English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century/Chapter 13

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John Leech, "born in Bennett Street, Stamford Street, 29th August, 1817, and baptized (son of John Leech, vintner) 15th November, at Christ Church, Blackfriars Road." Such is the entry I find in the manuscript diary of his friend the late Shirley Brooks, now before me, written a few days after the death of the gifted and lamented artist. The "John Leech, vintner," his father, here referred to, was at one time proprietor of the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill. A late commentator says he "was an Irishman, a man of fine culture, a profound Shakespearian scholar, and [presumably by way of apology—as if any such were needed] a thorough gentleman." Be this as it may, he was not successful as a landlord, and as a matter of fact depended in a great measure for his support upon the talents of his remarkably gifted son.

Early Days.Leech was only seven years old when his father sent him to the Charterhouse. His arm had been broken by a fall from a pony, and the effects of this accident debarred him from taking an active part in the athletic sports of cricket, hockey, or football; but his nature inclined him nevertheless to manly exercises, and despite his excellence with the pencil, which was manifested at a remarkably early age, he is said to have preferred the lessons of Angelo the fencing, to those of Burgess the drawing, master. He was not distinguished at school as a classical scholar, and Latin verses in particular proved so serious a stumbling-block that he always got a schoolfellow to do them for him. His famous friend and fellow-pupil, Thackeray, carried an indelible personal reminiscence of the Charterhouse about him in the shape of a broken nose, a mark of distinction which was earned in a pugilistic encounter with another schoolfellow.

A reminiscence of John Leech's schoolboy days will be found in one of his illustrations to "Once a Week,"[1] which represents a schoolboy perched in the topmost branches of a tree overlooking the walls of the Carthusian playground. As the mail coaches bound to the north passed the Charterhouse walls in the old coaching days, the boys not seeing any just reason why they should be debarred from the exhilarating spectacle, notched the trees and drove in spikes at ticklish points, which enabled them to mount to the upper branches, whence they could watch the coaches at their leisure. The illustration referred to is labelled, A Coach Tree, but without this explanation the reader would scarcely suspect (the letterpress being of course silent on the subject) that the schoolboy represented in the illustration is the artist himself. Leech always retained a pleasant recollection of his old Carthusian school-days, and frequently attended the festivities of the Charterhouse.

His early aptitude for the pencil was developed when he was only three years of age. One of his early efforts attracted the attention of Flaxman the sculptor, who advised that he should "not be cramped with lessons in drawing; let his genius," he said, "follow its own bent, and he will astonish the world." This advice was so far followed, that we believe we are justified in saying that beyond the ordinary perfunctory drawing lessons obtained at school, he received no other artistic education during the rest of his life. His father, the "profound Shakesperian scholar" and "perfect gentleman," so little encouraged the bent of the boy's genius, that if he had had his way he would have driven this square peg into a very round hole. At sixteen years of age he took his son from the Charterhouse, and shortly afterwards apprenticed him to an eccentric person at Hoxton, nominally carrying on the profession of a surgeon, and rejoicing in the name of Whittle.

English Caricaturists, 1893 - The Mayor and Corporation of Swinestead Wait upon Mr Bagges.png

John Leech]["Illuminated Magazine.


[Face p. 278.

This Whittle proved a perfect study to the young artist, and it is possible that his connection with this eccentric personage had some influence in deciding him not to follow a profession for which he had but little sympathy. Whittle was a man of large frame and muscular development, so far at least as the upper part of his body was concerned, but the development extended no farther, his legs being formed on much more slender proportions. His tastes were decidedly athletic; he had rings let into the wall for the purpose of practising gymnastics, and delighted in posing before his amused pupils in the character of "The Dying Gladiator," "Hercules," and other antique statues. The few patients he possessed had small chance of professional attendance when Mr. Whittle was in training for a walking or running match, or any other amateur athletic engagement. "When," says Shirley Brooks, "lady patients, taking a walk, are suddenly surrounded by a hurrying and shouting crowd, in the middle of which, as they escape, they behold their medical adviser, in quaint attire, rushing to pick up stones with his mouth, an early termination of the relations between the healer and his patients is not impossible."[2] A person of this kind was obviously out of his element in a learned profession, and this Whittle eventually recognised, and descended to his level by marrying one of his patients, a widow who kept a neighbouring public. He found himself more "at home" behind the bar in his shirt sleeves, and with ready facility adapted himself to circumstances by drawing beer for his former pupils and patients. Various stories have been told of this eccentric personage, who is said (with what truth we know not) to have commenced life as a Quaker, and ended it eventually as a missionary.

