Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/424

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While at Whity, a deputation from the Institute of that town waited on John Leech, to ask him to attend at a meeting and speak in promotion of the interests of their association. On that day he happened to be too ill to bear an interview with more than one of the gentlemen who composed the deputation, and was obliged in consequence to refuse the request. But the refusal gave the kindly, failing man serious disquietude, and fearing it might be thought ungracious, he forthwith sent for all his sketches of character from London and presented them to the Institute.

Fechter was the leading dramatic star of that time, and his opening night differed from the commencement of other theatrical seasons in the fact that it invariably attracted together some of the best known men in literature and art. At the opening of the Lyceum on Saturday, the 22nd of October, were present Messrs. Charles Dickens, Shirley Brooks, Hollingshead, Oxenford, Horace Mayhew, Edmund Yates, W. P. Frith, R.A., Creswick, R.A., Marcus Stone, Mr. Burnand (the present editor of Punch), and Serjeant Ballantine. "The new piece," said Mr. Yates, "was splendidly mounted, and never, even in Paris, have I seen Mr. Fechter play so perfectly.'[1] The said piece was called "The King's Butterfly," and Mr. Brooks says of it that, barring the "splendid scenery," it was "rubbish" pure and simple.

The Leeches left Whitby on the 3rd of October, breaking their journey at York. The artist seemed somewhat better, and ten days after their return we find them at a party at the house of Mr. W. P. Frith, R.A., among the company being Messrs. Elmore, Creswick, Yates, George Cruikshank, Solomon Hart, and others. Between the date of this party, on Thursday the 13th, and that of the usual Punch dinner, on Wednesday the 26th of October, at which the artist was present, a visible change had, however, taken place in the appearance of John Leech. Shirley Brooks afterwards had occasion to notice that at this Punch dinner he "complained of illness and pain, and I saw that it was difficult to

  1. Mr. Yates in Morning Star.