CONFESSIONS OF A CARICATURIST
NEW YORK AND LONDON:
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.
BRADBURY, AGNEW, & CO. LD., PRINTERS
LONDON AND TONBRIDGE.
[All rights reserved.]
If, in these volumes, I have made some joke at a friend's expense, let that friend take it in the spirit intended, and—I apologise beforehand.
In America apology in journalism is unknown. The exception is the well-known story of the man whose death was published in the obituary column. He rushed into the office of the paper and cried out to the editor:
"Look here, sur, what do you mean by this? You have published two columns and a half of my obituary, and here I am as large as life!"
The editor looked up and coolly said, "Sur, I am vury sorry, I reckon there is a mistake some place, but it kean't be helped. You are killed by the Jersey Eagle, you are to the world buried. We nevur correct anything, and we nevur apologise in Amurrican papers."
"That won't do for me, sur. My wife's in tears; my friends are laughing at me; my business will be ruined,—you must apologise."
"No, si—ree, an Amurrican editor nevur apologises."
"Well, sur, I'll take the law on you right away. I'm off to my attorney."
"Wait one minute, sur—just one minute. You are a re-nowned and popular citizen: the Jersey Eagle has killed you—for that I am vury, vury sorry, and to show you my respect I will to-morrow find room for you—in the births column."
Now do not let any editor imagine these pages are my professional obituary,—my autobiography. If by mistake he does, then let him place me immediately in their births column. I am in my forties, and there is quite time for me to prepare and publish two more volumes of my "Confessions" from my first to my second birth, and many other things, before I am fifty.
[The Author begs to acknowledge his indebtedness to the Proprietors and the Editor of Punch, the Proprietors of the Magazine of Art, the Graphic, the Illustrated London News, English Illustrated Magazine, Cornhill Magazine, Harper's Magazine, Westminster Gazette, St. James' Gazette, the British Weekly and the Sporting Times for their kindness in allowing him to reproduce extracts and pictures in these volumes.]
CONFESSIONS OF MY CHILDHOOD—AND AFTER.
Introductory—Birth and Parentage—The Cause of my remaining a Caricaturist—The Schoolboys' Punch—Infant Prodigies—As a Student—I Start in Life—Zozimus—The Sullivan Brothers—Pigott—The Forger—The Irish "Pathriot"—Wood Engraving—Tom Taylor—The Wild West—Judy—Behind the Scenes—Titiens—My First and Last Appearance in a Play—My Journey to London—My Companion—A Coincidence pp. 1-29
I arrive in London—A Rogue and Vagabond—Two Ladies—Letters of Introduction—Bohemia—A Distinguished Member—My Double—A Rara Avis—The Duke of Broadacres—The Savages—A Souvenir—Portraits of the Past—J. L. Toole—Art and Artists—Sir Spencer Wells—John Pettie—Milton's Garden pp. 30-53
MY CONFESSIONS AS A SPECIAL ARTIST.
The Light Brigade—Miss Thompson (Lady Butler)—Slumming—The Boat Race—Realism—A Phantasmagoria—Orlando and the Caitiff—Fancy Dress Balls—Lewis Wingfield—Cinderella—A Model—All Night Sitting—An Impromptu Easel—"Where there's a Will there's a Way"—The American Sunday Papers—I am Deaf—The Grill—The World's Fair—Exaggeration—Personally Conducted—The Charnel House—10, Downing Street—I attend a Cabinet Council—An Illustration by Mr. Labouchere—The Great Lincolnshire Trial—Praying without Prejudice pp. 54-87
THE CONFESSIONS OF AN ILLUSTRATOR—A SERIOUS CHAPTER.
Drawing—"Hieroglyphics"—Clerical Portraiture—A Commission from General Booth—In Search of Truth—Sir Walter Besant—James Payn—Why Theodore Hook was Melancholy—"Off with his Head"—Reformers' Tree—Happy Thoughts—Christmas Story—Lewis Carroll—The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—Sir John Tenniel—The Challenge—Seven Years' Labour—A Puzzle MS.—Dodgson on Dress—Carroll on Drawing—Sylvie and Bruno—A Composite Picture—My Real Models—I am very Eccentric—My "Romps"—A Letter from du Maurier—Caldecott—Tableaux—Fine Feathers—Models—Fred Barnard—The Haystack—A Wicket Keeper—A Fair Sitter—Neighbours—The Post Office Jumble—Puzzling the Postmen—Writing Backwards—A Coincidence pp. 88-130
A CHAT BETWEEN MY PEN AND PENCIL.
What is Caricature?—Interviewing—Catching Caricatures—Pellegrini—The "Ha! Ha!"—Black and White v. Paint—How to make a Caricature—M.P.'s—My System—Mr. Labouchere's Attitude—Do the Subjects Object?—Colour in Caricature—Caught!—A Pocket Caricature—The Danger of the Shirt-cuff—The Danger of a Marble Table—Quick Change—Advice to those about to Caricature pp. 131—153
Gladstone and Disraeli—A Contrast—An unauthenticated Incident—Lord Beaconsfield's last Visit to the House of Commons—My Serious Sketch—Historical—Mr. Gladstone—His Portraits—What he thought of the Artists—Sir J. E. Millais—Frank Holl—The Despatch Boxes—Impressions—Disraeli—Dan O'Connell—Procedure—American Wit—Toys—Wine—Pressure—Sandwich Soiree—The G.O.M. dines with "Toby, M.P."—Walking—Quivering—My Desk—An Interview—Political Caricaturists—Signature in Sycamore—Scenes in the Commons—Joseph Gillis Biggar—My Double—Scenes—Divisions—Puck—Sir R. Temple—Charles Stewart Parnell—A Study—Quick Changes—His Fall—Room 15—The last Time I saw him—Lord Randolph Churchill—His Youth—His Height—His Fickleness—His Hair—His Health—His Fall—Lord Iddesleigh—Sir Stafford and Mr. Gladstone—Bradlaugh—His Youth—His Parents—His Tactics—His Fight—His Extinction—John Bright—Jacob Bright—Sir Isaac Holden—Lord Derby—A Political Prophecy—A Lucky Guess—My Confession in the Times—The Joke that Failed—The Seer—Fair Play—I deny being a Conservative—I am Encouraged—Chaff—Reprimanded—Misprinted—Misunderstood pp. 154—214
Two Punch Editors—Punch's Hump—My First Punch Dinner—Charles Keene—"Robert"—W. H. Bradbury—du Maurier—"Kiki"—A Trip to the Place of his Birth—He Hates Me—A Practical Joke—du Maurier's Strange Model—No Sportsman—Tea—Appollinaris—My First Contribution—My Record—Parliament—Press Gallery Official—I Feel Small—The "Black Beetle"—Professor Rogers—Sergeant-at-Arms' Room—Styles of Work—Privileges—Dr. Percy—I Sit in the Table—The Villain of Art—The New Cabinet—Criticism—Punch's Historical Cartoons—Darwen MacNeill—Scenes in the Lobby—A Technical Assault—John Burns's "Invention"—John Burns's Promise—John Burns's Insult—The Lay of Swift MacNeill—The Truth—Sir Frank Lockwood—"Grand Cross"—Lockwood's Little Sketch—Lockwood's Little Joke in the House—Lockwood's Little Joke at Dinner—Lewis Carroll and Punch—Gladstone's Head—Sir William's Portrait—Ciphers—Reversion—Punch at Play—Three Punch Men in a Boat—Squaring up—Two Pins Club—Its One Joke—Its One Horse—Its Mystery—Artistic Duties—Lord Russell—Furious Riding—Before the Beak—Burnand and I in the Saddle—Caricaturing Pictures for Punch—Art under Glass—Arthur Cecil—My Other Eye—The Ridicule that Kills—Red Tape—Punch in Prison—I make a Mess of it—Waterproof—"I used your Soap two years ago"—Charles Keene—Charles Barber—Punch's Advice—Punch's Wives pp. 215—302
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
PAGE My Caricature of Mr. Gladstone Frontispiece
Initial "In." Writing my Confessions. A Visitor's Snapshot 1
My Mother 3
My Father 5
Harry Furniss, aged 10 6
A Caricature, made when a Boy (never published). Dublin Exhibition. Portrait of Sir A. Guinness (now Lord Iveagh) in centre 11
An Early Illustration on Wood by Harry Furniss. Partly Engraved by him. 16
Sketches in Galway 19
"Judy," the Galway Dwarf 23
Phelps, the first Actor I saw 24
Mrs. Hardcastle. Mr. Harry Furniss. From an Early Sketch 25
Caricature of Myself, drawn when I first arrived in London 30
Age 20 35
A successful "Make-Up" 36
Two Travellers 38
The Duke of "Broadacres" 40
Savage Club House Dinner. From a Sketch by Herbert Johnson 41
The Earl of Dunraven as a Savage 42
"Another Gap in Our Ranks" 43
H. J. Byron 44
A Presentation 45
Savage Club. My Design for the Menu, 25th Anniversary Dinner 47
Letter from Sir Spencer Wells 51
Distress in the Black Country 54
At the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race 55
As Special at the Balaclava Celebration 57
Distress in the North 59
"The Caitiff" and Orlando 62
An Invitation 63
At a Fancy Dress Ball 65
