English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century/Chapter 6

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CHAPTER VI.


ROBERT CRUIKSHANK (Continued).

"LIFE IN LONDON" AND OTHER BOOK WORK.


In perusing various articles on George Cruikshank in which reference is made to the "Life in London," we have been struck with the almost utter absence of Robert Cruikshank's name; further than this, it seems to have been the almost universal impression that it was his association with George on this memorable book which secured such, reputation as Robert himself enjoyed. So far, however, was this from being the case, that not only was Robert, in 1821, a caricaturist and satirist of acknowledged reputation, but he was believed at this very time by the general public to be the cleverer artist of the two. Robert, indeed, has been treated with curious injustice in relation to this famous book, which owes its very existence (as we shall presently see) to him alone. While according to George (as in effect they do) the whole merit of the performance, many of the writers of the articles referred to acknowledge that they find it impossible to assign to him his share of the illustrations; and that difficulty will be largely increased to any one who has studied Robert Cruikshank's caricature work. The fact is that few of these famous plates will bear comparison with the best of Robert's pictorial satires; while the kindred book of the "English Spy," which was illustrated (with the exception of one plate) by Robert alone, contains designs quite equal to those which adorn the "Life in London." When it is admitted that Robert executed three parts of these illustrations, while those who have written upon him say that they are unable to identify George's share of the work,[1] it seems unjust (to say the least of it) that the credit of the whole performance should be assigned to him alone. Let us be just to Robert, even though his merit as a draughtsman has been lost sight of in the fame which the younger brother achieved by virtue of his greater genius.

Popularity of "Life in London."The reader need not be told—and we are not going to tell him what he knows already—that the "Life" was dramatized by four writers for different theatrical houses. The most successful version was the one produced at the Adelphi, previously known as the Sans Pareil theatre. The first season of this house, which Messrs Jones and Rodwell had recently purchased for £25,000, was only moderately successful; but the fortune of the second was made by "Tom and Jerry." Night after night immediately after the opening of the doors, the theatre was crowded to the very ceiling; the rush was tremendous. By three o'clock in the afternoon of every day the pavement of the Strand had become impassable, and the dense mass which occupied it had extended by six o'clock far across the roadway. Peers and provincials, dukes and dustmen, all grades and classes of people swelled the tide which night after night rolled its wave up the passage of the Adelphi. It was a compact wedge; on it moved, slowly, laboriously, amid the shouts and shrieks, the justling and jostling of the crowd which composed it, leavened by the intermixture of numbers of the swell mob, who plied their vocation with indefatigable industry and impunity. Nevertheless, the reader will be surprised to learn (and it is probably little known) that in spite of this amazing popularity, the first night of "Tom and Jerry" met with such unexpected opposition that Mr. Rodwell declared it should never be played again. Luckily for himself and his partner he was induced to reconsider this decision. The tide was taken at the flood, and it led—as the poet assures us that it will lead when so taken—to an assured fortune.

One night a stranger entered the private box of the Duke of York at the Adelphi, and seated himself immediately behind his Royal
English Caricaturists, 1893 - By this take a warning.png

Robert Cruikshank.][From "The Universal Songster."

"By this take a warning, for noon, night, or morning,
The devil's in search of attorneys."

English Caricaturists, 1893 - With her flames and darts.png

Robert Cruikshank.][From "The Universal Songster."

"With her flames and darts, and apple tarts, her ices, trifles, cherry-brandy,
O, she knew not which to choose, for she thought them both the Dandy."

[Face p. 110.

Highness, who took but little notice of the intruder. The mysterious stranger had been brought in and was fetched by a plain green chariot; and the few that saw him said that he was a portly gentleman, wrapped in a long great coat and muffled up to the eyes. Keeping himself well behind his Royal Highness, the portly stranger took a deep but unostentatious interest in the performance. In his Harotin al-Raschid character he had been present, with his friend Lord Coleraine (then Major George Hanger), at some of the actual scenes represented; and in particular, by virtue of the fact of his wearing "a clean shirt," had been called upon by the ragged chairman at a convivial meeting of the "Cadgers" to favour them with a song, which had been sung for him by his friend and proxy the Major. The mysterious stranger in fact, as the reader has already guessed, was his gracious Majesty King George the Fourth, and his visit incognito having been made by previous notice and arrangement, the passages were kept as clear of the general public as possible.

