional draughtsman of mechanical subjects; my youngest is just out of his teens. Their portraits manifolded will be found in the page sketch from "Romps" Du Maurier wrote me a most graceful appreciation of these books, which, considering his delightful pictures of children in Punch, was most gratifying to me.
An artist for whose work I have the greatest admiration was the late Randolph Caldecott, and the only occasion on which I had the pleasure of meeting him was of a semi-theatrical kind. It was at one of the "Artists' Tableaux" which were given in London some years ago. In those produced in Piccadilly I took no part, and the entertainment to which I refer was held at the Mansion House. At the last moment, in order to complete one of the pictures, a portly Dutchman was required, and a telegram was despatched to me to enquire whether I would represent the character. A dress, which was not a very good fit, was provided for me by the costumier of the show, and with the aid of a little padding, a good deal of rouge, a long clay pipe, and a bottle of schnapps, I managed to look something like the inflated Hollander I was representing, in the centre of the group, where I was supposed to be looking on at a game of bowls. Caldecott, who was placed at a window, flirting with the maids of the Queen, was attired in a graceful costume of the most faultless description, surmounted by a magnificent hat with a sweeping brim and splendid feathers, upon which he had expended no little pains and money. My head-gear consisted of a very insignificant stage property hat, but as I was not intended to contribute an element of beauty to the picture, that didn't matter. The tableau was arranged by Mr. E. A. Abbey, and when taking his last look round before the curtain was raised, his artistic eye detected that more black was required in the centre. While we were thus in our allotted positions, and straining every nerve to remain perfectly rigid—an ordeal which, by the way, I never wish to go through again, as I had hard work to restrain myself from breaking out into a Highland fling or an Irish jig, or calling out "Boo!" to the audience to relieve my pent-up feelings—Mr. Abbey suddenly seized the superb hat on Caldecott's head, which the latter had had specially made, and in which he really fancied himself, handed it to me, and to Caldecott's horror, and almost before he was conscious that he had been made ridiculous by the wretched remnant which had been sent from Bow Street for me, the curtain was rung up.
I confess I have a certain amount of pity, closely akin to contempt, for the artist who must have the actual character he wants to paint, who cannot use a model merely for reference, but paints in everything like a photograph. Some artists call such feebleness conscientiousness, but to me it seems mere weakness. Must an author paint each character in his book, or an actor take his every impersonation on the stage, minutely from some living model? Surely observation and natural originality is more than the photographic copying of your "conscientious" artist! Worse feebleness still it is when an artist has to paint a well-known character, say King Lear or Mary Queen of Scots, and goes about hunting for a living person as near as possible in appearance to the original, and then costumes and slavishly reproduces him or her, without any show of judgment or insight after the model is once selected. And this lack of insight into character seems deplorably prevalent among our figure painters, for how often we see in the exhibitions the model with a "good head" tamely reproduced over and over again—here as a monk, there as a Polonius, Thomas a Becket, a "blind beggar," "His Excellency," a pensioner, or painted by some artist who wants to make a bid for portraiture as "A portrait of a gentleman"!
Black and white men have to introduce so many characters into their work, they are obliged to invent them; but it is a curious fact that this facility disappears at times. The late Mr. Fred Barnard, clever as he was at inventing character for his black and white work, found, when he was painting in oil, that confidence had left him, and he spent several days wandering about London to find real characters for a picture he was painting representing the jury in "Pilgrim's Progress." One day in Oxford Street he saw a hansom-cab driver with a face besotted with drink and "ripe" for production as a slave to Bacchus. Barnard hailed the hansom, jumped in, and directed the jehu to drive him to his studio on Haverstock Hill. In going up the Hampstead Road a tram-car ran over a child. Barnard was terribly upset by the touching sight, and told the driver to pull up at the nearest tavern. Getting out, he looked at his "subject," intending to invite him to refreshment before taking him on to his studio, where he intended to paint him. To his horror the face of the bibulous cabman had lost all its "colour," and was of a pale greenish hue.
"That was horful, sir, warn't it? It'll upset me for a week."
The disappointed artist dismissed his "subject."
Much could be written of this genuine humourist. His buoyant fun was irrepressible; indoors and out of doors he entertained himself—and sometimes his friends—with his jokes. In his studio he kept as pets some little tortoises. They were allowed to crawl about as they liked, but he had painted on their backs caricatures—a laughing face, a sour-green face, one with a look of horror, another of mischief. A visitor seated unaware of these would suddenly spring off the sofa as the walking mask slowly appeared from underneath it! Barnard's power of mimicry was great, and his jokes were as excellent as his drawings. Even when sitting before the camera for his photograph, he had his little joke.
There are a number of girls who go the round of the studios, but have no right whatever to do so. They generally hunt in pairs, and this habit surely distinguishes them from the real model. They are more easily drawn than described. Two of this class once called on Barnard.
"What do you sit for?" he asked.
"Oh, anything, sir."
"Ah, I am a figure man, you are no use to me, but there is a friend of mine over there who is now painting a landscape—I think you might do very well for a haystack; and your friend might try studio No. 5 and sit for a thunder-cloud, the artist there is starting a stormy piece—oh, good morning." Tableau!
A wretched individual once called upon me and begged me to give him a sitting. I asked him to sit for what I was at work upon: this was a wicket-keeper in a cricket match bending over the wicket. I assured the man he need not apologise, as he had really turned up at an opportune moment; the drawing was "news," and it had to be finished that day. When I had shown my model the position and made him understand exactly what I wanted, I noticed to my surprise that he was trembling all over. I immediately asked him if he were cold.
"Then why not keep still?"
"Well, that's just what I can't do, sir! I had to give up my occupation because, sir, I am hafflicted with the palsy, and when I bend I do tremble so. I only sit for 'ands, sir—for 'ands to portrait painters. I close 'em for a military gent—I open 'em for a bishop—but when the hartist is hin a 'urry I know as 'ow to 'ide one 'and in my pocket and the hother hunder a cocked 'at."
Hiding hands recalls to me a fact I may mention in justice to our modern English caricaturists. We never make capital out of our subjects' deformities. This I pointed out at a dinner in Birmingham a few years ago, at which I was the guest of the evening, and as I was addressing journalists I mention this fact in justice to myself and my brother caricaturists. As it happened, that afternoon I had heard Mr. Gladstone making his first speech in the opening of Parliament, 1886, after being returned in Opposition. Turning round to his young supporters, he used for the first time the now famous expression "an old Parliamentary hand," holding up at the same time a hand on which there were only three fingers. Now had I drawn that hand as it was, minus the first finger, showing the black patch? It would have been tempting on the part of a foreign caricaturist, because it had a curious application under the circumstances. (But it would be noticed that in my sketch in Punch the first finger, which really did not exist, is prominently shown.) This was the first time the fact was made public that Mr. Gladstone had not the first finger on the left hand; since then, however, all artists, humorous or serious, were careful to show Mr. Gladstone's left hand as pointed out by me.
Now I had noticed this for years in the House, and I hold as an argument that men are not observant the fact that Members who had sat in the House with Mr. Gladstone, on the same benches, for years, assured me that they had never noticed his hand before I made this matter public. So that when I am told that I misrepresent portraits of prominent men I always point to this fact.
Mr. Gladstone was careful to hide the deformity in his photographs, but in his usual energetic manner in the House the black patch in place of the finger was on many occasions in no way concealed.
These are plebeian models, but sometimes artists' friends recommend amateur models—a broken-down gentleman or some other poor relation—and when you are drawing social modern subjects, of course these are really of more use than the badly-dressed professional model.
On "Private View Day" at the Royal Academy a few years ago a knot of artists and their wives were in one of the rooms; it was late, and few of the visitors remained. The attention of the artists was attracted by a stately and beautiful being who entered and went round examining the pictures.
"How charming!" remarked one.
"Delightful!" replied another.
