English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century/Chapter 5
THE CARICATURES OF ISAAC ROBERT CRUIKSHANK.
The Brothers Cruikshank.It was the misfortune of the brothers Cruikshank that they outlived their popularity: in the case of the younger brother, this result (as we shall presently see) must be attributed in a certain measure to his own fault; but as regards Robert, his efforts as a caricaturist were destined to be eclipsed by the greater novelty and attractions of HB, whilst a tendency to carelessness, and the absence of actual genius, prevented him from attaining lasting celebrity in the line of book illustration which George made so peculiarly his own. The final result, however, was the same in both cases; and the brothers might have said with truth, that, in suffering both to die poor and neglected, the British public treated both with the strictest impartiality. Here, however, the impartiality ended; for whilst over two hundred articles have been penned in praise of the brilliant man of genius, poor Robert Transit (a name strictly appropriate to his memory) reposes in his nameless grave still unregarded and still forgotten. Few writers indeed have wasted pen and ink about Robert Cruikshank or his work: Robert William Buss, in his book on "English Graphic Satire" (a work published for private circulation only), devotes exactly a line and a half to his memory; his friend, George Daniel, gives him a few kindly words in memoriam; Professor Bates's essay on his brother George contains several pages of valuable information in relation to some of his book illustrations; whilst Mr. Hamilton presents us with a dozen specimens of work of this kind which are nothing less than libels on his graphic powers. To the general public of to-day the name of Robert Cruikshank is so little known, that comparatively few are cognizant of the fact that he was one of the most popular and successful graphic satirists of his time. It is the misfortune of the caricaturist that his wares attain only a transitory popularity, whilst it is their peculiarity that after he is dead their value is increased fourfold. It is by no means uncommon for five and even seven shillings to be demanded and obtained for one of the impressions of Robert's plates, which in his lifetime could have been purchased at the cost of a shilling. It is the design of this chapter to rescue the memory of a clever artist from undeserved oblivion, and restore him to that place in comic art which he once occupied, and which it seems to us he deserved to fill not only on account of his own merits, but by reason of being associated in illustrations of a different character with such men as his brother George, Robert Seymour, Thomas Rowlandson, John Leech, and other artists of genius and reputation.
Isaac Robert, or rather Robert Cruikshank (as he usually styled himself), was born in 1790. He had as a boy acquired the groundwork of his technical education as an artist and etcher under the direction of old Isaac his father; but we personally have met with little of his work prior to 1816, which is accounted for by the fact that he followed for a short time a sea life in the service of the East India Company, and after having thrown this up in favour of a calling more congenial to his tastes, he devoted himself for some years almost exclusively to miniature and portrait painting, by which he earned not only a fair livelihood, but a certain amount of fashionable patronage. Gradually, however (George tells us), he abandoned this occupation, and took almost exclusively to designing and etching He occasionally alternated his work with water-colour drawing, in which he is said to have greatly excelled. His works in this line are extremely rare, for Robert had neither the means nor the patience to wait for the tardy patronage to be commanded by a higher walk in art; there was a demand for caricatures and comic etching in his day, which afforded a present means of livelihood, and Robert's water colours were executed more by way of relaxation than in the way of actual artistic pursuit. Among his early caricatures we may mention a rough and coarsely coloured affair engraved by him after the design of an amateur, published by Fores on the 28th of April, 1816, entitled, The Mother's Girl Plucking a Crow, or German Flesh and English Spirit. The Princess Charlotte, as we have seen, had an undoubted will of her own, and could, as we have also seen, assert it when occasion demanded. Here she is presented to us at the moment when a hideous German duenna, catching her in the act of writing to her mother abroad, orders her at once to desist. The princess, however, in plain terms, enforced with a clenched fist, gives her clearly to understand that she fully intends to have her own way. Another caricature, published by T. Sidebotham, in 1817, bearing the title of The Horse Marine and his Trumpeter in a Squall, is dedicated to the United Service Club.
