Abbildungen der Seite

caper in that way, and box and drink at Tom Cribu's, and knock down watchmen; and the children of to-day, turning to their elders, may say

• Grandmamina, did you wear such a dress as that, when you danced at Almack's? There was very little of it, grandmamma. Did grandpa pa kill many watchmen when he was a young man, and frequent thieves' ginshops, cock-tights, and the ring, before you married him? Did he use to talk the extraordinary slang and jargon which is printed in this book? He is very much changed. He seems a gentlemanly old boy enough now."

In the above-named consulate, when we had grandfathers alive, there would be in the old gentleman's library in the country two or three old mottled portfolios, or great swollen scrap-books of blue paper, full of the comic prints of grandpapa's time, ere Plancus ever had the fasces borne before him. These prints were signed Gilray, Bunbury, Rowlandson, Woodward, and some actually George Cruikshank — for George is a veteran now, and he took the etching needle in hand as a child. He caricatured on • Boney,” borrowing not a little from Gilray in his first puerile efforts. He drew Louis XVIII. trying on Boney's boots. Before the century was actually in its teens we believe that George Cruikshank was amusing the public.

In those great colored prints in our grandfathers' portfolios in the library, and in some other apartments of the house, where the caricatures used to be pasted in those days, we found things quite beyond our comprehension. Boney was represented as a fierce dwarf, with goggle eyes, a huge laced hat and tricolored plume, a crooked sabre, reeking with blood : a little demon revelling in lust, murder, massacre. John Bull was shown kicking him a good deal : indeed he was prodigiously kicked all through that series of pictures ; by Sidney Smith and our brave allies the gallant Turks ; by the excellent and patriotic Spaniarols; by the amiable and indig. nant Russians, all nations had boots at the service of poor Master Boney. How Pitt used to dety him! How good old George, King of Brobdingn:g, laughed at Gulliver-Boney, sailing about in his tank to make sport for their Majesties! This little

end, this beggar's brat, cowardly, murderous, and as he was (we remember, in those old portfolios, pictures representing Boney and his family in rags, gnawing raw bones in a Corsican hut; Boney murdering the sick at Jaffa ; Boney with a hookah and a large turban, having adopted the Turkish religion, &c.) — this Corsican monster, nevertheless, had some

devoted friends in England, according to the Gilray chronicle, - a set of villains who loved atheism, tyranny, plunder, and wickedness in general, like their French friend. In the pictures these men were all represented as dwarfs, like their ally. The miscreants got into power at one time, and, if we remember right, were called the Broad-backed Administration. One with shaggy eyebrows and a bristly beard, the hirsute ringleader of the rascals, was, it appears, called Charles James Fox; another miscreant, with a blotched countenance, was a certain Sheridan ; other imps were hight Erskine, Norfolk (Jockey of), Moira, Henry Petty. As in our childish innocence we used to look at these demons, now sprawling and tipsy in their cups ; now scaling heaven, from which the angelic Pitt hurled them down ; now cursing the light (their atrocious ringleader Fox was represented with hairy cloven feet, and a tail and horns) ; now kissing Boney's boot, but inevitably discomfited by Pitt and the other good angels: we hated these vicious wretches, as good children should; we were on the side of Virtue and Pitt and Grandpapa. But if our sisters wanted to look at the portfolios, the good old grandfather used to hesitate. There were some prints among them very odd indeed; some that girls could not understand ; some that boys, indeed, had best not see. We swiftly turn over those prohibited pages. How many of them there were in the wild, coarse, reckless, ribald, generous book of old English humor!

How savage the satire was - how fierce the assault - what garbage hurled at opponents — what foul blows were hit what language of Billingsgate flung! Fancy a party in a country-house now looking over Woodward's facetiæ or some of the Gilray comicalities, or the slatternly Saturnalia of Rowlandson! Whilst we live we must laugh, and have folks to make as laugh. We cannot afford to lose Satyr with his pipe and dances and gambols. But we have washed, combed, clothed, and taught the rogue good manners : or rather, let us say, he has learned them himself; for he is of nature soft and kindly, and he has put aside his mad pranks and tipsy habits ; and, frolicsome always, has become gentle and harmless, smitten into sbame hy the pure presence of our women and the sweet confiding smiles of our children. Among the veterans, the old pictorial satirists, we have mentioned the famous name of one humorous designer who is still alive and at work. Did we not see, by his own hand, his own portrait of his own famous face, and whiskers, in the Illustrated London News the other day? There was a print in that paper of an assemblage of Teetotal

ers in 6 Sadler's Wells Theatre," and we straightway recog. nized the old Roman hand the old Roman's of the time of Plancus — George Cruikshank's. There were the old bonnets and droll faces and shoes, and short trousers, and figures of 1820 sure enough. And there was George (who has taken to the water-doctrine, as all the world knows) handing some teetotal eresses over a plank to the table where the pledge was being administered. How often has George drawn that picture of Cruikshank! Where haven't we seen it? How fine it was, facing the effigy of Mr. Ainsworth in Ainsworth's Magazine when George illustrated that periodical! How grand and severe he stands in that design in G. C.'s “Omnibus," where he represents himself tonged like St. Dunstan, and tweaking a wretch of a publisher by the nose ! The collectors of George's etchings -oh the charming etchings ! -- oh the dear old " German Popular Tales !” — the capital “ Points of llumor" - the delightful - Phrenology" and "Scrap-books,” of the good time, our time — Plancus's in fact ! the collectors of the Georgian ctchings, we say, have at least a hundred pictures of the artist

. Why, we remember him in his favorite Ilessian boots in Tom and Jerry" itself; and in woodcuts as far back as the Queen's trial. The has rather deserted satire and comedy of late years, having turned his attention to the serious, and warlike, and sublime. Having confessed our age and prejudices, we prefer the comic and fanciful to the historic, romantic, and at present didactic George. May respect, and length of days, and comfortable repose attend the brave, honest, kindly, pure-minded artist, humorist, moralist! It was he first who brought Eng. lish pictorial humor and children acquainted. Our young people and their fathers and mothers owe him many a pleasant hour and harmless laugh. Is there no way in which the country could acknowledge the long services and brave career of such a friend and benefactor?