Lewis Wingfield as a Street Nigger Home from the Derby 67
"The Liberal Candidate" 68
Sketches at the Liverpool Election: A Ward Meeting 69
My Easel. Drawing Mr. Gladstone at a Public Meeting 71
The American Sunday Papers 72
Major Handy 74
The World's Fair, Chicago. A "Special's" Visit 75
"On dashed the Horses in their wild Career" 77
Initial "A" 79
The Charnel-House. Chicago World's Fair 80
Initial "London" 83
The Bishop of Lincoln's Trial 85
Initial "If" 88
Majuba Hill 89
Canon Liddon. A Sketch from Life 92
Letter from Sir Walter Besant 94
The Late Sir Walter Besant 95
The "Jetty" 95
Illustration for "The Talk of the Town" 96
"That's just what I have done!" 98
Specimen of James Payn's Writing 99
The Typical Lovers in Illustrated Novels 100
Initial "T" 101
Instructions in a Letter from Lewis Carroll 103
Specimen of Lewis Carroll's Drawing and Writing 106
Original Sketch by Lewis Carroll of his Charming Hero and Heroine 107
Lewis Carroll's Note to me or a Pathetic Picture 108
Sylvie and Bruno. My Original Drawing for Lewis Carroll 110
I Go Mad! 111
From Lewis Carroll 112
"I do want a Wicket-keeper!" 113
Portion of Letter from Lawrence, age 9 114
Reduction from a Design for my "Romps" 115
Portion of a Letter from George du Maurier 117
A Transformation 119
"Yours always, Barnard" 119
Barnard and the Models 120
"I sit for 'Ands, Sir" 121
The Grand Old Hand and the Young 'Un 122
My Fighting Double 124
Specimen of Mr. Linley Sambourne's Envelopes to me 125
Cheque for 5-1/2d. passed through two Banks and paid. I signed it backwards, and it was cancelled by Clerk backwards 127
Sir Henry Irving writes his Name backwards 128
Sir Henry Irving's Attempt 128
Mr. J. L. Toole's first Attempt 128
Mr. J. L. Toole's second Attempt 128
Autograph: Harry Furniss 129
Initial "If" 131
The Studio of a Caricaturist 132
Caricature of me by my Daughter, age 15 134
A serious Portrait—from Life 135
Initial "H" 136
Mr. Brown, Ordinary Attire. Court Dress 139
Two Portraits 140
A Caricature 140
Not a Caricature 140
The Editor of Punch sits for his Portrait 144
A Model unawares and the Result 145
Sketch on a Shirt-Cuff 146
Mr. Labouchere 149
The M.P. Real and Ideal 150
The Photo. As he really is 151
"Dizzy" (Beaconsfield) and Gladstone 154
The Inner Lobby of the House of Commons 156
Explanation to Illustration on page 156 157
Lord Beaconsfield. A Sketch from Life 158
The last Visit of Lord Beaconsfield to the House 161
Mr. Gladstone. A Sketch from Life 163
Mr. Gladstone "under his Flow of Eloquence" 165
Mr. Gladstone. Conventional Portrait 167
Caricature of the Holl Portrait 169
Note of Mr. Gladstone made in the Press Gallery with the wrong end of a Quill Pen 171
Invitation to a "Sandwich Soiree" 173
Mr. Gladstone sits on the Floor 174
The Fragment of Punch Mr. Gladstone did not see 175
The Gladstone Matchbox 176
Mr. Gladstone's Collars 178
To Room 15 182
Outside Room 15 183
Outside my Room 185
"The G.O.M." and "Randy" 185
Mr. Louis Jennings 186
Lord Randolph and Louis Jennings 188
Lord Randolph Churchill 189
Behind the Speaker's Chair 190
Initial "S" 191
Initial "H" 193
Bradlaugh Triumphant. From "Punch" 194
Charles Bradlaugh 195
The Meet at St. Stephen's 197
Sir George Campbell 199
Heraldic Design illustrating Mr. Plunkett's (now Lord Rathmore) Joke 201
Mr. Farmer Atkinson 202
I must Introduce you to Lucy. Here he is 203
Joseph Gillis Biggar 204
Initial "I" 206
The House of Commons from Toby's Private Box 208
The Government Bench—before Home Rule 211
Reduction of one of my Parliamentary Pages in Punch 214
Initial "T" 215
Age 26, when I first worked for Punch 216
My first Meeting with the Editor of Punch 217
My first Invitation from Punch 218
A Letter from Charles Keene, objecting to an Editor interviewing him 219
George du Maurier 221
Suggestion by du Maurier for Punch Cartoon 224
Du Maurier's Souvenir de Fontainebleau. From "Punch" 225
Punch Staff returning from Paris 227
Japanese Style 229
"Birch—His Mark" 231
Chinese Style. From a Drawing on Wood 232
Familiar Faces 234
An Official in the Press Gallery 235
"He spies me" 236
"What are you?" 236
"Blowed if the Country wants you" 238
"I feel smaller!" 241
The Black Beetle 242
The Sergeant-at-Arms' Room 243
Capt. Gosset, late Sergeant-at-Arms 244
My "Childish" Style in Punch 245
A simple Document 246
I Sketch the House 247
Dr. Percy. "The House Up" 250
Mr. Punch's Puzzle-Headed People. Mr. Goschen 251
Mr. Punch's Puzzle-Headed People. "All Harcourts" 252
The New Cabinet 255
Reduction of Page in Punch, showing that my Caricatures were—in this case—published too large 258
Reduction from the Original Drawing, showing that I gave Instructions for the Caricature to be "reduced as usual" 259
What really happened 261
Dr. Tanner 262
Assault on me in the House. What the Press described 263
John Burns 265
Note from Sir Frank Lockwood, after reading the Bogus Account of the "Assault" 266
Letter supposed to come from Lord Cross. (Lockwood's Joke) 267
Sir F. Lockwood 269
Lewis Carroll's Suggestion, and my sketch of it in Punch 270
Nature's Puzzle Portrait 271
Initial "W" 272
"Three Oarsmen under a Tree" 273
Lord Russell's Acceptance to dine with me 275
"It's your Turn next" 277
Letter from Sir Frank Lockwood 277
Mr. Linley Sambourne 278
Portrait of me as a Member of the Two Pins Club, by Linley Sambourne 279
The late Lord Russell, the President of the Two Pins Club 280
"Furious Riding." Sketch by F. C. Gould 282
My Portrait, by F. C. Burnand 285
Mr. Punch "doing" the Picture Shows 286
The Picture Shows. Design from Punch 288
"The World-Renowned and Talented Barnardo Family" 289
The Great Baccarat Case. My Sketch in Pencil made in Court, and Congratulatory Note from the Editor of Punch 291
Letter from Professor Herkomer 293
A Prisoner 294
"Good Advertisement." Original Idea as sent to me 297
Ditto. My Drawing of it in Punch 297
"English Waterproof Ink" 299
I sit for John Brown 300
A Crib by an American Advertiser 301
CONFESSIONS OF A CARICATURIST.
CONFESSIONS OF MY CHILDHOOD—AND AFTER.
Introductory—Birth and Parentage—The Cause of my remaining a Caricaturist—The Schoolboys' Punch—Infant Prodigies—As a Student—I Start in Life—Zozimus—The Sullivan Brothers—Pigott—The Forger—The Irish "Pathriot"—Wood Engraving—Tom Taylor—The Wild West—Judy—Behind the Scenes—Titiens—My First and Last Appearance in a Play—My Journey to London—My Companion—A Coincidence.
In offering the following pages to the public, I should like it to be known that no interviewer has extracted them from me by the thumbscrew of a morning call, nor have they been wheedled out of me by the caresses of those iron-maidens of literature, the publishers. For the most part they have been penned in odd half-hours as I sat in my easy-chair in the solitude of my studio, surrounded by the aroma of the post-prandial cigarette.
I would also at the outset warn those who may purchase this work in the expectation of finding therein the revelations of a caricaturist's Chamber of Horrors, that they will be disappointed. Some day I may be tempted to bring forth my skeletons from the seclusion of their cupboards and strip my mummies, taking certain familiar figures and faces to pieces and exposing not only the jewels with which they were packed away, but all those spicy secrets too which are so relished by scandal-loving readers.
At present, however, I am in an altogether lighter and more genial vein. My confessions up to date are of a purely personal character, and like a literary Liliputian I am placing myself in the hand of that colossal Gulliver the Public.
I may, it is true, in the course of my remarks be led to retaliate to some extent upon those who have had the hardihood to assert that all caricaturists ought, in the interest of historical accuracy, to be shipped on board an unseaworthy craft and left in the middle of the Channel, for the crime of handing down to posterity distorted images of those now in the land of the living. This I feel bound to do in self-defence, as well as in the cause of truth, for to judge by the biographical sketches of myself which continually appear and reach me through the medium of a press-cutting agency, caricaturists as distorters of features are not so proficient as authors as distorters of facts.