Strange French FashionsSubjects for the pencil of a clever graphic satirist were not wanting sixty years ago. France in those days set the fashion both in male and female attire, and the strangest eccentricities had marked the emancipation of that country from the thraldom of the Terror. There were the incroyables, a set of young dandies who affected royalist sympathies, and paraded the streets of Paris when young Napoleon was yet a general in the service of the Directory. They wore short-waisted coats with tails of preposterous length, cocked hats of ponderous dimensions, green cravats, powdered hair plaited and turned up with a comb, while on each side of the face hung down two long curls called dogs' ears (oreilles de chien). These charming fellows carried twisted sticks of enormous size, as weapons of offence and defence, and spoke in a peculiarly affected manner. Some fourteen or fifteen years later on, when we had driven Joseph Bonaparte and his brother's legions out of Spain, the fashions had not improved. The biographer of Victor Hugo gives us the picture of one Gilé, a Parisian dandy of that period, whose coat of olive brown was cut in the shape of a fish's tail, and dotted all over with metal buttons even to the shoulders. Young men who went to moderate lengths in fashion were content to wear the waists of their coats in the middle of their backs, but the waist of this Gild intruded on the nape of his neck. His hat was stuck on the right side of his head, bringing into prominent notice on the left a thick tuft of hair frizzed out with curling irons. His trousers were ornamented with stripes which looked like bars of gold lace; they were pinched in at the knees and wide at the bottom, giving his feet the appearance of elephant's hoofs. Our own costume had been strange enough, in all conscience; but when Napoleon's continental system had been broken up after Leipzig, and a free market had been once more opened out between this Country and foreign nations, fashions more strange and eccentric, if possible, found their way into England. Thackeray, when writing his "Vanity Fair," the scenes of which are laid prior and subsequent to the battle of Waterloo, was fain to confess that he had intended to depict his characters in their proper costumes; "but when he remembered the appearance of people in those days, he had not the heart to disfigure his heroes and heroines by costumes so hideous," and thenceforth he habited these men and women of 1815 in the costume of the men and women of 1848. George Cruikshank's "Monstrosities" are familiar to all acquainted with his works; and his brother Robert and his contemporaries were equally fond of ridiculing the preposterous fashions of their time. We find in the year 1818 a pictorial satire by Robert, which shows us a pair of Dandies at Tea, habited in the short-waisted, long-tailed coats, tight breeches, terrific stocks, shirt collars, and top boots of the period. "My dear fellow, Mr. Sim," one of them, asks, "is your tea agreeable?" to which the other answers, "Charming, my dear Lollena; where do you buy it?" They are seated in an attic, which, like that of the cobbler, serves "for parlour and bedroom and all," and the washing of the tenant hangs suspended on a line above the heads of the interesting pair. We find another the same year, entitled, Dandies having a Treaty wherein we are shown a couple of eccentricities in a confectioner's shop; one of them, who eyes himself with much complacency in the glass, has his back to us, and is habited, à la Gilé, in a very tight coat, whose tail commences just below its collar and narrows to a very fine point when it reaches its extremity; short wide trousers terminate at the knees, at which points they are met by a pair of Wellington boots. He entreats his equally strangely dressed companion to pay no attention to the uncomplimentary remarks of certain rude people who stand at the door and seem strongly inclined to subject them to the discipline of the pump. The pretty girl in attendance expresses to herself a hope that "the creatures will leave the shop," as she fears the exasperated people will do some mischief. Another caricature of the same year shows us A Dandy Shoemaker in a Fright, or the Effects of Tight-lacing. In stooping to measure a lady's foot, the fellow's stays have given way, and he evidently fears he shall tumble to pieces. In another subject, Robert shows us a couple of dandies diving into a countryman's pockets, in the neighbourhood of St. James's Palace; others are entitled respectively, A Dandy put to his Last Chemisette, or Preparing for a Bond Street Lounge; A Dandy Cock in Stays; and The Hen-pecked Dandy. Besides those already mentioned, I find four or five other coarse caricatures of Robert's, published by Fores in 1818.
