A PAINTER AT PLAY.* As a period of no less
than thirty-two years has passed since Mr. Stacy Marks ceased to write the art criticisms for this journal under the signature of Dry Point," and as in the curious line of his own which he has chosen he has since attained to a unique position in the painter world, it is not surprising that in the kind of autobiography now before us he achieves a variety of subject which alone would make his book a welcome and remarkable one. But it is a good deal more than this. It is the very vintessence of fun and good humour, of cheeriness and friendliness. We will abstain as far as possible from calling Mr. Marks humourist, partly because he candidly informs us that he is quite tired of posing for the character, and partly because we do not believe, that any two people will quite agree as to what harmer really is. It does not follow that a man is not humorous because he fails to perceive the point of some particular joke which a broth er-humourist relishes ; whereas they may chuckle in common over the delights of another which is caviare to a third brother, who nevertheless "sees" the point of the first at once. For an example, let us quote Mr. Marks's nursery-rhyme (for much rhyming has been one of the outcomes of his play-hours) on his fellow-craftsman, Walter Ouless ;— " There is a young painter, named Ouless,
Who to London came ragged and shoeless; Yet he'll make a rich marriage,
And ride in his carriage. If he wat only use Prussian blue less!"
That is a very good instance of nonsense-rhyme; but the fact that Guises does not abuse the qualities of Prussian blue in real life does, in our judgment, detract somewhat from the point of it, as verses of this class, upon real characters, require a foundation of fact. But we have Mr. Marks's assurance that, for making this avowal, we must submit to be regarded' as "matter-of-fact readers with a limited sense of humour," and hide our heads for shame, like one of his own birds. We will try to atone for our dullness by expressing our great general appreciation of the feast of fun that his book provides for us, starting a good laugh at the very opening sentence of his preface, which tells us that "it was neither written with
• Pon and Penal nachos, By Henry Macy Marks. 2 vols. London : Matto and Winds,. 1894.
the remotest idea of supplying a want long felt, nor under- taken at the solicitation of enthusiastic friends." Wanted or not wanted, it will be a welcome addition to many a reader's treasures, and will win Mr. Marks quite a host of friends on all sides, who will even be inclined to solicit him for more. In space and subject he travels over all sorts of ground, and nothing in the whole volume is at once more thoroughly amusing and more entirely novel than the bold indictment of the dog, that recognised "friend of man," as a nuisance and an imposture; all the more so because he shows us in every line of it that he is only half in earnest all the time. His own tribute to Rue,' a half-bred dachshund presented by a friend whom "he had never injured in word, thought, or deed "—a fatuous and commonplace female dog, called by an affectionate diminutive after Ruskin, of whom we hear much in the volume both to interest and amuse—makes us think that our painter is by no means free from the prevailing weakness of mankind for the "unclean beast," notwith- standing his protests concerning him. But his anecdote of the money-finding dog, which he attributes to Landseer, is a very prince among all stories of the kind, and may excite the emulation of many of our correspondents. The dog's master, in the presence of a sceptical friend, hid a five-pound note in the bole of a tree when the dog was paying him no attention. "Go, fetch ! " he said, some time afterwards, while returning by another road, without further explanation. The dog trotted off, and it was a few hours before he joined the two at home. As there were no signs of a note, the sceptical friend grew satirical. But the host opened the dog's mouth, and five sovereigns were concealed under his tongue. He had found the note, been to the bankers, and exchanged it for gold. After which the story of dear little Binkie ' is quite tame. Binkie,' who "resembled the cheap earthenware ornaments of a country cottage," was all fidelity. "Pretend to beat me," said the adoring master to the sceptical friend, "and see if she don't fly at you I" The friend did as he was told ; whereupon Binkie' turned and bit—his master. And who does not know an original for the following dis- quisition P-
" As you walk in company with a man of varied information and general intelligence, except in believing that he keeps a dog, when it is patent to all unprejudiced minds that the dog keeps him and makes him his slave,—as you walk, I say, with such a companion, the flow of talk will be arrested, the point of a story lost, by the vagaries of the dog. He is nowhere to be seen, and has to be whistled for Again and again is the whistling repeated. But not until even the slavish master's patience is nearly exhausted, does the obedient creature come bounding round the corner, his tongue lolling out, and a laughing expres- sion in his eyes. His triumph is complete,—he has made master and friend await his pleasure, and afforded another instance of the subjugating power of dog over man."
That the dog is as much given as a child is (Mr. Marks likes children "in detail, but not in bulk," a truly delightful dis- tinction) to fawn on people who do not care the least about him, is a farther outcome of the artist's observation; and we
doubt not that "Marks on Dogs" will be a fertile source of discussion in many a dog-ridden household.
