Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/490

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
370
ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

The fact of his waiting upon Dickens at his chambers in Furnival's Inn "with two or three drawings in his hand, which strange to say he did not find suitable" for "Pickwick," has been told so often that there is no occasion for repeating it again; but the circumstances under which he seems to have sought the interview not being, so far as we know, stated anywhere, we shall now proceed to relate them, Thackeray was in London when Seymour shot himself in 1836. The death of the latter caused a vacancy in the post of illustrator to "Figaro in London," which at that time Seymour was illustrating as well as "Pickwick," and such vacancy was supplied by Thackeray, who, I think, continued to illustrate it until the paper died a natural death. His designs for "Figaro in London" were drawn in pen and ink on paper, and transferred to the wood by the engravers, Messrs. Branstone and Wright, and the remuneration he received for them was very trifling, at most a few shillings each. It was probably this circumstance which put into his head the idea of illustrating "Pickwick." From what we know of the graphic abilities of Thackeray and the fastidious requirements of Dickens, we may readily understand why the post rendered vacant by Seymour's suicide was given to an abler artist.

We wish that from a work dealing with comic art in the nineteenth century the name of Mr. Thackeray might be omitted; for no notice of him, however short, would be just or complete which failed to refer to his book illustrations. To do this we must separate Thackeray the artist from Thackeray the man of letters. Regarding him simply in the character of illustrator of the novels of W. M. Thackeray, we are bound in justice to the memory of that great and sterling humourist, to say that he has undertaken a task which is manifestly beyond his powers. While Thackeray with his pen could most effectively describe a fascinating woman, like Becky Sharp, the illusion vanishes the moment his artist essays to draw her portrait with his pencil. While Thackeray's women are pretty and fascinating, well dressed and accomplished, the artist's women on the contrary are hideous; their waists commence somewhere in the region of their knees; and their clothes look as if they had been