"Rawkins."Whittle the eccentric was afterwards immortalized by Leech as "Rawkins" in Albert Smith's "Adventures of Mr. Ledbury," which made their appearance in "Bentley's Miscellany." We cannot advise those who would enjoy a hearty laugh to do better than refer to Leech's comical etchings of The Return of Hercules from a Fancy Ball (on a wet night, without his latchkey), and the Last Appearance of Mr. Rawkins in Public, in which the rencontre of Mr. Whittle and some of his female patients already referred to is superbly realized.

When Mr. Whittle and his practice had finally parted company in the manner we have described, John Leech's indentures were transferred to Dr. John Cockle, afterwards physician to the Royal Free hospital. During part of his spasmodic medical course, he went through the mystic performance at one time known as "walking the hospitals," and at St. Bartholomew's varied his attendance at the anatomical lectures of Mr. Stanley—where he met other square pegs intended for round holes, Albert Smith and Percival Leigh—with sketches of his fellow-pupils and their medical lecturers. Many of these, the earliest of his sketches, were in the possession of his friend, the late Mark Lemon. Before his time was out, Leech luckily resolved to throw his medical studies to the winds, and to live wholly by the practice of his art.

His first work, published when he was eighteen years of age, was entitled "Etchings and Sketchings by A. Pen, Esq.," and consisted of four quarto sheets, containing slightly caricature sketches of oddities of London life, such as cabmen, policemen, street musicians, and the like. He next tried his hand at lithography, and produced some political satires not without ability; but these at best were merely the tentative efforts of an artist who had not yet discovered the bent of his genius, in consequence of being compelled to accommodate himself to the standard of his early patrons—the printsellers. Having drawn his design, Leech has been known in those early times to spend a weary day in search of a buyer, by carrying the heavy stone about with him from publisher to publisher. The style of these tentative efforts may be judged by the work which first brought him into notice, a poor caricature of Mulready's envelope in commemoration of the establishment of Sir Rowland Hill's cheap postage system, a reproduction of which will be found in a late "Biographical Sketch " by Mr. Kitton.[3] Although the pecuniary reward of this early effort was small, people began to ask by whom it was executed; thus it was that his subsequently well-known mark, the leech-bottle, first came into public notice.

Specimens of these tentative efforts are of course scarce, but occasionally the reader may fall in with odd numbers of the "Comicalities," issued some half century ago by the proprietors of "Bell's Life," in which may be found specimens of his early work among impressions from the designs on wood of Kenny Meadows, "Phiz," and even Robert Seymour.[4] Among these early efforts may also be named "The Boys' Own Series"; "Studies from Nature"; "Amateur Originals"; the "Ups and Downs of Life, or the Vicissitudes of a Swell"; and other etcetera.

When poor Seymour shot himself in 1836, the artist who was at first selected to fill his place as illustrator of "Pickwick" was Robert William Buss, who, failing however to supply the requirements of Charles Dickens, was (as we shall afterwards see) quickly discarded. Others, however, had applied to supply the place of the deceased artist, and among them were Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"), W. M. Thackeray, and John Leech; although the latter failed to secure the appointment, he appears to us of all others the one best fitted to pictorially interpret the author's creations. Thackeray was so little conscious of the bent of his own genius that he seems at this time to have had some thoughts of following the profession of an artist, but happily failed so completely that he was induced to follow up his alternative art of authorship, by which he achieved his fame and reputation. Notwithstanding his failure, his implicit faith in his own artistic powers remained unshaken to the end, in which belief he has been followed by one or two writers who might have known better.

It is not until 1840 that we find Leech had matured the style and manner which afterwards made him famous; and accordingly, in this year we find designs which are thoroughly worthy of his reputation. Among these may be named "The Children of the Mobility," seven lithographs (reproduced in 1875) dealing with the humorous and pathetic episodes of the London street arabs; "The Comic Latin Grammar"; "The Comic English Grammar"; and a now exceedingly rare jeu d' esprit, bearing the full title of "The Fiddle-Faddle Fashion Book and Beau Monde a la Française, enriched with numerous highly coloured figures of lady-like gentlemen,"[5] a most amusing skit upon the absurd fashion books of the period, containing four coloured plates of gentlemen (more than fifty figures) in male and female costume, posed in the ridiculous and well-known simpering style of those periodicals. All these works were produced in conjunction with Percival Leigh, one of the artist's fellow-students at St. Bartholomew's, and led directly to his engagement on the pages of Punch, which was started the following year.

