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The Library
by Andrew Lang
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Mr. Tenniel is a link between Leech and the younger school of "Punch" artists, of whom Mr. George du Maurier, Mr. Linley Sambourne, and Mr. Charles Keene are the most illustrious. The first is nearly as popular as Leech, and is certainly a greater favourite with cultivated audiences. He is not so much a humorist as a satirist of the Thackeray type,—unsparing in his denunciation of shams, affectations, and flimsy pretences of all kinds. A master of composition and accomplished draughtsman, he excels in the delineation of "society"—its bishops, its "professional beauties" and "aesthetes," its nouveaux riches, its distinguished foreigners,- -while now and then (but not too often) he lets us know that if he chose he could be equally happy in depicting the lowest classes. There was a bar-room scene not long ago in "Punch" which gave the clearest evidence of this. Some of those for whom no good thing is good enough complain, it is said, that he lacks variety—that he is too constant to one type of feminine beauty. But any one who will be at the pains to study a group of conventional "society" faces from any of his "At Homes" or "Musical Parties" will speedily discover that they are really very subtly diversified and contrasted. For a case in point, take the decorously sympathetic group round the sensitive German musician, who is "veeping" over one of his own compositions. Or follow the titter running round that amused assembly to whom the tenor warbler is singing "Me-e-e-et me once again," with such passionate emphasis that the domestic cat mistakes it for a well-known area cry. As for his ladies, it may perhaps be conceded that his type is a little persistent. Still it is a type so refined, so graceful, so attractive altogether, that in the jarring of less well-favoured realities it is an advantage to have it always before our eyes as a standard to which we can appeal. Mr. du Maurier is a fertile book-illustrator, whose hand is frequently seen in the "Cornhill," and elsewhere. Some of his best work of this kind is in Douglas Jerrold's "Story of a Feather," in Thackeray's "Ballads," and the large edition of the "Ingoldsby Legends," to which Leech, Tenniel, and Cruikshank also contributed. One of his prettiest compositions is the group here reproduced from "Punch's Almanack" for 1877. The talent of his colleague, Mr. Linley Sambourne, may fairly be styled unique. It is difficult to compare it with anything in its way, except some of the happier efforts of the late Mr. Charles Bennett, to which, nevertheless, it is greatly superior in execution. To this clever artist's invention everything seems to present itself with a train of fantastic accessory so whimsically inexhaustible that it almost overpowers one with its prodigality. Each fresh examination of his designs discloses something overlooked or unexpected. Let the reader study for a moment the famous "Birds of a Feather" of 1875, or that ingenious skit of 1877 upon the rival Grosvenor Gallery and Academy, in which the late President of the latter is shown as the proudest of peacocks, the eyes of whose tail are portraits of Royal Academicians, and whose body-feathers are paint brushes and shillings of admission. Mr. Sambourne is excellent, too, at adaptations of popular pictures,—witness the more than happy parodies of Herrman's "A Bout d'Arguments," and "Une Bonne Histoire." His book-illustrations have been comparatively few, those to Burnand's laughable burlesque of "Sandford and Merton" being among the best. Rumour asserts that he is at present engaged upon Kingsley's "Water Babies," a subject which might almost be supposed to have been created for his pencil. There are indications, it may be added, that Mr. Sambourne's talents are by no means limited to the domain in which for the present he chooses to exercise them, and it is not impossible that he may hereafter take high rank as a cartoonist. Mr. Charles Keene, a selection from whose sketches has recently been issued under the title of "Our People," is unrivalled in certain bourgeois, military, and provincial types. No one can draw a volunteer, a monthly nurse, a Scotchman, an "ancient mariner" of the watering-place species, with such absolutely humorous verisimilitude. Personages, too, in whose eyes—to use Mr. Swiveller's euphemism—"the sun has shone too strongly," find in Mr. Keene a merciless satirist of their "pleasant vices." Like Leech, he has also a remarkable power of indicating a landscape background with the fewest possible touches. His book- illustrations have been .mainly confined to magazines and novels. Those in "Once a Week" to a "Good Fight," the tale subsequently elaborated by Charles Reade into the "Cloister and the Hearth," present some good specimens of his earlier work. One of these, in which the dwarf of the story is seen climbing up a wall with a lantern at his back, will probably be remembered by many.

