Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/286
can please men or live long that are written by water-drinkers," and disposed to undervalue the tact and discretion of some of the advocates of total abstinence, for its abstract principles he can say and think nothing but what is good. But he is writing, be it remembered, of a great artist—one whose mission was that of an artist, not that of a temperance orator,—of one who had served the righteous and good cause of temperance best when he remembered that genius had made him an artist and not a temperance orator, of one who had rendered that cause yeoman's service long before he joined the total abstainers, in designing The Gin Juggernaut, The Gin Trap, and work of a kindred nature. The cause, too, so far as mere verbal advocacy was concerned, was better served by men of vastly inferior mark and ability. Before this fatal plunge was taken his genius had roamed in an absolutely uncontrolled range of freedom. He had travelled into the land of chivalry and romance, into the realms of fairy fancy, magic, and diablery; he had brought back with him pictures of the wondrous people, lands, and scenes which his fancy had visited. All this was at an end; this wonderful genius was now forced into a narrow groove, where it could no longer have the freedom of action which was essential to its very existence. From the moment that George Cruikshank turned temperance orator, the world of English art lost one of its brightest ornaments, and he himself both fame and fortune; for, as Mr. Bates observes, "some of his earliest friends were alienated, and remunerative work that might have been his was diverted, from sheer prejudice, into other hands." His style, too, as Mr. Bates further remarks, "suffered by the contraction of his ideas and sympathies, and his art became associated with that vulgarity and want of aestheticism which perhaps necessarily characterizes the movement." The Bottle and The Drunkard's Children, although successful in a pecuniary point of view—compared with what had gone before,—can scarcely be called art at all; in these too he unconsciously put himself in competition with Hogarth, and as a matter of necessity failed.