Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - London by Day and Night, by David W.Bartlett, 1852 - Chapter 4 - Pictures of Men

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    THERE are few people in America who have not heard of that erratic yet extraordinary genius, GEORGE CRUIKSHANK. It is many years since he struck out in a new path, and the result is that he has won for himself a brilliant fame. There have been a thousand followers at his heels, and some of them have attained great eminence as artists, though not one of all of them has equalled the master. He is without any doubt the drollest, roost intensely comical, of all artists, and still is sometimes very beautiful and pathetic.
    In a single group of his, you will find abundant cause for laughter and tears. While he shakes your sides with laughter at some humorous conception, he makes you weep over some young face that has such a gentle, heart-broken sorrow upon it, that you cannot help it. Every face and figure in his sketches is alive and endowed with the faculties of life. Misery has her own sad features; Fun and Humor are full of their pranks; while Vice looks more hideous than Death.
    Mr. Cruikshank is one of the most popular men and artists in England, and everywhere he goes he is sure to be greeted with shouts and cheering. One reason for this is, that he is known to be a real friend to the people. A great many artists have no opinions whatever, upon any subject disconnected [-64-] with their art. But George Cruikshank is a man as well as artist.
    A few years since he joined the friends of Temperance, and it is almost impossible in America to appreciate the sacrifice consequent upon such an act in England. For a distinguished person in good society in London to swear off from wine, is an act which requires a great deal of moral courage, though there be an entire absence of a liking for the beverage. You meet it everywhere at rich men's tables, and are expected, as a matter of course, to drink with the ladies.
    But Cruikshank signed the pledge, and kept it strictly. The fact was that he was in danger of ruin, and the pledge was his salvation. Men of genius always are, when the wine-cup is fashionable, above all other men. The love of excitement in such is a powerful passion, and "the ruby wine" is often their deadliest bane. It would be needless to point out instances where the loftiest have fallen. Douglas Jerrold, the witty, yet sometimes deeply pathetic writer, is making a sad wreck of himself through the extravagant use of intoxicating liquors. Mr. Cruikshank often makes his appearance in public at temperance meetings. He has been at Exeter Hall and Drury Lane. However, he is not an orator, but he is so distinguished as an artist, that his presence is counted as a great favor. A public meeting never goes off in London with éclat unless several distinguished men are present. Earls, Dukes, and Lords, though noodles in point of intellect, make an impression on the public through their titles!
    George Cruikshank was born in London, of Scotch parents, and within the sound of Bow Bells we suppose, for he calls himself a "cockney." His father possessed quite a genius for etching, and his oldest brother Robert was for a time associated with him, his name frequently accompanying that of George in the illustration of various works; but the genius of the latter soon raised him above father and brother.
    [-65-] He commenced etching while quite young, and studied 3naracters in low life along the banks of the river Thames. He could never have risen to so high a position as he has done, had he not studied life in London in all its phases and aspects. He is as perfectly acquainted with the etiquette of the lowest tap-room as the choicest drawing-room. Not a character of note, whether in low life or high, has escaped his eagle eye; and the result of this watchfulness, this tendency to observe, is apparent in all his sketches. It was his series of etchings entitled "Mornings at Bow-street," and "Life in London," which first attracted the attention of London and England. Shortly after this he illustrated the political squibs of the celebrated William Hone, and these added to his fame.
    Mr. Hone was then a noted infidel, but afterwards under the preaching of the remarkable Thomas Binney, became a sincere Christian.
    We have alluded to one of the causes of Mr. Cruikshank's popularity as being his friendship for the people. He is radical to the core, and such is his devotion to Liberalism, that he has invariably refused to caricature any man who is a true friend of progress, or to allow his talents to be used in any manner or shape, against the cause of Progress. In this he is like another distinguished artist, Richard Doyle, a Catholic. When the Anti-Catholic Agitation swept over England, Punch, the journal of wit and humor, with which he was professionally connected, came out so decidedly against Popery, that the faithful Doyle left it to his pecuniary hurt. Protestants admired his consistency, while they deplored his religious principles and belief.