"Oh, if she would but sit to me!" prayed a third.
"Why not ask her?" asked the practical one. "If anyone can, you can; so remember that faint heart never won fair sitter!"
"Well, here goes!" whispered the cavalier, Mr. Val Prinsep, R.A., in the tone of one about to lead a forlorn hope, and he charged desperately across the gallery. He approached the fair stranger, and politely taking off his hat said diffidently:
"Madam, I am one of the Academy. Should you wish to know anything about the pictures I shall be glad——"
"Oh, thanks. I know a good deal about them."
"Indeed! Then you will understand how we artists are always on the look-out for beauty to paint—and—ah—hm—well, you see I—that is we" (pointing to the group) "were so struck with your presence that—ah—pardon my abruptness—we thought that if such a thing were possible you might condescend to allow one of us to make a study of your head—ah."
"Oh, with pleasure," said the fair visitor, taking from her hand-bag a neat little note-book, and opening it, she said:
"Well, I have only got Sundays and one Wednesday next month disengaged,—I have got sittings on every other day. Will this be of any use to you?"
She was a model!
The first house I occupied after I married faced one occupied by a well-known and worthy fiery-tempered man of letters, and it so happened that one evening my wife and I were dining at the house of another neighbour. We were gratified to learn that our celebrated vis-a-vis, hearing we had come to live in the same square, was anxious to make our acquaintance. On our return home that night we discovered the latch-key had been forgotten, and unfortunately our knocking and ringing failed to arouse the domestics. It was not long, however, before we awoke our neighbours, and a window of the house opposite was violently thrown open, and language all the stronger by being endowed with literary merit came from that man of letters, who in the dark was unable to see the particular neighbours offending him, and he referred to my wife and myself in a way that could not be passed over. A battle of words ensued in which I was proved the victor, and my neighbour beat a hasty retreat. Before retiring I wrote a note to the friend we had just left to say that in the circumstances I refused to know my neighbour, and he had better inform him that I would on the first opportunity punch his head. By the same post I wrote for a particular model,—a retired pugilist. As soon as he arrived next morning I placed him at the window of my studio facing the opposite house, now and then sending him down to the front door to stand on the doorstep to await some imaginary person, and to keep his eye on the house opposite. I went on with my work in peace. Presently a note came:
"DEAR FURNISS,—Your neighbour has sent round to ask me what you are like. He has never seen you till this morning, and he is frightened to leave his house. He implores me to apologise for him."
He departed from the neighbourhood shortly afterwards.
Sad to relate that all Governmental undertakings of an artistic nature, from our most colossal public building or monument to the design of a postage stamp, are fair game for ridicule! The outward manifest record of the Post Office Jubilee—rather the "Post Office Jumble"—was the envelope and post card published by the Government and sold for one shilling. The pitiful character of the design, from an artistic point of view, shocked every person of taste; so I set to work and burlesqued it, strictly following the lines of the genuine article. A glance at my envelope alone, therefore, is sufficient to show the wretched quality of the original. It happened that the postmen's grievances were very prominent at that time. The Postmaster-General and the trade unionists and others were at fever heat, and excitement ran high. This caricature-parody, therefore, was a sketch with a purpose. It was said at one of the meetings that my pencil "may perhaps touch the public sympathy in behalf of the postman more effectually than any language has been able to do." The wretched thing was thought worthy of an article by Mr. M. H. Spielmann. My skit, it is needless to add, was very popular with the postmen. They showed their gratitude by saving many a misdirected letter. A letter addressed "Harry Furniss, London," has frequently found me, without the loss of a post.
I signed a certain number, which sold at 10s. 6d. each, and were bought up principally by the members of the Philatelic Society.
Perhaps the publication of this "Post Office Jumble" card was also the cause of the puzzled postmen taking the trouble to decipher and deliver the far more amusing artistic jokes of that irrepressible joker, Mr. Linley Sambourne. By his permission I here publish a page, a selection of the envelopes he has sent me from time to time.
It is bad enough purposely to puzzle the overworked letter-carriers—they are too often tried by unintentional touches of humour emanating from the most innocent and unsuspected members of the public—but I confess that I was once the innocent cause of Mr. Sambourne trying the same thing on with the overworked bank clerk.
I sent my Punch friend a cheque, here reproduced, for the sum of 5-1/2d., payable to "Lynnlay Sam Bourne, Esqre," signed by me backwards, crossed "Don't you wish you may get it and go." Sambourne endorsed it "L. Sam. Bourne," and sent it to his bank. The clerk went one better, and wrote "Cancelled" backwards across my reversed signature. It passed through my bank, and the money was paid. This is probably unique in the history of banking.
A propos of writing backwards, in days when artists made their drawings on wood everything of course had to be reversed, and writing backwards became quite easy. To this day I can write backwards nearly as quickly as I write in the ordinary way. One night at supper I was explaining this, and furthermore told my friends that they themselves could write backwards—in fact, they could not avoid doing so. Not of course on the table, as I was doing, but by placing the sheet of paper against the table underneath, and writing with the point upwards. Perhaps my reader will try—and see the effect. For encouragement here are a few of the first attempts on that particular evening.
A few years ago a banquet was given at the Mansion House to the representatives of French art; several English painters and others interested in art were invited to meet them. Previous to being presented to the Lord Mayor, every guest was requested to sign an autograph album—an unusual proceeding, I think, at a City dinner. Were I Lord Mayor I would compel my guests to sign their names—not on arrival, but when leaving the Mansion House, and thus possess an autograph album of erratic graphology, and one worth studying. In company with my friend Mr. Whitworth Wallis, the curator of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, I entered the Mansion House, when we were immediately accosted by a powdered flunkey in gorgeous uniform, in possession of the autograph album, who presented a truly magnificent pen at us, and in peremptory tones demanded our life or our signatures. Whitworth Wallis wrote his first, with a dash and confidence. I stood by and admired. "Oh," I said, taking the pen, "that's not half a dash; let me show you mine."
Jeames, in taking the pen from me, looked condescendingly over the page, and with the air of a justice delivering judgment said to me:
"Beaten 'im by hinches, sir. Beaten 'im by hinches!"
Months after that I gave an entertainment one evening at Woolwich. My audience was principally composed of Arsenal hands. On leaving the platform I was taken into the Athletic Club rooms, and asked to sign their autograph book and say a "few words" to the members. The few words consisted of the "record" I had made in the signing match I had with Mr. Wallis at the Mansion House—an incident which was brought to my mind suddenly when I took the pen in my hand. It so happened that Whitworth Wallis, who is a well-known lecturer on art matters, was on that same night lecturing in the North of England, and as he left the platform at the same hour as I at Woolwich, he was, like me, asked to sign an autograph book, and told the very same story to his friends in the North as I was telling under exactly similar circumstances, the same evening, at the same hour, in the South. Neither of us knew that the other was lecturing that night. It is not by any means a usual thing to be asked to sign a club album, and Wallis and I had not met or corresponded since the evening at the Mansion House.
After working many years for the Illustrated London News, I became a contributor to the Graphic, and for that journal wrote and illustrated a series of supplements upon "Life in Parliament"; but from this time forward it would be difficult to name any illustrated paper with which I have not at some time or other been connected. For instance, the Yorkshire Post a few years ago started a halfpenny evening paper, and sent their manager down to me to ask my honorarium to illustrate the first few numbers with character sketches of the members of the British Association, who were holding their meetings that week in Leeds. This was a happy thought, as the "British Asses," as they are too familiarly called, sent these first numbers of the paper all over the country; the new ship had something to start upon, and is now a prosperous concern. There are various stories about the sum I received for this work. It was a large sum for England, where enterprise of this kind is very rare. I was "billed" all over the town as if I were a Patti or Paderewski, and telegrams were sent to the London papers by the special reporters announcing the terms upon which I was at work; altogether it was a bit of Yankee booming that would have made a Harmsworth or a Newnes green with envy.
