The Bottle. Folio page: 46 x 36 cm (24 inches by 14.5 inches), framed. The etchings were reproduced by glyphography, "enabling the publisher [David Bogue, London] to sell the entire series for one shilling" (Vogler, p. 159). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]— George Cruikshank. 1847. Eighth and final illustration in
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The final illustration, which depicts the son and daughter (restored at least sartorially, if not morally, to some sort of normality) visiting their deranged parent in the asylum, is a far simpler affair than the previous two illustrations, which deal with the sensational murder of the wife. The son's haircut suggests the latest fashion affected by "toughs" or "swells," and the daughter, too, seems dressed in the latest fashion, so that the viewer naturally wonders about the source of their good fortune. This, then, will be the point of departure for his sequel, The Drunkard's Children (1848) the first work that Cruikshank completed after taking the Temperance oath. The illustrator shows that the conclusion of addiction to gin is not the imbiber's death, but a steep descent into lunacy. According to Richard A. Vogler,
The insane father stares blankly into space next to a cage of iron bars designed to prevent prisoners from harming themselves. The two children, now rather gaudily and cheaply dressed, look at their father for the last time. The rakish stance of the son and the dandy-like spring of flowers in his mouth suggest an impending course of dissipation. This design immediately recalls the last, or Bedlam, plate of Hogarth's The Rake's Progress and again shows Cruikshank's use of an earlier motif for new and different purposes. The blank look on a seated prisoner in the left background is a further echo from Hogarth's Bedlam scene. ["Notes on the Illustrations," p. 161]
Cruikshank creates visual continuity with the earlier plates by placing the coal-grate with its chained poker, the source of warmth in the chilly, barren room, to the right, and the doorway to the left, which matches the juxtaposition Cruikshank established in the family parlour in the opening scene. The daughter, now emotionally detached, stands just left of centre, standing on the bare floorboards. The father wears a jacket and trousers that are no longer torn, but he wears slippers rather than shoes, suggesting that he will never walk the streets a free man again but will remain an inmate for life. His shorn head, a prophylactic against lice, is the singular badge of his imprisonment. Despite the fact that he sits next to to a roaring fire, the madman clutches himself, as if he is cold, his staring eyes suggest that, in his mind's eye, he is seeing something horrible — presumably the corpse of his murdered wife. The son and daughter study him objectively, as if he were a curiosity, as the turnkey (far left) casually studies all three of them, establishing an atmosphere of surveillance. Bars at the window, in the door of the cell, and around the fire establish the forcible restraint under which the madman, oblivious to his visitors or the passage of time, will await his final release from his gin-induced madness. The polemic is complete, at least until Cruikshank takes up his etching needle to show the dire consequences of the father's gin-addiction visited upon his offspring in The Drunkard's Children.
Blanchard Jerrold's Commentary (1882)
And yet such calamities as that which "old George" has drawn happen every day; beginning not in sorrow, or poverty, or ignorance, but in little yieldings to temptation, in apparently trivial and accidental excesses. What constitutes intemperance? According to Dr. Alfred Carpenter, any consumption of alcohol sufficient to furnish the blood with one part of alcohol in five hundred of blood, is dangerous to health, and therefore is an act of intemperance. A more moderate indulgence, he says, is not yet proved to be deleterious. The late Dr. Anstie put temperance in a different way. An average man or woman cannot, according to him, take more than a couple of glasses of sherry daily without injury. Dr. Carpenter has denounced the habitual use of stimulants, even in a very diluted form, to enable the drinker to do more work than he could get through without them, as unquestionably injurious — and therefore an act of intemperance. There is not a middle-aged man of education who has not come across the wrecks of lives where the ruin was a gradual giving way to the temptation of stimulants. [Jerrold," pp. 96-97.
For a mere shilling, the cost of a single monthly instalment of a Dickens novel, a working class family would have had access to a series of eight "fine art" prints that could be simply framed and displayed on the walls of their homes, the pictures serving as constant reminders of the emotional and physical consequences of alcohol abuse. Cruikshank's biographer, Jerrold, praises not so much the illustrator's technical skill and composition as he does his benevolent intention, recounting how Cruikshank came to "take the pledge" of complete Temperance:
Cruikshank used to relate how, when his "Bottle" was finished, and he was anxious to secure for this first Temperance sermon the widest possible publicity, he carried the plates to Mr. William Cash, then chairman of the National Temperance Society, for his approval, and the support of his powerful Association. Mr. Cash, although a Quaker, was a gentleman with a very sharp, humorous manner. Having attentively examined the series, he turned upon the artist, and asked him how he himself could ever have anything to do with using "The Bottle," which, by his own showing, was the means of such dreadful evil? Cruikshank, in his own forcible way, described how he was "completely staggered" by this point-blank question. He said, when he had left Mr. Cash, he could not rid himself of the impression that had been made upon him. After a struggle, he did not get rid of it, but acted upon it, by resolving to give his example as well as his art to the total abstainers. . . . .
Not the least of the artist's rewards was the tribute to his genius it inspired in Mr. Matthew Arnold, who wrote [the sonnet "To George Cruikshank, Esq."]. [pp. 99-100]
Matthew Arnold's Sonnet to George Cruikshank (1849)
Matthew Arnold's remarkable sonnet "To George Cruikshank, Esq. on seeing for the first time his picture of 'The Bottle', in the country," is appreciative, but gives the series a pessimistic significance that would surely have dismayed Cruikshank himself. . . . [James, p. 165]
The sonnet with which Matthew Arnold addresses the illustrator of the descent into a man-made Hell in The Bottle demonstrates the reaction of a particularly sensitive member of the intelligentsia, a university-trained intellectual of the upper-middle-class for whom Cruikshank's series offered a glimpse, like the underworld chapters of Dickens's Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress, into a subculture hidden in plain sight, in the working class slums of East London. The contrast between the fair English countryside which the poet is visiting and the purgatorial vision of the Hogarthian sequence which he has just purchased and is now studying in the "breathless glades" of September 1847 informs his "reading" of Cruikshank's work.
