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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 beer 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, de. scended 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
dependent on a clientèle composed exclusively of authors and publishers. “Honest George," however, laboured under a disadvantage common perhaps more or less to all men possessed of true genius. Hasty and hot-tempered, particularly in matters connected with his artistic labours, he was more than usually prone and ready to take offence. Almost invariably at war with some one or another of his employers, the story of George Cruikshank's skirmishes and quarrels with the authors and publishers with whom he was thrown in contact forms a most curious and interesting chapter in the history of artistic and literary squabbles.
At the time when Charles Dickens began to write, George Cruikshank had already achieved his reputation; and so well assured was this reputation, that the young novelist in his preface to his “Sketches by Boz," speaks of the nervousness he should have experienced in venturing alone before the public, and of his delight in securing the co-operation of an artist so distinguished as George Cruikshank. In 1838, however, the author like the artist had made his mark : “Pickwick ” and “ Nicholas Nickleby,” and “Oliver Twist” had been written; and every vestige of the nervousness of which he speaks in the preface to his “Sketches" had disappeared for ever.
Mr. Sala has somewhere happily remarked that Charles Dickens wanted rather a scene painter for his novels than a mere illustrator of books, and the very last person to answer his requirements was George Cruikshank; for, while ready and willing to execute designs illustrative of Mr. Dickens's writings, he made it an implied condition of his retainer, that he should be free to design them in his own way and after his own fashion. It was an essential condition of George Cruikshank's success as a draughtsman, not only that he should feel a sympathy for any subject he was called upon to design, but also that his genius should be left unfettered and untrammelled in his method of treatment. Hence it was that he found it impossible to co-operate with so exacting an employer of artistic labour as Charles Dickens. The latter argued, with some show of reason, that knowing what he intended to describe, he was the fittest and most competent person to explain how his meaning should be pictorially carried out. This sort of arrangement, however, did not suit the independent and somewhat impracticable spirit of the artist, and the result was almost a foregone conclusion. These two men of genius inevitably clashed; and the connection between Charles Dickens and Cruikshank was abruptly severed.
A singular memorial of the quarrel between Dickens and Cruikshank will be found in the last illustration to the author's novel of “Oliver Twist,” one of the worst that the artist ever executed. Although Mr. Forster does not say so—and possibly would not admit it,-Charles Dickens is directly responsible for this result, as the reader will agree when he learns the whole of the facts, which are only partly given in Forster's “Life," and in every other work which professes to tell the story.
The reader will not require to be told that “Oliver Twist” made its appearance in the pages of “Bentley's Miscellany.” The story of course had been written in anticipation of the magazine ; and according to Mr. Forster, Cruikshank's designs for the portion which forms the third volume “having to be executed in a lump,' were necessarily done somewhat hastily.” How far this statement is correct, the reader will be enabled to judge when we tell him that these so-called “hastily” prepared illustrations include the famous designs of Sikes and his Dog and Fagin in the Condemned Cell. “None of these illustrations,” Mr. Forster goes on to tell us, “Dickens had seen until he saw them in the book on the eve of its publication (we assume in the three-volume form], when he so strongly objected to one of them that it had to be cancelled.” “My dear Cruikshank," he at once wrote off to the artist, “I returned suddenly to town yesterday afternoon [October, 1838] to look at the latter pages of 'Oliver Twist' before it was delivered to the booksellers, when I saw the majority of the plates for the first time. With reference to the last one, Rose Maylie and Oliver, without entering into the question of great haste or any other cause which may have led to its being what it is, I am quite sure there can be little difference of opinion between us with respect to the result. May I ask you whether you will object to designing this plate afresh, and doing so at once, in
order that as few impressions as possible of the present one may go forth. I feel confident you know me too, well to feel hurt by this inquiry, and with equal .confidence in you, I have lost no time in preferring it.” At this point Mr. Forster leaves the story.
Probably very few of our readers have seen this despised and rejected plate of Rose Maylie and Oliver, for it is not the one which bears that title among the ordinary illustrations to the novel of “Oliver Twist." It is very rare, and we wish we could reproduce it here. If not one of the very best of the series, it is entirely in keeping with the rest; and so far from displaying “great haste," is in every respect a carefully finished book etching. Four figures are represented in it as sitting round the fire, among them the well-known form of Oliver, with his turn-down collar and elaborately brushed hair. On the mantle-shelf, with other ornaments, are two hyacinths in glasses, thus fixing January as the date of the scene depicted. It would have been better for the book if Charles Dickens had left it alone. The artist did as he was requested, with anger at his heart; and as a consequence, Rose Maylie will go down to posterity as the ugliest of George Cruikshank's very ugly women, in an outrageous bonnet, with her hand resting on the shoulder of a youth wearing the singular coatee or boy's jacket of forty years ago. Differing altogether from the admirable designs which preceded it, there is an incongruity about the etching which cannot fail to impress the observer. The unfortunate letter and still more unfortunate result occasioned a coolness between the men which was never wholly removed. From that time forth George Cruikshank executed no more designs for Charles Dickens, and the illustrations to the long series of novels which afterwards followed from the pen of the talented but distinctly autocratic author were entrusted to other hands. However much this result must be deplored so far as the artist himself is concerned, the coolness between Charles Dickens and George Cruikshank is scarcely to be viewed in the light of a misfortune for English illustrative art. Only consider for one moment what might have followed had the artist executed the designs to the rest of Dickens's novels! Dick Swiveller would have suited him,
THE Feud WITH
and so would Quilp, or Sampson Brass, the Yorkshire schoolmaster, Newman Noggs, Lord Frederick Verisopht, Captain Bunsby, or even Mr. Pecksniff himself; but only fancy, on the other hand, the horrors which would have been made of Dolly Varden, of Edith Dombey, of “Little Em'ly," of dear, gentle, loving little Nell! Happily for the fame of George Cruikshank, his imagination was not called into requisition for any one of these creations, and like the "annunciations,” the “beatifications," and the “apotheoses ” of Lockhart, they remain (we are thankful to say it) still unrealized !
The quarrel with Dickens was followed by a very bitter and very singular feud between the artist and Bentley. Into the causes of that quarrel we need not enter; suffice it to say that to the misunderstanding we owe some of the very worst etchings which Cruikshank ever designed, the series of illustrations to Harrison Ainsworth's novel of “Guy Fawkes.” The worst of all is the Vision of Guy Fawkes at Saint Winifred's Well, and a very singular “vision” it is. The saint has all the appearance, with all the grace, expression, and symmetry of a Dutch doll arrayed in a pocket handkerchief ; the sky is “machine ruled ;” the pillars and tracery of the ruined chapel are architectural impossibilities; while at the very first snort, the slumbering figure of Guy Fawkes must roll inevitably into the well towards the brink of which he lies in dangerous propinquity. These illustrations provoked the ire of the publisher and the remonstrances of the author, both of which were disregarded with strict impartiality. In 1842, Harrison Ainsworth retired from the conduct of the “Miscellany," and set up a rival magazine of somewhat similar plan and conception, which he christened after his own surname. This opposition venture appears to have been the result of a misunder. standing between the editor and publisher, the most serious outcome of which was, that when Ainsworth lest he carried with him George Cruikshank.
The secession of George caused Mr. Bentley the greatest possible inconvenience. The straits to which he was reduced may be imagined by the fact that A. Hervieu (an artist of considerable ability), and the clever, well-known amateur, Alfred Crowquill (Alfred