Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/266

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184
ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

brilliant coruscations than any other; and if we may be permitted to Compare his powers of realizing the grave, the comical, the supernatural, and the terrible to the facets of a diamond, we think the one which would be found to emit the most brilliant flashes of light would be the last. Thackeray, one of the most friendly and most competent of his critics, would seem to have considered that much of his power was shown in depicting subjects of this kind. "What a fine eye," he tells us, in his famous article which has supplied the backbone—the muscles—the very integuments of so many others,—"what a fine eye the artist has, what a skilful hand, and what a sympathy for the wild and dreadful!"

From an early period of his career as an etcher and designer, George had waged a deadly war with gin,—that potent, insidious, and evil spirit of London; the most priceless services he rendered to the cause of temperance being unquestionably given long before he had any notion of joining the ranks of the total abstainers. Like the Triumph of Cupid, the well-known Gin Juggernaut of the "Sketch Book" requires nothing more than a passing allusion. An example less known but quite as admirable will be found in the "Scraps and Sketches." It is called The Gin Shop,[1] and shows us the interior of a London gin palace. In place of the usual barrels, around the walls are ranged coffins, labelled respectively: "Deady's Cordial;" "Blue Ruin;" "Gin and Bitters;" the largest (a huge one) being marked "Old Tom." Death, habited as a watchman, has baited a huge gin trap, wherein stand five persons (two of them children, besides a baby in arms), all imbibing the deadly liquid. The wretched woman with the infant has actually placed her foot on the spring, and so great is the artist's power of realization, that we momentarily expect to see the horrible thing close with a snap! A skeleton, whose fleshless skull is masked with a pleasant female countenance, officiates as barmaid, and behind her yawns a pit, on the further side of which a circle of evil spirits curvet around a huge still. Just such a weird scene as would strike a sympathetic chord in the artist's

  1. This was written, of course, before the recent republication, which lacks the colour and crispness of the early issue.