Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/395

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

fortunes practically collapsed, and he had to relinquish medicine, it was to art that he turned for a livelihood.

His first essays were in the then popular direction of drawing on stone, and his earliest production was a series of street characters entitled ' Etchings and Sketchings by A. Pen, Esq..' 1835. It was a modest pamphlet of four quarto sheets, '2s. plain, 3s. coloured.' and it consisted of sketches of 'cabmen, policemen, street musicians, donkeys, broken-down hacks, and many other oddities of London life.' After this he seems to have tried political caricatures, and he was also employed upon 'Bell's Life in London.' In 1836 he was one of the unsuccessful competitors for Seymour's place as illustrator of the 'Pickwick Papers' (a copy of his design is published in the Victoria edition of 1887); and he illustrated Theodore Hook's 'Jack Brag.' 1837. But his first popular hit was an adroit pictorial parody of the inappropriate design which Mulready prepared in 1840 for a universal envelope. Leech's imitation (copied in Kitton, Leech, 1883, p. 16) was very funny, and his assumption upon it of the device (a leech in a bottle) which he afterwards made so well known, gave rise to a curious misunderstanding on Mulready's part, of which Frith gives an account (Leech's Life, 1891). In the same year (1840) Leech produced, in concert with his old friend Percival Leigh [q. v.] ('Paul Prendergast'), a 'Comic Latin Grammar.' which was followed, also in 1840, by a 'Comic English Grammar,' and four plates entitled 'The Fiddle-Faddle Fashion Book and Beau Monde à la Française.' In 1841 came the lithographed 'Children of the Mobility' (a skit upon a then fashionable publication dealing with the children of the aristocracy), in which Percival Leigh was again his collaborator. This, a series of seven drawings in a wrapper, was elaborately reproduced in 1875. Besides the above, Leech was employed in 1840 on the 'London Magazine, Charivari and Courrier des Dames.' and he began to supply illustrations to 'Bentley's Miscellany.' But the great event of 1841 was the establishment, in August of that year, of his connection with 'Punch.' then about three weeks old. His contributions began at the fourth number, and, oddly enough, looking to his lifelong connection with the periodical, his first drawing seriously affected the sale. In those days the subdivision of blocks was unknown, and Leech's sketch, being larger than usual, took so long a time to cut that the number in which it appeared was not ready for publication at the date appointed. This was his only drawing in the first volume, and he did not make many for the second. But with the third he began that regular succession of sketches which, collected afterwards under the title of 'Pictures of Life and Character,' 1854–69, and frequently reproduced, constitute the main monument of his genius. From this time until his death in 1864 he was the chief pictorial pillar of 'Punch;' and he is said to have received from this source alone about 40,000l., and to have executed for it some three thousand drawings, of which at least six hundred are cartoons. But he continued at the same time to supply etchings and woodcuts to many separate works. Among others he illustrated, in 'Bentley's Miscellany,' the 'Ingoldsby Legends,' 'Stanley Thorn,' 'Richard Savage,' 'Mr. Ledbury' above mentioned, the 'Fortunes of the Scattergood Family,' the ' Marchioness of Brinvilliers,' 'Brian O'Linn,' &c. He also supplied etchings or cuts for the 'New Monthly Magazine,' 1842–4, Hood's 'Comic Annual,' 'Jack the Giant Killer,' 1843, the 'Illuminated Magazine,' 1843–5, and 'Shilling Magazine,' 1845–8, the 'Comic Arithmetic,' 1844, the 'Christmas Stories of Dickens' 1843–8, Jerrold's 'Story of a Feather,' 1846, and 'Man made of Money,' 1849, Gilbert à Beckett's 'Comic History of England,' 1847, and 'Rome,' 1852, 'Christopher Tadpole,' 1848, Forster's 'Goldsmith,' 1848 (two illustrations), 'Bon Gualtier's Ballads,' 1849, the sporting novels of Mr. R. Scott Surtees, 1853–65, S. W. Fullom's 'Great Highway,' 1854, and 'Man of the World,' 1856, the 'Little Tour in Ireland of Dr. Hole,' 1859, the 'Newton Dogvane' of Mr. Francis, 1859, 'Once a Week,' 1859–64, Pennell's 'Puck on Pegasus,' 1861, and a number of other works, including many designs for the 'Illustrated London News' and Punch's ' Pocket Books,' for the names of which the reader is referred to the 'Bibliography' issued in 1892 by Mr. C. E. S. Chambers.

Many of the etched plates to the foregoing, e.g. the sporting novels and the comic histories, were effectively tinted by hand, after patterns prepared by the artist himself. Though essentially a worker in black and white, Leech, as it often happens, had a strong desire to try his skill at colours. In 1862 he essayed a series of so-called 'sketches in oil,' which were exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, in June and the following months. These consisted of copies of a selection of his 'Punch' drawings, which had been ingeniously enlarged, transferred to canvas, and coloured lightly in oils. As the artist advanced with this process he considerably improved it in detail, and his exhibition was a great pecuniary success (it brought him nearly