Obrazy na stronie

standing not only of men and their first; but his animals are always ways, but of the still more pathetic delightful. This generation, at humour and engaging simplicity least, will never outgrow the pleasof those dumb members of society, ure of them. They are perhaps the dogs and horses, the beast and above the range of the children birds, whose expression and charac- for whom they were originally ter are more difficult to seize than intended, in all the bravery of their those of men, and always capti- pinks and blues; but for the grownvating when a fine instinct finds up children few such simple feasts them out. All the animals for of pleasure and sympathetic laughinstance in the story of the Mad ter have ever been spread. Dog, how almirable they are ! from But having said this, and having the engaging innocence of the wist- done full justice at the same time ful puppy, so wise, so foolish, so to Caldecott's hunting-scenes, and ,

, irresistible, appealing to every the amusing groups which he picks human sentiment, up to the solid up on his travels, we cannot claim gravity of the big retriever, father for this genial, bright, and keenof dogs, tolerant and benignant as eyed artist any great or serious becomes his position, how many standing in art. He began to wondersul characteristic varieties ! maintain himself by his pencil And when the final tragedy arrives, before he had learned anything, and the hunted victim, with a while he was indeed no more than hoarse cry of anguish in his throat, a very clever and humorous amaand every hair upon his poor coat teur; and notwithstanding his constaring, dies in despair, the victim tinuous and never-flagging work, probably, like so many of his bet- he never had time to accomplish ters, of a misconception, how piti- the tremendous round of art eduful, yet how genuine, is the climax! cation, or to qualify himself thorThese dogs are almost more than oughly as an artist. There is men. They are men reflected in something in this very fact that the clearest, intensest mirror of a propitiates the English public. narrower consciousness—a reflec- Fond of the accidental in everytion almost always amusing, though thing, we are seldom more pleased in some cases tragic, the meaning than when we find that the sketch intensified by the dumb sugges- which takes our fancy, whether in tiveness both of pleasure and art or music or literature, has pain. The same force of expres- been executed by some one who sion descends even to still life. has no right to know anything How the spoon bridles and sim- about these high crafts, but has pers, while the dish puts on a by mere intuition, by stress of manly semblance of protection and genius, outstripped the students triumph! It is humanity masquer- and done better than all the ading, but with a delightful ab- qualified persons. Something of surdity and fatuity which goes the same feeling no doubt inspired beyond man, The men and women, the applause when the productions indeed, are the worst of the exhi- of a nameless young person calling bition. They require more from himself “ Boz” came first before the hand of the artist than Calde- the public. These sketches, to our cott perhaps had to give; and this own mind, do not give half so much is the reason why his last picture promise of a Dickens as the prebooks dwindle as they go on, and ludes of Michael Angelo Titmarsh are by no means so strong as the gave of Thackeray; but the young clerk, who had no possible claim ance of the peculiar audience to a hearing, jumped the obstacles which has perhaps more interest which the other found it so hard in what he has to show than in to get over.

what he has to tell. It is, howCaldecott also was a young clerk, ever, a sort of liberty which ought brought up in a Manchester bank, not to be taken with any serious and diligent enough at his desk, audience; and in the point of view thoagh covering every scrap of pa- of literature the book does not deper and blotting-pad within his serve any consideration whatever. reach with pen-and-ink scratches, It is a scrambling record of the which were the delight of his fel- outset of a life in which there low-clerks, and kept the office in were no particularly interesting a general roar. Blotting-paper, by features. The letters given in the way, is an admirable medium illustration of the young man's for the caricaturist. The dots and character are just such letters specks and blurred lines, which as a cheerful young clerk would come upon it by nature in its sim- write to his comrades in the plest use, afford foundations which office, neither more nor less interare precious for all kinds of comic esting than such

such compositions representations, and it is easy to would naturally be; yet rather see how the pad on the office desk less than more, as they show indimight become a perfect picture- cations of having been subjected gallery of illustrations, in which to an injudicious process of selecthe outline of every unconscious tion, and chosen as the clever parts customer, the trick of his hair, the of familiar compositions in which, angle of his eyebrows, would come probably, there were portions not in with amazing effect. A more intended to be clever, of more in amusing member of the little com- terest. Caldecott, like many young munity in an office it would be artists, especially of his imperfectly difficult to find, and no doubt his trained kind, was more apt with fellow-clerks owed him many a his pencil than with any other pleasant break in the monotony of medium, and there is a flavour of business days, We can scarcely call Mr Chuckster in the letters which Mr Blackburn the biographer of his we could have done without. It friend, for the present volume is is evident, however, that neither nothing more than a collection of Mr Blackburn nor Caldecott's corsketches, a number of them already respondents had any feeling of this known to the world, with a scanty kind. To show how entirely withthread of accompanying explana- out perception they were in this tions, breaking off abruptly in the respect, it is enough to quote the middle, and entering into few par- indiscriminating way in which, as ticulars of the artist's life. The rea- Mr Blackburn says, “one of his son for this is stated with great friends writes of him very truly :" frankness. It is to leave room for another volume. “At a future time “Caldecott's ability was general, not more may be written, and many special. It found its natural and delightful reminiscences recorded, most agreeable outlet in art and says the author, whose power of humour; but every body who knew