I think it best therefore to begin by giving as briefly as possible an authentic outline of my early career.
For the benefit of anyone who may not feel particularly interested in such details, I should mention that the narration of this plain unvarnished tale extends from this line to page 29.
I was born in Ireland, in the town of Wexford, on March 26th, 1854. I do not, however, claim, to be an Irishman. My father was a typical Englishman, hailing from Yorkshire, and not in his appearance only, but in his tastes and sympathies, he was an unmistakable John Bull. By profession he was a civil engineer, and he migrated to Ireland some years before I was born, having been invited to throw some light upon that "benighted counthry" by designing and superintending the erection of gas works in various towns and cities.
My mother was Scotch. My great-great-grandfather was a captain in the Pretender's army at Culloden, and had a son, Angus, who settled in Aberdeen. When AEneas MacKenzie, my grandfather, was born, his family moved south and settled in Newcastle-on-Tyne. A local biographer writes of him: "A man who by dint of perseverance and self-denial acquired more learning than ninety-nine in a hundred ever got at a university—an accomplished and most trustworthy writer. The real founder of the Newcastle Mechanics' Institute, and the leader of the group of Philosophical Radicals who made not a little stir in the North of England at the beginning of the last century." He was not only a benevolent, active member of society and an ardent politician (Joseph Cowen received his earliest impressions from him—and never forgot his indebtedness), but the able historian of Northumberland, Durham, and of Newcastle itself, a town in which he spent his life and his energies. If I possess any hereditary aptitude for journalism, it is to him I owe it; whilst to my mother, who at a time when miniature painting was fashionable, cultivated the natural artistic taste with much success, I am directly indebted for such artistic faculties as are innate in me.
My family moved from Wexford to Dublin when I was ten. It is pleasant to know they left a good impression. In Miss Mary Banim's account of Ireland I find the following reference to these aliens in Wexford, which I must allow my egotism to transcribe: "Many are the kindly memories that remain in Wexford of this warm-hearted, gifted family, who are said not only to be endowed with rare talents, but, better still, with those qualities that endear people to those they meet in daily intercourse." The flattering adjectives with which the remarks about myself are sandwiched prevent my modest nature from quoting any more. However, as one does not remember much of that period of their life before they reach their teens I need not apologise for quoting from the same work this reference to me at that age:
"One who was his playmate—he is still a young man—describes Mr. Furniss as very small of stature, full of animation and merriment, constantly amusing himself and his friends with clever[!] reproductions of each humorous character or scene that met his eye in the ever-fruitful gallery of living art—gay, grotesque, pathetic, even beautiful—that the streets and outlets of such a town as Wexford present to a quick eye and a ready pencil."
I can appreciate the fact that at that early age I had an eye for the "pathetic, and even beautiful," but, alas! I have been misunderstood from the day of my birth. I used to sit and study the heavens before I could walk, and my nurse, a wise and shrewd woman, predicted that I should become a great astronomer; but instead of the works of Herschel being put into my hands, I was satiated with the vilest comic toy books, and deluged with the frivolous nursery literature now happily a thing of the past. At odd times my old leaning towards serious reflection and ambition for high art come over me, but there is a fatality which dogs my footsteps and always at the critical moment ruins my hopes.
It is indeed strange how slight an incident may alter the whole course of one's life, as will be seen from the following instance, which I insert here although it took place some years after the period to which I am now alluding.
The scene was Antwerp, to which I was paying my first visit, and where I was, like all artists, very much impressed and delighted with the cathedral of the quaint old place. The afternoon was merging into evening as I entered the sacred building, and the broad amber rays of the setting sun glowed amid the stately pillars and deepened the shadowy glamour of the solemn aisles. As I gazed on the scene of grandeur I felt profoundly moved by the picturesque effect, and the following morning discovered me hard at work upon a most elaborate study of the beautiful carved figures upon the confessional boxes. I had just laid out my palette preparatory to painting that picture which would of course make my name and fortune, when a hoarse and terribly British guffaw at my elbow startled me, and turning round I encountered some acquaintances to whom the scene seemed to afford considerable amusement. One of them was good enough to remark that to have come all the way to Antwerp to find a caricaturist painting the confessional boxes in the cathedral was certainly the funniest thing he had ever heard of, and thereupon insisted upon dragging me off to dine with him, a proposition to which I immediately assented, feeling far more foolish than I could possibly have looked. I may add that as the sun that evening dipped beneath the western horizon, so vanished the visions of high art by which I had been inspired, and thus it is that Michael Angelo Vandyck Correggio Raphael Furniss lies buried in Antwerp Cathedral. Strangely enough I came across the following paragraph some years afterwards: "The guides of Antwerp Cathedral point out a grotesque in the wood carving of the choir which resembles almost exactly the head of Mr. Gladstone, as depicted by Harry Furniss."
My earliest recollections are altogether too modern to be of much interest. Crimean heroes were veterans when they, as guests at my father's table, fought their battles o'er again. The Great Eastern steamship was quite an old white elephant of the sea when I, held up in my nurse's arms, saw Brunel's blunder pass Greenore Point. I was hardly eligible for "Etons" when our present King was married. When first taken to church I was most interested, as standing on tiptoe on the seat in our square family pew, and peering into the next pew, I saw a young governess, at that moment the most talked-of woman in Great Britain, the niece of the notorious poisoner Palmer. She had just returned from the condemned cell, having made that scoundrel confess his crime, and there was more pleasure in the sight than in listening to the good old Rector Elgee who had christened me, or in seeing his famous daughter the poetess "Speranza," otherwise known as Lady Wilde.
In the newspaper shop windows—always an attraction to me—the coloured portrait of Garibaldi was fly-blown, the pictures of the great fight between Sayers and Heenan were illustrations of ancient history, and in the year I was born Punch published his twenty-sixth volume.
Leaving Wexford before the railway there was opened, my parents removed to the metropolis of Ireland, and I went to school in Dublin at the age of twelve. It was at the Wesleyan Connexional School, now known as the Wesleyan College, St. Stephen's Green, that I struggled through my first pages of Caesar and stumbled over the "pons asinorum," and here I must mention that although the Wesleyan College bears the name of the great religious reformer, a considerable number of the boys who studied there—myself included—were in no way connected with the Wesleyan body. I merely say this because I have seen it stated more than once that I am a Wesleyan, and as this little sketch professes to be an authentic account of myself, I wish it to be correct, however trivial my remarks may seem to the general reader. It is in the same spirit that I have disclaimed the honour of being an Irishman.
Once upon a time, when I was a very little boy, I remember being very much impressed by a heading in my copybook which ran: "He who can learn to write, can learn to draw." Now this was putting the cart before the horse, so far as my experience had gone, for I could most certainly draw before I could write, and had not only become an editor long before I was fit to be a contributor, but was also a publisher before I had even seen a printing press. In fact, I was but a little urchin in knickerbockers when I brought out a periodical—in MS. it is true—of which the ambitious title was "The Schoolboys' Punch." The ingenuous simplicity with which I am universally credited by all who know me now had not then, I fancy, obtained complete possession of me. I must have been artful, designing, diplomatic, almost Machiavellian; for anxious to curry favour with the head master of my school, I resolved to use the columns of "The Schoolboys' Punch" not so much in the interest of the schoolboy world as to attract the head master's favourable notice to the editor.
Accordingly, the first cartoon I drew for the paper was specially designed with this purpose in view, and I need scarcely say it was highly complimentary to the head master. He was represented in a Poole-made suit of perfectly-fitting evening dress, and the trousers, I remember, were particularly free from the slightest wrinkle, and must have been extremely uncomfortable to the wearer. This tailorish impossibility was matched by the tiny patent boots which encased the great man's small and exquisitely moulded feet. I furnished him with a pair of dollish light eyes, with long eyelashes carefully drawn in, and as a masterstroke threw in the most taper-shaped waist.
The subject of the picture, I flattered myself, was selected with no little cleverness and originality. A celebrated conjuror who had recently exposed the frauds of the Davenport Brothers was at the moment creating a sensation in the town where the school was situated, and from that incident I determined to draw my inspiration. The magnitude of the design and the importance of the occasion seemed to demand a double-paged cartoon. On one side I depicted a hopelessly scared little schoolboy, not unlike myself at the time, tightly corded in a cabinet, which represented the school, with trailing Latin roots, heavy Greek exercises, and chains of figures. The door, supposed to be closed on this distressing but necessary situation, is observed in the opposite cartoon to be majestically thrown open by the beaming and consciously successful head master, in order to allow a young college student, the pink of scholastic perfection, to step out, loaded with learning and academical honours.
"Great events from little causes spring!"—great, at least, to me. So well was my juvenile effort received, that it is not too much to say it decided my future career. Had my subtle flattery taken the shape of a written panegyric upon the head master in lieu of a cartoon, it is possible that I might, had I met with equal success, have devoted myself to journalism and literature; but from that day forward I clung to the pencil, and in a few years was regularly contributing "cartoons" to public journals, and practising the profession I have ever since pursued.
