Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/178

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Du Maurier

based his style. 'Thackeray,' he would sometimes grimly observe, 'never had a boom!' He persisted, however, with his task, and completed the whole text of 'The Martian,' together with a portion of the illustrations, the first instalment of which, in 'Harper's Magazine,' appeared a few days after his death !

Meanwhile, his work for 'Punch' remaining constant, with the addition of his novels and their illustrations, he had tried his strength to the utmost. It was not, however, until the autumn of 1896, when he was staying with his family at his favourite resort, Whitby, that serious apprehensions were felt. In September he returned, by medical advice, to his home in London, then in Oxford Square, Hyde Park, whither he had removed from Hampstead in 1894, and he died there of inflammation of the heart on 6 Oct. 1896. His remains were cremated, and his ashes interred three days later beneath a small yew tree in the parish churchyard of Hampstead.

No artist of du Maurier's generation was more justly loved by his personal friends or had made a larger circle of unknown friends by the pleasure he had afforded every week for more than thirty years. And it is not unfair to du Maurier's undeniable literary gift to predict that on his long and remarkable connection with satiric art in the pages of 'Punch' his fame will ultimately rest. A recognised lover and follower of Thackeray, he resembled that eminent master more nearly when he used the pencil than when he used the pen. Thackeray's own definition of snobbishness, 'a mean admiration of mean things,' forms in its largest interpretation the vice or foible which du Maurier loved best to illustrate. And when, as often happened, it took the form of insolence or meanness, he could visit it with a severity that his master never exceeded. 'Cruelty,' he was fond of maintaining, 'is the one unpardonable sin.' And whenever and wherever the fashionable coteries he had in view used their position to obtain favours for nothing as, for instance, from the artistic or literary classes at the expense of their time and perhaps their feelings du Maurier would rise to the height of an indignation at times magnificent. When, in one of his drawings, the Duchess hopes that the Herr Professor's 'dear, kind wife' will spare him for one evening to dine and meet several charming ladies of rank, the Professor replies, 'Ach so! But these ladies they are then not respectable that you do not ask my wife?' as fine and just a stroke as Thackeray ever dealt. But beyond this field for his satire, no artist was ever more bountifully equipped for the work he had to do, or more versatile in his humorous outlook. His love of the beautiful was accompanied by a varied acquaintance with all the arts, notably with music, and with most of the current intellectual interests of his time ; and he possessed besides an admirable vein of grotesque imagination. The two pictorial series of 'Dreams' or 'Nightmares' in the 'Punch's Almanacks' for 1893 and 1894, as also his French nursery rhymes ('Vers Nonsensiques'), are delightful samples of droll invention. Du Maurier had indeed many sides to his talent, which a too exclusive devotion to the humours of society hindered him from cultivating. Especially may this be said of his real gift for poetry, which he wrote with equal skill in French and English. His ear for the harmonies of English verse had been trained on the best models, as the few specimens scattered through his writings abundantly prove. Although an imitator of no man, his 'Vers de Société—for he did not aim at more ambitious heights—show the mingled grace, humour, and tenderness of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Du Maurier left a wife and two sons and three daughters. His elder son is Major Guy du Maurier of the royal fusiliers.

[Information from du Maurier's family and friends, notably among the latter from Mr. Thomas Armstrong, C.B. ; Spielmann's History of Punch; McClure's Magazine, April 1895; personal knowledge.]

A. A.

DUNCAN, FRANCIS (1836–1888), colonel, born at Aberdeen on 4 April 1836, was the eldest son of John Duncan, advocate, by Helen Drysdale, daughter of Andrew Douglass of Berwick-on-Tweed. His father took a leading part in the Marnock secession of 1841, a step in the disruption of the church of Scotland.

He was educated at Aberdeen grammar school, and graduated M.A. at Marischal College in March 1855, being honourably distinguished. He obtained a commission as lieutenant in the royal artillery on 24 Sept. 1855, being third in the list of successful candidates at the first open examination. He served in Nova Scotia and Canada from 1857 to 1862, and accompanied the force sent to the frontier at the time of the Trent affair. He was promoted captain on 10 Aug. 1864, and was made adjutant of the 7th brigade. In 1871 he was appointed superintendent of regimental records at Woolwich, and this led him to undertake his history of the royal artillery, which he carried down to 1815. He had great powers of work, and had the faculty of writing