Robert Cruikshank was "a man about town" in those days, and the "dandies" whom he and his fellow caricaturists satirized and ridiculed were the sham "Corinthians" of his time. Apart from the idea of caricature they must have been queer fellows—these men with the large eye-glasses, squat broad-brimmed hats, huge cravats and collars, cauliflower frills, tight coats, short bell-shaped trousers, and well-spurred Wellington boots! In one of the satires of the time (which I take to be Robert's) we see five of them preparing for conquest in a hairdresser's shop; and the "make up" comprises, in addition to the tremendous neckties, cauliflower frills, and top-boots of the period, false calves and stays, a pair of which the Frenchman hairdresser is lacing for one of his customers. Another of the party, who has completed the upper part of his toilet, is so hampered with the voluminous folds and stiffening of his cravat that he cannot wriggle into his unmentionables. The caricaturists take us into the garrets of these fellows, abodes of squalor and wretchedness, and show us that beneath their exterior magnificence there is nothing, or next to nothing. In a pair of rough anonymous satires—The Dandy Dressing at Home and The Dandy Dressed Abroad—the former shows us how the completed figure is built up. The absence of a shirt is concealed by an amply frilled "dickey," the dirty feet protrude from the well-nigh footless stockings, the bare arms are clothed at the extremities only by the cuffs, while a pair of huge seals dangling from a ribbon guard form pendants to a latch-key instead of a gold watch. The fellow's washing bill, which lies on the dressing-table before him, comprises four items—all of them collars. On the ground, side by side with the Wellington boots, which he himself has just been cleaning, lie the open pages of "The Beau's Stratagem." In a sketch by the always coarse satirist Williams, two of these fellows have been decoyed into an infamous house and drugged, and the indignation of the bully and his female assistants is intense when they find that their watches are not even pinchbeck, but only pincushions.
The "Corinthian Kates" who figure in the satirical sketches of this period are members of the demi monde. An excellent undated sketch, signed "J. L. M. fect," entitled, A Dandyess, is divided into two compartments. The first scene shows us the completed figure (a most absurd one), and the second (which is laid in the lady's garret) how the magnificent result has been attained. We find her engaged in ironing her chemisette; over the fire are suspended her stockings; on a stool near her stand her bottles of cosmetic and a pot of rouge; on the floor her "artificial hump"; while her preposterous bonnet and other articles of costume hang from different articles of the scanty furniture.
1819.Robert Cruikshank continues his attacks upon the fops in 1819. In that year we meet with A Dandy Sick; Dandies on their Hobbies, and Female Lancers, or a Scene in St. James's Street, chiefly remarkable on account of the costume of the two men who figure therein. Besides these we meet with a sort of pictorial allegory, entitled, The Mysterious Fair One, or the Royal Introduction to the Circassian Beauty, in which a foreign fair one is supposed to be introduced to the Regent's harem. The veil being removed discovers to him the well-known features of his neglected wife, from whom he recoils in abhorrence. The bulky figure of the Regent who, under the influence of copious port wine libations and general good living, had grown preposterously fat, is admirably preserved by both the Cruikshanks. The head and wig, tapering to an apex, remind one somewhat of the French poire caricatures which disturbed the serenity of Louis Philippe, and preceded the revolutionary period of 1848.
Other caricatures by Robert of this year (1819) are labelled respectively, The Political Champion turned Resurrection Man, having reference to Cobbett and "Orator Hunt"; The Master of the Ordnance Exercising his Hobby; A Steward at Sea in a Vain Tempest, or Gaining the Point of Matrimony in Spite of Squalls; A New Chancery Suit Removed to the Scotch Bar; The Ladies' Accelerator (two women on hobbies); Collegians at their Exercises, or Brazen Nose Hobbies; A New Irish Jaunting Car; and a satire entitled Landing at Dover and Overhauling the Baggage, which would appear to refer to some incivilities on the part of the custom house authorities to the Persian ambassador and his suite. The subject was probably only etched by the artist from the design of another, and is so grossly treated that in spite of the admirable workmanship we cannot further describe it. Besides these we have the now well-known Going to Hobby Fair (the only caricature of Robert which would seem to be known to those who have troubled themselves about him), and a far better one of contemporary date, entitled, Cruising on Land, or Going to Hobby Horse Fair.
The Queen's TrialAmong the caricatures on the popular side in connection with the queen's trial in 1820, we find one by Robert, entitled, The Secret Insult or Bribery and Corruption Rejected, which has reference to the overtures which, as we have seen in the previous chapter, were made to her by the ministers in the hope of avoiding, if possible, a public exposure; and here Lord Liverpool is represented in the act of offering to Her Majesty a purse. "Abandon," lie says, "your claim to the throne, change your name and the livery, and retire to some distant part of the earth, where you may never be seen or heard of any more; and if £50,000 per annum will not satisfy you—what will?" To which the queen (who assumes an appearance of virtuous indignation) replies, "Nothing but a crown." Brougham turns his back, saying, "I turn my back on such dirty work as this," the tact being, as we have seen, that he had really entered into negotiations with the ministers on the queen's behalf, which she afterwards angrily repudiated. The devil pats him on the back. "Well done, Broom," he says; "you have done your business well." By the side of the queen stands a figure, possibly meant for Alderman Wood, earning "a shield for the innocent," and "a sword for the guilty"; behind her in the distance is a ship, bearing the title of "The Wooden Walls of Old England."
