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Title: George Du Maurier, the Satirist of the Victorians
Author: Wood, T. Martin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A Review of His Art and Personality



With Forty-One Illustrations

London Chatto & Windus



George du Maurier

From a portrait in water-colour by himself.

In the possession of the Artist's widow.]


Du Maurier worked for periodicals which buried in a back number each
phase of his work as it came to an end. Thus it is that he is,
unfortunately, chiefly now remembered by the last--the most accessible,
but not by any means the finest--period of his work.

The present book is an attempt to correct this and to bring forward du
Maurier's name again in the light of his earlier achievement.

No book on the artist, however, would be complete which omitted all
reference to his literary attainment; nor would it be in order in an
essay of this extent not to seek to demonstrate that connection which
always exists between the life and the work of an artist of distinctive
temperament. The author has endeavoured, in the chapter devoted to
outlining the main incidents of du Maurier's career, to regard the
feeling of his representatives that the autobiography of the novels is
itself so complete and sensitive as scarcely to call at present for
anything supplemental. He wishes to acknowledge the kindness of the
artist's family in lending him portraits, sketch-books, and manuscript
with the permission for reproduction; also of Mr. W. Lawrence Bradbury,
so zealous a guardian of all that redounds to the fame of his great
journal, for every kind of assistance; and of Sir Francis Burnand, du
Maurier's Editor and comrade, for letters assisting him to form an
impression of du Maurier in the flesh. Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co. have
also been generous in allowing the reproduction of the four drawings
included here, which appeared originally in the _Cornhill Magazine_. The
author only wishes that he felt that what he has written more justified
this consideration from everyone who was approached in connection with
his undertaking.








GEORGE DU MAURIER, from a Portrait in Water-colour by Himself

_Once a Week_, 1861

"THE CILICIAN PIRATES": _The Cornhill,_ 1863









"CAUTION": _Punch_, 1867

BERKELEY SQUARE, 5 P.M.: _Punch_, 1867


_The Cornhill_, 1870

_The Cornhill_, 1871

"PROXY": _Punch's Almanack_, 1874



CANON AINGER, from a Portrait in Water-colour by du Maurier



GEORGE DU MAURIER, from a Photograph



"Sic TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI!" _Punch_, 1884



There are also several Tailpieces, chronologically arranged





We have in the portfolio of du Maurier the epic of the drawing-room.
Many of the Victorians, including the Queen, and Alfred Lord Tennyson,
seem to have viewed life from the drawing-room window. They gazed
straight across the room from the English hearthrug as from undoubtedly
the greatest place on earth. They were probably right. But some of this
confidence has gone. Actually in these days there are people who won't
own up to having a drawing-room at all. If they have a room that could
possibly answer to such a description, they go out of their way to call
it the library, though its only available printed matter is a Bradshaw;
or the music-room, though the only music ever heard in it is when the
piano is dusted.

In turning over the old volumes of _Punch_ it is surprising how many of
the points made by du Maurier in his drawings and in the legends beneath
them still hold good. As a mere "joker" he was perhaps the least able of
the _Punch_ staff. His influence began when he started inventing
imaginary conversations. In many cases these do not represent the
discussion of topical subjects at all, but deal with social aberrations,
dated only in the illustration by the costume of the time.

In these imaginary conversations he is already a novelist. They record
the strokes of finesse and the subterfuges necessary to the attainment
of the vain ambitions which are the preoccupation of human genius in
superficial levels of Society in all ages. We realise the waste of
energy and diplomacy expended to score small points in the social game.
His art is a mirror to weed-like qualities of human nature which enjoy a
spring-time with every generation. But it also provides a remarkable
record of the effect of the sudden replacement of old by new ideals in
the world which it depicted.

The rise of the merchant capitalist upon the results of industrial
enterprises rendered possible through the invention and rapid perfecting
of machinery, created a class who suddenly appeared in the drawing-rooms
of the aristocrats as strangers. Du Maurier himself seems to join in the
amazement at their intrusion. Much of this first surprise is the theme
of his art. Before the death of the artist the newcomers had proved
their right to be there, having shamed an Aristocracy, which had lost
nearly all its natural occupations, by bringing home to it the fact that
the day was over for despising men who traded instead of fighting, who
achieved through barter what the brave would once have been too proud to
take except by conquest. The business of the original division of human
possessions by the sanguinary method was well over; it was now the
merchant's day. It was plain that trade could no longer be despised,
when, literally in an age of peace and inventive commerce, indolence was
the only alternative to engagement in it.

Du Maurier was very tolerant to social intruders when they were pretty.
He rather entered into Mrs. de Tomkyns' aims, and showed it by making
her pretty. Her ends might not be the highest, but the tact and the
subtlety displayed in her campaign were aristocratic in character, and
he would not have her laughed at personally, though we may laugh at the
topsy-turvy of a Society in which the entrance into a certain
drawing-room becomes the fun reward for the perseverance of a lifetime.
But du Maurier shuddered when behind this lady, distinguished in the
fact of the possession of genius, he saw a multitude of the aspirateless
at the door. We never lose upon the face, which showed as his through
his art, the expression of well-bred resentment, yet certainly of
amusement also.

During the period of du Maurier's work for _Punch_ the actor gets his
position in Society; and we see desolate gentlemen in other professions
drifting about at the back of the room like ships that drag their
anchor, while all the feminine blandishment of the place is concentrated
on the actor. By following up his drawings we can see the whole surface
of Victorian Society change in character; we can see one outrageous
innovation after another solidify into what was correct.

There never was a period like the Victorian; in many respects the
precedents of all older periods of Society fail to apply. In it the
aristocrats believed in democracy, and resented the democrat who was
practically their own creation. While the democrat held no faith with
the same fervour as his belief that "whatsoever is lovely and of good
report" could only be obtained by mingling with the upper classes. It
was the commercial glory of the great Industrial Reign that turned the
whole character of London Society upside down in du Maurier's time. It
became the study of the Suburbs to model themselves on Mayfair, to
imitate its "rages" and "crazes" in every shade. It is all the vanities
of this emulation which du Maurier records; there is little in his art
to betray the great influences Ecclesiastically, scientifically, and
politically, which expressed the genius of the Victorians. His splendid
Bishops are as tranquil as if the controversial Newman, and Gladstone
with his Disestablishment programme, had never disturbed the air. And
one fancies that politics must have bored him, so studiously does he
through over thirty years avoid even a slanting glance at the events
which preoccupied Mr. Punch in his cartoons. There is evidence that
there was more than the policy of the Paper in this. Du Maurier was an
optimist. An optimist is a man who thinks that everything is going right
when it is going wrong. It requires an effort of the imagination to
recall and picture the fact that in the first hour of Du Maurier's mere
amusement Ruskin was adding his lachrymation to Carlyle's over a society
going swiftly to Gehenna. It is the entire absence of despair,
bitterness, or cynicism in his work that gives it its altogether unique
place in the history of social satire. Never before was there such a
lenient barb on such a well-aimed arrow.

But if his business is not with the causes which contributed to the
character of English Society in his time, it is with their effects. No
satirist has ever put more highly representative figures on to his
stage. They are so highly representative because they conform so
strictly to type. He puts a valuation upon everyone whom he introduces
on his stage. He shows exactly the regard in which we are to hold them
and their profession. And it is interesting, in the light of the favour
with which he always treated the typical _savant_, to hear from his son
that he was always as much interested in what was being accomplished in
science as in anything else in the world. We must conclude scientists
were first in his estimation as men, from the pains he was at to give
them the appearance of distinction in his pictures. Then he had much
regard for Generals, great Admirals, and other magnificent specimens,
the Adonis, for instance, that figures almost as often, and nearly
always in company with, his charming woman. This gentleman is difficult
to describe. He seems too languid even for the profession of
man-about-town, but his clothes are such that one would think their
irreproachability could only be maintained by a life of dedication to
them. Did he ever exist? Du Maurier is very subtle here. He fully
appreciated the great aim of the public-school-trained man in his own
time--the elaborate care with which an officer studied to conceal an
enthusiasm for the profession of arms, the great air of indolence with
which over-work was concealed in the other fashionable professions. As a
matter of fact these beautiful priests in the temple of "good form" were
splendid stoics. They would lay it down that as long as correctness of
attitude was maintained nothing mattered.

The artist seems to share many of the prejudices of the older
aristocrats. He makes his Jews too Jewish. He believes that they produce
great artists, and as if this wasn't enough, he still holds them at
arm's length. We have in his art not only the record of social
innovations, but a picture of the aristocrats before the barbarian
invasion. As a picture of them then his art has now its value. And yet
he was not quite an aristocrat in temperament, which is a little
different from being one by birth. He would have been less tolerant of
the Philistines if he had been, and more Bohemian too. He made his great
excursions into Bohemia, but he reached it always by a journey through
the suburbs. His love of glamour and enchantment was aristocratic, but
he did not keep it to the end. He loses it in later drawings. His
satire, too, grows less pointed after the eighties, with an equivalent
decline in the art by which it is conveyed. The poetic vein that once
distinguished him from the Society he depicted tended also to disappear,
as he succumbed to a process of absorption into a Society which he had
once been able to observe with the freshness of a stranger. It is
familiarity that blunts our sense of beauty. It is in its last phase in
_Punch_ that his drawing loses the poetry that characterised it in the
seventies and eighties, and which gave his satire then such a potent
stealthy influence over those for whom it was intended.

[Illustration: Illustration for "Recollections of an English Gold-Mine"
_Once a Week_, 1861.]


If it were possible to imagine a world without any women or children in
it, du Maurier's contemporary, Keene, so far as we can judge from his
art, would have got along very well in such a world. He would have
missed the voluminous skirt that followed the crinoline, with its
glorious opportunity for beautiful spacing of white in a drawing, more
than he would have missed its wearer. But du Maurier's art is Romantic;
in the background of its chivalric regard for women there is the history
of the worship of the Virgin. The source of such an art would have to be
sought for in the neighbourhood of Camelot. It is impossible to overlook
the chivalry that will not allow him, except with pain, to make a woman
ugly. He was first of all a Poet, and though it may be a man's business
to put a poem on to paper, it is a woman's to create it. He was a poet
put into the business of satire with sufficient wit to sustain himself
there. Many a time he has to make the satire rest almost entirely with
the legend at the foot of his drawing; by obscuring their legends we find
that drawing after drawing has nothing to tell us but of the beauty of
those involved in "the joke," and this, as we shall show further on,
gives a peculiar salt, or rather sweetness, to satire from his pencil.
He is a romancer. His dialogues are romances. It is the novelist and
artist running side by side in the legend and the drawing, but almost
independently of each other, the wit and the poet in him trying to play
each other's game, that provides the contradictoriness--the charm in his
pictures. The point of the "joke" seems very often a mere excuse for
working off several incidents of beauty that have been perceived.

In dealing with _fashion_ du Maurier scores with posterity. Beauty, when
it really is recorded, is the one element in any transitory fashion that
survives the challenge of time. It is natural for one generation to hate
more than anything else in the world the fashions immediately preceding
the one affected. Pointed contemporary satire has, from the very shape
it must assume, an ephemeral success. It is only when something more
than the mere object of the satire is involved by some grace of the
satirist's genius--some response on his part to charm in the thing
assailed, that the work of satire comes down from its own time with an
indestructible ingredient in it.

As a record of feminine fashion du Maurier's drawings in _Punch_ are
remarkable. It must not be imagined that the history of fashion is
merely the tale of dressmakers' caprice. The very language of changing
ideals is the variation of the toilet. When women were restricted to an
oriental extent within convention, when to be "prim" was the aim of
life, no feature of dress was lacking that could put "abandonment" of
any but a moral kind, out of the question. A shake of the head too
quickly and the coiffure was imperilled; the movements that came within
the prescribed circle of dignity within the circle of the crinoline were
all of a rhythmical order. Women did not take to moving with freedom
because the crinoline went out, but the crinoline went out when they
took to moving with freedom. It went out simply because it was a
confounded nuisance. It was a natural costume only as long as women
imagined it was natural to them to be very still in demeanour. Once they
began to have opinions about that matter they soon sent the crinoline on
its way. The same process goes on with the fashions of wearing the
hair. The Blue-stocking, constantly running her nervous fingers up her
forehead into her hair, has given to Girton a style of its own,
equivalent to none at all. _Fashion_ is more sensible than most things.
If it changes with a rapidity that dazzles man, is not that only because
man is stupid?

To study hair-dressing in du Maurier's pictures, is to study the growth
of the nineteenth-century woman's mind. The head-dress becomes more
natural as woman herself becomes more natural. It becomes more Greek
when she takes up the Amazon idea, and simple when she discards some of
the complications of convention, always to return to elaboration in the
winter when it is not easy to live the simple life after the bell goes
for dinner.

When the crinoline went out the train came in; so that though woman had
allowed _herself_ more freedom, man could only walk behind her at a
respectful distance with a ceremonial measure of pace. The dressmaker
did not control all this; the resources of her transcendent art were
strained to keep up with the march of womanhood--that was all. If we may
believe du Maurier's art, the note of beauty never entirely disappeared
from _fashion_ until the æsthetic women of the eighties seemed to take
in hand their own clothes. The æsthetic ladies failed, as the movement
to which they attached themselves did, for beauty is something attendant
upon life, arriving when it likes, going away very often when everyone
is on his knees for it to remain.



When it comes to his drawings of children du Maurier is very far away
from the sentimentalist of the Barrie school. He does not attempt to go
through the artifice of pretended possession of the realm of the child's
mind. He was of those who find the curious attractiveness of childhood
in the unreality, and not, as claimed by the later school, the superior
reality of the child's world. His view of the child is the affectionate,
but the "Olympian" one, with its amused appreciation of the _naïveté_
and the charm of childhood's particular brand of self-possession. It is
possible that his nursery scenes played some part in promoting the
respect that is given to-day to the impulses of childhood, the
enlightened and beautiful side of which respect after all so far
outweighs the ridiculous and sentimental one. His nursery drawings
contribute much of the fragrance associated with his work in _Punch_. He
takes rank under the best definition of an artist, namely, one who can
put his own values upon the things that come up for representation on
his paper. By his insistence upon certain pleasant things he helped to
establish them in the ideal, which, on the morrow, always tends to
become the real. He was a realist only to the extent of their
possibility. It gave him no pleasure whatever to enumerate, and
represent over again, the many times in which the beautiful intentions
of nature had gone astray. He liked to be upon the side of her
successes. He constantly helped us to believe in, and to will towards
the existence of such a world here on earth, as we have set our heart
upon. He is not an idealist in the vague sense, for he imports no beauty
merely from dreamland. Like the Greeks, he makes _the possible_ his
single ideal. In insisting upon the possibility of beauty and
suppressing every reference to the monstrous story of failure which the
existence of hideousness implies, once more he puts the world in debt to
art after the fashion of the old masters. For after all it seems to have
been left for modern artists to grow wealthy and live comfortably upon
the proceeds of their own relation of the world's despair; if they are
playwrights, to live most snugly upon the box-receipts of an entrapped
audience unnerved for the struggle of life by their ghastly picture of
life's gloom.

However splendid the art in such a case we put it well down below that
art which exerts the same amount of effort in trying to sustain the will
to believe in, and so to bring about the reign of things we really want.

Du Maurier's art was nearer to reality, and not farther away, in the
charming side of it. Realism does not necessarily imply only the
representation of the mean and the defaulting. It is perhaps because
humanity so passionately desires the reign of beauty that it is inclined
to doubt that art which witnesses to the dream of it as already partly

Although du Maurier's art in its tenderness is romantic, in its belief
in the ideal and in its insistence upon type rather than individuality
it is Classic. In the fact that it is so it fails in intimacy of
mood--just the intimacy that is the soul of Keene's art, which descends
from Rembrandt's. But this point will come up for consideration farther
on. Here it only concerns us in its connection with the psychology of
the people it interprets in satire. There is the psychology of
individuals and the psychology of a whole society--the latter was du
Maurier's theme. It is generally an obsession, a "fad," a "craze," or
"fashion" that his pencil exploits. He does not with Keene laugh with an
individual at another individual. His art is well-bred in its style
partly through the fact of its limitations. Moreover, in "Society"
individuality tends to be less evident than amongst the poorer classes,
with whom eccentricity is respected. In "Society" the force of
individuality now runs beneath the surface of observable varieties of
costume, taking a subterranean course with an impulse to avoid
everything that would give rise to comment. But the conformity of
"Society" in small things is only a mask. Du Maurier's real weakness in
satire was that he did not quite perceive this. He was inclined to
accept appearances for realities, with the consequence that the record
he transmits of late Victorian Society obscures the quite feverish
genius of that age.


It has often been remarked that the comparative failure of du Maurier's
successors seems the result of a difficulty in drawing "a lady"
unmistakably. We can forgive much to the artist who brought the English
lady, by many accounted the finest in the world, into real existence in
modern comic art. We shall have to forgive him for turning into a lady
every woman who was not middle-aged. Du Maurier's picture of Society was
largely falsified by his inability to appreciate variety in feminine
genius. But we are quite prepared to believe that his treatment of the
dainty parlour-maid, for instance, helped to confirm that tradition of
refinement in table service which is the pleasant feature of English
home life. All the servants shown in his pictures are ladies, and this
before the fashion had made any headway of engaging ladies as servants.
And we cannot help feeling such delightful child-life as he represents
could only have retained its characteristics under the wing of the
beautiful women who nurse it in his pictures.

[Illustration: "The Cilician Pirates"

_The Cornhill_, April 1863.]

Both du Maurier and Keene knew the _genus_ artist in all its varieties;
and it is very interesting to contrast, and note the difference between,
the "Artist" whom du Maurier brings into his society scenes and the one
of Keene's drawings. In Keene's case the "artist" is generally a
slouching Bohemian creature who belongs to a world of his own, and bears
the stamp of "stranger" upon him in any other. But the "artist" of du
Maurier, putting aside the æsthete coterie, with whom we shall deal
presently, wears upon him every outward symbol of peace with the
world--_The_ world, Mayfair. He is always an "R.A."--symbol of
respectability--whether du Maurier mentions it or not. With this type
Art is one of the great recognised professions like The Army or The Bar.
We have no curiosity as to what sort of pictures they paint. We know
that their art was suitable for the Academy, therefore for the Victorian
Drawing-room. We are merely amused at the solemnity of manner with which
they assumed that their large-sized Christmas cards had anything to do
with art at all--cards which lost the purchasers of them such enormous
sums when sold again at Christie's that the shaken confidence of the
public as to the worth of modern pictures has not recovered to this day.

All through this state of things, too, the really vital work of the time
was left to the encouragement of those whom "Society" would then have
called "outsiders," and it was just this failure on the part of the
aristocracy to enlist the genius of the period on its own side that
betrayed its decrepitude.


The enduring feature of du Maurier's art, that which survives in it
better than its sometimes scathing commentary upon a passing "craze," is
his close representation of the air with which people seek to foil each
other in conversation and conceal their own trepidations. His "Social
Agonies" are among the best of this series. If he does not lay stress
upon individual character, he still remains the master draughtsman of a
state of mind. He succeeds thus in the very field where probably all
that is most important in modern art, whether of the novel or of
illustration, will be found.

Behind the economy of word and gesture in the conversational method of
to-day there lies the history of the long struggle of the race through
volubility to refinement of expression. Du Maurier's _Punch_ pictures
take their place in the field of psychology in which the modern novel
has secured its greatest results, and the best appreciation of his
_Punch_ work was written in the eighties by Mr. Henry James, the supreme
master in this field; the master of suspenses that are greater than the
conversations in which they happen; the explorer of twilights of
consciousness in which little passions contend.

The Society du Maurier depicted held its position upon more comfortable
terms than any preceding it in history. It did not have, on the one
hand, to trim to a court party, or, on the other, to concede anything to
the people to keep itself in power. Yet it was as swollen with pride in
its position as any society has ever been. The industrial phenomena of
the age had suddenly filled its pockets; and it had nothing else in the
world to do but to blow itself out with pride. But a Society holding its
position without an effort of some kind of its own is bound to lose in
character, and the confession of all the best literature of this time
was of the baffled search for the soul of the prosperous class.


For the appreciation of the artist's management of dialogue we must move
for a page or two in Mrs. de Tomkyns' circle with Miss Lyon Hunter, Sir
Gorgius Midas the Plutocrat, Sir Pompey Bedel (of Bedel, Flunke & Co.)
the successful professional man, and the rest of the whole set, who
understand each other in the freemasonry of a common ambition to get
into another set.

     _Mamma_. "Enfin, my love! We're well out of this! _What_ a gang!!!
     Where shall we go next?"

     _Daughter_. "To Lady Oscar Talbot's, Mamma."

     _Mamma_. "She _snubs_ one so I really can't _bear_ it! Let us go to
     Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns. It's just as select (except the Host and
     Hostess) and quite as amusing."

     _Daughter_. "But Mrs. Tomkyns snubs one worse than Lady Oscar,

     _Mamma_. "Pooh, my love! who cares for the snubs of a Mrs. Ponsonby
     de Tomkyns I should like to know, so long as she's clever enough to
     get the right people."

This is the conversation in the hall between two ladies leaving a party
in one of du Maurier's most characteristic drawings. On every side there
are footmen and a crowd of guests cloaking and departing. Of Mrs.
Ponsonby de Tomkyns Mr. Henry James has said: "This lady is a real
creation.... 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 stupefied. He is not, like his wife, a person of
imagination. She leaves him far behind, though he is so inconvertible
that if she were a less superior person he would have been a sad
encumbrance. 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, gently but firmly--always pushes. At last she arrives."

We have quoted this delightful picture almost in its entirety from the
essay upon du Maurier written by Mr. Henry James in the eighties to
which we have referred. It describes the type of woman revealed in Mrs.
de Tomkyns when we have followed her adventures up a little way in the
back numbers of _Punch_. But, if we may be permitted the slang, the type
itself is anything but "a back number." Du Maurier's work bids fair to
live in the enjoyment of many generations, from the fact that its chaff,
for the most part, is directed against vanities that recur in human
nature. Mr. James tells us that the lady of whom we write "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."
Mr. Henry James himself is one of the experts of the London world. There
is almost a hint in the last sentence that he thought du Maurier's
genius helped to nurse the crazes it made fun of.

Since writing this I have been told by one to whom du Maurier related
the incident, that the hero of the æsthetic movement himself, Oscar
Wilde, offered to sit to du Maurier for the chief character in his skit.
Wilde was very young, but already master of that art of
self-advertisement which he received from Byron and Disraeli, perfected,
and, I think, handed on to Mr. Bernard Shaw. But such anxiety for every
kind of celebrity at any cost seems to have lost the youthful genius the
esteem of the great _Punch_ artist once and for all. The representative
of humorous journalism seems the one upon whom the delicate humour of
the proposal was lost.