    The acknowledged talent of Cruikshank is such, that he has ten times the employment offered him that he can execute, and sets his own prices. For what once he used to receive five dollars, he now gets fifty. His sense of the ludicrous is excessively keen - he has no superior in London in [-66-] that faculty. He cannot walk in the streets a half-mile, without picking up some grotesque figure, or face, where ordinary men would have seen nothing worthy of observation. A few years ago he went down to Manchester, to attend a great Anti-Corn Law Meeting, and convulsed the immense audience with laughter, by rising in his own odd way, and telling them that "he had come to Manchester, and attended the meeting that night in a professional manner, and that from what he had seen, he had no doubt that he should he well paid for his trouble!"
    A London writer remarking upon him says, that he is the only man he knows who is equal to the class of under-cabmen in London. This class is the most impudent and insulting of any to be found on the face of the earth ; but George Cruikshank is always ready for them. If they bluster and scold, he imitates them so exactly and thoroughly, that they are glad to let him off without cheating him out of an extra sixpence, as they generally do their customers.
    Mr. Cruikshank is very eccentric, and from this fact many people think him cross and unmannerly; but such is not the case. He has a warm heart and a generous hand, but is extremely odd.
    In person he is well-made; about the middle height, and has light-colored hair. He has a very expressive face-the eye is drollery and keenness combined. He has a pale countenance, handsome whiskers, a good but receding forehead, and a good general figure. He always dresses well, very well - some say foppishly, but it is our opinion that those who say so mistake a rich and flowing style of dress for foppishness. In the main portions of London, if a person dares to patronize a French tailor, he is at once accused of foppishness, while those who cling to the barbarous styles in fashion in London are gentlemen of taste! A portion of the aristocracy are  [-67-]  much m France, however, that they imbibe French notions in dress, as well as in some more important matters.
    The devotion of Mr. Cruikshank to the cause of Temperance is noble and disinterested. The Times has deigned to point its thunder at him in a leading article, but he has his revenge in dissecting the Times on the platform at Exeter Hall, and it certainly is not saying too much (poor an orator as the artist is), to say that he does not come out of the fray second best. The friends of Temperance appreciate his labors, and respect his philanthropy equally with his genius.


    It is a rare thing to meet Alfred Tennyson in London society. Since the publication of his first volume of poems - twenty years ago - he has led a retired life, so much so, that even in literary circles, he has scarcely ever been seen. Possibly to-night, you may find him over a meerschaum at the Howitt's, but where he will be on the morrow a mesmerist could not divine. Up among the Wordsworthian lakes one day; into a quiet nook in town the next; but rarely in general society. These at least, were his characteristics before his recent marriage. He has always sought privacy, and it seems half-impudent to attempt to say anything of one who has so studiously kept aloof from London society. His poetry is quite another matter, for that he has given to the world to criticize as it may.
    No one need be told that the poet loves to wander where:-
                    "On either hand
                The lawns and meadow-ledges midway down
                Hang rich in flowers, and far below them roars
                The long brook, falling through the clov'n ravine
                In cataract after cataract to the sea.
    [-68-] The love of country, and country things, is strong and passionate in the poet's breast, and his love of the town is faint. But he is often in London.
    There is an old tavern in the metropolis where Sam Johnson, Garrick, Goldsmith, Reynolds, and others used to meet for social purposes. The name of this tavern is "The Cock," and its head-waiter is of tremendous proportions. Tennyson used to like to go there, and take a steak with a friend, and after awhile wrote a poem on it, commencing with the line:v
                "Oh, plump head waiter at the Cock.''
    One day a friend of ours dropped in at the tavern, and calling the head-waiter to him, drew forth a volume of Tennyson's poems and forthwith read to him the poem in question. It had a most inflating effect upon the waiter - he was immortalized in Tennysonian verse Not long after our friend had the pleasure of dining there in company with the poet, and contrived to whisper to the head-waiter that Tennyson was present. His attentions at once became pompous and obsequious, so much so as to excite the laughter of the poet.
    "What can be the matter with the fellow ?" he asked.
    "It is a penalty you pay for your distinction," was the reply. "Have you forgotten your poem on 'The Cock?' Some one has, I dare say, been reading it to him !"
    Although Tennyson has not been fond of promiscuous society, he has not been averse to spending the long evenings of a London winter, in the society of a few select and dent friends, and these know well how rich a feast it is to listen to his conversation, which, if it be not so profuse as that of Macaulay, is the more to be prized.
    It seems, sometimes, strange that a poet who could make such exquisite "Orianas," and "Claribels," and "Lillians"; [-69-] whose great theme has been the sublime passion of love, should wait until almost middle age for marriage. We know that it has been more than hinted, that he has been a sufferer through his affections, but one could not derive the fact from his poetry. He is not like Byron or Lamartine, and if he chouses, such heart-trials should forever be shrouded in Secrecy.