The scenery of the Adelphi version was superintended by Robert Cruikshank himself. "Tom and Jerry" brought a strange mixture of visitors to attend the rehearsals. Corinthians (men of fashion)—members of the turf and the prize ring, who found a common medium of conversation in the sporting slang which Mr. Egan has made so familiar to us. Naturally there was a mixture. Tom Cribb, whom the Cruikshanks had temporarily elevated into the position of a hero, was indispensable; and the silver cup which figures in Robert's sketch was every night made use of in the scene depicting the champion's pot-house sanctum. Among the frequenters at these rehearsals was a quiet man of unusually unobtrusive deportment and conversation,—this man was Thurtell, the cold-blooded murderer of Mr. Weare.

Since the days of the "Beggars' Opera," a success equal to that which attended the "Life in London," and its several dramatized versions by Barrymore, Charles Dibdin, Moncrieff, and Pierce Egan, had been unknown. The exhausted exchequers of four or five theatres were replenished; and as in the days of the "Beggars' Opera" the favourite songs of that piece were transferred to the ladies' fans, and highwaymen and abandoned women became the heroes and heroines of the hour, so, in like manner, the Cruikshanks' designs were now transferred to tea-trays, snuff-boxes, pocket-handkerchiefs, screens, and ladies' fans, and the popular favourites of 1821 and 1822 were "Corinthian Tom," "Jerry Hawthorn," "Bob Logic," "Bob the dustman," and "Corinthian Kate."

The success of "Life in London" was not regarded with equal satisfaction by all classes of the community; the serious world was horribly scandalized. Zealous, honest, fervid, and terribly in earnest, these good folks, in their ignorance of the world and of human nature, only added to the mischief which it was their honest wish to abate. They proclaimed the immorality of the drama; denounced "Tom and Jerry" from the pulpit; and besieged the doors of the play houses with a perfect army of tract droppers. Anything more injudicious, anything less calculated to achieve the end which these good people had in view, I can scarcely imagine; for it is a well-known fact that the best method of making a book or a play a "commercial success," in England, is to throw doubts on its moral tendency.[2] The more respectable portion of the press did better service to their cause by showing that, in spite of their popularity, "Tom and Jerry" were doing mischief, and that the theatres lent their aid to disseminate the evil, by nightly regaling the female part of society "with vivid representations of the blackest sinks of iniquity to be found in the metropolis." Called on to defend his drama, Moncrieff, strange to say, proved himself no wiser than his assailants. All he could allege in its behalf was that "the obnoxious scenes of life were only shown that they might be avoided; the danger of mixing in them was strikingly exemplified; and every incident tended to prove"—what? why,—"that happiness was only to be found in the domestic circle"! This was special pleading with a vengeance! Of course all that the theatres really cared to do was to fill their exhausted exchequers; while as for Bohemian Robert and his friend Egan, the idea of making the "Life in London" a moral lesson never once entered their heads. The artist however was shrewd enough to take note of the observation for future use; and seven years later on, when he and Egan produced their "Finish to the Adventures of Tom, Jerry, and Logic in their Pursuits through Life in and out of London," endeavoured to profit by the storm which had been raised by the good people of 1821, by tagging a clumsy moral to the sequel.

By this time, however, the excitement which had attended the original work had evaporated; by this time, too, the public had learnt to discriminate between the pencils of the brothers Cruikshank; and the "Finish," as compared with the original "Life," fell comparatively flat. It made however some sort of sensation in its day, but has become not only a scarce book, but one that is little sought after. The genius and reputation of George and the pen of Thackeray have kept alive the popularity of the "Life,"[3] while the "Finish"—left to the unaided but clever hand of Robert—has like himself been almost forgotten.

And yet it scarcely merits this fate. It contains thirty-six etchings by Robert Cruikshank, some of them of singular merit Among them may be mentioned, The Duchess of Dogood; Splendid Jim; Logic Visiting his Old Acquaintance on Board the Fleet; Corinthian Kate in the Last Stage of Consumption, Disease, and Inebriety; and if not the production of a genius, the hand of an artist of singular merit, ability, and power is manifest in the etchings entitled, The Hounds at a Standstill; Logic's Upper Storey; and The End of Corinthian Kate.

