George Cruikshank's Fairy Library. Tom Puss's machinations have now resulted in Caraba's ("The Marquis of Carabas's") marrying the King's beautiful daughter, who sits in the King's space on the dias, signalling that Caraba may one day become king, or at least, Prince-Consort, like Victoria's husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. During his after-dinner speech, delivered from the dining table, Tom Puss reveals that he was in fact once a human being, the gamekeeper to the real Marquis of Carabas, who, it turns out was the father of the present miller, and therefore Caraba's grandfather. Dispossessed of his castle and estates by the evil ogre (whom Tom Puss has recently outwitted — and thrown into the castle moat, rather than eaten, as in Perrault), the family had gone into exile.(7.4 cm high by 9.7 cm wide, framed, facing page 22) — the tenth illustration for both the single-volume edition of 1854 and for the final tale in the 1865 anthology,
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]
The illustrations appearing here are from the collection of the commentator.
Passage Illustrated: Tom Puss's Full Account
The marriage ceremony took place in the royal chapel (and a grand affair it was), and the dinner hour having arrived, the king, the princess and her husband the marquis, were ushered into the great hall by the sound of trumpets. There were three chairs placed in the centre of the cross table on the "dais," as the raised platform is called, at the upper end of all the grand halls. The king took the right-hand seat, placing the princess in the centre chair, not only to do her honour, but also that her husband might sit by her side. Caraba's brothers were placed at this table, one on each side the centre. Their father and mother were placed at the other end of the hall, in order that they might preside at the end of the centre table.
The dinner passed off merrily, everyone seeming to enjoy it exceedingly. The great rabbit-pie gave great satisfaction, his majesty being helped to it a second time. As soon as the dessert was placed upon the table, the Marquis rose and said, "May it please your majesty, the circumstances which have placed me in my present high and happy position are so extraordinary, and the extraordinary changes have been brought about by such an extraordinary agent, and in such an apparently unaccountable manner, that to satisfy the very great but very natural curiosity — I may say of everyone — I have to beg that your majesty will allow Tom Puss to explain, as he wishes to do, the mystery, and to account for the way in which all these things have come to pass."
There was a loud and general applause when his majesty bowed assent to this request; and Tom Puss, who had sat by the side of his master's chair all the dinner-time, immediately jumped upon the table with his little staff in his paw (for he seemed to require some little help when standing upright), and first bowing to the King, then to the Princess and his master, and speaking in a loud voice, said: —
"May it please your majesty, — Strange as it may appear, I was once a man, and was head gamekeeper to the grandfather of the present Marquis of Carabas. I had a kind and good master and mistress; but I am sorry to say that I was dissatisfied, and used to repine at my lot, envying others, and thinking that I deserved a better fate. One night, as I sat before the fire, looking at the cat who sat comfortably in the corner of the fireplace, I said to myself, 'Why, I would rather be that cat than what I am,' when immediately I felt a change come over me — a strange feeling — and in an instant I found myself changed to what I am now, and seated in the chimney-corner where the cat had been, but with the sense and feeling of a man. I was struck with shame and sorrow for the ingratitude and for my unnatural wish; and the only hope I had was, that some day I might, even as a cat, do some good deed, or render some great service to my master or his family that might break the spell, and restore me to my proper self. Soon after this had happened, a wicked Ogre sorcerer came on the Caraba estate, and with his diabolical art drove my master and his family out of the castle, and placed the whole estate in Chancery.* My master (the old Marquis) went with his family and resided at the mill, where the present Marquis's father carried on, with the assistance of his three sons, the trade of a miller; and although the mill, being on high ground, was in a high position, it may be thought that the trade of a miller was not so; but let me observe that if any one in trade is not considered in a high position in society, he must, nevertheless, be highly respectable, if useful and honest.
* A law-court, in which, in those early times, they took perhaps ten years to do as much as hey do now in ten days. — "Puss in Boots," pp. 22-24.
The Context in Perrault
His majesty was perfectly charmed with the good qualities of my Lord Marquis of Carabas, as was his daughter, who had fallen violently in love with him, and, seeing the vast estate he possessed, said to him, after having drunk five or six glasses, "It will be your own fault, my Lord Marquis, if you do not become my son-in-law."
The marquis, making several low bows, accepted the honor which his majesty conferred upon him, and forthwith, that very same day, married the princess.
The cat became a great lord, and never again ran after mice, except for entertainment.
There is great advantage in receiving a large inheritance, but diligence and ingenuity are worth more than wealth acquired from others.
If a miller's son can win the heart of a princess in so short a time, causing her to gaze at him with lovelorn eyes, it must be due to his clothes, his appearance, and his youth. These things do play a role in matters of the heart. — Charles Perrault, "The Master Cat or, Puss in Boots."
