Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/363

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MERITS OF JOHN DOYLE.

drawing to which HB was a stranger; and further, that by reason of the absence of such knowledge and practice, he falls far behind Hogarth, Gillray, Bunbury, Rowlandson, or the Cruikshanks. With these artists indeed, as we have endeavoured to show, John Doyle has nothing in common, and he evidently designed that no comparison should ever be instituted between any one of them and himself. His chief merits are to be found in the facility with which he grasped an idea; the harmlessness and playfulness of his satire, which wrought a complete revolution in the style and manner of caricaturists; and above all in the excellence of his likenesses. The best and most graceful of the series was 'produced just after the wedding of her Majesty, and is a transcript (as it were) of Stothard's beautiful design of The Procession of the Flitch of Bacon, the leading personages being the young Queen and the late Prince Consort, whose portraits are admirably executed. Towards the close of the series they show signs of failing power, not unnatural in an artist who during a course of twenty years had produced upwards of a thousand drawings. I have seen it somewhere stated that this deterioration dates from the period when the identity of HB was discovered; but inasmuch as this secret had been practically revealed long before the decadence commences, there is no just ground for any such assumption.

The reputation of the "Political Sketches" was, however, ephemeral, and considering their popularity and the eagerness with which they were bought up at the time, it is surprising how completely they have passed into oblivion. The name of HB, or of John Doyle, is now not only "caviare to the general," but it is amazing how little until lately he was known even to men not altogether ignorant on the subject of satirical art. A gentleman to whom I am indebted for some valuable information, tells me that some three or four years since "a large number of original sketches (not the engravings) were catalogued and announced for sale at Christies'. I went," he says, "possibly to buy several, but (and it is curious as showing the decadent interest in the pictures) no sale took place, because I was told there was no one to buy. I think," my informant adds, "that