English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century/Chapter 7
THE CARICATURES OF GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
Sixty Years Ago Just sixty years ago, a writer in Blackwood spoke of the subject of the present chapter (then a young man who had already acquired an artistic reputation) in the following terms:—
"It is high time that the public should think more than they have hitherto done of George Cruikshank; and it is also high time that George Cruikshank should begin to think more than he seems to have done hitherto of himself. Generally speaking, people consider him as a clever, sharp caricaturist, and nothing more; a free-handed, comical young fellow, who will do anything he is paid for, and who is quite contented to dine off the proceeds of a 'George IV.' to-day, and those of a 'Hone,' or a 'Cobbett' to-morrow. He himself, indeed, appears to be the most careless creature alive, as touching his reputation. He seems to have no plan—almost no ambition—and, I apprehend, not much industry. He does just what is suggested or thrown in his way, pockets the cash, orders his beef-steak and bowl, and chaunts, like one of his own heroes,—
'Life is all a variorium,
Now, for a year or two to begin with, this is just what it should be. Cruikshank was resolved to see Life and his sketches show that he has seen it, in some of its walks, to purpose. But life is short, and art is long ; and our gay friend must pull up.
"Perhaps he is not aware of the fact himself—but a fact it undoubtedly is—that he possesses genius—genius in its truest sense—strong, original, English genius. Look round the world of art, and ask, How many are there of whom anything like this can be said? Why, there are not half a dozen names that could bear being mentioned at all; and certainly there is not one, the pretensions of which will endure sifting, more securely and more triumphantly than that of George Cruikshank. In the first place, he is—what no living caricaturist but himself has the least pretensions to be, and what, indeed, scarcely one of their predecessors was—he is a thoroughbred artist. He draws with the ease and freedom and fearlessness of a master; he understands the figure completely; and appears, so far as one can guess from the trifling sort of things he has done, to have a capital notion of the principles of grouping. Now these things are valuable in themselves, but they are doubly, trebly valuable as possessed by a person of real comic humour; and a total despiser of that Venerable Humbug which almost all the artists of our day seem, in one shape or other, to revere as the prime god of their idolatry. Nobody, that has the least of an eye for art, can doubt that Cruikshank, if he chose, might design as many annunciations, beatifications, apotheoses, metamorphoses, and so forth, as would cover York cathedral from end to end. It is still more impossible to doubt that he might be a famous portrait painter. Now, these are fine lines both of them, and yet it is precisely the chief merit of Cruikshank that he cuts them both; that he will have nothing to do with them; that he has chosen a walk of his own, and that he has made his own walk popular. Here lies genius; but let him do himself justice; let him persevere and rise in his own path, and then, ladies and gentlemen, then the day will come when his name will be a name indeed, not a name puffed and paraded in the newspapers, but a living, a substantial, perhaps even an illustrious, English name. Let him, in one word, proceed, and, as he proceeds, let him think of Hogarth."
Now, although amused (and surely he cannot fail to be amused) at the curious incapacity of an art critic so strangely ignorant of his subject as to conceive George Cruikshank an artist capable of designing annunciations, beatifications, apotheoses, and subjects so completely out of the range of his sympathies and abilities, the reader will, at the same time, be struck with the prescience of the intelligent writer who discerned in him the possession of true genius, and predicted for him, even at this early period of his career, the reputation—"living, substantial," and "illustrious"—which he afterwards so justly achieved for himself.
In everything save the power to realize an annunciation, a beatification, or an apotheosis, George Cruikshank was, at the time this article was penned, exactly what Mr. Lockhart describes him. The most able and accomplished of the caricaturists of his time, he was nevertheless willing to etch the works of an amateur or of an artist inferior to himself, to whose work he has frequently imparted a vitality of which it would have been destitute but for the interposition of his hand. He was ready, moreover, to execute woodcuts for a song-book or the political skits of any scribbler of his time, whether on the ministerial or the popular side mattered little to him. It was therefore rot unnatural that doing "just what was suggested or thrown in his way," Lockhart should come to the erroneous conclusion that the artist had "no plan," "no ambition," and "not much industry." The assertion that he had "no ambition" has been amply disproved by his subsequent life, whilst so far from having "no plan," the sequel shows that all this time, unsuspected by the critic, he had been gradually developing the style of illustration by which he made his mark and reputation,—a style first displayed in the celebrated "Points of Humour," the publication of which served as the occasion for Lockhart's criticism.
On this account, if for no other reason, the caricatures of George Cruikshank possess so remarkable an interest, that it is singular that this field of artistic labour has been left almost unexplored by the essayists, many of whom, with a somewhat imperfect knowledge of their subject, have essayed to give us information on the subject of this artist and his works. It is just this early period of his life, in which he first followed and then gradually emancipated himself from the artistic control and influence of Gillray, which seems to us to afford the most interesting study of the man's career. Nevertheless, nearly all the articles we have read on George Cruikshank would give us the idea that, with the exception of certain designs for woodcuts for Hone—such as the celebrated Non Mi Ricordo and others—certain rough coloured engravings for "The Meteor," "The Scourge," and other periodicals of a kindred stamp, the artist executed but few caricatures properly so called. This at least is the impression which these articles have left on our own minds; and we can only account for the little notice taken of him as a caricaturist by the fact that, unlike the etchings which he produced when in the prime of his career, his caricatures are not only exceedingly scarce, but being in many cases unsigned, are capable only of being recognised by those intimately acquainted with his early handiwork.
The caricatures of George Cruikshank may be divided into three classes: first, those which are wholly designed and etched by himself; secondly, those which he designed after the sketches or suggestions of his friends; and thirdly, those merely etched from the designs of other artists. We find the first, although frequently unsigned, more usually signed (on the left hand), "Geo. Cruikk. fect." or "invt. & fect."; the second—"invt. G. Cruikk. feet.;" while the third are indicated as merely etched by him. Of the second class it may be remarked that with the exception of the mere sketch or suggestion, the drawing and the workmanship are oftentimes unmistakably George's own. In the description of his caricatures which follow, we shall indicate the designs which belong to this class with an asterisk.
Publications such as "The Scourge," although containing many caricature designs by George Cruikshank, are scarcely among those to which the present chapter was intended to be devoted. There are, however, two satirical compositions of his in this scurrilous publication, which appear to us so exceptionally good, that we feel justified in drawing special attention to them. As the publication itself affords little or no clue to the subject of the illustrations, it seems necessary in order that the first may be understood, to explain the circumstances which appear to us to have led up to it.
1811.For several years prior to 1811, the established clergy had manifested considerable uneasiness on account of the rapid spread of Methodism. The readiness with which licenses for preaching ould be obtained according to the usual interpretation of the Toleration Act, had tended to the multiplication of a class of preachers whose manners and language peculiarly fitted them for acquiring influence over the inferior ranks of the people; and by this means a great diminution had taken place in the congregations of parish churches. It is affirmed—with what truth we know not—that Lord Sidmouth in the measure (presently to be noticed) was encouraged to proceed in his design by letters from persons of high position in the Church.
Lord Sidmouth's Motion.On the 9th of May, 1811, Lord Sidmouth moved in the House of Lords for leave to bring in a bill for amending and explaining the Acts of William and Mary and 17th George III., so far as applied to dissenting ministers. According to the statement of his lordship, at most of the quarter sessions, when the oaths were taken and the declarations made requisite for enabling a person to officiate in a chapel or meeting-house, any person, however ignorant or profligate, was able to obtain a certificate which authorized him to preach. His lordship proposed that, in order to entitle any person to a qualification as a preacher, he should have the recommendation of at least six respectable householders of the congregation to which he belonged. Lord Holland, in opposing the bill, observed that he held it to be the inalienable right of every man who thought himself able to instruct others to do so, provided his doctrines were not incompatible with the peace of society.
When the nature and provisions of the proposed measure were made known to the public, an alarm was excited among all those whom it was likely to affect. The Nonconformists generally regarded it as intended, not so much to add to the respectability of the dissenting ministers, as to contract the limits of toleration, and subject the licensing of preachers to the control of the magistracy. When therefore, on the 21st of May, the bill was to be read a second time, such a deluge of petitions was poured in against it, that the mover was left totally unsupported. The Archbishop of Canterbury said with truth, that the Dissenters were the best judges of their own concerns; and as it appeared from the great number of petitions against it, that they were hostile to the bill, he thought it unwise to press the measure against their manifest wishes. Under these circumstances the bill was, we need not say, thrown out.
This would appear to be the subject which produced George Cruikshank's graphic satire of the Interior View of the House of God, in the first volume of "The Scourge." The pulpit is occupied by two fanatics, one of whom rants, while the other snuffs the candles; the devil, in the gallery above, ridicules the proceedings by rasping, à la fiddle, the bars of a gridiron with a poker; among the numerous congregation present we notice some attentive and interested listeners, whilst others evidently attend from mere motives of curiosity. Above the composition appears the quotation, "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." The satire, The Examination of a Young Surgeon, which appears in the same volume, is aimed at the medical profession. One of the examiners is deaf, another has the gout, a third is asleep, while two others (unmistakable Scotchmen) discuss the merits of their respective snuff-mulls. The deaf man calls upon the frightened candidate to "describe the organs of hearing." The table is garnished with "The Cow Pox Chronicle," and a skull and bones, while the walls are decorated with pictures depicting a fight between death and a pugilist, the Hottentot Venus, a group of various nations worshipping the golden calf, and the lady without arms or legs. The hand of the clock points to the hour of eleven. Judging by the pile of money-bags lying at the foot of the president's chair, and the two members of the court who are busily engaged in counting coin, George would seem to insinuate that the fellows of the college of his time were a decidedly mercenary set.
