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John Lawrence Toole

5 of 38 portraits of John Lawrence Toole

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John Lawrence Toole

by Harry Furniss
Pen and ink over preliminary pencil, on white stamped Winsor & Newton card, 1880s-1900s
15 1/4 in. x 12 1/2 in. (387 mm x 318 mm)
NPG 3528

Inscriptionback to top

Signed lower right: ‘Hy.F’.
On reverse inscr. in another hand: ‘J.L. Toole’.

This portraitback to top

This vigorous sketch of Toole in civilian dress rather than stage costume is one of the large number of caricatures by Harry Furniss in the Gallery’s collection. Although not included in the NPG’s ‘Garrick Gallery’ acquisition, it was published in Furniss’s volume with that title, as plate 114, which was printed in 1915 or 1916. Toole died in 1906, after a lengthy retirement, so if drawn from life, the caricature will date from the 1890s, when Toole managed his own theatre. If not drawn from life, it is possible that the present portrait was worked up from earlier sketches, to depict Toole as friends recalled him. Around 1915, Furniss was requested to publish his caricatures of fellow Garrick Club members, and set about the task of collecting those of past and present members, observing that ‘no club in existence brings together so many interesting public characters as the Garrick’, and [also] recalling ‘the “good old days” of Irving and Toole, Joseph Knight and Harry Kemble’. [1]

The spectral image of Henry Irving to the left of Toole’s head here alludes to this era and to the fact that the two actors were lifelong friends. To mark Toole’s forthcoming tour of Australia after the deaths of his wife and daughter, Irving hosted a dinner in Toole’s honour at the club, attended by the Prince of Wales,

on which occasion the Prince interpreted in felicitous and sympathetic language the sentiment of ‘God speed’ which was the heartfelt wish of the distinguished company. The Garrick Club itself then took up the pleasant tale. It is a rare thing for the club to honour a member with a banquet; and on this occasion it was well said that the club honoured itself in its compliment to Mr Toole. His old friend Henry Irving presided, and Toole, in response to the toasts of the evening, was both merry and sad. His keen sense of fun, however, rarely deserts him. The reflection that he would soon be far away from all these dear friends, that however much he might desire to look in upon them he would have to be content with the memory of their companionship, presented itself with a touch of philosophic humour. He invented all kinds of comical situations in which thoughts of them would crop up; and he narrated half a dozen stories apropos of these comical situations, until the whole company was convulsed with laughter; but the grip of the friendly hand was none the less hearty, the suppressed sigh when all was over, none the less sincere. [2]

Furniss’s depiction of a jovial raconteur is in keeping with Toole’s professional image, which by all accounts concealed his prevalent melancholy from 1890 until his death.

Furniss included a second, small sketch of Toole’s head, grinning, alongside one of Irving, in the preface to his Garrick Gallery Caricatures. [3]

See NPG collection 3337–3535, 3554–3620.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Furniss [1915–16], preface.
2) Hatton 1889b, pp.273–4.
3) Furniss [1915–16], preface.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length to left, standing, wearing formal dress, left hand in trouser pocket, right hand raised, thumb indicating faint sketch of Henry Irving above right shoulder.

Provenanceback to top

The artist's sons, from whom purchased through Theodore Cluse, 1947.

Reproductionsback to top

Furniss [1915–16], pl.114.

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View all known portraits for John Lawrence Toole