Drawing, in fact, seemed to come to me naturally and intuitively. This was well for me, for small indeed was the instruction I received. I recollect that a German governess, who professed, among other things, to teach drawing, undertook to cultivate my genius; but I derived little benefit from her unique system, as it consisted in placing over the paper the drawing to be copied, and pricking the leading points with a pin, after which, the copy being removed, the lines were drawn from one point to another. The copies were of course soon perforated beyond recognition, and, although I warmly protested against this sacrilege of art, she explained that it was by that system that Albert Duerer had been taught. This, of course, accounts for our having infant prodigies in art, as well as music and the drama. The rapidity with which Master Hoffmann was followed by infantile Lizsts and little Otto Hegner as soon as it became apparent that there was a demand for such phenomena, seems to indicate that in music at all events supply will follow demand as a matter of course, and if the infant artist can only be "crammed" in daubing on canvas as youthful musicians are in playing on the piano, then perhaps a new sensation is in store for the artistic world, and we shall see babies executing replicas of the old masters, and the Infant Slapdash painter painting the portraits of Society beauties. As a welcome relief to Chopin's Nocturne in D flat, played by Baby Hegner at St. James's Hall, we shall step across to Bond Street and behold "Le Petit Americain" dashing off his "Nocturne" on canvas. I sometimes wonder if I might have been made such an infant art prodigy, but when I was a lad public taste was not in its second childhood in matters of art patronage, nor was the forcing of children practised in the same manner as it is nowadays.
Naturally enough I did not altogether escape the thraldom of the drawing-master, and as years went on I made a really serious effort to study at an art school under the Kensington system, which I must confess I believe to be positively prejudicial to a young artist possessing imagination and originality. The late Lord Beaconsfield made one of his characters in "Lothair" declare that "critics are those who have failed in literature and art." Whether this is true as to the art critics, or that the dramatic critic is generally a disappointed playwright, it must in truth be said that drawing-masters are nearly always those who have failed in art. I can remember one gentleman who was the especial terror of my youth. I can see him now going his rounds along the chilly corridor, where, perhaps, one had been placed to draw something "from the flat." After years and years of practice at this rubbish, he would halt beside you, look at your work in a perfunctory manner, and with a dexterity which appalled you until you reflected that he had been doing the same thing exactly, and nothing else, for perhaps a decade, he would draw in a section of a leaf, and if, as in my case, you happened to have a pretty sister attending the ladies' class in the school, he would add leaf to leaf until your whole paper was covered with his mechanical handiwork, in order to have a little extra conversation with you, although, I need scarcely add, it was not exclusively confined to the subject of art.
This sort of thing was called "instruction in freehand drawing," and had to be endured and persisted in for months and months. Freehand! Shade of Apelles! What is there free in squinting and measuring, and feebly touching in and fiercely rubbing out a collection of straggling mechanical pencil lines on a piece of paper pinned on to a hard board, which after a few weeks becomes nothing but a confused jumble of fingermarks?
Had I an Art School I would treat my students according to their individual requirements, just as a doctor treats his patients. I am led here to repeat what I have already observed in one of my lectures, that for the young the pill of knowledge should be silver-coated, and that while they are being instructed they should also be amused. In other words, interest your pupils, do not depress them. Giotto did not begin by rigidly elaborating a drawing of the crook of his shepherd's staff for weeks together; his drawings upon the sand and upon the flat stones which he found on the hillsides are said to have been of the picturesque sheep he tended, and all the interesting and fascinating objects that met his eye. Then, when his hand had gained practice, he was able to draw that perfect circle which he sent to the Pope as a proof of his command of hand. But the truth is that we begin at the wrong end, and try to make our boys draw a perfect circle before they are in love with drawing at all. For my part, I had to endure some weeks of weary struggling with a cone and ball and other chilly objects, the effect of which was to fill my mind with an overwhelming sense of the dreariness of art education under the Kensington system. A short time, therefore, sufficed to disgust me with the Art School, and I preferred to stay at home caricaturing my relatives, educating myself, and practising alone the rudiments of my art.
Early in my teens, however, I was invited to join the Life School of the Hibernian Academy, as there happened to be a paucity of students at that institution, and in order to secure the Government grant it was necessary to bring them up to the required number. But here also there was no idea of proper teaching. Some fossilised member of the Academy would stand about roasting his toes over the stove. A recollection of a fair specimen of the body still haunts me. He used to roll round the easels, and you became conscious of his approaching presence by an aroma of onions. I believe he was a landscape painter, and saw no more beauty in the female form divine than in a haystack. It was his custom to take up a huge piece of charcoal and come down upon one of your delicately drawn pencil lines of a figure with a terrible stroke about an inch wide.
"There, me boy," he would exclaim, "that's what it wants," and walk on, leaving you in doubt upon which side of the line you had drawn he intended his alteration to come.
I soon decided to have my own models and study for myself, and this practice I have maintained to the present day. I really don't know what Mrs. Grundy would have said if she had known that at this early age I was drawing Venuses from the life, instead of tinting the illustrations to "Robinson Crusoe" or "Gulliver's Travels" in my playroom at home.
Few imagine that a caricaturist requires models to draw from. Although I will not further digress at this point, I may perhaps be pardoned if I return later on in this book to the explanation of my modus operandi—a subject which, if I may judge from the number of letters I receive about it, is likely to prove of interest to a large number of my readers.
It was when I was still quite a boy that my first great chance came. Being in Dublin, I was asked one day by my friend the late Mr. A. M. Sullivan to make some illustrations for a paper called Zozimus, of which he was the editor and founder. As a matter of fact, Zozimus was the Irish Punch. Mr. Sullivan, who was a Nationalist, and a man of exceptional energy and ability, began life as an artist. He came to Dublin, I was told, as a very young man, and began to paint; but the sails of his ships were pronounced to be far too yellow, the seas on which the vessels floated were derided as being far too green, while the skies above them were scoffed at as being far too blue. In these adverse circumstances, then, the artist soon drifted into journalism, and, inducing his brothers to join him in his new venture, thenceforth took up the pen and abandoned the brush. Each member of the family became a well-known figure in Parliamentary life. Mr. T. D. Sullivan, the poet of the Irish Party, is still a well-known figure in the world of politics; but my friend Mr. A. M. Sullivan, who died some years ago, belonged rather to the more moderate regime which prevailed in the Irish Party during the leadership of Mr. Butt.
At the time when I first made his acquaintance he was the editor and moving spirit of the Nation. It was a curious office, and I can recall many whom I first met there who have since come more or less prominently to the front in public life. There was Mr. Sexton, whom my friend "Toby" has since christened "Windbag Sexton" in his Parliamentary reports. Mr. Sexton then presided over the scissors and paste department of the journals owned by Mr. A. M. Sullivan, and, unlike the posing orator he afterwards became, was at that early stage of his career of a very modest and retiring disposition. Mr. Leamy also, I think, was connected with the staff, while Mr. Dennis Sullivan superintended the sale of the papers in the publishing department.
But the central figure in the office was unquestionably the editor and proprietor, Mr. A. M. Sullivan. His personality was of itself remarkable. Possessed of wonderful energy and nerve, he was a confirmed teetotaller, and his prominent eyes, beaming with intelligence, seemed almost to be starting from his head as, intent upon some project, he darted about the office, ever and anon checking his erratic movements to give further directions to his subordinates, when he had a funny habit of placing his hand on his mouth and blowing his moustache through his fingers, much to the amusement of his listeners, and to my astonishment, as I stood modestly in a corner of the editorial sanctum observing with awe the great Mr. Sexton, who, amid the distractions of scissors and paste, would drawl out a sentence or two in a voice strongly resembling the sarcastic tones of Mr. Labouchere.
In another part of the office sat Mr. T. D. Sullivan, the poet aforesaid, who, like his brother, is a genial and kindly man at heart, although possessing the volcanic temperament characteristic of his family. There he sat—a poet with a large family—his hair dishevelled, his trousers worked by excitement halfway up his calves, emitting various stertorous sounds after the manner of his brother, as he savagely tore open the recently-arrived English newspapers. Such was the interior of the office of the Nation, the representative organ of the most advanced type of the National Press of Ireland.
But Zozimus, the paper to which I was then contributing, had nothing in common with the rest of the publications issuing from that office. It was of a purely social character, and was a praiseworthy attempt to do something of a more artistic nature than the coarsely-conceived and coarsely-executed National cartoons which were the only specimens of illustrative art produced in Ireland. Fortunately for me, there was an effort made in Dublin just then to produce a better class of publications, and the result was that I began to get fairly busy, although it was merely a wave of artistic energy, which did not last long, but soon subsided into that dead level of mediocrity which does not appear likely to be again disturbed.
