Leigh, Percival (DNB00)
LEIGH, PERCIVAL (1813–1889), comic writer, son of Leonard Leigh of St. Cross, Winchester, was born at Haddington on 3 Nov. 1818. He was educated for the medical profession at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where he made acquaintance of his fellow-students, John Leech [q. v.], Albert Smith, and Mr. Gilbert à Beckett. He became L.S.A. in 1834, and M.R.C.S. in 1835, and resolved to practise his profession; but he soon abandoned medicine for literature. In 1841 he became a member of the 'Punch' staff very shortly after its formation, and he contributed to that journal until his death. Leigh was a good friend to Leech, whom he helped in many difficulties, and was also intimate with Thackeray. He was a good amateur actor, and with Dickens, Leech, and Jerrold was a member of the company which acted Ben Jonson's 'Every Man in his Humour' on 21 Sept. 1845, at Miss Kelly's Theatre, Dean Street, Soho (now the Royalty). Leigh played Oliver Cob. He never lost the interest in science which his early training had given him, and was jocularly known to his friends as 'The Professor.' Frith has noted his 'quaintly humorous conversation.' In 1850 Leigh lived at 10 Bedford Street, Bloomsbury, but before 1860 he had removed to Oak Cottage, Hammersmith, where he led a secluded life, and died on 24 Oct. 1889. He was the last survivor of the early writers in 'Punch.' His wife, Letitia Morrison, predeceased him.
Leigh's best-known work was 'Ye Manners and Customs of ye Englyshe. Drawn from ye Quick by Richard Doyle, to which he added some extracts from Mr. Pipe hys Diary,' London, 1849, 4to; 2nd edit., enlarged, 1876. This first appeared serially in 'Punch,' and owes much to Doyle's illustrations: but Leigh's application of ancient phraseology to affairs of an essentially modern character, such as a shareholders' meeting, made a decided hit. It is a clever, sarcastic chronicle of prevailing fashions and opinions. Leigh also wrote:
- 'Stories and Poems' in 'The Fiddle-Faddle Fashion Book,' London, 1840; a skit on contemporary fashion-books.
- 'The Comic Latin Grammar,' London, 1840, 8vo.
- 'The Comic English Grammar,' London, 1840, 8vo.
- 'Portraits of Children of the Mobility,' London, 1841, 8vo.
- 'Paul Prendergast, or the Comic Schoolmaster,' London, 1859, 8vo. This contains, besides Leigh's two previously published grammars, 'The Comic Cocker,' illustrated by 'Crowquill.' All these works excepting the last were illustrated by Leech.
[Information kindly supplied by John Tenniel, esq., and E. J. Milliken, esq.; Athenæum, 2 Nov. 1889; Frith's John Leech, vol. i. chaps, iii. and xiii.; Forster's Life of Dickens, i. 434; Everitt's English Caricaturists, p. 282.]