As far as du Maurier was capable of vindictiveness it was reserved for
Maudle and Postlethwaite. He went out of his way to give a contemptible
appearance to those who took the name of Art in vain. His only spiteful
drawings are those of æsthetes. They are spiteful to the extent of the
great disgust which he, the most amiable of satirists, felt for them.
But still he was careful not to treat a craze which afforded him
inexhaustible variations of subject matter with so much bitterness as
to kill it right out. It was only towards this craze that he showed any
bitterness at all, for the rest he is always amused with Society. He has
none of the bitter Jeremiahlike anger against it of a Swift.

Mr. Henry James defending du Maurier from a charge of being malignant,
brought against him for his ugly representation of queer people,
failures, and grotesques, refused to allow that the taint of "French
ferocity" of which the artist was accused, existed. But Mr. Henry James
sees in du Maurier's ugly people a real specification of type, where we
confess that we have felt that his "ferocity" missed the point of
resemblance to type through clumsy exaggeration. One noticeable
instance, however, to our mind, where the too frequent outrageousness is
replaced by an exquisite study of character, is in the face of the fair
authoress who, when the gallant Colonel, anxious to break the ice, and
full of the fact that he has just been made a proud father, asks if she
takes any interest in very young children, replies, "I loathe _all_
children!" (January 13, 1880).

[Illustration: Illustration for "Wives and Daughters"

_The Cornhill_, 1864.]


The story of children's conversation has perhaps never been told quite
so charmingly as du Maurier tells it. We could quote endlessly from the
admirably constructed nursery dialogues in which he does not attempt to
make a joke, and in which he very carefully refrains from giving a
fantastic precocity to his little characters--dialogues in which he is
quite content to rely upon our sympathetic knowledge of children's way
of putting things, while he rests the appeal of the drawing and legend
entirely upon a _naïve_ literalness to their remarks. The charming
atmosphere of the well-ordered nursery must be felt by readers, and then
we can quote from the text of some of his drawings of the kind; this we
shall do somewhat at random and as they come to mind.

     "Are you asleep, dearest? Yes, Mamma, and the Doctor particularly
     said that I wasn't to be waked to take my medicine" (_July_ 10,

     "Oh, Auntie! There's your tiresome cook's been and filled my egg
     too full" (_April_ 22, 1882).

Already we are seized with misgivings as to whether, with the reader
very much on the look-out for the jokes, we shall be successful in
making our point in claiming for du Maurier that, as much as any author
who has ever written upon children, he captures "the note" of children's
speeches. But anyhow we will try.

For an instance there is the delightful picture of a child clasping its
mother round the knees, whilst the mother, shawled for an evening
concert, bends affectionately down--

     "Good Night! Good Night! my dear, sweet, pretty mamma! I like you
     to go out, because if you didn't you'd never come home again, you

The artist perhaps invented this pretty speech, but the "Good Night!
Good Night! my dear, sweet, pretty mamma" is of the very spirit of the
redundancy by which children hope in heaping words together to express
accumulation of emotion. Du Maurier's children never make the nasty pert
answers upon which, for their nearly impossible but always vulgar
smartness, the providers of jokes about children for the comic papers
generally depend. He is simply going on with his "novel"--_The Tale of
the House_ it might be called--when he affords us realistic glimpses of
nursery conversation.

     _Mamma_. "What is Baby crying for, Maggie?"

     _Maggie_. "I don't know."

     _Mamma_. "And what are you looking so indignant about?"

     _Maggie_. "That nasty, greedy dog's been and took and eaten my

     _Mamma_. "Why, I saw you eating a sponge-cake a minute ago!"

     _Maggie_. "O--that was Baby's."

We need hardly labour the point of the "been and took and eaten" as an
instance of felicity in reconstructing children's conversation, and
making the verisimilitude to their grammar the charm of the

     _Ethel_. "Isn't it sad, Arthur? There's the drawing-room cleared
     for a dance, and all the dolls ready to begin, only they've got no

     _Arthur_. "Well, Ethel! There's the four gentlemen in my Noah's
     Ark; but they don't look as if they cared very much about
     _dancing_, you know!" (_February_ 24, 1872).

     _Ethel_. "And O, Mamma, do you know as we were coming along we saw
     a horrid woman with a red striped shawl drink something out of a
     bottle, and then hand it to some men. I'm sure she was tipsy."

     _Beatrice_ (who always looks on the best side of things). "Perhaps
     it was only Castor Oil, after all!"

     _A whispered appeal_. "Mamma! Mamma! don't scold him any more, it
     makes the room so dark."

It is the _poetry_ of the nursery that is to be felt throughout du
Maurier's art in this vein. And how well he knows the emotions of
childhood. For instance, the large drawing "Farewell to Fair Normandy"
(October 2, 1880), extending across two full pages of _Punch_, in which
the children away for their seaside holiday leave the sands for the last
time in a mournful procession. The sky is dimmed with an evening cloud.
Du Maurier has compressed much poetry into the scene. It has been said
that "there is only one art," and this seems to be proved on great
occasions by those who can command more than one art for the expression
of their feelings. It is difficult to say where in this picture the
artist in du Maurier gives place to the poet, as difficult as it is to
say before a picture of Rossetti.

[Illustration: Illustration for "Wives and Daughters"

_The Cornhill_, 1865.]

Sometimes du Maurier even depicted delightful children as the victims of
the fashionable crazes that he loved to attack, and thus we are brought
to another series of dialogues--as a rule though only involving the
"grown-ups"--in which the legend and the type of person depicted,
together, form a most valuable document of the times. There is for
instance the China mania--in the following in the incipient stage:--

     "O Mamma! O! O! N--N--Nurse has given me my C--C--Cod-liver Oil out
     of a p--p--plain white mug" (_December_ 26, 1874).

Then the inimitable colloquies of the æsthetes--and especially the now
famous one about the six-mark tea-pot.

     _Aesthetic Bridegroom_. "It is quite consummate, is it not?"

     _Intense Bride_. "It is, indeed! Oh, Algernon, let us live up to

Also the direction, to the architect about the country house:

     _Fair Client_. "I want it to be nice and baronial, Queen Anne and
     Elizabethan, and all that; kind of quaint and Nuremburgy you
     know--regular Old English, with French windows opening to the lawn,
     and Venetian blinds, and sort of Swiss balconies, and a loggia. But
     I'm sure _you_ know what I mean!" (_November_ 29, 1890).

And farther on in the _Punch_ volumes:--

     "O, Mr. Robinson, does not it ever strike you, in listening to
     sweet music, that the Rudiment of Potential Infinite Pain is subtly
     woven into the tissue of our keenest joy" (_December_ 2, 1891).

But perhaps before closing this chapter we should give some examples of
drawing-room conversation pure and simple, without reference to any sort
of craze, as specimens of their author's skill. Familiarity with the
artist's characters will enable the reader to appreciate the note of a
shy man's agony in some, and of feminine spite in others.

Among the "Speeches to be lived down, if possible," there are these:

     _She_. "Let me introduce you to a very charming lady, to take down
     to supper."

     _He_. "A--thanks--no. I never eat supper."

     "By George! I am so hungry I can't talk."

     _Fair Hostess_ (on hospitable thoughts intent). "Oh, I'm so glad!"

"Things one would rather have left unsaid":

     _Amiable Hostess_. "What! must you go already? Really, Professor,
     it's too bad of this sweet young wife of yours to carry you off so
     early! She always does!"

     _Professor_. "No, no, not _always_, Mrs. Bright. At _most_ houses I
     positively have to drag her away!"

"Truths that might have been left unspoken":

     _Hostess_. "What? haven't you brought your sisters, Mr. Jones?"

     _Mr. Jones_. "No, they couldn't come, Mrs. Smith. The fact is,
     they're saving themselves for Mrs. Brown's Dance to-morrow, you
     know!" (_January_ 9, 1886).

Under the heading "Feline Amenities":

     _Fair Hostess_ (to Mrs. Masham, who is looking her very best).
     "How-dy-do, dear? I hope you're not so tired as you look!"

     _Sympathetic Lady Guest_. "Don't be unhappy about the rain, dear
     Mrs. Bounderson--it will soon be over, and your garden will be
     lovelier than ever."

     _Little Mrs. Goldmore Bounderson_ (who is giving her first Garden
     Party). "Yes; but I'm afraid it will keep my most desirable guests
     from coming!"

This last duologue is pure du Maurier. It is subtle.

"Feline Amenities" again:

     "How kind of you to call--I'm sorry to have kept you waiting!"

     "Oh, don't mention it.--I've not been at all bored! I've been
     trying to imagine what I should do to make this room look
     comfortable if it were mine!" (_November_ 22, 1892).

The "Things one would rather have expressed otherwise" is a good series

     _The Professor_ (to Hostess). "Thank you so much for a most
     delightful evening! I shall indeed go to bed with pleasant
     recollections--and _you_ will be the very _last_ person I shall
     think of!"

And again, of the same series:

     _Fair Hostess_. "Good-night, Major Jones. We're supposed to
     breakfast at nine, but we're not very punctual people. Indeed the
     later you appear to-morrow morning, the better pleased we shall all
     be" (_May_ 13, 1893).

"Things one would rather have left unsaid":

     _He_. "Yes, I know Bootle slightly, and confess I don't think much
     of him!"

     _She_. "I know him a little too. He took me in to dinner a little
     while ago!"

     _He_. "Ah, that's just about all he's fit for!"

     _The Hostess_. "Dear Miss Linnet! would you--would you sing one of
     those charming ballads, while I go and see if supper's ready?"

     _The Companion_. "O, don't ask me--I feel nervous. There are so
     many people."

     _The Hostess_. "O, they won't listen, bless you! not one of them!
     _Now_ DO!!!"

And here is a conversation that betrays the presence of one of the
currents of public feeling below the smooth surface of well-bred

     _In the Metropolitan Railway_. "I beg your pardon, but I think I
     had the pleasure of meeting you in Rome last year?"

     "No, I've never been nearer to Rome than St. Alban's."

     "St. Alban's? Where is that?"


Some rather amusing speeches of a different character in which du
Maurier assails the more obvious forms of snobbery of a class below
those with whom his art was generally concerned may be given:

     _Among the Philistines_. _Grigsby_. "Do you _know_ the Joneses,
     Mrs. Brown?"

     "No, we--er--don't care to know _Business_ people as a rule,
     although my husband's in business; but then he's in the _Coffee_
     Business and they're all _gentlemen_ in the _Coffee_ Business, you

     _Grigsby_ (who always suits himself to his company). "_Really_ now!
     Why, that's more than can be said of the Army, the Navy, the
     Church, the Bar, or even the _House of Lords_! I don't _wonder_ at
     your being rather _exclusive_!" (_Punch's Almanac_, 1882).

     "I see your servants wear cockades now, Miss Shoddson!"

     "Yes, Pa's just become a member of the Army and Navy Stores."

When du Maurier confined himself to observing and to recording he never
failed for subjects. But we suppose as a concession to a section of the
public he felt a leaven of mere jokes was demanded from him every year.
The scene of his struggle to invent those "jokes" is one to be veiled.
It is safe to say that it is his distinction to have contributed at once
the best satire and the worst jokes that _Punch_ has ever published. A
black and white artist has told the writer that the _Art_-Editors of
papers look first at the joke. The drawing is accepted or rejected on
the joke. We can only be glad that this was not entirely the editorial
practice on _Punch_ in du Maurier's time. Perhaps the subjoined "joke"
of du Maurier's from _Punch_ is the worst in the world:

     "I say, cousin Constance, I've found out why you always call your
     Mamma 'Mater.'"

     "Why, Guy?"

     "Because she's always trying to find a mate for you girls."

[Illustration: Sketch for illustration for "Wives and Daughters" 1865.]

And yet if the drawing accompanying this joke be looked at _first_, it
delights with its charm and distinction. Here then is a psychological
fact; the drawing itself seems to the eye a poorer affair once the poor
joke has been read. Having suffered in this way several times in
following with admiration the pencil of du Maurier through the old
volumes of _Punch_, we at last hit upon the plan of always covering the
joke and enjoying first the picture for its own sake, only uncovering
the legend when this has been thoroughly appreciated lest it should turn
out to be merely a feeble joke instead of a happily-invented
conversation. There are some of the drawings for jokes which we should
very much like to have included with our illustrations, but the human
mind being so constituted that it goes direct to the legend of an
illustration, feeling "sold" if it isn't there, and the "jokes" in some
of these instances being so fatal to the understanding of the atmosphere
and charm of the drawing, we have had to abandon the idea of doing so.
What the reader has to understand is that circumstances harnessed du
Maurier to a certain business; he imported all manner of extraneous
graces into it, and thus gave a determination to the character of the
art of satire which it will never lose. The pages of _Punch_ were
enriched, beautified, and made more delicately human. _Punch_ gained
everything through the connection and du Maurier a stimulus in the
demand for regular work. But it is not impossible to imagine
circumstances which, but for this early connection with _Punch_, would
have awakened and developed a different and perhaps profounder side of
du Maurier, of which we seem to get a glimpse in the illustrations to
Meredith in _The Cornhill Magazine_.


The famous reply of an early Editor to the usual complaint that _Punch_
was not as good as it used to be--"No, sir, it never was"--cannot be
considered to hold good in any comparison between the present period and
that in which the arts of du Maurier and Keene held sway. There have
been periods, there is such a one now, when the literary side of
_Punch_ has touched a high-water mark. But on the illustrative side
_Punch_ seems to be always hoping that another Keene or du Maurier will
turn up. It does not seem prepared to accept work in quite another
style. But there is no more chance of there ever being another Keene
than of there being another Rembrandt, or of there ever being another du
Maurier than another Watteau. The next genius to whom it is given to
illuminate the pages of the classic journal in a style that will rival
the past is not likely to arise from among those who think that there is
no other view of life than that which was discovered by their immediate
predecessors. By force of his genius--or, if you prefer it, of
sympathy--which means the same thing--for some particular phase of life,
some artist may at any moment uncover in its pages an altogether fresh
kind of humour and of beauty.

§ 9

Du Maurier's art covers the period when England was flushed with
success. Artists in such times grow wealthy, and by their work refine
their time. But in spite of the number of wealthy Academicians living
upon Society in the mid-Victorian time, the influence of Art upon
Society was less than at any time in history in which circumstances have
been favourable to the artist.

The great wave of trade that carried the shop-keeper into the West-end
drawing-room strewed also the curtains and carpets with that outrageous
weed of _trade_ design which gave to the mid-Victorian world its
complexion of singular hideousness.

The æsthetic movement indicated the restlessness of some of the brighter
spirits with this condition, but many of its remedies were worse than
the disease. The _nouveau_ artist-craftsman stood less chance than
anybody of getting back to the secret of noble things, having forsaken
the path of pure utility which, wherever it may go for a time, always
leads back again to beauty. The disappearance of beauty for a time need
not have been a cause of despair. Beauty will always come back if it is
left alone. People had been swept off their feet with delight at what
machinery could do, and they expected beauty to come out of it as a
product at the same pace as everything else. It was not a mistake to
expect it from any source, but from this particular source it could only
come with time. There is evidence that it is on the way. And yet though
the results of crude mechanical industrialism spoilt the outward
appearance of the whole of the Victorian age, the earlier part at least
of that time was one of marked personal refinement. We have but to look
at portraits by George Richmond and others to receive a great impression
of distinction. And this fact enables us to throw into clearer light the
exact nature of du Maurier's work. If we seek for evidence in the old
volumes of _Punch_ for the distinction of the early Victorians we shall
not find it. We shall merely conceive instead a dislike for the type of
gentleman of the time. Leech and his contemporaries did nothing more for
their age than to make it look ridiculous for ever. But du Maurier gives
us a real impression of the Society in which he moved. His ability to
satirise society while still leaving it its dignity is unique. It may be
said to be his distinctive contribution to the art of graphic satire.
It gave to the Anglo-Saxon school its present-day characteristic,
putting upon one of the very lightest forms of art the stamp of a noble
time. The point is that whilst du Maurier thus deferred to the dignity
of human nature he remained a satirist, not a humorist merely, as was




§ 1

If we wish to estimate the art of du Maurier at its full worth we must
try and imagine _Punch_ from 1863 without this art, and try for a moment
to conceive the difference this absence would make to our own present
knowledge of the Victorians; also to the picture always entertained of
England abroad.

If we are to believe du Maurier's art England is a petticoat-governed
country. The men in his pictures are often made to recede into the
background of Victorian ornament merely as ornaments themselves. As for
the women, the mask of manner, the pleasantness concealing every shade
of uncharitableness, all the arts of the contention for social
precedence--in the interpretation of this sort of thing du Maurier is
often quite uncanny, but he is never ruthless.

We have noticed that when du Maurier tried to draw ugly people he often
only succeeded in turning out a figure of fun. Not to be beautiful and
charming is to fail of being human, seems the judgment of his pencil.
This was his limitation. And another was that, whilst professing to be
concerned with humanity as a whole, he nearly always broke down with
types that outraged the polite standard. He was a master in the
description of Bishops and Curates, Generals and Men-about-town, but he
broke down when he came to "the out-sider." And, as we have already
pointed out, he seldom got away from types to individuals.

In the last respect, however, we gain more perhaps than we lose. We gain
a very vivid impression of the whole tone of the society in his time.
And the fact of his art passing over the individual, for ever prevented
it from cruelty, for to be cruel the individual must be hit. He did not
satirise humanity, but Society. And his criticism was not of its
members, but of its ways. Except in the case of children, he left
unrevealed the individual heart that Keene so sympathetically exposed.

He made an original--and who will deny it?--a unique contribution to
the history of satire, when he went to work through literalness and care
for beauty in a field where nearly all previous success had rested with
a sort of ruffianism. But chiefly one praises Heaven for the nurseryful
of delightful children he let loose in his pages against the army of
little monsters who reign as children in the Comic Press, bearing
witness as they do to the unpleasant kind of mind even an artist can

Though he ridiculed "Camelot," his own tradition, as we have shown, was
received from the Arthurian source. His chivalry gave his satire a very
delicate edge. It was infinitely more cutting in showing the misfit of
vulgarity with beauty than in showing vulgarity alone.

But du Maurier's gentlemanliness narrowed his range. It forced him into
putting down something preposterous instead of a true type as soon as he
wished to create "a bounder." He found it impossible to get inside of a
"bounder"--to be for the time a "bounder" himself. It is necessary for
an artist to be able to be every character that he would create. And
perhaps a satirist never wounds others so much as when he most wounds
himself. Thackeray succeeded with snobbery because he had enough of it
to go on with himself. We have shown the success of du Maurier with the
æsthetes to go upon similar lines. The soul of satire is very often the
bitterness of confession. In his very style the satirist of the æsthetes
stood confessed almost as one of their number, whether he wished this to
be seen or not--at least as one of the romantic school from whom they
immediately descended. But he was genuine; where Postlethwaite and
Maudle posed, his irritation was with the pose, the pretended
preoccupation with beauty. He genuinely admired the Florentine revival,
and to admire is to be jealous of those who take in vain. He wished to
show up the "æsthetes" as the parasites they were, trading socially upon
an inspiration too fragrant to be traded with at all.

Du Maurier, who assuredly knew what elegance was as well as any man of
his time, took a great delight in pointing out to all whom it might
concern, by illustration, that if there was any beauty of representation
possible to him, as an artist, in depicting modern society, it was not
in anything put forward in the shape of costume by the ladies of the
æsthetic movement, but in the unacknowledged genius of ordinary

It was in his time that Philistinism met its match in Oscar Wilde, and
for the first time in its history felt its self-complacency shaken. Up
to that time it had been very proud of itself. With the loss of that
pride it blundered, and it remained for du Maurier to show that the
height of Philistinism in a Philistine is to pretend not to be a

He had always seen what it would do present-day Londoners a world of
good to see as clearly, that it is just those who affect, and who, by
their lack of artistic constitution, are incapable of doing more than
merely affecting, the understanding of art, who are the worst enemies it
has in the world. He preferred the open Philistine. And so do we. The
affectation described lends to art an artificial support which betrays
those who attempt to rest any scheme for the promotion of art upon it.

But though du Maurier was not a Philistine he had the genius of
respectability. His pencil could get on well with Bishops. It is easy
enough to put a model into a Bishop's apron and gaiters, but that does
not secure the drawing of a Bishop. It is necessary to observe that du
Maurier found definite lines with his pencil for something so abstract
as Broad-Churchmanship. The High-Churchman, with his perilous
inclination to fervour, he was afraid of as a disturbing element, and
kept him out of his drawings.



We have noted that it was du Maurier's peculiar genius to respond to
"attainment" in life, even as the Greeks did, rather than to life's
pathetic and romantic struggle. Du Maurier, we believe, was of opinion
that if circumstances--he probably meant Editorial ones--had determined
that he should apply his art to the lower classes he would have
succeeded as well there as he did with Society. We prefer to believe
that the Editorial instinct in the direction it gave to his work knew
better. Many opportunities were afforded him for being as democratic in
spirit as he liked, but he left such opportunities alone. His
cab-runners run about in rain-shrunken suits that were obviously made in
Savile Row; everyone of them, they are broken-down gentlemen. Coachmen,
gardeners, footmen, pages, housekeepers, cooks, ladies' maids, and all
those who move in the domestic circle of the upper classes he could
draw, but his taste in life is a marked one, and that means it is a
limited one. It is as marked as Meredith's, and it is much of the same
kind; like that writer's great lady, Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson, he
preferred persons "that shone in the sun." This had nothing whatever to
do with qualities of the heart; it was all an æsthetic predilection. The
moment his pencil touched the theme of life lived upon as gentle a plane
as possible, then something was kindled at its point which betrayed the
presence of genuine inspiration. The inspiration was of the same nature
as Watteau's, the grace of a certain aspect of life making an æsthetic
appeal. Let this attraction to what is gracious in appearance, however,
be kept distinct from the effect made by the spectacle of wealth upon
the snob. Those who show us the beauty in the world, enrich the world
with that much of beauty.

[Illustration: Pencil Studies from the Artist's Sketch Book]

In his _Life and Letters of Charles Keene_, Mr. G.S. Layard[1] says

"That Keene could have drawn the lovely be-Worthed young ladies and the
splendidly proportioned and frock-coated young men with which Mr. du
Maurier delights us week by week, not to speak of the god-like hero of
his charming novel, I do not think anyone can doubt, had he set himself
to do it, but it was part of the ineradicable Bohemianism of his
character and the realistic bent of his genius that made him shun the
representation of what he considered artificial and an outrage upon

This, it will perhaps be admitted, is not very good art-criticism.
Though in justice to its author it must be said that he did not wish to
be regarded as Keene's critic as well as biographer.

An artist does not argue with himself that he will shun the
representation of one particular side of life. He simply leaves it alone
because he cannot help it; it does not attract him. He draws just that
which interests him most and in the way in which it interests him; and
exactly to the measure of his interest does his drawing possess
vitality. Keene might have expressed with pungency his sense of certain
things as being artificial and outrageous, but as long as his feelings
towards them remained like that he could not express himself about them
in any other way, certainly not in du Maurier's way--that is, with du
Maurier's skill.