In our last chapter we mentioned the estimation in which the witnesses against Caroline of Brunswick were held by her sympathizers and the general public, and Robert's political views naturally inclined him to take the popular side. Those who saw them before they were housed in Cotton Garden, describe them as swarthy, ditty looking fellows, in scanty ragged jackets and greasy leathern caps; at the bar of the House, however, they looked as respectable as fine clothes and soap and water could make them. To this a caricature of Robert's, entitled, Preparing the Witnesses—a View in Cotton Garden, refers. Three dirty foreigners are being washed, with no satisfactory result, in a bath labelled, "Waters of Oblivion," "Non Mi Ricordo," and "Ministerial Washing Tub." One of the operators (probably the Attorney-General, Sir Robert Gifford) remarks that "he never had such a dirty job in his life"; seated around are a number of equally dirty foreigners awaiting their turn. On the same theme and in the same year we find The Milan Commission (a very rough affair); The Master Cook and his Black Scullion composing a Royal Hash; and a satire on the alderman, who, in spite of his Carolinian and popular sympathies, figures therein under the familiar title of "Mother Wood."
1821. The fallowing year gives us All My Eye (a skit upon Hone's "Eulogium on the Radical Press"), representing a large eye, within the pupil of which we see a printing press, whereon rests a portrait of Queen Caroline; and also an admirable work, divided into two compartments, bearing respectively the titles of The Morning after Marriage, and Coke upon Albemarle—not Coke upon Littleton.
Duel between the Dukes of Buckingham and Bedford A somewhat ludicrous affair of honour took place in 1822. In consequence of some words used by the Duke of Bedford in reference to the Duke of Buckingham at the Bedfordshire county meeting, a hostile meeting took place in Kensington Gardens between the two noblemen on the 2nd of May. The seconds were Lord Lynedock and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. Both parties fired together at a distance of twelve paces, but without effect; when the Duke of Buckingham, observing that the Duke of Bedford fired into the air, advanced to his grace, and remarking that for that reason the affair could go no farther, said: "My Lord Duke, you are the last man I wish to quarrel with; but you must be aware that a public man's life is not worth preserving unless with honour." The Duke of Bedford replied, that "upon his honour he meant no personal offence to the Duke of Buckingham, nor to impute to him any bad or corrupt motive whatever"; and here this somewhat absurd event terminated. Robert commemorates it in a caricature, entitled, A Shot from Buckingham to Bedford, which cannot be said to be complimentary to either of the principals, one of the walls bearing the inscription in very large letters of "Rubbish may be shot here." Another admirable caricature of the year is entitled, The Treadmill, or Stage-struck Heroes, Blacklegs, and Cadgers stepping it to the tune of Mill, Mill O! a sort of general satire; card-sharpers, decayed "Corinthians," and other vagabonds, are undergoing a course of hard labour upon the wheel, which was then a comparatively new invention, their movements being accelerated by a gaoler armed with a heavy whip, who bears some resemblance to, arid is probably intended for, the artist himself. A third excellent pictorial satire of the same year bears the title of Pope Mistaken.
French Interposition in Spain The year 1823 is remarkable for the interposition of the French Bourbon king into Spanish politics. The Spanish military, under the influence of Riego and other officers, and encouraged by the discontent of the middle classes, had revolted in 1820 against the despotism of Ferdinand, and succeeded in establishing a constitution, which, in spite of its imperfections, was preferable to the absolute and irresponsible government of the Spanish monarchy. This state of things was peculiarly distasteful to Louis XVIII., on account of the evil example it afforded to his subjects; and, fortified by the sympathy of the "Holy Alliance" (which may be shortly described as a sort of trades union of sovereigns to resist all political changes not originating with themselves), he determined to put it down. In his speech to the chambers on the 28th of January, he announced that, "the infatuation with which the representations made at Madrid had been rejected, left little hope of preserving peace. I have ordered," he said, "the recall of my minister; one hundred thousand Frenchmen, commanded by a prince of my family [the Duc d'Angoulème]—by him whom my heart delights to call my son—are ready to march, invoking the God of St. Louis, for the sake of preserving the throne of Spain to a descendant of Henry the Fourth, of saving that fine kingdom from its ruin, and of reconciling it with Europe." The real cause of interposition, however, is indicated a few sentences afterwards: "Let Ferdinand the Seventh be free to give to his people institutions which they cannot hold but from him, and which, by securing their tranquillity, would dissipate the just inquietudes of France, [and] hostilities shall cease from that moment."
