Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

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that it is not even a tendency subordinate to the human will ;
nor indeed an induction j nor in any sense a scientific proposi
tion ; in short, that it is not the formulation of objective obser
vation, but simply a subjective fancy." This is certainly a pretty
large conclusion, but as Mr. Rice says " we have found " it to
be true, it will be interesting to note in what way he has arrived
at his opinion. The upshot of his reasoning seems to be that
there is such a thing as dissolution, which is the opposite of
evolution, as if any evolutionist had ever questioned it. He
argues, as many tyros have argued before, that evolution is a
false theory because the transformations go both ways. He
reasons that if there is a change from the homogeneous to the
heterogeneous, there is also a change from the heterogeneous to
the homogeneous. Mr. Rice here appeals to authority, saying
" that social progress does not always take the form of a change
from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, has already been
pointed out by Mr. Cliff Leslie (' Fortnightly Review/ Jan., 1879),
who has shown that the movement of ' language, law, and politi
cal and civil unions is, for the most part, in an opposite direction. 7
Mr. Spencer attempts to diminish the force of this criticism by
contending that what Mr. Leslie had in mind is a ' progressing
unification/ a tendency toward greater coherence and not toward
greater homogeneity. But I cannot consider his argument a
valid one."

Now, here again we have excellent evidence that Mr. Rice but
very imperfectly understands what he is writing about. He
quotes an authority, Professor Leslie, a distinguished political
economist and writer on social subjects, who had raised objections
to Mr. Spencer's generalizations, to which Spencer himself had
made reply, but which Mr. Rice regards as not a valid reply.
But here comes an issue between Mr. Rice and the authority he
appeals to. Professor Leslie, who made the objections, has
explicitly retracted them and publicly acknowledged that Mr.


Spencer's reply to them is a valid one. Long before Mr. Rice
had made use, for his purposes, of Leslie's criticism, Professor
Leslie had openly repudiated it. Either Mr. Rice was ill-informed
upon the subject, or he chose to quote an opinion disavowed
by his own authority. Writing in the " London Academy " for
October 23d, 1880, Professor Leslie remarks (p. 287) :

" To take another instance (of the close relation of economic science
with other branches of sociology), the movement of society designated by
Mr. Herbert Spencer as 'from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous/ is
highly important in its economical aspects, and the present writer acknowl
edges that Mr. Spencer's recent reply to some comments of his own on the
doctrine so formulated is, in the main, substantially just and sufficient."
(Appendix to " First Principles " dealing with criticisms.)

This deliberate and public acknowledgment of Professor
Leslie that he was wrong, is not only an example of rare and
admirable candor, but is weighty evidence of the truth of Mr.
Spencer's generalization ; and, what is of less importance, con
victs Mr. Rice either of misrepresenting or of misapprehending
" the authors to whom he refers." It will hardly be needful to
pursue his review further, as its quality is now sufficiently ap
parent. There is a good deal of this sort of " crushing " of Her
bert Spencer by aspiring literary adventurers which is not worth
serious refutation ; and the best rule that can be given for
judging of such efforts is to ask what the writer has ever done
to vindicate his claim to be heard, when he proposes to under
mine and overthrow the careful and life-long work of a thinker
who has made a profound and lasting impression upon the mind
of his age.



THE pictorial embellishment of books is by no means a
modern device. The first attempts at the preservation of
thoughts, of facts, and of events, or at the perpetuation and
enforcement of religious opinions, were symbolical, or literally
figurative. Illustration began upon the walls of temples or of
tombs, and, without the adjunct of a typographical text, spoke
to future generations of the great unprinted book of human
life. Those who, with much painstaking, resorted to drawing,
had a double purpose. There was the immediate gratification
of the eye, but there was also that indefinable desire to be re
membered, and to be known even to the end of time, which of
all animals, so far as we know, man alone possesses. Painting
and drawing supplemented architecture and sculpture. All
faith seeks an outward and formal expression, and all mytholo
gies tend to a material exposition. This is often employed long
after its original significance has passed into oblivion, and
modern Christianity sometimes uses types that had their origin
in Egypt and in India centuries before the monotheistic idea
was developed by the patriarchs and prophets. To most these
types are esoteric, and have hardly the suggestion even of
an exoteric meaning j and it is not improbable that we are now
employing some symbols of our own device which in the f ar-off
future will be entirely unintelligible. As the world becomes more
and more venerable, we may be Egytians or Assyrians to our
distant successors.