To the extent to which there _is_ a glamour and a beauty in fashion du
Maurier is a realist. People who only now and then become sensible of
the charm in things are provoked by its strangeness in art, and call it
romance, their definition for an untrue thing.


During the period of thirty-six years over which du Maurier contributed
to _Punch_ the paper took upon itself a character unlike anything that
had preceded it in comic journalism; it created a tradition for itself
which placed it beside _The Times_--the "Thunderer," as one of the
institutions of this country, recognised abroad as essentially
expressive of national character. English humour, like American and
French, has its own flavour; it lacks the high and extravagant fantasy
that is so exhilarating in America; it avoids the subtlety of France; it
is essentially a laughing humour. The Englishman, who cannot stand chaff
himself, always laughs at others. It is curious that while an
Englishman's conventions rest upon dislike of what is odd and
fantastic--precisely the two most well-known sources of humour--he yet
has a sense of humour. The first aim of every Englishman is to acquire a
manner of some dignity. It is the breaking down of that dignity in other
people that to his eyes places them in a light that is funny.

English humour seems to find its object in physical rather than mental
aspects. The very notable feature of du Maurier's work was that it
refined upon the characteristics of English humour; it dealt always with
people placed by an absurd speech, or an unlucky gesture, in a foolish
position--a position the shy distress of which was a physical
experience. Du Maurier's humour was also English in its kindness; the
points that are scored against the unfortunate object of it are the
points that may be scored against the laugher himself to-morrow. His
pictures were a running commentary upon the refinements of our manners
and upon the quick changes of moral costume that fresh situations in the
social comedy demand.

One thing peculiarly fitted the artist to be the satirist of English
Society--his love of the comedy of people by nature honest finding
themselves only able to get through the day with decent politeness by
the aid of "the lie to follow." English people, Puritan by ancestry and
by inclination, are nevertheless driven into frequent subterfuge by
their good nature, and having pared their language and gesture of that
extravagance in expression which they despise in the foreigner, they are
thrown back upon a naturalness that betrays them in delicate
situations. The consequence is that it is in Anglo-Saxon Society at its
best that the art of delicate fence in conversation has been brought to
its highest pitch. There the _clairvoyance_ is so great that words can
be used economically in relation to the realities of life, and are
consequently often adopted merely as a screen before the feelings.

We have to realise how much more than any one preceding him in graphic
satire du Maurier was able to dispense with exaggeration. Nevertheless,
the studied avoidance of exaggeration has not had the happiest effect as
a precedent in the art of _Punch_. Without du Maurier's sensitive
response to the whole comedy of drawing-room life the tendency has been
to lapse into the merely photographic.

The similitude we have already described between du Maurier's art with
the pencil and the art of the modern novel is not complete until we have
extended it further in the direction of a comparison with novels of
George Meredith and Henry James in particular. Like these two writers du
Maurier loved comedy, and your appreciator of comedy cannot stand the
presence of a "funny man." In the pages of _Punch_ it was Leech and not
du Maurier who first replaced the art of the merely "funny man." He
began with the pencil the kind of art that would answer to Meredith's
description of the comic muse. Throughout _The Egoist_, by George
Meredith, a comedy in which Clara Middleton's life comes near to being
tragic, the air would clear at any moment if Sir Willoughby and Clara
had not both lost through over-civilisation the power of saying
precisely what they mean. The book is the story of how Clara tries to
find words, and of how, when she finds them, the conversational genius
of Willoughby seemingly deflects them from the meaning she intends them
to bear. It was in the mid-region between two people in conversation
where false constructions are put by either party upon what is said that
du Maurier, like Meredith himself, perceived the source of comedy was to
be found.


We have already defined the drawing-room as a Victorian institution. It
belonged to an age that was willing to sacrifice too much to
appearances--one in which everyone seemed to live for appearances. It
was a sort of stage, occupied by people in afternoon or evening
costume, with even the chairs arranged, not where they were wanted, but
where they made a good appearance. Oscar Wilde suggested to the
Victorians that they shouldn't _arrange_ chairs; they should let them
occur. Against the false setting manners were bound to become
false--good manners becoming almost synonymous with perfect insincerity.
Perhaps the only thing that ever really came to life in a drawing-room
was the æsthetic movement! At its worst it was what we have described
it; at its best it was a sort of blind protest against the patterns of
chair-covers that the eye was bound to absorb while listening to the
inanities of drawing-room conversation. It is significant that the
æsthetic movement was a man's movement. Until the leader of the movement
appeared on the scene, the decoration of the Victorian, as distinct from
the Georgian parlour, or that of every other period, was woman's
business. Most of the Victorian patterns embodied naturalistic and
sentimental representations of flowers. It was with the disappearance of
the eighteenth-century tradition, when drawing-room decoration passed
out of the hands of men, that beauty disappeared. Women took to heaping
masses of drapery on to the mantelpieces which had once displayed
classic proportion; on to this drapery they pinned all sorts of horrible
fans. Du Maurier exposed it all, and he exposed, too, the æsthetes to
whom the salvation of the appearance of a suburban drawing-room could
come to mean more than anything else in life. Their fault was not
confined to this. He always brought their "intensity" as a charge
against them, for it is of the very genius of good manners to merely
froth about things which, if taken seriously, would tend to destroy

[Illustration: Illustration for "A Legend of Camelot"--Part III.

_Punch_, March 17, 1866.

    A little castle she drew nigh,
    With seven towers twelve inches high....
        O Miserie!

    A baby castle, all a-flame
    With many a flower that hath no name,
        O Miserie!

    It had a little moat all round:
    A little drawbridge too she found;
        O Miserie!

    On which there stood a stately maid,
    Like her in radiant locks arrayed....
        O Miserie!

    Save that her locks grew rank and wild,
    By weaver's shuttle undefiled!...
        O Miserie!

    Who held her brush and comb, as if
    Her faltering hands had waxed stiff,
        O Miserie!

    With baulkt endeavour! whence she sung
    A chant, the burden whereof rung:
        O Miserie!

    "These hands have striven in vain
      To part
    These locks that won GAUWAINE
      His heart!"]

It is interesting, as an addition to the comparison we have drawn
between Meredith and du Maurier, to note that of the illustrators to
Meredith's own novels it was the latter who seemed to experience life in
a mood similar to the author's. In illustrating _Harry Richmond_ he
secured the Meredithian sense of romance and of pedigree in scenes as
well as people. However modern Meredith's characters were, they were all
the children of old-fashioned people; within them all was the pride of
the family tree, and, in the scenes in which they move, the memory of an
older world. Du Maurier, too, in his art was a patrician, and when he
gave up romance and took to satire pure and simple he put both beauty
and dignity into the world that he described. All the time he was
drawing his Society world others were working the same vein. But to him
alone it seemed to be given to glimpse the splendour of it, and to
suggest the link of romance that holds the present and the past

Let us praise that very wise Editor who, appreciating the artist's
character, confined him to the art most natural to him. What has become
of Editors of this kind to-day? Is not this the very genius of the art
of editing--this and not the wholly fictitious "what the public wants?"
Who knows what the public want but the public themselves? It is the
artist who is allowed by his Editor to go his own way, who takes the
public with him. If he has not the same sympathies as the public no
Editorial direction will save the situation, while it will drive perhaps
a fine artist away to another trade.

§ 5

After the appearance of his first drawing in _Punch_, for more than a
year du Maurier's connection with the paper seems to have been
maintained by the execution of initial letters for it. Mr. W.L.
Bradbury, zealous in the preservation of all records that redound to the
glory of _Punch_, has in one or two instances had pulls taken from the
wood blocks upon special paper. These special proofs show all the charm
of wood engraving. In the case of the initial large C, reproduced on
page 91, Mr. Bradbury's specimen shows the beautiful quality which in
our own time Mr. Sturge Moore and Mr. Pissarro are at such pains to
secure in engravings made for love of the art. One only wishes that the
exigencies of book-production would allow us to attempt rivalry with Mr.
Bradbury's specimen in our reproduction. But we see no reason why
specimens of the wood-printing of du Maurier's work should not be on
view in the British Museum. The "impressions" in old volumes of _Punch_,
after the wear and tear, the opening and the shutting, and the effect of
time are not an adequate record of du Maurier's skill in accommodating
his art to the methods of reproduction of the period.

Moreover, du Maurier was better in securing an effect of painting than
of pure line work with his pen. It is just this effect which suited the
methods of engraving better than those of "process" work. And because it
demanded drawing to a smaller scale, with lines closer together, the
demands of engraving suited the nature of du Maurier's art better than
those of "process" work.

When the modern process came in artists enlarged their drawings so as to
secure delicacy of effect from the result of the reduction in printing.
In such a case they really work for the sake of a result upon the
printed page, and there is consequently less value to be attached to the
original drawing. It generally errs on the side of coarseness. And now
that a trade is driven in original drawings, artists are tempted to give
the purchaser as much in the matter of size for his money as he may
want. And, alas, it is true that many picture buyers do buy according to
measurement, or anything else on earth rather than merit.

Du Maurier could add a reason of his own for availing himself of the
opportunity to enlarge his drawings when he could, namely, that of his
weak sight. But it is certainly not among the large drawings that we
should look for the work that places him in the place we wish to claim
for him.

It will well repay the student of du Maurier's art to look into the
illustration for the novel _Wives and_ _Daughters_ reproduced on page
26. In this very highly finished picture the drawing of all the detail
seems done with the greatest pleasure to the artist. It has not the
breadth of style which du Maurier himself could admire in Keene, but the
line work is intensely sympathetic throughout; there is that enjoyment
in the actual touch of pen to paper which was always characteristic of
Keene, which is always special to great art; which, alas, was not always
characteristic of du Maurier. It is like the touch of a sympathetic
musician. Du Maurier, always generous to his contemporaries, in his
lecture upon art, instances the natural skill of Walker by his success
with the difficulties of drawing a tall hat. But Walker himself has
nothing of this kind better to show than the hat in the picture we are


In the early eighties the change was made from drawing on wood to
drawing on paper for _Punch_, the drawing being afterwards photographed
on to the wood. Later, metal was made possible as a substitute for wood,
and this enabled illustrations and letterpress to be printed together.
The modern process of reproduction has introduced its own pleasant
qualities into journalism, and because they are different in effect they
do not rival the effect of wood engraving.

The modern methods reproduce the black lines of a drawing direct. But
the most practised engravers cut out the whites of a drawing with their
graver from between the black lines. This undoubtedly allowed the artist
a closer and less restricted use of line than modern illustration shows
us. If the reader examines du Maurier's illustration for _The Adventures
of Harry Richmond_ on page 106, he will be able to see at a glance how,
by cutting out the whites in the multiplicity of ivy leaves, detailed
drawing has been re-interpreted in the engraving with great economy.

Some of the pleasantness of the effect of lines printed from a woodcut
is due to the fact that they print a more clearly cut line. The line
eaten in by "process" when examined under a very strong magnifying glass
proves to be a slightly jagged one. But we should rejoice that the art
of reproduction for journalistic purposes is free of the laborious
method of engraving, and from the sort of work that was put up by
over-tired engravers when they fought their last round to lose, against
the modern invention of picture reproduction.

There is no rivalry in art. All the rivalry is in the business connected
with it. A wood-engraving possesses a charm of its own for those whose
sense of quality is delicate enough for its appreciation. The life of
this art, apart from the purpose of weekly journalism, is safe. The life
of any art is safe while it commands, as wood engraving does, the
production of any particular effect in a way that cannot be rivalled.

According to Mr. Joseph Pennell, the first really important modern
illustrated book in which wood was substituted for metal engraving
appeared in France in 1830, and this authority asserts that in England,
just before the invention of photographing on wood, some of the most
marvellous engravings appeared that have ever been done in the country.
"It is," he writes, "with the appearance of Frederick Sandys, Rossetti,
Walker, Pinwell, A. Boyd, Houghton, Small, du Maurier, Keene, Crane,
Leighton, Millais, and Tenniel, with the publication of the _Cornhill,
Once a Week, Good Words, The Shilling Magazine_, and such books as
Moxon's _Tennyson_ that the best period of English illustration

"The incessant output of illustration," he continues, "killed not only
the artists themselves, but the process. In its stead arose a better,
truer method, a more artistic method, which we are even now only

But there is another side to this question. Illustration has lost
something by the uniformity of style which the modern method encourages.
Keene, whose style was supposed to suffer most at the hands of the
engraver, found it more difficult than anyone to accommodate his free
methods to the rules that govern the results of the modern process.

It may be noted that it was about the time of the transition from
working on wood to work on paper that that slavery to the model began,
which, as we have pointed out, has not in the end been without an
unhappy effect in the loss of spontaneity to English Illustration.

[Illustration: Initial Letter from _The Cornhill_]

As for the art of wood engraving itself, we hope it will now have a
future like that which the arts of lithography and etching are enjoying.
Reproduction by process serves commercial and journalistic purposes far
better. The demands of commerce formed for this art, as it once formed
for lithography, a chrysalis in which it perfected itself.
Reproduction by process serves commercial purposes much better than
ever wood-engraving could, but while the commercial demand for it
lasted, as in the case of the arts of lithography and etching, it
continued to improve; like them, let us hope, destined to find beautiful
wings upon its release from the cramping demands of modern printing
machines, in its practice by artists for sheer love of the peculiar
qualities which are its own. It has been said that wood-engravers killed
their own art so far as journalism was concerned by their surrender to
commerciality with its frequent demand for the ready-to-hand rather than
the superior thing. But his surrender was not the fault of the
engravers, but was rendered inevitable by the advent of the middleman,
to whom application was made by the Press for blocks, and whose
employees all engravers were practically forced into becoming, instead
of being able to retain their independence and make their own terms with
the Press.

§ 7

In the British Museum some of the originals of du Maurier's _Punch_
pictures may be seen. On the margins of these are the pencilled
instructions of the Editor as to the scale of the reproduction, and
very often pencil notes from Artist to Editor. This sort of thing--"If
they have used my page for this week's number, telegraph to me as soon
as you get this and I will have Social ready by 12 to-morrow (that is,
if it be not too late for me.)" Or what is evidently an invitation to
lunch--"Monday at 1 for light usual." The drawing where this particular
note appears is of three little girls with their dolls. The legend in
the artist's handwriting read as follows:--"_My papa's house has got a_
conservatory! _My papa's house has got a_ billiard-room! _My papa's
house has got a_ mortgage!!" This was printed with the much inferior
legend: "Dolly taking her degrees (of comparison): '_My_ doll's wood!'
_My_ doll's composition!' '_My_ doll's wax!'"

Some of these British Museum original drawings still retain in pencil
the price du Maurier put upon them for sale. Of the period when the
artist was drawing on a large scale with a view to reduction there is
one of the "Things one would rather have expressed differently" series
priced at twelve guineas. It gives an indication of the profits du
Maurier sometimes was able to make from the original drawing. For the
sake of comment on the low evening gown the half-dozen figures in this
picture are all in back view. It is rather a dull twelve-guineas-worth.
And this was evidently felt, as it remained unsold. The original of the
very exquisite "Res angusta domi," the beautiful drawing of the nurse by
the child's bed in the children's hospital, which appeared in _Punch_,
vol. cviii. p. 102 (1894), is only priced at "Ten guineas."

Turning over the Museum drawings one often sees the liberties with the
penknife by which the artist would secure difficult effects of snow, or
of light on foliage. And sometimes in the margin there are pencil
studies from which figures in the illustration have been re-drawn. And
nearly always not altogether rubbed out is a first wording of the
legend, repeated in ink in du Maurier's pretty "hand" beneath.

In turning over these drawings one finds him doing much more than merely
suggesting pattern work in such things as wall-papers. There is one
floral wall-paper in particular that we find him working out which will
no doubt prove an invaluable reference another day as to the sort of
decoration in which the subjects of Queen Victoria preferred to live, or
were forced to by their tradesmen. Photographs of du Maurier's studio
which appeared in a Magazine illustrating an interview with him at the
time of the "Trilby" boom, reveal the squat china jars, the leaf fans,
the upholstered "cosy corner" with its row of blue plates, with which
all who know their _Punch_ are familiar, and apparently the very
wall-paper to which we have just referred. It certainly is the mark of a
great artist to take practically whatever is before him for treatment.
The artist with the genius for "interior" subjects seems to be able to
re-interpret ugliness itself very often. Du Maurier's weak eyes
prevented him from bearing the strain of outdoor work. He was
practically driven indoors for his subjects; and in taking what was to
hand--the very environment of the kind of people his drawings
describe--he showed considerable genius. He succeeded in making whole
volumes of _Punch_ into a work of criticism on the domestic art of the
nineteenth century.

[Illustration: Illustration for "The Story of a Feather" 1867.]

Among the useful skits of du Maurier was that upon the conceited young
man concealing appalling ignorance with the display of a still more
appalling indifference to everything. The drawing among the Print-room
series--"_It is always well to be well informed_"--is a good instance.
It reveals a ballroom with couples dancing a quadrille. A lady asks
her partner: "Who's my sister's partner, vis-à-vis, with the star and
riband?" He: "Oh, he--aw--he's Sir Somebody Something, who went
somewhere or othaw to look after some scientific fellaw who was
murdered, or something, by someone--!" The word _othaw_ in this legend
is itself pictorial. Du Maurier was like our own Max Beerbohm in
this--his legends and drawings were inseparable. We find he has actually
penned in the side margin of the drawing the words "othaw fellaw," we
suppose as a possible variant to "scientific fellow," and in the legend
the word "other" has been written over with a thickened
termination--"_aw._" The usual first trial of the speech in pencil
remains but partly obliterated by india-rubber at the top of the

In his series of "Happy Thoughts" du Maurier followed the course of the
sort of rapid thought that precedes a tactful reply with real
psychological skill. Take, for instance, his drawing of an artist
sitting gloomily before his fire, caressed by his wife, who bends over
him, saying, "You seem depressed, darling. Have you had a pleasant
dinner?" Edwin: "Oh, pretty well; Bosse was in the chair, of course. He
praised everybody's work this year except mine." Angelina: "Oh! I'm so
glad. _At last_ he is beginning to look upon you as his rival and his
_only_ one." The wings of tact are sympathy. This drawing appeared in
_Punch_, vol. xcvi. p. 222 (1889); it is signed with other drawings from
89 Porchester Terrace, April '89. Drawings in the Museum collection are
signed from "Stanhope Terrace," "Hampstead," "Drumnadrochit," or
apparently from wherever the artist happened to be when executing the



Among our illustrations there is a portrait of Canon Ainger,
representing the artist as a painter. Du Maurier's colour was never such
that an injustice is done to it by reproducing it only by half-tone
process. The interest of this portrait is in the psychological grasp of
character it seems to show. The painter was in the habit of contributing
interior _genre_ scenes in water-colour to the Old Water-colour Society,
of which he was made an Associate in 1881. That may be said against his
painting, which may be said against the painting of so many eminent
black-and-white men who have changed to the art of painting too late in
the day. It shows failure to think in paint. An artist is only a great
"black-and-white" artist because he thinks in that medium. Possibly, if
there were no such thing as a "black-and-white" art, as we have it in
journalism to-day, some of the greatest men in it would instead have
been great painters. But successful transference to the one art after
unusual mastery has been acquired in the other is rarely witnessed. To
think in line, to see the world as resolving itself into the play of
alternating lines, so to habituate thought and vision to that one
aspect of everything is not the best preparation in the world for seeing
it over again in another art where the element of line is not the chief
incident of the impression to be created. Failure in the one art does
not mean failure as an artist. Those artists who have worked in a
variety of mediums with apparently equal success in each have always
attained the ability to make each medium in turn express the same
personal feeling. But nearly always there is in such cases that
sacrifice of the inherent qualities of one or other of the mediums
employed which a great virtuoso never makes.

Black-and-white men put themselves into an attitude of receptivity
towards that aspect of things which suggests representation in line.
Their acquired sensitiveness in this respect is expressed in the learned
character of their touch in drawing. Painters cultivate a similarly
receptive attitude towards nature, but lay themselves open to receive a
different impression of it. We might say of du Maurier that by the time
he tried to apply himself to painting he had become constitutionally a
black-and-white artist. Moreover, his impaired vision compromised the
more complex range of effect represented in painting in a way that it
never could the simplicity of good black-and-white work. How seriously
threatened du Maurier's sight was at times we may know by the reliance
he put upon being read to by others. Thus only did he manage to keep his
small stock of visual energy in reserve for his artistic work.

§ 9

During the sixties and seventies the artist illustrated many works of
fiction. The most notable instance was Thackeray's _Esmond_ in 1868--a
work which he had long wished to be chosen to illustrate.

Du Maurier had all his life an intense admiration for Thackeray. He
inherited none of Thackeray's bitterness, but upon every other ground as
an author, at least, he descends from Thackeray, notably in the studied
colloquialism of his style when writing, and in a general friendliness
to the Philistine. And in his drawings in _Punch_ his satire is aimed in
the same direction as Thackeray's always was. Like Thackeray, he was
most at home on the plane where a social art, a delicate art of life is
able to flourish. Of the concealed romanticist in du Maurier we have
more than once already spoken. A Romanticist always turns to the past.
Thackeray, in his lectures, also in the house he built for himself, and
in a proposed but never finished history, went back into the past at
least as far as Queen Anne's reign. _Esmond_, also of Queen Anne's
reign, was the expression of a feature of Thackeray's temperament which
never makes its full appearance in any other of his fictions. We believe
that it was his own favourite among his works. But Thackeray did not
succeed in expressing the whole of himself in the romantic vein; perhaps
because he did not cultivate it from the start like Scott and Dumas. He
was able to put more of himself into _Vanity Fair_. To think of
Thackeray is to think first of _Vanity Fair_. From the unerring--because
instinctive--judgment of the world this book received recognition as his

Du Maurier had not so much of the genuine _flair_ for the eighteenth
century as Thackeray. At heart he was much more in sympathy with the
pre-Raphaelites and the love of early romance, whatever his pretence to
the contrary in his satire, _A Legend of Camelot_. But there was no
illustrator of his time with a greater gift for the romantic novel of
any period; and inevitably, he became, in due course, the illustrator of

It is impossible to return to the past except by the path of poetry. It
was possible to du Maurier in his illustrations to _Esmond_, because he
was a poet. He used the effect of fading light in the sky seen through
old leaded windows, and all the resources of poetic effect with a poet's
and not an actor-manager's inspiration, wrapping the tale in the glamour
in which Thackeray conceived it.