Pierce EganAlthough modestly claiming for himself the merits of this book, Pierce Egan stands in relation to it in the position of a showman, and nothing more. He is not even entitled to the credit of being the originator,—for the originator and suggestor was Robert Cruikshank, who informs us of the fact (after his own characteristic fashion) by way of footnote to his frontispiece to the "Finish."[4] But Egan is undoubtedly a clever showman; if he displays rather more vulgarity than we altogether like, we must not forget the audience to whom he addresses himself, and for whom indeed his show is specially intended. We cannot admit that the popularity of this book was entirely due to the merit of the artists whose canvas he elucidates and (after his own fashion) explains. In common fairness some credit should be conceeded to Egan himself. Of literary talents he had not a particle; and if he lacked taste and refinement, it may at least be urged in his behalf that the age was not one of refinement, and that sixty years ago we had scarcely emancipated ourselves from the barbarism and vulgarity some remnants of which had descended to us from the time of George the Second. The bent of his taste and the scope of his abilities may be guessed from the fact that his "account of the trial of John Thurtell, the murderer," passed into at least thirteen editions. A man of this stamp could scarcely be expected to recognise the true value of the work with which he had the honour to be associated; he never looked beyond his patrons of the day, and as a natural consequence posterity has troubled itself little about him. You will search the biographical dictionaries in vain for any account of him;[5] and this oblivion he scarcely deserves, for not only was he one of the most popular men of sixty years ago, but he would scarcely have attained that position without a fair share of merit. He was not deficient in energy, and his talent is shown by the fact that he understood and (in a measure) led the taste of his day, taking advantage of his knowledge to raise himself to a position unattainable had such taste been of a more elevated and refined character. His descriptive powers (such as they were) were sufficient to procure him the post of recorder of the "Doings of the Ring" on the staff of the Weekly Dispatch, which post he occupied at the time he officiated as literary showman to "Tom and Jerry." He had however tried many trades, had been in turn a compositor, bookseller, sporting writer, newspaper reporter, and even secretary to an Irish theatrical manager. The success of "Life in London," which he arrogated to himself, raised up a crop of enemies as well as friends, and he soon afterwards received his congé from the proprietors of the Dispatch. Pierce Egan, however, was not a man to be daunted by any such discouragement; he was found equal to the occasion, meeting his employers' coup d'état by starting a sporting paper of his own, to which he gave the name of his successful book,—Pierce Egan's Life in London, and Sporting Guide. This counter movement proved the germ of a great enterprise. Probably his venture was no very great success; it ran only for three years from its commencement on the 1st of February, 1824. On the 28th of October, 1827, Egan's Life in London was sold by auction to a Mr. Bell, and thenceforth assumed its well known and now time honoured title of Bell's Life in London.

Charles Molloy Westmacott.Another friend of the artist was Charles Molloy Westmacott, as he called himself, but who is supposed to have been—filius nullius or filius populi—the child of Mrs. Molloy, a pretty widow who kept a tavern at Kensington. Westmacott was one of a class of writers who not only existed but thrived in the early part of our century by the levying of literary black-mail. The modus operandi (as given by Mr. William Bates, from whom we derive our information respecting this man) appears to have been as follows: "Sometimes a vague rumour or hint of scandal, accompanied perchance by a suggestive newspaper paragraph, was conveyed to one or more of the parties implicated, with a threat of furthur inquiry into its truth, and a full exposure of the circumstances which excited the sender's virtuous indignation. This, if the selected victim was a man of nervous, timid temperament, often produced the desired effect; and although possibly entirely innocent of the allegation, he preferred to purchase silence, and escape the suspicion which publicity does not fail to attach to a name. If, on the other hand, no notice was taken of the communication, the screw received some further turns. A narrative was drawn up, and printed off, in the form of a newspaper paragraph, and was transmitted to the parties concerned, with a letter, intimating that it had been 'received from a correspondent,' and that the publisher thought fit, prior to publication, to ascertain whether those whose names were mentioned desired to correct, modify, or cancel any part of the statement. There is no doubt that very large sums have been extorted by these scoundrelly means, and a vast amount of anxiety and misery occasioned."[6] This was "the sort of man" that Charles Molloy Westmacott appears to have been; and I learn on the same authority that by these means he was enabled in one instance alone to net not much less than a sum of £5,000. "Pulls" of this kind enabled this fellow to live at his ease in a suburban retreat situated somewhere between Barnes and Richmond, which he fitted up (for he considered himself, as some others of his more modern class appear to do, a "man of letters") with books and pictures.