    "Locksley Hall," is one of his most impassioned, burning poems, and yet it is a simple story, and quite common in this material world of ours. The poet loves a lady - is loved in return - she proves false and marries a mere man of the world. Those who have read the poem, need not be reminded of its beauty, pathos, and passion. But we do not intend a critique on Alfred Tennyson's poetry-our object is merely to say a few things of the poet.
    No one who has ever looked straight into the beautiful eyes of Tennyson, will doubt his being a poet, even if he has never read a line of his poetry, for there is "unwritten poetry" in those eyes. There is a spiritual beauty in them one rarely sees-not merely intellectual, but full of love and mildness. His forehead is large and rather retreating; his lips have a fulness, which betokens the capacity for powerful passion; his hair is dark, and hangs in rich masses down almost upon his shoulders. The general appearance of his countenance is one of gentle melancholy. It is very plain after you have seen his face, that he has known what it is to suffer. With the melancholy, there is a modesty, as if he shrank from general observation, as he does in fact. In his fine brow, and the expression of his mouth, one gets an idea of his great power as a poet , and from his eyes flashes the fire of a "fine phrenzy."
    There are some earnest reformers -  and they are really men of intellect in England who think that Tennyson's poetry is not imbued with the spirit of the age - that in devotion to [-70-] mere Beauty, he has neglected Truth. That he has not asserted the glory of mere manhood, and has been too willing to agree with the aristocratic and conventional usages and opinions which obtain in England, and which only exalt man according to his ribbons and garters. But certainly in " Clara Vere de Vere," the poet not only shows little respect for rank, but gives a pungent lesson for the aristocracy to ponder. It is a well-known fact, that personally, he has never relished the cold and heartless conventionalities which break so many hearts in the proud "sea-rock isle." He has shown his independence, in refusing to mingle heartily in such society, upon such terms as it demanded of him.
    The critics are generally supercilious in their treatment of a young author, and the more so if he is of great promise. The cause for such superciliousness we cannot give, but it was the case with Alfred Tennyson. His first volume appeared in 1830, and at once the whole pack of critics set up a cry of "Affectation!" "affectation!" and scarcely one of them all, seemed willing to recognize in him a poet. There was one exception which should be mentioned. W. J. Fox, the celebrated "infidel preacher," as he is styled by the orthodox, in an able article at the time, declared that in Alfred Tennyson he saw the germs of a great poet. How true was his prediction.
    Two years later, a second volume was issued by the poet, and at first it met with a poor reception. He then waited ten years before publishing another volume, and by that time the world was ready to give him its praise. He waited patiently, labored faithfully, and received his reward. Let every one thus labor truly and bide his time, for it will surely come.
    Mr. Tennyson is at last poet-laureate, which many regret, as the office may tend to narrow his ideas of freedom. Such however need not be the case, though Wordsworth wrote [-71-] some very foolish and abject verses in his capacity of Poet to the Queen. It might have been as well to have given the honor to Leigh Hunt, who by nature - of late years - is sycophantic.
    Of Tennyson's early life and education, we can only say - he is the son of a clergyman, and studied at Trinity College at Cambridge.


    Among the literary characters of London, Charles Dickens is quite as well known in America as any, and better than the majority. As a public we have had a strong love and admiration for him as an author and novelist, and a pretty thorough dislike for him as a traveller, or travelling writer. We do not like to have such "a chiel arnang us takin' notes!" He is a man of various qualities - full of geniality, kindness, and humor, and yet not without a certain meanness, as is apparent in his "American Notes."
    Who that has wept over the sorrows of poor Oliver Twist, or shuddered at the atrocious crimes of the Jew Fagin, and Sykes; that has followed the fortunes of poor little Nell, until she droops and dies; that has laughed till his sides ached over Dick Swiveller and his Marchioness, or Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller ; or "made a note of "  "Wal'r," in Dombey and Son; that has felt his heart tremble for the fate of little "Emily," in David Copperfield, will ever forget Charles Dickens-or wish to forget him? It matters not if he has made serious blunders -we cannot spare his genius.
