ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

ever-increasing popularity brought him. The state of his mind appears to us clearly indicated by his design of The Dying Clown, one of the last drawings which he etched for the “Pickwick Papers," and for which we must refer the reader to the original edition only; anything more truly melancholy we can scarcely imagine. Entirely appropriate to the story, it seems to tell its own tale of the morbid state of mind of the man who designed it; it is a pictorial commentary on the sad story we have attempted to tell.

A too zealous application to work has destroyed many men both of talent and genius ; it produces different effects in different individuals, according to their respective temperaments : while it drove Robert Seymour to frenzy, it killed John Leech-a man of far finer imaginative faculties—with the terrible pangs of angina pectoris. Differently endowed as they were, both belonged to the order of men so touchingly described by Manfred :

"There is an order
Of mortals on the earth, who do become
Old in their youth, and die ere middle age
Without the violence of warlike death;
Some perishing of pleasure, some of study,
Some worn with toil, some of mere weariness,
Some of disease, and some insanity,
And some of wither'd or of broken hearts;
For this last is a malady which slays
More than are numbered in the lists of fate."*

The coadjutorship of distinguished artists and authors has led to more than one strange controversy. Those who have read Forster's “ Life of Dickens ” will remember the curious claim which George Cruikshank preferred after Dickens' death to be the suggester of the story of “Oliver Twist," and the unceremonious mode in which Mr. Forster disposed of that pretension. We have referred elsewhere to the edifying controversy between George Cruikshank and Harrison Ainsworth, in relation to the origin of the latter's

[ocr errors]

novels of the “Miser's Daughter” and “ The Tower of London." The republication of Seymour's “ Humorous Sketches” in 1866, led to a very curious claim on the part of his friends, in which they sought to establish the fact that he was the originator and inventor of the incidents of “ Pickwick.” This claim happily was made while Dickens was yet alive, and was very promptly and satisfactorily disposed of by himself in a letter which he wrote to the Athenæum on the 20th of March, 1866. Author and artist have long since gone to their rest; and the plan which the author of this work proposed when he sat down to write the story of Robert Seymour, was to place that artist in the position which he believes him to occupy in the ranks of British graphic humourists, and not to rake up or revive the memory of a somewhat painful controversy. Of the claim itself we would simply remark, that not only was it made in all sincerity by those who loved and cherished the memory of Robert Seymour, but that to a certain extent the claim has a foundation of fact to rest upon; for who will deny that had not Seymour communicated his idea to Chapman, and Chapman introduced the artist to Dickens, the “Pickwick Papers” themselves would have remained unwritten. In this sense, but in this sense only, therefore, Robert Seymour was the undoubted originator of “Pickwick.” He was an artist of great power, talent, and ability; and it seems to us that those only detract from his fame who, in a kind but mistaken spirit of zeal, would claim for him any other position than that which he so justly and honestly earned for him. self, as one of the most talented of English graphic satirists.

CHAPTER XI.

THE POLITICAL SKETCHES OF HB.

The years 1830–32 were full of political trouble; men's minds were unsettled ; progress was the order of the day, and a reform in the election of the members who represented or who were supposed to represent the political opinions of the English con. stituencies was not only loudly called for, but had (as we have seen) for a very long time past been imperatively demanded. The question was shelved from time to time, but sooner or later it must be settled, and as Liberals and Conservatives alike will be amused and astounded at the state of English parliamentary representation half a century ago, we propose just to glance at matters as they existed in 1830.

The Marquis of Blandford was a somewhat notable character in those days. He had been a violent opponent of the Catholic Relief Bill; but from the moment that measure was carried had become as fiery and reckless a reformer.* On the 18th of February, 1830, he proposed that a comunittee should be chosen by ballot to take a review of all boroughs and cities in the kingdom, and report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department those among them which had fallen into decay, or had in any manner forfeited their right to representation on the principles of the English constitution as anciently recognised by national and parliamentary usage. The Home Secretary was to be bound immedi

* These political changes, as we shall presently see, are by no means uncommon. William Cobbett, for instance, in 1801 supported the principles of Pitt, but in 1805, from a “Church and King ” man, he became and continued an ardent liberal.

« 前へ次へ »