"The Satirist."Of character akin to "The Scourge" (the ten volumes of which were published between 1811 and 1815 inclusive); is "The Satirist, or Monthly Meteor," the thirteen volumes of which made their appearance between the years 1808 and 1813. Both publications, which now command prices very far beyond what they are intrinsically worth, contain a number of satires, of more or less merit (generally less), by various satirists, including George Cruikshank; so far as "The ^Satirist" is concerned, the designs of the latter are confined to the thirteenth and last volume, and his caricature contributions are of a vastly superior order of merit to any of those by which they are preceded. Besides those in "The Scourge" and "The Satirist," may be mentioned George Cruikshank's comic designs in "Fashion," printed for J. J. Stockdale, of Pall Mall, in 1818; and his very admirable series of untinted etchings in "The Loyalist Magazine; or, Anti-Radical," a publication exclusively devoted to the ministerial side of the Carolinian scandal, and published by James Wright, of Fleet Street, in 1820.
One of the earliest caricatures I have met with by George is entitled, Apollyon [i.e., Napoleon], the Devil's Generalissimo, Addressing his Legions; it is signed (contrary to his usual custom), "Cruikshank del.," and was executed (if I am right in assigning it to him) when he was sixteen years of age.
Discovery of the remains of Charles I. The attention of the public in 1813 was, as we have seen,. attracted by the Regent's treatment of his miserable wife; and in April the sympathy of the Livery and Corporation of London, and other public bodies, found expression in an address which was presented to Her Royal Highness. On the 28th of March of that year, the remains of Charles the First had been discovered in the vault of Henry the Eighth, at Windsor, a circumstance which suggested to George Cruikshank his admirable satire entitled, Meditations amongst the Tombs. It shows us His Royal Highness gazing at the recovered bodies, and regretting that while Henry had managed to dispose of many wives, he found it impossible to get rid of one. A figure behind him points to the headless corpse, and significantly remarks, "How rum King Charley looks without his head!" The Battle of Vitoria (fought this year) forms the subject of a pair of roughly executed caricatures, entitled respectively, The Battle of Vitoria, and A Scene after the Battle, or More Trophies for Whitehall. Other satires of the year, are Double Bass, and A Venomous Viper Poisoning the R——l Mind, the latter as coarsely and indelicately handled a subject as any caricaturist of the old school might possibly desire.
|George Cruickshank.]||[Published July 11th, 1814, by S. W. Fores, Piccadilly.|
Russia condescension, or the blessings of Universal Peace.
Face. page 133.
Visit of the Allied Sovereigns.On the 8th of June, 1814, the Emperor of Russia, with his sister the Duchess Oldenburg, the King of Prussia, and his two sons, with Prince Metternich, Marshal Blucher, General Barclay de Tolly, the Hetman Platoff, and other persons of distinction, arrived in London. The strangers were splendidly entertained by the merchants and bankers of London at Merchant Taylors' Hall, and by the Corporation of London at Guildhall. On the 20th there was a grand review of regulars and metropolitan volunteers in Hyde Park; the ceremony of announcing to the inhabitants of the metropolis the conclusion of the definitive treaty of peace with France took place with all its ancient and accustomed solemnities. On the 251)1 of July a grand naval review was held at Portsmouth, and on the 27th the illustrious visitors embarked at Dover for the Continent. The handsome Russian emperor and his handsome sister acquired great popularity by the condescension and affability they displayed during their short visit. This is commemorated by George Cruikshank in a satire published by Feres on the 11th of July, entitled, Russian Condescension, or the Blessings of Peace, in which a coarse woman is represented as kissing the emperor, who is habited in English military uniform . "There, Sal," says she to her companion, "I can boast of what none of the ———s at Billingsgate can, having kissed the king's emperor of all the Russian bears, and he is the sweetest, modestest, mildest gentleman I ever kissed in all my life." On the other side a huge country gawky shakes hands with the duchess, whose vast bonnet is a study. "Dang it," he says, "when I goes back and tells the folks in our village of this, law! how they will envy I !" In the distance we see another female in pursuit of the frightened Hetman Platoff.
The reader will remember, that from the state ceremonies and festivities which took place on this memorable occasion the miserable Caroline had been excluded, nor did she of course receive recognition or visits from any of her husband's illustrious visitors. The state of social isolation to which she was thus consigned is referred to by George Cruikshank in a very roughly executed caricature entitled, The British Spread Eagle, "Presented to the northern monarchs as a model for their national banner in consequence of the general peace." The Regent, holding in his hand a bottle of port wine, turns away from his neglected wife: "I'll go," he says, "to my bottle, my marchioness [of Conyngham], my countess" [of Jersey], who may be seen close at hand in an adjoining thicket; "and I," answers Caroline, "to my child, my only comfort." The "only comfort" is seen coming to her mother's assistance in the distance, uttering the trite quotation, "The child that feels not for a mother's woes, can ne'er be called a Briton."
The Impostor, or Obstetric Dispute, a still more roughly executed satire (published by Tegg in September, 1814), refers to the wretched impostor Southcott. Doctors called in to report on her condition "differed" according to their proverbial custom. Three of these learned pundits may be seen in consultation in the right-hand corner. A blatant and irascible cobbler, standing on a stool, loudly proclaims the woman to be "a cheat!" "a faggot!" "a bag Of deceit!" "a blasphemous old hag!" The indignant Joanna, far advanced in her dropsical condition, rushes at him, brandishing a broom in one hand and her book of prophecies in the other, to the delight of certain members of the "great unwashed." The buildings at the back appropriately include "New Bethlehem," and the house which the reader may remember was engaged for the purposes of her miraculous accouchement. A rougher and coarser piece of workmanship, if possible, will be found in Gambols on the River Thames, February, 1814 (published also by Tegg), which commemorates the memorable frost of that year.
The Corn Laws On the 17th of February, 1815, Mr. Frederick Robinson, vice-president of the board of trade", moved for the House of Commons to resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, for the purpose of considering the state of the corn laws. This having been done, he proceeded to lay before the House certain resolutions, three of which related to the free importation of grain to be warehoused and afterwards exported, or to be taken for home consumption when importation for that purpose was allowable. The fourth and most important stated the average price of British corn at which free importation was to be allowed, and below which it was to be prohibited, and this for wheat was fixed at eighty shillings per quarter. An exception was made in favour of grain produced in the British colonies, which might be imported when British grown wheat was at sixty-seven shillings. All the resolutions were read and agreed to, with the exception of the fourth, and this in the end also passed in the face of every amendment.
On the 1st of March, Mr. Robinson brought in his bill "to amend the laws now in force for regulating the importation of corn." By this time very numerous petitions against the bill were coming in from the commercial and manufacturing districts; riotous proceedings also took place on the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th of March, in the course of which the mob cut to pieces many valuable pictures belonging to Mr. Robinson, destroyed and pitched his furniture into the street, and did a variety of mischief to the property of other well-known supporters of the measure. The riots (which were of a most formidable character) were only quelled by the number and determined attitude of the military and constables. In spite, however, of the unmistakable unpopularity of the measure, and of the strenuous opposition to it both in and out of Parliament, the bill passed the House on the 10th of March, and the Upper House on the 20th.
The consequences of this measure were not such as were expected either by its promoters or opposers. Former importations, or more probably the effect of two abundant harvests, combined with the greatly extended cultivation of grain, produced a gradual and steady reduction in prices; so that instead of approaching the limits at which alone importation was allowable by the Act, it sunk to a level below that of several years past. The farmers, who were labouring under exorbitant rents in addition to other increased expenses, were general sufferers, and the landlords found it necessary in many instances to make great abatements in their dues. In the result many leases were voided and farms left without tenants.
To this most unpopular measure a satire, published by Fores on the 3rd of March, 1815, has reference. It is entitled, The Blessings of Peace, or the Curse of the Corn Bill, a very rough affair, etched by George (as it appears to me) from the design of an amateur whose hand may be recognised in more than one of his caricatures. A foreign vessel is approaching our shores laden with best wheat at 50s. a quarter. A figure with a star on his breast, emblematical of course of the aristocratic influence which was supposed to have dictated the unpopular corn law, forbids the sailors to land it: "We won't have it," he says, "at any price. We are determined to keep up our own to 80s., and if the poor can't buy at that price, why, they must starve. We love money too well to lower our rents again, tho' the income tax is taken off." His sentiments are re-echoed by companions belonging to the same class as himself. A farmer and his starving family, however, come forward. "No, no, masters," he remonstrates; "I'll not starve, but quit my native country, where the poor are crushed by those they labour to support, and retire to one more hospitable, and where threats of the rich do not interpose to defeat the providence of God!" Behind the starving family is a warehouse absolutely bursting with sacks of grain at 80s. "By gar!" says the foreign captain, "if they won't have [the wheat] at all, we must throw it overboard," which they accordingly are depicted as doing. The subject is followed up by a still more slovenly affair by the artist himself, bearing the title of The Scale of Justice Reversed, published by Fores on the 29th of March. An eighteenpenny loaf in one scale is overmatched by the accumulated weight of taxes in the other. The overbalanced scale in its descent knocks down and crushes John Bull under its weight. "The bread," he cries, "is out of my reach, and those cursed taxes will break my back. That large one ['duty on manufactories,' which the chancellor is just putting into the scale] will do for me." Beyond, a usurer and four large landowners are seen rejoicing at the flight of the "Property Tax," an alleviation which is calculated to do no good to any one but themselves.
