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Chapter 2
It must be confessed that for that great nation Mr. Cruikshank entertains a considerable contempt. Let the reader examine the "Life in Paris," or the five hundred designs in which Frenchmen are introduced, and he will find them almost invariably thin, with ludicrous spindle-shanks, pigtails, outstretched hands, shrugging shoulders, and queer hair and mustachios. He has the British idea of a Frenchman; and if he does not believe that the inhabitants of France are for the most part dancing-masters and barbers, yet takes care to depict such in preference, and would not speak too well of them. It is curious how these traditions endure. In France, at the present moment, the Englishman on the stage is the caricatured Englishman at the time of the war, with a shock red head, a long white coat, and invariable gaiters. Those who wish to study this subject should peruse Monsieur Paul de Kock's histories of "Lord Boulingrog" and "Lady Crockmilove." On the other hand, the old emigre has taken his station amongst us, and we doubt if a good British gallery would understand that such and such a character WAS a Frenchman unless he appeared in the ancient traditional costume.

A curious book, called "Life in Paris," published in 1822, contains a number of the artist's plates in the aquatint style; and though we believe he had never been in that capital, the designs have a great deal of life in them, and pass muster very well. A villanous race of shoulder-shrugging mortals are his Frenchmen indeed. And the heroes of the tale, a certain Mr. Dick Wildfire, Squire Jenkins, and Captain O'Shuffleton, are made to show the true British superiority on every occasion when Britons and French are brought together. This book was one among the many that the designer's genius has caused to be popular; the plates are not carefully executed, but, being colored, have a pleasant, lively look. The same style was adopted in the once famous book called "Tom and Jerry, or Life in London," which must have a word of notice here, for, although by no means Mr. Cruikshank's best work, his reputation was extraordinarily raised by it. Tom and Jerry were as popular twenty years since as Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller now are; and often have we wished, while reading the biographies of the latter celebrated personages, that they had been described as well by Mr. Cruikshank's pencil as by Mr. Dickens's pen.

As for Tom and Jerry, to show the mutability of human affairs and the evanescent nature of reputation, we have been to the British Museum and no less than five circulating libraries in quest of the book, and "Life in London," alas, is not to be found at any one of them. We can only, therefore, speak of the work from recollection, but have still a very clear remembrance of the leather gaiters of Jerry Hawthorn, the green spectacles of Logic, and the hooked nose of Corinthian Tom. They were the schoolboy's delight; and in the days when the work appeared we firmly believed the three heroes above named to be types of the most elegant, fashionable young fellows the town afforded, and thought their occupations and amusements were those of all high-bred English gentlemen. Tom knocking down the watchman at Temple Bar; Tom and Jerry dancing at Almack's; or flirting in the saloon at the theatre; at the night-houses, after the play; at Tom Cribb's, examining the silver cup then in the possession of that champion; at the chambers of Bob Logic, who, seated at a cabinet piano, plays a waltz to which Corinthian Tom and Kate are dancing; ambling gallantly in Rotten Row; or examining the poor fellow at Newgate who was having his chains knocked off before hanging: all these scenes remain indelibly engraved upon the mind, and so far we are independent of all the circulating libraries in London.

As to the literary contents of the book, they have passed sheer away. It was, most likely, not particularly refined; nay, the chances are that it was absolutely vulgar. But it must have had some merit of its own, that is clear; it must have given striking descriptions of life in some part or other of London, for all London read it, and went to see it in its dramatic shape. The artist, it is said, wished to close the career of the three heroes by bringing them all to ruin, but the writer, or publishers, would not allow any such melancholy subjects to dash the merriment of the public, and we believe Tom, Jerry, and Logic, were married off at the end of the tale, as if they had been the most moral personages in the world. There is some goodness in this pity, which authors and the public are disposed to show towards certain agreeable, disreputable characters of romance. Who would mar the prospects of honest Roderick Random, or Charles Surface, or Tom Jones? only a very stern moralist indeed. And in regard of Jerry Hawthorn and that hero without a surname, Corinthian Tom, Mr. Cruikshank, we make little doubt, was glad in his heart that he was not allowed to have his own way.