After the "Punch" school there are other lesser luminaries. Mr. W. S. Gilbert's drawings to his own inimitable "Bab Ballads" have a perverse drollery which is quite in keeping with that erratic text. Mr. F. Barnard, whose exceptional talents have not been sufficiently recognised, is a master of certain phases of strongly marked character, and, like Mr. Charles Green, has contributed some excellent sketches to the "Household Edition" of Dickens. Mr. Sullivan of "Fun," whose grotesque studies of the "British Tradesman" and "Workman" have recently been republished, has abounding vis comica, but he has hitherto done little in the way of illustrating books. For minute pictorial stocktaking and photographic retention of detail, Mr. Sullivan's artistic memory may almost be compared to the wonderful literary memory of Mr. Sala. Mr. John Proctor, who some years ago (in "Will o' the Wisp") seemed likely to rival Tenniel as a cartoonist, has not been very active in this way; while Mr. Matthew Morgan, the clever artist of the "Tomahawk," has transferred his services to the United States. Of Mr. Bowcher of "Judy," and various other professedly humorous designers, space permits no further mention.

There remains, however, one popular branch of book-illustration, which has attracted the talents of some of the most skilful and original of modern draughtsmen, i.e. the embellishment of children's books. From the days when Mulready drew the old "Butterfly's Ball" and "Peacock at Home" of our youth, to those of the delightfully Blake-like fancies of E. V. B., whose "Child's Play" has recently been re-published for the delectation of a new generation of admirers, this has always been a popular and profitable employment; but of late years it has been raised to the level of a fine art. Mr. H. S. Marks, Mr. J. D. Watson, Mr. Walter Crane, have produced specimens of nursery literature which, for refinement of colouring and beauty of ornament, cannot easily be surpassed. The equipments of the last named, especially, are of a very high order. He began as a landscapist on wood; he now chiefly devotes himself to the figure; and he seems to have the decorative art at his fingers' ends as a natural gift. Such work as "King Luckieboy's Party" was a revelation in the way of toy books, while the "Baby's Opera" and "Baby's Bouquet" are petits chefs d'oeuvre, of which the sagacious collector will do well to secure copies, not for his nursery, but his library. Nor can his "Mrs. Mundi at Home" be neglected by the curious in quaint and graceful invention. {14} Another book—the "Under the Window" of Miss Kate Greenaway—comes within the same category. Since Stothard, no one has given us such a clear-eyed, soft-faced, happy-hearted childhood; or so poetically "apprehended" the coy reticences, the simplicities, and the small solemnities of little people. Added to this, the old-world costume in which she usually elects to clothe her characters, lends an arch piquancy of contrast to their innocent rites and ceremonies. Her taste in tinting, too, is very sweet and spring-like; and there is a fresh, pure fragrance about all her pictures as of new-gathered nosegays; or, perhaps, looking to the fashions that she favours, it would be better to say "bow-pots." But the latest "good genius" of this branch of book-illustrating is Mr. Randolph Caldecott, a designer assuredly of the very first order. There is a spontaneity of fun, an unforced invention about everything he does, that is infinitely entertaining. Other artists draw to amuse us; Mr. Caldecott seems to draw to amuse himself,—and this is his charm. One feels that he must have chuckled inwardly as he puffed the cheeks of his "Jovial Huntsmen;" or sketched that inimitably complacent dog in the "House that Jack Built;" or exhibited the exploits of the immortal "train- band captain" of "famous London town." This last is his masterpiece. Cowper himself must have rejoiced at it,—and Lady Austen. There are two sketches in this book—they occupy the concluding pages—which are especially fascinating. On one, John Gilpin, in a forlorn and flaccid condition, is helped into the house by the sympathising (and very attractive) Betty; on the other he has donned his slippers, refreshed his inner man with a cordial, and over the heaving shoulder of his "spouse," who lies dissolved upon his martial bosom, he is taking the spectators into his confidence with a wink worthy of the late Mr. Buckstone. Nothing more genuine, more heartily laughable, than this set of designs has appeared in our day. And Mr. Caldecott has few limitations. Not only does he draw human nature admirably, but he draws animals and landscapes equally well, so one may praise him without reserve. Though not children's books, mention should here be made of his "Bracebridge Hall," and "Old Christmas," the illustrations to which are the nearest approach to that beau-ideal, perfect sympathy between the artist and the author, with which the writer is acquainted. The cut on page 173 is from the former of these works.

