Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/513

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
393
"THE NEWCOMES."

is not only just, but remarkably fair. With reference to the illustrations to the "Newcomes," he acknowledges "their all but inestimable dramatic value." "Illustrations to imaginative literature," he continues, "are too frequently an intrusion and an impertinence, but these really added to our enjoyment of a great literary masterpiece, and Doyle's conception of the Colonel, of Honeyman, of Lady Kew, is accepted at once as authentic portraiture. In Ethel he was less happy, which was a misfortune, as she was the heroine of the book; but many of the minor characters were successes of the most striking and indisputable kind." Further on, he says of Doyle's etching, A Student of the Old Masters,—"Colonel Newcome is sitting in the National Gallery, trying to see the merits of the old masters. Observe the enormous exaggeration of aërial perspective resorted to in order to detach the figure of the Colonel. The people behind him must be several miles away; the floor of the room, if judged by aërial perspective only, is as broad as the Lake of Lucerne." The criticism, though exaggerated, is not unfair or unjust; but the people are certainly not miles away. Doyle has perpetuated a mistake common with many English artists, who seem to think, as Hazlitt expresses it, that, "if they only leave out the subordinate parts, they are sure of the general result."[1] Doyle's intention to give us a portrait of Colonel Newcome only has prompted him to treat the subordinates as almost non-existent. His work, however, was never intended to be faultless; it carries out his own intention most thoroughly and admirably, and in a manner very far superior to anything which Thackeray himself could have done.

The closing scenes in the life of this most amiable and unselfish of artists we give in the singularly graceful words of his Catholic biographer: "In the autumn of last year (1883), Mr. Doyle spent some time in North Devon, and while there painted a picture of Lynton churchyard. The view is taken at a distance of some ten or fifteen yards to the south-west of the church, and is looking in

  1. William Hazlitt on "The Fine Arts," p. 51.