We have neither time, space, nor inclination to relate the events of this invasion; suffice it to say that, owing to the cowardice of the Spaniards, it was a complete "walk over" for the French, who, in five months after they had crossed the Bidassoa, had penetrated to Cadiz, dispersed the Cortes, and restored the despotism of Ferdinand.
|R. Cruikshank fecit.]||[A. G.—Published May, 1823|
"John Bull flourishing in a dignified attitude of strict neutrality!!!!"
Face p. 99
Hughes Ball.One of Robert's satires of this year, entitled The Golden Football, has obvious reference to Hughes Ball, known at Eton by his surname of Hughes only, but who took the further name of Ball on coming into a fortune of forty thousand a year left him by his uncle, Admiral Sir Alexander Ball, and thenceforth received his appropriate nickname of the "Golden Ball." He was considered a great catch by all the mothers in London; but, notwithstanding his money, was unfortunate in love, being jilted by Lady Jane Pager, rejected by Miss Floyd (afterwards the wife of Sir Robert Peel), and then by Lady Caroline Churchill. The young ladies hearing of his numerous disappointments, were disinclined to encourage a man so proverbially unfortunate. By way, perhaps, of revenge, Hughes Ball this year ran off with and married Mademoiselle Mercandotti, première dansense at His Majesty's Theatre, a beautiful girl of sixteen, reported in the scandal of the day to be a natural daughter of the Earl of Fife. The incident of Lady Jane Paget we have mentioned is thus referred to by Charles Molloy Westmacott, the Ishmael of the press of his day, in the English Spy, a work which, as we shall presently see, was also illustrated by the artist:—
"Now, by my faith, it gives me pain
Other of Robert's satires of the same year bear the title of The Commons versus the Crown of Martyrdom, or King Abraham's Coronation Deferred; and A View in Cumberland, that is the royal duke of that name—a most unpopular personage, and of course proportionately fertile subject of satire in his time.
The Tenth Hussars.Among Robert's pictorial satires of 1824, I find one entitled Arrogance or Nonchalence of the Tenth Reported,—the "tenth" here referred to being the Tenth Hussars. This distinguished regiment set the pencils of the Brothers Cruikshank and their fellow caricaturists in motion at this period, and I find an amazing number of caricatures of the date of 1824, of which they form the subject. The officers would seem to have acquired considerable unpopularity by the exclusive airs they gave themselves in society, refusing to dance, declining introductions at public and private balls, and otherwise assuming an arrogant and exclusive tone which made them supremely ridiculous. So far did they carry these absurdities, that they even declined to associate with an officer of their own regiment unless he previously submitted to them the particulars of his birth, parentage, and education, and general claim to be admitted to the privilege of their august society. A certain Mr. Battier, who seems to have been ignorant of the peculiar arrangement they had established in opposition to the rules and policy of the service, had obtained from the Duke of York a cornetcy in the regiment, but not having submitted himself to the examination referred to, or possibly not answering to the exclusive requirements of the regiment, was forthwith sent to Coventry by his courteous brother officers. The result, of course, was that the unlucky gentleman, finding no one to speak to him, was forced to- retire on half pay, which he was unfortunate enough afterwards to forfeit by not unnaturally sending a challenge to the colonel of the regiment.
