Nicholas Nickleby HTML version

Chapter 10
How Mr Ralph Nickleby provided for his Niece and Sister-in-Law
On the second morning after the departure of Nicholas for Yorkshire, Kate
Nickleby sat in a very faded chair raised upon a very dusty throne in Miss La
Creevy's room, giving that lady a sitting for the portrait upon which she was
engaged; and towards the full perfection of which, Miss La Creevy had had the
street-door case brought upstairs, in order that she might be the better able to
infuse into the counterfeit countenance of Miss Nickleby, a bright salmon flesh-
tint which she had originally hit upon while executing the miniature of a young
officer therein contained, and which bright salmon flesh- tint was considered, by
Miss La Creevy's chief friends and patrons, to be quite a novelty in art: as indeed
it was.
'I think I have caught it now,' said Miss La Creevy. 'The very shade! This will be
the sweetest portrait I have ever done, certainly.'
'It will be your genius that makes it so, then, I am sure,' replied Kate, smiling.
'No, no, I won't allow that, my dear,' rejoined Miss La Creevy. 'It's a very nice
subject--a very nice subject, indeed--though, of course, something depends upon
the mode of treatment.'
'And not a little,' observed Kate.
'Why, my dear, you are right there,' said Miss La Creevy, 'in the main you are
right there; though I don't allow that it is of such very great importance in the
present case. Ah! The difficulties of Art, my dear, are great.'
'They must be, I have no doubt,' said Kate, humouring her good- natured little
'They are beyond anything you can form the faintest conception of,' replied Miss
La Creevy. 'What with bringing out eyes with all one's power, and keeping down
noses with all one's force, and adding to heads, and taking away teeth
altogether, you have no idea of the trouble one little miniature is.'
'The remuneration can scarcely repay you,' said Kate.
'Why, it does not, and that's the truth,' answered Miss La Creevy; 'and then
people are so dissatisfied and unreasonable, that, nine times out of ten, there's
no pleasure in painting them. Sometimes they say, "Oh, how very serious you
have made me look, Miss La Creevy!" and at others, "La, Miss La Creevy, how
very smirking!" when the very essence of a good portrait is, that it must be either
serious or smirking, or it's no portrait at all.'
'Indeed!' said Kate, laughing.
'Certainly, my dear; because the sitters are always either the one or the other,'
replied Miss La Creevy. 'Look at the Royal Academy! All those beautiful shiny
portraits of gentlemen in black velvet waistcoats, with their fists doubled up on
round tables, or marble slabs, are serious, you know; and all the ladies who are
playing with little parasols, or little dogs, or little children--it's the same rule in art,
only varying the objects--are smirking. In fact,' said Miss La Creevy, sinking her
voice to a confidential whisper, 'there are only two styles of portrait painting; the
serious and the smirk; and we always use the serious for professional people