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Du Maurier And London Society by By Henry James


MANY years ago, a small American child, who lived in New York and played in Union Square, which was then inclosed by a high railing and governed by a solitary policeman—-a strange, superannuated, dilapidated functionary, carrying a little cane and wearing, with a very copious and very dirty shirtfront, the costume of a man of the world—-a small American child, we say, was a silent devotee of “Punch.” (We ought; perhaps, to explain that we allude to the periodical of that name—-not to the festive potion.) Half-an-hour spent to-day in turning over the early numbers transports him quite as much to old New York as to the London of the first Crystal Palace and the years that immediately followed it. From about 1850 to 1855, he lived, in imagination, no small part of his time in the world represented by the pencil of Leech. He pored over the pictures of the people riding in the Row, of the cabmen and the costermongers, of the little pages in buttons, of the bathing-machines at the sea-side, of the small boys in tall hats and Eton jackets, of the gentlemen hunting the fox, of the pretty girls in striped petticoats and coiffures of the shape of the mushroom. These things were the features of a world which he longed so to behold that the familiar woodcuts (they were not so good in those days as they have become since) grew at last as real to him as the furniture of his home; and when he at present looks at the “Punch” of thirty years ago, he finds in it an odd association of mediæval New York. He remembers that it was in such a locality, in that city, that he first saw such a picture; he recalls the fading light of the winter dusk, with the red fire and the red curtains in the background, in which more than once he was bidden to put down the last numbers of the humorous sheet and come to his tea. “Punch” was England; “Punch” was London; and England and London were at that time words of multifarious suggestion to this small American child. He liked much more to think of the British Empire than to indulge in the sports natural to his tender age, and many of his hours were spent in making mental pictures of the society of which the recurrent wood-cuts offered him specimens and revelations. He had from year to year the prospect of really beholding this society (he heard every spring, from the earliest period, that his parents would go to Europe, and then he heard that they would not), and he had measured the value of the prospect with a keenness possibly premature. He knew the names of the London streets, of the theatres, of many of the shops: the dream of his young life was to take a walk in Kensington Gardens and go to Drury Lane to see a pantomime. There was a great deal in the old “Punch” about the pantomimes, and harlequins and columbines peopled the secret visions of this perverted young New Yorker. It was a mystic satisfaction to him that he had lived in Piccadilly when he was a baby; he remembered neither the period nor the place, but the name of the latter had a strange delight for him. It had been promised him that he should behold once more that romantic thoroughfare, and he did so by the time he was twelve years old. Then he found that if “Punch” had been London (as he lay on the hearth-rug inhaling the exotic fragrance of the freshly arrived journal), London was “Punch,” and something more. He remembers to-day vividly his impression of the London streets in the summer of 1855; they had an extraordinary look of familiarity, and every figure, every object he encountered, appeared to have been drawn by Leech. He has learned to know these things better since then; but his childish impression is subject to extraordinary revivals. The expansive back of an old lady getting into an omnibus, the attitude of a little girl bending from her pony in the park, the demureness of a maidservant opening a street-door in Brompton, the top-heavy attitude of the small “Ameliar-Ann,” as she stands planted with the baby in her arms on the corner of a Westminster slum, the coal-heavers, the cabmen, the publicans, the butcher-boys, the flunkeys, the guardsmen, the policemen (in spite of their change of uniform),—-are liable at this hour, in certain moods, to look more like sketchy tail-pieces than natural things. (There are moments indeed—-not identical with those we speak of—-in which certain figures, certain episodes, in the London streets, strike an even stranger, deeper note of reminiscence. They remind the American traveller of Hogarth; he may take a walk in Oxford street—-on some dirty, winter afternoon—-and find everything he sees Hogarthian.)

We know not whether the form of infantine nostalgia of which we speak is common, or was then common, among small Americans: but we are sure that, when fortune happens to favour it, it is a very delightful pain. In those days, in America, the manufacture of children's picture-books was an undeveloped industry; the best things came from London, and brought with them the aroma of a richer civilization. The covers were so beautiful and shining, the paper and print so fine, the coloured illustrations so magnificent,—-that it was easy to see that over there the arts were at a very high point. The very name of the publisher on the title-page (the small boy we speak of always looked at that) had a thrilling and mystifying effect. But, above all, the contents were so romantic and delectable! There were things in the English story-books that one read as a child, just as there were things in “Punch,” that one couldn't have seen in New York, even if one had been fifty years old. The age had nothing to do with it: one had a conviction that they were not there to be seen. We can hardly say why. It is, perhaps, because the plates in the picture-books were almost always coloured; but it was evident that there was a great deal more colour in that other world. We remember well the dazzling tone of a little Christmas book by Leech, which was quite in the spirit of “Punch,” only more splendid, for the plates were plastered with blue and pink. It was called “Young Troublesome”; or, “Master Jacky's Holidays,” and it has probably become scarce to-day. It related the mischievous pranks of an Eton school-boy while at home for his Christmas vacation, and the exploit we chiefly remember was his blacking with a burnt stick the immaculate calves of the footman, who is carrying up some savoury dish to the banquet from which (in consequence of his age and his habits) Master Jacky is excluded. Master Jacky was so handsome, so brilliant, so heroic, so regardless of dangers and penalties, so fertile in resources; and those charming young ladies, his sisters, his cousins,—-the innocent victims of his high spirits,—-had such golden ringlets, such rosy cheeks, such pretty shoulders, such delicate blue sashes over such fresh muslin gowns! Master Jacky seemed to lead a life all illumined with rosy Christmas fire. A little later came Richard Doyle's delightful volume giving the history of “Brown, Jones, and Robinson,” and it would be difficult to exaggerate the action of these remarkable designs in forming the taste of our fantastic little amateur. They told him, indeed, much less about England than about the cities of the continent; but that was not a drawback, for he could take in the continent, too. Moreover, he felt that these three travellers were intensely British; they looked at everything from the London point of view, and it gave him an immense feeling of initiation to be able to share their susceptibilities. Was there not also a delightful little picture at the end,. which represented them as restored to British ground, each holding up a tankard of foaming ale, with the boots behind them, rolling their battered portmanteaux into the inn? This seemed somehow to commemorate one's own possible arrival in Old England, even though. it was not likely that overflowing beer would be a feature of so modest an event; just as all the rest of it was a foretaste of Switzerland, of the Rhine, of North Italy, which after this would find one quite prepared. We are sorry to say that when, many years later, we ascended, for the first time, to the roof of Milan Cathedral, what we first thought of was not the “waveless plain of Lombardy,” nor the beauty of the edifice, but the “little London snob,” whom Brown, Jones, and Robinson saw writing his name on one of the pinnacles of the church. We had our preferences in this genial trio. We adored little Jones, the artist—-if memory doesn't betray us (we haven't seen the book for twenty years)—-and Jones was the artist. It is difficult to say why we adored him, but it was certainly the dream of our life at that foolish period to make his acquaintance. We did so, in fact, not very long after. We were taken in due course to Europe, and we met him on a steam-boat on the Lake of Geneva. There was no introduction; we had no conversation; but he was the Jones of our imagination. Thackeray's Christmas books (“The Rose and the Ring,” apart—-it dates from 1854,) came before this; we remember them in our earliest years. They, too, were of the family of “Punch”—-which is my excuse for this superfluity of preface—-and they were a revelation of English manners. “English manners,” for a child, could of course only mean certain individual English figures—-the figures in “Our Street,” in “Doctor Birch and his Young Friends” (we were glad we were not of the number), in “Mrs. Perkins's Ball.” In the first of these charming little volumes there is a pictorial exposition of the reason why the nurse-maids in “Our Street” like Kensington Gardens. When, in the course of time, we were taken to walk in those lovely shades, we looked about us for a simpering young woman and an insinuating soldier on a bench, with a bawling baby sprawling on the path hard-by, and we think we discovered the group.