A CHAT BETWEEN MY PEN AND PENCIL.
What is Caricature?—Interviewing—Catching Caricatures—Pellegrini—The "Ha! Ha!"—Black and White v. Paint—How to make a Caricature—M.P.'s—My System—Mr. Labouchere's Attitude—Do the Subjects object?—Colour in Caricature—Caught!—A Pocket Caricature—The Danger of the Shirt-cuff—The Danger of a Marble Table—Quick Change—Advice to those about to Caricature.
If I am asked what is caricature, how can I define it? Ah, here it is explained by some great authority—whom I cannot say, for I have it under the heading of "Cuttings from Colney Hatch," undated, unnamed. Kindly read it carefully:
"The word itself, 'caricature,' is related etymologically to our own 'cargo,' and means, in all Italian simplicity, a loading. So, then, the finely analytical quality of the Italian intellect, disengaging the ultimate (material) element out of all the (spiritual) elements of pictorial distortion and travesty, called it simply a 'loading.' After all, 'exageration' only substitutes the idea of mound, or agger for carica—the heaping up of a mound—for the common Italian word 'load' or 'cartload.' One can easily understand how a cold, cynical, and hating Neapolitan, pushed about by the police for a likeness much too like, would shrug his shoulders, and say, possibly, the likeness was loaded. But when we look at the character of the loading, there may be anything there, from diabolical and malignant spite up to the simplest fun, to say nothing of the almost impossibility of drawing the real truth, and the almost necessary tendency to exaggerate one thing and diminish another. But if the Italian mind, with a head to be chopped off by a despot for a joke, discovered the colourless and impregnable word 'load,' the French gamin, on his own responsibility, hit upon the identical word in French, namely, 'charge'—une charge meaning both a pictorial or verbal goak or caricature, and a load. When did the word 'caricature' first obtain in the Italian language, and how? When did the word 'charge' acquire a similar meaning in France, and was it or not suggested by the Italian word? But the thing caricature goes back to the night of ages, and is in its origin connected with the subjective risible faculty on the one side and the objective tendency to making faces on the other. Curiously enough, the original German ideas of caricature appear to have hinged precisely upon the distortion of the countenance, since Fratze, the leading word for caricature, signifies originally a grimace. Then we have Posse, buffoonery (Italian, pazzie), which, without original reference to drawing, would exactly express many of Mr. ——'s very exquisite drolleries, diving as they do into the weirdest genius—conceptions of night and of day, of dawn and of twilight—the mixture of the terrible, the grotesque, the gigantic, the infinitely little, the animal, the beast, the ethereal, the divinely loving, the diabolically cynical, the crawling, the high-bred, all in a universal salmagundi and lobster nightmare, mixing up the loveliest conceptions with croaking horrors, the eternal aurora with the everlasting nitschewo of the frozen, blinding steppe. Caricature! What can we English call it?"
What indeed after this? Except in despair we adopt the child's well-known definition—"First you think, and then you draw round the think." I have been more than once asked to deliver a lecture explaining the process. Of course such an idea is too absurd for serious consideration. The comic writer cannot give anyone a recipe for making jokes, nor can a comic actor show you how to grimace so as to make others laugh in this serious country. We are not taught to look at the comic side of things—any humorous element may grow, like Topsy, unaided—nor is the power given to many to explain to others their inventions. Bessemer, the inventor of the steel bearing his name, when he first made his discovery was asked to read a paper explaining his invention to a large meeting of experts. He had his carefully-prepared notes in front of him, but they only embarrassed him. He struggled to speak, but failed. Only the weight of the lumps of metal dangling in his coattail pocket kept him from collapsing. Suddenly he dived his hand into the pocket and produced a piece of steel, which he thumped on the table. "Bother the paper! Here is my steel, and I'll tell you how I made it!" So would it be with a caricaturist. After a struggle he would say, "Bother words, words, words! Here is a pencil, and here is some paper. I'll show you how I caricature."
Personally, I have no objection to being caricatured—I frequently make caricatures of myself. Nor have I any objection to being interviewed—I interview myself. What else are these pages but interviews? I confess I fail to see any objection to a legitimate caricature or a legitimate interview. On the contrary, I look upon interviewing by an experienced and sympathetic writer as invaluable to a public man who is bringing out something novel and of interest to the public at large. It certainly seems to me judicious that he should give his preliminary ideas regarding it to the public firsthand, instead of allowing them to leak out in an unauthentic and disfigured form through the fervid imaginations of irresponsible scribes, leading to much misconception.
But I do object to the incapable, be he an interviewer wielding the pencil or the pen. To illustrate my meaning I shall take the latter first. The pen in this case did his work in true professional style. He came to interview me, and by doing so to "boom" me for a journal which was about to make a feature of my contributions to its pages. He brought with him a new note-book of remarkable size; an artist with a portfolio, pencils, and other artistic necessities; and a photographer! The interviewer shall describe the scene in his own words.
The interviewer remarked that the readers of the ——"would be very interested in knowing exactly how the thing (interviewing) was done. How did the ideas come? How did they take shape? And what was the method of work? Neither at these nor at any other questions did Mr. Furniss wince. It must not be forgotten that when he was in America last year he was interviewed, on an average, once a day; and a man who has passed through such an experience as that is unlikely to recoil before any ordinary ordeal; although Mr. Furniss was bound to admit that a combination of interviewer, artist, and photographer had never before got him into his grip. The situation would have had its ludicrous side for anybody who had chanced to peep through the skylight. The spectacle of five men (for the presence of the indefatigable secretary was an indispensable part of the proceedings) all solemnly drinking tea, while a deer-hound kept a wistful eye on the sugar-basin, was unusual, and perhaps a little grotesque—to all save the participants. Seated at his easel in the characteristic position represented in our sketch, Mr. Furniss would now and again ask permission to move his arm towards his cup of tea, and would then bend back to the make-belief work at which he was posing." There is a picture of interviewing! Everything so prepared, so studied, so well described to impress the subscribers of the enterprising journal. The photographer with a wide angle lens took in all that was in my studio—to "make-believe," as the camera invariably does, that the apartment was six times larger than it really is. But the artist, who should idealise if the photographer could not, who so sadly interfered with my enjoying my tea, who was sent to make the most of me to raise the enthusiasm of the readers and to increase the subscriptions, succeeded in doing with his pencil what no interviewer has done with his pen,—he made me wince! Here is a reduction of the serious portrait published.
I have sat down time after time to answer young correspondents' questions about the "system" to adopt for the production of caricature. I invariably end by drawing imaginary caricatures of my correspondent and fail to reply. When interviewed on the subject of caricature, I discourse on the history of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and the technique in the work of Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and Holman Hunt, and caricature is therefore driven from our minds.
However, the difficulty was solved in a very unexpected manner. One day, whilst smoking my cigar after lunch, I overheard an interview in my studio, which I here reproduce.
A Pencil of mine was working away merrily shortly after the opening of the Session, when suddenly my favourite Pen flew off the writing-table, where it had been enjoying a quiet forty winks, and alighted on the easel.
"How very awkward you are!" cried the Pencil. "See, you have knocked against and so agitated me that I have actually given Sir William an extra chin."
"One more or less does not matter, does it?" rejoined the Pen. "I apologise, and trust you will make allowances for me, as I am only an artist's Pen, don't you know, and naturally rather uncouth, I fear."
"Pray take a seat upon the indiarubber, and let me know to what I am indebted for the honour of this visit."
"Well," continued the Pen, "I have flown over here to remind you of your promise to confess to me some of the secrets of caricature."
"Ah, yes," replied the Pencil, "I remember now. I have really been so busy sketching Members of Parliament at St. Stephen's, that I had almost forgotten my promise."
"A poor Pen is out of place in an artist's studio, except to minister to the requirements of the autograph hunter. Well, you need not be jealous. My literary flight is not intended to be a very high one after all. Now you know more about the secrets of the studio than I do; so tell me, is it the custom of H. F. to have a regular sitting for a caricature, after the fashion of the portrait painters?"
