Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/250

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174
ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

Mannerism. Perhaps more than any other comic artist of past or present time, George is distinguished by his mannerisms. His horses, his women, the costumes of his male and female characters, the cut of their garments and of their boots, the arrangement of their hair, will proclaim his individuality anywhere; and yet, if you look at any of the designs which he executed in his best and brightest days, before he took up with the mania which contributed, as we shall presently see, so largely to the ruin of his artistic genius, fame, and fortunes, we cannot fail to be impressed with the quaintness of his imagination. In this quaintness and originality lie the charm and freshness which is the peculiar characteristic of his designs. Unlike those of other artists, you may turn over volume after volume of his sketches, and be conscious of no sense of weariness. Much of this no doubt is due to their constant variety. Unlike the generality of modern illustrators, he is not limited to the costumes and incidents of the every-day commonplace life of the nineteenth century; he does not confine himself to humour; his fancy takes a wider range, and revels in subjects of wonder, diablery, and romance. Gnomes and fairies, devils and goblins, knights, giants, jesters, and morris dancers are continually passing before us; there is an endless succession of novelties, treated with a quaintness of fancy which distinguishes it above all others; there is a ceaseless variety in his dramatis personæ, while the characters are as various as the subjects. In these characteristics seem to lie the secret of the pleasure which his illustrations, whether they be drawn on wood or etched on the copper, never fail to inspire.

The sale and purchase of Peter Schlemihl's Shadow has been noticed by Thackeray. We see the Old Gentleman neatly packing up his purchase after the manner of an "old clo'" dealer; he has just "lifted the shadow of one leg; he is going to fold it back neatly, as one does the tails of a coat, and will stow it, without any creases or crumples, along with the other black garments that lie in that immense pocket of his."[1] Another illustration in the same book

  1. Thackeray, in the Westminster Review, June, 1840.