Among the rarer works published in 1840, to which John Leech contributed the benefit of his assistance, may be mentioned a publication, entitled "The London Magazine, Charivari, and Courier des Dames" (Simpkin, Marshall & Co.), in which we find some portraits and other work altogether out of the range of his usual style of illustration. The tone of this publication was personal in the extreme. Charles Dickens had produced (among other publications) his "Pickwick Papers," "Oliver Twist," "Nicholas Nickleby," and at this time was engaged on the most touching and pathetic of his stories, "The Old Curiosity Shop," which was, however, so little appreciated by the editor of this scurrilous publication, that we find him perpetrating the following sorry libel on the writer and three of his contemporaries: "To cheesemongers and others! Ready for delivery, at a halfpenny per pound, forty tons of foundered literature; viz., Mrs. Trollope's 'Unsatis-factory Boy,'[6] 'Master Humphrey's Clock' (refer to the second meaning in 'Johnson's Dictionary': 'an unsightly crawling thing'!), Captain Marryal's 'Alas, Poor Jack'! and Turpis Ainsworth's 'Guy Fox':—

'An animal cunning, unsavoury, small,
That will dirty your hands if you touch it at all.'"

So little merit had this critical periodical itself, that some rare etchings by Hablot Knight Browne and Leech to a novel entitled "The Diurnal Revolutions of David Diddledoff," which appeared in its pages, failed to keep the dreary serial alive, and a quarrel ensuing between the proprietors and himself, Browne was dismissed and Leech supplied his place. Leech's caricature of Mulready's postage envelope, already mentioned, appears to have led to others, and among them one by "Phiz," a circumstance which is referred to in the following attack: "Phiz has found a lower deep in the lowest depths of meanness. When Leech's admirable caricature of Mulready's postage envelope was pirated by every tenth-rate sketcher, Phiz steps in to complete the work of injustice, and advertises his caricature of the same subject at sixpence, thus both borrowing the design and underselling the artist upon whose brains he is preying as the fly upon the elk's. Well might Leech exclaim, 'Et tu, Brute!' (and you, you brute!) Leech is a genuine artist, while Phiz is only a bad engraver." By way of answer to this vulgar abuse, Phiz almost immediately afterwards produced his admirable illustration of Quilp and the Dog, in No. 18 of "Master Humphrey's Clock."

In the pages of this defunct periodical we find a long and virulent article on Benjamin D'Israeli, the late Lord Beaconsfield, from which we have disinterred the following remarkable prophecy. After referring to his celebrated parliamentary fiasco, and his own prophetic words on that memorable occasion: "You won't hear me now; but the time will come when you shall hear me!" the writer goes on to say: "That time has never since arrived. In vain did Benjamin parody Sheridan's celebrated saying ('It's in me, and by G—— it shall be out of me!'). He renewed his efforts repeatedly . . . But though, in consequence of his (sic) moderating his tone into a semblance of humility, he is sometimes just listened to, he has never made the slightest impression in the house, and we may fairly predict he never will." The article is illustrated by a remarkable semi-caricature likeness of the late Lord Beaconsfield, then in his thirty-second year, which, although unsigned and altogether different from his well-known style, we can assign to no other hand than that of John Leech. We found our opinion on the fact that the previous portrait is by him; that none but his etchings appear in the latter portion of the book; and because the bird represented following the footsteps and mimicking the walk of the young statesman, is own brother to the celebrated Jackdaw of Rheims immortalized by Thomas Ingoldsby. So remarkable is the likeness, that the shadow of D'Israeli's follower and that of Saint "Jem Crow" of the Legends are identical.

Artistic Position Secured.In 1840 some of John Leech's sketches were brought to the notice of the Rev Thomas Harris Barham, which led to his engagement on the pages of "Bentley's Miscellany," from which moment his artistic position was secured. His first illustration was The Black Mousquetaire. Barham in describing the scene, regretted, oddly enough, that he had neither the pencil of Fuseli or Sir Joshua Reynolds at command, or had himself taken lessons in drawing:—

  "Had I done so, instead
  Of the lines you have read,
I'd have given you a sketch shou'd have filled you with dread!
François Xavier Auguste squatting up in his bed,
  His hands widely spread,
  His complexion like lead,
Ev'ry hair that he had standing up on his head,
As when, Agnes des Moulins first catching his view,
Now right, and now left, rapid glances he threw,
Then shriek'd with a wild and unearthly halloo,
  Mon Dieu! v'là deux!!
  By the Pope there are two!!!"