Many people in the United States, and doubtless in other countries, have gathered their knowledge of English life almost entirely from “Punch,” and it would be difficult to imagine a more abundant, and on the whole a more accurate, informant. The accumulated volumes of this periodical contain evidence on a multitude of points of which there is no mention in the serious works—-not even in the novels—-of the day. The smallest details of social habit are depicted there, and the oddities of a race of people in whom oddity is strangely compatible with the dominion of convention. That the ironical view of these things is given does not injure the force of the testimony, for the irony of “Punch,” strangely enough, has always been discreet, even delicate. It is a singular fact, that though taste is not supposed to be the strong point of the English mind, this eminently representative journal has rarely been guilty of violations of taste. The taste of “Punch,” like its good humour, has known very few lapses. “The London Charivari”—-we remember how difficult it was (in 1853) to arrive at the right pronunciation—-has, in this respect, very little to envy its Parisian original. English humour is coarse, French humour is fine—-that would be the general assumption, certainly, on the part of a French critic. But a comparison between the back volumes of the “Charivari” and the back volumes of “Punch” would make it necessary to modify this formula. English humour is simple, innocent, plain, a trifle insipid, apt to sacrifice to the graces, to the proprieties; but if “Punch” is our witness, English humour is not coarse. We are fortunately not obliged to declare just now what French humour appears to be—-in the light of the “Charivari,” the “Journal Amusant,” the “Journal Pour Rire.” A Frenchman may say, in perfect good faith, that (to his sense) English drollery has doubtless every merit but that of being droll. French drollery, he may say, is salient, saltatory; whereas the English comic effort is flat and motionless. The French, in these matters, like a great deal of salt; whereas the English, who spice their food very highly, and have a cluster of sharp condiments on the table, like their caricatures comparatively mild. “Punch,” in short, is for the family—-"Punch” may be sent up to the nursery. This surely may be admitted; and it is the fact that “Punch” is for the family that constitutes its high value. The family is, after all, the people; and a satirical sheet which holds up the mirror to this institution can hardly fail to be instructive. “Yes, if it hold the mirror up impartially,” we can imagine the foreign critic to rejoin; “but in these matters the British caricaturist is not to be trusted. He slurs over a great deal—-he omits a great deal more. He must, above all things, be proper; and there .is a whole side of life which, in spite of his Juvenalian pretensions, he never touches at all.” We must allow the foreign critic his supposed retort, without taking space to answer back,—-we may imagine him to be a bit of a “naturalist,”—-and admit that it is perhaps because they are obliged to be proper that Leech and du Maurier give us, on the whole, such a cleanly, healthy, friendly picture of English manners. Such sustained and inveterate propriety is in itself a great force; it includes a good deal, as well as excludes. The general impression that we derive from the long series of “Punch” is a very cheerful and favourable one; it speaks of a vigorous, good-humoured, much-civilized people. The good humour is, perhaps, the most striking point—-not only the good humour of the artist who represents the scene, but that of the figures engaged in it. The difference is remarkable in this respect between “Punch” and the French comic papers. The wonderful Cham, who for so many years contributed to those sheets, had an extraordinary sense of the ludicrous and a boundless stock of facetious invention. He was strangely expressive; he could place a figure before you, in the most violent action, with half-a-dozen strokes of his pencil. But his people were like wild-cats and scorpions. The temper of the French bourgeoisie, as represented by Cham, is a thing to make one take to one's heels. They perpetually tear and rend each other, show their teeth and their claws, kick each other down-stairs, and pitch each other from windows. All this is in the highest degree farcical or grotesque; but at bottom it is almost horrible. (It must be admitted that Cham and his wonderful colleague, Daumier, are much more horrible than Gavarni, who was admirably real, and at the same time capable of beauty and grace. Gavarni's women are charming; those of Cham and Daumier are monsters.) There is nothing, or almost nothing, of the horrible in “Punch.” The author of these remarks has a friend whom he has heard more than once maintain the too-ingenious thesis that the caricatures of Cham prove the French to be a cruel people; the same induction could, at least, never be drawn, even in an equal spirit of paradox, from the genial pages of “Punch.” “If 'Punch' is never horrible, it is because 'Punch' is always superficial, for life is full of the horrible”—-so we may imagine our naturalistic objector to go on. However this maybe, “Punch” is fortunate in having picked out such a charming surface. English life, as depicted by Leech and du Maurier, and by that excellent Charles Keene,—-the best-humoured perhaps of the three, whose talent is so great that we have always wondered why it is not greater,—-is a compound of several very wholesome tastes—-the love of the country, the love of sport, the love of a harmless joke within the limits of due reverence, the love of sport, of horses and dogs, of family life, of children, of horticulture. With this there are a few other tastes of a less innocent kind,—-the love of ardent spirits, for instance, or of punching people's heads,—-or even the love of a lord. In Leech's drawings, country-life plays a great part; his landscapes, in their extreme sketchiness, are often admirable. He gave, in a few strokes, the look of the hunting-field in winter—-the dark, damp slopes; the black, dense hedges; the low, cool sky. He was very general; he touched on everything, sooner or later; but he enjoyed his sporting subjects more than anything else. In this he was thoroughly English. No close observer of that people can fail to perceive that the love of sport is the thing that binds them most closely together, and in which they have the greatest number of feelings in common. Leech depicted, with infinite vividness, the accidents of the chase and of the fishing season; and his treatment of the horse, in especial, contributed greatly to his popularity. He understood the horse, he knew him intimately, he loved him; and he drew him as if he knew how to ride as well as to draw. The English forgive a great deal to those who ride well; and this is doubtless why the badness of some of the sporting subjects that have appeared in “Punch" since Leech's death has been tolerated; the artist has been presumed to be a good rider! Leech never made a mistake; he did well whatever he did; and, it must be remembered, that for many years he furnished the political cartoon to “Punch,” as well as the smaller drawings. He was always amusing, always full of sense and point, always intensely English. His foreigner is always an inferior animal—-his Frenchman is the Frenchman of Leicester Square, the Frenchman whom the Exhibition of 1851 revealed to the people of London. His point is perfectly perceptible—-it is never unduly fine. His children are models of ruddy, chubby, shy, yet sturdy British babyhood; and nothing could be nicer than his young women. The English maiden, in Leech, is emphatically a nice girl; modest and fresh, simple and blooming, and destined evidently for use as much as for ornament. In those early days to which we referred at the beginning of this article, we were deeply in love with the young ladies of Leech, and we have never ceased to admire the simple art with which he made these hastily designed creatures conform unerringly to the English type. They have English eyes and English cheeks, English figures, English hands and feet, English ringlets, English petticoats. Leech was extremely observant, but he had not a strong imagination; he had a sufficient, but not a high sense of beauty; his ideal of the beautiful had nothing of the unattainable; it was simply a résumé of the nice faces he saw about him. And very nice they must generally have been. The great thing, however, was that he was a natural draughtsman; his little figures live and move; many of his little scenes are stamped on the memory. I have spoken of his representations of the country; but his town-pictures are numerous and capital. He knew his London, and his sketches of the good people of that metropolis are as happy as his episodes in the drawing-room and the hunting-field. He was admirably broad and free; and no one in his line has had more than he the knack of giving what is called a general effect. He conveys, at times, the look of the London streets—-the colour, the temperature, the damp blackness. He does the winter weather to perfection. Long before I had seen it, I was acquainted, through his sketches, with the aspect of Baker street in December. Out of such a multitude of illustrations it is difficult to choose: the two volumes of “Sketches of Life and Character,” transferred from “Punch,” are a real museum. But I recall, for instance, the simple little sketch of the worthy man up to his neck in bed on a January morning, to whom, on the other side of the door, the prompt housemaid, with her hammer in her hand, announces that “I have just broken the ice in your bath, sir.” The black, cold dawn, the very smell of the early chill, that raw sootiness of the London winter air, the red nose of the housemaid, the unfashionable street seen through the window—-impart a peculiar vividness to this small, inky-looking wood-cut.