"Oh, you are too delightfully innocent altogether," laughed the Pencil, rubbing its leaden head rapidly on a piece of paper, to sharpen its point. "A regular sitting! What do you think? No, sir, no, emphatically never. Such an operation would be fatal to the delicate constitution of a caricature, and the result would not be worth the paper upon which it is drawn. It is only in ordinary portraiture that a sitting is required, and upon that point I have a theory."
"Oh, never mind your theories now, old fellow," rejoined the Pen, as it took a sip of ink and prepared to chronicle the reply. "What I want to chat to you about at present is how to catch a caricature."
The Pencil pricked up his ears, and with a knowing wink, said:
"Ah, I see! You want to know secrets. Well, I will tell you 'how it's done.' The great point about a caricature is that it must be caught unawares. A man when he thinks he is unobserved struts about gaily, just for all the world like a hedgehog. All his peculiarities are then as evident as your cousins the quills upon the back of the fretful porcupine. But the moment the man or woman who is about to be caricatured observes H. F. take me in hand, I always notice that he shrivels up and collapses as quickly as one of the insectivora surprised at his feast. But wait a moment: now you ask me, I do recollect one unfortunate man who, despite H. F.'s protest, insisted upon coming here once to sit for a caricature. He looked the picture of misery, and sat in the chair there, just as if he were at a dentist's. H. F. made a most flattering portrait. Indeed, so much too handsome was it that I could hardly follow the workings of his fingers, I was laughing so."
"'Oh, what a relief!' cried the sitter, when H. F. showed him the drawing. 'You have certainly made a pretty guy of me, but, thank heaven, I am not thin-skinned.'
"'Only thick-headed,' muttered H. F. sotto voce to me as he continued to chat with the sitter.
"No sooner had he left the studio than the 'study' was in the fire, and the caricature which afterwards came from the Furniss was drawn entirely from memory.
"The artist is in more evil case when he has absolutely no chance whatever of making the slightest memorandum, for he must trust to memory alone," remarked the Pencil.
"Yet Pellegrini boasted that he always trusted to memory," said the Pen.
"I know he did," replied the Pencil, "and more than once chaffed H. F. for bringing me out. H. F., I know, has the greatest admiration for most of Pellegrini's work, but thinks that 'Ape' certainly had the failing common to all Italian caricaturists of being cruel rather than funny. I may mention too, here, an incident for the truth of which H. F. can vouch, and which illustrates another weakness of the inhabitants of the Sunny South. When the poor fellow was ill a friend of his one day set to work to put his room in order, and in moving a screen was surprised to find behind it a number of soiled shirts. He began to count them over with a view to sending them to the laundry, when Pellegrini starting up exclaimed, 'You fellow! you leave my shirts there, or I am a ruined man. Don't you see they are my "shtock in drade"?' And sure enough upon the huge familiar linen cuffs were numerous notes in pencil—sketches, in fact, from life for coming caricatures. Now, when H. F. intends to trust entirely to memory, I often find that he makes a note in writing after this fashion: 'Like So-and-so, with a difference,'—and the difference is noted. Or 'Think of an animal, a bird, or a fish, and to that add So-and-so, and subtract So-and-so,' and this results in a portrait. For instance, if he saw a man like this, I should not be surprised by his writing a single word as 'Penguin' for his guidance, and so on."
"The old caricaturists, I suppose, had a decided advantage over the moderns in having artistic costumes to depict?" asked the Pen.
"Of course," replied the Pencil. "Even up to the time of Seymour the tailor made the man, and was, therefore, largely responsible for the caricature. You have only to see Mr. Brown in the ordinary attire of to-day and also in Court dress to appreciate this, and sympathise with me."
"Now here is another point," continued the Pen, "upon which you can throw some light, old fellow. I have often seen letters on the writing-table from people asking H. F. for his recipe for the making of caricatures. I invariably scribble the same reply, 'Find out the chief points and exaggerate them.' Not satisfied with this, some have asked him to explain his modus operandi." "I recollect an instance," replied the Pencil. "It was in the studio here. An interviewer called, and asked H. F. to explain the art of caricature. So he took down a volume of portraits from the book-shelves, and opened it at this one. You see it is the head of a man who should be universally respected by us of the grey goose fraternity. 'Well, you see there is not much to caricature,' said H. F.; 'it is simply the portrait of a kindly, intellectual-looking man, the late Chief Librarian of the British Museum, I remember well," continued the Pencil, brightening up, "H. F. took me in hand, and telling me to knock over the forehead, keep in the eyes, pull the nose, and wipe off the chin, produced a caricature 'on the spot.'"
"I suppose sometimes you find caricatures ready-made, Mr. Pencil?" continued the Pen.
"Of course we do," replied the Pencil. "Nature will have her joke sometimes, nor can we blame her, for it is only by reason of contrast that we admire the beautiful. A propos of this, my dear Pen, I may tell you that in county Wexford, in Ireland, there is a certain very beautiful estate, round which runs a carefully-built wall. At a particular point the regularity ceases, and the wall runs on, constructed in every conceivable style, and contrary to all the canons of masonry. There is a legend that the owner of the estate, tired of the monotonous appearance of the wall, ordered that a certain space should be left in it which should be filled up with a barrier as irregular in construction as possible. This was done, and that portion of the wall is called the 'Ha-ha!' because so funny does it look that everyone who passes is observed to laugh. Now is it not much the same in Nature? A world full of Venuses and Adonises would soon pall. So now and then we find a human 'Ha-ha!' interspersed among them. In that case, I say, the caricaturist's work is already done. He has simply to copy Nature. Yet there are some who actually find fault with H. F. for doing that very thing, saying that his pencil (that's me) is 'unkind,' 'cruel,' 'gross,' and so on. There are many M.P.'s whom he habitually draws without the slightest exaggeration, notwithstanding which, Mr. Pen, there are members of your calling who do not scruple to inform the world that in drawing the Parliamentary 'Ha-ha!' as he is, H. F. is libelling him. There is one M.P. in particular—— No, I shall not give his name or show his portrait. I believe him to be very clever, very interesting, undeniably a great man, and extremely vain of his personal appearance. But he is built contrary to all the laws of Nature, and if H. F. draws him as he is, he is accused of libelling him. If he improves him, no one knows him. Oh, Mr. Pen, you may take it from me that the lot of the caricaturist is not a happy one."
"For the matter of that," put in the Pen, "neither is the painter's. You know Gay's lines:
"So very like, a painter drew, That every eye the picture knew, He hit complexion, feature, air, So just, the life itself was there. He gave each muscle all its strength, The mouth, the chin, the nose's length, His honest pencil touched with truth, And marked the date of age and youth. He lost his friends, his practice failed,— Truth should not always be revealed."
But Gay did not live in the days of Sargent!"
"We are getting on nicely," said the Pen. "Now answer a question which is often put to me—viz., why caricaturists eschew paint?"
"Because," replied the Pencil, "people often seem to forget that in the present day, when events follow each other in quick succession, a subject becomes stale almost before the traditional nine days' interest in it has expired—that paint is no longer the medium by which a caricaturist can possibly express his thoughts. Of course, I am not referring to mere tinting, such as that in which the old caricaturists had their drawings reproduced, but to colouring in oils, after the manner of the great satirist Hogarth. Some may remember H. F.'s caricature in Punch of the late Serjeant-at-Arms, Captain Gosset, as a black-beetle. Now, had he painted a full-length portrait of him, and sent it elaborately framed to the Royal Academy, it would not only have taken him very much longer to execute, but the Captain would not have looked a whit more like a black-beetle than he did in black and white in the pages of Punch.