Miss Foote.Maria Foote at this time was one of the most popular actresses in London. Some years before she had come on a starring tour to Cheltenham, a town much affected by the notorious Colonel Berkeley, who being passionately devoted to the stage, and possessed moreover of some histrionic ability, gallantly offered to perform for her benefit. The colonel was notorious for his gallantries; under a promise of marriage—which could not then, he said, be carried into effect, inasmuch as he was then petitioning the Crown to grant him the dormant peerage, which a marriage with an actress could not fail to prejudice—he succeeded in accomplishing her seduction, and she continued to live under his "protection" till, on the birth of her second child, she arrived at the true conviction that he never had any intention of fulfilling his promise. There was at this time a silly fellow about town, Mr. Joseph Hayne, of Burderop Park, Wiltshire, familiarly known (in reference to the colour of his coat) as "Pea Green Hayne," who fell in love with and proposed to the fascinating actress. There was no attempt at concealment on her part: it was stated at the trial which followed that she herself wished to communicate to him the circumstance of her connexion with Colonel Berkeley, when this gallant gentleman saved her the trouble of doing so, and one night when they were in the pit of the opera together, took the characteristic course of making Hayne acquainted with the liaison, and the fact that it still existed. Hayne immediately broke off the engagement; but soon afterwards not only renewed it, but fixed the day of marriage. Again he broke it off, again yielded to the fascinations of his enslaver, and this time not only was the wedding-day fixed and the license obtained, but "Pea Green Hayne" took a solemn vow that nothing should separate him from the object of his affections. Believing that all was safe, Miss Foote now threw up her engagement and disposed of her theatrical wardrobe, but the weak-minded, vacillating creature, who could not summon up resolution either to have or to leave her, let matters go on to the very day, and again failed to put in an appearance. Some preliminary letters having passed between the parties, Maria then issued a writ, and recovered £3,000 damages in the action which followed. The plaintiff, who seven years afterwards became Countess of Harrington, died in 1867.
"Pea Green" Hayne was also known as the "Silver Ball," in allusion to his large income, which was smaller however than that enjoyed by his friend and contemporary, Hughes Ball. After his exposure in the action Foote v. Hayne, he received the far more appropriate nickname of "Foote-Ball."
The opportunity of course was improved by the caricaturists, and Robert's contributions on the subject (1824 and 1825) are labelled respectively, Miss Foote in the King's Bench Battery; Miss Foote putting her Foot in it; and A Foot on the Stage and Asses in the Pit, or a New Year's Piece for 1825. Other pictorial satires of Robert's bearing the date of 1824, are: A Civic Louse in the State Bed; A Cut at the City Cauliflower; The Corinthian Auctioneer; two very coarse but well drawn subjects—Moments of Prattle and Pleasure and Moments of Parting with Treasure; and an exquisitely drawn sketch bearing the title of Madame Catalani and the Bishop of Limbrig, having reference to some musical festival at Cambridge, the point of which has been lost, but which is remarkable for the admirable likeness of the popular singer.
1825.The conduct of Colonel Berkeley in reference to the case Foote v. Hayne, called forth, as might have been expected, some severe strictures from the press, and in particular Mr. Judge, editor of the Cheltenham Journal, which place the colonel honoured with his patronage and society, had occasionally indulged in animadversions on his conduct In one of the numbers of his paper an article appeared, in which some satirical observations were made with reference to the annual "Berkeley Hunt" ball. On the afternoon of that day Colonel Berkeley accompanied, by two of his friends, called at Mr. Judge's residence, and being invited to walk in, the colonel asked Mr. Judge if he would name the author of the papers which had appeared in the Journal. Mr. Judge said he did not know whom he had the honour of addressing, and on learning who he was, proposed that he should call at the office of the paper, "where he would give him every satisfaction." Colonel Berkeley replied, "No, sir! Now, sir! Now, sir!" and without further notice commenced a cowardly attack on the unarmed man by beating him over the head and face with the butt-end of a heavy hunting whip. To make the dastardly affair more dastardly if possible, one of the two fellows with him stood at the door, and the other near the fire place, so as to prevent Judge from seizing any weapon or calling any one to his assistance. For this ruffianly assault, which placed poor Judge for some time in considerable danger of his life, he subsequently recovered substantial damages against his cowardly antagonist. The Colonel got a far worse dressing from Robert Cruikshank who, in a severe contemporary skit, named (in allusion to the colonel's notorious illegitimacy) Colonel Fitz Bastard, depicted him and his friends in the act of assaulting the editor of the Cheltenham Journal.
