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," 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.
- Vol. iii., 1860.