"It must be remembered, also, that in caricature everything depends upon contrast. For instance, in a Parliamentary sketch he can easily make Sir William Harcourt inflate himself to such an extent that he occupies a good third of the picture, but were he to paint a portrait of him of similar proportions it would be necessary to take the roof off Burlington House and bring over the Eiffel Tower to which to hang the enormous frame that would be requisite. Moreover, there would be an additional disadvantage, for it would be impossible to take in the whole figure at once, and it would be necessary to mount the first platform at least to obtain a peep at even the lowest of the series of chins which distinguishes the descendant of kings. However, it is just on the cards that some day he may open a Parliamentary Portrait Gallery, and then I can promise that Sir William will have justice done to him at last. Sixteen yards of 'Historicus' would assuredly be enough to draw the town. But, in point of fact, it would be just as reasonable to ask an actor why he is not an opera singer as well, or to ask an opera singer why he does not dispense with the music and play in legitimate tragedy, as to enquire of a modern caricaturist why he does not work in colours."
The Pencil, after the delivery of this discourse, rolled over to the barber-knife, who trimmed him up.
"There are some people," continued the Pen, "who object to be sketched in any shape or form. I recollect an editor once challenging H. F. to get a sketch of an interesting man who had defied photographers and artists alike, and absolutely refused to have his portrait taken. You will find a paragraph about this in press-cutting book, marked 'Pritt.' Just read it when I'm being attended to."
"Mr. Pritt, Leeds, is reckoned chief of the Yorkshire anglers. 'A striking peculiarity with him,' a Yorkshire correspondent says, 'is that he never will sit for his likeness. Mr. Harry Furniss, however, the well-known artist of Punch, during his recent visit to Leeds, on the occasion of the meeting of the British Association, managed to 'take' Mr. Pritt; and the portrait, drawn in characteristic style, appears in the Yorkshire Weekly under the heading 'Caught at Last'."
"Yes, that's it. H. F. was invited to dine by this curious and clever individual.
"'Delighted to see you, Mr. Furniss; but one thing I must ask you to understand at once—I'm not going to be sketched.'
"'I assure you,' he said, 'I shall not sketch you unless you are well aware I am drawing you, and, in fact, willingly give me assistance.'
"'That's very good of you. Now I am happy. I have made up my mind I shall never allow my face to be drawn or photographed, and once I make up my mind nothing in the world will move me.'
"'Indeed!' he replied. 'But, pardon me, you have not always had that antipathy. I am looking at a photograph of you hanging on the wall there, taken when you were a baby.'
"'Oh, ah! Do you detect that? No one knows it to be me. Of course, I was not accountable for my actions at that age.'
"'Ah, how you have altered! Dear me! why, your nose is not that shape now. Here it is Roman; you have a sort of——'
"'Have a—what, eh?'
"'Have you a pencil?' (Taking me out.) 'This will do. Now, your nose is like that.'
"'Is it? But my mouth is the same, isn't it?'
"'Not quite—I will show you.'
"'Of course, my chin isn't as round?'
"'Oh, no! It's more like this. And you have less hair—see here.'
"'Dear me! Of course, one can see who this is. This astonishes me.'
"Someone else coming in at that moment, he quickly pocketed the sketch and me, and, much to his host's chagrin, it was duly published as a portrait of the gentleman from a 'special sitting'—'Caught at Last.'
"This reminds me, by the way, of a portrait which H. F. once drew of the author of 'Happy Thoughts' as a frontispiece to a new edition of that humorous book of books. Our guv'nor's first effort at this portrait was distinctly a failure, and no wonder, for the moment I was produced the editor of Punch turned his back upon us, and, with the greatest vigour, commenced writing at his table. Not being so intimate then with Mr. Burnand as we subsequently became, both I and the guv'nor thought him peculiar. But after a considerable time the editorial chair was wheeled round, and with a smile its genial occupant said calmly, 'Well, let me see the result.'
"'The result is nil at present,' replied H. F., 'for I have not yet caught a glimpse of your face.'
"Mr. Burnand looked surprised. 'Dear me!' he said; 'I thought you were making a study of me at work, you know.'
"'All I could see was the back of your head in silhouette. There now—sit just as you are, please. That's exactly the pose and expression which I want to catch. Thanks!' cried the guv'nor, as he rapidly set to work, when suddenly all cheerfulness vanished from Mr. Burnand's countenance, as with a horrified look he pointed to the table by my side, where lay the sketching materials.
"'What's that?' he cried, dismayed.
"'Oh, a lump of bread, useful in touching up high lights,' said H. F.
"'You don't say so! The sight of it quite upset me. I really thought you had brought your supper with you, and intended to work from me all night. I shall never recover my natural expression this evening, so please call again.' And as H. F. closed his sketch-book, the following brief colloquy took place:
"The editor of 'Happy Thoughts': 'Caught anything?'
"H. F.: 'No.'
"The editor: 'Good evening!'
"And the door closed.
"Frequently a subject has posed for H. F. without being aware of the fact that he was making a sketch. For instance, in his happy hunting ground—Parliament—Brown, M.P., say, comes up to him in the Lobby: 'Ha! I see you are up to mischief—taking someone off.'
"H. F. gives a knowing look, and points to Jones.
"'Ha! ha! I see. I'll talk to him. Ha! ha! and I'll look out for the caricature. Don't be too hard on poor Jones!'
"'Thanks, awfully,' replies H. F. He makes a rapid sketch, nods to Brown as much as to say, 'That'll do,' smiles, and walks off. He has of course never troubled about Jones at all; it's Brown he has been sketching all the time.
"It is utterly absurd to imagine you can escape from the caricaturist.
"H. F. trained himself to make sketches with his hand in his pocket, and worked away with me and his book—or rather cards, which he had specially for the purpose—whilst looking straight into the face of his victim. He manages in this way to sketch people sitting opposite to him in the train, and sometimes when talking to them all the time.
"You know that without special permission from the Lord High Great Chamberlain no stranger is allowed to pass the door of the English House of Lords, even when it is empty; but when the precious Peers are sitting, the difficulty of making a sketch is too great for description. You are not allowed to sit down, speak, smile, sneeze, or sketch. H. F. once produced me in the House of Lords. Had he drawn a sword instead of a pencil he could not have created greater consternation. Explanation was useless. The officials knew that he was only for 'takkin' notes' for Punch, but the vision of a pencil produced an effect upon them the same as if they had caught sight of an infernal machine. But necessity is the mother of invention. It was then he hit upon the plan I have just told you about. He draws in his pocket. Keeping the card against his leg, he sketches quite easily. A pocket Hercules is an oft enough heard-of individual—so why not a pocket artist?
"Previous to this he used to make a rapid note on his shirt-cuff; but that is a dangerous practice. Wives might resent the face if it were too pretty, and your washerwoman might recognise a Member of Parliament as her intimate friend. The incident which cured him of using his shirt-cuff for sketching happened at a large dinner, where he was introduced to the wife of a well-known public man, who soon showed she was not altogether pleased by the introduction, and truly at the moment he had forgotten that he had made a sketch of the lady on his shirt-cuff, which he did not take sufficient care to conceal.
"I recollect once on the terrace of the House of Commons he was sketching a lady of foreign extraction, the wife of a gentleman well-known to the Irish Party, with a profile something like this. I made the sketch, unfortunately, on the marble tea-table. When H. F.'s friends were leaving, he found he could not rub this off the table, and what embarrassed him more was the fact that some Irish Members were bearing down to take possession of the table as soon as we left. I had a rapid vision of our guv'nor floating in the Thames, being hurled over by the infuriated Members from the Emerald Isle; so I quickly transformed the lady into something resembling a popular Member of Parliament at the time, and, as we were leaving, I overheard an Irish Member say, 'Bedad! and Furniss has been dhrawin' that owld beauty, Mundella!'
"Have you anything new?" asked the Pen. "May I look? I know that St. Stephen's is your happy hunting ground."