On his own chosen friends, the birds, the author is of course instructive and amusing to the full, telling us how his attention and interest were first awakened by the Sphinx-like attributes of a wandering stork in the garden of the Hiitel du Rhin at Amiens. The "habit of standing on one leg, the dainty, stealthy, striding walk, the quaint clattering of the mandibles, and a certain weird, almost human expression, as if the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird "—Mr. Marks is severe upon the painters for making their dogs too human ; but does he not do much the same with his own pets F- delighted him so much in that autumn of ISO—just after he ceased to be a critic, it may be noted—that he dethroned the human model in their favour. They do not bore you or tell you long stories, he says, or expect you on your side to amuse them and provide them with 7s. and a hot lunch. A model that will preserve the same attitude for an indefinite time has also its attractions ; and Mr. Marks's visits to the Zoo pro- vided him with infinite opportunities for jest at the expense of mankind,—his favourite studies in that respect at all events. By the remarks of 'Arry and 'Arriet upon his mysterious occupation, he may well have been delighted ; and not the least amusing part of the volume lies in his selections from his correspondence from unknown admirers. One of them who had been asked to write for Cassell about "Artistic Posing," wrote to inquire of him what his methods were "for
placing his bird-models in the -required attitudes." And so delighted was Mr. Marks with the query that he wrote to assure his correspondent that he had formed friendship with many birds which only death could sever ; and that as all birds, particularly the parrot, understand if they do not speak several languages besides their own, he had nothing to do but to say, in any tongue he liked : "Will you kindly stand on one leg with wings outstretched, head a little more to the right ; thank you, now steady!" and the sagacious creature would assume the attitude, and keep it as long as wanted. The correspondence includes an answer to a clergyman who was anxious to convert him as a supposed Jew; a remonstrance with a firm of masons, who wrote to him through his "repre- sentatives" to send him a choice of tombs and crosses ; and a rebuke to an art student of Birmingham who wanted, in a general way, to "know something about mediums."
It is, however, in the personal reminiscences of the book, and the number of interesting men and famous personalities with whom it brings us into contact, that the most attractive part of it will certainly be found. After an. unprofitable though a sufficiently long attempt to learn the business of a coach-builder, and to acquire methodical habits with. a woollen warehouseman, the writer entered artistic life as a student at Leigh's—one of the few private art schools as they then existed in London—and in 182 he went off to Paris with Calderon, to gain what advantage he could from the French teaching, then voted so undoubtedly superior. For five months they occupied one room in the Rue des Martyrs, "in perfect amity, poor but content," sharing the same bed, and dining at the same restaurant. We have much to learn of the very rough ways of the French students towards the "new boys" of the day, from which however they seem to have good-naturedly spared the Englishmen. Marks became a great favourite with them by singing them the old song of "Guy Fawkes" in English, and " knocking " them with the incomprehensible charm of "Bow-wow," by which nickname he was known for weeks. For throughout life the biographer has been a singer of his own comic songs, and he gives us many a specimen of his literary talents in that line, some of which, we must admit, are stronger in intention than execution, having a tendency towards the erratic in scanning, which must make the singer's task a little difficult. But some are very good, particularly "Uncle John," written for Ruskin, who was known by that name in his household. With Calderon, Marks remained firm friends ; and no part of the book is more entertaining than the history of the "Clique," the name chosen for their set by a small club of associates, amongst whom they were the principal. Particularly delightful, too, are the drawings illustrative of them and their doings at this period, most of which are by the late Fred Walker, who achieved so great a reputation in so brief a space of time. Mr. Marks was a true Walker worshipper, and the commencement of his friendship with Ruskin, which grew out of the connection, is characteristic on both sides. When on Walker's death an exhibition of his pictures was got together, Mr. Marks wrote to Raskin for a word of critical commendation to introduce it in the Times, and received instead a full but far from compli- mentary criticism in the true Ruskin style, which neverthe- less, in deference to the writer, he published as it was. We are ourselves inclined to lean towards Ruskin's opinion, with all deference to Mr. Marks; but to both men the result of the correspondence was very creditable, and the consequent friendship became firm, Ruskin finding constant rest and amusement at the house of the "jester," in. which light Mr. Marks's friends persisted in viewing, drawing, and recording him. A humourist in spite of himself he evidently had to be.
On Leech and on Punch, on social meetings and on play- acting (Marks's first play was a transpontine melodrama, and he never forgot the villain), Mr. Marks has his word to say, and he is interesting always. The records of the "Moray Minstrels" will recall a series of pleasant evenings, social and musical, to many as well as the present writer. It was there, though Mr. Marks does not mention it, that Cox and Boo, the forerunner of the Sullivan series, was for the first time performed ; and we are pleased to meet with a passing record of a man little known to the outside world,—Dr. Lavies, a capital improvisatore and singer of the Dibdin school, who would have made himself quite a name in the Garrick days, when prologues and epilogues and occasional addresses formed a more essential part of literary and dramatic life than they have since then. We have not been able to do more in the space of an article than note the salient features of Mr. Marks's delightful book, which will repay the reader from the first page to the last. The characteristic kindliness of the writer cannot be better illus- trated than by his confession, that while doing his best with his critical work, he would rather have applied it to any subject other than painting, as he could not bear to sit in judgment on his brethren of the brash. The extracts which he gives, however, from some of his writings in our columns, indicate all the acumen that his own works show ; and we are glad to think that, as he says, his free expressions of opinion were nowhere meddled with. He has added another and a bright laurel to his wreath ; and will be welcomed as an author at many a fireside where the painter of the birds is a household favourite already.