Napoleon returns from Elba.John Bull's trials, however, were in reality just commencing. Only seven months before he had held a grand "jubilee" in the parks, to celebrate the return of peace, treating his little difficulty with the Americans as a bagatelle not worth serious consideration. Four months before that celebration, "his majesty the Emperor Napoleon" had formally "renounced for himself, his successors, etc., all right of sovereignty and dominion, as well to the French empire and the kingdom of Italy, as over every other country." In return for this concession, as if in absolute mockery, "the isle of Elba, adopted by his majesty the Emperor … as the place of his residence," was formed during his life into a separate principality, to "be possessed by him in full sovereignty and property," besides a certain annual revenue mentioned in the articles of treaty of the 18th of April, 1814. Here the Regent and his very good friends the allied sovereigns had been content to leave him, dreaming apparently, that the man whose military genius had held Europe at defiance, was disposed of "for ever and a day;" disregarding the feeble capacity of the Bourbon who succeeded him; the magic influence wielded by the man who thought the world too small for his ambition over a soldiery he had created and trained into perfection, and who regarded him in the light of a demi-god.
On the 26th of February, 1815, Bonaparte embarked at Porto Ferrago on board a brig, followed by four small vessels conveying about 1,000 men—French, Poles, Corsicans, Neapolitans, and natives of Elba. On the 1st of March the expedition anchored off the town of Cannes, in Provence, where these heterogeneous forces were landed. The small and motley force of filibusters was forthwith marched on Grenoble, which was reached on the 8th. The seventh regiment of the line, under Colonel Labedoyère, had meanwhile joined the adventurer; the rest of the garrison opened their gates, delivered their arsenal and magazine, and thus placed him at the head of a body of regular troops with a train of artillery. Only five short months afterwards, while the unfortunate emperor was on his way to St. Helena, poor Labedoyère was shot on the plain of Crenelle, for the "treason" of re-swearing fealty to the original master he had loved so well.
On the 9th of March, Bonaparte appeared before Lyons, which he entered without resistance. Once in possession of this important city, and hailed Emperor by his beloved soldiery, Bonaparte assumed the "sovereignty and dominion" which he had "renounced" for ever. "Frenchmen!" he said, after his sententious but stirring manner, "there is no nation, however small it may be, which has not had the right, and which may not withdraw itself from the disgrace of obeying a prince imposed on it by an enemy momentarily victorious. When Charles VII. re-entered Paris, and overthrew the ephemeral throne of Henry V., he acknowledged that he held his throne from the valour of his heroes, and not from a Prince Regent of England"
Although the troops assembled around him were comparatively a handful, Bonaparte had unquestionably obtained sufficient assurance of the general disposition of the army in his favour. Preparations indeed had been made for collecting a large body of troops at Melun for the immediate protection of Paris, while another was posted at Fontainebleau, so as to place the adventurer as it were between two fires. The greatest hopes were derived from the professed loyalty to the Bourbon cause of Marshal Ney, who had spontaneously presented himself at the Tuileries and proffered his services to the king. With the marshal, 12,000 or 15,000 men were posted at Lons-le-Saulnier, whence it was understood that he would fall on the rear of Bonaparte. Instead of doing so, he joined him at Auxerre with his whole division, which had already hoisted (under his orders) the tri-coloured flag. This defection practically decided the contest; and Bonaparte entered Paris on the evening of the 20th as a conqueror, received everywhere by the military in triumph.
Meanwhile, on the 13th of March, the powers who had signed the Treaty of Paris assembled in congress at Vienna, "being informed of the escape of Napoleon Bonaparte, and of his entrance into France with an armed force," issued a formal declaration, in which they stated that, "by thus breaking the convention which established him on the island of Elba, Bonaparte had destroyed the only legal title on which his existence depended; … deprived himself of the protection of the law; and manifested to the universe that there could be neither peace nor truce with him. The powers consequently declared that he had placed himself without the pale of civil and social relations, and as an enemy and disturber of the tranquility of the world, rendered himself liable to public vengeance;" and, by a treaty concluded at Vienna on the 25th of March, Great Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia bound themselves to maintain the Treaty of Paris of 3oth May, 1814, and for that purpose each was to keep constantly in the field a force of 150,000 men, and not lay down their arms until Bonaparte should have been rendered absolutely unable to create disturbance, and " renew his attempts for possessing himself of the supreme power in France."
Reappearance of Bonaparte.The excitement which this portentous event occasioned amongst the nations of Europe is admirably realized by a caricature of George Cruikshank's, published by Fores on the 6th of April, and entitled, The Congress Dissolved before the Cake was Cut up. Alexander, engaged in cutting up the cake (i.e. Europe), and apportioning to each nationality a share of the whole, drops the knife as Napoleon rushes in among them, with the tremendous cocked hat, huge sword, and boots assigned to him on the authority of James Gillray. Crushing under his feet the " Decrees of the Congress," "An Account of the Deliverance of Europe," "A Plan for the Security of Europe," and other documents of a similar character, he shouts to the affrighted company, "Avast! ye bunglers; the cake you have been these six months disputing about the cutting up, I will do in as many hours." Holland in his fright has dropped off his stool to the ground. "O Donner and Blixen!" he exclaims, "my Hollands is all gone!" "I thought England had promised to guard him," says Saxony, alluding, to the kind of naval supervision of Elba by English armed cruisers, which appears to have been exercised, so far as we can see, without any direct claim on our part to control the movements of Bonaparte. "Hold him! seize him!" cries Austria. "Seize him! kill him!" re-echoes Prussia. "Who'll begin? There's the rub!" is the sensible observation of Sweden. "Oh dear! oh dear!" groans his holiness the Pope, crowned with a composite hat, the crown of which is composed of his mitre; "what will become of me?" The only one who says nothing, but seems prepared to act with determination, and promptitude, is the representative of England, who is shown in the act of drawing his sword.
Napoleon (we need not say) did not exactly act as the caricaturist describes: he endeavoured to re-establish relations with the foreign powers. On the 14th of April, however, Coulaincourt, the minister of foreign affairs, published his report to the emperor, giving an account of the result of the applications which had been made to foreign courts. From this it appeared that while no communication was permitted with the actual government of France, all the allied powers were diligently making preparation for war. "In all parts of Europe at once," said the minister, "they are arming, or marching, or ready to march." The powers, of course, were acting strictly within the terms of their expressed declaration to make "neither peace nor truce with Bonaparte." The emperor's practical reply to this declaration was made in the Champ de Mars on the 1st of June. Descending from his throne, he distributed the imperial eagles to the troops of the line and the national guards as they marched past, and swore to defend them at the hazard of their lives, and to suffer no foreigners to dictate laws to their country. All this time reinforcements were being despatched from England without intermission, and the Duke of Wellington had arrived to take command of the troops, native and foreign, in Belgium. There was nothing left for Napoleon except to fight. In the latter end of May, the headquarters of the French army of the north was established at Avesnes, in French Flanders; while, in the apprehension of an invasion by the allied armies on that part, Laon and the Castle of Guise were put in a defensive condition. On the 12th of June Bonaparte left Paris, accompanied by Marshal Bertrand and General Drouet, and proceeded to Laon.
At this point we meet with a piece of George Cruikshank's handiwork which is curious as indicative of the spirit which pervaded England at this momentous period. I am not at present in a position to refer to a newspaper of the period; but it would appear from the sketch referred to that, on or about the very day that Napoleon left Paris to join the splendid army which six days afterwards was so disastrously routed at Waterloo, a city fête was held at the Mansion House, at which that eccentric and sturdy nationalist, Sir William Curtis, whose face and figure were a fortune to the caricaturists of the period, covered the floor of the Mansion House Tri-coloured "Eagles."with the tri-coloured eagles captured from the French in Peninsular battle-fields, while the banners of England domineered from the walls above. The exceedingly rare sketch which illustrates this incident is labelled appropriately by the artist, Opening of Sir William Curtis's Campaign against the French Colours.