We have said too much about Leech, however, and the purpose of these remarks is not to commemorate his work. “Punch,” for the last fifteen years, has been, artistically speaking, George du Maurier. (We ought, perhaps, before this, to have said that none of our observations are to be taken as applying to the letterpress of the comic journal, which has probably never been fully appreciated in America.) It has employed other talents than his—-notably Charles Keene, who is as broad, as jovial, as English (half his jokes are against Scotchmen), as Leech, hut whose sense of the beautiful, the delicate, is inferior even to Leech's; and the wonderful Linley Sambourne, a genius quite apart, full of ingenuity and fancy, brilliant in execution, but wanting in the appearance and the love of reality, and more decorative, almost more mechanical, than dramatic. But for a great many people, certainly in America, du Maurier has long been, as I say, the successor of Leech, the embodiment of. the pictorial spirit of “Punch.” Shut up in the narrow limits of black and white, without space, without colour, without the larger opportunities, du Maurier has nevertheless established himself as an exquisite talent and a genuine artist. He is not so much of a laugher as Leech,—-he deals in the smile, rather than the laugh,—-but he is a much deeper observer, and he is a finer and nobler draughtsman. He has not Leech's animal spirits; a want of high spirits, a tendency to reflection, to lowness of tone, as his own Postlethwaite would say, is perhaps his limitation. But his seriousness—-if he is too serious—-is that of the satirist as distinguished from the simple joker; and if he reflects, he does so in the literal sense of the word—-holds up a singularly polished and lucid mirror to the drama of English society. More than twenty years ago, when he began to draw in “Once a Week,”—-that not very long-lived periodical which set out on its career with a high pictorial standard,—-it was apparent that the careful young artist who finished his designs very highly and signed them with a French name, stood very much upon his own feet. The earliest things of his that we know have the quality which has made him distinguished to-day—-the union of a great sense of beauty with a great sense of reality. It was apparent from the first that this was not a simple and uniform talent, but a gift that had sprung from a combination of sources. It is important to remember, in speaking of du Maurier,—-who is one of the pillars of the British journal par excellence,—-that he has French blood in his veins. George du Maurier, as we understand his history, was born in England, of a French father and an English mother, but was removed to France in his early years, and educated according to the customs of that country. Later, however, he returned to England; and it would not be difficult for a careful student of his drawings to guess that England is the land of his predilection. He has drawn a great many French figures, but he has drawn them as one who knows them rather than as one who loves them. He has perhaps been, as the phrase is, a little hard upon the French; at any rate, he has been decidedly easy for the English. The latter are assuredly a very handsome race; but, if we were to construct an image of them from the large majority of du Maurier's drawings, we should see before us a people of gods and goddesses. This does not alter the fact that there is a very Gallic element in some of du Maurier's gifts—-his fineness of perception, his remarkable power of specifying types, his taste, his grace, his. lightness, a certain refinement of art. It is hard to imagine that a talent so remarkable should not have given early evidences; but in spite of such evidences, du Maurier was on the threshold of manhood, persuaded by those to whom it was his duty to listen, to turn his attention, as Mrs. Micawber says, to chemistry. He pursued this science without enthusiasm, though he had for some time a laboratory of his own. Before long, however, the laboratory was converted into a studio. His talent insisted on its liberty, and he committed himself to the plastic. He studied this charming element in Paris, at Dusseldorf; he began to work in London. This period of his life was marked by a great calamity, which has left its trace on his career and his work, and which it is needful to mention, in order to speak with any fairness of these things. Abruptly, without a warning, his eyesight partly forsook him, and his activity was cruelly threatened. It is a great pleasure, in alluding to this catastrophe, to be able to speak of it as a signal example of difficulty vanquished. George du Maurier was condemned to many dark days, at the end of which he learned that he should have to do his work for the rest of his life with less than half a man's portion of the sense most valuable to the artist. The beautiful work that he has produced in such abundance for so many years has been achieved under restrictions of vision which might well have made any work impossible. It is permitted, accordingly, to imagine that if the artist had had the usual resources we should not at the present moment be considering him simply as an accomplished draughtsman in black and white. It is impossible to look at many of his drawings without perceiving that they are full of the art of the painter, and that the form they have taken, charming as it has been, is arbitrary and inadequate.

