Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/188

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Sala 176 Sala

ferred him, at the age of fourteen, to the studio of Carl Schiller, a miniature-painter in Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Square. But he was soon withdrawn, and at fifteen—in 1843—was finally thrown upon his own resources. He was already a capable draughtsman and an insatiable reader. Some precarious employment as a clerk was followed by an engagement to draw railway plans during the railway mania of 1845. His mother and brother then introduced him to the green-room of the Princess's Theatre, where they were professionally engaged, and William Roxby Beverley, the scene-painter there, gave him occasional work. In 1848 he followed Beverley to the Lyceum Theatre, and painted some scenery for Charles Mathews and Madame Vestris. His sociable temper and artistic promise recommended him to the authors and artists who frequented the theatre. About 1847 he drew the illustrations for Alfred Bunn's ‘Word with Punch.’ In 1848 Albert Smith commissioned him to illustrate his comic volume, ‘The Man in the Moon.’ Thus encouraged, he taught himself to etch, and afterwards took lessons in engraving. He came to know George Cruikshank (at whose funeral, in 1878, he acted as a pall-bearer) and Hablot K. Browne—‘Phiz.’ It was his ambition to follow in their footsteps. In 1850 Ackermann issued for him his first publication, a comic illustrated guidebook for continental tourists, entitled ‘Practical Exposition of J. M. W. Turner's Picture, Hail, Rain, Steam, and Speed.’ It was successful enough to induce the publisher to issue later in the year, in view of the agitation against the so-called papal aggression, a panorama by Sala, entitled ‘No Popery.’ Next year Sala drew four large lithographic plates dealing with the Great Exhibition. In 1852 he prepared, with Alken, views in aquatint of the Duke of Wellington's funeral.

Sala had already made some efforts in literature, and their reception encouraged him to seek another road to fortune. In 1848 he sent articles to a struggling weekly paper called ‘Chat.’ They were eagerly accepted, and he was appointed editor at a beggarly salary. In 1851 a promising opportunity offered itself. Charles Dickens accepted from him an amusing article, called ‘The Key of the Street,’ for ‘Household Words.’ From that year till 1856 he regularly wrote for that periodical an essay or story each week. His contributions exhibited unusual powers of observation, familiarity with many phases of low life, multifarious reading, capacity for genial satire, and at times a vein of sentiment imitated from Dickens. Thenceforth his energies were absorbed in literature or journalism. His convivial tendencies and the attractions that bohemian haunts offered him at first somewhat imperilled his progress, but his ambition and powers of work finally enabled him to resist temptation, and he found in ordinary club life all the recreation he required. He took a chief part in founding the Savage Club in 1857, and was soon admitted to other clubs of older standing.

Dickens was the first to test Sala's capacity as ‘a special correspondent.’ In April 1856, at the close of the Crimean war, Dickens sent him to Russia to write descriptive articles for ‘Household Words.’ He remained abroad till September, when Dickens's refusal to permit the articles to be published in volume form temporarily interrupted Sala's good relations with his editor. In 1858 a reconciliation took place, Sala renewed his connection with ‘Household Words,’ and the articles on Russia were issued separately as ‘A Journey Due North.’ In the same year Dickens inaugurated a new magazine, ‘All the Year Round,’ in which Sala was also a frequent writer. The papers he contributed to these periodicals he collected from time to time in volumes with such titles as ‘Gaslight and Daylight, and the London Scenes they shine upon’ (1859); ‘Lady Chesterfield's Letters to her Daughter’ (1860); ‘Breakfast in Bed, or Philosophy between the Sheets’ (1863). In 1863 a novel by him, ‘Quite Alone,’ appeared serially in ‘All the Year Round.’

Meanwhile other ventures divided his attention and extended his literary connections. Essays which he sent to a short-lived serial, called ‘The Comic Times,’ led to a lifelong friendship with the editor and proprietor, Edmund Yates [q. v.] In January 1856 the two men projected a new monthly magazine, called ‘The Train,’ which did not long survive. To the ‘Illustrated Times,’ which was established by Henry Vizetelly [q. v.] in July 1855, Sala contributed his earliest attempt at novel-writing—‘The Baddington Peerage: a story of the best and worst society.’ This was illustrated by ‘Phiz,’ and published in three volumes in 1860. Of another periodical, ‘The Welcome Guest,’ initiated by Vizetelly in 1858, he acted for a short time as editor. In its pages appeared the most successful of all his social sketches, the series entitled ‘Twice round the Clock, or the Hours of the Day and Night in London,’ which was published separately in 1859. In 1860 he, in succession to Peter Cunningham (1816–1869) [q. v.], began to contribute, at a salary of 250l. a