Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/182

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

fans, and highwaymen and abandoned women became the heroes and heroines of the hour, so, in like manner, the Cruikshanks' designs were now transferred to tea-trays, snuff-boxes, pocket-handkerchiefs, screens, and ladies' fans, and the popular favourites of 1821 and 1822 were "Corinthian Tom," "Jerry Hawthorn," "Bob Logic," "Bob the dustman," and "Corinthian Kate."

The success of "Life in London" was not regarded with equal satisfaction by all classes of the community; the serious world was horribly scandalized. Zealous, honest, fervid, and terribly in earnest, these good folks, in their ignorance of the world and of human nature, only added to the mischief which it was their honest wish to abate. They proclaimed the immorality of the drama; denounced "Tom and Jerry" from the pulpit; and besieged the doors of the play houses with a perfect army of tract droppers. Anything more injudicious, anything less calculated to achieve the end which these good people had in view, I can scarcely imagine; for it is a well-known fact that the best method of making a book or a play a "commercial success," in England, is to throw doubts on its moral tendency.[1] The more respectable portion of the press did better service to their cause by showing that, in spite of their popularity, "Tom and Jerry" were doing mischief, and that the theatres lent their aid to disseminate the evil, by nightly regaling the female part of society "with vivid representations of the blackest sinks of iniquity to be found in the metropolis." Called on to defend his drama, Moncrieff, strange to say, proved himself no wiser than his assailants. All he could allege in its behalf was that "the obnoxious scenes of life were only shown that they might be avoided; the danger of mixing in them was strikingly exemplified; and every incident tended to prove"—what? why,—"that happiness was only to be found in the domestic circle"! This was special pleading with a vengeance! Of course all that the theatres really cared to do was to fill their exhausted exchequers; while as for Bohemian Robert and his friend Egan, the idea of making the "Life in London" a moral lesson never

  1. A fact which testifies to the curiosity and not the immorality of our people.