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OHN LEECH, whose huinorous pictures
of English life and character for so many
years were the soul of “Punch" and the delight of nearly the entire English-speaking world, was born in London about 1817, and died there on October 29, 1864, at the comparatively early age of forty-seven. His drawings appeared in “ Punch" soon after its establishment, and continued up to the time of his death. The social features and extravagances of England never found a more apt or kindly delineator, and in sporting scenes he was pre-eminent. One characteristic of Leech's drawings, as it is of those of his distinguished successor, Du Maurier, is
their fidelity to English life. The slight exaggerations which the artist permits himself never affects the value of his drawings as accurate pictures of social conditions. “Many people, remarks Mr. Henry James, in his recent essay on Du Maurier, “have gathered their knowledge of English life almost entirely from Punch,' and it would be difficult to imagine a inore abundant and, on the whole, a more accurate informant. The accumulated volumes of this periodical contain evidence on a multitude of points of which there is no mention in the serious works—not even in the novels-of the day. The sinallest details of social habit are depicted there, and the oddities of a race of people in whom oddity is strangely compatible with the dominion of convention.” It is to be further remarked of social caricatures in “ Punch," that they are very rarely coarse, cruel, or bitter. There are very few lapses
of taste; and for the most part they are remarkable for their genial and even friendly spirit. “Punch" has satirized every class, every social foible, every form of national caprice, but it has made no enemies, and to-day there are few held in greater affection and esteem in England than two of the most persistent satirizers of its people -John Leech and George du Maurier.
The selections for this little volume have been made with the purpose of representing the artist in all the various forms of his work—as a humorist, as a satirist, and as a delineator of character and social life. “Leech,” says Mr. James,
never made a mistake ; he did well whatever he did. He was always amusing, always full of sense and point, always intensely English.”