Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/418

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The terrible nature of poor Leech's sufferings will be shown by another anecdote of Dr. Mackay's. Just about this time he met Mr. F. M. Evans, one of the proprietors of Punch, and asked him how Leech was. "Very ill," was the reply; "the sufferings he endures from noise are painful to think of. I took him down into the country a little while ago to stay a week, or as much longer as he pleased, promising him that he should hear no organ-grinders there, nor railway whistles, nor firing of guns. The next morning on getting up to breakfast, I found that he had packed up his portmanteau and was ready to depart. 'I cannot stay any longer here,' he said, 'the noise drives me frantic!' 'What noise?' 'The gardener whetting his scythe. It goes through my ears like a corkscrew.' And nothing that I could say could prevail upon him to prolong his visit."

But there was no falling off in the quality of the work which Leech executed for Punch or other employers at this time; on the contrary, his drawings seemed to me marked by more than their usual excellence. Witness more especially the few etchings he lived to finish for "Mr. Facey Romford's Hounds," and the coloured etching to "Punch's Pocket Book" of the year. One of the illustrations which he designed for the 1864 edition of the "Ingoldsby Legends," and which shows us one of his stalwart servant girls drawing up the trunkless head of "St. Genulphus" from the bottom of the well, appears to me to call for special notice. I would ask the reader to observe the details of that perfectly marvellous drawing, executed with all the effect and at a fifth of the labour which George Cruikshank in his best days would have bestowed upon it. I would entreat him to mark that wicked, graceless, bald-pated old head, with its port wine nose resting on the rim of the bucket, and its wicked old eye suggestively winking unutterable things at the perplexed and astounded maiden. I would ask him to look at that drawing; to take into account the health of the genial, failing artist who designed it; and to tell me, whether in all the range of English comic art he remembers to have met with anything more intensely comical?