"The English Spy"In 1825 this man brought out, under his pseudonym of "Bernard Blackmantle," a veritable chronique scandaleuse of the time, entitled, "The English Spy," the title page of which describes it as "an original work, characteristic, satirical, and humorous, containing scenes and sketches in every rank of society; being portraits of the Illustrious Eminent, Eccentric and Notorious, drawn from the Life by Bernard Blackmantle." This extraordinary works presents us with pictures of "life" at Eton, at Oxford, and in fashionable society in London, Brighton, Cheltenham, Bath, and elsewhere; and the seventy-two admirable copperplate aqua-tinted etchings, with one exception (which is by the veteran Rowlandson), are the work of Isaac Robert Cruikshank. This is a far rarer and more valuable book than the "Life in London." In place of "Corinthian" hook-nosed Tom, rosy-cheeked Jerry, and the vulgar gobemouche Logic, we find figuring amongst the interesting groups, scenes, and characters all the notabilities of the day: celebrities such as George the Fourth and his favourite sultana the Marchioness of Conyngham, the Princess Augusta, Charles Kemble, Matthews, Fawcett, Farren, Grimaldi, Macready, Young, T. P. Cooke, Elliston, Dowton, Harley, Munden, Liston, Wallack, Madame Vestris, Townsend (the Bow Street "runner"), "Pea Green" Hayne, Lord William Lennox, Colonel Berkeley, Hughes Ball, and others. The etchings are singu- . larly clear and distinct, and the colouring bright and pleasing. Among the illustrations which specially deserve notice are: The Oppidans' Museum; The Eton Montem (an admirable design); The First Bow to Alma Mater; College Comforts (a freshman taking possession of his rooms); Kensington Gardens Sunday Evenings, Singularities of 1824 (woodcut); The Opera Green-room, or Noble Amateur; viewing Foreign Curiosities; Oxford Transports, or Albanians doing Penance for Past Offences; the King at Home, or Mathews at Carlton House; A Visit to Billingsgate; Characters on the Steyne, Brighton; The Cogged Dice, Interior of a Modern Hell; City Ball at the Mansion House; The Wake; The Cyprians' Ball at the Argyle Rooms; The Post Office Bristol, Arrival of the London Mail; The Fancy Ball at the Upper Rooms, Bath; and Milsom Street and Bond Street, containing portraits of Bath fashionables.

The so-called Oppidans'[7] Museum is composed of the signs stolen by Eton scapegraces from the local tradesmen; a mock court is in progress, at which the injured parties attend and either claim or receive compensation for their stolen property. The tradesmen in the plate before us look anything but injured persons, and as a matter of fact the award is sufficiently ample to make amends for all damage. The two persons officiating as assessors and apportioning compensation to the various claimants, are Westmacott and "Robert Transit" (the artist himself). The illustration is full of life and character. Among the groups may be noticed a young fellow holding a bull-terrier suspended by its teeth from a handkerchief; a bet depends on the dog's patience and strength of jaw, and an interested companion watches the result, chronometer in hand. The King at Home, represents a scene which is said to have actually taken place when Mathews was giving his entertainment at Carlton House. The performer was imitating Kemble, when the king started up, and to the surprise of every one, particularly of Mathews, interrupted the performance by a personal and very clever imitation of the actor, who, by the way, had taught him elocution. This, indeed, was one of George's strong points, who, if not a good king, was at least an admirable mimic. Says old Dr. Burney (writing to his daughter on the 12th of July, 1805), "He is a most excellent mimic of well-known characters; had we been in the dark, any one would have sworn that Dr. Parr and Kemble were in the room." [8] In this plate we find likenesses not only of the king and of Mathews, but also of the Princess Augusta and the too celebrated Marchioness of Conyngham.