I was now in my seventeenth year, and, intent on making as much hay as possible the while the sun shone, I accepted every kind of work that was offered me; and a strange medley it was. Religious books, medical works, scientific treatises, scholastic primers and story books afforded in turn illustrative material for my pencil. One week I was engaged upon designs for the most advanced Catholic and Jesuitical manuals, and the next upon similar work for a Protestant prayer-book. At one moment it seemed as if I were destined to achieve fame as an artist of the ambulance corps and the dissecting-room. One of my earliest dreams—which I attribute to the fact that my eldest brother, with whom I had much in common, was a doctor—had been to adopt the medical profession. Curiously enough, my brother also had a taste for caricaturing, and, like the illustrious John Leech in his medical student days, he was wont to embellish his notes in the hospital lecture-room with pictorial jeux d'esprit of a livelier cast than those for which scope is usually afforded by the discourses of the learned Mr. Sawbones.
I remember that about this period a leading surgeon was anxious that I should devote myself to the pursuit of this anything but pleasant form of art, and seriously proposed that I should draw and paint for him some of his surgical cases. I accepted his offer without hesitation, and, burning to distinguish myself as an anatomical expert with the brush, I gave instruction to our family butcher to send me, as a model to study from, a kidney, which was to be the acme of goriness and as repulsive in appearance as possible. Of this piece of uncooked meat I made a quite pre-Raphaelite study in water-colours, but so realistic was the result that the effect it had upon me was the very antithesis to what I anticipated, disgusting me to such an extent that I not only declined to pursue further anatomical illustration, but for years afterwards was quite unable to touch a kidney, although I believe that had I selected a calf's head or a sucking-pig for my maiden effort in this direction, I might by now have blossomed into a Rembrandt or a Landseer.
Amongst other incidents which occurred during this period of my life was one which it now almost makes me shudder to think of. I was commissioned by no less a personage than the late Mr. Pigott, of Parnell Commission notoriety, to illustrate for him a story of the broadest Irish humour. Little did I think when I entered his office in Abbey Street, Dublin, and had an interview with the genial and pleasant-looking little man with the eye-glass, that he would one day play so prominent a role in the Parliamentary drama, or that the weak little arm he extended to me was destined years afterwards to be the instrument of a tragedy. I can truly say, at all events, my recollection as a boy of sixteen of the great Times forger is by no means unfavourable, and he dwells in my memory as one of the most pleasant and genial of men. I ought, perhaps, to say that in feeling I was anything but a Nationalist, because in Ireland, generally speaking, you must be either black or white. But like a lawyer who takes his brief from every source, I never studied who my clients were when they required my juvenile services.
Although I was not of Irish parentage and did not lean towards Nationalism in politics, it was necessary to sympathise now and then with the down-trodden race. For instance, I remember that one evening a respectable-looking mechanic called at my fathers house and requested to see me. His manner was strange and mysterious, and as he wanted to see me alone, I took him into an anteroom, where, with my hand on the door handle and the other within easy distance of the bell, I asked the excitable-looking stranger the nature of his business. Pulling from his pocket a roll of one-pound Irish bank-notes, he thrust them into my hand, and besought me at the same time not to refuse the request he was about to make. An idea flashed through my mind that perhaps he had seen me coming out of the offices of the National Press, and had jumped to the conclusion that I could therefore be bought over to perpetrate some terrible political crime. I even imagined that in the roll of notes I should find the knife with which the fell deed had to be done. Seeing that I shrank from him, he seized hold of my arm, and, in a most pitiable voice, said:
"Don't, young sorr, refuse me what I am about to ask you. I'm only a working man, but here are all my savings, which you may take if you will just dhraw me a picter to be placed at the top of a complete set of photographs of our Irish leaders. I want Britannia at the head of the group, a bastely dhrunken old hag, wid her fut on the throat of the beautiful Erin, who is to be bound hand and fut wid chains, and being baten and starved. Thin I want prisons at the sides, showing the grand sons of Ould Oireland dying in their cells by torture, whilst a fine Oirish liberator wid dhrawn sword is just on the point of killing Britannia outright, and so saving his disthressful country."
About this time someone had been good enough to inform me that all black and white artists are in the habit of engraving their own work, and, religiously believing this, I duly provided myself with some engraving tools, bought some boxwood, a jeweller's eye-glass, and a sand bag, without which no engraver's table can be said to be complete.
Then, setting to work to practise the difficult art, I struggled on as best I could, until one fine day a professional engraver enlightened me upon the matter. I need scarcely say he went into fits of laughter when I told him that every artist was expected to be a Bewick, and he pointed out to me that not only do artists as a rule know very little about engraving, but in addition they have often only a limited knowledge of how to draw for engravers.
However, thinking I should better understand the difficulties of drawing for publishers if I first mastered the technical art of reproduction, with the assistance of the engraver aforesaid I rapidly acquired sufficient dexterity with the tools to engrave my own drawings, and this I continued to do until I left Dublin, at the age of nineteen. Since then I have never utilised one of my gravers, except to pick a lock or open a box of sardines. Nor is this to be wondered at, considering that one can make a drawing in an hour which takes a week to engrave, and that an engraver may take five guineas for his share of the work whilst an artist may get fifty. There is very little doubt, therefore, as to the reason why artists who can draw refrain from engraving their own work.
In the studio of the engraver to whom I have above referred there hung a huge map of London, and as I used to pore over it I took many an imaginary walk down Fleet Street, many a canter in the Row, and many a voyage to Greenwich on a penny steamboat, before I bade adieu to "dear dirty Dublin" in the year 1873, and, as many have done before me, arrived in the "little village" in search of fame and wealth.
Just prior to my leaving Ireland for the land of my parents I met no less an editor than Tom Taylor, who was then the presiding genius of the Punch table, and he gave me every encouragement to hasten my migration. He, however, had just returned from the wilds of Connemara, and before setting my face in the direction of Holyhead he strongly advised me also to pay a visit to the trackless wastes of the Western country, for the purpose of committing to paper the lineaments of the natives indigenous to the soil. This I did a week or so before quitting the land of my birth, and the sketches I made upon that occasion formed part of my stock-in-trade when I arrived in London.
After making the accompanying page of studies, I strolled along the bank of the river; and while sketching some men breaking stones an incident happened which first aroused me to the fact that the lot of the sketching artist is not always a happy one. A fiend in human shape—an overbearing overseer—came up at the moment, and roundly abused the poor labourers for taking the "base Saxon's" coin. Inciting them to believe that I was a special informer from London, he laughed on my declaring that I was merely a novice, and informed me that I ought to be "dhrounded." He was about to suit the action to the word and pitch me into the salmon-stuffed river when he was stopped by the mediation of my models, and I escaped from the grip of the agitator. In due course I found myself in the Claddagh, a village of mud huts, which formed the frontispiece by John Leech to "A Little Tour in Ireland" by "An Oxonian," "a village of miserable cabins, the walls of mud and stone, and for the most part windowless, the floors damp and dirty, and the roofs a mass of rotten straw and weeds." Pigs and fowls mixed up with boats and fish refuse. Women old, dried and ugly; girls young, dark, of Spanish type, scantily dressed in bright-coloured short garments, all tattered and torn; and children grotesque beyond description. I sketch three members of one family clothed (!) in the three articles of attire discarded by their father—one claimed the coat, another the trousers, whilst the third had only a waistcoat. No doubt Leech had seen the same sixteen years before, when he was there; and if "the Oxonian," who survives him—Canon Hole, of Rochester—were to make another little tour in Ireland, he would find the Claddagh still a spot to give an Englishman "a new sensation." All I can say is, that having escaped a "dhrouning" in the river when in Galway in 1873, I have visited many countries and seen much filth and misery, but I have seen nothing approaching the sad squalor of the wild West of Ireland.
The majority of those I sketched were hardly human. Tom Taylor was right—"I would find such characters there not to be found in all the world over," and I haven't. The people got on my overstrung youthful nerves. I left the country the moment I had sufficient material for my sketches. I had shaken off the unpleasant feeling of being murdered in the river. I had survived living a week or two in the worst inns in the world. I had risked typhoid and every other disease fostered by the insanitary surroundings—for I had to hide myself in narrow turnings and obnoxious corners so as to sketch unseen, as the religion of the natives opposed any attempt to have themselves "dhrawn," believing that the destruction of their "pictur'" would be fatal to their souls! I had sketched the famous house in Deadman's Lane—and listened as I sketched it, in the falling shades of night, to the old, old story of Fitz-Stephen the Warden, who had lived there, and had in virtue of his office to assist at the hanging of his own son. And, when in the dark I was strolling back to my hotel, my reflections were suddenly interrupted by something powerful seizing me in a grip of iron round my leg. I was held as in a vice, and could hardly move, by what—a huge dog—a wolf? No, something heavier; something more hideous; something clothed! As I dragged it under a lamp I saw revealed a huge head, covered by a black skull cap—a man's head—a dwarf, muttering in Irish something I could not understand—except one word, "Judy! Judy! Judy!" It was a woman of extraordinary strength thus clasped on to me. I dragged her to the hotel door, where I engaged an interpreter in the shape of the "boots," and made a bargain with "Judy" to release me on my giving her one shilling, and to sit to me for this sketch for half-a-crown. I have still a lively recollection of the vice-like grip.