him and those who received his manufacturing biggish books out letters, saw that there were perhaps of small materials is not unknown

a dozen ways in which he would have to the public, and who evidently distinguished himself, had he been has not miscalculated the forbear- drawn to them."



A better authority, Mr. Frederick very well-known illustrations of Locker, puts the artist's special the Washington Irving books introand probably sole gift in a very duced in this supposed collection of different and much more genuine unpublished work. It is a kind of light:

deception in its way, and not fair to

the purchaser of a book which calls "It occurs to me that Caldecott's art was of a quality that appears

itself a new book, and may be

preabout once in a century. It had sumed to be a biography. It is delightful characteristics, most hap- neither one nor the other. The pily blended. He had a delicate story of Randolph Caldecott, such fancy, and his humour was as racy as it was, breaks off in the middle, as it was refined. He had a keen and half of the illustrations are resense of beauty, and, to sum up all, petitions from his previously pubhe had charm."

lished works, and from the univerIt may be added that he was an sally known pages of Punch' and admirable illustrator of books, tak- other journals. There are, indeed, ing up the idea of the writer whose a fair amount of clever penand-ink work he was to embellish with an scratches, many of them very clever, honesty and faithfulness all the which are original; but the majormore remarkable from the extreme ity of the prints have been seen quickness of his own eye to note before, and the letter-press is of any passing group and humorous exceedingly little importance. It figure, and the fertility of the world would scarcely detract, indeed, around in furnishing irresistible from our knowledge of the artist, studies. We are unaware of any if we had never seen it at all. other illustrated books so perfect This dislocation of the subject, as Washington Irving's ‘Old Christ- with the avowed purpose of leaving mas' and · Bracebridge Hall,' as more to be written at a future time, illustrated by Caldecott. Per- is, we conceive, an offence of the haps the quaintness of the cos- first class against literary morality. tumes and the neatness of the little Caldecott, with all leis gifts, is not word-pictures which he rendered an artist of sufficient importance into figures captivated his imagi- or interest to warrant the most nation, and made him triumphant arrant bookmaker in thus dividover difficulties which were too his little life, poor fellow! into many for him in works of a more two, and eking out his baskets of modern kind : for certainly both fragments with so many things his villagers and his gentlefolk in which have already had their these two charming little books award. It is something very like come as near perfection in express- trading upon an interesting name. ing the author's ideas, and in re- We are by no means sure that it alising our own, as it is easy to would not be expedient to revise imagine. The illustrations which altogether our code of what is he did for other books are less permitted and not permitted by remarkable, perhaps because the the standard of literary honour. bock: themselves were so, and To spin out into three volumes, Breton peasants and the like did for instance, what would be much not afford the necessary concentra- better in one is a practice which is tion of keen observation and pleas- approved, nay, enforced, by the supant humour in which the artist's posed practical persons involved, the soul delighted. We object, how- publishers, whose will and wish is of ever, to have reproductions of the so much importance to the literary

artist, and has received the sanction employment. Sparks do not rise of precedent. But if it is hopeless from a cold anvil, nor is thread to overthrow this rule, there are at spun straight and fine from an least other matters which we are unaccustomed wheel. There are free to examine. It is so inex- writers who scamp their work, pedient as to be almost criminal to who write without a vocation, to reprint in hot haste as a permanent whom their craft is neither a glory book the light utterances of our nor a joy, but a mechanical occumomens perdus, the popular article, pation; but it is not of such that or still more popular speech; and we speak. To every man who is it is still worse to dilute and cut in the constant exercise of his a subject in which the capricious work, work is easier, and, we taste of the public has chosen to venture to say, in most cases work find a special temporary interest in is better done, than when he is order to make more of it. This working half time, or hindered in last is an expedient which should the habitual exercise of his craft. be approved or practised by no And we think it an impertinence man of letters worthy the name. to say that this law does not apply