Soon after the "Tom and Jerry" and the "Life in Paris," Mr. Cruikshank produced a much more elaborate set of prints, in a work which was called "Points of Humor." These "Points" were selected from various comic works, and did not, we believe, extend beyond a couple of numbers, containing about a score of copper-plates. The collector of humorous designs cannot fail to have them in his portfolio, for they contain some of the very best efforts of Mr. Cruikshank's genius, and though not quite so highly labored as some of his later productions, are none the worse, in our opinion, for their comparative want of finish. All the effects are perfectly given, and the expression is as good as it could be in the most delicate engraving upon steel. The artist's style, too, was then completely formed; and, for our parts, we should say that we preferred his manner of 1825 to any other which he has adopted since. The first picture, which is called "The Point of Honor," illustrates the old story of the officer who, on being accused of cowardice for refusing to fight a duel, came among his brother officers and flung a lighted grenade down upon the floor, before which his comrades fled ignominiously. This design is capital, and the outward rush of heroes, walking, trampling, twisting, scuffling at the door, is in the best style of the grotesque. You see but the back of most of these gentlemen; into which, nevertheless, the artist has managed to throw an expression of ludicrous agony that one could scarcely have expected to find in such a part of the human figure. The next plate is not less good. It represents a couple who, having been found one night tipsy, and lying in the same gutter, were, by a charitable though misguided gentleman, supposed to be man and wife, and put comfortably to bed together. The morning came; fancy the surprise of this interesting pair when they awoke and discovered their situation. Fancy the manner, too, in which Cruikshank has depicted them, to which words cannot do justice. It is needless to state that this fortuitous and temporary union was followed by one more lasting and sentimental, and that these two worthy persons were married, and lived happily ever after.

We should like to go through every one of these prints. There is the jolly miller, who, returning home at night, calls upon his wife to get him a supper, and falls to upon rashers of bacon and ale. How he gormandizes, that jolly miller! rasher after rasher, how they pass away frizzling and, smoking from the gridiron down that immense grinning gulf of a mouth. Poor wife! how she pines and frets, at that untimely hour of midnight to be obliged to fry, fry, fry perpetually, and minister to the monster's appetite. And yonder in the clock: what agonized face is that we see? By heavens, it is the squire of the parish. What business has he there? Let us not ask. Suffice it to say, that he has, in the hurry of the moment, left up stairs his br——; his—psha! a part of his dress, in short, with a number of bank-notes in the pockets. Look in the next page, and you will see the ferocious, bacon-devouring ruffian of a miller is actually causing this garment to be carried through the village and cried by the town-crier. And we blush to be obliged to say that the demoralized miller never offered to return the banknotes, although he was so mighty scrupulous in endeavoring to find an owner for the corduroy portfolio in which he had found them.

Passing from this painful subject, we come, we regret to state, to a series of prints representing personages not a whit more moral. Burns's famous "Jolly Beggars" have all had their portraits drawn by Cruikshank. There is the lovely "hempen widow," quite as interesting and romantic as the famous Mrs. Sheppard, who has at the lamented demise of her husband adopted the very same consolation.

     "My curse upon them every one,
     They've hanged my braw John Highlandman;

     .      .     .      .

     And now a widow I must mourn
     Departed joys that ne'er return;
     No comfort but a hearty can
     When I think on John Highlandman."

Sweet "raucle carlin," she has none of the sentimentality of the English highwayman's lady; but being wooed by a tinker and

     "A pigmy scraper wi' his fiddle
     Wha us'd to trystes and fairs to driddle,"

prefers the practical to the merely musical man. The tinker sings with a noble candor, worthy of a fellow of his strength of body and station in life—

         "My bonnie lass, I work in brass,
            A tinker is my station;
          I've travell'd round all Christian ground
            In this my occupation.
          I've ta'en the gold, I've been enroll'd
            In many a noble squadron;
          But vain they search'd when off I march'd
            To go an' clout the caudron."

