Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/265

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183
CRUIKSHANKIAN DEVILS.

Like "Pug," George Cruikshank's devils accommodate themselves, their appearance, and their costume to the prejudices of the persons they design to serve. With saints and perverse sinners it is obvious that any attempt at disguise would be futile; but with so respectable a person as a Dutch burgher, or so suspicious an individual as an English lawyer, the case is altogether different. We have specimens of the respectable devil in the "long-legged bondholder" who appears to his unfortunate Dutch debtor; the portly, well-dressed little man in the "Gentleman in black"; and the seedy looking old clothes dealer of "Peter Schlemihl." Quite a different devil to any of these is the devil that interviews St. Nicholas, the devil whom St. Medard circumvented, or the simple-minded and unfortunate devil that fell into the clutches of St. Dunstan. This last is probably the most comical diabolique that Cruikshank ever designed. In an evil hour this miserable fiend had irritated the saint by mimicking his musical powers; and growing bolder with impunity, even ventured to challenge his skill as a mechanic, by doubting his ability to fit a shoe to his own diabolical hoof. The saint promptly whipped up the leg, and it was not until this simple devil found himself in the clutches of the saint, that he fully comprehended the prodigious powers of the holy personage he had ventured to chaff. In spite of his howls and frantic efforts to escape, the iron shoe is remorselessly fitted, and nail after nail driven into the quick. Imagine the sufferings of that poor devil; observe his comically distorted countenance as he bellows with agony and impotent rage; how his tail curls round his leg in the extremity of his anguish! The worst perhaps has to follow, for in spite of the agony of his crippled hoof, a deed will have to be "signed, sealed, and delivered," by which his claim to a legion of sinful souls has to be for ever released and extinguished. It is worthy of remark that George Cruikshank's devils simple-minded, weak creatures, more mischievous than really wicked, in all their contests with the saints (Saint Anthony excepted) invariably come off second best.

In estimating his merits, the genius of George Cruikshank may not inaptly be compared to a diamond. One facet often emits more