« 前へ次へ »
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 “sudio." Take “Nicholas Nickleby,” by way of example: the room' ich old Ralph Nickleby first finds his poor relations, does you vith 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
"properties,” would be 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
him faults indeed of a grave character ; but, while conscious of defects which cannot fail to be. patent to the most ordinary observer, he is conscious at the same time of the great abilities of the artist, who like those of whom he has already treated, has passed over to the ranks of “ the great majority." If the scenery and properties are sometimes poor,- if there is no genius, and oftentimes a lack of decision and reality, there is on the other hand no lack of talent ; and there are many designs of Hablot Knight Browne which place him in the very first rank of English book illustrators. His etching of The Goblin and the Sexton (the eccentric yew-tree notwithstanding), Mr. Pickwick in the Pound, and the very admirable little etchings which we find in that rare Paper of Tobucco by “ Joseph Fume,” may be favourably compared with some of the best comic illustrations of George Cruikshank himself.
Can any picture tell its story better than that first illustration to “Nicholas Nickleby,” where old Ralph pays his "visit to his poor relations”? Mark the supercilious air with which the vulgar moneylender hands his hat to Nicholas, and the unveiled contempt with which he receives the attentions of poor Mrs. Nickleby and her daughter. A no less admirable illustration is the one wherein we see the Yorkshire schoolmaster nibbing his pen, whilst Snawley consigns his wretched step-sons to the tender mercies of the principal of Do-the-boys Hall. Observe the extraordinary anatomical proportions, hat and toggery, of Mr. Newman Noggs, as he stretches up to the top of the coach to hand a letter to Nicholas. Regard the nightcap and head-gear of the detestable Mrs. Squeers, as she administers matutinal brimstone and treacle to the starving pupils of Do-the-boys Hall. Mark the astonishment of Squeers and his victim, as the savage goes down under the thundering blows of Nickleby's cane. Look a: the old imbecile declaring his passion for the foolish Mrs. Nickleby. Behold his knee-breeches and shorts protruding from the chimney, when his benighted intellect prompted him, at the imminent hazard of strangulation, to pay a visit to the object of his affections via that unusually circuitous route. Look at the fatal brawl between Sir Mulberry Hawk and his hopeful pupil; and rejoice at the final retributive