John Leech died on October 27, 1864, and the first sketches in “Punch” that we recognize as du Maurier's appeared in that year. The very earliest that we have detected belong, indeed, to December 5, 1863. These beginnings are slight and sketchy head-pieces and vignettes; the first regular “picture” (with a legend beneath it) that we remember is of the date of June 11, 1864. It represents a tipsy waiter (or college servant), on a staircase, where he has smashed a tray full of crockery. We perceive nothing else of importance for some time after this, but suddenly his hand appears again in force, and from the summer of 1865 its appearances are frequent. The finish and delicacy, the real elegance, of these early drawings, are extreme; the hand was already the hand of a brilliant executant. No such manner as this had hitherto been seen in “Punch.” By the time one had recognized that it was not a happy accident, but an accomplished habit, it had become the great feature, the “attraction,” of the comic journal. “Punch” had never before suspected that it was so artistic; had never taken itself in such matters, so seriously. Much the larger part of du Maurier's work has been done for “Punch,” but he has designed as well many illustrations for books. The most charming of these, perhaps, are the drawings he executed in 1868, for a new edition of Thackeray's “Esmond,” which had been preceded several years before by a set of designs for Mrs. Gaskell's “Wives and Daughters,” first ushered into the world as a serial in the “Cornhill.” To the “Cornhill,” for many years, du Maurier has every month contributed an illustration; he has reproduced every possible situation that is likely to be encountered in the English novel of manners; he has interpreted, pictorially, innumerable flirtations, wooings, philanderings, ruptures. The interest of the English novel of manners is often rather tranquil; the situations presented to the artist are apt to lack superficial strangeness. A lady and gentleman sitting in a drawing-room, a lady and gentleman going out to walk, a sad young woman watching at a sick-bed, a handsome young man lighting a cigarette—-this is about the range of incident through which the designer may move. But in these drawing-room and flower-garden episodes, the artist is thoroughly at home; he accepts, of course, the material that is given him, but we fancy him much more easily representing quiet, harmonious things than depicting deeds of violence. It is a noticeable fact that in “Punch,” where he has his liberty, he very seldom represents such deeds. His occasional departures from this habit are of a sportive and fantastic sort, in which he ceases to pretend to be real; like the dream of the timorous Jenkins (February 15,1868), who sees himself hurled to destruction by a colossal, foreshortened cab-horse. Du Maurier's fantastic—-we speak of the extreme manifestations of it—-is always admirable, ingenious, unexpected, pictorial; so much so, that we have often wondered that he should not have cultivated this vein more largely. As a general thing, however, in these excursions into the impossible, it is some charming impossibility that he offers us—-a picture of some happy contrivance which would make life more diverting; such as the playing of lawn-tennis on skates (on a lawn of ice), or the faculty on the part of young men on bicycles of carrying their sweethearts behind them on a pillion. We recommend the reader to turn to “Punch's” Almanac for 1865, in which two brilliant full-page illustrations represent the “Probable Results of the Acclimatization Society.” Nothing could be fuller of delicate fancy and of pictorial facility than this prophecy of the domestication in the London streets, and by the Serpentine, of innumerable strange beasts—-giraffes, ostriches, zebras, kangaroos, hippopotami, elephants, lions, and panthers. Apropos of strange beasts, the strangest of all, perhaps, is the wonderful big dog who has figured of late years in du Maurier's drawings, and who has probably passed, with many persons, as a kind of pictorial caprice. He is depicted as of such super-canine proportions, quite overshadowing and dwarfing the amiable family to whom he is represented as belonging, that he might be supposed to be another illustration of the artist's turn for the graceful grotesque. But, as it happens, he is not an invention, but a portrait—-the portrait of a magnificent original, a literally gigantic St. Bernard, the property of the artist—-the biggest, the handsomest, the most benignant of all domesticated shaggy things.

We think we are safe in saying that those ruder forms of incongruity which, as a general thing, constitute the stock-in-trade of the caricaturist, fail to commend themselves to this particular satirist. He is too fond of the beautiful—-his great passion is for the lovely; not for what is called ideal beauty, which is usually a matter of not very successful guess-work, but for loveliness observed in the life and manners around us, and reproduced with a generous desire to represent it as usual. The French express a certain difference better than we; they talk of those who see en beau and those who see en laid. Du Maurier is as highly developed an example as we could desire of the former tendency—-just as Cham and Daumier are examples of the latter; just, too, if we may venture to select instances from the staff of “Punch,” as Charles Keene and Linley Sambourne are examples of the latter. Du Maurier can see ugliness wonderfully well when he has a strong motive for looking for it, as witness so many of the figures in his crusade against the “æsthetic” movement. Who could be uglier than Maudle and Postlethwaite, and all the other apparitions from “passionate Brompton?” Who could have more bulging foreheads, more protuberant eyes, more retreating jaws, more sloping shoulders, more objectionable hair, more of the signs generally of personal debility? To say, as we said just now, that du Maurier carries his specification of types very far, is to say mainly that he defines with peculiar completeness his queer people, his failures, his grotesques. But it strikes us that it is just this vivid and affectionate appreciation of beauty that makes him do such justice to the eccentrics. We have heard his ugly creations called malignant—-compared (to their disadvantage) with similar figures in Leech. Leech, it was said, is always good-natured and jovial, even in the excesses of caricature; whereas his successor (with a much greater brilliancy of execution) betrays, in dealing with the oddities of the human family, a taint of “French ferocity.” We think the discrimination fallacious; and it is only because we do not believe du Maurier's reputation for amiability to be really in danger that we do not hasten to defend him from the charge of ferocity—-French or English. The fact is, he attempts discriminations that Leech never dreamt of. Leech's characterizations are all simple, whereas du Maurier s are extremely complicated. He would like every one to be tall and straight and fair, to have a well-cut mouth and chin, a well-poised head, well-shaped legs, an air of nobleness, of happy development. He perceives, however, that nature plays us some dreadful tricks, and he measures her departure from these beautiful conditions with extreme displeasure. He regrets it with all the force of his appreciation of the beautiful, and he feels the strongest desire to indicate the culpability of the aberration. He has an artistic, æsthetic need to make ugly people as ugly as they are; he holds that such serious facts should not be superficially treated. And then, besides that, his fancy finds a real entertainment in the completeness, in the perfection, of certain forms of facial queerness. No one has rendered like du Maurier the ridiculous little people who crop up in the interstices of that huge and complicated London world. We have no such finished types as these in America. If the English find us all a little odd, oddity, in American society, never ripens and rounds itself off so perfectly as in some of these Old-World specimens. All those English terms of characterization which exist in America, at the most only as precarious exotics, but which are on every ones lips in England,—-the snob, the cad, the prig, the duffer,—-du Maurier has given us a thousand times the portrait of such specialties. No one has done the “duffer” so well; there are a hundred variations of the countenance of Mr. McJoseph, the gentleman who figured in “Punch” on the 19th August, 1876; or the even happier physiognomy of the other gentleman who, on the 2d November, 1872, says to a. lady that he “never feels safe from the British snob till he is south of the Danube,” and to whom the lady retorts, “And what do the South Danubian's say?” This personage is in profile: his face is fat, complacent, cautious; his hair and whiskers have as many curves and flourishes as the signature of a writing-master; he is an incarnation of certain familiar elements of English life,—-the “great middle class,” the Philistinism,—-the absence of irony, of the sentiment of art. Du Maurier is full of soft irony: he has that infusion of it which is indispensable to an artistic nature; and, we may add, that in this respect he seems to us more French than English. This quality has helped him immensely to find material in the so-called æsthetic movement of the last few years. None of his duffers have been so good as his æsthetic duffers. But of this episode we must wait a little to speak. The point that, for the moment, we wished to make is that he has a peculiar perception of the look of breeding, of race; and that, left to himself, as it were, he would ask nothing better than to make it the prerogative of all his characters. Only he is not left to himself. For, looking about into the world, he perceives his Gorgius Midas, and Mr. McJoseph, and the whole multitude of the vulgar, who have not been cultivated like orchids and race-horses. But his extreme inclination to give his figures the benefit of the supposition that most people have the feelings of gentlemen, makes him, as we began by saying, a very happy interpreter of those frequent works of fiction of which the action goes on, for the most part, in the drawing-room of the British country-house. Every drawing-room, unfortunately, is not a home of the Graces; but for the artist, given such an apartment, a group of quiet, well-shaped people is more or less implied. The “fashionable novel,” as it flourished about 1830, is no more; and its extinction is not to be regretted. We believe it was rarely accompanied with illustrations; but if it were to be revived, du Maurier would be the man to make the pictures—-the pictures of people rather slim and still, with long necks and limbs so straight that they look stiff, who might be treated with the amount of irony justified (if the fashionable novel of 1830 is to be believed) by their passion for talking bad French. The only trouble would be the superiority of his illustrations to the text.