Leech continued on the pictorial staff of "Bentley's Miscellany" ten years; his etchings therein commence with vol. viii. (1840) and (practically) end with vol. xxv., 1849).[7] Altogether he contributed to this sterling periodical some one hundred and forty etchings, illustrating (amongst numerous scattered papers) "The Ingoldsby Legends" (with Cruikshank); Henry Cockton's "Stanley Thorn"; Charles Whitehead's "Richard Savage"; Albert Smith's "Adventures of Mr. Ledbury," "Fortunes of the Scattergood Family," and "The Marchioness of Brinvilliers"; W. H. Maxwell's "Brian O'Linn," etc., etc.

From the time that he joined the Punch staff, in 1841, the life of John Leech was one of well-earned prosperity and happiness. His income at first gradually and then rapidly increased, and he moved from the attic which he occupied in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road, into a house of his own at Notting Hill. Shortly after this he married. Miss Ann Eaton was one of those English beauties that Leech delighted to draw; and it is related of him that he first met her walking in London, and, following her home, noted the house in which she lived, ascertained her name, procured an introduction, and straightway married her. The issue of this marriage was two children—a boy and a girl. The former—John George Warrington Leech, the miniature counterpart of his father in appearance and dress, and inheriting in a marvellous degree his talent for drawing—was unfortunately drowned at South Adelaide in 1876.

Leech's hand appears for the first time in the fourth number of Punch (7th August, 1841),[8] to which he contributed the well-known full-page illustration of Foreign Affairs. His first cartoon, A Morning Call, will be found at page 119 of vol. ii., and the reader will find it worth his while to refer to it for the purpose of comparing it with the later and better work with which he afterwards enriched the pages of this famous serial, which mainly through his instrumentality was steered into the current of prosperity which carried it after a time of considerable doubt and perplexity—[9]steadily onwards. One of Punch's most celebrated contributors has borne testimony to the value of his services. "Mr. Punch," says Thackeray in reviewing his friend's contributions in 1854, "has very good reason to smile at the work and be satisfied with the artist. Mr. Leech, his chief contributor, and some kindred humourists with pencil and pen, have served Mr. Punch admirably . . . There is no blinking the fact that in Mr. Punch's cabinet John Leech is the right-hand man."[10] That this was true is proved by the fact that during his connection with Punch, extending over a period of three and twenty years, he executed no less than three thousand pictures, of which at least six hundred are cartoons.[11] No wonder that when he lay dead, Shirley Brooks—another valued contributor, and afterwards editor of Punch—mournfully acknowledged that the good ship had lost its "mainsail."[12]

The "Illuminated Magazine."Most admirable examples of his designs on wood will be found in the first three volumes of "The Illuminated Magazine," a delightful serial which appeared in 1843-4, which also contains a series of etchings on copper of unusual size and brilliancy. Associated with him on the pages of this periodical, which is now seldom met with, were his friends Thomas Hood and Mark Lemon, Douglas Jerrold and Laman Blanchard, Albert Smith and Angus Bethune Reach, Samuel Lover and Kenny Meadows. The world was young with authors and artists alike in those days; the youngest of the band were William Hepworth Dixon, then aged twenty-two; John Leech, twenty-six; and Wilkie Collins, literally not "out of his teens," one of whose earliest literary productions we find here under the title of "The Last Stage Coachman," illustrated by Hine. In these volumes appeared Douglas Jerrold's delightful allegory of the "Chronicles of Clovernook," to which the veteran Kenny Meadows contributed some of the most quaint and original of his sketches.

John Leech's portrait appears in three of the Punch sketches—two only of which are due to his own hand; the first in January,
English Caricaturists, 1893 - The Election.png

John Leech]["Illuminated Magazine.


[Face p. 286.

