Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/434

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

have been selected: the hounds have just been let out of the kennel, and in actual life would, of course, be scampering over the place in all the exuberant consciousness of canine freedom; the scene, in fact, would be redolent of life and excitement, which is wholly wanting to Browne's illustration. "Phiz," from boyhood, had been accustomed to horses, and frequently hunted with the Surrey hounds, and to this circumstance is due the facility with which he usually delineated horses in the hunting field. In the delineation of hunting scenes, however, he falls far behind John Leech, and this inferiority is strikingly manifested in the illustration to which we are now referring. If you compare the fragile men, horses, and hounds, with those in Leech's last etching, you cannot fail to be struck with the vigour and life-like reality of the latter drawing. Browne's women as a rule are delicate, fragile, consumptive-looking creatures. The one in the etching referred to is both physically weak and a bad horsewoman to boot—sitting her horse with all the ungracefulness of a sack of flour.

Another weakness of Hablot Knight Browne is a tendency to reproduce. If you look at any of his "interiors," it will be apparent to you that the men and women—the furniture and fittings—the room itself, you have seen any number of times before. Charles Chesterfield becomes Nicholas Nickleby, and Nicholas Nickleby Harry Lorrequer; and with the slightest possible rearrangement, the scenes in which these gentlemen figure from time to time are so much alike, that we are reminded for all the world of the set scenes and artificial backgrounds of a photographer's "studio." Take "Nicholas Nickleby," by way of example: the room in which old Ralph Nickleby first finds his poor relations, does duty (with the slightest possible rearrangement) for the Yorkshire schoolmaster's room at the Saracen's Head; while a room in Kenwig's house becomes successively an apartment in Mr. Mantalini's residence, a green-room, Mr. Ralph Nickleby's office, Mr. Charles Cheeryble's room, a hairdresser's shop, and so on. The illustrations to a novel may not inaptly be compared to the scenery and characters of a drama, and a theatre furnished with such a dearth of scenery and