It was his ruling passion. What was military glory to him, forsooth? He had the greatest contempt for it, and loved freedom and his copper kettle a thousand times better—a kind of hardware Diogenes. Of fiddling he has no better opinion. The picture represents the "sturdy caird" taking "poor gut-scraper" by the beard,—drawing his "roosty rapier," and swearing to "speet him like a pliver" unless he would relinquish the bonnie lassie for ever—

         "Wi' ghastly ee, poor tweedle-dee
            Upon his hunkers bended,
          An' pray'd for grace wi' ruefu' face,
            An' so the quarrel ended."

Hark how the tinker apostrophizes the violinist, stating to the widow at the same time the advantages which she might expect from an alliance with himself:—

         "Despise that shrimp, that withered imp,
            Wi' a' his noise and caperin';
          And take a share with those that bear
            The budget and the apron!

         "And by that stowp, my faith an' houpe,
            An' by that dear Kilbaigie!
          If e'er ye want, or meet wi' scant,
            May I ne'er weet my craigie."

Cruikshank's caird is a noble creature; his face and figure show him to be fully capable of doing and saying all that is above written of him.

In the second part, the old tale of "The Three Hunchbacked Fiddlers" is illustrated with equal felicity. The famous classical dinners and duel in "Peregrine Pickle" are also excellent in their way; and the connoisseur of prints and etchings may see in the latter plate, and in another in this volume, how great the artist's mechanical skill is as an etcher. The distant view of the city in the duel, and of a market-place in "The Quack Doctor," are delightful specimens of the artist's skill in depicting buildings and backgrounds. They are touched with a grace, truth, and dexterity of workmanship that leave nothing to desire. We have before mentioned the man with the mouth, which appears in this number emblematical of gout and indigestion, in which the artist has shown all the fancy of Callot. Little demons, with long saws for noses, are making dreadful incisions into the toes of the unhappy sufferer; some are bringing pans of hot coals to keep the wounded member warm; a huge, solemn nightmare sits on the invalid's chest, staring solemnly into his eyes; a monster, with a pair of drumsticks, is banging a devil's tattoo on his forehead; and a pair of imps are nailing great tenpenny nails into his hands to make his happiness complete.

The late Mr. Clark's excellent work, "Three Courses and a Dessert," was published at a time when the rage for comic stories was not so great as it since has been, and Messrs. Clark and Cruikshank only sold their hundreds where Messrs. Dickens and Phiz dispose of their thousands. But if our recommendation can in any way influence the reader, we would enjoin him to have a copy of the "Three Courses," that contains some of the best designs of our artist, and some of the most amusing tales in our language. The invention of the pictures, for which Mr. Clark takes credit to himself, says a great deal for his wit and fancy. Can we, for instance, praise too highly the man who invented that wonderful oyster?

Examine him well; his beard, his pearl, his little round stomach, and his sweet smile. Only oysters know how to smile in this way; cool, gentle, waggish, and yet inexpressibly innocent and winning. Dando himself must have allowed such an artless native to go free, and consigned him to the glassy, cool, translucent wave again.

In writing upon such subjects as these with which we have been furnished, it can hardly be expected that we should follow any fixed plan and order—we must therefore take such advantage as we may, and seize upon our subject when and wherever we can lay hold of him.

For Jews, sailors, Irishmen, Hessian boots, little boys, beadles, policemen, tall life-guardsmen, charity children, pumps, dustmen, very short pantaloons, dandies in spectacles, and ladies with aquiline noses, remarkably taper waists, and wonderfully long ringlets, Mr. Cruikshank has a special predilection. The tribe of Israelites he has studied with amazing gusto; witness the Jew in Mr. Ainsworth's "Jack Sheppard," and the immortal Fagin of "Oliver Twist." Whereabouts lies the comic vis in these persons and things? Why should a beadle be comic, and his opposite a charity boy? Why should a tall life-guardsman have something in him essentially absurd? Why are short breeches more ridiculous than long? What is there particularly jocose about a pump, and wherefore does a long nose always provoke the beholder to laughter? These points may be metaphysically elucidated by those who list. It is probable that Mr. Cruikshank could not give an accurate definition of that which is ridiculous in these objects, but his instinct has told him that fun lurks in them, and cold must be the heart that can pass by the pantaloons of his charity boys, the Hessian boots of his dandies, and the fan-tail hats of his dustmen, without respectful wonder.