Six days afterwards, the star of Napoleon Bonaparte had set for ever in the lurid and ensanguined battle clouds of Waterloo. Scarcely one month later on—that is to say, on the 15th of July, 1815—he had surrendered to Captain Maitland, of his majesty's ship Bellerophon, under circumstances which, while they reflect no discredit on the honour of that gallant officer, seem to us, so far as England was herself concerned, scarcely to have justified her subsequent treatment of the great but unfortunate emperor. With this, however, we have nothing to do. The Bellerophon on the evening of the 23rd, brought the distinguished exile within sight of the coast of England, a circumstance to which a subsequent caricature (etched by the artist) has reference. On the 6th of September was published by Fores, Boney's Threatened Invasion brought to bear, or Taking a View of the English Coast from ye Poop of the Bellerophon. The little emperor, confined to the mast by a chain fastened to his leg, leaps on the breech of one of the Bellerophon's guns, spy-glass in hand. "By gar, mon Empereur," says Count Bertrand, "dey have erect von prospect for you." The "prospect" is far from encouraging a fort with the English flag flying from the central tower, and a gibbet erected in front of it. No wonder that the emperor expresses himself dissatisfied with a "prospect" of so lugubrious a character. An English sailor seated on a neighbouring gun, delivers the sentiments of the day after the plain-spoken fashion of his countrymen. This design, which is by no means in the artist's usual style, was etched by him from the design of some one whose name or initials are not recorded.
The actual circumstance to which the foregoing sketch refers is related to us by the commander of the Bellerophon:—
"At daybreak on the 24th of July, we were close off Dartmouth. Count Bertrand went into the cabin and informed Bonaparte of it, who came upon deck about half-past four, and remained on the poop until the ship anchored in Torbay. He talked with admiration of the coast, saying, 'You have in that respect a great advantage over France, which is surrounded by rocks and dangers.' On opening Torbay, he was much struck with the beauty of the scenery, and exclaimed, 'What a beautiful country! It very, very much resembles the bay of Porto Ferrago, in Elba.'"
The same year, and on the same subject, the artist gives us Boney's Meditations on the Island of St. Helena, or the Devil addressing the Sun, in which the idea is manifestly borrowed from a design by James Gillray; The Corsicans Last Trip under the Guidance of his Good Angel [the devil]; The Genius of France Expounding her Laws to the Sublime People; and a very admirable and original design, The Pedigree of Corporal Violet; all of which are etched from the designs of other artists.
Hardly was Napoleon despatched to the island prison which was so shortly to prove his grave, and replaced by the unwieldly Louis, than the latter came in for his full share of satire. In another of George Cruikshank's caricatures of the same year, he shows us The Royal Laundress [Louis the Eighteenth] Washing Boney's Court Dresses, Napoleon watching the process the while from St. Helena. "Ha, ha!" he laughs, "such an old woman as you might rub a long while before they'll be all white, for they are tri-coloured in grain." Another shows us fat Louis climbing the mat de cocagne (soaped pole) and clutching the crown of France; he clambers up on the shoulders of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, his immediate supporter being England. Napoleon watches his progress from across the sea; "I climbed up," he says, "twice, without any help." Other subjects of the year are: Friends in Need, and John's Dream, or the Prince and Old England for Ever!
Aversion of the Regent to retrenchment.The repugnance of the Regent to the economical measures which were forced upon the ministry in 1816 is well-known. The people complained with every just reason of the pressure of taxes, which were levied, as they said, upon the industrious, to be squandered in extravagant salaries, sinecures, and unmerited pensions. They complained of the large standing army, which the Regent insisted to be necessary for the maintenance of "our position and high character among the European powers." The prince's aversion to the popular cry for retrenchment and reform is shown by one of George's caricatures entitled, Sick of the Property Tax, or Ministerial Influenza, published by Fores on the 8th of March, 1816, where we see the ministers vomiting into a huge receptacle labelled "Budget," the matter voided consisting of "Standing armies," "Property tax," "Increase of salaries," and so on. The gouty, self-indulgent prince hobbles up to his ministers on a pair of crutches marked respectively, "More economy" and "Increase of income." Under his arms he carries bundles of accounts, most of which relate to his own private expenditure, and are Libelled, "Expenses of [Brighton] Pavilion," of "Furniture," "Drinking expenses." "Aye, this comes," he exclaims, "of your cursed pill economy, which you forced me to take a month back; no one knows what I have suffered from this economical spasm. I am afraid we shall all be laid up together." On the table behind him lie the medicines which have been prescribed for him, certain pills labelled "Petitions against the property tax," and a huge bolus ticketed "economy," "to be taken immediately." On the same subject a month later on is a sketch by an amateur, etched by the artist, bearing the title of Economical Humbug of 1816, or Saving at the Spiggot and Letting Out at the Bunghole. From a series of small vats, "Assessed taxes," "Property tax," "Customs," "Excise," and other streams of "supply," are pouring into a huge vat labelled "The Treasury of J. Bull's Vital Spirits." Vansittart, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is carefully drawing off what he requires into a small bucket for the "Public Service." "You see," he says to Mr. Bull, who looks admiringly on, "I am not a quibbling pettifogger, I am a man of my word; for you see I have thrown away the great war spiggot, and have substituted a small peace one in its stead, which will cause an unknown saving to you." This is all very well; but the gouty Regent has also tapped the vat on the other side, and draws off the supplies in a copious stream into a receptacle labelled, "Deficiencies of the Civil List." His friends and boon companions are bringing up a fresh supply of empty vessels to be filled in their turn; one carries a barrel marked, "For household troops and standing army"; another is labelled, "Sinecures, places, and pensions"; a third, "For cottages and pavilions"; and a fourth, "£60,000 for fun." "Come, my friends," says the prince, "make haste and fill your buckets, whilst Van is keeping noisy Johnny quiet with fine speeches and promises of economy, which I am determined not to practise as long as I can get anything to expend; and while he is saving at the spiggot, we will have it out of the bunghole." Preparing for the Match, or the 2nd of May, 1816, has reference to the marriage of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, who, as we have already seen, was on that day united to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. It had been preceded by a well-designed but most indelicate satire, labelled Royal Nuptials, published by J. Johnstone on the 1st of April, in which the prince is seen landing on our shores in a state of destitution, with a pitiable lack of certain necessary articles of clothing, which are being handed to him by John Bull in the guise of a countryman. The dramatis persona are seven in number: Prince Leopold, John Bull, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the gouty Regent, the Princess Charlotte, old Queen Charlotte, with her snuff-box, and, behind her, an old woman intended, I believe, for the poor old king himself. The same year we find two other indelicate subjects: A Bazaar, a skit upon the immorality and costume of the period, comprising thirty figures; and another, in allusion to the marriage of the Princess Mary with her cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, on the 22nd of July, 1816. To those who have asserted that George Cruikshank "never pandered to sensuality … or raised a laugh at the expense of decency," that "satire in his hands never degenerated into savagery or scurrility," I would commend the serious consideration of the three satires I have last named.
The Elgin Marbles.At the time Egypt was in the power of the French, during the early part of the century, Lord Elgin had quitted England upon a mission to the Ottoman Porte. A great change has taken place in the attitude and bearing of the Turks towards other European nations during the last half century; but even at this time the contempt and dislike which had characterized them in their behaviour towards every denomination of Christians still prevailed in full force. The success, however, of the British arms in Egypt, and the expected restitution of that province to the Porte, seem to have wrought a wonderful and instantaneous change in the disposition of that power and its people towards ourselves; and Lord Elgin, availing himself of these favourable circumstances, obtained in the summer of 1801, access to the Acropolis of Athens for general purposes, with a concession to "make excavations and to take away any stones that might appear interesting to himself." The result (shortly stated) was the excavation of the once celebrated "Elgin marbles," about which, if we are to credit the report from which we glean this information, his lordship would seem to have expended (including the interest of capital) some £74,000. The committee recommend the House, under these circumstances, coupled with the valuations which they had obtained from competent authorities, that £35,000 was "a reasonable and sufficient price to be paid for the collection," and their purchase appears to have been completed on the basis of these figures, a fact which forms the subject of the artist's undated and admirable satire of John Bull Buying Stones at the Time his Numerous Family Want Bread.
Unsigned, and under date of 25th of November, 1816, I find a caricature published by Fores, which seems to me due to the hand of George Cruikshank. It is entitled, The Nightmayor, "painted by Fuzeley," and represents a debased woman in the stertorous sleep of drunkenness, whose muddled dream-thoughts revert to the experiences with which her evil habits have made her so frequently familiar. The gin drinker has been brought before the Lord Mayor any number of times for being "drunk and disorderly," and accordingly her nightmare assumes the form of the city official, who sits upon the body clothed in his robes and invested with the insignia of his office. Appended to the satire are the following lines:—
"The night mayor flitting through the evening fogs,
The only other caricature of George I have to notice under date of 1816 is entitled, State Physicians Bleeding John Bull to Death.(*)
In our third chapter we referred to the distress which prevailed amongst the industrial classes during the two years which followed the fail of Bonaparte. We meet with an exceedingly rare pictorial satire by George Cruikshank, which relates to this state of things; it bears the title of, John Bull Brought up for a Discharge, but Remanded on Account of Extravagance and False Schedule, and was published by Fores on the 29th of March, 1817. John Bull, a bankrupt, is being publicly examined as to the causes of his failure: "Being desired by the court to give some explanation [on the subject of the prodigious difference between his debts and his assets], he said that he had been persuaded originally to join with some of the parishioners in indicting his neighbour, Mr. Frog, for keeping a disorderly house; that they had engaged to bear their part of the expenses, but had all sneaked off one by one, and left him to pay the whole, and carry on the proceedings. It had at last, after being moved from one court to another, become a suit in Chancery; and he had been advised by the gentleman whom he had always consulted on these matters, and who was now dead, to go on and persevere, for that he would be sure to get a final decree in his favour, and all the costs. He had at last, in fact, got a decree in his favour, about two years since, before Lord Chancellor Wellington, and for the costs; but not a farthing had ever been paid, nor was it likely to be; on the contrary, Mr. Frog had surrendered himself, and gone to prison, where he was now living at this moment, at his [Mr. Bull's] expense. Besides, the house in question was now opened again under a new license, granted by the magistrates of the district … or rather, a renewal of the old one, in favour of the brother of the person who had kept it formerly, … and the new landlord had taken down the late sign of the Bee Hive, and put up the old one of the Fleur-de-lis; but it was nearly as disorderly as ever, and the magistrates were obliged to keep up a great number of special constables to preserve the peace of the neighbourhood."