Since George's time humor has been converted. Coinus and his wicked satyrs and leering fauns have disappeared, and fled into the lowest haunts; and Comus's lady (if she had a taste for humor, which may be doubted) might take up our funny picture-books without the slightest precautionary squeam. ishness. What can be purer than the charming fancies of Richard Doyle? In all Mr. Punch's huge galleries can't we walk as safely as through Miss Pinkerton's schoolrooms? And as we look at Mr. Punch's pictures, at the Illustrated News pictures, at all the pictures in the book-shop windows at this Christmas season, as oldsters, we feel a certain pang of envy

against the youngsters — they are too well off. Why hadn't we picture-books? Why were we flogged so? A plague on the lictors and their rods in the time of Plancus!

And now, after this rambling preface, we are arrived at the subject in hand - Mr. John Leech and his “ Pictures of Life and Character,” in the collection of Mr. Punch. This book is better than plum-cake at Christmas. It is an enduring plum-cake, which you may eat and which you may slice and deliver to your friends; and to which, having cut it, you may come again and Welcome, from year's end to year's end. In the frontispiece you see Mr. Punch examining the pictures in his gallery — a portly, well-dressed, middle-aged, respectable gentleman, in a white neck-cloth, and a polite evening costume siniling in a rery bland and agreeable manner upon one of his pleasant drawings, taken out of one of his handsome portfolios. Mr. Punch has very good reason to smile at the work and be satisfied with the artist. Mr. Leech, his chief contributor, and some kindred humorists, with pencil and pen have served Mr. Punch admirably. Time was, if we remember Mr. P.'s history rightly, that he did not wear silk stockings nor well-made clothes (the little dorsal irregularity in his figure is almost an ornament now, so excellent a tailor has he). Ile was of humble beginnings. It is said he kept a ragged little booth, which he put up at corners of streets ; associated with beadles, policemen, bis own ugly wife (whom he treated most scandalously), and persons in a low station of life; earning a precarious livelihood by the cracking of wild jokes, the singing of ribald songs, and halfpence extorted from passers-by. He is the Satyric genius we spoke of anon : he cracks his jokes still, for satire must live; but he is combed, washed, neatly clothed, and perfectly presentable. He goes into the very best company; he keeps a stud at Melton; he has a moor in Scotland ; he rides in the Park; has his stall at the Opera ; is constantly dining out at clubs and in private society ; and goes every night in the season to balls and parties, where you see the most beautiful women possible. He is welcomed amongst his new friends the great; though, like the good old English gentleman of the song, he does not forget the small. He pats the heads of street boys and girls; relishes the jokes of Jack the costermonger and Bob the dustman; good-naturedly spies out Molly the cook flirting with policeman X, or Mary the nursemaid as she listens to the fascinating guardsman. He used rather to laugh at guardsmen, “plungers," and other military men ; and was until latter days very contemptuous in his behavior towards Frenchmen. He has

a natural antipathy to pomp, and swagger, and fierce demeanor. But now that the guardsmen are gone to war, and the dandies of " The Rag” — dandies no more are battling like heroes at Balaklava and Inkermann * by the side of their heroic allies, Mr. Punch's laughter is changed to hearty respect and enthusiasm. It is not against courage and honor he wars: but this great moralist - must it be owned? — has some popular British prejudices, and these led him in peace time to laugh at soldiers and Frenchmen. If those hulking footmen who accompanied the carriages to the opening of Parliament the other day, would form a plush brigade, wear only gunpowder in their hair, and strike with their great canes on the enemy, Mr. Punch would leave off laughing at Jeames, who meanwhile remains among us, to all outward appearance regardless of satire, and calmly consuming his five meals per diem. Against lawyers, beadles, bishops and clergy, and authorities, Mr. Punch is still rather bitter. At the time of the Papal aggression he was prodigiously angry; and one of the chief misfortunes which happened to him at that period was that, through the violent opinions which he expressed regarding the Roman Catholic hierarchy, he lost the invaluable services, the graceful pencil, the harmless wit, the charming fancy of Mr. Doyle. Another member of Mr. Punch's cabinet, the biographer of Jeames, the author of the “Snob Papers," resigned his functions on account of Mr. Punch's assaults upon the present Emperor of the French nation, whose anger Jeames thought it was unpatriotic to arouse. Mr. Punch parted with these contributors : he filled their places with others as good. The boys at the railroad stations cried Punch just as cheerily, and sold just as many numbers, after these events as before.

There is no blinking the fact that in Mr. Punch's cabinet John Leech is the right-hand man. Fancy a number of Punch without Leech's pictures! What would you give for it? The learned gentlemen who write the work must feel that, without him, it were as well left alone. Look at the rivals whom the popularity of Punch has brought into the field; the direct imitators of Mr. Leech's manner — the artists with a manner of their own — how inferior their pencils are to his in humor, in depicting the public manners, in arresting, amusing the bation. The truth, the strength, the free vigor, the kind humor, the John Bull pluck and spirit of that hand are approached by no competitor. With what dexterity he draws a horse, a woman, a child! He feels them all, so to speak, like a man.

* This was written in 1854.

« ZurückWeiter »