He has made a complete little gallery of dustmen. There is, in the first place, the professional dustman, who, having in the enthusiastic exercise of his delightful trade, laid hands upon property not strictly his own, is pursued, we presume, by the right owner, from whom he flies as fast as his crooked shanks will carry him.

What a curious picture it is—the horrid rickety houses in some dingy suburb of London, the grinning cobbler, the smothered butcher, the very trees which are covered with dust—it is fine to look at the different expressions of the two interesting fugitives. The fiery charioteer who belabors the poor donkey has still a glance for his brother on foot, on whom punishment is about to descend. And not a little curious is it to think of the creative power of the man who has arranged this little tale of low life. How logically it is conducted, how cleverly each one of the accessories is made to contribute to the effect of the whole. What a deal of thought and humor has the artist expended on this little block of wood; a large picture might have been painted out of the very same materials, which Mr. Cruikshank, out of his wondrous fund of merriment and observation, can afford to throw away upon a drawing not two inches long. From the practical dustmen we pass to those purely poetical. There are three of them who rise on clouds of their own raising, the very genii of the sack and shovel.

Is there no one to write a sonnet to these?—and yet a whole poem was written about Peter Bell the wagoner, a character by no means so poetic.

And lastly, we have the dustman in love: the honest fellow having seen a young beauty stepping out of a gin-shop on a Sunday morning, is pressing eagerly his suit.

Gin has furnished many subjects to Mr. Cruikshank, who labors in his own sound and hearty way to teach his countrymen the dangers of that drink. In the "Sketch-Book" is a plate upon the subject, remarkable for fancy and beauty of design; it is called the "Gin Juggernaut," and represents a hideous moving palace, with a reeking still at the roof and vast gin-barrels for wheels, under which unhappy millions are crushed to death. An immense black cloud of desolation covers over the country through which the gin monster has passed, dimly looming through the darkness whereof you see an agreeable prospect of gibbets with men dangling, burnt houses, &c. The vast cloud comes sweeping on in the wake of this horrible body-crusher; and you see, by way of contrast, a distant, smiling, sunshiny tract of old English country, where gin as yet is not known. The allegory is as good, as earnest, and as fanciful as one of John Bunyan's, and we have often fancied there was a similarity between the men.

The render will examine the work called "My Sketch-Book" with not a little amusement, and may gather from it, as we fancy, a good deal of information regarding the character of the individual man, George Cruikshank: what points strike his eye as a painter; what move his anger or admiration as a moralist; what classes he seems most especially disposed to observe, and what to ridicule. There are quacks of all kinds, to whom he has a mortal hatred; quack dandies, who assume under his pencil, perhaps in his eye, the most grotesque appearance possible—their hats grow larger, their legs infinitely more crooked and lean; the tassels of their canes swell out to a most preposterous size; the tails of their coats dwindle away, and finish where coat-tails generally begin. Let us lay a wager that Cruikshank, a man of the people if ever there was one, heartily hates and despises these supercilious, swaggering young gentlemen; and his contempt is not a whit the less laudable because there may be tant soit peu of prejudice in it. It is right and wholesome to scorn dandies, as Nelson said it was to hate Frenchmen; in which sentiment (as we have before said) George Cruikshank undoubtedly shares. In the "Sunday in London,"* Monsieur the Chef is instructing a kitchen-maid how to compound some rascally French kickshaw or the other—a pretty scoundrel truly! with what an air he wears that nightcap of his, and shrugs his lank shoulders, and chatters, and ogles, and grins: they are all the same, these mounseers; there are other two fellows—morbleu! one is putting his dirty fingers into the saucepan; there are frogs cooking in it, no doubt; and just over some other dish of abomination, another dirty rascal is taking snuff! Never mind, the sauce won't be hurt by a few ingredients more or less. Three such fellows as these are not worth one Englishman, that's clear. There is one in the very midst of them, the great burly fellow with the beef: he could beat all three in five minutes. We cannot be certain that such was the process going on in Mr. Cruikshank's mind when he made the design; but some feelings of the sort were no doubt entertained by him.

