Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/491

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377
W. M. THACKERAY.

piled on their back with a pitchfork. The same remarks apply to the men; while the originals are witty or clever, handsome or well-dressed, those presented to us by the artist are destitute of calf, and their limbs so curiously constructed that the free use of them as nature intended would be a matter of utter impossibility. Those defects are the more noticeable because the artist has shown in his admirable essays on George Cruikshank and John Leech how thoroughly he was alive to the possession of artistic genius in others.

The admiration which we have for Thackeray the man of letters, and the way in which we have already expressed that admiration, render it unlikely that the drift of these remarks will be misunderstood. While rejoicing that the admirable tales and satires of the humourist are uninjured by illustrations which are altogether unworthy of them, we venture to suggest how much better the result might have been had the latter been entrusted, as in the case of "The Newcomes," to other hands, and the artist contented himself with the initial letters and designs on wood with which his writings are pleasantly interspersed. We have seen it somewhere stated (we think in the volume entitled "Thackerayana") that the author's rapid facility of sketching was the one great impediment to his attainment of excellence in illustrative art. Some of his designs indeed bear on their face evidence of the rapidity with which they were thrown off; but no satisfactory explanation appears to be possible of his contempt for what Mr. Hodder has termed the "practical laws which regulate the academic exercise of the pictorial art," and his apparent ignorance of the art of balancing his figures so as to enable them to stand upright, to walk straight, or to move their limbs with the grace and freedom assigned to them by nature. One of the designs to "The Virginians" shows a horseman, who in the letterpress is described as crossing a bridge at full gallop, whereas in the picture both man and horse will inevitably leap over the parapet into the river below. Nothing could possibly avert the catastrophe, and the effect thus produced is due, not to the manifest carelessness and haste with which the sketch is thrown off, but to a