My friend who had introduced me to the editor of Punch was a prominent city official, and entertainer in chief of all men of talent from London, and was also, like Tom Taylor, an author and dramatist; and when I was a boy I illustrated one of his first stories. He also introduced me behind the scenes at the old Theatre Royal. I recollect my boyish delight when one day I was on the stage during the rehearsal of the Italian opera. Shall I ever forget that treat? It was much greater in my eyes than the real performance later on. If my memory serves, "Don Giovanni" was the opera. One of the principals was suddenly taken ill, and this rehearsal was called for the benefit of the understudy. He was a dumpy, puffy little Italian, and played the heavy father. Madame Titiens was—well—the heavy daughter. In the first scene she has to throw herself upon her prostrate father. This is the incident I saw rehearsed: the little fat father lay on the dusty stage, with one eye on the O.P. side. As soon as the massive form of Titiens bore down upon him he rolled over and over out of the way. This pantomime highly amused all of us, the ever-jovial Titiens in particular, and she again and again rushed laughingly in, but with the same result.
The first actor I ever saw perform was Phelps, in "The Man of the World." If anything could disillusionise a youth regarding the romance of the theatre, that play surely would. Be it to my credit that my first impression was admiration for a fine—if dull—performance. From that day I have been a constant theatre-goer. If I am to believe the following anecdote, published in a Dublin paper a few years ago, I "did the theatre in style," and had an early taste which I did not possess for making jokes.
"The jarvey drove Harry Furniss, when a boy, down to the old Theatre Royal, Dublin. On the way there Jehu enquired of the budding artist whether it was true that the roof was provided with a tank whence every part of the building could be deluged, shower-bath fashion, if necessary. 'Yes,' replied Raphael junior; 'and, you see, I always bring an umbrella in case of fire.'"
I may confess that I have only once appeared in theatricals, and that was in high comedy as a member of the Dublin Amateur Theatrical Society. The play was "She Stoops to Conquer," and I took the part of—think!—Mrs. Hardcastle. I was only seventeen, and very small for my age, so I owe any success I may have made to the costumier and wig-maker. The Tony Lumpkin was so excellent that he adopted the stage as his profession, and became a very popular comedian; and our Diggory is now a judge—"and a good judge too"—in the High Court.
It was on a bright, breezy morning late in July, 1873, I shook the dust of "dear dirty Dublin" off my feet. With the exception of the Welsh railways, the Irish are notoriously the slowest in the world, and on that particular morning the mail train seemed to my impatient mind to progress pig-ways. The engine was attached to the rear of the train and faced the station, so that when it began to pull it was only the "parvarsity in the baste" caused it to go in the opposite direction, towards Kingstown, in an erratic, spasmodic, and uncertain fashion, so that the eight miles journey seemed to me eighty. It was quite a tedious journey to Salthill and Blackrock. At the latter station I saw for the last time the porter famous for being the slave of habit. For years it had been his duty to call out the name of the station, "Blackrock! Blackrock! Blackrock!" In due course he was removed to Salthill station, on the same line, and well do I remember how he puzzled many a Saxon tourist by his calling out continually, "Blackrock—Salthill-I-mane! Blackrock—Salthill-I-mane!" No doubt the traveller put this chronic absent-mindedness down to "Irish humour." I must confess that I agree in a great measure with the opinion of the late T. W. Robertson (author of "Caste," "School," &c.), that the witticisms of Irish carmen and others are the ingenious inventions of Charles Lever, Samuel Lover, William Carleton, and other educated men.
Dickens failed to see Irish humour, or in fact to understand what was meant by it. So when he was on tour with his readings a friend of mine, who was his host, in the North, undertook to initiate him into the mysteries of Irish wit. As a sample he gave Dickens the following: A definition of nothing,—a footless stocking without a leg. This conveyed nothing whatever to the mind of the greatest of English humourists; but when my friend took him to a certain spot and showed him a wall built round a vacant space, and explained to him that the native masons were instructed to build a wall round an old ruined church to protect it, and pulled down the church for the material to build the wall, he laughed heartily, and acknowledged the Irish had a sense of humour after all,—if not, a quaint absence of it.
To me so-called Irish wit is a curious combination not wholly dependent on humour, and frequently unconscious. There is a story that when Mr. Beerbohm Tree arrived in Dublin he was received by a crowd of his admirers, and jumping on to a car said to his jarvey, "Splendid reception that, driver!"
The jarvey thought a moment, and replied, "Maybe ye think so, but begorrah, it ain't a patch on the small-pox scare!" Was that meant?
The poor Saxon "towrist"—what he may suffer in the Emerald Isle! There is a story on record of three Irishmen rushing away from the race meeting at Punchestown to catch a train back to Dublin. At the moment a train from a long distance pulled up at the station, and the three men scrambled in. In the carriage was seated one other passenger. As soon as they had regained their breath, one said:
"Pat, have you got th' tickets?"
"What tickets? I've got me loife; I thought I'd have lost that gettin' in th' thrain. Have you got 'em, Moike?"
"Oi, begorrah, I haven't."
"Oh, we're all done for thin," said the third. "They'll charge us roight from the other soide of Oireland."
The old gentleman looked over his newspaper and said:
"You are quite safe, gintlemen; wait till we get to the next station."
They all three looked at each other. "Bedad, he's a directhor,—we're done for now entoirely."
But as soon as the train pulled up the little gentleman jumped out and came back with three first-class tickets. Handing them to the astonished strangers, he said, "Whist, I'll tell ye how I did it. I wint along the thrain—'Tickets plaze, tickets plaze,' I called, and these belong to three Saxon towrists in another carriage."
On the morning I left Ireland to seek my fortune in London I had a youthful notion that, once on the mainland of my parents' country, St. Paul's and the smoke of London would be visible; but we had passed through the Menai tunnel, grazed Conway Castle walls, and skirted miles of the Welsh rock-bound coast, and yet no St. Paul's was visible to my naked eye which was plastered against the window-pane of the carriage. The other eye, clothed and in its right mind, inspected the carriage and discovered that there were two other occupants—a lady and her maid. These interesting passengers had recovered from the effects of the Channel passage, and were eating their lunch. The lady politely offered me some sandwiches. "No, thanks," I replied; "I shall lunch in London." This reminds me of a story I heard when I was in America, of two young English ladies arriving at New York. They immediately entered the Northern Express at the West Central. About 7 o'clock in the evening they arrived at Niagara—half an hour or so is given to the passengers to alight and look at the wonderful Falls. The gentleman who told me the story informed me that as the two ladies were getting back into the carriage he asked them if they were going to dine at once. They, ignorant of the vastness of the "gre—e—at country Amuraka," replied, "Oh, no, thanks, we are going to dine with our friends when we arrive. It can't be long now, we have been travelling so fast all the day!"
"And may I ask, young ladies, where your friends live?"
"We are going to an uncle who has been taken suddenly ill in San Francisco."
These young ladies would have had to wait certainly five days for their dinner,—I only five hours.
The strange lady and I conversed a great deal on various topics. By degrees she discovered that I was a young artist, friendless, and on his way to the great city to battle with fortune. I may have told her of my history, of my youthful ambitions and my professional plans,—anyway she told me of hers, and, while her maid was lazily slumbering, she confessed to me her troubles.
"My story," she said, "is a sad one. I am of good family, and I married a well-known professional London man. He turned out to be a gambler, and ran through my money, and I returned to my parents. I have left them this morning again, and, like you, I am now on my way to London to start in life, and if possible make my own living. You see my appearance is not altogether unprepossessing" (she was tall, singularly handsome, a refined woman of style) ... I bowed ... "Well, I am also fortunate in having a good voice, it is well-trained, and I am going to London to sing as a paid professional in the houses in which I have formerly been a guest."
I sympathised with her, and she continued, weeping, to relate to me events of her unhappy married life until we arrived at Euston. I saw her and her maid into a four-wheeler, and I saw their luggage on the top. She gave me her card with her parents' address in London written on it, and requested that I would write to her at that address, as she would like to hear how I got on in London. I never saw her again. But I did write home, and found there was such a lady, her family were well-known society people in Ireland, and that her marriage had not been a happy one.
After three years in London I ran over to Ireland to see my parents. On my return I seemed to miss the charming companion of my journey over the same ground three years previously. Two uninteresting men were in the carriage: a typical German professor on tour, and communicative; and a typical English gentleman, uncommunicative. As the journey was a long one the German smoked, ate and drank himself to sleep, and after some hours the other man and I exchanged a word. The fact is I thought I knew his face,—I told him so. He thought he knew mine. "Had we gone to school together?" "No." He was at least ten years my senior. It happened he had been to school with my half-brother (my father was married twice,—I am the youngest son of his second family). We chatted freely about each other's family and on various topics, including the sleeping Teuton in the corner. I incidentally mentioned my last journey. The lady interested him, so I told him of the way in which she confessed to me. I waxed eloquent over her wrongs. He got still more excited as I described her husband as she described him to me; and as the train rolled into Euston, he said, "Well, you know who I am, I know who you are,—I'll tell you one thing more: that woman's story is perfectly true—I'm her husband!"