Picture illustration belongs to the infancy of modern litera
ture. The block-books were first without text, or the text was
on the same page with the picture. Generally there was no letter
ing except such as sufficed for an explanation of the subject.
The block-books, combining text and illustration, naturally fol
lowed. Here, too, the pictures were the important and prominent



part of the book. Many of them were such books as were made
for children in the last century. The prints were unideal, rude,
and incongruous, but after a fashion they told the story.
Almost all of them were religious. Many of them were simply
childish, although they were intended, undoubtedly, for adults.
Sometimes the print was on a single sheet. It is thought that
these books were originally designed as suggestions of subjects
to the ignorant clergy, but they were soon found in the hands
of the people. As the text, when there was any, was always in
Latin, it was of no value to them. The story was told by the
picture. These books were of no use to men of letters, and
occupied something like the position of the dime novel, or the
lower class of illustrated newspapers, of the present day. Some
times the pictures were printed and the text written. After the
block-books were given up, these pictures were frequently used
for ornamenting typographic work. This combination of letter
press and pictures, coeval with the discovery of printing, though
passing through many fluctuations of public taste, has never been
entirely abandoned. The Bible, and books of travel, poetry, and
romance, were continually and profusely illustrated. Small vol
umes of limited cost had copper frontispieces and title-pages.
The Lykens Bible, printed in the sixteenth century, had almost
as many pictures as Dore's. No chap-book was so poor and rude
as not to have one or two prints, however inartistic. Prayer-
books for the people were almost always thus illustrated, if not
enriched. Certain wood-engravings, having become popular,
were used year after year, until they were incapable of any
further service. The pictorial adornment of all important Eng
lish books during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was
upon a careful and liberal if not an extensive scale, the cop
pers being often on the same page with the text. Cave's " Lives
of the Apostles " (1676) has, besides a full-page copper frontis
piece, a folding copper of two pages, with twenty-eight smaller
copies printed upon the page. If a poem like " Hudibras v was
to be reprinted, an artist like Hogarth was employed to illus
trate it. Very rich authors could print as sumptuously as they
pleased. A copy (two volumes, 1729) of the works of Sheffield,
Duke of Buckingham, has a noble folding portrait of that
author, engraved by Yertue after Kneller, another large plate of
the poet's monument, engraved by Foudrinier, and twenty
smaller coppers (including initial letters) worked on the printed


page, unsigned, but probably also by Foudrinier. To come
down to modern times, " The Hermit of Warkworth," by Bishop
Percy (1771), a mere pamphlet of fifty-two pages, has a beauti
ful copper by Taylor, printed on the title-page, and the lettering
tells us that this was executed through the liberality of the
Duke of Northumberland. A " Dissertation on Oriental Gar
dening," by Sir William Chambers (1772), a pamphlet of ninety-
two pages, has a fine copper on the title-page designed by
Cipriani, and engraved by F. Bartolozzi, with two smaller
prints by that engraver ; and the whole dedication to the King
is engraved on copper " very pretty prints/' as the author calls
them in a letter to Voltaire, while deprecating " the nonsense "
of his own writing. We have given these as minor examples of
the illustrations of the last century. The English books of that
period were sufficiently elegant without carrying pictorial effort
too far for good taste and human patience.

