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A CURIOUS DEFINITION OF “GENIUS.”
sporting paper, supported by some high and mighty nobs ; but I fear, like everything I have to do with, now a-days, it will collapse, for some of the proprietors of the paper are also shareholders, etc., etc., in the Graphotype Company, so they want to work the two together. I hate the process ; it takes quite four times as long as wood, and I cannot draw and express myself with a nasty, finicking brush, and the result when printed seems to alternate between something all as black as my hat, or as hazy and faint as a worn-out plate. If on wood, I should like it well enough ; as it is it spoils four days a week, leaving little time for anything else. Oh! I'm aweary, I'm aweary of this illustration business.”* This seems to us inexpressibly sad. We hear nothing of it in earlier days, when he was drawing the excellent designs for “Roland Cashel,” for “Dombey," or for “Bleak House."
Of the works and sketches in water colour and oils exhibited in Liverpool after the artist's death, personally we have seen nothing. They took the public by surprise, for few at least of the outer world suspected that this shy, retiring illustrator of books was a persevering and accomplished water-colour artist. We ourselves were aware of the fact, arid had seen some thirty original and highly characteristic sketches, some of them studies of characters in novels of Charles Dickens and Lever ; all executed prior to 1846, some in Indian ink, some in crayon, a few in pencil. Among them was a small but highly finished water-colour drawing, representing a group of seven knights in full martial panoply, and a striking effect is produced by the glint of the sun on the burnished armour of the central figure. The author of a recent sketch would cite these water colours as a complete answer to those who like ourselves maintain, in no mere spirit of detraction, that the artist possessed not one particle of genius. Surely he cannot be in earnest. If so, we have only to say, that if painting subjects in oils or water colour from the thousand and one hints to be gathered from history, fiction, or every-day life, be a test of genius, the walls of every summer and winter exhibition—to say
• Mr. Kitton's " Memoir,” p. 19.
nothing of the Royal Academy-would be furnished annually with examples from end to end.
Leech died in the meridian of his fame at the early age of fortysix. Hablot Browne when he died had not only survived his talents, but his peculiarly shy and retiring nature had caused him at the age of sixty-seven to be absolutely forgotten. The famous men of letters whose works he had illustrated were dead and gone ; the world of literature and of art took such small note of him that his funeral was the funeral of a private individual, and not of one who, if he did not partake in, had contributed in no considerable degree to the success of Charles Dickens and of Charles James Lever. When his passingbell rang out upon the summer air, journalists remembered that a great artist was gone to his rest, and Punch inserted in his number of the 22nd of July, 1882, to the memory of the last of the book etchers of the nineteenth century the following graceful tribute :
“The lamp is out that lighted up the text
Of Dickens, Lever-heroes of the pen.
We place the man who made us see such men.
Stern Mr. Dombey, or Uriah Heap?
Outliving their creators-all asleep.
Who gave us troops of friends-delightful Phiz.
" He is not dead! There, in the picture-book,
He lives with men and women that he drew;
Where old companions we can love anew.
Lived with dear Peggotty in after years ;
At Dora's death we felt poor David's tears.
The spirit of an unclosed book! immortal Phiz :"
A BATCH OF BOOK ILLUSTRATORS:
KENNY MEADOWS; ROBERT WILLIAM BUSS; ALFRED CROW.
QUILL; CHARLES H. BENNETT; W. M. THACKERAY.
In old and second-hand bookshops, and in booksellers' catalogues, may often be found a book which is gradually becoming a literary rarity. It dates from 1840, and is a curiosity in its way, not only on account of the “portraits ” which adorn its pages, but as a specimen of the literary padding on which men of letters (some of them distinguished) were content to employ their talents fifty years ago. It was published by Robert Tyas, of 50, Cheapside; professed to give “Portraits of the English” of the period, but served as a means of introducing certain characteristic pictorial sketches, more or less true to nature, by Kenny Meadows, an artist whose name and reputation, although he has been dead scarcely ten years, are already forgotten. Connected with these portraits are "original essays by distinguished writers,” including, amid names of lesser note, literary stars such as Douglas Jerrold, Leman Rede, Percival Leigh, Laman Blanchard, Leigh Hunt, William Howitt, and Samuel Lover. These essays, or rather letterpress descriptions, were written to the pictures, which were not drawn (as is generally supposed) in illustration of the text. The portraits are taken from almost every grade in life : from the dressmaker to the draper's assistant, and from the housekeeper to the hangman ; the last, by the way, being perhaps the most characteristic sketch of the series. The best of these forty-three “ pictures” is the one which faces the title-page, a gathering of the company which individually take part in this “gallery of illustration.” The designs are characteristic of the artist's style, but possess little power of attraction, being destitute of any claim to originality either of conception or treatment. The artist's share of the work is by far the best part of the somewhat lugubrious entertainment, which the performances of his literary associates scarcely serve to enliven. The book, however, was a success in its day, for, if we mistake not, it was followed by a second series, is even now sought after by the "collector” (not bibliomaniac), and possesses some historical value by reason of the fact that national types, such as The Diner-out, The Stockbroker, The Lion of the Party, The Fashionable Physician (that is to say, of 1840), The Linen Draper's Assistant, The Barmaid, The Family Governess, The Postman, The Theatrical Manager, The Farmer's Daughter, and The Young Lord, no longer live and move and act their part amongst us. A change comes over the people in the course of forty years, and some years hence our grandchildren may well smile at the extraordinary monstrosities (female) who figure in the graphic satires of 1883-4.
Kenny Meadows was the son of a retired naval officer, and was born at Cardigan on the first of November, 1790. You will look in vain for any notice of him, or of his services in the cause of illustrative art, in any of the biographical dictionaries of his own or a subsequent period; and this appears to us an unaccountable omission, for he achieved in his time considerable celebrity as an artistic illustrator of books. His work will be found bound up with that of most of his artistic confrères in nearly all the illustrated periodicals of his day; he was one of the first to introduce woodengraving among English publishers as a means of cheap and popular illustration; he was employed by the late Mr. Ingram, in the designs for the early Christmas numbers of the Illustrated London News; he will be found amongst the number of the artists who illustrated the early volumes of Punch; he was in universal request as a designer of drawings to fairy and fanciful stories ;