We have been looking over the accumulations of “Punch” for the last twenty years, and du Maurier's work, which during this long period is remarkably abundant and various, has given us more impressions than we can hope to put into form. The result of sitting for several hours at such a banquet of drollery, of poring over so many caricatures, of catching the point of so many jokes, is a kind of indigestion and giddiness. This is especially the case if one happens to be liable to confusions and lapses of memory. Every picture, every pleasantry, drives the last out of the mind, and even the figures we recall best get mixed up with another story than their own. The early drawings, as a general thing, are larger than the late ones; we believe that the artist was obliged to make them large in order to make them at all. (They were then photographed, much reduced, upon the block; and it is impossible to form an idea of the delicacy of du Maurier s work without having seen the designs themselves, which are in pen and ink.) Some of these full-page pictures have an admirable breadth and vigour, though they sometimes strike us as rather too black. This fault, however, is sometimes a merit; there are scenes which derive from it a look of colour, an effect of atmosphere. As the years have gone on, the artist has apparently been able to make his drawing smaller, there has been less need of reducing it, and the full-page picture has become more rare. The wealth of execution was sometimes out of proportion to the jest beneath the cut; the joke might be as much or as little of a joke as one would; the picture was, at any rate, before all things a picture. What could be more charming than the drawing (October 24, 1868) of the unconscious Oriana and the ingenious Jones? It is a real work of art, a thing to have had the honours of colour, and of the “line” at the Academy; and that the artist should have been able to give it to us for three-pence, on the reverse ~of a printed page, is a striking proof of his affluence. The unconscious Oriana—-she is drawn very large—-sits in the foreground, in the shadow of some rocks that ornament the sands at a bathing-place. Her beautiful hair falls over her shoulders (she has been taking her bath, and has hung her tresses out to dry), and her charming eyes are bent upon the second volume of a novel. The beach stretches away into the distance—-with all the expression of space; and here the ingenious Jones carries out his little scheme of catching a portrait of the object—-an object profoundly indifferent—-of his adoration. He pretends to sit to an itinerant photographer, and apparently places himself in the line of the instrument, which in reality, thanks to a private understanding with the artist, is focused upon the figure of his mistress. There is not much landscape in du Maurier—-the background is almost always an interior; but whenever he attempts an out-of-door scene, he does it admirably. What could be prettier, and at the same time more real, than the big view (September 9, 1876) of the low tide on Scarborough sands? We forget the joke, but we remember the scene—-two or three figures, with their backs to us, leaning over a terrace or balcony in the foreground, and looking down at the great expanse of the uncovered beach, which is crowded with the activities of a populous bathing-place. The bathers, the walkers, the machines, the horses, the dogs, are seen with distinctness—-a multitude of little black points—-as under a magnifying-glass; the whole place looks vast and swarming, and the particular impression the artist wished to convey is thoroughly caught. The particular impression—-that is the great point with du Maurier; his intuition is never vague; he likes to specify the place, the hour, the circumstances. “We forget the joke, but we remember the scene,” we said just now. This may easily happen, as one looks over du Maurier's work; we frankly confess that, though he often amuses us, he never strikes us primarily as a joker. It is not the exuberance of his humour, but the purity of his line that arrests us, and we think of him much less as a purveyor of fun than as a charming draughtsman who has been led by circumstances to cultivate a vein of pleasantry. At every turn in his work, we find the fatal gift of beauty; by which we mean, that his people are so charming that their prettiness throws the legend into the shade. Beauty comes so easily to du Maurier that he lavishes it with unconscious freedom. If he represents Angelina reprimanding the housemaid, it is ten to one that Angelina will be a Juno and the housemaid a good deal of a Hebe. Whatever be the joke, this element of grace almost makes the picture serious. The point, of course, is not that Angelina should be lovely, but that the housemaid should be ridiculous; and you feel that, if you should call the artist's attention to this, he would reply: “I am really very sorry, but she is the plainest woman I can make—-for the money!” This is what happens throughout—-his women (and, we may add, his children) being monotonously, incorrigibly fair. He is exceedingly fond of children; he has represented them largely, at every age and in every attitude; but we can scarcely recall an instance of his making them anything but beautiful. They are always delightful—-they are the nicest children in the world. They say droll things, but they never do ugly ones, and their whole child-world is harmonious and happy. We might have referred that critic whom we quoted above, who observed in du Maurier's manner the element of “ferocity,” to the leniency of his treatment of the rising generation.

The children of Cham are little monsters; so are Daumier's; and the infants of Gavarni, with a grace of their own, like everything he drew, are simply rather diminutive and rather more sophisticated adults. Du Maurier is fond of large families, of the picturesqueness of the British nursery; he is a votary of the culte du bébé, and has never a happier touch than when he represents a blooming brood walking out in gradations of size. The pretty points of children are intimately known to him, and he throws them into high relief; he understands, moreover, the infant wardrobe as well as the infant mind. His little boys and girls are “turned out” with a completeness which has made the despair of many an American mother.

It may perhaps appear invidious to say that the little girls are even nicer than the little boys, but this is no more than natural, with the artist's delicate appreciation of female loveliness. It begins, to his vision, in the earliest periods, and goes on increasing till it is embodied in the stature of those slim Junos of whom we have spoken. It is easy to see that du Maurier is of the eminently justifiable opinion that nothing in the world is so fair as the fairness of fair women; and if so many of his women are fair, it is to be inferred that he has a secret for drawing out their advantages. This secret, indeed, is simply that fineness of perception of which we have already had occasion to speak, and to which it is necessary so often to refer.