    The "mistake of his lifetime," was the publication of the "American Notes." Englishmen were disappointed in them, though not chagrined, as we were, as a matter of course. Perhaps we were the more deeply hurt, from the fact that some portions of the book were unpleasantly true. Be that [-72-] as it may, as a whole, the "Notes" were a libel upon America, and Charles Dickens is sorry for his foolish act. We know that he denies this in the preface to a late edition of the "Notes," but we are nevertheless well satisfied that he would not write such a book again, for any consideration, for the English people have so high an opinion of us as to doubt all such morose books upon America. However, let the matter pass into oblivion, as Charles Dickens himself desires.
    One never meets Charles Dickens in the streets of London, without a feeling of reverence for his genius, which you can discover in those peculiar eyes of his. Upon his forehead is the broad mark of intellect, and he is physically well-made. His burly head of hair gives him a continental aspect, not suited to London streets or drawing-rooms.
    His position as a novelist is universally acknowledged as high - perhaps the highest of any living prose-writer. He is as popular now as ever, though there is not so much excitement about him as there was six years ago. He is probably paid higher prices for his novels than any other writer in England, if not in Europe, possibly excepting Macaulay and Lamartine. Yet he is constantly poor, for he has no calculation, no economy. His income is princely, and he might have amassed a pretty fortune, with prudence ; instead of that, he is in debt, and half the time in fear of bailiffs.
    One thing should be spoken in Dickens' praise - his books have never flattered the English aristocracy - and yet they are favorites among that aristocracy. We have known Americans who objected to his works, that there is not "high life" enough in them ; yet such a man as the Earl of Carlisle, with the blood of the Howards coursing in his veins, passionately admires his works, and does not ask for descriptions of aristocratic life. He has never flattered the nobles of England. His characters are all below aristocratic life - but nobles, nevertheless, have wept over them.
    [-73-] Mr. Dickens has a lovely family; it is well known that he has risen from humble life to his present distinguished position, though he has known few hardships in comparison with many sons of Literature.
    The " Household Words", a weekly journal, with which Mr. Dickens has not half so much to do as some people imagine, has a large circulation, mainly in consequence of his popularity, though it well merits its success.
    Mr. Borne, a distinguished London writer, in a long and able paper upon Mr. Dickens' productions shows how much poetry there is in his prose. Who does not remember the beautiful paragraph which closes the death of gentle Nell in the "Old Curiosity Shop?" Yet few even thought those words were perfect poetry, only lacking rhyme. Mr. Borne, without altering or misplacing a word, divides them thus, and says truly that they equal in profound beauty some of the best passages of Wordsworth
            "Oh, it is hard to take to heart
            The lesson that such deaths will teach 
            But let no man reject it, 
            For it is one that all must learn, 
            And is a mighty, universal Truth,
            When Death strikes down the innocent and young
            For every fragile form from which he lets 
                The parting spirit free,
                A hundred virtues rise
            In shapes of mercy, charity and love
            To walk the world and bless it;
                Of every tear
            That sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, 
            Some good is born, some gentler nature comes"
    Truly this is poetry I And the man who could write it must have a heart soft and sympathizing, as well as genius.
    It is a rare thing for a man to possess universal and abiding popularity without good cause, and the secret of Mr. Dickens [-74-] popularity lies in the homely, natural beauty of his writing.. His humor is irresistible, because life-like, and his pathos melts all hearts, because it is true and unaffected.
    We well recollect when first we read the "Old Curiosity Shop," and how evening after evening we followed with intense interest the old man and little Nell ; how we laughed over Dick Swiveller, and hated ugly Quilp; how gentle, never-murmuring Nell stole our heart away, and when, after bitter poverty, she died, so young in years, so old in sorrow, how the sad event haunted us with the vividness of a real and present death. To us, the man who wrote that story will ever be a bright genius, and also a man worthy of affection.


    Richard Monckton Milnes is somewhat known with us as a poet - he is also a Member of Parliament. He, however, makes no pretensions as a statesman or law-maker, his chief merit being that of a sweet rhymer. We have often been charmed by his songs, which are generally exquisitely beautiful in measure and in conception. He scarcely ever speaks in the House, but is popular with the "powers that be," generally taking good care to move with the aristocracy. He is not popular with the people, not even as a poet, for his poems oftener figure in Court Albums, and Books of Beauty, than elsewhere. Still he is a man of ardent sympathies, and though lacking poetic impulse and fire, he is full of delicate song and sentiment, and possesses an acute ear, as well as the power to construct rhymes which will satisfy the nicest critic.