Many of the books above mentioned are printed in colours by various processes, and they are not always engraved on wood. But—to close the account of modern wood-engraving—some brief reference must be made to what is styled the "new American School," as exhibited for the most part in "Scribner's" and other Transatlantic magazines. Authorities, it is reported, shake their heads over these performances. "C'est magnifique, mais ce nest pas la gravure," they whisper. Into the matter in dispute, it is perhaps presumptuous for an "atechnic" to adventure himself. But to the outsider it would certainly seem as if the chief ground of complaint is that the new comers do not play the game according to the old rules, and that this (alleged) irregular mode of procedure tends to lessen the status of the engraver as an artist. False or true, this, it may fairly be advanced, has nothing whatever to do with the matter, as far, at least, as the public are concerned. For them the question is, simply and solely—What is the result obtained? The new school, availing themselves largely of the assistance of photography, are able to dispense, in a great measure, with the old tedious method of drawing on the block, and to leave the artist to choose what medium he prefers for his design—be it oil, water-colour, or black and white—concerning themselves only to reproduce its characteristics on the wood. This is, of course, a deviation from the method of Bewick. But would Bewick have adhered to his method in these days? Even in his last hours he was seeking for new processes. What we want is to get nearest to the artist himself with the least amount of interpretation or intermediation on the part of the engraver. Is engraving on copper to be reproduced, we want a facsimile if possible, and not a rendering into something which is supposed to be the orthodox utterance of wood-engraving. Take, for example, the copy of Schiavonetti's engraving of Blake's Death's Door in "Scribner's Magazine" for June 1880, or the cut from the same source at page 131 of this book. These are faithful line for line transcriptions, as far as wood can give them, of the original copper-plates; and, this being the case, it is not to be wondered at that the public, who, for a few pence can have practical facsimiles of Blake, of Cruikshank, or of Whistler, are loud in their appreciation of the "new American School." Nor are its successes confined to reproduction in facsimile. Those who look at the exquisite illustrations, in the same periodical, to the "Tile Club at Play," to Roe's "Success with Small Fruits," and Harris's "Insects Injurious to Vegetation,"—to say nothing of the selected specimens in the recently issued "Portfolios"—will see that the latest comers can hold their own on all fields with any school that has gone before. {15}

Besides copperplate and wood, there are many processes which have been and are still employed for book-illustrations, although the brief limits of this chapter make any account of them impossible. Lithography was at one time very popular, and, in books like Roberts's "Holy Land," exceedingly effective. The "Etching Club" issued a number of books circa 1841-52; and most of the work of "Phiz" and Cruikshank was done with the needle. It is probable that, as we have already seen, the impetus given to modern etching by Messrs. Hamerton, Seymour Haden, and Whistler, will lead to a specific revival of etching as a means of book-illustration. Already beautiful etchings have for some time appeared in "L'Art," the "Portfolio," and the "Etcher;" and at least one book of poems has been entirely illustrated in this way,—the poems of Mr. W. Bell Scott. For reproducing old engravings, maps, drawings, and the like, it is not too much to say that we shall never get anything much closer than the facsimiles of M. Amand-Durand and the Typographic Etching and Autotype Companies. But further improvements will probably have to be made before these can compete commercially with wood-engraving as practised by the "new American School."

"Of making many books," 'twais said, "There is no end;" and who thereon The ever-running ink doth shed But probes the words of Solomon: Wherefore we now, for colophon, From London's city drear and dark, In the year Eighteen Eight-One, Reprint them at the press of Clark.

A. D.



Footnotes:

{1} This is the technical name for people who "illustrate" books with engravings from other works. The practice became popular when Granger published his "Biographical History of England."

{2} Mr. William Blades, in his "Enemies of Books" (Trubner, 1880), decries glass-doors,— "the absence of ventilation will assist the formation of mould." But M. Rouveyre bids us open the doors on sunny days, that the air may be renewed, and, close them in the evening hours, lest moths should enter and lay their eggs among the treasures. And, with all deference to Mr. Blades, glass-doors do seem to be useful in excluding dust.

{3} "Send him back carefully, for you can if you like, that all unharmed he may return to his own place."

{4} No wonder the books are scarce, if they are being hacked to pieces by Grangerites.

{5} These lines appeared in "Notes and Queries," Jan. 8, 1881.

{6} In the Golden Ass of Apuleius, which Polia should not have read.

{7} M. Arsene Houssaye seems to think he has found them; marked on the fly-leaves with an impression, in wax, of a seal engraved with the head of Epicurus.

{8} This chapter was written by Austin Dobson.—DP

{9} The recent Winter Exhibition of the Old Masters (1881) contained a fine display of Flaxman's drawings, a large number of which belonged to Mr. F. T. Palgrave.

{10} By Mr. Cosmo Monkhouse.

{11} These words were written before the "Art Journal" had published its programme for 1881. From this it appears that the present editor fully recognises the necessity for calling in the assistance of the needle.

{12} The example, here copied on the wood by M. Lacour, is a very successful reproduction of Clennell's style.

{13} He also illustrated the "Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi." But this was simply "edited" by "Boz."

{14} The reader will observe that this volume is indebted to Mr. Crane for its beautiful frontispiece.

{15} Since this paragraph was first written an interesting paper on the illustrations in "Scribner," from the pen of Mr. J. Comyns Carr, has appeared in "L'Art."

THE END

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