Meadows, Joseph Kenny (DNB00)

MEADOWS, JOSEPH KENNY (1790–1874), draughtsman, born at Cardigan in South Wales, and baptised on 1 Nov. 1790, was the son of James Meadows, a retired naval officer. Details of his early life are wanting. In 1823 he designed and lithographed the plates for Planché's ‘Costume of Shakespeare's Historical Tragedy of King John.’ The ‘Heads of the People, or Portraits of the English,’ published in 1838–40, and to which Thackeray and Douglas Jerrold contributed some of their earliest sketches, established his popularity as an artist. But the chief ambition of his life was to produce an illustrated edition of Shakespeare, and this he accomplished between 1839 and 1843. The wit and graceful fancy of his art here had free scope, and although the designs are often forced and affected, the work was a great success. So popular, indeed, was his conception of Falstaff that a bronze statuette was modelled after it in Germany, and had a large sale. His services were eagerly sought as an illustrator of children's books and fanciful stories, and for many years he was employed on the Christmas numbers of the ‘Illustrated London News.’ He was one of the first to introduce wood engraving among English publishers as a means of cheap and popular illustration. He painted sometimes in oil, and on two or three occasions he exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Society of British Artists. Many of his best years were passed in intimate friendship with Leigh Hunt, Laman Blanchard, Douglas Jerrold, Dickens, Thackeray, Stanfield, Roberts, and the Landseers.

Meadows married a daughter of John Henning [q. v.] the sculptor, and in 1864 was granted a civil list pension of 80l. ‘in acknowledgment of his merit as an artist, more especially shown by his illustrations of Shakespeare.’ Up to the last he was a hale and vigorous old man. He died, at the age of eighty-four, at 458 King's Road, Chelsea, on 19 Aug. 1874, and was buried in the St. Pancras cemetery at Finchley. Besides those already mentioned, Meadows illustrated, either wholly or in part, the following among other works: ‘The Autobiography of a notorious Legal Functionary (Jack Ketch),’ 1836; ‘Songs of Home, or Lays of Married Life,’ 1840; Hall's ‘Book of British Ballads,’ 1842; Dean Swift's ‘Hints to Servants,’ 1843; ‘Punch's Complete Letter Writer,’ by Douglas Jerrold, 1845; the New Testament, 1847; Mrs. S. C. Hall's ‘Midsummer Eve,’ 1848; the Brothers Mayhew's ‘Magic of Kindness,’ in conjunction with George Cruikshank, 1849; ‘The Illustrated Byron,’ 1854–6; Laman Blanchard's ‘Corporation Characters,’ 1855; ‘Merry Pictures by the Comic Hands of H. K. Browne and others,’ 1857; ‘Granny's Wonderful Chair, and its Tales of Fairy Times,’ by Frances Browne, 1857; ‘The Sydenham Sindbad,’ 1857; Captain Crawley's ‘Backgammon,’ 1858; ‘Pearls of Shakespeare,’ 1860; Greene's ‘Winter and Summer at Burton Hall,’ 1861; and ‘Don Quixote,’ 1872.

[Academy, 1874, ii. 360, by Mrs. Heaton; Athenæum, 1874, ii. 326; Art Journal, 1874, p. 306; Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves and Armstrong, 1886–9, ii. 767; information from the Rev. W. Cynog Davies, vicar of Cardigan.]

R. E. G.