1846, in one wherein a servant maid is depicted as saying, "If you please, sir, here's the printer's boy called again;" again, in January, 1847, where we find him playing the clarionet as one of the orchestra at Mr. Punch's Fancy Ball. Other performers are—Mayhew, cornet; Percival Leigh, double bass; Gilbert à Beckett, violin; Richard Doyle, clarionet; Thackeray, piccolo; Tom Taylor, piano; while Mark Lemon, the conductor, appeals to Jerrold to somewhat moderate his assaults on the drum. Another hand portrays him seven years later, as armed with a porte crayon he rides his hobbyhorse at an easel which does duty for a hurdle, Jerrold is playing skittles, Thackeray holds the bat at a game of cricket, and Mark Lemon is engaged at rackets.

Douglas JerroldAmongst the early literary contributors to Punch were Mark Lemon, Horace Mayhew, Gilbert à Beckett, Stirling Coyne, W. H. Wills, H. P. Grattan, Douglas Jerrold, Percival Leigh, and Dr. Maginn. Albert Smith joined the staff through the introduction of his friend Leech; Thackeray was a later acquisition, in 1844. It was scarcely to be expected that the brilliant and the lesser wits who shed their lustre on the early volumes of Punch, and were brought together at the weekly council dinners, would invariably agree;—Jerrold and Thackeray, for instance, entertained a sort of constitutional antipathy to one another, and the latter, it must not be forgotten, was (in the words of Anthony Trollope) "still struggling to make good his footing in literature" at the time he joined the ranks of the Punch parliament. Jerrold could not veil his contempt for Albert Smith, angrily asking Leech at one of the Punch gatherings, with reference to the former's free and easy method of addressing his friend, "Leech, how long is it necessary for a man to know you before he can call you 'Jack'?" When À Beckett announced his "Comic History of England," in 1846, the strong mind of Jerrold recoiled in horror from what he deemed a sacrilege. Writing to Charles Dickens in reference to the announcement, he said, "After all, life has something serious in it. It cannot be all a Comic History of Humanity. Some men would, I believe, write the Comic Sermon on the Mount. Think of a Comic History of England! The drollery of Alfred! the fun of Sir Thomas More in the Tower! the farce of his daughter begging the dead head, and clasping it in her coffin, on her bosom! Surely the world will be sick of this blasphemy!" "The Comic History of England" appeared, notwithstanding, and was followed afterwards by the "Comic History of Rome;" and however we may sympathize with the honest indignation of Jerrold, and condemn the questionable taste of À Beckett, we have at least to thank the latter for some of the drollest and most original designs which ever emanated from the pencil of John Leech.

The eccentric and original costumes in which he draped the classical characters of Rome appear to have been a favourite idea with the artist. Shirley Brooks relates that he first made his acquaintance at a fancy ball given at the house of their mutual friend, the late John Parry. "Leech's costume," says the late editor of Punch, "I well remember. It was something like Charles Mathews, as chorus to Medea. The black trousers and patent leather boots of decorous life were below; but above was the classic tunic. Then in addition he wore a fine new hat, round which, instead of around his head, was the laurel wreath; and the Greek ideal was brought into further discomfiture by a pair of spectacles and an exceedingly neat umbrella." This comical idea will be found ridiculously amplified in his amazing designs to "The Comic History of Rome."

Albert Smith.Medical student, novelist, dramatist, humourist, and showman—for some of us still remember his diorama of "The Overland Route"—the most fortunate venture of Albert Richard Smith (to give him his full name) was his ascent of Mont Blanc, which formed the theme of a well-remembered lecture, in which his perils amid rocky pinnacle, snow-field, and glacier lost nothing by the graphic mode in which they were related. This "ascent," by the way, proved a source of profit to others besides himself; and we should be curious to know the number of Chamounix guides and hotel-keepers who were enabled through his indirect means to retire into private life. The memory of Albert Smith is deservedly cherished by the inhabitants of the distant Savoyard valley, for he made the ascent of the "Monarch of Mountains" popular among his countrymen, and thereby sowed the seed of a succession of golden harvests, of which the primitive but thoroughly wide-awake peasantry were by no means slow to profit. Dissimilar in many respects, Albert Smith and John Leech had this bond of sympathy between them, that both were old friends, and both had nominally studied for the medical profession; and whilst Leech attained at St. Bartholomew's that practical knowledge of anatomical drawing which did him such good service in his artistic career, Albert Smith at Middlesex Hospital and the Hotel Dieu appears to have picked up that intimate acquaintance with London and Parisian student life which he displays in the "Adventures of Mr. Ledbury."