To George Cruikshank, Esq. on seeing for the first time his picture of 'The Bottle', in the country
Artist, whose hand, with horror wing'd, hath torn From the rank life of towns this leaf: and flung The prodigy of full-blown crime among Valleys and men to middle fortune born, Not innocent, indeed, yet not forlorn: Say, what shall calm us, when such guests intrude, Like comets on the heavenly solitude? Shall breathless glades, cheer'd by shy Dian's horn, Cold-bubbling springs, or caves? Not so! The Soul Breasts her own griefs: and, urg'd too fiercely, says: 'Why tremble? True, the nobleness of man May be by man effac'd: man can control To pain, to death, the bent of his own days. Know thou the worst. So much, not more, he can.'
[First published 1849; cited by Richard A. Vogler in "Notes on the Illustrations," p. 159.]
The 1848 Sequel Introduced
As Blanchard Jerrold in 1882 remarked of the consequences of the 1847 folio, Cruikshank
was immediately rewarded by the extraordinary success which The Bottle achieved. It was sold by tens of thousands, and was the talk of the day. If it has not directly led to a tangible result, as Hogarth's Harlot's Progress is said to have led to the foundation of the Magdalen Hospital, it and the "Drunkard's Children," a poor sequel (but then sequels are always poor), have had the effect of powerful, popular, and permanent sermons against the monster evil of our time.— "Chapter 2, The Bottle, pp. 254-55.
The final appearance of the son and daughter in The Bottle as they visit their father in the asylum for the criminally insane prepares the viewer for the 1848 sequel, The Drunkard's Children, held by a number of early critics (including Blanchard Jerrold, quoted above) to be decidedly inferior to the initial series of eight illustrations. Cruikshank takes up the family's story in 1848 where he left off in 1847, following the contrasting but equally tragic fates of the criminal son and the prostitute daughter to their logical ends. Although, as Richard A. Vogler remarks, Cruikshank's handling of his sensational material is "neither more nor less doctrinaire," owing to the variety of the scenes and the large number and variety of secondary characters, The Drunkard's Children "is more dramatic and creates more historical interest" because it dramatizes "scenes of lower-class Victorian life that were seldom portrayed in the arts of the period" (p. 161).
Whereas in illustrating Dickens Cruikshank had to attend to the details in the text and shape his conception of the drinking scene such as The Gin-Shop (1836) accordingly, much to his delight in his project for the Temperance Union he could control the storyline in his own "wordless" novella, The Drunkard's Children. In his pictorial telling of this sordid tale, Cruikshank had to rely only on repeating characters since, unlike his strategy in The Bottle, he could not repeat a single room to develop the action. Moreover, in the 1848 sequence a number of the scenes are highly crowded, so that the viewer sometimes has to search for the drunkard's son and daughter, upon whom the illustrator is relying to provide visual continuity. In this sequel, Cruikshank employs a number of settings associated with proletarian London: the gin-palace, the beer-shop, the dancing-rooms, a three-penny lodging house, the courtroom of the Old Bailey, a lockup, the infirmary aboard a prison transport or "hulk," and one of the spans of New London Bridge.
- George Cruikshank and Charles Dickens
- The Gin-Shop
- "Great is thy power, O Gin" — Reynold's sermon on the harm it does to the poor
- London Gin Shops
- "Frauds on the Fairies" (1 October 1853)
- Temperance, Teetotalism, and Addiction in the Nineteenth Century
- Addiction in the Nineteenth Century
- Drunkedness and the ease of obtaining alcohol
- Alcohol and Alcoholism in Victorian England
- The Band of Hope Review
- Charles Dickens and Two Kinds of Punch, 1. The Beverage
Arnold, Matthew. "To George Cruikshank, Esq." "The Strayed Reveller," and Other Poems. London: B. Fellowes, 1854. P. 27.
Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Part One, "Dickens and His Early Illustrators: 1. George Cruikshank. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1980. Pp. 15-38.
Feaver, William. "'At it Again': Aspects of Cruikshank's Later Work." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 249-58.
James, Louis. "An Artist in Time: George Cruikshank in Three Eras." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 156-187.
Jerrold, Blanchard. "Epoch Two, 1848-1878. Chapter 2, The Bottle." The Life of George Cruikshank. In Two Epochs. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1883. Vol. 2, Pp. 89-100.
Kitton, Frederic G. "George Cruikshank." Dickens and His Illustrators. London: Chapman & Hall, 1899. Pp. 1-28.
McLean, Ruari. George Cruikshank: His Life and Work as a Book Illustrator. English Masters of Black-and-White. London: Art and Technics, 1948.
Meisel, Martin. Chapter 7, "From Hogarth to Cruikshank." Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1989. Pp. 97-141.
Mellby, Julie L. "More than 100,000 copies sold in the first few days." Graphic Arts: Exhibitions, acquisitions, and other highlights from the Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University Library. Web. 13 April 2011. https://blogs.princeton.edu/graphicarts/2011/04/the_bottle.html
Vogler, Richard A. Graphic Works of George Cruikshank. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. New York: Dover, 1979.
Last modified 10 August 2017