Open main menu

ONWHYN, THOMAS (d. 1886), humorous draughtsman and engraver, born in London, was youngest son of Joseph Onwhyn, a bookseller and newsagent at 3 Catherine Street, Strand, London. The elder Onwhyn published a number of guides for tourists, chiefly compiled from his own notes and observations—to the Highlands (1829), Killarney (1838), Wales (1840), &c. When the ‘Owl,’ a society newspaper appearing on Wednesdays, was started in 1864, the elder Onwhyn was selected as its publisher. The success of the paper, however, affected his reason. The son, Thomas Onwhyn, attained some note early in life by contributing to a series of ‘illegitimate’ illustrations to works by Charles Dickens. He executed twenty-one of the whole series of thirty-two plates to the ‘Pickwick Papers,’ which were issued in eight (though intended to be in ten) monthly parts (at one shilling each, 8vo, two shillings India proof 4to), by E. Grattan, 51 Paternoster Row, in 1837; they are for the most part signed with the pseudonym ‘Samuel Weller,’ but some bear Onwhyn's initials. In June 1838 Grattan issued a series of forty etchings by Onwhyn, illustrating ‘Nicholas Nickleby;’ these also appeared in parts, which were concluded in October 1839; some are signed with the pseudonym of ‘Peter Palette.’ After Onwhyn's death an additional set of illustrations to ‘Pickwick’ was discovered which Onwhyn had executed in 1847; they had been laid aside owing to the republication of the original illustrations in 1848; they were published in 1893 by Albert Jackson, Great Portland Street. Onwhyn also published illustrations, under the name of ‘Peter Palette,’ to two series of a work entitled ‘Peter Palette's Tales and Pictures in Short Words for Young Folks’ (1856). In his own name he contributed the illustrations to the humorous works of Henry Cockton [q. v.], such as ‘Valentine Vox’ (1840), ‘Sylvester Sound’ (1844), down to ‘Percy Effingham’ (1853). He also illustrated, among other works, the ‘Memoirs of Davy Dreamy’ (1839); the ‘Maxims and Specimens of William Muggins,’ by Charles Selby (1841); the ‘Mysteries of Paris,’ by Eugène Sue (1844); ‘Etiquette illustrated by an X.M.P.’ (1849); ‘Marriage-à-la-Mode;’ ‘Mr. and Mrs. Brown's Visit to the Exhibition, 1851;’ and ‘300l. a Year, or Single and Married Life’ (1859), &c. He sometimes etched the designs of others, as in ‘Oakleigh, or the Minor of Great Expectations,’ by W. H. Holmes (1843). Onwhyn was an indifferent draughtsman, but showed real humour in his designs. His fame was somewhat overshadowed by those of his most eminent contemporaries—Cruikshank, Hablot K. Browne, and others. Onwhyn, who drew also views of scenery for guide-books, letter-paper, &c., abandoned artistic work for the last twenty or thirty years of his life, and died on 5 Jan. 1886.

[Cook's Bibliography of Dickens; Westminster Gazette, 13 Dec. 1893; information from G. C. Boase, esq., G. S. Layard, esq., and M. H. Spielmann, esq.]

L. C.