Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/287

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203
THE WORSHIP OF BACCHUS.

He had been a king among designers and etchers; he had been and was still an admirable water-colour artist, but knew comparatively little of the manipulation or management of oils. A new crusade had however to be preached, to be preached by means of an oil painting; and for this purpose George was to be inspired off hand (so to speak) with a new art, and to paint a picture in oils. We know the result—the lamentable result—in that most preposterous Worship of Bacchus. His motive was good, his ideas were vast, but the genius which in his unregenerate days had enabled him to design The Gin Trap and the The Gin Juggernaut, was no longer there. Unhappy Rip! There is more poetry—more fancy—more romance—more art—fire—genius in one of the little "bits," nine inches by six, executed in the days of his pipe and his glass, than in any one part or portion of this most gigantic failure.

The mere fact of his joining the ranks of the total abstainers would have done him perhaps little professional mischief, had he been content simply to join them, and aid their cause, as he had once so graphically done by depicting the evils of gin drinking and intemperance; but it was one of the failings as well as one of the virtues of this impulsive, earnest man's character, that whatever his hand found to do, "he did it with his might." Desiring to aid them to the best of his power, he mistook the means by which that aid might best be applied, and forgot that his talents lay not in the tongue but in his hand and his head. We look upon George Cruikshank after 1849, no longer as an artist, but as a very indifferent temperance lecturer. The reign of Fancy was over. Thenceforth no "Reveries," no "Jack o' Lanterns," no "Gin Juggernauts," would come from that indefatigable hand, that fertile brain, that wondrous and facile pencil. George Cruikshank took his Worship of Bacchus, and went out into the world (heaven save the mark!) as a temperance lecturer. His literary abilities were, however, small; he lacked even that "gentle dulness"[1] which characterizes the leading advocates of the move-

  1. "And gentle dulness ever loves a joke."—Dunciad.