"Ah, yes," responded the Pencil, "I know it well. But I can tell you it is not altogether a bed of roses. When we come across Members who have taken liberties with their personal appearance during the recess, H. F. and I resent it, I can tell you."
"Naturally," observed the Pen in a voice of the utmost sympathy, "for it means more work."
"Of course," continued the Pencil. "Now I have always held that model M. P.'s have no right to alter. They are the property of the political caricaturist, and what on earth is to become of him if the bearded men begin to shave and the smooth-faced to disguise themselves in 'mutton-chops' or 'Dundrearys'? Yet they will do it. We may draw them in their new guise, but the public won't have them at any price. They want their old favourites, and if they miss a well-known 'Imperial,' a moustache, a pair of dyed whiskers, or other such hall-mark in the picture, or on the other hand find a set of familiar chins concealed beneath an incipient Newgate fringe, a nose and chin which have been accustomed to meet for many a long year suddenly divided by the intrusion of a bristly moustache, or a delightfully asinine expression lost under the influence of a pair of bushy side-whiskers, recognition becomes impossible and the caricature falls flat. The fact is, my friend Pen, it is not only their features, but their characteristic attitudes which we make familiar, and their political differences cause the artistic effect. To me it is marvellous to note how differently artists draw the same head. Expression of course varies, but the construction of the head must always remain the same. Yet I have seen no less a head than that of Mr. Gladstone so altered in appearance in the work of different artists that I have been forcibly reminded of the old story of St. Peter's skull. A tourist travelling in Italy was shown a cranium at Rome which he was assured was the veritable relic. In Florence he was shown another, and somewhere else he was shown a third. Upon his remonstrating the guide observed, 'It is quite right, sir: the skull you saw at Rome was that of St. Peter when he was a boy; that at Florence was his when he was a young man, and this was his skull when he died.'
"Then again, familiarity with the subject is only arrived at by continually watching and sketching a Member. A few years ago I was lying down in my berth in the sketch-book which was in H. F.'s pocket, when I overheard a conversation between him and Mr. Labouchere upon Parliamentary portraits."
"What did H. F. say about them?" asked the Pen. "He ought to know the alphabet of Parliamentary portraiture at all events by this time."
"You're right," nodded the Pencil. "He's drawn a few thousand of them in his time. What did H. F. say? Well, he told Labouchere that he always created a type for each Member, and to that he adheres."
"'Yes,' said the Sage, late of Queen Anne's Gate, 'and when the original turns up, those who derive their impression of a Member from your sketches are disappointed if the two do not exactly tally.'"
"But surely our guv'nor does not sketch direct from life?" asked the Pen, amazed.
"Of course he does," indignantly replied the Pencil. "He whips me out of my bed at all times, but as he pointed out to the Member for Northampton (see how Parliamentary I am getting), it would never do invariably to sketch a man as you see him. 'For instance,' went on H. F. addressing him, 'I made a sketch of you, Mr. Labouchere, in the corridor of the House of Commons, kneeling on a seat, and had I never seen you before, I should have no doubt used this as a characteristic instead of an accidental attitude of yours.'
"Just fancy what you would have written, my dear Pen, if you had seen in Punch one of H. F.'s portraits of Lord Hartington with his hat upon the back of his head instead of over his eyes, or Mr. Gladstone depicted with a Shakespeare collar, or Mr. Cyril Flower without one, or Mr. Arnold Morley smiling, or Mr. Balfour looking cross, or Mr. Broadhurst in evening dress, or Mr. Chamberlain without an orchid in the button-hole of his coat! Yet I venture to say the time has been when Mr. Chamberlain may have had to rush down to the House orchidless, and when Mr. Broadhurst may have worn evening dress. Stranger things than that have happened, I can tell you. I have actually seen the irrepressible smile vanish from the face of Mr. John Morley. But never—no, never, will I believe that the ex-Chief Liberal Whip has ever looked jovial, that Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Cyril Flower ever exchanged collars, or that Lord Hartington ever wore his hat at the back of his head.
"On the other hand, my dear Pen, you know as well as I do that Lord Randolph Churchill did not wear imitation G.O.M. collars, that Mr. Herbert Gladstone is no longer in his teens, that Mr. Gladstone was not always so wild-looking as H. F. usually represented him, and that perhaps Sir William Harcourt is not simply an elephantine mass of egotism."
"Then why did he draw them so?" enquired the Pen.
"Ah! that is the secret of the caricaturist," laughed the Pencil. "There is something more in politicians, you know, than meets the eye, and the caricaturist tries to record it. You're so captious, my dear Pen. It is not given to everyone to see a portrait properly, however true it may be. Some folks there are who are colour-blind. There are others who are portrait-blind. Others again are blind to the humorous. An old M.P. came up to H. F. one day in the Lobby of the House of Commons when a new Parliament had assembled for the first time, and said to him, 'Well, you have a rich harvest for your pencil (that was me). I never saw such odd specimens of humanity assembled together before.'
"'That may be so,' replied H. F., 'but mark my words, after a session or two, my comic sketches of the Members—for which, by the way, the specimens you are looking at are merely notes, and which you are now good enough to call faithful portraits—will become so familiar to you that they will cease to amuse you. And you may even come to pronounce them gross libels. In other words, you will find that their frequent repetition will rob them in your eyes of their comic character altogether, just as in the case with the attendants at the Zoo, on whose faces you will fail to detect the ghost of a smile at the most outrageous pranks of the monkeys, although you shall see everyone else in the place convulsed with laughter.'"
"But surely, Mr. Pencil," argued the Pen, "you lose friends by caricaturing them?"
"Not those who are worthy of friendship," replied the Pencil, with a solemn air. "And those who cannot take a joke are not worthy of it. H. F. is not a portrait painter. It makes the lead turn in my case to witness the snobbishness which exists nowadays among certain thin-skinned artists and writers. The Society grub has eaten the heart out of all true artistic ambitions. An honest satirist has no chance nowadays. He must not draw what he sees, or write what he really thinks about it. Pleasing wishy-washiness is idolised, whilst Hogarth is voted coarse. Great Scott! How this age of cigarettes and lemon squash would have stirred the pulse and nerved the brush of the greatest of English caricaturists!"
Then as the Pencil wiped away a tear of regret for the decadence of English satirical art the Pen jotted down the following lines culled from the old tomb-stone at Chiswick:
"If Genius fire thee Stranger stay, If Nature touch thee, drop a tear. If neither move thee, turn away, For Hogarth's honoured dust lies here."
"When he has not seen a Member, and has no reference to go by, how does he manage?"
"He does not find photography of much use. Sometimes, if he has to draw a man for some special reason, and has not seen him, a photograph is, of course, the only means possible; then he generally gets a letter something like this:
"'Dear Sir,—I enclose you a photograph of myself, the only one I possess. It belongs to my wife, and she has reluctantly lent it, and trusts you will take every care of it and return it at once. It was taken on our wedding trip. I may mention that I have less hair at the top of my head and more on my face, and I may seem to some a trifle older.'
"Well, here, you see, H. F. has to use his judgment.
"But to my surprise H. F. received a visit from the original of the photograph shortly after his sketch was published, who came to inform the guv'nor that no one could possibly recognise him in the sketch; and when I saw him in the flesh I quite believed him. You can judge from the sketch how useful the photograph was.
"The second appearance of the new and ambitious M.P. in the pages of Punch did not satisfy the legislator either. It was not his face he took exception to, but his boots, like Mr. Goldfinch in 'A Pair of Spectacles.' He lost faith in his bootmaker, squeezed his extremities into patent leather shoes of the most approved and uncomfortable make, and hobbled through the Lobbies doing penance at the shrine of caricature. A caricature, you see, does not depend upon the face alone.