That was one of the most extraordinary coincidences which ever happened to me. Three years after meeting the wife, over the same journey, at the same time of the year, I meet the husband; and I had never been the journey in the meantime.
I arrive in London—A Rogue and Vagabond—Two Ladies—Letters of Introduction—Bohemia—A Distinguished Member—My Double—A Rara Avis—The Duke of Broadacres—The Savages—A Souvenir—-Portraits of the Past—J. L. Toole—Art and Artists—Sir Spencer Wells—John Pettie—Milton's Garden.
I did not make my appearance in London with merely the proverbial half-crown in my pocket, nor was I breathlessly expectant to find the streets paved with gold. Thanks chiefly to my savings in Dublin, my balance at my bankers' was sufficient to keep me for at least a year, and as soon as the editors returned from their summer holidays I was fortunate enough to procure commissions, which have been pouring in pretty steadily ever since.
It was with a strange feeling that I found myself for the first time in London, among four millions of people, with not one of whom I could claim acquaintance, and I think it will not be out of place if I here offer a hint which may possibly be of use to other young men who are placed in similar circumstances. Upon first coming to the metropolis, then, let them invariably act, in as much as it is possible, as if they were Londoners old and seasoned. To stand gazing at St. Paul's with mouth agape and eyes astare, or to enquire your way to the National Gallery or Madame Tussaud's, is a sure means of finding yourself ere long in the hands of the unscrupulous and designing. For my part, as I took my first admiring peep at the masterpiece of Sir Christopher, I whistled to myself with an air of nonchalance, and as I passed down Fleet Street I made a point of nodding familiarly to the passers-by as if I were already a frequent habitue of the thoroughfare of letters. Did I find myself accosted by any particularly ingenuous stranger asking his way, I always promptly told him to go on as straight as ever he could go—a piece of advice which, coming from one so young, I think was highly proper and creditable, whatever may have proved its value in some cases from a topographical point of view. On the other hand, the following incident will serve to show the prudence of exercising due caution in addressing strangers oneself.
Upon the evening of my arrival in the big city I had dined at the London Restaurant, which was situate at the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, in the premises now occupied by Messrs. Partridge and Cooper (the name of this firm must not be taken as an indication of the nature of my repast), and, fired with the curiosity of youth, I mounted the knifeboard of an omnibus bound for Hyde Park. Arrived at the famous statue of Wellington astride the impossible horse which has since ambled off to the seclusion of Aldershot, and which at once recalled to my mind the inimitable drawings of that infamous quadruped by John Leech, an artist who had done as much to familiarise me with London scenes and characters with his pencil as had Dickens with the pen, I happened to ask a sturdy artisan who was sitting beside me whether this was Hyde Park Corner.
"'Ide Park!" he muttered. "'Oo are you a-tryin' ter git at? 'Ide Park! None o' yer 'anky panky with me, my covey!"
I forthwith slipped off that 'bus, not a little nettled that the first person to whom I had spoken in London should have taken me for a rogue and a vagabond.
I had been fortunate enough to secure quarters which had been recommended to me in a comfortable boarding-house in one of the old-fashioned Inns in Holborn—Thavies' Inn—in which, I was informed, whether accurately or not I do not pretend to know, the Knight Templars of old had once resided. There were no Knight Templars there when I arrived, but in their stead I found some highly-proper and non-belligerent clerics with their wives and families, and other visitors from the country, who seemed very satisfied with the comfortable provision that was made for them. But, best of all, I found a hostess who soon became one of the kindest and best of friends I ever had, and although I at once engaged a studio in the neighbouring artistic quarter of Newman Street, I continued for some time to live in Thavies' Inn in the enjoyment of the pleasant society and many advantages of her pleasant home.
Not the least of these to me was the perfect gallery of characters who were continually coming and going, and the many and various studies I made of the different visitors to that boarding-house long supplied me with ample material for my sketch-book.
I should be ungallant indeed were I to omit to add that not only was it a lady who first made me feel at home amid the bustle and turmoil of Modern Babylon, but that it was also a lady who primarily welcomed me as a contributor to the Press and gave me my first work in London. Curiously enough, both of these ladies possessed points of resemblance, not only in person, but in manner and goodness of heart. It was Miss Florence Marryat, then editress of London Society, who gave me my first commission, and I am more anxious to record the fact because I am aware that many a youthful journalist besides myself owed his first introduction to the public to the sympathy and enterprise of this accomplished lady. Perhaps I have less to grumble at personally than most others concerning the treatment which, as a young man, I experienced at the hands of editors; but I must say that the majority of such potentates with whom I then came in contact lamentably lacked that readiness to welcome new-comers which Miss Florence Marryat notably, and possibly too readily, evinced. Here I may offer a hint to beginners—that on coming to London letters of introduction are of little or no value. One such letter I possessed, and it led me into more trouble, and was the means of my losing more time, than I should ever have received recompense for, even if it had obtained me the work which it was intended to bring me.
In the first place, these letters often get into the hands of others than the particular individuals to whom they are addressed. In my case the letter had been inadvertently directed to the literary editor instead of to the art editor of one of the largest publishing firms, and that gentleman—I refer to the literary editor—was good enough to supply me with a quantity of work. I executed the commission, but, lo and behold! when I sent the work in, the monster Red Tape intervened in the person of the art editor, who became scarlet with rage because he had not been invoked instead of his colleague, and promptly repudiated the entire contract. Thereupon the literary editor wrote to me saying that unless I withdrew my contributions he would be personally out of pocket; and it may not be uninteresting to record that some day, when I strip this amongst my other mummies, it will be found that he subsequently became a wearer of lawn sleeves. Thus, whilst the two editors quarrelled between themselves, I was left out in the cold, and became a considerable loser over the transaction.
A propos of letters of introduction, I am reminded of a brother artist, who, although a caricaturist, was entirely devoid of guile, and, in addition, was as absent-minded as the popularly-accepted type of ardent scientist or professor of ultra-abstruse subject. Well, this curious species of satirist was setting forth on travels in foreign climes, and in order to lighten in some measure the vicissitudes inseparable from peripatetic wandering, he was provided with a letter of introduction to a certain British consul. The writer of this letter enclosed it in one to my friend, in which he said that he would find the consul a most arrant snob, and a bumptious, arrogant humbug as well—in fact, a cad to the backbone; but that he (my friend) was not to mind this, for, as he could claim acquaintanceship with several dukes and duchesses, all he had to do was to trot out their names for the edification of the consul, who would then render him every attention, and thus compensate him to some extent for having to come into contact with such an insufferable vulgarian. On the return of the guileless satirist to England the writer of the letter of introduction inquired how he had fared with the consul, and great was his surprise to hear him drawl out, in his habitual lethargic manner:
"Well, my dear fellow, he did not receive me very warmly, and he did not ask me to dinner. In fact, he struck me as being rather cool."
"Well, you do surprise me!" rejoined his friend. "He's a horrible cad, as I told you in my letter, but he's awfully hospitable, and I really can't understand what you tell me. You gave him my letter of introduction?"
"Well, I thought so," said my friend; "but, do you know, on my journey home I discovered it in my pocket-book, so I must have handed him instead your note to me about him!"
Of course, in the remarks which I have been making I have not been alluding to letters of merely social introduction, which are of an entirely different nature. Such letters are generally handed to the individual to whom they are addressed at more propitious moments, when he is not either hard at work, as the case may be, in his editorial chair, or overburdened with anxiety as to the fluctuations of the Bank rate.
Be that as it may, I cannot refrain from citing here the case of another brother artist, who was particular in the extreme as regarded the neatness of his apparel and his personal appearance in general; in fact, he laboured, rightly or wrongly, under the impression that the manner in which a letter of introduction is received and acted upon by the person to whom it is addressed depends upon the raiment and tout ensemble of the bearer.
Well, it so happened that he once had a letter of introduction to a man he particularly wished to know, but, of all places in the world, fate had designed that he should have no choice but to deliver it in the boring of the Channel Tunnel, where the dripping roof rendered it necessary for all visitors to be encased from head to foot in the vilest and most unbecoming tarpaulin overalls. It was in these circumstances, then, that the introduction took place, and as nothing came of it, my friend will now go to his grave in the firm belief that fine feathers make fine birds in the eyes of all those who receive letters of introduction.
The first Bohemian Club I joined was located over Gaze's Tourist Offices in the Strand. Nearly my first engagement in London was for a still flourishing sixpenny weekly. Started in Wellington Street, close by, the editorial offices were there certainly, but editor, proprietors, and others were not. They were only to be found in "the Club," so through necessity I became a member. The flowing bowl of that iniquitous concoction, punch, was brewed for the staff early in the afternoon and kept flowing till early the next morning. The "Club" never closed day or night till the broker's man took possession and closed it for good. I, being young and unknown, was surprised to find myself an object of attraction whenever I was in the Club. There was something strange about me, something mysterious. This was so marked that my brief visits to find my editor were few and far between. I discovered afterwards that the curiosity and attention paid me had nothing to do with my work, or my personal appearance, or my natural shyness or youth. It was aroused by the fact that I was known as "the member who had paid his subscription!"
