Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/441

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protest against the cant and narrow-mindedness of the bigots whose ignorance of the sacred writings is so dense that they confound the Jewish Sabbath (i.e. the Saturday) with the English Sunday; misunderstand (which in their ignorance of Hebrew may be excusable) the directions to his own people of the Jewish law-giver,—and ignore (which is absolutely inexcusable) the dictates of common sense, and the plain directions of our Saviour and of the Gentile Apostle. The strong common sense of Charles Dickens, and of many good Christian men after him, have striven in vain to expose an error due to the narrow-mindedness of our Puritan forefathers, to whom are due also the impurities of Dryden and of the dramatic writers of the Restoration. Cant, however, has prevailed; and the English Sunday—to the delight of these fanatics, and the absolute terror of their children—remains the most unrefreshing and most doleful of the seven days of the week.

The "Jack Sheppard" Mania.Theatrical London in 1840 was visited by an excitement second only to the "Tom and Jerry" mania of 1821. The mania of 1840, if occupying a narrower area, was more morbid in its character, and certainly not less mischievous in its results. Harrison Ainsworth had brought out his peculiar romance of "Jack Sheppard," which, resting on its own merits, might have achieved perhaps a mild popularity and done but little harm. Thanks, however, to the genius and fancy of George Cruikshank, the public became for a time Sheppard mad; the heroes presented to admiring and applauding audiences at the theatres were murderers, housebreakers, highway robbers, thieves, and their female companions. The morbid taste of the populace had in fact been thoroughly roused, a condition of things which was satirized by the artist's little-known etching of The Way to the Gallows made Easy and Pleasant, which appeared in "The New Monthly Magazine" of 1840.[1] The inventive powers of the artist were almost nil, and the rare and able etching referred to was suggested to him by John Poole, the author of "Paul Pry," to whom we are indebted for the descriptive letterpress: "At the foot

  1. And republished in "Poole's Miscellany."