Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/435

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

"properties," would he a poor affair indeed. This tendency to reproduction becomes strikingly apparent wherever a romantic hero puts in an appearance. Thus, Mrs. Trollope's Charles Chesterfield in a frock coat, becomes in a tailcoat Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby; in another frock coat, Martin Chuzzlewit; while a military surtout converts him, with equal facility, into Charles Lever's Jack Hinton or Harry Lorrequer, according to the exigencies of the costume. The strange part of it is that this peculiarity is shown almost exclusively in the delineation of heroes of fiction. The imagination of the artist is evidently impressed by marked and clearly defined characters such as Squeers, Pecksniff, Gamp, Dombey, Macstinger, Quilp, or Carker, and their identity as a rule is admirably preserved. If pressed for an explanation, it is possible that Browne might have pleaded that heroes of romance present for the most part, with a few notable exceptions, a strong family likeness, being little better than dummies, introduced by their authors for the purpose of setting off personages possessed of greater force of character and decision of purpose. Be this as it may, the singular failing we refer to is certainly no mere fancy of our own. Charles Lever himself complained that in the supper scene of his second number, Lorrequer bore so striking a resemblance to his contemporary, Nicholas Nickleby; while his biographer, Mr. Fitzpatrick, observes that the identity of Harry Lorrequer is never maintained throughout the novel, that mercurial hero being alternately represented old, young, good-looking, and ugly. So much indeed was Lever impressed with the fact, that he actually besought the artist to represent O'Malley the same person throughout the book. A knowledge of Irish physiognomy was essential to any illustrator of Lever's novels, and Hablot Knight Browne was so innocent of this knowledge that the author begged him to go down to the House of Commons and study the faces of the Irish members there, as the only accessible method of obtaining the necessary insight in England.

Hypercriticism, happily, would be out of place in a work dealing with caricaturists and graphic humourists of the nineteenth century. Faults such as those the author has ventured to indicate appear to