Edmund Kean.The artist's tastes and sympathies threw him much in the society of actors. The following year his thoroughly Bohemian friend, Edmund Kean, was mulcted in £800 damages, in consequence of a disgraceful liaison with the wife of Alderman Cox; and while audiences thronged the one theatre to testify their sympathy for a favourite and popular actress, they crowded the other to howl and hiss at the thoroughly disreputable and disgraced .tragedian. The episode is referred to by the artist in three of his contemporary caricatures, labelled respectively, Wolves Triumphant, or a Fig for Public Opinion; A Scene from the Pantomime of Cock-a-DoodleDoo, lately performed at Drury Lane with unbounded applause; and the Hostile Press, or Shakespeare in Danger, all of which contain perhaps the best theatrical portraits of the popular tragedian which are extant.
Sir Walter Scott also figures in one of Robert's satires of this year entitled, The Great Unknown lately discovered in Ireland, wherein he is represented in Highland costume, with the Waverley novels on his head, holding by the hand a small figure in hussar uniform, intended for his son, Captain Scott of the 18th hussars, who this year had married Miss Jobson, of Lochore. The pair after their marriage returned to Ireland, where the captain was quartered, and where he and his wife were visited by Sir Walter in August of this year. Although the fact was pretty well known, the authorship of the novels was not avowed until February of the following year, when with Sir Walter's consent it was proclaimed by Lord Meadowbank at a theatrical dinner on the 27th of February.
The Living Skeleton. A very curious personage makes his appearance in Robert's sketches of this year, who would seem at first sight to be the most outrageously caricatured of any of his subjects, and yet this in truth is not the case. This person was the celebrated Claude Ambroise Seurat, "the living skeleton," who was exhibited at the Chinese saloon in Pall Mall, and whose portrait from three different points of view was taken by Robert Cruikshank, and afterwards appeared in the first volume of Hone's "Every-day Book," where a full account of this very singular personage will be found. The repulsive object, who (with the exception of his face) presented all the appearance of an attenuated skeleton, was exhibited in a state of complete nudity with the exception of a fringe of silk about his middle, from which (out of two holes cut for the purpose) protruded his dreadful hip bones. Seurat, as might have been expected, forms the subject of numerous contemporary caricatures; and in one of these, by way of comical contrast, the worthy but corpulent alderman, Sir William Curtis, distinguished by a similar scantiness of attire, figures with the living skeleton in a lively pas de deux. William Heath, in another of contemporary date, represents the fat alderman standing on a map of England, and Seurat on a map of France. Says Sir William: "I say, friend, did you ever eat turtle soup?" to which Claude Ambroise replies, No, sare; but I did eat de soupe maigre." In another (also I think by the same artist), labelled, Foreign Rivals for British Patronage, the living skeleton and a favourite male Italian singer of the time are represented in the act of preparing for mortal combat.
A number of the caricatures of 1825 (and among them many by Robert) are singularly illustrative of the morals of the time. About this year had been published a work professing to contain the memoirs of an apt disciple of Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke, which was made the vehicle of extorting money. The modus operandi appears to have been as follows. In the month of March, 1825, a well-known M.P. of that day received a letter from this creature in the following terms:—
"No. iii, Rue Du Faubourg St. Honoré, à Paris.
Sir,—People are buying themselves so fast out of my book, … that I have no time to attend to them; should be sorry not to give each a chance, if they chuse to be out. You are quizzed most unmercifully. Two noble dukes have lately taken my word, and I have never named them. I am sure—would say you might trust me never to publish, or cause to be published, aught about you, if you like to forward £200 directly to me, else it will be too late, as the last volume, in which you shine, will be the property of the editor, and in his hands. Lord—says he will answer for aught I agree to; so will my husband. Do just as you like consult only yourself. I get as much by a small book as you will give me for taking you out, or more. I attack no poor men, because they cannot help themselves.
"Adieu. Mind, I have no time to write again, as what with writing books, and then altering them for those who buy out, I am done—frappé en mort.
"Don't trust to bag with your answer."
That this extraordinary communication was no idle threat was proved by the fact that a respectable statuary, carrying on business in Piccadilly, who had refused to pay black-mail, brought an action for libel in the King's Bench on the ist of July against a man named Stockdale, publisher of the infamous production referred to r and recovered £300 damages. The same year Popple, the printer, brought his action against this fellow; but Mr. Justice Best directed him to be nonsuited, on the ground that he was not entitled to remuneration for printing a work of such a character.