In 1865 du Maurier contributed a full page illustration and two
vignettes to Foxe's _Book of Martyrs_, published in parts by Cassell.
Other signed illustrations are by G.H. Thomas, John Gilbert, J.D.
Watson, A.B. Houghton, W. Small, A. Parquier, R. Barnes, M.E. Edwards,
and T. Morten. No book can be imagined which would afford the essential
nature of his art less opportunity of showing itself than this one. He
was no good at horrors, though his resourcefulness in the manifestation
of emotional light and shadow was encouraged by the character of the
full-page illustration which he had to supply. A signed full page
appears in Part XVI., page 541. It is a scene in which the four
martyrs, Bland, Frankesh, Sheterden, and Middleton, condemned by the
Bishop of Dover, 25th June 1555, are shown being burned at the stakes.
One of the martyrs certainly looks intensely smug with his hands folded
as if he were at grace before a favourite dinner. Yes, du Maurier
certainly failed to attain quite to the heights of the horror of this

The following year we have from the artist's pencil illustrations to a
book of the heroine of which he was so fond that he named his own
daughter after her. That book was Mrs. Gaskell's _Wives and Daughters_,
"an everyday story," as it is called in its sub-title. For this story du
Maurier's art was much more fitted than for any other. In it, certainly,
and not in Foxe's book, we should expect his temperament to reveal
itself--and we are not disappointed. It is here that du Maurier is at
his best. His illustrations have a daintiness in this tale which they
have nowhere else. A sign of the presence of fine art is the
accommodation of style to theme. The illustrations had been made for
this book when it appeared serially in the _Cornhill_, and were
afterwards published in the issue in two volumes. There is a picture at
the beginning of the second volume called "The Burning Gorse," in
which du Maurier makes an imaginative appeal through landscape almost
worthy of Keene.

[Illustration: Illustration for "The Story of a Feather" 1867.]

The artist is again at his best in the work of illustrating fiction in
the following year in Douglas Jerrold's _Story of a Feather_. It is the
same refinement of technique that is evident as in Mrs. Gaskell's tale.
One of du Maurier's greatest characteristics was charm. One is forced
into ringing changes upon the word in the description of his work. But
charm it is, more than ever, that characterises his illustrations to
_The Story of a Feather_. The initial letters in this book afford him a
succession of opportunities for displaying that inventive genius which
is evident wherever he turns to the province of pure fancy. It was not
for nothing apparently that he was the son of an inventor.

We have already spoken of his power in these days in the emotional use
of light and shade. It is perhaps even in this light book--in the
illustration reproduced opposite--that we have one of the best examples
of this power. But this book is all through a gold-mine of the work of
the real du Maurier.

Another work in which his art is to be found at this time is Shirley
Brooks's _Sooner or Later_ (1868). The novel does not seem treated with
quite the same reverence and enthusiasm which has characterised his work
in the books we have just described, but it is among the representative
examples of his illustration in the sixties. This story also passed as a
serial through _Cornhill_. In the same year, with E.H. Corbould, he
provides illustrations to _The Book of Drawing-room Plays_, &c., a
manual of indoor recreation by H. Dalton. It is not impossible that
these were prepared long in advance of publication, for they are in a
very much earlier manner than the illustrations we have been speaking
of. In them du Maurier has not yet emerged from the influence of
Leech--the first influence we encountered when a few years previously he
joined himself to the band of those who solicit the publishers for
illustrative work. From the point of view of our subject the book does
not repay much study. In 1876, in illustrations to _Hurlock Chase, or
Among the Sussex Ironworks_, by George E. Sargent, published by The
Religious Tract Society, we have some pictures of extraordinary power,
in which it is to be seen how much his contact with Millais and other
great illustrators in the sixties inspired him, and developed his
resources. His work has a "weight" in this book which was common to the
best illustration of the period, a deliberation which shows the
influence of Durer over the illustrators of the sixties, and also the
influence of pre-Raphaelitism in precise elaboration of form. It is in
lighter vein we find him again in the same year in Jemmett Browne's
_Songs of Many Seasons_, published by Simpkin, Marshall & Co., and
illustrated also by Walter Crane and others. Every now and then at this
period du Maurier shows us a genius for "still-life" in interior _genre_
which he did not seem to develop afterwards to the extent of the promise
shown in these pictures. He gained at this time a very great deal in his
art by the pre-Raphaelite influence. Never is he more exquisite than
when he embraces detail. The need to produce with rapidity, and the
effect of later fashions which did not suit his own nature so well,
induced him to give up a very deliberate style suited to his quick
perception of beauty in everyday incident, for one that sometimes only
achieved emptiness in its attempt at breadth. But to have kept his
pre-Raphaelite individuality with two such native impressionists as
Keene and Whistler for his most intimate friends would have perhaps
been more than could be expected of human nature. But it is true that he
seemed to lose where those two artists proved they had everything to
gain from a style that passed detail swiftly, treating it suggestively.
They were by nature impressionable to a different aspect of life, and in
self expression they required a different method.

Du Maurier's artistic creed that everything should be drawn from
nature--and tables and chairs are "nature" for the artist--forced him to
return again and again to accessible properties which could be fitted
into his scenes. Notable among those were the big vases and the
constantly reappearing ornamental gilt clock. Though drawn in black and
white we are sure of its gilt, for it belongs to the Victorian period.
It is to be met with in all the surviving drawing-rooms of the
period--that is, it is to be met with in "Apartments."

Du Maurier next furnishes a frontispiece and vignettes, which we do not
admire, to Clement Scott's _Round about the Islands_ (1874).

In 1882 he is at work in the field he had made his own, illustrating the
story of a fad that had always amused him, illustrating the craze he
had helped to create, in _Prudence: A Story of Aesthetic London_, by
Lucy C. Lillie. We hope the reader of this page does not think we should
have read this book. We looked at the illustrations of a muscular
curate--whom we took to be the hero--making an impressive entrance into
a gathering of "æsthetes," and farther on leaving the church door with
"Prudence"; we read the legend to the final illustration--"It was odd to
see how completely Prudence forsook her brief period of æsthetic
light"--and we came to our own conclusions. The illustrations are made
very small in process of printing, but du Maurier's art never lost by
reduction. A picture of a Private View day in a Gallery--which at first
makes one think of the Royal Academy, but in which the pictures are too
well hung for that, and which is probably intended for the Grosvenor
Gallery--is one of those admirable drawings of a fashionable crush with
which du Maurier always excelled. In reviewing this book, however, we
are already away from the most characteristic period of du Maurier's
work as an illustrator of fiction. That was between 1860 and 1880. His
line is altogether less intense in the next book we have to
consider--Philips's _As in a Looking Glass_ (1889). The falling off
between this and the book we were reviewing here but a moment ago is the
most evident feature of the work before us. We have, we feel, said
good-bye to the du Maurier who added so much lustre to the illustrative
work of the period just preceding its publication. But in _Punch_ the
vivacity of his art is still sustained; and long afterwards in _Trilby_
he scores successes again. In later years du Maurier _allowed_ in his
originals for reduction, and the original cannot be rightly judged until
the reduction is made. In the book under notice no reduction appears to
have been made, and the drawings are consequently lacking in precision
of detail. The book is a large drawing-room table book--in our opinion
the most hateful kind of book that was ever made--occupying more space
than any but the rarest works in the world are worth, giving more
trouble to hold than it is possible for any but a great masterpiece to
compensate for--and generally putting author and publisher in the debt
of the reader, which is quite the wrong way round. The curious may see
in this book what du Maurier's art was at its worst, and it may help
them to estimate his achievement to note how even on this occasion it
surpasses easily all later modern work in the same vein.

There is one other book, published in 1874, which du Maurier illustrated
at that time which should be mentioned. It had, we believe, a great
success of a popular kind. We refer to _Misunderstood_, by Florence
Montgomery. In the light of the illustrations, which are in the artist's
finest vein, one wonders how much of this success could with justice
have been attributed to the illustrations. We are inclined to think not
a little. These pictures show many of the most interesting qualities of
his work. In the portrait of Sir Everard Duncombe, Misunderstood's
father, we have a skill in portraying a type that cannot have failed in
impressing readers with the reality of the character. The delicacy of du
Maurier's psychology in this portrait of a middle-aged man of the period
is in marked contrast with the improbability of so many of his
renderings of elderly people wherever he went outside of his stock
types. It justifies his realism and mistrust of memory drawing. Through
his failure to sustain his interest in life always at this pitch his art
at the end of his career showed just the lack of this close observation
of character. It often then seems too content to rest its claims on
accurate drawing, even when what was drawn was not worth accuracy. And
this is the fault of all the modern school.

Good drawing does not so much interest us in things as in the drama
centred in them. Thus we have actually such things as horror, passion,
gentleness, and other invisible things conveyed to us in the lines of a
drawing. We may indeed know genius from talent by the much more of the
invisible which it transfers to visible line. Du Maurier, in drawing
children, for instance, secures their prepossessing qualities. Drawing
is great when it conveys something which in itself has not an
outline--like the "atmosphere" of a Victorian drawing-room.


Intensely artistic natures make everything very self-expressive without
conscious intention. For this reason an artist's handwriting tends to be
more worth looking at than other people's. The draughtsman lavishes some
of his skill upon his handwriting. This more particularly applies to the
signature, which is written with fuller consciousness than other
words. Artists, owing to their intense interest in "appearances,"
generally start by being a little self-conscious about their signature.
But that period passes, and the autograph becomes set, to grow fragile
with old age and shrink, but not to alter in its real characteristics.
The signature at the foot of a picture presents a rather different
problem from the signature at the foot of a letter. It must necessarily
be a more deliberate and self-conscious affair, but it is no less
expressive. German deliberation was never so well expressed as in Albert
Durer's signature.

[Illustration: Caution

"Don't keep your Beer-Barrel in the same cellar as your _Dust-Bin!_"

_Punch_, February 23, 1867.]

Self-advertisers always give themselves away with their signature. As a
rule, the finer the artist the more natural his signature in style. And
fine artists like to subscribe to the great tradition of their craft,
that the work is everything, the workman only someone in the fair light
of its effect; the name is added out of pride but not vain-glory, with
that modest air with which a hero turns the conversation from himself.
Naturalness and mastery arrive at the same moment; students cannot sign
their works naturally. Du Maurier's signature passed through many
transformations, and there were times, too, when the artist was quite
undecided between the plentiful choice of his Christian names--George
Louis Palmella Busson. An artist beginning his career at the present day
with such a choice of names would most certainly have made use of the
"Palmella" in full--an advertisement asset. But advertisement _is_
vulgar. Du Maurier belonged to the Victorians, who were never vulgar.



[1] _The Life and Letters of Charles Samuel Keene_, by Charles Somes
Layard. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd., 1892.




Queen Victoria was the Queen of Hearts; her reign was the reign of
sentiment. The redundancy of tender reference to Prince Albert at
Windsor has been known to bore visitors to the town. Life must have been
tiring in those days, tossed, as everyone was, if we believe the art of
the time, from one wave of sentiment to another. Men went "into the
city" to get a little rest, and there framed this code: that there
should be no sentiment in business.

So the Victorians put their sentiment into art, into stories and
illustrations. They put some of the best of their black-and-white art
into a Magazine called _Good Words_. Only the Victorians could have
invented such a title for a Magazine, or lived up to it.

The literary tradition of that time, so far as the novel was concerned,
expired with du Maurier. He came near to having a style as natural as
Thackeray's, and he was quite as sentimental.

Before he began to write novels, he prided himself upon the fact that a
store of "plots" for novels lay undeveloped in his mind. It was the
offer of a "plot" to Mr. Henry James one evening when they were walking
up and down the High Street, Bayswater, that resulted in du Maurier
becoming a novelist. Du Maurier told him the plot of _Trilby._ "But you
ought to write that story," cried James. "I can't write," he replied; "I
have never written. If you like the plot so much you may take it." Mr.
James said that it was too valuable a present to take, and that du
Maurier must write the story himself.

On reaching home that night he set to work. By the next morning he had
written the first two numbers not of _Trilby_ but of _Peter Ibbetson_.
"It seemed all to flow from my pen, without effort in a full stream," he
said, "but I thought it must be poor stuff, and I determined to look for
an omen to learn whether any success would attend this new departure. So
I walked out into the garden, and the very first thing that I saw was a
large wheelbarrow, and that comforted me and reassured me, for, as you
will remember, there is a wheelbarrow in the first chapter of _Peter

_Peter Ibbetson_--"The young man, lonely, chivalrous and disquieted by a
touch of genius," as the hero has been well described--was written for
money, and brought its author a thousand pounds.

_Peter Ibbetson_ was not put above _Trilby_ in the author's lifetime;
but we believe it to have much more vitality than the latter work. The
actual writing of it was not perhaps taken quite so seriously as that of
_Trilby_, and it gains nothing on that account; but it is a book in
which there is intensity, in which everything is not spread out thinly
as in _Trilby_. Du Maurier himself believed that _Peter Ibbetson_ was
the better book. It certainly witnesses to the nobility of the author's
mind; it expresses the quick sympathy of the artist temperament--the
instinct for finding extenuating circumstances which artists share with
women, and which both rightly regard as the same thing as the sense of
justice. The tale of _Peter Ibbetson_ breathes a great human sympathy.
The simplicity with which it is written adds to its effect. We cross a
track of horror in it by the ray of a generous light. It is by this book
I like to think that du Maurier will be remembered as a writer. It was
characteristic of him that he could touch a theme that in all
superficial aspects was sordid without the loss of the bloom of true
romance. The real plot of this story, however, does not lie with
incident, but with the maintenance of an elevated frame of mind in
defiance of circumstances. The author realises that mind triumphs always
more easily over matter than over "circumstances." To the damage of the
plot he brings his hero the utmost psychic assistance from an
inadmissible source, but the picture of the prisoner's soul prevailing
in the face of complete temporal disaster is still a true one.

Du Maurier's publishers believed in _Trilby_ from the very first. They
began by offering double the _Peter Ibbetson_ terms, while generously
urging him to retain his rights in the book by accepting a little less
in a lump sum and receiving a royalty. But so little faith did he pin to
_Trilby_ that he said "No!"

Within a few weeks the "boom" began. And when Harpers' saw what
proportions it was likely to assume, they voluntarily destroyed the
agreement, and arranged to allow him a handsome royalty on every copy
sold. An admirer of Byron, du Maurier repudiated as cruelly unfair the
poet's line, "Now Barabbas was a publisher." The publisher also handed
over to him the dramatic rights with which he had parted for a small sum
like fifty pounds, and thus he became a partner in the dramatic property
called _Trilby_ as a "play."


§ 2

_Trilby_ was a name that had long lain _perdu_ somewhere "at the back of
du Maurier's head." He traced it to a story by Charles Nodier, in which
Trilby was a man. The name Trilby also appears in a poem by Alfred de
Musset. And to this name, and to the story of a woman which was once
told to him, du Maurier's _Trilby_ owed her birth. "From the moment the
name occurred to me," he said, "I was struck with its value. I at once
realised that it was a name of great importance. I think I must have
felt as happy as Thackeray did when the title of _Vanity Fair_ suggested
itself to him."

_Trilby_ is written with a daintiness that corresponds with the neatness
of its illustrations. It has the attractiveness which du Maurier had
such skill in giving. But though dealing with Bohemia, the author is
conventional; that is, he keeps strictly to the surface of things. And
every true sentiment of the book is spoilt by the quickly following
laugh in which the author betrays his dread of being thought to take
anything seriously.

[Illustration: Berkeley Square, 5 P.M.

_Punch_, August 24, 1867.]

The machinery of the plot is crude; perhaps this reason as well as the
delicate one assigned made Mr. Henry James refuse it. But du Maurier had
a curious skill in revealing states of mind of real psychological and
pathological interest. The sudden cessation of the power to feel
affection, and of the ability to respond emotionally to nature, the
curious loss of bloom in mental faculty in the case of Little Billee, in
this we have an inquiry into a by no means unusual state of mind carried
out with scientific exactness to an artistic end. Mr. Henry James would
no doubt have preferred this phenomenon as the basis of a plot to the
preposterous mesmerism which forms the plot of _Trilby_, he being one of
the few who understand that a dramatic situation is a mental experience.
In _Peter Ibbetson_ the "dreaming truly"--the illusion that becomes as
great as reality--is the phenomenon the author examines. "Dreaming
truly" is like the ecstasy of the saints: it is the "will to believe" in
the very act of willing.

Du Maurier was spoilt for romance by his long connection with a comic
paper. It had become a habit with him to be on his guard against
everything that could be travestied. This was the conventional side of
du Maurier in evidence, as it is also in that other flaw in the simple
story of _Trilby_--the adulation of worldly success. We find him
constantly writing in this strain in the description of character: "He
is now one of the greatest artists in the world, and Europeans cross the
Atlantic to consult him"; or of another character: "And now that his
name is a household word in two hemispheres"; and of another: "Whose
pinnacle (of pure unadulterated fame) is now the highest of all," &c.



In all his books the author shows some of that response to old-time
associations which gives to authors like Dumas and Scott their freedom
from things that only belong to the present moment--precisely the
things, by the way, which do not last beyond the present. The
consciousness that the experiences of life to be valued are the ones
which unite us to those who preceded us in life, and which will in turn
give us a share in the future, is in the possession of the Romantic
school. But du Maurier seems to have felt himself paid to be funny, and
to conceal his sense of romance as Jack Point concealed his
love-sickness. His master, Thackeray, less than anyone apologised to his
readers for the parade of his own feelings.

There is a note of smugness that spoils _Trilby_; in fact Little Billee,
"frock-coated, shirt-collared within an inch of his life, duly scarfed
and scarf-pinned, chimney-pot-hatted, most beautifully trousered, and
balmorally booted," is the most insufferable picture of a hero of a
romance. This person compromises the effect of the charmingly haunting
presence of Trilby herself, and of the great-hearted gentleman in
Taffy. There is, moreover, the failure to convince us of Little Billee's
genius. We are not assisted to belief in the immortality of his works,
by the illustrations of the mid-Victorian upholstery in the midst of
which they were manufactured. On the other hand, we merely have a vision
of the type of art which won popular success a generation ago,
encouraged by the Royal Academy at the expense of something better, and
keeping a large group of well-dressed painters so much in Society, that,
like Little Billee himself, they actually grew tired of the great before
the great had time to tire of them--"incredible as it may seem, and
against nature."

Du Maurier put portraits of his friends into _Trilby_, softening the
outlines, and giving the touches, legitimate in a work of art, which
promote variation. He wrote impulsively, and a spirit of generous
recognition of the achievements of all his friends almost ruined his
book. The "lived happy ever afterwards" sentiment follows up every
reference to them. In the famous character of "Joe Sibley"
(Whistler)--afterwards altered to Antony, a Swiss, and ruined--a witty,
a debonair and careless genius was created. Just such an impression was
made upon us by this character as Whistler's own studied butterfly-pose
in life seemed intended to make. It was with the greatest regret we
missed the fascinating figure from the novel when published in book
form, a regret even confessed to by Whistler himself, though he had not
been able to refrain from dashing into print over its publication. There
was none other of the Bohemians described that so endeared himself to
us, or that was so alive--witnessing to the degree to which Whistler's
personality affected those with whom he was thrown in contact. Du
Maurier represented a character in Sibley with the defects of his
qualities, to the greater emphasis of the qualities. To attribute to a
man the genius to be king of Bohemia, and to receive from everyone
forgiveness for everything, _à cause de ses gentillesses_ to make him
witty also, and a most exquisite and original artist--this would have
been enough for most men, though it was not enough for Whistler. Joe
Sibley, not Little Billee, is the real creation of "an artist" that is
in the book.

§ 4

When _Trilby_ was put on the English stage a girl to play the heroine's
part had to be found. That was the first problem. And speaking of the
fact that a _Trilby_ did appear almost immediately, du Maurier said,
"There is a school which believes that wherever Art leads Nature is
bound to follow. I ought to belong to it, if there is." A _Trilby_ was
heard of; more, du Maurier had often commented upon the beauty of the
lady when she was a child living near him at Hampstead Heath. He
inquired her name. She was already on the stage, and showing promise as
an actress. He still felt sceptical, we are told, and so a photograph
was sent. He said, "No acting will be wanted; for here is Trilby." Miss
Baird was interviewed. "In face and manner," said du Maurier, telling
the story of the interview, "she seemed still more Trilby-like than
ever; but Mr. Tree, who was present, was on thoughts of acting-power
intent. And when he gravely announced that to be an actress a woman
should not be well-born and well-bred, and that if possible she should
have had her home in the wings or the gutter, I considered the matter
settled. We drove away in silence, and I, at any rate, in gloom. For
Miss Baird, refined and gentle, and well-born and well-bred, was still
Trilby for me, and I flatly refused to see either of the ladies whom Mr.
Tree had in mind. Finally, he thought he would see Miss Baird again, and
with her read over a scene or two. He got another cab--returned there
and then--in forty-eight hours the engagement was made."

[Illustration: Illustration for "Esmond"]

It may be found interesting if we revive here a criticism which throws
light on the first reception of the adaption of _Trilby_ for the stage.
The play was put on before the _Trilby_ boom had spent itself, but
critics would, from the nature of their species, be rather prejudiced
against, than carried away in favour of, anything which came in with a
"boom" that was not of their own making. There was a criticism written
of the play at the time by Mr. Justin Huntly Macarthy which, quoted,
will give us the history of the "boom." It was his good fortune to be in
the United States "when," he says, "the taste for _Trilby_ became a
passion, when the passion grew into a mania and the mania deepened into
a madness," and he noted that in England the play and not the novel
kindled the passion; though in the criticism of the novel, classed as it
had been even in this country with the work of Thackeray, he could only
recall one note of dispraise, "so earnest and scornful that, in its
loneliness, it seemed to fall like the clatter of a steel glove in a
house of prayer." He recalled a friend of his goaded to ferocity by
another's exuberance of rapture for some latter-day singers, crying out
"Hang your Decadents! Humpty-Dumpty is worth all they ever wrote."
"This," he continued, "is a variety of the mood which accepts _Trilby_.
In _Trilby_ we get back, as it were, to Humpty-Dumpty--to its simplicity
at least, if not to its pitch of art. The strong man and the odd man and
the boy man, brothers in Bohemianism, brothers in art, brothers
in love for youth and beauty; the girl, the fair, the kind, the
for-ever-desirable, pure in impurity, and sacred even in shame; the dingy
evil genius who gibbers in Yiddish to the God he denies; the hopeless,
devoted musician, whose spirit in a previous existence answered to the
name of Bowes; the mother who makes the appeal that so many parents have
made on behalf of their sons to fair sinners since the days when Duval
the elder interviewed Marguerite Gauthier; all this company of puppets
please in their familiarity, their straightforwardness, their undefeated
obviousness, very much as a game of bowls on a village green with decent
rustics, or a game of romps in a rose-garden with laughing children,
might please after a supper with Nana or an evening with the

This seems to us to diagnose the case as far as the success of the play
was concerned. But as regards the book at which it was partly aimed, it
is wide of the mark. There is something in a work of fiction when it is
of sufficient power to make a success simply as fiction which cannot be
carried over the footlights. If we only knew Shakespeare through seeing
him acted we should rate him much lower than we do. The success of
Shakespeare upon the stage rests with certain qualities that can only
properly tell upon the stage. But great as these qualities are, in
Shakespeare's case they far from represent his whole art; there remains
unexpressed the fragrance of field and flower, the secrets of mood,
which do not lie with facts that acting can express, and which float
like a perfume between us and the pages. All this the dust of stage
carpentry destroys, and the unnaturalness of lime-light dispels. The
charm in _Trilby_ is overlaid by the obvious, but the charm is there
for the reader, just as the obviousness is there for the stage when the
charm is gone in the adaptation. The stage is the throne of the obvious.
It is possible for art to be obvious and great, as the art of Turner was
in painting. His art was theatrical. It is the obvious that is
theatrical. For that which is theatrical, as the word implies, must be
spectacular. Theatricality before everything else in this world, in any
art, achieves wide and popular success, the kind of success that Turner
achieves in the pictures for which the English public admire him.