     * The following lines—ever fresh—by the author of
     "Headlong Hall," published years ago in the Globe and
     Traveller, are an excellent comment on several of the cuts
     from the "Sunday in London:"—

                        I.

         "The poor man's sins are glaring;
          In the face of ghostly warning
            He is caught in the fact
            Of an overt act,
          Buying greens on Sunday morning.

                       II.

         "The rich man's sins are hidden
          In the pomp of wealth and station,
            And escape the sight
            Of the children of light,
          Who are wise in their generation.

                      III.

         "The rich man has a kitchen,
          And cooks to dress his dinner;
            The poor who would roast,
            To the baker's must post,
          And thus becomes a sinner.

                       IV.

         "The rich man's painted windows
          Hide the concerts of the quality;
            The poor can but share
            A crack'd fiddle in the air,
          Which offends all sound morality.

                        V.

         "The rich man has a cellar,
          And a ready butler by him;
            The poor must steer
            For his pint of beer
          Where the saint can't choose but spy him.

                       VI.

         "This rich man is invisible
          In the crowd of his gay society;
            But the poor man's delight
            Is a sore in the sight
          And a stench in the nose of piety."

Against dandy footmen he is particularly severe. He hates idlers, pretenders, boasters, and punishes these fellows as best he may. Who does not recollect the famous picture, "What IS taxes, Thomas?" What is taxes indeed; well may that vast, over-fed, lounging flunky ask the question of his associate Thomas: and yet not well, for all that Thomas says in reply is, "I DON'T KNOW." "O beati PLUSHICOLAE," what a charming state of ignorance is yours! In the "Sketch-Book" many footmen make their appearance: one is a huge fat Hercules of a Portman Square porter, who calmly surveys another poor fellow, a porter likewise, but out of livery, who comes staggering forward with a box that Hercules might lift with his little finger. Will Hercules do so? not he. The giant can carry nothing heavier than a cocked-hat note on a silver tray, and his labors are to walk from his sentry-box to the door, and from the door back to his sentry-box, and to read the Sunday paper, and to poke the hall fire twice or thrice, and to make five meals a day. Such a fellow does Cruikshank hate and scorn worse even than a Frenchman.

The man's master, too, comes in for no small share of our artist's wrath. There is a company of them at church, who humbly designate themselves "miserable sinners!" Miserable sinners indeed! Oh, what floods of turtle-soup, what tons of turbot and lobster-sauce must have been sacrificed to make those sinners properly miserable. My lady with the ermine tippet and draggling feather, can we not see that she lives in Portland Place, and is the wife of an East India Director? She has been to the Opera over-night (indeed her husband, on her right, with his fat hand dangling over the pew-door, is at this minute thinking of Mademoiselle Leocadie, whom he saw behind the scenes)—she has been at the Opera over-night, which with a trifle of supper afterwards—a white-and-brown soup, a lobster-salad, some woodcocks, and a little champagne—sent her to bed quite comfortable. At half-past eight her maid brings her chocolate in bed, at ten she has fresh eggs and muffins, with, perhaps, a half-hundred of prawns for breakfast, and so can get over the day and the sermon till lunch-time pretty well. What an odor of musk and bergamot exhales from the pew!—how it is wadded, and stuffed, and spangled over with brass nails! what hassocks are there for those who are not too fat to kneel! what a flustering and flapping of gilt prayer-books; and what a pious whirring of bible leaves one hears all over the church, as the doctor blandly gives out the text! To be miserable at this rate you must, at the very least, have four thousand a year: and many persons are there so enamored of grief and sin, that they would willingly take the risk of the misery to have a life-interest in the consols that accompany it, quite careless about consequences, and sceptical as to the notion that a day is at hand when you must fulfil YOUR SHARE OF THE BARGAIN.


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