Thomas Rowlandson's single pictorial contribution to the "English Spy," R——— A———ys of Genius Reflecting on the True Line of Beauty at the Life Academy, is described by Mr. Grego under date of 1825. This is not the only time in which the artist was associated in work with Rowlandson. There is a rare work (one of an annual series)— "The Spirit of the Public Journals," for the year 1824, with explanatory notes by C. M. Westmacott, a collection of whimsical extracts from the press, which appeared in print in the previous season, which has illustrations on wood by four distinguished coadjutors : Thomas Rowlandson, George Cruikshank, Isaac Robert Cruikshank, and Theodore Lane.

"FitzAlleyne of Berkeley."The Foote v. Hayne affair mentioned in our last chapter afforded grist for the kind of mill driven by literary blacklegs of the class of "Bernard Blackmantle." The black-mail system was tried at first, and when that failed he produced the now rare FitzAlleyne of Berkeley : a Romance of the Present Times, a pair of libellous volumes, the dramatis personæ of which comprise the persons whose names were mentioned in connection with the case. "Maria Pous" was of course Maria Foote ; Samuel Pous, her father ; Lord A——y, Alvanley; Major H——r, Major George Hanger, afterwards Lord Coleraine; Optimus, Mr. Tom Best (who shot Lord Camelford in a duel); the Pea-green Count and FitzAlleyne of Berkeley speak for themselves; while "Mary Carbon" is the butcher's daughter of Gloucester, mother of the Colonel, and afterwards Countess of Berkeley. Such a character as Molloy, otherwise Westmacott, was bound to get sometimes into trouble (in these days he would prob ably receive his reward for "endeavouring to extort money by threats"); and if he did not get exactly what he deserved, he did get, on the tenth of October, 1830, a tremendous thrashing from Charles Kemble. References to the memorandum books of this Ishmaelite of the press, in which he entered (for future use) some of the scandalous chronicles of his time, and which were offered for sale at his death in 1868, will be found im Mr. Bates's interesting book, from which we have already quoted.

"Points of Humour." Returning to his friend and coadjutor, Robert Cruikshank, the best of the artist's coloured illustrations to the "English Spy" are contained in the first volume; in the second he falls into those habits of carelessness which,with all his ability and artistic talent, were a besetting weakness. Robert lacked the genius, the fine fancy, the careful, delicate handling of George. Up to the publication of the "Life," the brothers as we have seen had worked together frequently, but after this period they separated. George had already achieved one of his earliest triumphs in book illustration—"The Points of Humour," which provoked the universal admiration of the critics, and proclaimed him one of the most original geniuses of the time. The "Life," however, had made both brothers famous, and the general public had scarcely yet learnt to distinguish between the pencils of George and Robert. This confusion was taken advantage of by unscrupulous publishers (a practice at which Robert himself seems to have connived) to trade upon the popularity of the Cruikshank name. We frequently find, for instance, in literary advertisements of the time,, that a forthcoming book is illustrated by "Cruikshank," and the work we have just named is a case in point. No sooner had the "Points of Humour" appeared and made their mark, than they were followed by an announcement by Sherwood, Jones & Co., of the "Points of Misery," the letterpress by Charles Molloy Westmacott, and the designs by "Cruikshank," that is to say—Robert. Although this publication is marred by the slovenliness of execution which characterised the artist in his careless moods, a few of the designs are excellent, and the tailpieces—A Six Inside, at page 36; Cleaned Out, at page 88; and the Pawn Shop, at page 87—suffice to show of how much better work Robert Cruikshank was capable. George, as was usual with him on these occasions, was horribly annoyed, and loudly and (as it seems to us) unnecessarily proclaimed to the world that he had no connection with the work. Probably this manifesto did no good to a book little calculated either by its literary or pictorial merits to command success; and as the copy before us remained uncut from the date of the publication until the present, the inference is that the speculation of Messrs. Sherwood, Jones & Co., proved scarcely a remunerative one.