Mr. W.D. Howells, in an article written just after the novelist's death,
said:[3]--"It was my good fortune to have the courage to write to du
Maurier when _Trilby_ was only half printed, and to tell him how much I
liked the gay sad story. In every way it was well that I did not wait
for the end, for the last third of it seemed to me so altogether forced
in its conclusions that I could not have offered my praises with a whole
heart, nor he accept them with any pleasure, if the disgust with its
preposterous popularity, which he so frankly, so humorously expressed,
had then begun in him."

The American critic describes the fact of du Maurier commencing novelist
at sixty and succeeding, as one of the most extraordinary things in the
history of literature, and without parallel. Perhaps the parallel has
been shown in the case of Mr. de Morgan. Mr. Howells also speaks of du
Maurier perfecting an attitude recognisable in Fielding, Sterne, Heine,
and Thackeray--the confidential one. Du Maurier's _Trilby_ was a
confidence. But he adds, "It wants the last respect for the reader's
intelligence--it wants whatever is the very greatest thing in the very
greatest novelists--the thing that convinces in Hawthorne, George Eliot,
Tourgénief, Tolstoy. But short of this supreme truth, it has every
grace, every beauty, every charm." The word "Every" here seems to us an
American exaggeration. We should ask ourselves whether in spite of all
its confidentialness _Trilby_ makes an intimate revelation. The rare
quality of intimacy, that is the greatest thing in the very greatest

The "boom" of _Trilby_, we are told, surprised du Maurier immensely, for
he had not taken himself _au sérieux_ as a novelist. Indeed it rather
distressed him when he reflected that Thackeray never had a "boom."

[Illustration: Unpublished drawing from sketch-book]


Although du Maurier had said that his head was full of plots the supply
seemed to have run thin by the time he set to work on _The Martian_. The
value of this book rests with its autobiographical character. The knot
is not tied in the first half and unravelled in the second, after the
approved manner in which plots should be woven. The story is chiefly a
record of people and places, vivid, and written in a breathless, chatty
style. It somewhat resembles the conversation of a boy on returning from
his holidays. It reveals a perfectly amazing resource in imparting life
to mere description. As a writer, du Maurier seemed immediately to
acquire a style unlike that of anyone else. Everything is described with
a zest that carries the reader along, and this manner is even extended
to things that are not worth describing. But he was always slightly
apologetic with pen in hand, never permitting himself the professional
air, or giving a full challenge to criticism by disclaiming the
privileges of a distinguished amateur.

In _Peter Ibbetson_ the artist told the story of his childhood; in
_Trilby_ he recounted the brightest period of his Bohemian youth; in
_The Martian_ he records the nature of the shock he received from
threatened blindness, and the depression of days before his genius had
discovered itself and revealed the prospect of a great career to him.
The effect of Pentonville, the grey suburb, and of the absence of worthy
companions upon a romantic, highly-strung young man in _Peter Ibbetson_
is quite autobiographical, as is the description of student life in
Paris by which afterwards the uninspiring environment is replaced. The
continuation of the studentship at Antwerp, the consultation with the
specialist at Dusseldorf, completes the story of du Maurier's life until
he came to London. There is literally nothing that a biographer could
add to it. And du Maurier wrote his autobiography thus, in tales, which
are histories too, in their graphic description of the aspect of places
and people at a given time. Up to the day when the artist came to London
to seek employment from the publishers he seems to have had
disheartening times. In the last years of his life, when he went over
the ground of these early experiences in his books, it was, as is
evident from the style, in the mood of one who had survived danger by
flood and field to recount his tales in an atmosphere of peace he had
hardly hoped to realise.

[Illustration: Illustration for "The Adventures of Harry Richmond"

_The Cornhill_, 1870.]

It is evident from his books that he had many inward experiences of a
dramatic kind; that his life was only uneventful upon the surface, and
in appearance. In each of his novels, as we have seen, the rather crude
machinery of his plot secures the revelation of a curious, but a not at
all uncommon state of mind. He experimented empirically in psychology,
interesting himself in the processes of his own mind. No one can doubt
that in more than in outward incident his novels were autobiographical;
that also he drew upon the resources of his personal history for some of
the less usual and partly religious frames of mind in which his
"Heroes," each in his own way, outwit the apparently ugly intentions of
destiny towards themselves.

§ 6

Du Maurier's literary contributions to _Punch_ were bound up in the
volume _A Legend of Camelot, &c._, issued from the _Punch_ office in
1898. Besides the title-piece, a satire of some length upon the
mediævalism of the pre-Raphaelites, the book contains shorter
pieces--"Flirts in Hades," "Poor Pussy's Nightmare," "The Fool's
Paradise, or Love and Life," "A Lost Illusion," "Vers Nonsensiques,"
"L'Onglay à Parry," "Two Thrones," "A Love-Agony," "A Simple Story," "A
Ballad of Blunders" (after Swinburne's "Ballad of Burdens"), and then a
story in prose, "The Rise and Fall of the Jack Spratts: A tale of Modern
Art and Fashion." All the poetry is in the ballad strain, and by its
monotony the reader is put into the right condition to receive a shock
from some felicitous twist at the end of a line. Thus it is almost
impossible to quote from them. The humour rests in each case with the
whole of the skit; and in the case of one of the best of the whole
series, "A Love-Agony," a poem for a picture by Maudle, given, there
must be understanding on the reader's part, of the art "cult" against
which it is directed.

"The Rise and Fall of the Jack Spratts" is du Maurier's first attempt at
a work of fiction. It is significant that in style it has the lightness
of touch that would be expected from the disciple of Thackeray, and that
afterwards won by its "taking" character the hearts of the readers of
_Trilby_. It is the story of a painter, his wife and their twin
children. It opens with a picture of them at home, Jack Spratt
dreaming, even in those days, of Post-Impressionism, showing that du
Maurier was a prophet, "dreaming of the ante-pre-Raphaelite school. In
the depths of his bliss a feeling of discouragement would steal over him
as he thought of those immortal works, showing thereby that he was a
true artist, ever striving after the light. He little dreamt in his
modesty that, young and inexperienced though he might be, his pictures
were even quainter than theirs; for not only could he already draw,
colour, compose, and put into perspective quite as badly as they did,
but he had over them the advantage of a real lay figure to copy, whereas
they had to content themselves with the living model."

"The amusements of this happy pair were the simplest, healthiest, and
most delightful kind; they never went to the play, nor to balls or
dances, which they thought immodest--(indeed they were not even
asked)--nor read such things as novels, magazines, or the newspaper; nor
visited exhibitions of modern art, which they held in contempt, as they
did all things modern; ... and they were devoted to music, not that of
the present day, which they despised, nor that of the future, of which
they had never heard; nor English music, which was not old enough." Of
their friends, "They were few, but true and trusty, with remarkably fine
heads for a painter ... their deportment grave, sad and very strange;
for the death of the early Italian masters still weighed on their soul
with all the force of some recent domestic bereavement. They looked on
themselves and each other and the Jack Spratts, and were looked upon by
the Jack Spratts in return as the sole incarnation on this degenerate
earth of all such as had still managed to survive there; and so they
were always telling each other and everyone else they met. And no
wonder, for they were marvellously accomplished; being each of them
painter, sculptor, architect, poet, critic and engraver, all in one; and
all this without ever having learnt...."

"In their hours of sickness alone the Spratts were as other people, and
sent immediately for the nearest medical practitioner (or leech, as they
preferred to call him); their only sickness to speak of had arisen from
once feasting mediaevally on an old roast peacock, in company with the
trusty friends, who had also been taken very bad on that occasion; and
they ever afterwards avoided that dish, but at their banquets would
have the peacock's head and what was left of its tail tacked on to some
more digestible bird...."

"As staunch Radicals, they hated the aristocracy, whose very existence
they ignored; shunned the professional class, which they scorned, on
account of its scientific and utilitarian tendency; and loathed the
middle class, from which they had sprung, because it was Philistine; and
although they professed to deeply honour the working man, they very
wisely managed to see as little of him as they possibly could."

Owing to the sudden success of a picture--which scandalised his trusty
friends--and the beauty of his wife, the model for the picture, Jack
woke up one morning and found himself famous. They were lionised. Mrs.
Spratt's deep-rooted dislike to the female dress of the present day did
not last much longer than her life-long prejudice against the
aristocracy; she discarded the mediæval garments she had hitherto worn
with such disdain for the eccentricities of modern fashion, and put
herself into the hands of the best dressmaker in town. And thus
snubbing, and being snubbed, dressing and dancing and feasting and
flirting, did she soar higher and higher in her butterfly career. The
denouement comes when they are cut out by "Ye rising Minnows"--an
American sculptor--one Pygmalion F. Minnow--whose wife was twice as
beautiful as Mrs. Spratt.

Another shorter prose skit of du Maurier's which is included in the same
book satirises the splendid sort of hero, who conceals beneath a mask of
indifference the power to do anything on earth better than anybody else.

These prose skits show the neat irony that _Punch_ was willing to
encourage by attaching du Maurier to the literary, as well as to the
artistic, staff. But we think it may be said that du Maurier hadn't the
heart to go on with a class of writing in which his great tendency to
sentimentalise would have been out of place.

§ 7

In 1890 du Maurier contributed two papers to the _Art Journal_ entitled
"The Illustrating of Books from the Serious Artist's Point of View." It
was an attempt to write down the ideas that had controlled him in book
illustration. The artist begins the article by protesting that of all
subjects in the world it is the one upon which he has the least and
fewest ideas, and that such ideas as he has consist principally of his
admiration for illustrations by others. He separates readers into two
classes--those who visualise what they read with the mind's eye so
satisfactorily that they want the help of no pictures, and those--the
greater number, he thinks--who do not possess this gift, to whom to have
the author's conceptions embodied for them in a concrete form is a boon.
The little figures in the picture are a mild substitute for the actors
at the footlights. The arrested gesture, the expression of face, the
character and costume, may be as true to nature and life as the best
actor can make them. His test of a good illustrator is that the
illustrations continue to haunt the memory when the letterpress is
forgotten. He cites Menzel as the highest example of such performance.
He next refers to the illustrated volume of Poems by Tennyson in 1860,
for which Millais and Rossetti and others designed small woodcuts, the
publishing of which, he says, made an epoch in English book
illustration, importing a new element to which he finds it difficult to
give a name. "I still adore," he says, "the lovely, wild, irresponsible
moon-face of Oriana, with a gigantic mailed archer kneeling at her feet
in the yew-wood, and stringing his fatal bow; the strange beautiful
figure of the Lady of Shalott, when the curse comes over her, and her
splendid hair is floating wide, like the magic web; the warm embrace of
Amy and her cousin (when their spirits rushed together at the touching
of the lips), and the dear little symmetrical wavelets beyond; the queen
sucking the poison out of her husband's arm; the exquisite bride at the
end of the Talking Oak; the sweet little picture of Emma Morland and
Edward Grey, so natural and so modern, with the trousers treated in
quite the proper spirit; the chaste Sir Galahad, slaking his thirst with
holy water, amid all the mystic surroundings; and the delightfully
incomprehensible pictures to the Palace of Art, that gave one a weird
sense of comfort, like the word 'Mesopotamia,' without one's knowing

[Illustration: Illustration for "The Adventures of Harry Richmond"

_The Cornhill_, 1871.]

In the second paper he makes interesting reflections on Thackeray and
Dickens. "When the honour devolved upon me of illustrating _Esmond_," he
writes, "what would I not have given to possess sketches, however
slight, of Thackeray's own from which to inspire myself--since he was no
longer alive to consult. For although he does not, any more than
Dickens, very minutely describe the outer aspect of his people, he
visualised them very accurately, as these sketches prove."

"I doubt if Dickens did, especially his women--his pretty women--Mrs.
Dombey, Florence, Dora, Agnes, Ruth Pinch, Kate Nickleby, little
Emily--we know them all through Hablot Browne alone--and none of them
present any very marked physical characteristics. They are sweet and
graceful, neither tall nor short; they have a pretty droop in their
shoulders, and are very ladylike; sometimes they wear ringlets,
sometimes not, and each would do very easily for the other."

In 1868 Messrs. Harper published in book form under the title _Social
Pictorial Satire_ a series of articles which du Maurier had written in
_Harper's Magazine_, and which had originally formed the substance of
lectures which he had delivered in the prominent towns of England. He
speaks first of his great admiration of Leech in his youth. "To be an
apparently hopeless invalid at Christmas-time in some dreary, deserted,
dismal little Flemish town, and to receive _Punch's Almanac_ (for 1858,
let us say) from some good-natured friend in England--that is a thing
not to be forgotten! I little dreamed that I should come to London
again, and meet John Leech and become his friend; that I should be,
alas! the last man to shake hands with him before his death (as I
believe I was), and find myself among the officially invited mourners by
his grave; and, finally, that I should inherit, and fill for so many
years (however indifferently), that half-page in _Punch_ opposite the
political cartoon, and which I had loved so well when he was the
artist!" Du Maurier draws a pleasant portrait of his friend,
sympathetically, and very picturesquely analyses his art, which has, he
says, the quality of inevitableness. Of "Words set to Pictures" his long
description of Leech's pretty woman is as good as anything that can be
read of the kind. Then he sketches the characteristics of Charles
Keene's personality and passes on to his art:--"From the pencil of this
most lovable man, with his unrivalled power of expressing all he saw and
thought, I cannot recall many lovable characters of either sex or of any

But the tribute to the craftsmanship, the skill, the ease and beauty of
Keene's line, to his knowledge of effect, to the very great artist is
unmeasured. In fulfilment of his contract du Maurier speaks of himself
and his "little bit of paper, a steel pen, and a bottle of ink--and,
alas! fingers and an eye less skilled than they would have been if I had
gone straight to a school of art instead of a laboratory for chemistry!"
He says very little about himself. He concludes with a review of social
pictorial satire considered as a fine art. It is evident from the
lecture that du Maurier was an illustrator by instinct as well as
training. "Now conceive," says he, speaking of Thackeray, "that the
marvellous gift of expression that he was to possess in words had been
changed by some fairy at his birth into an equal gift of expression by
means of the pencil, and that he had cultivated the gift as assiduously
as he cultivated the other, and, finally, that he had exercised it as
seriously through life, bestowing on innumerable little pictures in
black and white all the art and wisdom, the wide culture, the deep
knowledge of the world and of the human heart, all the satire, the
tenderness, the drollery, and last, but not least, that incomparable
perfection of style that we find in all or most that he has
written--what a pictorial record that would be!"

"The career of the future social pictorial satirist is," he continues,
"full of splendid possibilities undreamed of yet.... The number of
youths who can draw beautifully is quite appalling. All we want for my
little dream to be realised is that, among these precocious wielders of
the pencil, there should arise here a Dickens, there a Thackeray, there
a George Eliot or an Anthony Trollope...."

Does not this precisely sum the situation up? Du Maurier could not live
to foresee that, for all the expert skill of modern illustration, the
"youths who can draw beautifully" lack "a point of view." It was the
possession of this that distinguished Thackeray, George Eliot, Trollope,
Leech, and du Maurier.



[2] The circumstances in which du Maurier took up novel-writing, and the
history of the staging of _Trilby_ in England were related by him to Mr.
R.H. Sherard for an "Interview" which appeared in _McClure's Magazine_
1895. And I have referred to this source for the genealogy of the
artist, as given by himself, and particulars of his early life.--AUTHOR.

[3] _English Society_, "Du Maurier." London: Osgood, McIlvaine and Co.
Introduction: W.D. Howells.




To write of the work of an artist who is not a contemporary without
reference to the circumstances of his life would be an incomplete
performance, and yet criticism and biography are hardly ever happily
fused. The gifts of a biographer are of a kind very dissimilar to those
employed in criticism. The true biographer loves uncritically every
detail that has to do with his subject, as a portrait-painter loves
every detail that has to do with the appearance of his sitter. The best
portraits, whether in biography--which is nothing if it is not
portraiture--or in painting, are those in which the interpreter has been
in a wholly receptive mood. This is not the critical attitude, which
involuntarily takes arms against first one thing and then another in the
subject before it; and this sensitiveness is in proportion to the
critic's interest in his subject.

Du Maurier told us the story of himself completely in his novels. It was
said of de Quincey that in his writings he could tell the story of his
own life and no other. This might be said of du Maurier too.

The story of his childhood, as we read it through his books, gives us
the picture of an extremely sensitive and romantic child possessed of a
great power of responding affectionately to the scenes in which he grew
up, as well as to the people who surrounded him. It is this sentiment
for place as well as for people that sometimes gives us in his books a
remarkable poetic strain--a strain like music in its caressing revival
of old associations. And we really get a very accurate idea of the
inward story of the artist when we contrast this temperamental
sensitiveness with the kind of work upon which he employed his skill
during the chief part of his career.

Everywhere in du Maurier's life we find the testimony to his sweetness
of disposition. He had the great loyalty to friends which is really
loyalty to the world at large, made up of possible friends. Friends are
not an accident, but they are made by a process of natural selection,
which, if we are wise and generous, we do not attempt to superintend.



     "As you're going to say your Prayers, Maud, _please_ mention I'm so
     dreadfully tired I can't say mine to-night, but I'll be sure to
     remember to-morrow!"

_Punch's Almanack_, 1874.]

Du Maurier was optimistic, he had the genius for keeping tragedy at bay;
for enduring, for instance, such a dark cloud constantly threatening as
blindness without claiming pity. It is easy for such people to impart
charm in whatever art they practise. And it is not true, as modern
novelists and playwrights seem to imagine, that "depth" always implies
what is sinister, and that only the surface of life is charming. Let us
once again believe in fragrance in art. Summer is as great as winter.
Within a sweet-smelling blossom is the whole profound history of a tree
struggling to survive the vengeance of frost and gales. It is the
fragrant things of life that contain all that has been conserved through
unkind weather.

One of the chief influences in du Maurier's life was his admiration of
Thackeray. This revealed sympathy with greatness. Thackeray was one who
was greater in life than in his art, as are all the greatest artists. He
was great as a man of the world. In a short life his presence made
itself prevail everywhere in London. It requires, too, considerable
genius to live only in precisely the street and the house in London you
want to. This Thackeray managed to do; and to know only the people you
want to, as Thackeray did. This is real sovereignty.

There was a reserve about du Maurier in manner when he encountered
complete strangers. He retained the detached and distant manner with
slight acquaintances which his role of an observer in Society had taught
him. Like all those who have an exceptionally loyal friendship to give,
he could not pretend to give it to every person introduced to him. In
this he was, of course, no true Bohemian. In Bohemian circles it is the
fashion to make extravagant use of terms of endearment and to fall upon
the neck at first meetings, and men like du Maurier reserve the display
of affection for the home.

Art-critics and secretaries of Art Galleries, frame-makers and all those
whose business throws them into constant contact with living artists and
their art, know how exactly like their pictures artists always are,
their work being immediately expressive of their own fibre, coarse or
refined. Du Maurier's art reveals a marked preference for certain kinds
of people. In life too he was selective; knowing well whom he liked, and
in whom he wished to inspire regard.

The artist's family was of the small nobility of France. The name
Palmella was given him in remembrance of the great friendship between
his father's sister and the Duchess de Palmella, who was the wife of the
Portuguese Ambassador to France. The real family name was Busson; the
"du Maurier" came from the Château le Maurier, built in the fifteenth
century, and still standing in Anjou or Maine. It belonged to du
Maurier's cousins, the Auberys, and in the seventeenth century it was
the Auberys who wore the title of du Maurier; and an Aubery du Maurier,
who distinguished himself in that century, was Louis of that name,
French Ambassador to Holland. The Auberys and the Bussons married and
intermarried, the Bussons assuming the territorial name of du Maurier.

George du Maurier's grandfather's name was Robert Mathurin Busson du
Maurier, _Gentilhomme verrier_--gentleman glass-blower. Until the
Revolution glass-blowing was a monopoly of the _gentilshommes_, no
commoner might engage in the industry, at that time considered an art.
The Busson genealogy dates from the twelfth century. The novelist made
use of many of the names which occur in papers relating to his family
history, in _Peter Ibbetson_.

Du Maurier's father was a small _rentier_, deriving his income from the
family glass-works in Anjou. He was born in England, whither the
artist's grandfather had fled to escape the Revolution and the
guillotine, returning to France in 1816.

His grandmother was a bourgeoise, by name Bruaire, a descendant of Jean
Bart, the admiral. His grandfather was not rich, and while in England
mainly depended on the liberality of the British Government, which
allowed him a pension of twenty pounds a year for each member of his
family. He died a schoolmaster at Tours.

The mother of the artist was an Englishwoman married to his father at
the British Embassy in Paris, and the artist was born in Paris on March
6, 1834, in a little house in the Champs Elysées. His parents removed to
Belgium in 1863, where they stayed three years. When the child was five
they came to London, taking 1 Devonshire Terrace, Marylebone Road--the
house which had been formerly occupied by Charles Dickens. Du Maurier
remembered riding in the park, on a little pony, escorted by a groom,
who led his pony by a strap. One day there cantered past a young woman
surrounded by horsemen; at the bidding of his groom he waved his hat,
and the lady smiled and kissed her hand to him. It was Queen Victoria
with her equerries.

The father grew very poor. He was a man of scientific tastes, and lost
his money in inventions which never came to anything. After a year in
Devonshire Terrace the family had to wander again, going to Boulogne,
where they lived at the top of the Grand Rue. Here the artist said they
lived in a beautiful house, and had sunny hours and were happy.