"One of H. F.'s earliest Parliamentary caricatures was a sketch of Mr. Henry Broadhurst, the deservedly popular representative of the working classes. He was Member for Stoke when the sketch was made. There is no affectation about him. Neither the skin that covers his solid frame nor that which encases his active feet is thin. His figure is one of the best known and most characteristic in Parliament. Who is not familiar with the round, determined little head, with the short cropped hair, the square-cut beard, the shrewd expression, the genial smile, the short jacket, the horsey trousers, the round hat, and the thick boots? The figure often appeared in Mr. Punch's Parliamentary Portrait Gallery. When our friend the late William Woodall introduced his fellow-candidate to the electors of Stoke a voice cried out, 'We know 'im! we know 'im! We've seen 'is boots in Punch!'
"No one can deny that the potters of Staffordshire are an artistic public.
"The late chief proprietor of the leading paper had the largest feet ever seen in the House of Commons, and a certain noble lord whose name will ever be connected with Majuba carries off the palm for the largest in the Upper House. The new Member for —— will, in due course, owe his Parliamentary fame to the extraordinary heels of his boots, if nothing else, just as the late Lord Hardwicke's reputation was due to the mysterious shine of his hat.
"But, judging from the illustrated papers, M.P.'s all wear spats, new trousers every day (for they never have a crease), the most beautifully-fitting coats, and white hats with black bands round them. Why are they drawn so?" asked the Pen.
"Excuse the familiar vulgar rejoinder—Ask me another."
"I hear it said that you never caricature women."
"What rot! Have I not worked in illustrating the Members of the Houses of Parliament for years, to say nothing of Judges and—their wives?"
"I mean young women."
"Oh, really I have no time to answer these questions; here are a bundle of my unpublished caricatures; take them and be off."
Gladstone and Disraeli—A Contrast—An unauthenticated Incident—Lord Beaconsfield's last Visit to the House of Commons—My Serious Sketch—Historical—Mr. Gladstone—His Portraits—What he thought of the Artists—Sir J. E. Millais—Frank Holl—The Despatch Boxes—Impressions—Disraeli—Dan O'Connell—Procedure—American Wit—Toys—Wine—Pressure—Sandwich Soiree—The G.O.M. dines with "Toby, M.P."—Walking—Quivering—My Desk—An Interview—Political Caricaturists—Signature in Sycamore—Scenes in the Commons—Joseph Gillis Biggar—My Double—Scenes—Divisions—Puck—Sir R. Temple—Charles Stewart Parnell—A Study—Quick Changes—His Fall—Room 15—The last Time I saw him—Lord Randolph Churchill—His Youth—His Height—His Fickleness—His Hair—His Health—His Fall—Lord Iddesleigh—Sir Stafford and Mr. Gladstone—Bradlaugh—His Youth—His Parents—His Tactics—His Fight—His Extinction—John Bright—Jacob Bright—Sir Isaac Holden—Lord Derby—A Political Prophecy—A Lucky Guess—My Confession in the Times—The Joke that Failed—The Seer—Fair Play—I deny being a Conservative—I am Encouraged—Chaff—Reprimanded—Misprinted—Misunderstood.
[Illustration: 1. Dr. Tanner 2. Rt. Hon. A. Akers-Douglas 3. Lord A. Hill 4. G. Cavendish-Bentinck 5. J. A. Pinton 6. Sir W. H. Houldaworth 7. Sir Albert K. Rollit 8. Rt. Hon. H. Chaplin 9. Sir E. Waskin 10. T. W. Rusell 11. Rt. Hon. C. B. Spencer 12. Christopher Sykes 13. Lord Halabury 14. H. Lubouchere 15. T. Sexton 16. Sir R. H. Fowler 17. Earl Spencer 18. Rt. Hon. J. Chamberlain 19. Admiral Field 20. Sir Frank Lockwood 21. Rt. Hon J. B. Balfour 22. Wm. Woodall 23. F. Ashmead Bartlett 24. Baden-Powell 25. Sir T. W. Maclure 26. Marquis of Hartington (Duke of Devonshire) 27. Sir R. Temple 28. } 29. } Press 30. } 31. } 32. H. W. Lucy (Toby M.P.). 33. Rt. Hon. John Morley 34. Lord Randolph Churchill 35. Press (Times) 36. " " 37. J. Henniker Heaton 38. James A. Jacoby 39. Sir H. H. Howorth 40. P. Power 41. C. S. Parnell]
Some years before Mr. Disraeli quitted the House of Commons upon his elevation to the Peerage, I enjoyed witnessing a very remarkable encounter between him and Mr. Gladstone. It was one of those passage of arms, or to be more correct I should say, perhaps, of words, which in the days of their Parliamentary youth were so frequent between the great political rivals; and although I am unable to recall the particular subject of the debate, or the exact date of its occurrence, I well remember that Mr. Gladstone had launched a tremendous attack against his opponent. However, notwithstanding the fact that from the outset of his speech it was evident that Mr. Gladstone meant war to the knife, that as it proceeded he waxed more and more hostile, and that his peroration was couched in the most vehement terms, Disraeli remained to the finish as if utterly unmoved, sitting in his customary attitude as though he were asleep, with his arms hanging listlessly at his sides. Once only during the progress of the attack he appeared to wake up, when, taking his single eye-glass, which he usually kept in a pocket of his waistcoat, between his finger and thumb, he calmly surveyed the House as if to satisfy himself how it was composed, just as an experienced cricketer eyes the field before batting, in order to see how the enemy are placed. Then, having taken stock of those present, the eye-glass was replaced in his pocket, and to all appearance he once more subsided into a tranquil slumber. But this was only a feint, for the very instant that Mr. Gladstone sat down up jumped Disraeli. The contrast between his method and that of Mr. Gladstone was very noticeable. Placing one hand artistically upon the box in front of him, and the other under his coat tails, he commenced to speak, and in the calmest manner possible, although with the most telling and polished satire, he aimed dart after dart across the table at Mr. Gladstone. As he proceeded to traverse the speech of his distinguished opponent with the most perfect and effective skill, it soon became evident that in reality he had slept with one eye open. With masterly tact, he had reserved the principal point in his reply to the end, and then, bringing his full force to bear upon it, the conclusion of his speech told with redoubled effect.
Whilst upon the subject of Mr. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield, I may narrate a remarkable story, although I am unable to vouch for the accuracy of it, as I cannot remember who was my original informant, nor among my friends in or out of Parliament have I succeeded in discovering anyone who actually witnessed the incident to which it refers. Should it turn out to be an invention, like the champagne jelly of Lord Beaconsfield or the eye-glass of Mr. Bright, I shall no doubt be corrected. But if on the contrary the anecdote be authentic, I may earn some thanks for resuscitating it. In any case I can testify that at the time the story was told to me I had undoubtedly every reason to believe that it was true.
A similar scene to that which I have described above was taking place in the House between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli, when the latter in the course of his remarks had occasion to quote a passage from a recent speech made by his rival upon some platform in the country.
Suddenly Mr. Gladstone started up and exclaimed:
"I never said that in my life!"
Disraeli was silent, and, putting his hands behind his back, simply gazed apparently in blank astonishment at the box in front of him. Several seconds went by, but he never moved. The members in the crowded House looked from one to the other, and many imagined that Disraeli was merely waiting for his opponent to apologise. But Mr. Gladstone, who had a habit, which he developed in later years, of chatting volubly to his neighbour during any interruption of this kind in which he was concerned, made no sign. A minute passed, but the sphinx did not move.
A minute and a quarter, but he was still motionless.
A minute and a half of this silence seemed as if it was an hour.
When the second minute was completed, the excitement in the House began to grow intense. Disraeli seemed to be transfixed. Was he ill? Was the great man sulking? What could this strange silence portend?
Two minutes and a half!
Some Members rose and approached him, but Disraeli raised his hand as if to deprecate their interference, and they stole back to their places conscious that they were forbidden to interrupt. Then, at last, when the second hand of the clock had passed three times round its course, the most remarkable silence which the House had ever experienced within living memory was broken as the Tory leader slowly began once more to speak.