The "New Monthly" for 1844 contains two etchings by Leech to "The Lord of Thoulouse" and "The Wedding Day," which seem to call for notice, because they are not to be found in the collected edition of the "Ingoldsby Legends." In the collected edition he shows us little Jack Ingoldsby before he entered the fatal cellar, while in the "New Monthly" we see him lying dead at the feet of the weird buccaneer, who points with grim irony at the little corpse by way of caveat to those who would broach his wine. From the "New Monthly" etching George Cruikshank borrowed the idea for his illustration of the same subject in the 1864 edition. There is a difference, of course, but the fact will become ridiculously patent to any one who has an opportunity of comparing the two designs. This, by the way, is not the only instance in the '64 edition in which Cruikshank borrowed his idea from John Leech,[13] which at one time he would have scorned to do, a fact which affords the strongest possible evidence of the decadence of George's once unrivalled powers of invention, imagination, and fancy.

Leech it will be remembered obtained a footing on the staff of "Bentley's Miscellany" at the time when George Cruikshank was leaving it. Cruikshank, however, was an admirer of the genius of Leech, and when they laid him in his untimely grave in Kensal Green Cemetery, on the 4th November, 1864, the veteran artist was among the crowd of distinguished men who looked sorrowfully on. The influence which George Cruikshank exercised upon the genius of Leech will be apparent to any one who has given attention to the early etchings of the latter. This influence will be particularly discernible in the illustrations to "Richard Savage" and "The Marchioness of Brinvilliers." Both were men of genius, but Leech's fancy was of a tamer kind, and little inclined him in the direction of the supernatural or the terrible. Leech, for instance, never produced anything which equalled Fagin in the Condemned Cell; The Murder of Sir Rowland Trenchard; Xit Wedded to the Scavenger's Daughter; Jack o' Lantern; or the reverie of the Triumph of Cupid. We shall find but few diabolicals in his gallery of pictorial subjects, notwithstanding which there is not a fiend in the whole of Cruikshank's demon ranks who equals Leech's devil in Thomas Ingoldsby's legend of "The House-warming."

It may seem invidious to institute a comparison between the two men. Some, indeed, may hold that a comparison is impossible; but we will quickly show that such a comparison is not only possible but unavoidable. George Cruikshank, for instance, might or might not have illustrated the "Comic Histories" of England and of Rome better than John Leech; we may fancy, however, his hand on the Surtees' novels, the odd men, the strange coats, the eccentric women, the podgy "cockhorses," the wonderful dogs that would have put in an appearance in the various sporting scenes and incidents which form the subject of these "horsey" romances; we should like, for instance, to see what he would have made of the pretty serving woman who figures in the frontispiece of "Ask Mamma;" how he would have treated the fair "de Glancey"; how he would have grouped and dressed his figures at The Handley Cross Ball; how he would have treated poor old Jorrocks when he fell into the shower bath. But, admirable as are Leech's book illustrations and etchings, it is in the minor designs which he executed for Punch during the short quarter of a century allotted to him that we must seek for Leech's genius: it is these little drawings which place him in the front rank of nineteenth century graphic satirists. They are characterized by genuine humour and satire, unalloyed with a single trace of ill-humour, exaggeration, or vulgarity. It was in this direction that the artistic instincts of poor Robert Seymour inclined him; but his imagination and invincible tendency to exaggerate, inherited from the caricaturists who preceded him, failed to bear him beyond the limited sphere of cockney sports and cockney sportsmen in which his soul delighted. Here, we have the swells and vulgarians, the flunkies and servants, the old men and maidens, the soldiers, the parsons, the pretty women of English everyday life, placed in situations more or less embarrassing, but presenting nevertheless perfect types of the respective classes thus harmlessly and admirably satirized. In this lies their chief value, and as years roll on and the Punch volumes become scarce, this value will necessarily increase.