Apropos of du Maurier's early homes, Sir Francis Burnand, in his
_Records and Reminiscences_, tells an amusing story, which, whilst of
necessity abbreviating, we shall try to give as nearly as possible in
his own words. Some members of the _Punch_ staff who, with the
proprietors, were visiting Paris during the Exhibition year of 1889,
took a drive in the neighbourhood of Passy. Du Maurier, who had not
stayed in Paris for some years, pointed out house after house as being
his birthplace. He started with the selection of a small but attractive
suburban residence, afterwards correcting himself and pointing to a
house much more attractive-looking than the first. Soon, however, the
puzzled expression which his companions had noticed in him before,
returned to his face, and he called a halt for the third time, pointing
to a large house in an extensive garden with a fountain. "No," he
exclaimed with conviction, "I was wrong. This is where I was born.
There's the fountain, there are the green shutters! and in _that_ room!"
The party descended again and poured out libations. After the sleepy
stage of a long drive had been reached, du Maurier awoke, and, as if
soliloquising, muttered, "No, no, I was wrong, absurdly wrong. But I see
my mistake." And he aroused his companions to view a fine mansion
approached by a drive.

"Yes," he exclaimed, "the other places were mistakes. It is so difficult
to remember the exact spot where one was born. But there can be no doubt
about this. _Cocher! Arrêtez! s'il vous plaît_," he cried, and he was
about to open the door and descend, when William Bradbury, of the party,
stopped him.

"No, you don't, Kiki; you've been born in three or four places already,
and we've drunk your health in every one of 'em; so we won't do it again
till you've quite made up your mind where you _were_ born."

In vain du Maurier protested. "You bring us out for a holiday, you take
us about everywhere, and you won't let a chap be born where he likes."
But Mr. Bradbury was inexorable; the door was closed, the coachman
grinned, cracked his whip, and away they went, the party siding with Mr.
Bradbury in objecting to pulling up at every inn to toast the occasion.

Sir Francis speaks of what fun du Maurier was at such times, and of
never remembering having seen him so boyish, so "Trilbyish" as on the
occasion of the memorable visit.

From Boulogne du Maurier was brought by his family to Paris, to live in
an apartment on the first floor of the house No. 80 in the Champs
Elysées. In the artist's manhood the ground and first floor were a café,
and he said he felt sorry to look up at the windows from which his
mother used to watch his return from school, and see waiters bustling
about and his home invaded.

§ 2

He went to school at the age of thirteen, in the Pension Froussard, in
the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. He remembered with affection his master
Froussard, who became a deputy after the Revolution of 1848. He owned to
being lazy, with no particular bent; but he worked really hard, he
confessed, for one year. He made a number of friends, but of his
comrades at that school only one distinguished himself in after life,
Louis Becque de Fouquière, the writer, whose life has been written by M.
Anatole France.

The artist went up for his _bachot_, his baccalaureate degree, at the
Sorbonne, and was plucked for his written Latin version. It vexed him
and his mother, for they were poor at the time, and it was important
that he should do well. His father was then in England. Du Maurier
crossed to him before informing him of his failure, miserable with the
communication he had to make. They met at the landing at London Bridge,
and at the sight of his utterly woebegone face, guessing the truth, his
father burst into a roar of laughter, which, said the son afterwards,
gave him the greatest pleasure he ever experienced.

His father was scientific, and hated everything that was not science. Du
Maurier, with his enthusiasm for Byron, had to meet this attitude as
best he could. His father never reproached him for the failure in the
_bachot_ examination. He had made up his mind that his son was intended
for a scientist, and determined to make him one, putting him as a pupil
at the Birkbeck Chemical Laboratory of University College, where he
studied chemistry under Dr. Williamson. The son's own ambition at that
time was to go in for music and singing. "My father," he said,
"possessed the sweetest, most beautiful voice that I have ever heard;
and if he had taken up singing as a profession, would most certainly
have been the greatest singer of his time. In his youth he had studied
music at the Paris Conservatoire, but his family objected to his
following the profession, for they were Legitimists and strong
Catholics, and held the stage in that contempt that was usual at the
beginning of the last century."

The artist himself as a youth was crazy about music, and used to
practise his voice wherever and whenever he could. But his father
discouraged him. The father died in his arms, singing one of Count de
Ségur's songs.

He remained at the Birkbeck Laboratory for two years, leaving there in
1854, when his parent, still convinced of the future before his son in
the pursuit of science, set him up on his own account in a chemical
laboratory in Barge Yard, Bucklersbury, in the City. The house is still
standing. "It was," says du Maurier, "a fine laboratory, for my father,
being a poor man, naturally fitted it up in the most expensive style."
"The only occasion," he continues, "on which the sage of Barge Yard was
able to render any real service to humanity was when he was engaged by
the directors of a Company for working certain gold mines in Devonshire
which were being greatly boomed, and to which the public was subscribing
heavily, to go down to Devonshire to assay the ore. I fancy they
expected me to send them a report likely to further tempt the public. If
this was their expectation, they were mistaken, for after a few
experiments I went back to town and told them that there was not a
vestige of gold in the ore. The directors were of course very
dissatisfied with this statement, and insisted on my returning to
Devonshire to make further investigation. I went and had a good time of
it down in the country, for the miners were very jolly fellows; but I
was unable to satisfy my employers, and sent up a report which showed
the public that the whole thing was a swindle, and so saved a good many
people from loss."

[Illustration: Queen Prima-Donna at Home

     _Chorus_. "O, Mamma!--_Dear_ Mamma!--_Darling_ Mamma!! _Do_ leave

     (Showing that no one is a prophet in his own country.)

_Punch_, November 7, 1874.]

Du Maurier told the story of this business in _Once a Week_ in
1861; it is written in a highly amusing strain.

We have taken relevant extracts, as follows, from the amusing story,
partly because it exhibits the artist for the first time as an Author,
and partly because it continues the narrative of his life:--

§ 3

"Somebody who took a great interest in me (my father) had just
established me in the City as an analytical chemist and mining engineer.
Now, if there was one thing in the world for which I was peculiarly, and
I may even say extraordinarily, unfit, it was that very useful
profession; but it is a well-known fact that the fondest parents are not
always the most discriminating in the choice of professions for their
sons. So I had spent two years in a school of chemistry, attending
lectures and performing analyses, qualitative and quantitative, and
various other chemical experiments, which I used to think very droll and
amusing, in order to fit myself for my future career, and at length,
thanks to my father's kindness, I found myself master of a laboratory
which had been arranged in a manner regardless of expense, with water
and gas laid on in every possible corner, and bottles, chemical stoves,
and scales, &c., of a most ornamental brightness and perfection.

"Here I waited for employment daily, and entertained my friends with
sumptuous hospitality at lunch and supper; here also I occasionally
astonished my mother and sister by dexterously turning yellow liquids
into blue ones, and performing other marvels of science--accomplishments
which I have almost entirely forgotten (in my prospectus it was stated
that assays of ore and analyses of minerals, &c., would be most
carefully conducted, and all business of the kind attended to, with
great steadiness and despatch); and pending the advent of work, the
scene of my future operations was enlivened by athletic sport and every
kind of jollification, which helped me to endure the anxiety of my
parents at seeing me start on the serious business of life so young." He
goes on to say that, thanks to kindness of friends of his family,
employment came: he was given an order for analysing various specimens
of soil from a friend's estate. "I conducted these experiments with
proper earnestness, and he paid me for them with becoming gravity. I
now thank him kindly for the same (it would have been undignified to do
so then) and sincerely hope that he has found my scientific research
beneficial to his land." Then the gold contagion suddenly broke out and
committed great ravages. "I caught it one rainy afternoon near the
Exchange; my mother and sister instantly became affected, but my father,
who was of a stout habit and robust temperament, and gifted with a very
practical turn of mind, fortunately escaped, and devoted himself to our
cure. Thanks to his judicious nursing, I was the first to recover." "The
gold fever raged worse and worse, and I waited impatiently for it to
give me employment; at length it did so, in a few months from the period
of its birth: somebody introduced me to somebody else, who introduced me
to the chairman of the Victoria Gold and Copper Mine, situated near
Moleville, in Blankshire."

Then follows an interview with the directors. "It was necessary that in
my interview with the directors next day, I should cram them with every
possible technical term that had ever been invented for the purpose."

He manages to squeeze "lodes," "gossans," "costeanings," and other
impressive words into almost every sentence. It produces a great effect
on the directors.

The offer of a guinea and a half a day to go down the mine inspires a
wild impulse to embrace the whole board in the person of the venerable
fat old fellow who makes the offer. This is restrained. "I told him I
would think of the matter, and return him an answer the following day;
and, after bouncing myself first into the office-clerk and then into the
fire-place, I eventually succeeded in making an unconcerned exit."

"I pass over my triumphant sensations and the family bliss, only
chequered by anxiety lest the Victoria Gold and Copper Mine should come
to grief before I got there."

He then travels through enchanting scenery, and is conducted to the
mine. "Some five and twenty or thirty shaggy rough-looking men were
about. These were the miners. Their appearance was not reassuring, and
when the engineer left me alone with them, with a parting injunction
that I was to make them feel I had an iron will at once, I confess I
felt myself uncomfortably young, and a little bit at a loss.

"We proceeded to business at once, however; and as I met their first
little symptoms of insubordination with one or two acts of summary
justice (which I will spare the reader, but which, emanating from me,
caused me unlimited astonishment), I soon established a proper authority
over them, and we thenceforward got on together capitally."

We are then given extracts from a mining diary--significantly left off
at a particular stage of the proceedings--used as a sketch-book. An
unfavourable report as to the finding of gold is sent in to the board.

"The miners did not believe in the mine, and as they perceived that I
did not either, they believed in me to a most flattering extent." He
soon got very much attached to the miners, and used to tell stories
about foreign lands while they were distilling the pure mercury, or
performing other innocent operations suggested by the board,
enlightening them on various subjects where he felt their ignorance to
be equal to his own. "My letters home contained descriptions and
sketches of them, and my mamma became interested in their spiritual
welfare." Surrounded by the halo of memory, they afterwards seemed to
him primitive gentlemen worthy of King Arthur's Round Table. He
describes existence between the hours of work as full of charm owing to
the friendship of surrounding farmers and small gentry. In a "Trilby"
way he describes how he "rode, and wrestled, and boxed with them! and
fell in love with their sisters, and sketched them, and sang Tyrolese
melodies to them, ... blessing the lucky stroke of fortune which had
made him mining engineer to a gold mine without any gold, and managed by
gentlemen who obstinately persisted in ignoring the latter important
fact, in spite of his honest endeavours to persuade them of it." "I
have," he says, "only to hum a certain 'jodel' chorus, and the whole
scene returns to me, surrounded by that peculiar fascination which
belongs to past pleasures--a phenomenon far more interesting to me than
the most marvellous phenomenon of science."

Every artist is an experimental psychologist, the material for his art
is really always some mental experience. He wishes to communicate with
his public in the spirit of this experience. With Scott it was the old
associations of places, with du Maurier the associations of "old times,"
of personal memory. This was the frame of mind the interpretation of
which absorbed him in his literary art, distinguishing it, except in
his early _Cornhill_ work, from his art with the pencil.

There is not much in the remaining part of the gold-mine narrative which
can be shown to bear upon the artist's career. The conclusion of the
story shows his forfeiture of the regard of the directors by openness of
speech to the shareholders as to the proceedings at the mine.

Such was his experience of a mine in Devonshire and of relationship with
the miners, who, with the limited experience of the mining classes in
those days, had some difficulty in "placing" du Maurier with his, to
them, unusual physical delicacy and yet more unusual personal charm.

§ 4

The literary gift in the above narration will, we think, be evident even
in our quotations. But during the greater part of his life du Maurier's
literary gift remained unknown to the general public, though more than
one editor under whom he served on _Punch_ urged him to take a writer's
salary and be on the literary as well as on the artistic staff. It was
said that he relied with comfort upon this second talent to support him
in the event of his sight failing him altogether. There was a space of
thirty years between the above contribution to _Once a Week_ and the
writing of his first novel, _Peter Ibbetson_. But it is in that novel
that he again returns to the story of his career, through boyhood and
youth, leading up to the period in which his father started him in the

Du Maurier had in 1856, when his father died, practically the choice of
two arts, painting and singing, in both of which he seemed to have a
chance of distinguishing himself. And as the essay of 1861 was so soon
afterwards to prove, there was really another alternative, that of
authorship, for the gifted analytical chemist. He decided then to
forsake the chemistry to which he had been trained, but remained
undecided about everything else.

In 1856, at the age of twenty-two, he returned to Paris with his mother,
to live in the Rue Paradis-Poissonière, very poor, very dull, and very
miserable, as he himself has said; but almost at the entrance of what he
describes as the best time of his life--that period in which, deciding
to follow art as a profession, he entered the studio of Gleyre. Those
were the joyous Quartier Latin days. He has described Gleyre's studio
in _Trilby_. The happy life there lasted a year: Whistler and Poynter,
as is well known, were his fellow-students.

[Illustration: Honour Where Honour is Due

_Sir Gorgius Midas (who has not been made a Peer_). "Why, it's enough to
make a man turn _Radical_, 'anged if it ain't, to think of sich services
as mine bein' rewarded with no 'igher title than what's bestowed on a
heminent Sawbones, or a Hingerneer, or a Littery Man, or even a
successful Hartist!"

_Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns (sympathetically_). "It does seem hard! But
you've only to bide your time, Sir Gorgius. No man of _your_ stamp need
ever despair of a Peerage!" (And Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns is, as usual,
quite right.)

_Punch_, May 15, 1880.]

The studio of Gleyre was inherited from Delaroche, and afterwards handed
down to Gerome. Whistler, Poynter, du Maurier, Lamont, and Thomas
Armstrong were the group of _Trilby_, Lamont was "the Laird," Aleco
Ionides "the Greek," and Rowley is supposed to have been "Taffy."[4]

In 1857 du Maurier went on to the Antwerp Academy, where the masters
were De Keyser and Van Lerins. It was in the latter's studio that the
disaster of his life occurred. He was drawing from a model, when
suddenly the girl's head seemed to him to dwindle to the size of a
walnut. He clapped his hand over his left eye, and wondered if he had
been mistaken. He could see as well as ever. But when in its turn he
covered his right eye he learned what had happened. His left eye had
failed him. It might be altogether lost. It grew worse, until the fear
of blindness overtook him. In the spring of 1859 he went to a specialist
in Dusseldorf, who, while deciding that the left eye was lost, said that
with care there was no reason to fear losing the other. Du Maurier was
never able to shake off the terror of apprehension. He was apparently a
hopeless invalid at Christmas-time in 1859, "in some dreary, deserted,
dismal Flemish town," in hospital. Turning over _Punch's Almanack_, the
delight the paper afforded him in such unhappy circumstances was "a
thing not to be forgotten." It fired him with a new ambitious dream. The
astonishing thing was that before another year was over the dream was
beginning to come true: he was in England, making friends with Keene,
who introduced him to John Leech, whom he was destined to succeed at
_Punch's_ table.

The artist left Antwerp in 1860, and for several months he and Whistler
lived together in Newman Street. Their studio has been described.
Stretched across it was a rope like a clothes-line, from which floated a
bit of brocade, their curtain to shut off the corner used as a bedroom.
There was hardly even a chair to sit on, and often with the brocade a
towel hung from the line.

§ 5

In the autumn of 1860 the artist began to contribute to _Once a Week_.
Then followed a contribution to _Punch_ for which he continued to draw
as an occasional contributor chiefly of initial letters and the like,
until he reached the stage of contributing regular "Pictures" with
legends beneath in 1864. It was not until 1865, however, that his full
pages in _Punch_ became frequent. In that year he succeeded Leech at the
_Punch_ table.

His career practically began with his marriage to Miss Emma Wightwick.
Following the example of his master, Thackeray, he courageously married
upon "prospects," as soon as ever the promise of regular employment for
his pencil seemed to be secure. This was the year in which he
illustrated Mrs. Gaskell's _Sylvia's Lovers_. "My life," he once said,
"was a very prosperous one from the outset in London; I was married in
1863, and my wife and I never once knew financial troubles. My only
trouble has been my fear about my eyes. Apart from that I have been very

Upon marrying, du Maurier moved to Great Russell Street, and, later, to
rooms in Earl's Terrace, Kensington, the house where Walter Pater died.

In the days when he was living in Great Russell Street the journalistic
world of London was very Bohemian. It is true that Leech had not made a
good Bohemian, but it was not until some time after du Maurier's
accession to the _Punch_ table that the weekly dinner lost an uproarious
gaiety that is recognised as the true Bohemian note. Mr. Punch and his
staff all improved their tone, Bohemia is now only a memory. It is the
very genius of Mr. Punch that makes him respond to the moment and become
the most decorous figure in the world in decorous times.

One cannot help being struck by a resemblance between the coming to town
and the almost immediate success there of du Maurier and Thackeray. The
comparison has its interest in the fact that as every man has his
master, beyond all dispute Thackeray was du Maurier's master. Both
quitted Bohemia, but in Society always retained the detachment of
artists. It was near to Thackeray's initials that du Maurier was
destined to cut his own on the great _Punch_ table. He himself described
the glamour Thackeray's name possessed for him, inspiring him as he
climbed out of the despair that followed the sudden partial deprivation
of his sight. The only time he met his master he was too diffident to
accept an invitation to be introduced. Thackeray seemed so great. But
all that evening he remained as close to him as possible, greedily
listening to his words. Like Thackeray, du Maurier thought that the
finest thing in the world was to live without fear and without reproach.
It is probable that Thackeray would not at all have minded not being
taken for a genius, but he would violently have resented not being
accounted a gentleman. For him that implied the great heart and the
scrupulous honour which Bohemia does not insist upon if you have great

§ 6

Of du Maurier's great friendship with Canon Ainger, which commenced in
the seventies, light is to be obtained from Edith Sichel's _Life and
Letters of Alfred Ainger_.[5]

"For fifteen years," says Miss Sichel, "they always met once, and
generally twice a day. Hampstead knew their figures as every afternoon
they walked round the pond on the Heath, deep in conversation. Edward
Fitzgerald himself never had a closer friendship than had these two men
for one another. Their mental climates suited; they were akin, yet had
strong differences. Perhaps in the quickness of their mutual attraction
Frenchman recognised Frenchman. But Ainger was the French Huguenot and
du Maurier the French sceptic. Both had mercurial perceptions, and
exercised them on much the same objects. Both were wits and humorists,
but Ainger was more of a wit than a humorist, and du Maurier was more of
a humorist than a wit. Both were men of fancy rather than of
imagination, men of sentiment rather than of passion. Both, too, were
fantastics; both loved what was beautiful and graceful rather than
what was grand; but du Maurier was more of the pure artist, while to
Ainger the moral side of beauty most appealed.... Both men were gifted
with an exquisite kindness.... Du Maurier was the keener and clearer
thinker of the two; he had the wider outlook and the fewer prejudices."
Their closest bond was _Punch_, which was to Ainger a delight from cover
to cover.

[Illustration: Canon Ainger

Portrait in water-colour by du Maurier. In the possession of the
artist's widow.]

The artist's love of Whitby is well known; he expressed it himself in
his _Punch_ drawings over and over again. He wrote to Ainger in 1891:
"It is delightful to get a letter from you at Whitby--the place we all
like best in the world." He gives a list of places and things to be
especially seen there, among them the cottage of Sylvia Robson of
_Sylvia's Lovers_, and No 1 St. Hilda's Terrace, "the humble but
singularly charming little house where your friends have dwelt, and
would fain dwell again (and two of them end their days there, somewhere
towards the middle of the twentieth century)."

It was at Whitby when Ainger and his nieces were there with the du
Mauriers that they were once delighted by seeing "Trilby Drops"
advertised in a little village sweet-shop. "Such is fame," said du
Maurier, but when his daughter went in to ask about the "drops," the
girl behind the counter had no idea what "Trilby" meant.

In the summer numbers of past volumes of _Punch_ Whitby has figured in
the background of seaside scenes perhaps more than any other
watering-place. Du Maurier nearly always drew upon it for seaside
pictures and the humour of the summer holidays. He formed his first
acquaintance with it in illustrating _Sylvia's Lovers_. The scene of
that tale is Whitby under another name. Thus he started his connection
with the town in circumstances that seemed to him to give it a glamour.
Not only did he confess an immense liking for Mrs. Gaskell's novel, but,
as we have seen, he scored in the illustration of it the first of his
great successes with the general public. The gift of illustration, after
all, is a very rare one. Nothing is to be understood more easily than
the value the public began to put upon du Maurier's gift. In a response
of that sort the public display true discrimination. The ascendency of
du Maurier as a _Punch_ artist was more than anything due to the fact
that for his work in that paper he drew upon the sentiment of family
life from the resources of his own experience. And nothing that we
could write here would so entirely reveal the happy character of his own
family life as the reigning atmosphere of the "seaside" and "nursery"
pictures which he contributed to _Punch_.


§ 7

Many people remembering du Maurier's satires entertained a little fear
of him in Society, and of what he might be thinking about them. An
instance of this was shown on one occasion when he was dining alone with
Sir John Millais at the latter's splendid residence. "I suppose," said
Millais, waving his hand in the direction of the disappearing flunkeys
after dinner, "you think all this very _Sir Gorgius Midas-y_? To me it
is merely respectable." As a matter of fact there is everything to show
that du Maurier entertained the same sort of notions of "respectability"
as his host, though he did things on a less magnificent scale. By
temperament he was not quite a Bohemian, although he was convivial. It
was the convivial side of the weekly _Punch_ dinner that appealed to
him. He abstained from these meetings, or came in late, when a tendency
prevailed to make them too much, as he thought, the pretext of business.
He was regarded as singular in ordering an immense cup of tea to be put
before him immediately after dinner. He sat over his cup of tea with a
bent back, always with a cigarette, fuming whilst the business part
of the proceedings went forward. When that was over he entered into his
own, regaling his comrades with droll stories, creating a witty
atmosphere at his own corner by his taste for repartee.

[Illustration: The Mutual Admirationists

(Fragments overheard by Grigsby and the Colonel at one of Prigsby's
Afternoon Teas.)

_Young Maudle_ (_to Mrs. Lyon Hunter and her Daughters_). "In the
supremest Poetry, Shakespeare's for instance, or Postlethwaite's, or
Shelley's one always feels that," &c., &c., &c.

_Young Postlethwaite_ (_to the three Miss Bilderbogies_). "The
_greatest_ Painters of ALL, such as Velasquez, or Maudle, or even
Titian, invariably suggest to one," &c., &c., &c.

_Punch_, May 22, 1880.]

The difficulties with his sight might well have been expected to poison
the artist's well of happiness. But it was noticed of Charles Lamb that
the very fact of possessing the little pleasures of everyday life only
under a lease, as it were, which Fate at any moment might refuse to
renew, caused him to be the very poet of such pleasures, experiencing
them with an acuteness that became to him an inspiration. With du
Maurier the enjoyment of social life, so manifestly evident in his art
at one time, may well have been entered into with something of the
fierce delight with which we take our sunshine in a rainy summer. In
later years he became home-staying in his habits. One imagines he felt
that he had taken from Society all that it had to give him--the
knowledge of life necessary to him in his work, and friends in
sufficient number. It is from about this time that his art shows
evidence that an intimate contact with the social movement was no longer
sustained. The tendency to repeat himself, to produce his weekly
picture by a sort of formula, becomes noticeable; and the absence of
variety in his work becomes oppressive.