It is a noteworthy fact that the first step in the direction of
a more profuse illustration should have been backward in the
direction of the " Bible for the Poor," and similar ancient pro
ductions the first step, we mean, substantially. In the mere
skill exhibited, of course the modern picture-books were infinitely
superior, however different upon the point of realism. But in
the latest as well as in the earliest time, there was the same con
cession to the limited intellectual capacity of readers. There
could be no books fitted to catch the sixpences of the people
without pictures. All the periodicals designed for the patronage
of the cottage, of the farm-house, of the manufacturing towns,
swarmed with prints. This was the sixteenth century over
again. The apology was hardly candid. The real design was
to sell the " Penny Magazine " ; the pretense was to increase the
sense of art among the lower classes. All the workmen were to
become cognoscenti, and to be able to tell the difference between
an Andrea del Sarto and a Caravaggio. The actual motive was
to catch the eye of children of a larger growth. A tolerably well
engraved wood-cut after the " Transfiguration " could give no
idea of that work specially worth having; no more, in fact,
than the most general notion of the composition of the picture.
It was not of so much value to the illiterate reader as a descrip
tion of the work in prose by Mr. Ruskin would be. Yet the
Society that printed the " Penny Magazine n is entitled to the
credit of a high and honorable aim ; and it failed only through


the fallacy of supposing that the eye could be made to do the
work of the mind, and that the uneducated, without regard to
a hundred adverse conditions, would spring at once to an appre
ciation of what is greatest in art. The end was, that the device
of illustration passed into the hands of those who better under
stood what such readers wanted, and who could furnish ad libi
tum the coarse, the striking, and the realistic.

The ornamentation of manuscript books in the middle ages,
and before the invention of printing, was carried to great ele
gance and perfection. Although black was the color of ink
usually preferred, on account of its greater legibility, texts were
written sometimes in blue, purple, green, gold, and silver inks.
For the border, pictures, and initials, the work was passed to
the designer, and from his hands to those of the illuminator.
Mr. De Vinne, in his " Invention of Printing," says : " The
gravest truths were hedged in with the most childish conceits.
Angels, butterflies, goblins, clowns, birds, snails, and monkeys,
sometimes in artistic, much oftener in grotesque, and sometimes
in highly offensive positions, are to be found in the illuminated
borders of copies of the gospels and the writings of the fathers."
This was mere ornamentation, and not illustration ; but stories,
sometimes from the Scriptures, were embossed upon the leathern
covers. Books of love and song were manufactured in a specially
dainty manner, for the use of ladies. Illustrations in miniature
were produced, and the books were bound with corresponding
elegance. Of such books it is hardly necessary to say the prices
were often enormous. This style of book-making continued
even to the seventeenth century, and for a long time printed
books were looked upon as vulgar by fastidious collectors.

We cannot, of course, set aside practical values. There are
certain departments of literature and of scientific learning in
which an appeal to the eye appears to be necessary, or if not so
absolutely, at least it is so convenient that it would be a waste
of time and labor not to resort to it. This is true of mathe
matics, of mechanical demonstrations, of the physical sciences,
of manuals of navigation, of maps and charts, and of topograph
ical surveying generally. It is equally true of architecture, and
of mensuration and proportion, as applied to machinery. The
inventor must draw his plan upon paper before he can construct
his working model. In the compilation of encyclopaedias, draw
ings save space and secure accurate comprehension. It is draw-


ing that renders objective teaching on a general scale possible.
In natural history, no possible verbal description of birds, of
beasts, of reptiles, or of fishes could be either so rapid or so
effective as a pictorial representation. In popular philological
dictionaries, some engravings have been found useful j while in
newspapers, in which space is really valuable, illustrated adver
tisements have been abandoned. The proprietors of such jour
nals hardly want them at any price, nor would they often repay
the advertiser for the large rates demanded. Prints are used,
though sparingly, in the advertising supplements of the monthly