John Bull, in his best blue coat and white waistcoat, and suffering under an attack of gout is going through the ordeal of his public examination before the judge. In front of this functionary is the bankrupt's schedule, on which we read the following items:—
|"||Amount of Income||£24,000,000|
|Dr. Nick Frog||10,000,000|
|Will Eagle Eye||6,000,000|
In the body of the court, and separated from the commissioner by a wooden enclosure, the upper edge of which is lined with bayonets pointing inwards, are a number of the bankrupt's wretched creditors, whom Death, clothed in a red coat and armed with a mace, vainly strives to keep quiet. "Ck. fect." in such faint letters that they might easily escape detection, is appended to this remarkable composition.
In our third chapter we also referred to the serious disturbances which followed and were the consequences of the public discontents of 1817, and the fact that the names of four informers, Castle, Oliver, Edwards, and Franklin were identified with those of the chief fomenters of sedition in the metropolis and the northern counties. In further illustration of the satires in which these fellows put in an appearance, we have one by George Cruikshank (published by Fores on the 1st of July), and labelled, Conspirators, or Delegates in Council. We may here mention that on the 9th of June, one Watson, a surgeon, was tried for high treason at Westminster Hall, and acquitted on the 16th, whereupon the Attorney General abandoned the prosecution against Thistlewood, Preston, and Hooper, who were also indicted under a like charge. All the accused were in indigent or humble circumstances, and the chief witness against them appears to have been Castle. Among the five persons sitting round the table, we recognise Castle (whose villainous face Is turned towards us) and Oliver. The others we cannot identify. The aristocratic looking gentleman receiving them so blandly is my Lord Castlereagh. "Don't you think, my lord," says the person next him, "Don't you think that our friends Castle and Oliver should be sent to Lisbon or somewhere, as consul-generals or envoys?" "Can't you," says his lordship to the beetle-browed ruffians by way of rejoinder, "Can't you negotiate for some boroughs?" John Bull, looking through the window at these negotiations, with much indignation, and recognising in these fellows the rascals by whom he has been " ensnared into [committing] criminal acts," hints in very plain terms that the conduct pursued by such men was the high road to political favour in 1817. Among the papers on the table we notice a "Plan for the attack on the Regent's carriage;" a bundle of "treasonable papers to be slipped into the pockets of some duped artisans;" another, indicating the "means to be taken to implicate Sir Francis Burdett, Lord Cochrane," and other popular agitators of that day; "A list of victims in Ireland," and so on. On the floor at his lordship's feet lie some of the tri-coloured flags unfurled at the Spafields meeting; the obvious inference intended to be conveyed being of course that the Government were really at the bottom of the popular disturbances.
R-y-l Condescension, or a Foreign Minister Astonished, published by Fores on the 15th of September, 1817, is one of George Cruikshank's most finished but at the same time indelicate compositions. It refers to the rumours affecting the Princess Caroline's reputation which preceded the "bill of pains and penalties," to which we have already alluded. It appears to us to have originated out of the following circumstance. It was asserted that at a masked ball which the princess had given shortly after she left England to the then King of Naples, Joachim Mural, she appeared in three different disguises; that in one of these, "The Genius of History," she had appeared in so unclothed a state as to call for particular observation; her third disguise was a Turkish costume. It was further asserted that in her changes of dress she had been assisted, not by her female attendants, but by the person with whom her name was so familiarly associated. In the sketch before us, Her Royal Highness's corpulent and redundant figure is clothed in a tight-fitting Turkish dress and trousers, her head being covered by a ponderous turban. The five figures composing her "suite" are the Courier Bartolomeo Bergami, his brothers Louis and Vollotti Bergami, his sister, and William Austin, the youth she had adopted, and who, it was proved, slept in her bed-chamber. The whole are decorated with the crosses and ribbons of the absurd order which she was said to have instituted. The courtly, well dressed foreign gentleman to whom she is introducing these vulgar persons appears to be intended for Metternich, who, while thanking Her Royal Highness for her "condescension," looks the very picture of unfeigned but well-bred astonishment.
Death of Princess Charlotte.In the evening of the 18th of November, 1817, a mournful procession, at which all the great officers of state attended, quitted Claremont House en route for Windsor. At the impressive ceremony which followed, Garter King at Arms proclaimed its melancholy purport in the following words: "Thus it has pleased Almighty God to take out of this transitory life, unto His Divine mercy, the late most illustrious Princess Charlotte Augusta, daughter of His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales, Regent of the United Kingdom." It was even so. The pride and hope of the nation, the heiress of the crown, was on the 6th of November delivered of a still-born child, and within a very few hours afterwards had succumbed to the unlooked-for and fatal exhaustion which followed. The grief which this occasioned was so universal that every one seemed to realize the fact that he or she had sustained an individual loss; scarcely perhaps in English history had the death of a member of a royal family been more sincerely and truly regretted. The mournful event is referred to by the artist in a more than usually touching sketch, entitled, England's Hope Departing. Among the medical attendants of Her Royal Highness who followed her to the grave, was the accoucheur, Sir Richard Croft, Bart. This distinguished gentleman was so deeply affected with the unlooked-for result, that his mind refused to recover its tone, and within a month afterwards he committed self-destruction.
Other pictorial satires of George Cruikshank, bearing the date of 1817, are: Fashionables of 1817, two figures—a male and female—outrageously caricatured, a rough affair, altogether differing from his usual style; the well-known double entendre, A View of the Regent's Bomb, which, with our knowledge of his sensitiveness on the subject of his personal appearance, must have given the exalted personage thus outrageously satirized the greatest possible mortification; The Spa Fields Orator Hunting for Popularity to do Good,(*) a punning satire on "Orator" Hunt; A Patriot Luminary Extinguishing Noxious Gas (etched from the design of another artist); and two admirable designs bearing the titles of Vis-à-Vis and Les Graces. The same year we meet with one of the earliest of his alliterative satires, afterwards so frequently to be seen among the famous illustrations to the "Comic Almanack": La Belle Assemblée, or Sketches of Characteristic Dancing, miscellaneous groups, comprising in all thirty figures (exclusive of the orchestra), engaged in a country dance, a Scotch reel, an Irish jig, a minuet, the German waltz, a French quadrille, the Spanish bolero, and a ballet "Italienne." The walls are hung with pictures of dancing dogs, a dancing bear, a dancing horse, rope dancing, the dance of St. Vitus, and "Dancing Mad." Besides this, we find the same year two large sheets showing the Striking Effects produced by Lines and Dots, for the Assistance of every Draughtsman, suggested by, but a very vast improvement on, G. M. Woodward's Multum in Panvo, or Liliputian Sketches, showing what may be done by Lines and Dots.
Adulteration of Tea. A report of the House of Commons, showing how four million pounds weight of sloe, liquorice, and ash-tree leaves were annually mixed with Chinese teas in England, was supplemented by a trial in the Court of Exchequer, in which a grocer named Palmer was fined in £840 penalties, for the fabrication of spurious tea. It appeared that there was a regular manufactory of imitation tea in Goldstone Street, which was composed of thorn leaves, which, after passing through a peculiar process, were coloured with logwood; the same leaves, after being pressed and dried, were laid upon sheets of copper, coloured with verdigris and Dutch pink, and sold as green tea. These revelations led, in 1818, to the artist's admirable caricature of The T Trade in Hot-water, or a Pretty Kettle of Fish: dedicated to J. Canister and T. Spoon, Esquires. Besides these, we have the same year: An Interesting Scene on Board an East Indian, a very coarse but admirable performance; Introduction to the Gout (a fiend dropping a hot coal on the toe of a bon vivant) A Fine Lady, or the Incomparable, in which it appears to us that Robert had a hand; Les Savoyards and Le Palais Royal de Paris; Comparative Anatomy, or the Dandy Trio; and The Art of Walking the Streets of London, eight subjects, etched by the artist after the design of George Moutard Woodward.
