The Art of Illustration – Necessity For Accuracy Of Reference To Text

THE illustrator should keep his text handy to refer to at all times, or he will fall into small errors of detail that ten members of the public will notice, ninety-nine per cent. of whom will write to the papers, the editors, and the publishers about, asking why so incompetent a person is allowed to exist. If he should represent a sirloin instead of a round of beef, as I once did in some illustrations to Tom Brown’s School-days, he may share my experience—there was a long and angry letter published in the Daily Chronicle about it, which H. G. Wells, with whom I was staying, read out to me at breakfast. We danced round the table with delight—but the man was perfectly correct—it ought to have been a round of beef, and I am sorry that I offended ” X,” the unknown gentleman. But in spite of all our care, an error sometimes slips in. The ” S.Y. Vectis ” happened to be mentioned in a short story which I was asked to illustrate in a hurry for a well-known magazine. We imagined the ” Vectis ” to be a real boat ; and, at my request, the Art Editor rang up the P. & 0. for any illustrated pamphlets or material they might have, so that the drawings might be accurate.

Nothing came, and I wrote myself. Nothing came. The Art Editor wrote and I telephoned—and then—an avalanche of literature descended in two lots on each of us, all different—so that eventually I had a pile about eight inches high, but nothing quite to my purpose. However, we had done our best, and my hurried sketches appeared, finally, more hurried for the delay. I received a heavy rebuke from a clergyman at Ely pointing out that on a lifebuoy which I had introduced into the background I had put ” S.Y. Vectis, London,” whereas her port of entry was Greenock. I was reminded of Whistler’s ” Admission ” in the ” Gentle Art of Making Enemies,” when he had misspelt Piazzetta with one z and committed other enormities

” Who could possibly have supposed an orthographer loose I Evidently too ung vieulx qui a moult roule en Palestine et aultres lieux ! ”

What it is to be prepared, though I Atlas, mon pauvre ami, you know the story of the witness who, when asked how far he stood from the spot where the deed was done, answered unhesitatingly : ” Sixty-three feet, seven inches ! ” ” How, Sir,” cried the prosecuting lawyer, ” how can you possibly pretend to such accuracy ? ” ” Well,” returned the man in the box, ” you see I thought some dumbass fool would be sure to ask me, and so I measured.”