The ordinary purpose of an illustration is to explain, to
elucidate, to render clear what is obscure or abstruse ; and this
is doubtless the secondary object of the pictorial embellishment
of works of literary character. Used in this way, it differs from
pictures designed to enhance the sumptuousness of a volume,
and to increase its typographical elegance and bibliographical
value, which now appears to be the primary intention. The
writer of a book of travels may not have the faculty, by verbal
description, of bringing to the mind of his readers the beauties
of a landscape, even if he were sure of that reader's capacity or
attention, and so the pictorial is the natural expedient. The
glowing pages of Mr. Buskin attest that a man of genius is not
at the mercy of such resources. The more perfect the letter
press, the less it needs graphic aid, whatever may be thought of
a purely suggested and ideal treatment of the text. A picture
might be made from Shakespeare's description of the Cliff of
Dover, but no picture could add to the sense that he awakens of
its loftiness. The fishermen walking on the beach like mice, the
tall bark diminished to a cock, and especially the surge mur
muring so far down as to be inaudible, could not be put into a
picture at all, nor would the choughs and crows or the sam
phire-gatherers tell much upon canvas ; nothing of these but
mere imitation, the lowest form of art, being available. Not
Turner himself could have added anything from his palette to
the exquisite opening of the Fifth Book of " Paradise Lost "
to the rosy steps of morn advancing, and sowing the earth with
orient pearl ; nor could there be any painting of the fuming rills
and the shrill matin song of birds on every bough. How far
can a wood-engraving, or an etching, or steel or copper repro
duce a scene where all depends upon sound and color ? These


considerations teach us the limits of art, and especially of art as
employed in the manufacture of books, the proportions of which
also negative any adequate suggestion of the wide, the spacious,
or the sublime. Most illustration has the demerits of miniature
painting without its merits. Small reproductions of the masters
even can hardly do more than assist the memory of those who
have been fortunate enough to see the great originals. The idea
that we get from them is pinched and inadequate. How thor
oughly mechanical and material illustration may become, may
be understood by looking over that gigantic failure, BoydelFs
" Illustrations of Shakespeare," not a single print of which, it is
safe to say, ever added one iota either to our enjoyment or com
prehension of the poet. We put down the ponderous volume
with a feeling of relief, quite tired of the wooden Northcotes
and Opies, of Fuseli's epileptic extravagances, and of Benjamin
West's commonplaces in paint. It is a remarkable fact that no
painter has ever won enduring fame by working from writers, if
we except the Bible, which is so much more than any book.
The illustrator has a place by himself, and it is not a high one.
Even Hogarth could do little or nothing with such a book as
" Hudibras," or a great draughtsman like Dore* with the Script
ures, or even with Rabelais, whose wonderful genius seems to
have been quite past the comprehension of that clever French
man, Of what use was the prettiness of Westall to all the poets
whose works he spent his life in adorning with nice frontispieces
and vignettes ? How independent are the best of Bewick's works
of the books in which they appeared ! His beggars, asses, cattle,
peasants, gypsies, and the rest, might all be cut out and put in
a portfolio by themselves, without in the least diminishing their

Portraiture is a department of illustration that requires a
separate consideration. We love naturally to look upon the faces
of distinguished men that are no more to be seen in the flesh j
but, to be at all satisfactory, engravings of them must be after
originals of decided merit. It is questionable whether we have
gained anything in this department of the fine arts by the dis
covery of photography. The best photographs are only by
accident good portraits hardly one perhaps in a hundred. They
give passing moods, and not the whole character. They have a
certain uniformity of expression, which, when many of them are
gathered together, becomes monotonous and tiresome. All these
VOL. CXXXTX. - NO. 336. 35


figures and faces are upon dress parade, and have an appearance
of being looked at. Usually, they exhibit a deplorable lack of
insouciance, and they might, for anything you see in the faces,
be all deaf and dumb. More or less, they have what is insuffer
able in portraiture, an air of dramatic pose, so that the best
photographs taken have been those of actors and of actresses,
whose life is one of display whether upon the stage or facing the
camera. Yet, singularly enough, even in their characteristic
costumes, they look like themselves and not like their characters.
If we compare them with drawings of the same class made dur
ing the last century, with the fine prints of Garrick as " Abel
Drugger," or with the Reynolds portrait of Mrs. Siddons as
u rph e Tragic Muse," we shall discover the difference between
mechanical and intellectual work. How different is the produc
tion of the human hand from that of the camera, in dramatic
portraiture, may be seen by comparing the figures in Bell's
" British Theatre n with those of actors and actresses as pro
duced by the photograph. The former are full of the life and
spirit of the stage ; the latter have no characteristic at all, save
that of self-conscious peacock pride of costume, and the posses
sion of physical beauty. And yet Bell's prints are of an inferior
pictorial order, compared with such a picture as that of the
Kemble family in " Henry VIII.," or with Sir Thomas Lawrence's
portrait of Charles Kemble in " Hamlet." Photography is a cheap
and convenient resource, but the utmost care and skill cannot
make it much better than a manufacture. Its want of original
ity is a necessity. Its merits are its economy, and the rapidity
of execution of which it is capable, together with that superficial
fac-simile resemblance which finds favor in uneducated eyes.