He is evidently of the opinion that almost any woman has beauty if you look at her in the right way—-carefully enough, intelligently enough; and that, a fortiori, the exceptionally handsome women contain treasures of plasticity. Feminine line and surface, curves of shoulder, stretches of arm, turns of head, undulations of step, are matters of attentive study to him; and his women have for the most part the art of looking as amiable and virtuous as they are pretty. We know a gentleman who, on being requested to inscribe himself on one of those formidable folios kept in certain houses, in which you indite the name of your favourite flower, favourite virtue, favourite historical character, wrote, in the compartment dedicated to the “favourite quality in a woman,” the simple words “Grace—-grace—-grace.” Du Maurier might have been this gentleman, for his women are inveterately and imperturbably graceful. We have heard people complain of it—-complain, too, that they all look alike, that they are members of the same family. They have, indeed, a mutual resemblance; but when once the beautiful type has been found, we see no reason why, from a restless love of change, the artist should depart from it. We should feel as if du Maurier had been fickle and faithless if he were suddenly to cease to offer us the tall, tranquil persons he understands so well. They have an inestimable look of repose—-an almost classic form. There is a figure in a cut, of which we have forgotten both the “point” and the date (we mention it at hazard—-it is one in a hundred), which only needed to be modelled in clay to be a truly valuable creation. A couple of children address themselves to a youthful aunt, who leans her hand upon a toilet-table, presenting her back, clothed in a loose gown, not gathered in at the waist, to the spectator. Her charming pose, the way her head slowly turns, the beautiful folds of her robe, make her look more like a statuette in a museum than like a figure in “Punch.” We have forgotten what the children are saying, but we remember her charming attitude, which is a capital example of the love of beauty for beauty's sake. The feeling of this—-a feeling which constantly guides du Maurier's hand—-is truly poetic.

The intention of these remarks has been supposed to be rather a view of du Maurier in his relation to English society than a technical estimate of his powers—-a line of criticism to which we may already appear unduly to have committed ourselves. He is predominantly a painter of social, as distinguished from popular life, and when the other day he collected some of his drawings into a volume, he found it natural to give them the title of “English Society at Home.” He looks at the “accomplished” classes more than at the people, though he by no means ignores the humours of humble life. His consideration of the peculiarities of costermongers and “cadgers” is comparatively perfunctory, as he is too fond of civilization and of the higher refinements of the grotesque. His colleague, the frank and, as the metaphysicians say, objective, Keene, has a more natural familiarity with the British populace. There is a whole side of English life at which du Maurier scarcely glances—-the great sporting element, which supplies half of their gayety and all their conversation to millions of her Majesty's subjects. He is shy of the turf and of the cricket-field; he only touches here and there upon the river. But he has made “society” completely his own—-he has sounded its depths, explored its mysteries, discovered and divulged its secrets. His observation of these things is extraordinarily acute, and his illustrations, taken together, form a complete comedy of manners, in which the same personages constantly re-appear, so that we have the sense, indispensable to keenness of interest, of tracing their adventures to a climax. So many of the conditions of English life are picturesque (and, to American eyes, even romantic), that du Maurier has never been at a loss for subjects. He may have been at a loss for his joke—-we hardly see how he could fail to be, at the rate at which he has been obliged to produce; but we repeat that to ourselves the joke is the least part of the affair. We mean that he is never at a loss for pictures. English society makes pictures all round him, and he has only to look to see the most charming things, which at the same time have the merit that you can always take the satirical view of them. He sees, for instance, the people in the Park; the crowd that gathers under the trees on June afternoons to watch the spectacle of the Row, with the slow, solemn jostle of the Drive going on behind it. Such a scene as this may be vain and unprofitable to a mind bent upon higher business, but it is full of material for the artist, who finds a fund of inspiration in the thousand figures, faces, types, accidents, attitudes. The way people stand and sit, the way they stroll and pause, the way they lean over the rail to talk to one of the riders, the way they stare and yawn and bore themselves—-these things are charming to du Maurier, who always reproduces the act with wonderful fidelity. This we should bear in mind, having spoken above of his aversion to the violent. He has indeed a preference for quiet and gradual movements. But it is not in the least because he is not able to make the movement definite. No one represents a particular attitude better than he; and it is not too much to say that the less flagrant the attitude, the more latent its intention, the more successfully he represents it.

