Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/273

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CHAPTER IX.


GEORGE CRUIKSHANK (Continued).

THE SLEEP OF THIRTY YEARS.


The artistic career of George Cruikshank presents probably one of the most singular problems to be met with in the history of satirical art. It may be divided into three portions, two of which we have already considered: the first represents that section wherein we have seen him described by Lockhart as "one of the most careless creatures alive," having "no plan, almost no ambition," doing "just what was suggested or thrown in his way," "quite contented to dine off the proceeds of a 'George the Fourth' to day, and those of a 'Hone' or a 'Cobbett' to morrow!" the second may be said to be embraced between the years 1822 and 1848, during which period we find this man without plan, ambition, or industry (to complete the charge of Lockhart), busily engaged in building up the reputation which the critic had so confidently and so truly predicted of him; the third and last section, the strangest surely of all, shows us this man of genius—in the full enjoyment of an assured and well-merited reputation, in the midst of his artistic vigour, at the height of a success altogether unexampled—deliberately throwing away his opportunities, and consigning himself to a slumber of thirty years, which might almost justify us in terming him the "Rip Van Winkle" of British art. The causes of this strange decadence, this singular mental inactivity, which seem to us to have been hitherto very little or at best very imperfectly understood, we now propose to consider.

Professor Bates' Theory.Professor Bates, one of the ablest of the essayists who have written on George Cruikshank since the time when Thackeray penned his

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