This fact being noised abroad. I found it an easy matter to get elected to another and a better Bohemian Club, having beautiful premises on the Adelphi Terrace—a Club which has since gone through many vicissitudes, but I think still exists in a small way. At the time I mention it was much what the Savage Club is now; in fact, was located in the same Terrace. Its smoking concerts, too, were its great attractions, and on one of these evenings I played a part worth reciting, if only to illustrate how difficult it is for some minds to understand a joke.
A well-known literary man called to see me. On a table in my studio lay a "make-up" box—used by actors preparing their faces for the footlights—a bald head with fringe of light hair, large fair moustache, wig paste, a suit of clothes too large for me, and other trifles. My visitor's curiosity was aroused. Taking up my "properties," he asked me what they were for. I explained to him a huge joke had been arranged as a surprise at the Club smoking concert to take place that very evening, in which I was to play a part with a well-known and highly-popular member—the funny man of the Club, and an eccentric-looking one to boot. He had conceived the idea to make me up as a double of himself. We were the same height, but otherwise we in no way resembled each other. He was stout, I was thin; he prematurely bald, I enjoyed a superabundance of auburn locks; but he had very marked characteristics, and wore very remarkable clothes. He was also very clever at "making-up." The idea was to test his talent in this direction, and deceive the whole of our friends. It was arranged that he was to leave the piano after singing half his song, and I—up to that moment concealed—was to come forward and continue it. This I explained to my visitor, who expressed his belief that the deception was impossible. He promised to keep the secret, and that evening was early in the room and seated close to the piano. My "double"—fortunately for me, an amateur—sang the first verses of one of his well-known songs, but in the middle of it complained of the heat of the room (one of those large rooms on the first floor in Adelphi Terrace, famous for the Angelica Kaufmann paintings on the ceiling), and opening the French window close to the piano he went out on to the balcony. There I was, having walked along the balcony from the next room. So successful was my "make-up" that in passing through the supper-room to get on to the balcony some of the members spoke to me under the impression I was the other member! The hall-porter had handed me a letter intended for my "double." Of course I imitated his walk, his mannerisms at the piano, and his voice, but I made a poor attempt to sing. This was the joke. "What was the matter?" "Never sang like that before," "Evidently thinks it is funny to be completely out of tune," "Hullo, what is this?" as my "double" walked through the crowded room just as I finished, and shook hands with me!
I would really have sung the song better, but my eye happened to catch the puzzled stare of my friend the literary visitor in the front row. He looked angry and annoyed, and before my "double" came up to me, my friend, scowling at me, said, "Sir, I think it is infernal bad taste on your part to imitate my friend Harry Furniss!"
Who is it that says we English have no sense of humour? My "double" in the preceding tale was my brother-in-law, who as a boy was the companion of Mr. George Grossmith, and in fact once appeared as an amateur at German Reed's, the old Gallery of Illustration, in a piece, with "Gee Gee" as his double, entitled "Too much Alike."
He was also an inveterate and clever raconteur, and of course occasionally made a slip, as for instance, on a railway journey to Brighton once, when he found himself alone with a stranger. The stranger in conversation happened to ask my relative casually if he were fond of travelling. "Travelling? I should rather think so" he replied airily, and imagining he was impressing someone who was "something in the City," he continued, "Yes, sir, I'm a pretty experienced traveller. Been mostly round the world and all that kind of thing, you know, and had my share of adventures, I can tell you!" After a bit he gained more confidence, and launched into details, giving the stranger the benefit of his experience. "Why, sir, you read in books that hunters of big game, such as tigers, watch their eyes. Not a bit of it. What you have got to do is to watch the tail, and that's the thing. It mesmerises the animal, so to speak, and you have him at your mercy," and so forth, and so forth. On arriving at the hotel he found his travelling companion had just signed his name in the visitors' book. It was Richard Burton! My brother-in-law hastened to apologise to Sir Richard for his absurd tales. He had no idea, of course, to whom he was retailing his stiff yarns. Burton laughed. "My dear sir, not a word, please. I was more entertained than I can tell you. You really might have travelled—you lie so well!"
One of the most eccentric men I ever met, and certainly one of the most successful journalists—a rara avis, for he made a fortune in Fleet Street, and retired to live in a castle in the country—was a man whose name, although a very singular one, remains absolutely unknown even to members of the Fourth Estate. He was a clever, hard-working journalist; every line he wrote—and he was always writing—was printed and well-paid for, but he never signed an article, whilst others, journalists, specialists, poets, essayists—logrollers of high degree—see their name often enough, are "celebrities," "men of the time," feted and written about, but eventually retire on the Civil List. Eccentricity is the breath of their nostrils, their very existence depends upon it, publicity is essential. My friend's eccentricity was for his own pleasure. He lived in a frugal—some might think in a miserly way—in two rooms in one of the Inns of Court. Perhaps I shall be more correct if I say he existed in one. A loaf of bread and half a pint of milk was his daily fare. The room he slept in he worked in. The other was empty, save for bundles of dusty old newspapers containing articles from his ever active brain. "I keep this room," said he, "for times when I am over-wrought. Then I shut myself up in it, and roar! When by this process I have blown away my mental cobwebs, my brain regains its pristine energy, and I go back to my study calm and collected, having done no one any harm, and myself a lot of good." I have dined at his Club with him in the most luxurious fashion, quite regardless of expense. He was a capital host, but, like the magazines he wrote for, he only appeared replete once a month. His Press work he looked upon as mere bread and milk. His work was excellent, journalism which editors term "safe," neither too brilliant nor too dull, certainly having no trace whatever of eccentricity.
I may here offer an opinion, and make a suggestion to young journalists, and that is—safe, steady, dull mediocrity is what pays in the long run; to attempt to be brilliant when not a genius is fatal. To have the genius, brilliancy, pluck, and success means tremendous prosperity and favour for a time, but the editors and the public tire of your cleverness. You are too much in evidence. It is safer from a mere business standpoint to be the steady, stupid tortoise than the brilliant hare. The man or woman who writes a carefully thought-out essay is flattered, and quoted, and talked about: for that article the writer may possibly receive as many sovereigns as the writer of a newspaper article receives shillings; but the shillings come every day, and the sovereigns once a month. It is wiser in the long run to be satisfied with a loaf and milk once a day than with a dinner at a Club every four weeks.
If in the old days the Bohemian scribbler was not in Society, he could at least imagine himself there. There was nothing to prevent his speaking of a member of the aristocracy as "one of us" with far less embarrassment and with as much truth as he could nowadays when he is invited—but still as the oil that never will mix with water. Except in imagination—an imagination such as I recollect a well-known figure in literary Bohemia had when I knew it well, a writer of stories for the popular papers: Society stories, in which a Duke ran away with a governess, or a Duchess eloped with an artist, each weekly instalment winding up with a sensational event, so as to carry forward the interest of the reader. This writer—quite excellent in his way—a thorough Bohemian, knowing nothing about the Society he wrote about, had the power of making himself, and sometimes fresh acquaintances, believe that he played in real life a part in the story he was writing. He did not refer to the experiences as related by him as incidents in his story, but as actual events of the day.
"Brandy and soda? Thanks. My dear fellow, I feel a perfect wreck, shaken to pieces. I had an experience to-day I shall never forget. I have just arrived from Devonshire; ran down by a night train to look at a hunter Lord Briarrose wanted to sell me. Bob—that is Briarrose—and I travelled together. He is going to be married, you know; heiress; great beauty—neighbour—rolling in wealth. I stopped at the Castle last night, and before Bob was up I was on the thoroughbred and well over the country, returning about eleven along the top of the cliffs. To my horror, I saw a carriage and pair charging down a road which at one time continued a long distance skirting the cliffs. Cliffs had fallen; road cut off; unprotected; drop down cliff eight hundred feet on to pointed rocks and deep sea. There was nothing between the runaway horses and the cliff, except a storm-broken solitary tree with one branch curved over the road. When the horses bolted, the groom fell off. There was only a lady in the carriage, powerless to stop the frightened steeds dashing on to death. As she approached I was electrified. Something told me she was Bob's fiancee. A moment and I was charging the hunter under that tree. Jumping up out of the saddle, I clasped the solitary branch with both hands, and turning as an acrobat would on a trapeze, I hung by my legs, hands downwards, calling to the lady to clasp them. The fiery steeds and the oscillating carriage dashed under me—our hands met. With a superhuman effort I raised the fainting fairy form out of the vehicle as it passed like a whirlwind. The next moment horses and carriage were being dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Under our united weight the branch of the tree broke, and we fell unhurt on the moss-covered path. When the eyes of the fair lady opened to gaze upon her deliverer, I started as if shot. She sprang to her feet. 'Reginald!' she cried. 'Is it you?'