The postures people take while they are waiting for dinner, while they are thinking what to say, while they are pretending to listen to music, while they are making speeches they don't mean; the thousand strange and dreary expressions (of face and figure) which the detached mind may catch at any moment in wandering over a collection of people who are supposed to be amusing themselves in a superior manner—-all this is entirely familiar to du Maurier; he renders it with inimitable fidelity. His is the detached mind—-he takes refuge in the divine independence of art. He reproduces to the life the gentleman who is looking with extraordinary solemnity at his boots, the lady who is gazing with sudden rapture at the ceiling, the grimaces of fifty people who would be surprised at their reflection if the mirror were suddenly to be presented to them. In such scenes as these, of course, the comical mingles with the beautiful, and fond as du Maurier is of the beautiful, it is sometimes heroically sacrificed. At any rate, the comic effect is (in the drawing) never missed. The legend that accompanies it may sometimes appear to be wanting in the grossest drollery, but the expression of the figures is always such that you must say: “How he has hit it!” This is the kind of comedy in which du Maurier excels—-the comedy of those social relations in which the incongruities are pressed beneath the surface, so that the scene has need of a certain amount of explanation. The explanation is often rather elaborate—-in many cases one may almost fancy that the picture came first and the motive afterward. That is, it looks as if the artist, having seen a group of persons in certain positions, had said to himself: “They must—-or at least they may—-be saying so and so”; and then had represented these positions and affixed the interpretation. He passes over none of those occasions on which society congregates—-the garden-party, the picnic, the flower-show, the polo-match (though he has not much cultivated the humours of sport, he has represented polo more than once, and he has done ample justice to lawn-tennis, just as he did it, years ago, to the charming, dawdling, “spooning” tedium of croquet, which he depicted as played only by the most adorable young women, with the most diminutive feet); but he introduces us more particularly to indoors entertainments—-to the London dinner-party in all those variations which cover such a general sameness; to the afternoon tea, to the fashionable “squash,” to the late and suffocating “small and early,” to the scientific conversazione, to the evening with a little music. His musical parties are numerous and admirable—-he has exposed in perfection the weak points of those entertainments: the infatuated tenor, bawling into the void of the public indifference; the air of lassitude that pervades the company; the woe-begone look of certain faces; the false and overacted attention of certain others; the young lady who is wishing to sing, and whose mamma is glaring at the young lady who is singing; the bristling heads of foreigners of the professional Class, which stand out against the sleekness of British respectability. Du Maurier understands the foreigner as no caricaturist has done hitherto; and we hasten to add that his portraits of continental types are never caricatures. They are serious studies, in which the idiosyncrasies of the race in question are vividly presented. His Germans would be the best, if his French folk were not better still; but he has rendered most happily the aspect—-and indeed the very temperament—-of the German pianist. He has not often attempted the American; and the American reader who turns over the back volumes of “Punch” and encounters the luckless cartoons in which, during the long, weary years of the War, the primitive pencil of Mr. Tenniel contributed, at the expense of the American physiognomy, to the gayety of nations, will not perhaps regret that du Maurier should have avoided this particular field of portraiture. It is not, however, that he has not occasionally been inspired by the American girl, whom he endows with due prettiness, as in the case of the two transatlantic young ladies who, in the presence of a fine Alpine view, exclaim to a British admirer: “My! ain't it rustic?” As for the French, he knows them intimately, as he has a right to do. He thinks better of the English, of course, but his Frenchman is a very different affair from the Frenchman of Leech—-the Frenchman who is sea-sick (as if it were the appanage of his race alone!) on the Channel steamer. In such a matter as this du Maurier is really psychological; he is versed in the qualities which illustrate the difference of race. He accentuates first, of course, the physical variation; he contrasts—-with a subtlety which may not at first receive all the credit it deserves—-the long, fair, English body, inclined to the bony, the lean, the angular, with the short, plump French personality, in which the neck is rarely a feature, in which the stomach is too much of one, in which the calves of the legs grow fat, in which in the women several of the joints, the wrists, the shape of the hand, are apt to be charming. Some of his happiest drawings are reminiscences of a midsummer sojourn at a French watering-place. We have long been in the habit of looking for “Punch” with peculiar impatience at this season of the year. When the artist goes to France he takes his big dog with him, and he has more than once commemorated the effect of this impressive member of a quiet English family upon the Norman and Breton populations. There have appeared at this time certain anecdotic pictures of English travellers in French towns,—-in shops, markets, tram-cars,—-in which some of the deeper disparities of the two peoples have been (under the guise of its being all a joke) very sufficiently exposed. Du Maurier, on the whole, does justice to the French; his English figures, in these international tableaux, by no means always come off best. When the English family of many persons troops into the charcutier's, or the perfumer's, and stands planted there,—-mute, inexpressive, perpendicular,—-the demonstrations, the professions, the abundant speech of the neat, plump, insinuating boutiquière are a well-intended tribute to the high civilization of her country. Du Maurier has done the “low" foreigner of the London (or of his native) streets,—-the foreigner whose unspeakable baseness prompts the Anglo-Saxon observer to breathe the Pharisee's vow of thanks that he is not as these people are; but, as we have seen, he has done the low Englishman quite as well,—-the 'Arry of the London music-halls, the companion of 'Andsome 'Arriet and Mr. Belville. Du Maurier's rendering of 'Arry's countenance, with its bloated purple bloom, of 'Arry's figure, carriage, and costume,—-of his deportment at the fancy fair, where the professional beauties solicit his custom,—-is a triumph of exactitude. One of the most poignant of the drawings that illustrate his ravages in our civilization is the large design which a year or two ago represented the narrow canal beneath the Bridge of Sighs. The hour is evening, and the period is the detested date at which the penny-steamer was launched upon the winding water-ways of the loveliest city in the world. The odious little vessel, belching forth a torrent of black smoke, passes under the covered arch which connects the ducal palace with the ducal prison. 'Andsome 'Arriet and Mr. Belville (personally conducted) are of course on board, and 'Arriet remarks that the Bridge of Sighs isn't much of a size, after all. To which her companion rejoins that it has been immortalized by Byron, anyway—-"'im as wrote 'Our Boys,' you know.” This fragment of dialogue expresses concisely the arguments both for and against the importation of the cheap and easy into Venetian waters.

Returning, for a moment, to du Maurier's sketches of the French, we must recall the really interesting design in which, at a childs' party at the Casino of a station balnéaire, a number of little natives are inviting a group of English children to dance. The French children have much the better manners; they make their little bows with a smile, they click their heels together, and crook their little arms as they offer them to their partners. The sturdy British infants are dumb, mistrustful, vaguely bewildered. Presently you perceive that in the very smart attire of the gracious little Gauls everything is wrong —-their high heels, their poor little legs, at once too bare and too much covered, their superfluous sashes and scarfs. The small English are invested in plain Jerseys and knickerbockers. The whole thing is a pearl of observation, of reflection. Let us recall, also, the rebuke administered to M. Dubois, the distinguished young man of science, who, just arrived from Paris and invited to dine by the Duke of Stilton, mentions this latter fact in apology for being late to a gentleman to whose house he goes on leaving the Duke's. This gentleman, assisted by Mr. Grigsby (both of them specimens of the snob-philistine which du Maurier has brought to such perfection), reprehends him in a superior manner for his rashness, reminds him that in England it is “not usual for a professional man” to allude in that promiscuous manner to having dined with a duke—-a privilege which Grigsby characterizes “the perfection of consummate achievement.” The advantage is here with poor M. Dubois, who is a natural and sympathetic figure, a very nice little Frenchman. The advantage is doubtless also with Mlle. Serrurier and her mother, though Mademoiselle is not very pretty, in a scene in which, just after the young lady has been singing at Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns's, the clever Mrs. Ponsonby plays her off on the Duchess (as an inducement to come to another party), and then plays the Duchess off on the little vocalist and her mother, who, in order to secure the patronage of the Duchess, promise to come to the entertainment in question. The clever Mrs. Ponsonby thus gets both the Duchess and the vocalist for nothing. The broad-faced young French girl, with small, salient eyes, her countenance treated in the simplest and surest manner, is a capital specimen of du Maurier's skill in race-portraiture; and though they may be a knowing couple in their way, we are sure that she and her mamma are incapable of the machinations of Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns.