Among the forgotten books of half a century ago, we meet with one whose title reminds us of the "Life in London." It is called, "Doings in London; or, Day and Night Scenes of the Frauds, Frolics, Manners, and Depravities of the Metropolis." It came out in threepenny numbers, in 1828, and its professed object (in the queer language of George Smeeton, its compiler and publisher) was to "show vice and deception in all their real deformity, and not by painting in glowing colours the fascinating allurements, the mischievous frolics and vicious habits of the profligate, the heedless, and the debauchee, tempt youth to commit those irregularities which often lead to dangerous consequences, not only to themselves but also to the public." This shot of course was aimed at Pierce Egan, who, engaged at that time in bringing out the "Finish," not unnaturally considered these "Doings" an attempt to derive profit by an indirect infringement of his own title. The title in fact was a misleading one, and the book a specimen of a class of useless literature of the time, by which paste-and-scissors information compiled from books, newspapers, and statistics by some one at best imperfectly acquainted with his subject, was attempted to be conveyed by means of questions and answers, supplemented by dreary and unnecessary remarks of a moralizing tendency. The persons in whose company Smeeton would send us round, in order that we may form a just conception of the "vice and deception in all their real deformity," of which he speaks, are a couple of idiots, one Peregrine Wilson, and an attendant mentor, whom we drop at the earliest convenient opportunity. Information combined with morality is all very well. The "History of Sandford and Merton" may have been, as Lord Houghton assures us it was, "the delight of the youth of the first generation of the present century." As one of the youth of the generation referred to, we refuse to admit it, and we are perfectly certain that the youth of the present generation would have nothing whatever to do with it We resign ourselves preferentially to the guidance of Isaac Robert and George Cruikshank, sensible that they at least, while conversant with the scenes they so graphically describe, will not bore us with unnecessary moral reflections. We prefer, if the truth must be told, to "sport a toe among the Corinthians at Almack's" with hooked-nosed Tom and rosy-cheeked Jerry; to visit with these merry and by no means strait-laced persons, Mr. O'Shaunessy's rooms in the Haymarket; the back parlour of the respected Thomas Cribb, ex-champion of England; to take wine with them "in the wood" at the London Docks; to enjoy with them, if they will, "the humours of a masquerade supper at the opera house." The work which Smeeton designed with such indifferent success was subsequently carried out in a far more efficient manner by Mr. James Grant, in his "Sketches in London,"[9] and at a later date by Mr. Mayhew, in his well-known "London Labour and the London Poor."

The "Doings in London" owe whatever value they possess to the thirty-nine curious designs on wood of Isaac Robert Cruikshank, engraved by W. C. Bonner, which, on the whole fair examples of his workmanship in this style, strongly remind us of the smaller woodcuts in Hone's "Every-Day Book."

The best specimens, however, of Robert's designs on wood are those which will be found in two small volumes, known indifferently as "Facetiæ" and "Cruikshank's Comic Album," which contain a series of jeux d'esprits, published between the years 1830 and 1832, and comprising Old Bootey's Ghost and The Man of Intellect, by W. F. Moncrieff; The High-mettled Racer and Monsieur Nongtongpaw, by Charles Dibdin; Margate and Brighton; The Devils Visit; Steamers and Stages; Monsieur Touson; Monsieur Mallet, by H. W. Montague; Mathews Comic Annual (a miserable melange by our friend Pierce Egan); the famous Devil's Walk, by Coleridge and Southey, etc., etc. These little volumes, which are now rare, contain nearly one hundred excellent examples of Robert Chiikshank's workmanship, the woodcuts being executed after the artist's designs by W. C. Bonner and other wood engravers of eminence. We can stay only to describe one, which illustrates one of the many experiences of John Bull in his memorable visit to France. Struck with the appearance of a French lady, "young and gay," the stanza tells us—

"Struck by her charms, he ask'd her name
 Of the first man he saw;
From whom, with shrugs, no answer came
 But, 'Je vous n'enlends pas.'"

