Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/274

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ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

famous article, would have us believe that the causes which led up to his retirement from active life whilst yet in the enjoyment of his vigorous intellect, are due partly to the change which has befallen "the literature of fiction during the last thirty years," but principally to the fact of his embracing the temperance movement with more zeal than discretion. As a matter of fact, however, long before this step had been taken, there had been causes equally potent at work which seem to have escaped Mr. Bates' attention, and these causes, which appear to us the leading factors in the unfortunate final result, lay, as we shall endeavour to explain, in an entirely different direction.

People who knew and judged of George Cruikshank (as the majority of his contemporaries necessarily did) by his work alone, formed altogether an erroneous judgment of the character and disposition of the man. Because his later designs showed or seemed to show a love of little children, a liking for home and homely subjects, a delight in fairy lore and legend, it seems there- fore to have been assumed that the artist was almost child-like in simplicity, innocence, and guilelessness of heart. Some even of those who have written upon him, acting apparently upon this impression, have given us to understand that "he never raised a laugh at the expense of decency"; that "satire never, in his hands, descended into scurrility"; that "a moral purpose ever underlaid his humour"; that "he sought to instruct and improve whenever he amused." The absurdity of this statement we have already exposed. In reference to a supposed singleness of heart and honesty of purpose, some writers have termed him "honest George." All this was very well. We all know, of course, that he "never pandered to sensuality" or "glorified vice"; but in spite of these facts, "honest George" himself, so far at least as we personally know, never assumed or set up, or even aimed at assuming, that he was one whit better than his neighbours.

In order that the reader may grasp the causes of his sudden decadence, it is important that he should understand the position and the peculiarities of the artist As an illustrator of books he was