Du Maurier was a man of great natural versatility. For some reason or
other he was not fond of the theatre, but he was in possession of a
considerable genius for monodrama, and often delighted his friends by
his impersonations. We have seen that it was once within the bounds of
possibility that he would have become a professional singer. His
conversational gifts were great. He was a writer of singular
picturesqueness. A considerable interest in the progress of science was
noted in him to the last. If we look back at the record of the lives of
artists to find what manner of men as a rule they were, we shall find
that, in contradistinction to poets and musicians, they were pre-eminent
as men of the world. Skill in plastic art seems a final gift imparted to
men very highly constituted. It steals them entirely away from other
aims, but exists side by side with, while yet it transcends the ability
to achieve remarkable performances in dissimilar directions. Perhaps it
is because, of all men, the true artist regards the material world with
the clearest vision, living in no world of dreams, finding reality
itself so delightful.

The artist never at any stage of his life lost the rollicking spirit of
a boy. It broke out in conversation and in his letters. In narration he
reserved the right of every _raconteur_ to make a point by some
exaggeration. In letters of his that I have seen the note of high
spirits may be said to be the prevailing one.

For instance, to the head of the _Punch_ Firm, after a _Punch_ dinner:

     "_Jan._ 14.

     "Would you allow one of your retainers to look under the table and
     see if I left a golosh there--and if so, tell him to leave it at
     Swain's, to be returned by his messenger on Monday? I must have
     been tight, and the golosh not tight enough, and I appeared at the
     Duchess's with one golosh and my trousers tucked up. H.R.H. was
     much concerned about it, and said, 'It's all that ---- _Punch_

To the same:

     "I'm on for the 25th at the Albion and much delighted. Is it
     evening dress? If not, tip us a card. If you do not I shall
     conclude it is, and appear in full togs, which I will get out for
     the evening.


       / | \
      O  O  O


     "I had really hoped to have got down to Bouverie Street yesterday,
     but the conviction forced itself on me as the day wore on that I
     should never get a cab to bring me back. I know I am a back-slider
     in the matter of the _Punch_ dinner (and all other dinners when I
     can help it). I can get thro' my work so much better after the
     frugal home repast, and in bed before 11 P.M. Not that I have been
     able to indulge in the early couch these holidays, for Hampstead,
     slow as it is, is a fearful place for juvenile dissipation, and
     parents have to sit up night after night at Xmas time. I hope you
     Wandsworthians have more sense."

In an earlier stage of the book we fixed the period at which du
Maurier's work in _Punch_ was at the height of its vitality at about
1879--and on into the early "eighties." And the artist himself seems to
have had a strong feeling of increasing power at this time. In January
1880 he approached _Punch_ for a revision of the prices at which he was
then working. By the courtesy of Mr. W. Laurence Bradbury I am able to
quote in part from letters bearing out the inference that it was at this
time that du Maurier entered into consciousness of his own worth:

     "_Jan._ 1, 1880.

     "DEAR BRADBURY, AGNEW, & Co.,--The time has come when I think I may
     fairly ask you to make an increase in my salary.

     "The quality of my work has greatly improved of late years and my
     popularity has grown in proportion, and these results have been
     obtained at great expense of thought and labour, and I find as a
     rule that the more time I devote to each production, the more
     favour it meets with from the public.

     "It is now a good many years (seven or eight I believe) since you
     were kind enough at my request to raise the payment of the quarter

     "Since that period I have gradually become enabled thro' the
     improvement in my health to give much more of my time to my _Punch_
     work--all the drawings selected by you for 'English Society at
     Home' have been done since then--and whatever other qualities they
     may possess, they are very careful and elaborate in most instances,
     and without this care and elaboration they would lose most of their
     value in the world's eye...."

Then follows details as to the revision of the prices. And then a day
or two later he sends the following letter:

     "_Jan._ 4, 1880.

     "Mr DEAR BRADBURY,--Many thanks for your kind note. It is really a
     painful effort to me to 'ask for more,' and I've been putting it
     off from day to day these six months. The pleasure and enthusiasm
     with which I have got to do my work for _Punch_ (since I have got
     better in health and so forth) are such that I should be content to
     go on so for ever, without any rise, if it weren't for my having
     such a deuce of a family! but what's a fellow to do!

     "You've no idea what it is to go trapesing up and down, hunting for
     a subject, _while all the time the hand remains idle. Punch_
     requires such a lot of thought, you see--and then when the time
     comes for the hand to do its work, you can see what care and time
     are taken with the execution....

     "I only wish it would suit the convenience of _Punch_ to take all
     the work I could send on a scale of prices literally fixed by
     myself! (ye modern Hogarth!! 10,000,000 a year! R.A.--P.R.A.--Sir

At the foot of this letter is a thumb-nail picture of "Chang," du
Maurier's huge Newfoundland, leading a blind man, initialled D.M. The
dog holds a tin and begs from a passing fine lady, a well-known beauty
of Society and the Stage, and the legend "Sic transit Gloria Mundi"
describes the situation.


§ 8

The above letters were dated from New Grove House, Hampstead, where the
du Mauriers lived for twenty-one years. They had moved into this house
from Church Row, where they had gone when they first came to Hampstead,
and where their youngest son was born. During the period of their long
residence in New Grove House they frequently took a furnished house for
the winter season in Town for the convenience of going into Society. It
was the inaccessibility of Hampstead before the days of the Hampstead
Tube that made du Maurier latterly relinquish many social engagements,
and developed the disinclination for theatre-going which I have seen
ascribed to an aversion from the drama.

Sir Frederick Wedmore says that it was at Hampstead evening parties that
du Maurier found his type of the Adonis up-to-date. Alas, that even by
Sir Frederick Wedmore the type should be regarded as salient of du
Maurier's pictures. It is further evidence that the artist is only
remembered by his later pictures. It is in these the type
monotonously appears. But we feel better disposed towards Hampstead
when the eminent critic adds that Church Row itself gave du Maurier more
than one of the models in whom one recognises his ideal of youthful
feminine charm.

[Illustration: Manuscript of "Nocturne"

"Sun of the Sleepless--Melancholy Star!"--BYRON.

Translated into French by George du Maurier.

_The English Illustrated Magazine_, September 13, 1886.]

Du Maurier's tastes were very quiet. His interests were centred in his
home, and he found no companionship more acceptable than that of his own
children. He was not at all fond of being alone. He preferred even to
work with people round him; writing his novels in the drawing-room
standing with the MS. upon the top of the piano, and walking up and down
undisturbed by the conversation of his family round him. It caused him
no annoyance when members of his family broke into his studio during
working hours. His work both as draughtsman and writer was always
produced without any of that pathetic travail which for many artists and
writers lies between conception and expression. He did not exhibit the
most unpleasant of the traits of a talented person--the overstrung
condition of nerves which makes a man unpleasant to a household; he
preserved the serenity that pertains to greater genius still. His house
was always an open one, and the life in it must have been highly
typical of that English family life of which he was the pre-eminent poet
in his drawings.

Du Maurier was elected a member of the Athenæum Club under Rule 2. He
showed his appreciation of this Club by not making use of any other,
though he was such a highly sociable man. He was early a member of the
Arts Club, though using it less frequently after its removal to the
Dover Street house, of old-world distinction. At the Athenæum he
frequented the billiard-room as a sociable place, though he was not very
fond of billiards or card games. He could get on quite well in life upon
"conversation" as a recreation, interspersed with music.

After the great _Trilby_ boom, and when he was writing _The Martian_--in
fact, only a year before his death, the artist moved into town to live
in Oxford Square. He was partly influenced in this by the expiration of
the twenty-one years' lease upon which he held the Hampstead property.

In a paper contributed to the _Hampstead Annual_ for 1897, the issue
following the artist's death, Canon Ainger traced various Hampstead
spots to be identified as the backgrounds of du Maurier's subjects, and
recalls how on Hampstead Heath many subjects for _Punch_ came to be
discussed between them in the course of conversation. He describes the
way that one of the artist's most famous jests, in the days of Maudle
and Postlethwaite, took its final shape one day in Hampstead, and by a
singular chance arose out of a University sermon at Cambridge.

A certain well-known humorist of the time had remarked that the
objection to Blue China (it was the special craze at the moment) was
that it was so difficult to "live up to it." This utterance had been
lately taken somewhat over-seriously by a special preacher before the
University who, discoursing on the growing extravagances and frivolities
of the age, wound up an indignant tirade by an eloquent peroration to
the effect that things had come to a sad pass when persons were found to
talk of "_living up_--to a Tea-pot." At this juncture the jest seemed
ripe for treatment, and du Maurier thereupon produced his famous drawing
of the æsthetic bride and bridegroom comparing notes over the precious
piece of crockery in question: "Oh! Algernon! Let us live up to it!"

Speaking of fifteen years of constant companionship in walks upon the
Heath, the Canon says no one could have had a better opportunity of
tasting the unfailing charm of du Maurier's conversation, the width of
his reading and observation, and his inexhaustible fund of anecdote. In
these conversations Canon Ainger heard every detail of his companion's
school life, his studio-life in Paris, which afterwards found a place in
the pages of his three novels.

Referring to the long years of uninterrupted achievement of the artist's
life at Hampstead, "only once," says his friend, "in all the years I
knew him was he forced to lay his pencil by for a season. His solitary
eye had temporarily failed him, but, with spirits unsubdued, he promptly
took up the art of lecturer with marked success, although from the first
it was against the grain. When, however, after an interval his sight
returned to him, and the literary instinct, encouraged doubtless by the
success of his lectures, began to quicken, he gained, we all know,
though then past fifty years of age, a new public and a new career in
writing fiction." "Except," proceeds Canon Ainger, "to his intimate
friends and to his colleagues on _Punch_ the display of this gift was an
absolute surprise.... He wrote with extraordinary and even dangerous
facility. It is fair, however, to add that his best passages were often
produced as rapidly as all the rest. For instance, the scene in _Trilby_
when the mother and uncle of Little Billee arrive in Paris, hearing of
the engagement, and have their first interview with Taffy, was written
straight off one evening between dinner and bed-time." This scene, in
the judgment of Ainger, represents du Maurier at his high-water mark as
a novelist and as a worthy follower of the great master on whom his
style was undoubtedly based.

"Hampstead," continues the Canon, "was a real foster-mother to George du
Maurier, not only in what it brought him but in what it saved him from.
He was by nature and by practice one of the most generous and hospitable
of men. He loved to entertain his friends from town, and to take them
afterwards his favourite walks. But he disliked dinners and evening
parties in London, not because he was unsociable, but because good
dinners and long journeys 'took it out of him' and endangered the task
of the following morning. The distance from town and the long hills made
late hours inevitable. To listen to some new book read aloud in the
studio, which was also the common sitting-room of wife and children,
made the chief happiness of his evening."

"We owed it," says his friend, "to Hampstead air with its many sylvan
beauties that du Maurier was able for so long, notwithstanding defective
sight and health gradually failing, to prosecute his daily work with
scarce an interruption."

The link between the place and the work produced in it is in the case of
du Maurier, apart from the fact that Hampstead scenes so frequently
recur in his pictures, anything but a superficial one. "Hampstead," the
artist wrote, "is healthy but dull." It was the very monotony of the
place, the even conditions under which it was possible to work there in
his day--when it was farther away than it is in the present age of
"tubes"--that assisted the building up of the remarkable record in
_Punch_--the indispensable contribution made every week by du Maurier to
the journalism which, in the days when the fashionable world counted
several influential journals devoted to itself, placed _Punch_ in its
unique position among them. Society reserved quite a touching deference
for the opinions of Mr. Punch. It gives us some idea of the position
into which the paper had worked itself a generation ago when we find
Ruskin, the greatest social critic of his day, going straight to it for
an authoritative picture of the time. People have not sufficiently
remembered how often when they have referred to _Punch_ they were really
referring to du Maurier, or what is left now of his tradition--his way
of dealing with the foibles of society. The position of the paper in
Society was won by appositeness of political criticism, and the delicate
edge of its satire. It was du Maurier who put that edge on. Society
returned fascinated after every wound to inspect the weapon. Keene's pen
brought immense artistic prestige to _Punch_, but its social prestige it
owes to du Maurier more than to anyone; we only become aware that Leech
had begun a tradition in its pages by its supreme fulfilment in du
Maurier's art.

§ 9

Henry Silver, a member of the _Punch_ staff, who came to the table in
1858, kept a diary of the talk of the table until he retired in 1870.
The present writer was the more touched by the honour of being permitted
to look into this interesting document from the fact that the pen of the
exquisite E.V. Lucas has but lately inspired itself at the same source.
This was for a paper of Thackerayana which concluded, after reference to
the death of Leech, Thackeray's friend: "On November 7th (1864) Leech's
successor, George du Maurier, took his seat at the Table, and so the
world goes on."

Thackeray bulks more largely in the diary than even du Maurier, for du
Maurier's genius in the table conversation was wholly for asides. We
have already mentioned his comparative lack of interest in the debates
over the large cartoon. And this Silver himself draws attention to: "Du
M. and H.S. generally mute when the 'L.C.' is discussed." The
conversation at each meeting is for some time closely confined to the
discussion of the cartoon, then it spreads to every imaginable topic.
One feels that one assists at the making of history when the Great
Cartoon, or Cut, as they called it, is discussed--as, for instance, when
the design for the one representing Disraeli on the side of the Angels
is decided upon, after his famous speech at Oxford in 1864. The
desultory conversation reported in the diary on each occasion after
settlement of the cartoon throws a light upon things uppermost in the
public mind at the time. It is noted when the Queen comes out of
retirement into the world again. And a vivid reflection is to be found
of the horror felt at the news of the assassination of Lincoln. Men as
closely united as the _Punch_ staff have prejudices as clearly defined
as those of an individual. There was great hostility to the Swinburne of
the sixties. Du Maurier on one occasion sticks up for Swinburne as "the
writer of lovely verses--the weaver of words--the rhymer of rhymes." "Du
M. and H.S. agree in thinking Tennyson will live 'chiefly by his songs
and minor lays.'"

[Illustration: George du Maurier

From a photograph.]

"Du M. thinks _Vanity Fair_ a little Bible," "Rather an epistle by the
Corinthians," says Shirley Brooks.

One night after dinner du Maurier walked home in the wet. "My carriage
is waiting for Silver," he said. "My carriage is waiting for gold,"
answered Shirley Brooks.

Sometimes the discourse at the table is of Religion. "Du M. believes in
God, and that whatever we do God will not punish us."

"A comfortable faith," adds Silver.

Once the discussion turned upon suicide. "Du M. says before he married
he often felt tempted to suicide."

In heading his diary shortly after du Maurier joined the table, Silver
writes "Du M." and then corrects it "(no: DU M.)." And in another place
he writes, "Du Maurier says fellows write to him de Maurier: 'give the
devil his du.'"

In 1865 the proprietors, getting old, have put their sons in their
stead, and taken the Agnews into partnership. The staff talk
sentimentally of old times. They drink success to the Firm. Mark Lemon,
the Editor, proposes the health of Bradbury & Evans, saying, "men work
well together because they are liberally treated. Thought our loss last
year (death of Leech) would have seriously affected _Punch_, but it did
not. And no single loss will." Bradbury, replying, speaks of the
brotherly affection between the editor and the proprietors. "Says if you
want men to serve you well treat them well, and win their sympathy and
esteem.... Evans is emphatic on the Brotherhood of the Punch table."
Thackeray's "Mahogany Tree" is sung; du Maurier sings a French song, and
F.C.B. also singeth a song with no words to speak of, &c. &c. &c. "So we
pass a jolly evening, and bear in mind--that Sociality is the secret of
the success of _Punch_."

On another occasion there is the paper's "Silver Wedding." A watch and
chain with eleven links--the mystic number of the _Punch_ staff--is
handed over to Mark Lemon. In the morning he has received a letter with
a hundred guineas. He claims, in replying, "that the _Punch_ Brotherhood
is one of the most extraordinary literary brotherhoods the world has

Shirley Brooks hands him letters written by the staff individually,
testifying their gladness at the gift proposed. Du Maurier wrote the
longest and Charles Keene the shortest.

We have extracted the following items from the diary, quoting exactly,
except for the substitution sometimes of the full name for initials:

     _November 7th_--_Monday_. "S.B., du Maurier (his début), H.S.,
     J.T., M.L., P.L., F.C.B., H.M., T.T.

     "(The initials stand for Shirley Brooks, Henry Silver, John
     Tenniel, Mark Lemon, Professor Leigh, F.C. Burnand, Horace Mayhew,
     Tom Taylor.)

     "Du Maurier tells of Whistler and Rossetti's rage for old china,
     and how Rossetti once left his guests at dinner and rushed off to
     buy a piece before Whistler could forestall him."

     _May_ 17, 1865. "Du Maurier was presented with a son and heir on
     Saturday, so we baptized the infant in a bumper of Champagne."

     _December_ 20, 1865. "While the Great Cut is being hatched,
     Burnand, du Maurier, and Silver all make little cuts of their
     initials on the _Punch_ table. Henry Silver between William
     Thackeray and John Leech--Burnand where à Beckett sat and du
     Maurier where Leech."

     "Miss Bateman retired from the stage (at Her Majesty's) on
     Friday--she has rather proved herself a one-part actress, and so
     has Sothern, whom Burnand denounces as a practical joker--most
     unscrupulous in tongue."

     "Du M. thinks it harder to write a poem than to paint a picture.
     But surely there's no comparing them. One mind expresses itself
     with a pen and another with a brush."

     _Jan_. 17, 1866. "Du Maurier tells of the gas blow-up at his 91
     Great Russell Street on Boxing-day. Girl dressing in the shop for
     Hairdressers' Ball--turned on two burners and lit one and left it
     burning. Du Maurier and wife dressing on top floor--bang! like a
     hundred pounder, and then rattle--smash--crash. 'O! the children!'
     'D--n it! They're all right!' first time he ever swore before his
     wife. Sister tried to jump from window, but Armstrong held her
     back. Baby crowing in his arms at the fun as he came downstairs.
     The nursemaids had run away of course. Lucky no one on the stairs,
     or they'd have been killed."

     _April_ 4, 1866. "In reference to a Ball on the Haymarket
     stage--'Would you like to go?' said S.B. to du Maurier. But du
     Maurier's dancing days are over--only cares for dinners now! Fancy
     the old fogydom of thirty!"

     _November_ 7, 1868. "Du Maurier cut down to five cigarettes a day,
     resolves to ride daily and live frugally: frightened by his eye
     this summer!!"

     _February_ 24, 1868. "Tenniel has almost given up smoking! Used to
     smoke an ounce a day. Can eat a better breakfast now. Nearly all
     our _Punch_ folk smoke less. Tom Taylor has given up cigars and
     only takes a pipe occasionally. Du Maurier takes cigarettes four a
     day in lieu of forty. H.S. never smokes at all after dinner. Only
     Keene and Mark and Shirley stick to their tobacco."

§ 10

Sir Francis Burnand, till recently the distinguished Editor of _Punch_,
was du Maurier's senior on the paper by a year or two. He has very
kindly sent the writer the following impression of the artist: "That he
was beloved as a cheery, witty _confrère_, goes without saying. Rarely
did he mix himself up with politics in any shape or form. I doubt if he
ever gave us any assistance in devising a political cartoon. What his
politics were I am unable to say, and I do not think he troubled himself
about the matter. In 'the old days' he delighted in chaffing Horace
Mayhew, with whom he exchanged 'slang' in French. With the jovial
proprietor, William Bradbury, he was always on the best of terms of
friendly nonsense, being invariably his left-hand neighbour at 'The
Table.' He was a genuine Bohemian of the artistic fraternity (as given
in his _Trilby_) with the true polish of an English gentleman, of the
kindest disposition, and of the warmest heart. All who knew him well
loved him, and none missed him more than his fellow-workers on _Punch_."

"His religion," Sir Francis volunteered in a further note, "as that of
the majority of his French _confrères_, you will find it in the artistic
sketches of the men and women in _La Bohème_" "His guardian angel,
humanly and socially, was his wife."

Everyone who knew du Maurier now speaks of his attractiveness and the
simplicity and honesty of his nature. He was not really very fond of
"Society" because of its code of insincerity. He was its satirist for
the same reason that, much as he liked "to be with people," he was not
at-home where manners were affected. The Victorians who survive to this
day hold up their hands in horror at present-day manners; they object to
our natural, comfortable ways and clothes; they define our naturalness
as laziness. But just because it is so constitutional to be lazy, the
casual modern manners, so true to the exact shade of our enthusiasm for,
or indifference to any particular person or thing, express our virtue.
We are too honest to pretend. We look back with amusement to the
Victorians, who put all their goods in the shop window, whose very
movements were so far without freedom as to be subservient to the
maintenance of uncreased clothing. A regard for "appearances" seemed to
regulate action. It was an age of _poseurs_--the age of the
"professional air." In that age came into use among doctors "the bedside
manner." Shop-walkers then distinguished themselves from the rest of the
race by their preposterous antics, artists endured the misery of velvet
jackets; women tight-laced, men about town invented the crease in the
trouser-leg to keep which in order alone demands the fealty of a
lifetime. In summer men consented to be roasted alive on the London
pavement rather than part with the frock-coat in which their depraved
conception of beauty delighted. In those days one imagines people were
only comfortable when once safely in bed, and that was never for long at
a time; for the sake of appearances the Victorians got up early.


Speed the Parting Guest

(Things one would rather have left unsaid.)

"We've had such a pleasant evening, Mr. Jones! _May_ I beg of you to ask
one of your servants to call a Hansom?"

"With _pleasure_, Mrs. Smith!"

_Punch_, March_ 10, 1883.]

The Royal Academy Exhibitions of the time proved that it was impossible
for a Victorian to be an artist. The artists of the time did not belong
to their own age. We had Rossetti ever seeking to lose himself in the
illusion of another time and country, and Whistler trying to find
himself in the reality of another place. Chelsea was well outside of
Victorian London. Perhaps Hampstead, a place like Chelsea, that belongs
to no particular time, was outside of it too. Kensington and Bayswater
are Victorian to this day. Rossetti in Kensington is a vision from which
imagination recoils, Whistler in Bayswater one which passes the
invention of human fancy. Du Maurier liked to come into Victorian London
in a carriage from a distance, as a visitor, to be driven away again. He
approached its society critically. He acknowledged the distinction of
its grave self-consciousness while exposing its ridiculous airs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just as Chelsea is a more desirable place to live in because of its
"Rossetti" associations, so Hampstead gains from the memory of the witty
and generous satirist who made it his home. New Grove House, where du
Maurier lived for over twenty years, might have been designed for him;
it escapes the suburban style that would have been an affliction to one
so romantic.