On the 4th of December, 1818, the number of convicts lying under sentence of death in his Majesty's goal of Newgate, amounted to no less than sixty, of whom ten were females; probably not three of these unfortunate beings would have been hung now-a-days. Under the Draconian laws, however, then in force, people were hung in scores for passing forged one-pound Bank of England notes; and this barbarous state of things, disgraceful to a Christian country, led to the famous and telling satire of the Bank Restriction Note, one of the very few which seem to have escaped oblivion, and which, having been repeated and reproduced in all the latest essays which have been written on him, calls for no extra description from our
Designed, Etched and Published by George Cruikshank.][November 1st, 1829.
"A SCENE IN KENSINGTON GARDENS, OR FASHIONS AND FRIGHTS OF 1829."
[Face p. 152.
In 1819 we have one of George Cruikshank's severe and telling 1819. attacks upon the Prince Regent, in Sales by Auction, or Provident Children disposing of their Deceased Mother's Effects for the Benefit of the Creditors (*), in which he shows us the prince knocking down (in his character of auctioneer) his dead mother's old hats, gowns, and clothing, and begging the bystanders to bid liberally. At the foot of the rostrum lie sundry snuff-boxes and pots, labelled "Queen's Mixture" and "Prince's Mixture" (in allusion to the old queen's habits), "Strasburg" (in reference to her German tastes and nationality), together with her old china tea-set.
This year is remarkable for producing perhaps the most ambitious and admirable allegory which the artist ever designed; it bears the title of Old Thirty-nine Shaking Hands with his Good Brother the Pope of Italy, or Covering Up versus Sealing the Bible. Old Thirty-nine (an English bishop) stands on a pile of volumes labelled, "Never-out-ism," "Ante-biblism," "Never-the-same-ism," etc., whilst the pope, standing on the opposite side on a mass of books bearing similar suggestive titles, shakes hands with his "good brother." By the pope's side we find the devil busily engaged in sealing up the Bible Behind him stands the Temple of Mammon, surrounded by a crowd of reverend worshippers. Two fiends standing by the side of "Old Thirty-nine" make preparations for a bonfire, to which sundry bundles labelled, "Articles of Faith," "Athanasian Creed," "Catechism," "Liturgies," "Nicene Creed," and so on, will contribute materials. Out of a building in the rear, inscribed, "National School for Thirty-niners only," issues a procession of ecclesiastics and beadles carrying banners. In the foreground stands the figure of "Divine Truth," surrounded by little children, and perusing the pages of the "Holy Bible," held for that purpose by an angel. A roughly executed affair in two compartments, Preachee and Floggee Too, satirizes certain clerical magistrates who, while preaching mercy and forgiveness in the pulpit, distinguish themselves by the seventy of their sentences for minor offences on the magisterial bench. The titles of other subjects of the year are: The Hobby Horse Dealer; Johnny Bull and his Forged Notes, or Rags and Ruin in the Paper Currency; Smoke Jack, the Alarmist, Extinguishing the Second Great Fire of London; Love, Law, and Physic(*); The Sailor's Progress (six subjects); Dandies in France, or Le Restorateur(*); A Match for the Kings Plate; The Belle Alliance, or the Female Reformers of Blackburn(*); Voila t'on mort; and Royal Red Bengal Tiger (etched from the designs of other artists); Irish Decency (two caricatures); Giant Grumbo and the Black Dwarf, or Lord G——— and the Printer's Devil; and Our Tough old Ship Steered Safely into Harbour maugre Sharks of the Day(*).
An unsigned caricature, published by Fores on the 15th of May, 1819, appears to me to be due to the hand of George Cruikshank. It bears the title of The Dandy Tailor Planning a New Hungry Dress, and would appear to have reference to some contemplated introduction of foreign mercenaries into the English service. The tailor, while stitching a military jacket, sings a song of which the following is a verse,—
"A tailor there was, and he lived in a stall,
A foreigner enters in military costume, introducing two foreign mercenaries. "Dese men," he says, "will teach you de proper vay to make de Hungarian soldats. I did bring dem expres'. Observe des grands mustaches. No more English soldats." A military figure in jack boots, standing by the side of the tailor, holds the "goose" in readiness for his master's use. The Prince Regent, especially as George the Fourth, was fond of inventing new military costumes, and Mr. Greville describes him in 1829 (the year before his death) as "employed in devising a new dress for the guards;" but by the mitre at his back, and the reference to his impecunious position, I should take this "tailor" to be intended for the Duke of York.
1820. Ah! sure such a pair was never seen, so justly formed to meet by nature!(*) represents a couple of pears, in which we recognise likenesses of George the Fourth and Queen Caroline, the features of the king being expressive of strong disgust. After Lord Liverpool had decided not to send the "Bill of Pains and Penalties" to the Commons, for the reason stated in a previous chapter, the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of London distinguished themselves by presenting, on the 10th of December, an address to their "most gracious sovereign," complaining of things in general, and of public expenditure in particular, the real cause of complaint, however, being "the alleged criminality" which, as the petitioners stated, had been "falsely ascribed" to the queen. This address, which was conceived in the worst possible taste, concluded with the following outrageous prayer: "We therefore humbly pray your Majesty to dismiss from your presence and councils for ever those ministers whose pernicious measures have so long endangered the throne, undermined the constitution, and blighted the prosperity of the nation." Now, only fancy any Corporation of London in our time signalizing itself by presenting a petition to "Her Most Gracious Majesty," complaining of the measures of Lord Beaconsfield or Mr. Gladstone, and praying her to dismiss them from her councils! The king returned the following answer: "It has been with the most painful feelings that I have heard the sentiments contained in the address and petition now presented to me by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of London. Whatever may be the motives of those by whom it is brought forward, its evident tendency is to inflame the passions and mislead the judgment of the unwary and less enlightened part of my subjects, and thus to aggravate all the difficulties with which we have to contend." This episode suggested to George one of the most admirable of his caricatures: A Scene in the New Farce as performed at the Royally Theatre. The corpulent monarch, in the character and costume of Henry the Eighth, is receiving a number of deputations from all parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, bearing petitions praying him to dismiss his ministry, the members of which stand on each side of the throne,, one of the number being habited as a jester. This exceedingly rare plate carries on it the following explanation: "King Henry VIII. being petitioned to dismiss his ministers and council by the citizens of London and many boroughs, to relieve his oppressed subjects, made the citizens this sagacious reply: 'We, with all our cabinet, think it strange that ye who be but brutes and inexpert folk,, should tell us who be and who be not fit for our council.'"
1821.Another of George Cruikshank's rare and valuable contributions to the Queen Caroline series of pictorial satires is labelled The Royal Rushlight, which many people (among them the Chancellor and corpulent George) are vainly endeavouring to blow out. By way (it may be) of contrast, this excellent satire has appended to it the following miserable doggerel,—
"Cook, coachee, men and maids, very nearly all in buff,
Death of Queen CarolineWith the year 1821 came the closing scene in the drama of Caroline's unhappy but singularly undignified career. On the occasion of the king's coronation she had applied to Lord Liverpool, desiring to be informed what arrangements had been made for her convenience, and who were appointed her attendants at the approaching ceremony. An answer was returned that, "it was a right of the Crown to give or withhold the order for her Majesty's coronation, and that his Majesty would be advised not to give any directions for her participation in the arrangements;" but with the obstinacy of purpose which was so fatal a blemish in her character, and which seems to have been the primary cause of all her misfortunes, she insisted on her right, and declared moreover her firm intention of attending the ceremony. A respectful but peremptory reply was returned, reasserting the legal prerogative of the Crown, and announcing that the former intimation must be understood as amounting to a prohibition of her attendance. She was however so ill-advised as to present herself early on the morning of the day (the 19th of July) at the doors of the Abbey of Westminster. The door-keepers refused to allow her to enter as queen; and she was forced to submit to the mortification of having to retire without having succeeded (as it was her evident intention to have done) in marring the arrangements for the splendid ceremony. By this time the enthusiasm in her favour had greatly evaporated, and she was received even coldly by her friends the assembled mob. The mortification proved fatal to her: very shortly afterwards she was taken ill, and died in less than three weeks after the unnecessary mortification to which she had thus insisted on exposing herself.