"'Mr. Chairman,'" he said, "'and gentlemen,'" and then word for word he repeated the whole speech of Mr. Gladstone from which he had made his quotation, duly introducing the particular passage which the Liberal leader had denied. Then he paused and looked across at his rival. The challenge was not to be avoided, and Mr. Gladstone bowed. He would have raised his hat did he wear one in the House, which, in the phraseology of the ring, was equivalent to throwing up the sponge. Mr. Disraeli afterwards informed a friend that, working backwards, he had recalled the whole of Mr. Gladstone's speech to his mind. Beginning at the disputed quotation, he recovered the context which led up to it, and so step by step the entire oration. Then he was enabled to repeat it from the outset, exactly as he had read it.
I saw Lord Beaconsfield in the House of Commons on the occasion of his last visit to that chamber in which he had been the moving spirit. I well recollect that morning. There had been an Irish all-night sitting: the House was supposed to be listening to the droning of some Irish "Mimber." The officials were weary, the legislative chamber was untidy and dusty, and many of those present had not had their clothes off all night. Lord Beaconsfield, scented, oiled, and curled, the daintiest of dandies, sits in the gallery, examining the scene through his single eye-glass. Leaning over him stands the ever-faithful Monty Corry—now Lord Rowton. I sat within a few yards of them, and made a sketch which happens to be the most successful study I ever made. The Academy wrote of it: "In humour Mr. Harry Furniss generally excels; but his portrait of Lord Beaconsfield on his last appearance in the House of Commons is something else than amusing—it is pathetic, almost tragic, and will be historical;" and columns of flattering notices must be my excuse for confessing in these pages that I myself consider it to be the best portrait of Lord Beaconsfield, and in no way a caricature.
A caricaturist is an artistic contortionist. He is grotesque for effect. A contortionist twists and distorts himself to cause amusement, but he is by nature straight of limb and a student of grace before he can contort his body in burlesque of the "human form divine." Thus also is it with the caricaturist and his pencil. The good points of his subject must be plainly apparent to him before he can twist his study into the grotesque; to him it is necessary that the sublime should be known and appreciated ere he can convert it into the ridiculous, and without the aid of serious studies it is impossible for him fully to analyse and successfully produce the humorous and the satirical. Perchance he may even entertain a feeling of admiration for the subject he is holding up to ridicule, for serious moments and serious work are no strangers to the caricaturist.
The famous collars I "invented" for grotesque effect, but I always saw Mr. Gladstone without them, for to me his head has never been, as some suppose, a mere block around which to wreathe a fantastic and exaggerated collar.
"I am told a Japanese artist who wishes to study a particular flower, for instance, travels to the part of the country where it is to be found; he takes no photographic camera, no superb sketching pad or box of paints, but he lives by the plant, watches day by day the flower grow, blossom, and decay, under every condition, and mentally notes every detail, so that ever afterwards he can paint that flower in every possible way with facility and knowledge. I have myself treated Mr. Gladstone as that Japanese artist treats the beautiful flower. I have frequently sat for many many hours watching every gesture, every change of expression. I have watched the colour leave his cheeks, and the hair his head; I have marked time contract his mouth, and have noted the development of each additional wrinkle. I have mused under the shade of his collars, and wondered at the cut of his clothes, sketched his three hats and his historical umbrella. More than that; during a great speech I have seen the flower in his button-hole fade under his flow of eloquence, seen the bow of his tie travel round to the back of his neck."
Thus I spoke night after night from the platform, and the laugh always came with the collars. It was not as a serious critic that I was posing before the audience, so I could fittingly describe the collars rather than the man. But when I had left the platform and the limelight, and my caricatures, I have had many a chat with Mr. Gladstone's admirers, with regard to the light in which I saw the great man without his collars, and this fact I will put forward as my excuse for publishing in my "Confessions" a few studies that I have made from time to time of the Grand Old Man, as an antidote not only to my own caricatures, but to the mass of Gladstone portraits published, which, with very few exceptions, are idealised, perfunctory, stereotyped, and worthless. Generations to come will not take their impressions of this great man's appearance from these unsatisfactory canvases, or from the cuts in old-fashioned illustrated papers, in which all public men are drawn in a purely conventional tailor's advertisement fashion, with perfect-fitting coats, trousers without a crease, faces of wax, and figures of the fashionable fop of the period. The camera killed all this. But the photographer, although he cannot alter the cut of the clothes, can alter, and does alter, everything else. He touches up the face beyond recognition, and the pose is the pose the sitter takes before the camera, and probably quite different from his usual attitude. So it will be the caricatures, or, to be correct, the character sketches, that will leave the best impressions of Mr. Gladstone's extraordinary individuality.
I heard Mr. Gladstone express his own views on portraiture one evening at a small dinner-party. My host of that evening had hit on the happy idea of having portraits of the celebrities of the age painted for him by a rising young artist. It was curious to note Mr. Gladstone as he examined these portraits. His manner was a strange comment on the political changes which had taken place, for as he came to the portraits of those of his old supporters who no longer fought under his colours, he would pass them by as though he had not seen them, or if his attention were called to any of them he would seem not to recognise the likeness, and pass on till his eye lighted on some political ally still numbered among the faithful, when he would at once pronounce the portrait excellent, and dwell upon its merits with apparent delight. A portrait of Mr. Labouchere, however, he generally failed to recognise. The portrait represented the Member for Northampton in a contemplative mood, certainly not characteristic of his habitual demeanour in the House.
"I have found," said he, "the artist I have been looking for for years. I have found an artist who can paint my portrait in four hours and a half; he has painted three in thirteen hours; that is Millais."
I was much surprised by this curious criticism on portrait painting. Surely, if the portrait of the great orator is to be painted in four hours and a half, the same limitation, if carried out, would confine the greatest speech ever made to a period of four-and-a-half seconds!
Someone pointedly asked Mr. Gladstone whether he liked Millais' portraits.
"Well," he replied, evading any brutal directness of reply, "I have been very much interested with his energy; he is the hardest-working man I ever saw."
"Do you prefer his result to Holl's?"
"Ah, Holl took double the time, and put me in such a very strained position, nearly on tiptoe. I know my heels were off the ground; it tired me out, and I was really obliged to lie down and sleep afterwards."
"You found Millais charming in conversation?"
"He never spoke when at work; his interest in his work fascinated me."
"Ah, there is a delightful conversationalist, and a wonderful artist; he has attempted my portrait often—three attempts of late years—but he has not satisfied himself, and I am bound to say that my friends are of the same mind."
"I well remember," remarked Lord Granville, who was one of the party, "how uneasy poor Holl was before he painted your portrait. He came to me and said, 'I think if you would speak to Mr. Gladstone on some subject that would interest him, I would watch him, and that would aid me very much.'"
In this picture of Mr. Gladstone the late Frank Holl failed to maintain his reputation as an artist of the highest class: that picture of the great Liberal leader was disappointing and altogether unworthy of his name. This was the more unfortunate because, by the exercise of a little forethought, the artist might easily have avoided that pitfall of portrait-painters, an awkward, constrained, and unaccustomed attitude, which Mr. Gladstone confessed was torturing him, and by a very simple expedient have succeeded in placing Mr. Gladstone in the position which everyone who has seen him in the act of delivering a speech in the House of Commons would have recognised at once as a true and characteristic pose.
Here I have mentioned Mr. Gladstone himself, saying how uncomfortable he felt upon the occasion of Mr. Holl's visit to his house for the purpose of obtaining a sitting; but I should add that the genial artist who was to do the work informed me that he also was no less ill at ease. When Mr. Gladstone enquired how he should sit for the portrait, Mr. Holl, anxious no doubt to secure a natural pose, replied, "Oh, just as you like!" This appeared to disconcert the great statesman somewhat, and he appeared to be ruminating as to what sedentary attitude was really his favourite one, when Holl came to the rescue.