Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/396

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Leech
Leech
390

5,000l.), to which a friendly notice by Thackeray (Times, 21 June) not a little contributed. But from an art point of view the experiment could scarcely be regarded as unassailable, and the modest artist was right in saying that his efforts had 'no claim to be regarded, or tested, as finished pictures.' Some of the technical obstacles he victoriously overcame, and the work brought out conspicuously his gift for the picturesque. Nevertheless, the enlargement of drawings, originally conceived on a smaller scale, is scarcely ever effected without loss, and those who remember these pictures also remember that, full of spirit, life, and humour as they were, they were often raw in colouring and thin in execution. An illustrated catalogue, containing all the original blocks from 'Punch.' was issued in 1862. Not long after his connection with 'Punch' had become established, Leech married Miss Ann Eaton. He had two children, a boy and a girl, the former of whom, John George Warrington Leech, who inherited some of his father's artistic gifts, was drowned at South Adelaide in 1876. Leech himself was a man of singularly handsome presence, being over six feet high and extremely well built. He had considerable distinction of manner and much personal charm. By his friends and associates he was praised for his genial, kindly temper, his fund of humorous observation, and his ready sympathy with pain and sorrow. His tenderness and devotion to his family were remarkable even in a naturally amiable man. He is said to have been a good singer of a melancholy song, and affected much the 'King Death' of Procter ; and he occasionally figured, though without enthusiasm, in the amateur theatricals of Dickens, playing Master Matthew in 'Every Man in his Humour* at Miss Kelly's Theatre, Dean Street, Soho (now the Royalty), in 1845. His chief amusement, however, was the hunting-field, and to his runs with the Puckeridge or the Pytchley we owe many of the subjects of his sporting sketches. But though he was a brave man and a bold rider, he was of extremely nervous temperament, which increased as time went on, and one result of the tension caused by the ceaseless application involved by his vocation was an exceptional sensibility to street noises of all kinds, and street music in particular. Indeed this affliction maybe said to have precipitated, if it id not actually bring about, his too early death. In a letter to Michael Thomas Bass, M.P., when bringing in a bill relating to street music, Mark Lemon did not hesitate to trace Leech's ultimately fatal malady, angina pectoris, or breast pang, to the disturbance of his nervous system caused by ' the continual visitation of street-bands and organ-grinders.' It is possible, however, that its real origin, as Dr. John Brown suggests, may have been a strain in hunting. He died on 29 Oct. 1864, at No. 6 The Terrace, Kensington, at the age of forty-seven, and was buried on 4 Nov. at Kensal Green, divided but by one tomb from his old school-fellow and friend Thackeray, who had preceded him in December 1863. A likeness of him by Sir John Millais, R.A., was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855, and there is a statuette by the late Sir J. E. Boehm, R.A. A collection of 170 of his designs and etchings was issued by Bentley in 1865 in 2 vols, folio.

The period of Leech's pictorial activity (1840-64) covers the middte of the century. He comes, for practical purposes, between Cruikshank and Du Maurier, and in that order plays an indispensable part in the progressive transformation of humorous art from the broad brutalities of the earlier men to the gentler and more subdued satire now in vogue. As Cruikshank refines upon Gillray and Rowlandson, so Leech refines upon Cruikshank, but to a much greater extent. His humour is to the full as keen, his sense of fun as marked ; but it is less grotesque, less boisterous, less exaggerated, nearer to truth and to ordinary experience. It is thoroughly manly, hearty, and generous. It delights in domestic respectabilities; in handsome, healthy womankind ; in the captivating caprices and makebelieves of childhood. It detests affectations, pretensions, social deceptions of all sorts ; but it has a compassionate eye for eccentricities which are pardonable, and vanities that inj ure no one. Being honest and manly, it is also exceptionally pure in tone, and never depends for its laugh upon dubious equivocations. Its pictures of social dilemmas, of popular humours, of national antipathies, are of the most graphic and mirth-provoking kind, and yet the raillery is invariably good-humoured. In these days, when photography has multiplied the opportunities of accuracy, and the employment of the model prevails to an extent wholly unknown to Leech and his predecessors, it is impossible to contend that his drawing is always academic, or to rebut the charge that it is frequently conventional. But his gift for seizing fugitive expression and for mentally registering transitory situation was extraordinary. Long practice had made it unerring in its way, and Leech perhaps wisely concentrated his attention upon these points. Yet he possessed, like Eeene, a marvellous faculty for landscape, and in many cases the