Half of illustration is impertinent. It is a suggestion from
somebody who is perhaps less fitted than the reader to judge of
what he shall admire the most. It is like the irritating comments
that stupid folk scribble upon the margins of novels. " Is not
Jane lovely I " " Beautiful ! " " How brave Charles is ! " Read
ing, to be much more than an amusement, must be an intellectual
process, and this is true, to a certain extent, even of reading that
is considered to be light. A large majority seek to be amused.
If the pictures amuse them more than the text, they will accord
the largest proportion of attention to the pictures, reading just
closely enough to make them comprehensible. A scene, an action,
an event vividly described by the writer, ought of itself to make


a picture in the mind of the reader, and each ought to make his
own. They might differ in details, but these are of no importance
if only the general spirit of the text be observed. But here the
illustrator steps in and makes originality of impression impossi
ble. He takes the work out of the hands of the writer, and dic
tates to the reader what he shall see. No wonder that writers
are often ill-content with the illustration that has been vouch
safed to them. The picture is and can be only one man's notion
of what has been described. It is not a translation ; it is not
even a paraphrase ; it is simply a commentary, wise or unwise,
which, even if one had been needed, has not supplied the need j
and any literature stamped with such characteristics can only
enfeeble the mind and pervert the judgment and diminish the
ability to read to any purpose.

The instances in which the pencil of the illustrator and the
pen of the author can work in perfect accord must necessarily
be fortuitous and few. Apart from intellectual difference of
kind, and the separate demands made upon the mind, it would
be wonderful if there were not usually marked inequality of
power. This is so evident in special instances as hardly to
require demonstration. If we reconsider Shakespeare, for
instance, we find him a perpetual source of illustration. Many
pictures have been painted, statues have been suggested, en
gravings without number produced, pictorial editions of the
plays multiplied, yet there has been no distinctly great produc
tion. Nobody cuts a marvelous figure in the arena who goes
upon crutches at all, and still less he who goes upon borrowed
ones. Boydell's Shakespeare is a frightful example. It is
wooden and academic from the start. It is the most dismal
failure a failure in design and equally so in execution. Fusali's
contributions are a nightmare, and suggestive of delirium
tremens. Northcote's and Opie's figures would hardly do for
the bows of frigates. The women in Peters's " Merry Wives of
Windsor" look, in their lace, as if they had just come out of
brothels. There are no illustrations of " Paradise Lost n that are
worth a farthing, and almost without exception those of " Don
Quixote " are a weariness. Bore's pictures from Rabelais make
the book, which was coarse to begin with, coarser still. The
artist does not seem to have had the least idea of the meaning
of his author, and his illustrations are all un fragrantly redolent
of the nineteenth century. Grandville and Tony Johannot are


much, better, and the latter^ designs for Sterne's " Sentimental
Journey " are really bits of genius in their way. Hogarth did
one or two clever things for " Tristram Shandy," for "Hudibras,"
and for Fielding, including the portrait of the immortal novelist
which he drew from memory, and for which it is said that
Grarrick posed. But down almost to the present time, the illus
tration of literary work was comparatively limited, except in
books that were professedly books of design, like Bewick's. But
we have drifted back to the days of the Biblia Pauperum. This
began in the magazines with Maclise's portraits drawn for
" Fraser," and was followed by such trash as the " Books of
Beauty," the " Drawing-room Scrap-books," and all the parlor-
table annuals. The rage for pictures reached the novelists j

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 47 of 60)