Bravo Toro! by Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne), July 1848. Steel-engraving. 9.5 cm high by 16.2 cm wide (3 ¾ by 6 ⅜inches), framed, full-page dark plate for Roland Cashel, Chapter IX, "Bravo, Toro! — An Exciting Adventure," facing p. 76. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Lever's Young "Tauridor" caught in Action

“Is he tired?” said Miss Kennyfeck, as Cashel stood close to the paling, and breathed his horse, for what he foresaw might be a sharp encounter.

“No! far from it,” answered Roland; “the fellow has the cunning of an old 'Corridor;' you'll soon see him attack.”

The words were not well uttered, when, with a low deep roar, the bull bounded forward, not in a straight line, however, but zigzagging from left to right, and right to left, as if with the intention of pinning the horseman into a corner. The terrific springs of the great beast, and his still more terrific cries, appeared to paralyze the horse, who stood; immovable, nor was it till the savage animal had approached within a few yards of him, that at last he reared up straight, and then, as if overcome by terror, dashed off at speed, the bull following.

The scene was now one of almost maddening excitement; for, although the speed of the horse far exceeded that of his pursuer, the bull, by taking a small circle, was rapidly gaining on him, and, before the third circuit of the field was made, was actually almost side by side. Roland saw all his danger; he knew well that the slightest swerve, a “single mistake,” would be fatal; but he had been trained to peril, and this was not the first time he had played for life and won. It was then, just at the instant when the bull, narrowing his distance, was ready, by one bound, to drive his horns into the horse's flank, that the youth suddenly reined up, and throwing the horse nearly on his haunches, suffered his pursuer to shoot ahead. The same instant, at least so it seemed, he rose in his stirrups, and winding the rope three or four times above his head, hurled it forth. Away went the floating coils through the air, and with a sharp snap, they caught the animal's fore-legs in their fast embrace. Maddened by the restraint, he plunged forward, but ere he gained the ground, a dexterous pull of the lasso jerked the legs backwards, and the huge beast fell floundering to the earth. The stunning force seemed enough to have extinguished life, and he lay, indeed, motionless for a few seconds, when, by a mighty effort, he strove to burst his bonds. Roland, meanwhile, after a severe struggle to induce his horse to approach, abandoned the effort, sprang to the ground, and by three or four adroit turns of the lasso over the head and between the horns, completely fettered him, and at each fresh struggle passing new turns of the rope, he so bound him that the creature lay panting and powerless, his quivering sides and distended nostrils breathing the deep rage that possessed him. [Chapter IX, "An Exciting Adventure — Bravo, Toro!" pp. 75-76]

Commentary: Cashel's lassoing the "The handsomest bull I ever saw" in the Park

After his reminiscence about getting caught up in a buffalo stampede on the Canadian Prairie, Roland daydreams about his sojourn among the Camaches. However, the Kennyfeck sisters, Olivia and Caroline, recall him abruptly to the present when they ask him to help them escape a boring party of their peers approaching on horseback, among them MacFarlines, Linton, and Lord Charles. Thus roused from his reverie, Cashel breaks into a gallop through the woods, across another grassy plain, and into a portion of the Park beyond the Ranger's Cottage devoted to gardening and agricultural experiments. Here the equestrian draws the attention of his fair companions to a beautiful white bull grazing in a paddock of stout oak palings. "Although of a small breed, he was a perfect specimen of strength and proportion, his massive and muscular neck and powerful loins contrasting with the lanky and tendinous form of the wild animal of the prairies. The girls had not remarked that Roland, beckoning to his servant, despatched him at full speed on an errand, for each was loitering about, amusing herself with some object of the scene" (73). In delight at watching the vigorous prancing of the muscular creature about the enclosure, Cashel cries, "Bravo, toro!" and "Viva el toro!" (73) — after assuring his companions that there is no danger of the creature's springing over or bursting through the fencing.

And now Cashel offers to let Caroline Kennyfeck, the elder of the two beauties, witness his performing the "toro machia." Cashel's groom reappears, "holding in his hands a great coil of rope, to one end of which a small round ball of wood was fastened" (74) which will serve as Roland's lasso. As the terrified sisters watch, mesmerized, Cashel gallops around the bull, whose initial charge he dextrously avoids. The scene realised by Phiz shows the fascinated sisters, left rear, the paddock fence and the gate by which Cashel has entered, and the daring horseman lassoing the white bull. In his haste, Cashel has lost his hat (right foreground), but has retained his riding crop. With more than a suggestion of boastfulness, the daring rider addresses his captive as "Mosquito mio" (76) as he receives the "enthusiastic praise of the elder sister" (76).

Commentary from Michael Steig's Dickens and Phiz (1978)

The dark plate technique, first used in 1847, is applied to all the plates in Lever's Roland Cashel (1848-49), which is thus unique among the full-length novels that Browne illustrated. In some of the etchings the only function of the technique is to produce an even tint, softening the general tone; in others, the grayish background helps to set off the foreground subject (for example, Bravo Toro!); and in several, a basically dark tone plays against grays of varying shades and white highlights. . . . Chapman and Hall's catalogue for November 1849 quotes the Edinburgh News on the topic of Roland Cashel to the effect that "the illustrations by Phiz are the finest we have ever seen anywhere, combining, in a new and noble style, line with etching, thus producing all the mellowness of mezzotint in the happiest manner." [Steig, pp. 307-308]


Lever, Charles. Roland Cashel. With 39 illustrations and engraved title-vignette by Phiz. London: Chapman & Hall, 1850.

Lever, Charles. Roland Cashel. Illustrated by Phiz [Hablot Knight Browne]. Novels and Romances of Charles Lever. Vols. I and II. In two volumes. Boston: Little, Brown, 1907. Project Gutenberg. Last Updated: 19 August 2010.

Steig, Michael. Chapter VII, "Phiz the Illustrator: An Overview and a Summing Up." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington: Indiana U. P., 1978. Pp. 299-316.

Stevenson, Lionel. Chapter II, "The Wandering Scholar, 1827-1830." Dr. Quicksilver: The Life of Charles Lever. London: Chapman and Hall, 1939. Pp. 16-36.

Created 21 October 2002

Last modified 14 December 2022