Three other books (two of them exceedingly rare) must suffice to complete our survey of Robert's merits as a designer and book illustrator. These are "Colburn's Kalendar of Amusements" (1840), "Job Crithannah's Original Fables" (1834), and Eugene Sue's "Orphan." There is an Irishman sitting on a barrel in one of the woodcuts to the "Kalendar," who quite equals any of the Hibernians of George. The eighty-four designs to the "Fables" are admirable specimens of the artist's best manner, and George himself rarely executed better illustrations than those of the Farmer and the Pointer, at page 110, The Cow and the Farmer, at page 163, and The Old Woman and her Cat, at page 219. This rare and choice book abounds with admirable tailpieces; one of which exhibits a sufferer down in the agonies of gout, the treatment of which subject may even be compared with the more elaborate and admirable design by the brother described by Thackeray. Sue's "Orphan" has numerous carefully executed etchings by the artist, after the style and manner of his brother; in the very signature, "Robert Cruikshank," we trace a distinct copy of George's peculiar trademark or sign-manual. Mr. Walter Hamilton, in his essay on the brother, presents us with a dozen copies of Robert's designs, eight of which, although unacknowledged, are taken from Crithannah's "Fables," and will bear as much comparison with the original and beautiful woodcuts as the work of a common sign-painter with a finished painting by Landseer. A detailed but probably imperfect list of the artist's book work will be found in the appendix.

The name of Robert Cruikshank has slipped out of the place it once occupied in public estimation; and his good work and his poor work being equally scarce, his name and his claims to rank high among the number of English caricaturists and comic artists have been forgotten even by the survivors of the generation to which he himself belonged. In bringing to the remembrance of those who do know, and to the knowledge of those who do not know, some of the work which entitled him in our judgment to occupy a leading place amongst the number of those of whom we write, we have endeavoured to brush away the dust of oblivion which for so many years has obscured the name and reputation of an artist, who, in spite of much slovenliness and carelessness of execution, was both an able caricaturist and a skilful draughtsman. George writes of his dead brother in terms of affection, and describes him as "a very clever miniature and portrait painter, and also a designer and etcher;" his friend and coadjutor, the late George Daniel, gives him credit for genius, of which however (in the sense in which we use and understand the word) he did not possess a particle. He tells us that "he was apt to conceive and prompt to execute; he had a quick eye and a ready hand; with all his extravagant drollery, his drawing is anatomically correct; his details are minute, expressive, and of careful finish, and his colouring is bright and delicate." In the early part of his career, as we have seen, the two brothers had been so closely associated in life and in art, that the history of Robert is, to some extent, the history of George; but when they separated, when each was left to his own individual resources, George then struck into a path which neither Robert nor any of his contemporaries might hope to follow. By the time Robert had realized this fact, HB had appeared, and the art of caricaturing, as theretofore practised, received a blow from which it will never rally. Besides being an able water colour artist, he had at one time achieved some reputation as a portrait painter; but the latter pursuit he had long practically abandoned, while success in the former required a closer application and the exercise of a greater amount of patience than a man of his age and temperament could afford to bestow. He was, in fact, too old to commence life afresh; and so it came inevitably to pass that, as his brother did in after life (but from causes, as we shall see, widely different), Robert gradually dropped behind and was forgotten. He had not the genius or pride in his art of his brother, and looked rather to that art as a means of present livelihood than of acquiring a permanent and enduring reputation. If George—with all his pride in his art, with all his genius, with all his rare gifts of imagination and fancy—was destined to be left behind in the race of life, what could poor Robert hope for? It is sad to think that in later life, poor easygoing, thriftless, careless, Bohemian Robert sank into neglect and consequent poverty. He died (of bronchitis) on the 13th of March, 1856, in his sixty-sixth year.


  1. In this I cannot agree. George designed about a third of the plates, and those who know his workmanship thoroughly will not fail to identify it.
  2. A fact which testifies to the curiosity and not the immorality of our people.
  3. I have known as much as £10 asked for a copy; but a first edition (a rarity) may be purchased sometimes of a respectable bookseller for £8.
  4. "Fair Play! Robt. Cruikshank, invt. et fect., original suggestor and artist of the 2 vols. Adieu!"
  5. A list of his works will be found in Dr. Brewer's "Handbook."
  6. "The Maclise Portrait Gallery," by William Bates (ed. 1883), p. 236.
  7. The name given to the students of Eton School who board in the town.
  8. Diary of Madam d'Arblay
  9. W. S. Orr & Co., 1838.