Abhorrence for Frenchmen.A shy and unobtrusive member of the society in which he moved, and which delighted in the enjoyment of his friendship, John Leech was the keenest of observers, noting and satirizing as no one before his time had attempted, or indeed had been able to do, the cant and hypocrisy, the pride and selfishness, the upstart and arrogant exclusiveness, the insular prejudices and weaknesses, which form a part of our national character; but doing this, he loved his countrymen and countrywomen for their finer qualities, and hated the bungling foreigners who presume to caricature them without the barest knowledge of their subject. This is the secret of the hearty abhorrence which Leech always testified for Frenchmen. The ignorance of his countrymen on the subject of English women has been amusingly ridiculed by one of the most distinguished of their own writers—Eugene Sue, in his novel of "Mathilde":—"That an Englishwoman! Nonsense; there is nothing more easy to recognise than an Englishwoman; you have only to look at her dress; it is simple enough, in all conscience! A straw bonnet all the year through; a pink spencer; a Scotch plaid petticoat, and bright green or lemon-coloured boots; you may see the costume any day in Les Anglaises pour rire, at the Variétés. We all know it is a Vaudeville, and it would not be publicly acted unless it were authentic. I repeat it once more, ever since this world has been a world, Englishwomen—real genuine Englishwomen—have never been differently dressed." M. Taine, who devoted himself to the study of our language and literature, and spent much time amongst us, has (if I remember rightly) admitted the errors which prevail amongst his countrymen and women with reference to ourselves; but such observers as M. Taine and M. Sue are unfortunately rare in France, and many have essayed to depict us, with as much knowledge of their subject as our Sir John Maundeville possessed when he sat down to write his absurd but quaint and amusing "Book of Voiage and Travaile." John Leech resented this deplorable ignorance on the part of our neighbours; and the Punch volumes are filled with biting sarcasms on French habits, manners, and sentiments, which were keenly felt, because, unlike the English who figure at the Variétés or in French caricatures, in the dirty men who regard with astonishment the English washstand at the exhibition, the cabs full of hirsute monstrosities, the "Flowers of the French army," the grimy Revolutionists of Leicester Square—the hundred and one Frenchmen who figure in the satires of John Leech, the Parisian recognises compatriots whose ridiculous lineaments have been too faithfully reproduced to render identification a matter of doubt or difficulty.

Leech executed very few illustrations for Dickens; and the amusing blunder which he perpetrated in "The Battle of Life," in allowing the lady to elope with the wrong man, and the "horror and agony" of the author in consequence thereof, have been set forth in Forster's "Life." The mistake was discovered too late for correction, and remains a curious proof of the carelessness with which distinguished artists will sometimes read the manuscript of an author however illustrious.

The Surtees' novels afford singular evidence of the keenness of John Leech's critical observation. An ardent lover of sport himself,
English Caricaturists, 1893 - I Hope Mr Smug, You Don't Beat Your Boys.png

John Leech]["Illuminated Magazine.


[Face p. 292.

and a frequent attendant at the "Pytchley," when he went a day's hunting it was his custom to single out some fellow disciple of Nimrod that happened to take his fancy, keeping behind him all day, noting his attitudes in the saddle, and marking every item of his turn-out, to the last button and button-hole of his hunting coat. It was in this way that he obtained the correctness of detail which renders his famous sporting etchings so wonderfully true to nature. Strange to say, notwithstanding his knowledge of every detail of the huntsman's dress, even to the number of buttons on his coat, he himself, with reference to his own outfit, invariably presented in the hunting field a somewhat incongruous appearance. Either he would wear the wrong kind of boots, or would dispense with some detail which on the part of an enthusiast would be considered an unpardonable omission. Leech, however, was not what is called a "rough rider," his constitutional nervousness prevented him indeed from making a prominent figure in the hunting field, and his friends attributed this want of attention to detail in dress to his sensitiveness to criticism, and his unwillingness to place himself in any position which would be likely to incur it.

  1. Vol. iii., 1860.
  2. Shirley Brooks in the Illustrated London News, 19th Nov., 1864.
  3. George Rodway, 12, York Street, Covent Garden.
  4. They include also some (pirated) impressions from the designs of George Cruikshank, which set that irritable genius, as might have been expected, in a fume.
  5. Chapman & Hall, 186, Strand, 1st November, 1840.
  6. "Adventures of Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy."
  7. He subsequently returned to it for a short time only.
  8. The serial commenced 17th July, 1841.
  9. That this was the case, see Mr. Joseph Hatter's "With a Show in the North;" see also a remarkable letter of Mr. William Tegg in the Athenæum of 16th October, 1875.
  10. Thackeray in the Quarterly.
  11. I calculate that the minor drawings number about 2,500; if to these we add 638 cartoons, we get a sum total of over 3,100 illustrations for Punch alone. If we say nearly 1,000 for Mr. Surtees' sporting novels, without taking into account Leech's other work, we may form some notion of his untiring industry.
  12. MS. Diary of Shirley Brooks (October 31st, 1864).
  13. Compare, for instance, Leech's Black Mousquetaire in the original edition with Cruikshank's reproduction of the same subject in the '64 editon.