The Catholic Relief Bill, which was thrown out this year, is the subject of several of Robert's satires, bearing the titles of John Bull versus Pope Bull; Defenders of the Faith; The Hare Presumptuous, OK a Catholic Game Trap; A Political Shaver, or the Crown in Danger. The Catholic Association, or Paddy Coming it too Strong, has reference to Mr. Goulburn's motion to suppress the Catholic Association of Ireland, which was carried by 278 to 123, and the third reading by a majority of 130. The language used by Mr, O'Connell on the occasion was so strong that an indictment was subsequently preferred against him, which, however, was thrown out by the grand jury. Matheworama for 1825 depicts that celebrated impersonator in thirteen of his characters. Duelling deserves particular mention by reason of the admirably designed landscape and figures. It represents one of the principals (who looks very far from comfortable) waiting, with his second and a doctor, the advent of the other parties. The Bubble Burst, or the Ghost of an old Act of Parliament, has reference to the speculation mania of 1825. Others of his satires for the year are labelled respectively, Frank and Free, or Clerical Characters in 1825; A Beau Clerk for a Banking Concern; The Flat Catcher and the Rat Catcher; and A Pair of Spectacles, or the London Stage in 1824-5, which, although unsigned and bearing no initials, I have no hesitation in assigning to Robert Cruikshank.
I am unable to indicate the dates of the following: Football, very clever, and probably earlier than any of those already mentioned; Waltzing, "dedicated with propriety to the lord chamberlain," a very coarse and severe satire upon the immoralities of the Prince Regent. Besides those we have already mentioned, we have others with which the volume miscalled "Cruikshankiana" (so often re-published) has made the general public probably more familiar, such as the Monstrosities of 1827; A Dandy Fainting, or an Exquisite in Fits; The Broom Sold (Lord Brougham); Household Troops (a skit on domestic servants); and A Tea-party, or English Manners and French Politeness, all of which may be dismissed with the remark that they are the worst specimens of Robert's work which could probably have been selected.
Scarcity of Robert's Satires.With the year 1825, our record of Isaac Robert Cruikshank's caricature work somewhat abruptly terminates. We cannot assert that after that date it wholly ceased, but, inasmuch as we have selected those we have named from a mass of some of the rarest pictorial satires published between the years 1800 and 1830, I think we are fairly justified in assuming that after this period his contributions to this branch of comic art became fewer. If this be the fact, it confirms the conclusion at which we have arrived, that at this time caricature had begun its somewhat hasty decline. Those I have named comprise over seventy examples; and their value, which is great on account of their scarcity, will be increased by the possibility that in the conception and execution of some of them the mind and band of Robert might have been assisted by those of the more celebrated brother. "When my dear brother Robert," says George in writing to the compiler of the famous catalogue of his own works, "when my dear brother Robert (who in his latter days omitted the Isaac) left off portrait painting, and took almost entirely to designing and etching, I assisted him at first to a great extent in some of his drawings on wood and his etchings." If this be the case, it is at least possible that he lent the assistance of his cunning hand and original fancy to the preparation of some of these contributions to pictorial satire. It appears to us, therefore, that a just idea of George's own work as an artist can scarcely be arrived at (especially his share of the famous "Life in London") until we have first considered the early work of himself and his brother Robert as graphic satirists and caricaturists. They were closely associated in artistic work daring their early career; and it was not until both had given up social and political satire, and devoted themselves to the then comparatively new field of book illustration and etching on copper, that the superiority, originality, and genius of the younger brother became so manifest and incontrovertible.
- The name given him by Bernard Blackmantle.
- Further particulars of them will be found in the "Memoirs of the Duchess d'Abrantes" (Madame Junot). The fashions of the years which immediately preceded the Revolution appear to have been almost as funny. I have somewhere seen a French semi-caricature depicting fashionables of the Palais Royal in 1786, and the people who had their heads cut off in '93 were almost as queer as the dandies of the Directory and the Consulate.
- The treadmill was the invention of Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Cubit, of Ipswich. It was erected at Brixton gaol in 1817, and was afterwards gradually introduced into other prisons.
- The Marquis of Londonderry.
- What became of Seurat we do not know, but we lately came across the following: "the Siamese twins married; the living skeleton was crossed in love, but afterwards consoled himself with a corpulent widow." The authority is George Augustus Sala in "Twice Round the Clock." We strongly suspect that the wit extracted the information out of his own "inner consciousness."
- We purposely omit the title.
- Presumably post "bag."