This lady is a real creation. She is an incident of one of the later phases of du Maurier's activity—-a child of the age which has also produced Mrs. Cimabue Brown and Messrs. Maudle and Postlethwaite. She is not one of the heroines of the æsthetic movement, though we may be sure she dabbles in that movement so far as it pays to do so. Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns is a little of everything, in so far as anything pays. She is always on the look-out, she never misses an opportunity. She is not a specialist, for that cuts off too many opportunities, and the æsthetic people have the tort, as the French say, to be specialists. No, Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns is—-what shall we call her?—-well, she is the modern social spirit. She is prepared for everything; she is ready to take advantage of everything; she would invite Mr. Bradlaugh to dinner if she thought the Duchess would come to meet him. The Duchess is her great achievement—-she never lets go of her Duchess. She is young, very nice looking, slim, graceful, indefatigable. She tires poor Ponsonby completely out; she can keep going for hours after poor Ponsonby is reduced to stupefaction. This unfortunate husband is, indeed, almost always stupefied. He is not, like his wife, a person of imagination. She leaves him far behind, though he is so dull and heavy that, if she were a less superior person, he would have been a sad incumbrance. He always figures in the corner of the scenes in which she distinguishes herself, separated from her by something like the gulf that separated Caliban from Ariel. He has his hands in his pockets, his head poked forward; what is going on is quite beyond his comprehension. He vaguely wonders what his wife will do next; her manoeuvres quite transcend him. Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns always succeeds. She is never at fault; she is as quick as the instinct of self-preservation. She is the little London lady who is determined to be a greater one. She pushes, pushes, gently but firmly—-always pushes. At last she arrives. It is true that she had only the other day, on June 29, 1882, a considerable failure; we refer the reader to the little incident of Madame Gaminot, in the “Punch” for that date. But she will recover from it; she has already recovered from it. She is not even afraid of Sir Gorgius Midas—-of the dreadful Midas junior. She pretends to think Lady Midas the most elegant of women; when it is necessary to flatter, she lays it on as with a trowel. She hesitates at nothing; she is very modern. If she doesn't take the æsthetic line more than. is necessary, she finds it necessary to take it a little; for, if we are to believe du Maurier, the passion for strange raiment and blue china has, during the last few years, made ravages in the London world. We may be sure that Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns has an array of fragile disks attached to her walls, and that she can put in a word about Botticelli at the right moment. She is far, however, from being a representative of æstheticism, for her hair is very neatly arranged, and her dress looks French and superficial. In Mrs. Cimabue Brown we see the priestess of the æsthetic cult, and this lady is, on the whole, a different sort of person. She knows less about duchesses, but she knows more about dados. Du Maurier's good-natured “chaff” of the eccentricities of the plastic sense so newly and so strangely awakened in England, has perhaps been the most brilliant episode of his long connection with “Punch.” He has invented Mrs. Cimabue Brown—-he has invented Maudle and Postlethwaite. These remarkable people have had great success in America, and have contributed not a little to the curiosity felt in that country on the subject of the English Renascence. Strange rumours and legends in relation to this great movement had made their way across the Atlantic; the sayings and doings of a mysterious body of people, devotees of the lovely and the precious, living in goodly houses and walking in gracious garments, were repeated and studied in our simpler civilization. There has not been as yet an American Renascence, in spite of the taste for “sincere sideboards” and fragments of crockery. American interiors are, perhaps, to-day as “gracious” as English; but the movement in the United States has stopped at household furniture, has not yet set its mark upon speech and costume—-much less upon the human physiognomy. Du Maurier, of course, has lent a good deal of his own fame to the vagaries he depicts; but it is certain that the new æsthetic life has had a good deal of reality. A great many people have discovered themselves to be fitted for it both by nature and by grace; so that noses and chins, facial angles of every sort, shaped according to this higher rule, have become frequent in London society. This reaction of taste upon nature is really a marvel; and the miracle has not been repeated in America, nor, so far as we know, upon the continent of Europe. The love of Botticelli has actually remoulded the features of many persons. London, for several seasons, was full of Botticelli women, with wan cheeks and weary eyes, enveloped in mystical, crumpled robes. Their language was apt to correspond with their faces; they talked in strange accents, with melancholy murmurs and cadences. They announced a gospel of joy; but their expression, their manners, were joyless. These peculiarities did not cross the ocean; for somehow the soil of the Western World was not as yet prepared for them. American ladies were even heard to declare that there was something in their constitution that would prevent their ever dressing like that. They had another ideal—-they had too much coquetry. But meanwhile, as I say, there was something irritating, fascinating, mystifying, in the light thrown on the subject by “Punch.” It seemed to many persons to be desired that we too should have a gospel of joy American life was not particularly “gracious,” and if only the wind could be made to blow from the æsthetic quarter, a great many dry places would be refreshed. These desires, perhaps, have subsided; for “Punch” of late has rather neglected the Renascence. Mrs. Cimabue Brown is advancing in years, and Messrs. Maudle and Postlethwaite have been through all their paces. The new æsthetic life, in short, shows signs of drawing to a close, after having, as many people tell us, effected a revolution in English taste—-having at least, if not peopled the land with beauty, made certain consecrated forms of ugliness henceforth impossible.

The whole affair has been very curious, and we think very characteristic of the English mind. The same episode, fifty times repeated—-a hundred “revolutions of taste,” accompanied with an infinite expenditure of money—-would fail to convince certain observant and possibly too sceptical strangers, that the English are an æsthetic people. They have not a spontaneous artistic life; their taste is a matter of conscience, reflection, duty, and the writer who in our time has appealed to them most eloquently on behalf of art has rested his plea on moral standards of right and wrong. It is impossible to live much among them, to be a spectator of their habits, their manners, their arrangements, without perceiving that the artistic point of view is the last that they naturally take. The sense of form is not part of their constitution. They arrive at it, as they have arrived at so many things, because they are ambitious, resolute, enlightened, fond of difficulties; but there is always a strange element, either of undue apology or of exaggerated defiance, in their attempts at the cultivation of beauty. They carry on their huge, broad back a nameless mountain of conventions and prejudices, a dusky cloud of ineptitudes and fears, which casts a shadow upon the frank and confident practice of art. The consequence of all this is that their revivals of taste are even stranger than the abuses they are meant to correct. They are violent, voluntary, mechanical; wanting in grace, in tact, in the sense of humour and of proportion. A genuine artist like du Maurier could not fail to perceive all this, and to perceive also that it gave him a capital opportunity. None of his queer people are so queer as some of these perverted votaries of joy. “Excuse me, it is not a Botticelli—-before a Botticelli I am dumb,” one of them says to a poor, plain man, who shows him a picture which has been attributed to that master. We have said already, and repeated, that Du Maurier has a great deal of irony—-the irony of the thorough-going artist, and of the observer who has a strain of Gallic blood in his veins. There are certain pretensions that such a mind can never take seriously; in the artist there is of necessity, as it seems to us, a touch of the democrat—-though, perhaps, he is as unlikely to have more than a certain dose of this disposition as he is to be wholly without it. Some of his drawings seem to us to have for the public he addresses a stinging democratic meaning; like the adventure of M. Dubois (of whom we have spoken), who had had the inconvenience of dining with a duke; or the reply of the young man to whom Miss Midas remarks that he is the first commoner she has ever danced with: “And why is it the commoners have avoided you so?” or the response of the German savant to Mrs. Lyon Hunter, who invites him to dine, without his wife, though she is on his arm, to meet various great ladies whom she enumerates: “And pray, do you think they would not be respectable company for my wife?” Du Maurier possesses in perfection the genuine artist's perception of the snobbish. We have said, however, that the morality, so to speak, of his drawings, was a subordinate question; what we wished to insist upon is their completeness, their grace, their beauty, their rare pictorial character. It is an accident that the author of such things should not have been a painter—-that he has not been an ornament of the English school. Indeed, with the restrictions to which he has so well accommodated himself, he is such an ornament. No English artistic work in these latter years has, in our opinion, been more exquisite in quality.

[The Editor acknowledges the courtesy of Messrs. Bradbury, Agnew & Co., the publishers of “Punch,” for the loan of the original drawings, from which the illustrations to this article were engraved.]

 
 
 

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