It is probable that if the wishes of her executors had been allowed to be carried out, the unfortunate woman would have been carried to her grave in peace. She had directed that her remains should, three days after her death, be carried to Brunswick for interment; and had Lord Liverpool been wise, he would have left the executors to carry out the arrangements after their own fashion. Unfortunately, the Government decided to take the arrangements into their own hands, and to lay down the route (the shortest) by which the mournful procession should proceed to Harwich. No fault can be found with the arrangements themselves, which were intended to pay the greatest respect to the memory of the deceased; but the cautions they took brought about the very result they were anxious to avoid, and at once revived all the slumbering sympathies of the mob in favour of the unhappy queen. A squabble took place at the outset, Dr. Lushington, as one of the executors, protesting against the removal of the corpse; but, escorted by squadrons of Horse-guards Blue, the procession left Brandenburg House at eight o'clock in the morning of the 15th of August, in a drizzling rain. The cavalcade reached Kensington in solemn order; but on arriving at the Gravel Pits, and attempting to turn off to the left, its progress was instantly blocked by wagons and carts placed across the road, while a body of men formed across the streets twenty deep and evinced every disposition to dispute the passage. A severe conflict took place between them and the constables, several on both sides being hurt. For an hour and a half the procession waited for orders, and at length it moved towards London. On reaching Kensington Gore a squadron of the Life Guards, with a magistrate at their head, tried in vain to open the park gates, the crowd vociferating in the meantime, "To the city! the city!" On reaching Hyde Park Corner, the gate there was found barricaded with carts, and the procession then moved on to Park Lane, which being also blocked up, it turned back hastily and entered Hyde Park, through which it proceeded at a trot, the soldiers having cleared away the obstacles at the gate. On reaching Cumberland Gate, it was found closed by the populace, and in the conflict which ensued the park wall was thrown down by the pressure of the crowd, who hurled the stones at the soldiers, in return for the use the latter had made of their sabres in clearing the passage. Many of the military and their horses were hurt; and some of the soldiers, irritated by their rough usage, resorted to their pistols and carbines, and two persons (Richard Honey, a carpenter, and George Francis, a bricklayer) were unfortunately killed, and others wounded. The Edgeware Road was blockaded, but quickly cleared, and the procession moved on till it arrived at the turnpike gate near the top of Tottenham Court Road. There the mob made so determined a stand that further opposition was deemed unadvisable, and the popular will being at length acceded to, the cavalcade forthwith took its way into the city. Every street through which a turn could have been made in order to enter the New Road or the City Road was found barricaded. As the funeral passed through the city, the Oxford Blues doing duty there, who had not participated in the outrage, were cordially greeted by the populace on either side of the street. The inquests on the bodies of the dead men lasted for a considerable period. In the case of Francis, a verdict of "wilful murder against a life guardsman unknown" was returned; whilst in that of Honey, the verdict was manslaughter against the officers and men of the first regiment of Life Guards on duty at the time. This event is recorded by George in a caricature entitled, The Manslaughter Men, or a Horse Laugh at the Law of the Land,—two ghostly gory figures rising from their graves, which are respectively inscribed, "Verdict, wilful murder," and "Verdict, manslaughter"; a group of life guardsmen grin and point at the body, and one of them jeeringly remarks, "Shake not thy bloody locks at me; ye cannot say who did it." Another satire on the same subject bears the title of The Horse Chancellor obtaining a Verdict, or Killing no Murder.
Other subjects of this year are the following: And when Ahitophel saw that his Counsel was not followed, he Saddled his Ass, and arose and went and Hanged himself; O! O! there's a Minister of the Gospel; The Royal Extinguisher, or the King of Brobdingnag and the Liliputians (etched after the design of Isaac Robert). Six subjects, La Diligence and La Doriane, Venus de Medici and Mer de Glace, Visit to Vesuvius and Forum Boarium, and Nosing the Nob at Ramsgate, a coarsely executed satire aimed at his Majesty and his eccentric subject, Alderman Sir William Curtis.
Sir William Curtis.Sir William Curtis, alderman, trader, and formerly member for the city, is one of the most prominent figures in the satires of his time. Making every allowance for caricature drawing, the likeness must have been on the whole a faithful though an exaggerated one; for in all the numerous comical sketches in which he makes an appearance, we never fail to recognise his ruby nose and ponderous figure. We have already seen him figuring by way of ludicrous contrast with Claude Ambroise Seurat, the "living skeleton," and we shall now find him associated by the caricaturists with no less a person than the king himself. When his majesty, in 1822, paid his visit to Scotland, and by way of compliment to the country and her traditions assumed the "garb of old Gael," Alderman Sir William Curtis, who followed his sovereign at a respectful distance, out of compliment to the country, her traditions, "his most gracious majesty," and himself, put his own corpulent form into fancy costume, and likewise donned the Highland garb. The absurdly ludicrous result is told us by Lockhart. "The king at his first levee diverted many, and delighted Scott by appearing in the full Highland garb—the same brilliant Stewart tartans, so-called, in which certainly no Stewart, except Prince Charles, had ever before presented himself in the saloons of Holyrood. His majesty's Celtic toilette had been carefully watched and assisted by the gallant Laird of Garth, who was not a little proud of the result of his dexterous manipulations of the rough plaid, and pronounced the king 'a vara pretty man.' And he did look a most stately and imposing person in that beautiful dress; but his satisfaction therein was cruelly disturbed when he discovered, towering and blazing among and above the genuine Glengarries and Macleods and MacGregors, a figure even more portly than his own, equipped from a sudden impulse of loyal ardour in an equally complete set of the self-same conspicuous Stewart tartans:—
'He caught Sir William Curtis in a kilt—
In truth this portentous apparition cast an air of ridicule and caricature over the whole of Sir Walter's celtified pageantry. A sharp little bailie from Aberdeen, who had previously made acquaintance with the worthy Guildhall baronet, and tasted the turtle soup of his voluptuous yacht, tortured him as he sailed down the long gallery of Holyrood, by suggesting that after all his costume was not quite perfect. Sir William, who had been rigged out, as the auctioneer's advertisements say, 'regardless of expense,' exclaimed that he must be mistaken, begged he would explain his criticism, and, as he spoke, threw a glance of admiration on his skene dhu (black knife), which, like a true 'warrior and hunter of deer,' he wore stuck into one of his garters. 'Oo ay! Oo ay!' quoth the Aberdonian; 'the knife's a' right, mon—but faar's your speen?' (where's your spoon?) Such was Scott's story; but whether he 'gave it a cocked hat and walking cane,' in the hope of restoring the king's good humour, so grievously shaken by this heroical doppel ganger, it is not very necessary to inquire."
Which indeed of the absurd pair looked the most ridiculous it would be hard to say: a great-grandson of George the Second in the Highland garb of "Bonnie Prince Charlie," was perhaps as absurd an anachronism as a fat cockney alderman in the same fancy costume. Our friends the caricaturists were fully alive to these puerilities. An anonymous caricature of the day celebrates the ludicrous event in a satire entitled, Equipt for a Northern Visit, which represents the fat king and the fat alderman in kilts, the point of the pictorial epigram lying in the fact that the corpulent king recommends his corpulent subject to lay aside the costume as unbecoming to a man of his proportions. George has several pictorial satires on the same fertile theme; one of these, Bonnie Willie, depicts the huge man in Highland garb. A rare and most amusing caricature shows us the supposed unfortunate Results of this Northern Excursion. The fat king and his fat subject have caught the northern complaint vulgarly termed the "Scottish fiddle," and are vigorously going through the traditionary process of rubbing themselves against the post, blessing the while his grace the Duke of Argyle. An English acquaintance, not unnaturally afraid of infection, refuses the alderman's proffered hand.
A caricature of altogether another kind commemorates a raid made by the Bow Street officers on the numerous gaming establishments of 1822. It is called, Cribbage, Shuffling, Whist, and a Round Game, is divided into six compartments, and is most humorously and admirably treated. The principal performers are the knaves of cards. One of the compartments shows us the knaves on the treadmill, which is marked "Fortune's Wheel;" while in another a knave is undergoing the discipline of the "cat," and calling out at every stroke "E. O.! E. O.! E. O.!"
Statue of AchillesSir Richard Westmacott's statue of Achilles was executed in 1822. The nude, undraped colossal figure, which was subscribed for by the ladies of England in honour of the Duke of Wellington and his soldiers, was the occasion of numerous contemporary satires—most of them (in those plain-spoken days) of the broadest possible character. One of the most indelicate(*) (drawn by the artist from the sketch or suggestion of another) gives a burlesque front and back view of the figure, which is surrounded by a number of people (principally ladies), among whom we recognise a caricature likeness of the "Dook." The inscription runs as follows: "To Arthur à Bradley, and his jolly companions every one, this brazen image of Patrick O'Killus, Esq., is inscribed by their countrywomen." Besides the foregoing, we meet this year with A Lollipop-Ally Campagne and Brandy Ball(*); Premium, Far, and Discount; Showing-off—Bang up—Prime(*); and A Sailor's description of a Chase and Capture(*).
1823.A large proportion of his satires for 1823 are aimed at Louis the Eighteenth's Spanish expedition, the object of which we have already related. One of these shows us France the great Nation driven by the North into the South; in another, Ferdinand the Seventh and the Duc d'Angoulème figure respectively as a Spanish Mule and a French Jackass; A French Hilt on a Spanish Rapier, is likewise dedicated to the Duc d'Angoulème; another shows us Old Bumblehead the 18th trying on Napoleon's Boots; a fifth is entitled, A Hint to the Blind and Foolish, or the Bourbon Dynasty in Danger; while a sixth shows us Louis the Fat troubled with Nightmare and Dreams of Terror. In all these caricatures, the figure of Napoleon, already sleeping his last sleep at St. Helena—the place of his exile and of his grave—is represented by way of contrast to the unwieldly and incompetent Bourbon. Another caricature, the point of which I fail to see, bears the title of The Tables Turn'd, or the Devil Outwitted and Cruelly Punished,—a Scene on the Portsmouth Treadmill; this last, though said to be "designed by an amateur," and "etched by G. Ck.," is unquestionably all his own.