We are disposed to reproach Mr. to the literary worker. He, indeed, Louis Stevenson for following a might have a right to claim more bad example in this way. He is than any other the privilege of his still too young, and has too much craft, the advantage of that strain original power and force of inven. of feeling and faculty which cantion, to begin to serve up réchauffés not be turned off and on like the of his magazine stories at this supplies of a water company, but period of his career. If our young flows naturally and continuously, authors would but realise this law unless dammed and obstructed by of honour, what a good thing it external obstacles. The writer of would be both for themselves and fiction knows how often one train their readers ! We have never of imaginary circumstances springs joined the general cry against con- naturally out of another, and how tinuous work in the way of liter- the world widens and expands ary production ; nor have we ever into ever new scenes of human been able to see why books should life, suggested by that upon which be the only creations of art which he is working, or leading out of it, are to be stopped on the way by by a succession as infallible as any fictitious rules as to the length of other kind of growth and developtime necessary for their incuba- ment. To stop the current arbition. The literary workman, while trarily, or to blame him for followhis mind is in full career with all ing it with the ardour and rapidity the impulse and force of life, and of artistic interest and impulse, is his wits quickened by exercise, is, one of the foolish things which litwe think, as capable of continuous erary criticism takes upon itself to production as any artist can be. do, as if the principles of literary He is strengthened, not weakened, production were different from by the mere force of doing; his those of all other works of art. faculties are keener to perceive; But it is not so ; and except in his imagination is more apt to cases of peculiar temperament or strike out new complications, new habit, the workman who is in full combinations, while it is in full tide of work is he who works the

i The Merry Men. By Robert Louis Stevenson.



best, as in every other craft under We are not sure now whether the heaven. Therefore let the man fine thread of humour which runs work : let him go on to fresh woods through most of his stories, and and pastures new; let him exercise which goes the length of the most his gifts, and snatch his stories delightful absurdity in some, is not from the storehouse, ever full, of rather a puzzling than an attractive active genius and thought. It ingredient to the readers, who find will be time enough when the tide quite sufficient play of pleasantry in grows fainter, when he no longer Captain Good's teeth and eyeglass, finds the invention he requires, and prefer the exaggeration of apor is able to protect himself into parently mathematical fact in • King the perpetually changing circum- Solomon's Mines' to the more stances of the life about him—it subtle and exquisite extravagance will be time enough then to gather and grim fun of · Treasure Island' up his basket of fragments, to pick and the Suicide Club.' There is no up what he has dropped by the fun in the Merry Men,' who are highways and hedges in the force no mirthful human company, but of his early career.

a wild family of breakers, off the We may reconsider our judg- coast of a Highland isle, where ment, however, in Mr Stevenson's grim shipwrecks take place, to the case, from the fact that, so far as horrible accompaniment of the roar we are aware, the Merry Men,' and deafening laughter of these which is the first of these collected awful vassals of the storm. The stories, is new, and has never been master of the wild homestead on published before. It is a curious Aros, a kind of peninsula, someand weird story, with many things times made into a separate islet by in it which remind us of Mr Steven- the sea, and exposed to every son's best work, and much of the wind that blows—an austerely reHighland atmosphere, and salt sniffligious, melancholy, and disappointof the fresh, cold, boisterous air ed man, who is driven mad by a which recall · Kidnapped,' a book wreck and the horrible chance of in which there were many excel- gain thus held out to him, gain lences. It is somewhat curious which, in his frenzy of passionate that the author of those dainty covetousness, he secures by murder little essays, which first won dis- —is the chief figure in the story, tinction for Mr Stevenson's name, which is told by a young relation, which were almost too finely drawn who has his own private romance for ordinary flesh and blood, should and dream of finding one of the have had the good fortune just lost ships of the Armada, with all when it was necessary—when the its wealth, under the waters of the English reader had begun to show bay. This hope, however, fades signs of his present turn of taste, entirely before the madness of reand desire for adventure and story morse and horror in the elder in preference to sentiment and re- man, and the strange events which flection—to open the new vein of deepen and strengthen it. Howwonder, and imaginative horror and ever even this grim figure is submystery, which has made him one ordinate to the intense influence of the leaders of this revolution. and force of the scene. Nothing could have been more

“On all this part of the coast, and well-timed, and few things, from especially near Aros, those great the point of view of Mr Steven- granite rocks that I have spoken of son's early work, more unlikely. go down together in troops into the

« PoprzedniaDalej »