    When we first visited the House of Commons, Mr. Milnes was pointed out to us, and when we gazed upon his chaste and beautiful brow, and saw the flash of intelligence in his eye, we maw that he had at least the outward form of genius.
    [-75-] But in poetic capabilities he has been surpassed by men whose names are unknown to the world. How few are there with us who ever heard the name of Charles Tennyson? Alfred Tennyson the world worships as a poet - but does it know Charles Tennyson? Such a person there is, in or near London, who has written some of the most beautiful poetry ever published. Several years ago he published a small volume of poetry, in a modest, retiring manner. He is a brother of Alfred Tennyson, and has never published a verse since when he issued that little volume. The book, now nearly out of print, overflowed with the most beautiful and touching poetry; some was chaste and tender as any Keats ever wrote; Borne passionate as Byron's; and not a line was commonplace. The critics, even, said Charles Tennyson promised to be a great poet. But the spirit of song had descended with richness and power upon his brother Alfred (so he thought), and he modestly retired from the paths of poetry, that his brother might receive the undivided honors of the world! Is there not something exquisitely touching in inch a renouncement of all personal ambition in favor of a brother perhaps still more richly gifted in song?
    That first little book of poems, so beautiful and promising, was his last. Here is a sonnet from it, and we know the reader will agree with us in calling it beautiful
                "TO MARY.
        "I trust thee from my soul, O Mary dear
        But oft-times, when delight has fullest power,
        Hope treads too lightly for herself to hear,
        And doubt is ever by until the hour.
        I trust thee, Mary, but till thou art mine,
        Up from thy foot unto thy golden hair,
        O let me still misgive thee and repine,
        Uncommon doubts spring up with blessings rare!
        Thine eyes of purest love give surest sign,
        [-76-] Drooping with fondness, and thy blushes tell
        A flitting tale of steadiest faith and zeal;
        Yet I will doubt-to make success divine!
        A tide of slimmer dreams with gentlest swell
        Will bear upon roe then, and I shall love most well!"


    Mr. Jerrold is a man of literary note in London - is a writer of caustic power, and is better known as a shining wit than a writer of pathos, though in portions of his works there are touches of exquisite tenderness. There is, however, an irony in most of his writings, which is too bitter to be pleasant, and which is, perhaps, one result of achieving a brilliant position in a country where titles are worth more than genius. Mr. Jerrold seems to care little for the criticisms of the world, not so much as he should. He is a man of brilliant parts, and it is to be lamented that his personal example should be a dangerous one for his friends to follow. It cannot be concealed that he is wearing out a constitution naturally strong by the use of intoxicating liquors. It is not a strange thing for Douglas Jerrold to be intoxicated. He is a man of remarkable looks, yet you can read dissipation on his countenance, and nowhere has it so sad a look as when it glares out beneath the brow of genius.
    An English friend vouches for the following anecdote of he witty writer, while in his cups.
    At a private bachelor dinner-party, while the "red wine" was circulating freely, until the author and his jovial friends had become, to use the fashionable phrase for inebriety, highly exhilarated, it was proposed by one of the party to seize upon a Frenchman present, who was possessed of whiskers and a moustache of large dimensions, and shave him close and clean. The proposition was seconded by the author of "Mrs. Caudle," and the ensuing morning the poor French-[-77-]man awoke from a half delirium to find himself beardless, to his great chagrin.
    It is when himself, and free from all intoxicating influences, that Jerrold writes his noblest performances - but some of his pages contain internal evidence of being the offspring of a brain diseased by the use of wine.
    The father of Mr. Jerrold was the manager of a country theatre, but Douglas, when eleven years old, went on board a man-of-war as midshipman. where he remained two years, until heartily sick of the life. At thirteen, poor and friendless, he came to London to make his fortune. He first learned the trade of printing, and after a time began to write minor dramas for the small theatres. He produced his "Rent Day" in 1832, and on the night that it was played, in Drury Lane Theatre, one of the principal actors in it was an old chum of Jerrold's on board the man-of-war and they had not seen or heard of each other for sixteen years till that night.
    In 1836 he published "Men of Character," in three volumes, a work of much ability. Then came "Bubbles of the Day," followed by "Cakes and Ale" - both capital productions. His " Chronicles of Clovernook" are inimitable, and "The Folly of the Sword" is a powerful thrust at war. There is, however, too much of destructibility in his nature--- and his bitter satire does not relish for a long time.

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