1824.Drilling One-tenth of the Military in the Manual Exercise, and Saint Shela (two subjects), have reference to the Tenth Hussars and Battier scandal, mentioned in a previous chapter; other subjects of 1824 are: Parisian Luxury (a man being shaved in a bath); Preparing for a Duel; and The Ostend Packet in a Squall; all etched by George from the designs of other artists. The mania for joint-stock companies in 1825, was scarcely equalled by the speculation mania which inaugurated the passing in our own time of the "Limited Liability Act." In 1824 and the beginning of 1825, two hundred and seventy-six companies had been projected, of which the aggregate capital (on paper only) represented £174,114,050. Thirty-three of these were established for the construction of canals and docks, forty-eight of railroads, forty-two for the supply of gas, six of milk, and eight of water, four for the working of coal, and thirty-four of metal mines; twenty new insurance companies were started, twenty-three banks, twelve navigation and packet companies, three fisheries, two for boring tunnels under the Thames, three for the embellishment and improvement of the metropolis, two for sea-water baths, and the rest for miscellaneous purposes; it is a somewhat significant fact that two only had for their object the establishment of newspapers. Notwithstanding the manifest absurdity of many of these projects, the shares of several—especially of the mining adventurers in South America—rose to enormous premiums. Among the last may be mentioned those of the Real del Monte, the price of which, between the 10th of December and the nth of January, rose from £550 to £1350, and the United Mexican during the same period from £35 to £1550. On these last shares only £10 had been paid, and on the former only £70. Speaking of this mania, the Rev. T. F. Dibdin (in his "Reminiscences") says, "If it did not partake of the name, it had certainly all the wild characteristics of the South Sea Bubble. To-day you had only to put your name down to a share or shares in the Rio de la Plata or other South American mines, and to-morrow a supplicant purchaser would give you fifty per cent, for every share taken. The old were bewitched … the young were in ecstasies. Everybody made a rush for the city. A new world of wealth had been discovered. It was only to ask and have." George Cruikshank refers to this state of things in a caricature called, A Scene in the Farce of Lofty Projects, as Performed with great success for the benefit and amusement of John Bull. Besides these, he gives us The Four Mr. Prices (High Price, Low Price, Full Price, and Half Price).
I can assign no date to Waiting on the Ladies; The Death of the Property Tax, or Thirty-seven Mortal Wounds for Ministers and the Inquisitorial Commissioners; or to The Court at Brighton, à la Chinese, one of the most admirable of the whole series. In this last, the fat prince habited as a mandarin, is seated on a sofa between the Princess Charlotte and an enormously fat woman, probably intended for the Marchioness of Conyngham. He is handing to a Chinese official a paper inscribed "Instructions for Lord Amhurst, to get fresh patterns of Chinese deformities to finish the decorations of Pavilion G. P. R." A specimen of regency taste and sympathies stands on a pedestal in the form of the Hottentot Venus, while a statuette of the fat prince himself, habited in a red coat, white waistcoat, yellow inexpressibles, and silk stockings, is labelled the "British Adonis." The princess recommends her papa to order the officer to bring her over "a Chinaman, instead of getting her a husband among our German cousins." A variety of miscellaneous articles are strewn about the floor, among them a box containing the Regent's wigs and whiskers, a treatise on "The Art of making Punch," the indispensable hamper of champagne, and a pair of curling irons; while no one will fail to recognise the interior of the Brighton Pavilion as the scene where this admirable satire is laid. Another undated satire remains to be noticed: it represents a young man in a boat with three young women, one of them of considerable personal attractions, that is to say from a Cruikshankian point of view, and evidently a likeness. On the shore stands another young woman and her child, whom the young spark has evidently left behind him. In the stern of the boat is a hamper of wine and a goblet fashioned out of a skull; a noseless man rows the boat, while three sailors in an adjoining vessel make ribald observations in reference to the young man's female companions. By the star on his coat, the turned-down collar, profile, and the arrangement of the hair, we take it that the person thus satirized is Lord Byron. Any doubts we may have on the subject seem removed by the words of the song he is supposed to be singing while waving his hat to the disconsolate woman on the shore:—
" All my faults perchance thou knowest,
And the concluding stanza:—
"Fare thee well! thus disunited,
The foregoing contains a list and description of some of George Cruikshank's graphic satires, many of which we have reason to believe will be entirely new to the great majority of our readers. They support the description given of him by Lockhart at the opening of our chapter: "People consider him as a clever, sharp caricaturist, and nothing more—a free-handed, comical young fellow, who will do anything he is paid for, and who is quite content to dine off the proceeds of a 'George IV.' to-day, and those of a 'Hone,' or a 'Cobbett,' to-morrow." It must be remembered that these represent but a branch of his work; and that while content to design a satire as elaborate and as admirable as any which owe their origin to the hand of Gillray, or to dash off a rough and carelessly executed caricature, he was equally ready to etch the work of an inferior artist, or even of an amateur; to execute a drawing on wood for a ballad, or for one of the numerous political hits of the day, whether on the loyal or the popular side mattered but little to him; to do anything, in fact (to use the words of Lockhart), that "was suggested or thrown in his way." It is barely possible that the very imperfect series we have given may astonish those who have hitherto regarded George Cruikshank only as an illustrator of books, and supposed that, with the exception of the woodcuts for Hone's various jeux d'esprits, and the rough work which appears in "The Satirist," "The Scourge," and publications of a similar character, he executed but few pictorial satires. A perfect set of impressions from his caricatures probably does not exist; if it did it would command a high price indeed. We have seen a set of about seventy plates advertised by one enterprising bookseller at the price of seventy pounds. The specimens we have cited (exclusive of two from "The Scourge", 128 in number, were published between the years 1808 and 1825, by G. and H. Humphrey, S. Fairburn, Thomas Tegg, Ackermann, M. Jones, J. Fairburn, J. Dolby, W. Hone, S. W. Fores, A. Bengo, J. Sidebotham, S. Knight, and J. Johnstone. If to the foregoing we add the plates in "Cruikshankiana"—twenty-six in number, thirty in "The Scourge," six in "Fashion," nine in "The Satirist," and eight in the "Loyalists' Magazine," we get seventy-nine more, making a sum total of over two hundred in all. How many more have escaped notice—how many have disappeared for ever from public notice without a chance of recovery or revival—it would be, perhaps, impossible to say; for even George himself was sometimes at fault, when the long-forgotten work of his early years was presented to him for recognition or acknowledgment.
- Alluding to the "Life in London."
- This certainly was not true; both Gillray and Rowlandson were draughtsmen and artists of exceptionable ability.
- The article from which this is quoted is variously assigned to Professor Wilson and Lockhart; it matters little which. Meanwhile, we must have a name, let it be Lockhart's.
- The editor of "The Scourge" was one Jack Mitford. He received a classical education, was originally in the navy, and fought under Hood and Nelson. Besides "The Scourge," he edited "The Bon Ton" magazine, and "Quizzical Gazette," and was author of a sea song once popular, "The King is a true British Sailor." He was an irreclaimable drunkard, thought only of the necessities of the hour, and slept in the fields when his finances would not admit of payment of a twopenny lodging in St. Giles's. His largest work was "Johnny Newcome in the Navy," for which the publisher gave him the generous remuneration of a shilling a day till he finished it. He died in St. Giles's workhouse in 1831.
- The reader may remember that Napoleon once contracted a skin disease from taking up a weapon which had been wielded by a dead artilleryman, which gave him trouble at various periods of his life. It may be that this suggested the subject.
- See the "Declaration of the Powers," from which we have already quoted.
- "Narrative of Captain Maitland," p. 109.
- The Regent's selfish nature and expensive habits may be judged by the following extract from the Greville Memoirs. Under date of 1830, Mr. Greville writes: "Sefton gave me an account of the dinner in St. George's Hall on the King's [William If.] birthday, which was magnificent, excellent, and well served. Bridge came down with the plate, and was hid during the dinner behind the great wine-cooler, which weighs 7,000 ounces, and he told Sefton afterwards that the plate in the room was worth £200,000. There is another service of plate which was not used at all. The king has made it all over to the crown. All this plate was ordered by the late king, and never used; his delight was ordering what the public had to pay for."— Greville Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 42.
- See Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Earl of Elgin's Collection … of Marbles ("Annual Reg.," 1816, p. 447).
- See Chapter III. (1817).
- The idea of the letterpress description (a very long one), from which the above is an extract, is borrowed of course from Dr. Arbuthnot.
- See Chapter III. (1817).
- See Chapter III. (1817).
- She was fond of adopting children, and it was proved that she had adopted a daughter of the man Bergami.
- Byron's "Age of Bronze."
- Lockhart's "Life of Scott," vol. v. p. 203.
- "E. O." was another name for roulette, and forms the subject of one of Rowlandson's early and best caricatures.
- The following are the words of the original inscription: "To Arthur, Duke of Wellington, and his brave companions in arms, this statue of Achilles, cast from cannon taken in the battles of Salamanca, Vitoria, Toulouse, and! Waterloo, is inscribed by their countrywomen."
- See Chapter IV.