Nearly all artists who have sustained their powers in a refined field
of expression have been glad to count upon monotony in the passage of
their days. The adventurous temperament is not the artistic one. The
artist values security from interruptions above everything, and
interruption is of the essence of adventure. Du Maurier lived a life
that was for an artist characteristic. He was at pains to preserve his
days from being broken into. It is above the plane where human life is
open to crude forms of calamity and the stress of elemental passion,
upon a plane where freedom from anxiety is secure that art is able to
exert itself in attaining to the expression of the more valuable,
because more intimate, experiences of human nature.

Du Maurier died on the 8th October 1896. His grave at Hampstead is
singularly happily placed and constructed. It consists of two carved
wood crosses, respectively at head and foot, connected by a panel
containing, in addition to the name and dates, only the concluding lines
of _Trilby_:--

    "A little trust that when we die
    We reap our sowing! And so--good-bye!"

The grave is close to the pavement, and it is impossible to go that way
without seeing it. We can imagine that one who was so entirely the
opposite of misanthropic would wish to lie like this within sound of
passing conversation.


[4] Pennell's _Life of Whistler_.

[5] Archibald Constable & Co.




It may be well to touch upon some of the characteristics of our
illustrations in detail before closing this book. Many of them are so
obviously involved in what has already been said here of the artist's
work that we do not propose to mention them again; but others suggest
remarks which would not have incorporated easily in the attempt we have
made to demonstrate the significance of du Maurier's art in general.

Taken in the order in which they are printed here, the first
illustrations show the range of effect and variety of line which the
artist was afterwards to narrow into the conventions by which he is now
chiefly remembered. But if such an effect as that in the picture
_Caution_, for instance, would not have been possible with him in his
last period, it was because the nature of the subjects required on
the journal which absorbed most of his energies afforded no stimulus for
anything so Rembrandtesque. He brought such possibilities of style over
from his romantic period in _The Cornhill Magazine_, and it must be
admitted that the effect in this drawing seems too powerful for the
music-hall comedy it has to carry off.

[Illustration: Sketch for Initial Letter in

_The Cornhill_, October, 1883.]

A picture bewitching on account of the grace it contains is that called
"Berkeley Square." Du Maurier had quickly perceived that the quality of
grace could well survive side by side with any amount of humour. It is
interesting to try and imagine what Phil May would have made of the
scene. It was intended for a poignant one, but it becomes chiefly a very
attractive one in du Maurier's hands, the pathos lying with the wording
rather than the picture.

The drawing affords us many characteristics of his work. The lady in
white reclining in the vehicle is a very embodiment of elegance, and the
discerning drawing that defines the coachman repays observation, as also
the "style" with which the white horse is swiftly shaded in. It was once
the custom for the carriages of people in fashion to draw up under the
trees in Berkeley Square, in summer, for tea brought out from Gunter's.
Last summer one of the evening papers asked the question why the custom
had lapsed. Du Maurier's drawing of the scene was accompanied by the
following lines, which perhaps provide the answer.


    The weather is warm as I walk in the Square,
    And observe her barouche standing tranquilly there,
    It is under the trees, it is out of the sun,
    In the corner where Gunter retails a plain bun.

    How solemn she looks, I have seen a mute merrier--
    Plumes a sky-blue, and her pet a sky-terrier--
    The scene is majestic, and peaceful, and shady,
    Miss Humble sits facing: I pity that lady.

    Her footman goes once, and her footman goes twice,
    Ay, and each time returning he brings her an ice.
    The patient Miss Humble receives, when he comes,
    A diminutive bun; let us hope it has plums!

    Now is not this vile. When I tickle my chops,
    Which I frequently do, I subside into shops:
    We do not object to this solemn employment,
    But why _afficher_ such material enjoyment?

    Some beggars stand by--I extremely regret it--
    They wish for a taste. Don't they wish they may get it?
    She thus aggravates both the humble and needy,
    You'll own she is thoughtless, perhaps she is greedy.

The pictures "Queen Prima Donna" and "Proxy" are two early nursery
scenes of the many du Maurier contributed to _Punch_. They show the
style, the flowing and painter-like stroke of the pen that revealed such
a Rossetti-like sense of material beauty in his earlier drawings--a
style worthy of the refinement of the subject in "Proxy," the charm in
it of sentiment that humour strengthens rather than displaces. The
drawing expresses childhood, in circumstances where it can expand
without loss of bloom through contention with unhappy circumstances. It
shows the human beauty that expands from the conserved force of life
when it has not to contend with unfavourable environment. Beauty is
perhaps the one certain result of favourable environment. The ideal
within "Socialism" which makes even its opponents Socialists is the
aspiration that some day everyone will be favourably environed.


It was a long while before the result of always working for a comic
paper took effect on du Maurier. Not for some time did the knowledge
that everything can be made to appear ridiculous persuade the artist to
believe with his editor that everything is ridiculous. The humour of his
subjects is still a part and not the whole of those subjects in his art,
and this was all to the glory of the great comic paper in which he drew,
for the humour of nothing in the world is the whole of that thing. Farce
represents it so to be. Du Maurier had no genius for Farce. He responded
to actual life; Farce is artificial; it is thus that the beauty and
charm as well as the humour of life were involved in his

Humour for humour's sake has brought about the downfall of every comic
paper that has tried it. _Punch_ has been saved from it by the wilful
seriousness of some of its contributors. Every now and then, with
something like "The Song of the Shirt" or, in another vein, a cartoon of
Tenniel's, _Punch_ has been brought back to Reality and thus to the only
source of humour.

In the drawing "Honour where Honour is Due" the point is made in the
legend, but the illustration illuminates it rather brutally. It is a
picture in which we find du Maurier expressing the prejudices of the old
régime against the _nouveau riche_. It illustrates a prejudice rather
than a fact. It was not at all true in Victoria's reign that money
would carry a man anywhere. In that time the man with money only but
without birth wanted better manners than the man with everything else
but money to get him into Society. It was less the objectionableness of
trade--as du Maurier in such a drawing as this tried to imply--than the
advance of it that the old aristocracy really resented.

A drawing characteristic of the artist's work in the eighties--in 1880
to be definite--is that entitled "Mutual Admirationists." It really
dates itself. It is descriptive of one of the moods of "passionate
Brompton." The satire of the three admiring ladies is perfect. In our
own time ladies have gazed like this at genius. Sometimes genius is
really there, sometimes it is not--but the profound and undying belief
of women in it, often expressed beautifully as well as absurdly, is the
rain from heaven enabling it to thrive. In the expressive drawing of the
faces and the bearing of the three ladies in this picture we have du
Maurier's real humour--its reality in its closeness to life, and his
genius in expressing through contour the whole tale of strange æsthetic

In an earlier part of the book we showed that the artist exposed
"æstheticism" from the inside. He hardly draws any figures so happily as
those of bored, poetic youths. In _Sic Transit Gloria Mundi_ he does not
depict "The Duke" of the scene half so convincingly as the young gossip
talking to the Duchess. No one else in the world could have drawn so
well that young man, with his weak, but Oxford voice--it is almost to be
heard--and tired but graceful manners.

The drawing "Post-Prandial Pessimists" is not so sympathetic--which
means that it is not so intimate in touch and full of knowledge. The
straight mechanical lines with which the clothes are drawn are rather
meaningless. This treatment represents a convention, and a bad one,
because it covers the paper without really conveying the elasticity of
clothing or the animation of muscle determining its folds. At this stage
of his career du Maurier has begun to work rather mechanically and by a
recipe; he is less curious of form as it actually is to be observed, and
more content with just making a drawing in as neat and as businesslike a
way as possible, with the wording of the legend uppermost in his
thoughts. The artist is disappearing in the "_Punch_ Artist." The
drawing of detail, for instance, inclines to be blotty; it is no
longer affectionately done. At least the pre-Raphaelite in du Maurier is
now dead. The artist's early drawings, where his native tastes break
into expression, are pre-Raphaelite in feeling. He made a bad
impressionist, a thoroughly bad imitator of Keene's success with
impressionism. He lost what was most his own when he "threw over" his
belief in glamour, and took to laughing at his own enthusiasms; when he
ceased to confine his mockery to things that he hated, as he hated the
æsthetic movement. The gods revenged his satire of the inspiration of
the pre-Raphaelites in the _Tale of Camelot_ by taking that inspiration
away from himself.

[Illustration: "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi!"

"By the way, Duchess, supposing that we _do_ succeed in getting the
House of Lords abolished this Session, won't it be a great blow to the

"Yes, if he ever hears of it; but I shan't tell him, you know!"

_Punch_, March 22, 1884. ]

The drawing "Things one would rather have expressed Differently"
(reproduced opposite page 194) represents du Maurier's final phase at
its very best. It has the precision of workmanship of a thing executed
to a well-tried recipe. It is dainty as well as precise; and still in
the way the dimpling of soft dress fabric is touched in, sympathetic,
and characteristic of the earlier du Maurier. It belongs to the _Trilby_
period, but is better than the illustrations to _Trilby_.

§ 3

The unpublished sketches which we have been allowed to reproduce from du
Maurier's private sketch-book, and which we are using as end pieces, are
very interesting. In the strictest artistic sense there is very little
of the art of pen-drawing to-day. In the work done with the pen for
modern illustration the inking-in is too much of an after process of ink
upon pencil work. The quality of the drawing is really determined by the
pencil, which is the actual medium of work. In going over the pencil
work the ink-line follows it in many cases so closely that it cannot
assert the characteristics of penmanship. But in making preliminary
small studies for a picture with the pen, an artist, feeling less
necessity for a certain kind of accuracy, often uses the pen much more
freely, sympathetically, and happily because he is actually drawing with
it and not merely following over forms determined first in another
medium. We have printed the reproductions from the sketch-book about
their original size. Many of them express the freer qualities of real
pen-drawing--an autographic character in the line-work akin to that
secured in original etching. The pen is an instrument that works best on
a small scale, in which it can be manipulated flexibly in the fingers;
in this it is like the etching-needle itself. The artist working direct
with his pen has before him while he draws the actual effect of his ink
on paper, instead of having to imagine it in advance while he works out
his subject in pencil. The vignette of the man lying back in his chair
near the leaded window (page 147) has qualities in the shadow of the
window that we look to find in vain in du Maurier's professional work.
It is a sympathetic pen-drawing; the lines express much more than a
formula--they secure a dramatic play of shadow.

This memorandum--for that is what the drawing is--was, we believe, never
used by du Maurier, though some of the sketches appearing here--that,
for instance, of the lady with a child in her arms (page 64), and that
of the girl in a window-seat, wearing a frilled dress (facing page
176)--can be found serving as initial letters and head-pieces in the
early _Cornhill Magazines_, carried no farther in finish than they are

So far as one can judge from the study for an illustration to _Wives and
Daughters_ (facing page 36), which we print with the illustration as it
actually appeared in the _Cornhill_, seems to show that the artist could
carry the conception of a drawing a long way without reference to a
model. The sketch of the girl near the window affords us, in its
Whistlerian suggestiveness and refinement, another instance of the
purely artistic qualities which some critics have denied du Maurier the
ability to secure, his professional ready style being too quickly
accepted as completely expressing to the full his artistic nature. Du
Maurier seems to have purchased his great journalistic and worldly
success at the expense of qualities not altogether dissimilar from those
shown in the works of Whistler, his companion at the beginning of his
career. The pen sketch referred to of the girl by the window, the soft
shadow outlining her face and falling upon the chair, the play of the
line that suggests the contour of her figure, all reveal something of
the refined skill, economy, and sensitiveness of expression that
distinguished everything of Whistler's.

And du Maurier's handwriting--witness the manuscript for his French
version of Byron's "Sun of the sleepless--melancholy star!" which
appeared in the _Illustrated Magazine_--is characteristic of an
exquisite artist in its pleasant nervous beauty of style. It is the
writing of one who could have etched. Etching demands only the most
autographic features of a man's draughtsmanship; it prevents him from
spreading himself in the irrelevancies of space-covering lines necessary
in work done to meet the demand of the Editor's measure. The demand must
have its effect on those who meet it, in diluting the intimate quality
of their work, so that it is not always easy to estimate the real
strength of artistic impulse in it.

As art becomes more self-expressive it becomes more subjective; it
demands that the student of it shall enter into the artist's feelings;
it does not go out to meet him and explain itself after the fashion of
the humbler forms of illustration with their purely objective ideal. It
is only an educated public that will allow an illustrator the
spontaneous style of drawing that some of the wittiest French
illustrators indulge in. In England the demand for what is wrongly
inferred to be good draughtsmanship has quenched spontaneity in

Photographs, which are driving pen illustrations out of the illustrated
papers, are in themselves many of them highly artistic and beautiful,
but in another sense familiarity with photographs has damaged the
public sense of art and lost us the taste for merry, irresponsible
freedom of drawing. There was no poverty in du Maurier's skill in
illustration; but one is compelled to believe his resources as an artist
never fully revealed themselves for the lack of the encouragement which
only a small cultivated public is prepared to give. He reconciled
himself to the big public with its less refined standard. His companion
Whistler remained loyal to the few who, by their quick response, could
follow the work of his genius in its last refinements. Du Maurier had
more artistic energy than Whistler, but he lived in a less exalted
artistic mood. Comparison of this kind would be irrelevant but for the
fact that behind all du Maurier's work in _Punch_ there seems to hover
an artist of a different kind from the one which it was possible for Mr.
Punch to employ.

[Illustration: Post-Prandial Pessimists

SCENE--The smoking-room at the Decadents.

_First Decadent_ (M.A., Oxon.). "After all, Smythe, what would Life be
without Coffee?"

_Second Decadent_ (B.A., Camb.). "True, Jeohnes, True! And yet, after
all, what is Life _with_ Coffee?"

_Punch_, October 15, 1892.]


Sometimes we hear critics discussing whether beauty is or is not the
object of Art. As a matter of fact it does not really matter much
whether beauty is the object, since it is always the result of true
art. Craft is the language of an artist's sympathies--inspiration
flagging at the point where sympathy evaporates. The quality of craft is
the barometer of the degree of the artist's response to some aspect of
life. Absence of beauty in craftsmanship indicates absence of
inspiration, the failure to respond to life.

Though du Maurier fell short of Keene in breadth of inspiration, there
were still aspects of life which he represented better than that master,
phases of life which he approached with greater eagerness. He expressed
perfectly once and for all in art the life of the drawing-room in the
great days of the drawing-room, as did Watteau the life of the Court in
the great days of a Court. Men take their rank in art by expressing
completely something which others have expressed incidentally.

There is now the glamour of the past upon du Maurier's work in _Punch_.
The farther we are away in distance of time from the date of the
execution of a work of art the more legendary and fabulous its tale
becomes. In good work forgotten costumes seem bizarre but not
preposterous. Whenever in a picture a thing looks preposterous--except
in the art of caricature, and du Maurier was not a caricaturist--the
representation of it in the picture is a bad one. We never find in the
paintings of Vandyke, Velasquez, Gainsborough, or other great artists,
however difficult the period of fashion with which they had to deal,
anything preposterous--always something beautiful, however unreasonable
in ornamentation and clothes. Sometimes it is said that beauty and
simplicity are the same. But we have to remember that complexity remains
simple whilst unconsciousness of complexity remains. There were several
periods of dress that retained beauty and complexity side by side. We
find beauty to-day in the avoidance of complexity, because, being at
last really civilised, we are impatient of irrelevance even in dress. Du
Maurier was never for a moment conscious that there was in all the
rigmarole of Victorian costume and decoration anything redundant. He
seemed to take, in decoration for instance, the draped mantelpiece with
its bows of ribbons, and pinned fans quite as seriously as Velasquez
took the hooped skirt in costume. Artifice is fascinating in those with
whom it is natural to be artificial. When du Maurier thought he
recognised merely a passing "fashion" and hit out at it, he made far
less interesting pictures for posterity than when he took the outward
aspect of the age he lived in as being in the natural order of things.


The Victorian age--which invented _Punch_, the greatest humorous paper
the world has ever known--had no sense of humour. It was the age of
serious people. The secret of the character of _Punch_ as an organ of
satire is that it represents the times, scorning only what the English
people scorn. This representative attitude is, I believe, quite puzzling
to many editors of foreign publications, who seem to conceive the
business of satire to be mockery of everything.

At one happy period of its career _Punch_ set itself a very high
artistic standard. The paper intended to avail itself of the services of
whatever artistic genius it could attach to itself by attractive
emoluments. It then pieced out its satiric business among its
distinguished staff, above everything else artists, perhaps not one of
them animated with that fervour of attack which is the genius of foreign
caricature. These men, by their several temperaments, founded the
characteristics and traditions of _Punch_. They were perfectly
friendly, not at all anxious to make themselves unpleasant; and the
traditions of _Punch_ remain the same to this day. It would always
rather laugh with people than against them.


Du Maurier's novels are a proof of what an illustrator he was by nature;
he seemed to conceive matter and illustration together. It would be
strange to read either of his novels without their drawings. Probably
his tales would have failed of their immediate success but for the
wealth of admirable illustration which make them unique among novels.
The illustrations increase perceptibly the appeal of the text. The
draughtsmanship is so well identified with its purpose, that we think of
it always in connection with a "page." In these days, when art editors
think that any picture reduced to size will make an "illustration," it
is pleasant to take down our old _Punches_. Qualities of impressionism
which are everything in a picture hanging on a wall to be seen across
the breakfast table, will seldom be made suitable for book-embellishment
simply by process of reduction.

Du Maurier established a more intimate relationship with the public who
admired his drawings than any humorous artist has. In America, where for
many years the opinion of English Society seems to have been formed from
his drawings, the unseen author of them was thought of quite
affectionately. The immediate success of his novels there took its rise
from this fact. The personal letters which he received from America with
the success of _Trilby_ ran into many hundreds. There must have been
something to account for all this--some curious flavour in everything he
did, just one of those secret influences which so often put the
technical rules of criticism out of court in dealing with an artist's

He succeeded to Leech in the Society subjects, but he himself has not
had a successor in these themes. No one has been able to enter the same
field as worthily, for instance, as Mr. Raven-Hill entered a field once
worked by Keene. There have been better draughtsmen--from the
photographic point of view--than du Maurier attempting to fill his
place. But "a place" on a newspaper can only be filled by a personality.
It is artistic personality that has been wanting in recent years in
_Punch_ on the side of the fashionable satire which Leech and du Maurier
successively had made their own.

We have pointed out that his work in _Punch_ was at its best when he was
going most into Society. That is characteristic of all artists--that
their inspiration flames or dies in proportion to the immediacy of their
contact with actuality. Having chosen the world for his theme, he could
make nothing of it when he ceased to go out. In his earlier and middle
period, living in evening-clothes, he drew with an inexhaustible
impulse. When he thought he had his "world" by heart and could
reconstruct with the aid of some obliging friends who consented to pose,
he gave us pleasant pictures of his friends posing, but the great record
he had put together in the sixties, seventies, the early eighties of the
London of his time was at an end. Then it was that he repeated his
formulæ, his "Things one would have expressed otherwise," and others of
like series without introducing any freshness of situation, carrying out
the brief dialogues with figures in which there was little variation of
character--as little variation as there is in the same model employed on
two different days. All this has been touched upon in this book, but
we must insist upon it, for the memory of the real du Maurier has
nothing so much to fear as our memory of du Maurier when he was, as an
artist, not quite himself.

[Illustration: Things One Would Rather have Expressed Differently

_Fair Hostess_. "Good-night, Major Jones. We're supposed to breakfast at
nine; but we're not very punctual people. Indeed, the later you appear
to-morrow morning, the better pleased we shall all be!"

May 13, 1893.]

We hope we have performed the funeral of the less deserving side of his
work, thereby releasing the immortal part of it to the fuller
recognition due to it from connoisseurs.

All du Maurier's drawings in his best period are distinguished by the
sharpness of contrast between black and white in them. Ruskin, whilst
approving in his _Art of England_ of du Maurier's use of black to
indicate colour, thought he carried the black and white contrast to
chess-board pattern excess. In later years, submitting to the influence
of Keene's method, in which black is always used to secure effects of
tone instead of colour, du Maurier's style underwent a transformation
which, from the purely artistic point of view, was not to its advantage.
Keene's method was justified in his extreme sensitiveness to what
painters define as "values"--the relation in tone of one surface to
another. This particular kind of sensitiveness was not characteristic of
du Maurier's vision, nor was a style so dependent upon subtlety of the
kind suited to express his mind. And here it is interesting to emphasise
the connection which is so often overlooked between temperament and
style. In the observation of human character itself du Maurier always
perceived the broad and distinctive features; the broad ones of type
rather than the subtle ones of individuals; things for him were either
black or white, beautiful or ugly. The twilight in which beauty and
ugliness merge, in which the heroic and the villainous mingle, was
unknown to him--a region in which the white figure of a hero is as
impossible as the black one of a real villain. He observes subtly enough
the airs of those who interest him, but he is not interested in
everybody. He doesn't think much of people who, through lack either of
physical or moral stature, can enter the drawing-room unperceived. He is
not sympathetic to neutral characters. It was because the Victorians
cultivated magnificence that his somewhat rhetorical art described them
with such reality. His pictures were a mirror to the age. Keene was like
Shakespeare--the types he drew might change in costume with the times,
but would reappear in every generation. But du Maurier only drew
Victorians. And thus his art has that vivid local colour which is the
vital characteristic of effective satire.

It is significant that the artist had nursed throughout his youth an
enthusiasm for Byron. Until the influence of Mr. Bernard Shaw had
chilled the air, England remained under the spell of that romantic poet.
The Victorians in everything betrayed the love of glamour. They exalted
the unknown Disraeli out of sheer delight at his Byronic ability to
irradiate everything with romance. There has never been a moment like
the present in which there is a complete absence of pride in tradition,
which is pleasure in romance. But the reason is simple. Our traditions
belong to the pre-Industrial time. The romance of the Victorians was a
last glow in the sky. We might even go as far as to read an occult
significance into the art of Turner, the great painter of the sunset. We
nowadays go back to du Maurier's pictures, where the after-glow remains,
and they seem separated from us by something thicker than time, as if a
great wall had been built up between the age of the twopenny tube and
that of the carriage-and-pair. And lest there should remain a link
between them, over which we might be sentimental, the face of Buckingham
Palace is to be despoiled, the long grey outline, characteristic of
English monarchy in its reticence and repose, is, we imagine, to give
place to something in the image of a prosperous Insurance Office.

Already du Maurier's art is very precious; the environment of the people
whom he depicted is everywhere being smashed up. Our curiosity is
sharpened for everything that remains to reflect those people to us. Our
debt to the mirror of du Maurier's art increases every hour.


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