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illustrated with a truth, a grace, and a tenderness heretofore unknown to satiric art, gladly and proudly takes charge of his fame, they, whose pride in the genius of a great associate was equalled by their affection for an attached friend, would leave on record that they have known no kindlier, more refined, or more generous nature than that of him who has been thus early called to his rest.
NOVEMBER THE FOUF TH."
A BOOK ILLUSTRATOR: HABLOT KNIGHT BROII'NE.
In a work dealing with comic artists and caricaturists, one is somewhat puzzled to decide what place to assign to the distinguished draughtsman who died a year and a half ago. Ultimus Romanorum, the last of the great trio of designers, Cruikshank, Leech, and Browne, his career offers to us a singular paradox; for although not born a comic artist (as we shall endeavour presently to show), he executed a vast number of comic illustrations; and while, so far as we know, never guilty of a caricature in his life, the larger portion of his drawings are caricatures pure and simple.
We might cite a hundred examples of this tendency to exaggera. tion, but one shall suffice. In the etching wherein Miss Nickleby is introduced to her uncle's objectionable friends, Miss Nickleby as well as the “friends" are remarkable for the largeness of their heads and the flinsiness of their bodies; while the men, if not exactly like those described by Pliny, or quoted from him (without acknowledgment) by our Sir John Mandeville, are at any rate too grotesque for human beings. If humanity offers to our study in daily life a variety in form, face, and feature, comprising eccentricities as well as excellencies, such specimens, nevertheless, as poor Smike or Mr. Mantalini were never designed in its atelier.
The artist's invincible tendency to exaggeration, that is caricature (in the Johnsonian definition of the word), was observed by his friend and ally, the late Charles James Lever, who remarked with reference to his illustrations of the novel of “ Jack Hinton,” “ Browne's sketches are as usual caricatures ; they make my scenes too riotous
and disorderly. The character of my books for uproarious people and incident I owe mainly to Master Phiz.”* When Samuel Lover was sent over to Brussels by McGlashan, the publisher, to take a likeness of the novelist, he was accompanied by Browne, the object of whose visit was to confer with the author on the subject of these very illustrations. Lever was so anxious to restrain him from caricaturing his countrymen, that he even begged Browne to accompany him to Dublin for the purpose of seeing the natives, instead of the wretched specimens of Milesian humanity to be met with in London.
Another fault of this artist, which will be apparent to any one acquainted with his work, is the weakness of his outline, and the singular absence of solidity, stability, and even of vitality in his figures. There is no lack of powerful situations in Frank Smedley's novel of “Lewis Arundel,” but Browne's illustrations are characterised by an utter absence of vitality, while shadow usurps the place of substantial bone and muscle. There are the usual thread-paper men in tall hats, with trousers so tightly strapped to their feet that they must go through the tedium of existence in intolerable discomfort. In one picture he shows us a fragile, attenuated man holding another fragile, attenuated man over the well of a staircase by the waistband of his trousers, a feat which, difficult of performance to a Hercules, would be absolutely beyond the power of a person so fragile, so absolutely destitute of bone and muscle, as the hero of this particular episode.
The weakness of which we now speak becomes strikingly apparent yhen he enables us to compare him with either of the distinguished trio to which he himself belonged. Such an opportunity offers itself in Mr. R. W. Surtees' novel of “Mr. Facey Romford's Hounds.” Compare John Leech's illustration, Fresh as a Four
Year Old (the last he executed for the novelist before his firm, free hand was paralysed by death), with Hablot Knight Browne's first etching in the same book. A better subject, surely, could scarcely
• Fitzpatrick's “Life of Charles Lever."