The whole inset story of Tom Puss's once having been gamekeeper to the present Marquis's grandfather seems to be entirely of Cruikshank's invention. And the note on which the two versions end is quite different, for whereas Perrault points a conventional moral about the merits of being industrious, and the power of superficial appearance, Cruikshank indulges in constructing a rationale for Tom Puss in order to explain his loyalty to Caraba, and to point out the folly of not being satisfied with one's lot in life.
Although this larger illustration shares the page with the previous panel, Tom Puss receiving the King .. the Princess & his Master at the Castle (also facing p. 22), the scene has in fact shifted from the Ogre's castle, now in possession of the Marquis of Carabas and transformed from the abode of gloom to an edifice filled with light and cheerfulness, to the royal palace at least four days after the previous scene. Again, creating a sense of narrative continuity, Cruikshank makes the Princess, Caraba, Tom Puss (far left), and the King the central figures. Caraba's brothers are presumably the young men seated at the head table, to the right, while the groom's parents, the former miller and his wife, are seated to the left, whereas the text specifies that, although his "brothers were placed at this table, one on each side of the centre" (22), his parents "were placed at the other end of the hall, in order that they might preside at the end of the centre table" (22). Cruikshank seems to have re-thought these juxtapositions, perhaps because they did not accord well with composing a picture, which could not conveniently show the head of the centre-table, which is the vantage point in this scene. The context, as established by the costuming and table service, would seem to be the Renaissance rather than the Middle Ages — a fork would seem to be one of the implements on the centre-table, right. Significantly only small wine chalices are evident, and several pitchers, as is appropriate tio Cruikshank's now somewhat muted temperance agenda. Certainly, he has not eliminated drinking (and we cannot be sure that the substance in the pitchers and chalices is non-alcoholic); and there is an abundance of fruit — but the rabbit-pie, the king's favourite dish, is no longer on the table as the banquet is now drawing to a close when Puss gives his first-person account of the groom's family history.
The initial scene involving the King and the Princess entering the Castle
Above: George Cruikshank's realisation of the arrival of the King and Princess at the Ogre's castle, now the possession of the Marquis of Carabas, Tom Puss receiving the King .. the Princess & his Master at the Castle (also facing page 22). [Click on image to enlarge it.]
"Placed the Whole estate in Chancery" — A Note
The rather Dickensian allusion to the Marquis's property having been in Chancery for a number of years strikes one as something of an anachronism: "For a long time it has been in Chancery, your Majesty; but I expect that the Marquis will be in possession of his castle to-morrow." Later, at the wedding banquet, Tom Puss mentions that the "diabolical" ogre had "placed the whole estate in Chancery" (24), to which Cruikshank appends the satirical note that the minions of the Court of Chancery "in those early times . . . took perhaps ten years to do as much as they do now in ten days" (24).
In his apology for the status quo, Cruikshank even comes to the defence of the court of Chancery (p. 24n.). Could this have been a covert attack on Dickens' condemnation of the court in Bleak House which was published during the midst of their controversy in 1852-53? — The Hockliffe Project, "Fables and Fairy Tales." 0038A: George Cruikshank, Puss in Boots, http://hockliffe.dmu.ac.uk/items/0038A.html
It was certainly not an anachronism when Cruikshank worked the reference into the dialogue to explain why the rightful owner (The Marquis of Carabas) has not been in possession of his property. Only three years after Dickens's death and some twenty years after his completion of Bleak House was the Court of Chancery combined with the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of the Queen's Bench as a single Supreme Court of Justice for England and Wales. Since the function of Chancery was both to settle disputes regarding trusts and legacies and serve as the effective guardian of orphaned beneficiaries whose property was in litigation, the allusion is certainly pertinent:
By the early nineteenth century, overwhelmed with business, it had become a byword for dilatoriness, expense, and antiquated inefficiency. CD suffered from its shortcomings in 1844 when he tried to get it to restrain gross breaches of his copyright in A Christmas Carol; although he won the case, he could not recover his substantial costs. — Nicolas Bentley et al., p. 46.
What is surprising, however, is that the ruler of this tiny kingdom is apparently unaware of the usurpation of the Marquis of Carabas's castle by the ogre, and that the Royal Chancellor at his side, the nominal head of the Court of Chancery, does not correct Tom Puss's assertion. The novel Bleak House, which Dickens completed in September 1853, just before Cruikshank started his Fairy Library project, is an indictment of Chancery, which takes generations to process a case, resulting in the total depletion of the value of the estate in litigation fees. Cruikshank in the 1864 children's book Puss in Boots may have taken issue with Dickens's critique on Chancery, infamous since the eighteenth century for its tardiness and inefficiency in resolving property disputes, simply because of Dickens's having savaged him for injecting progressive political and social views into traditional fairy-tales such as "Hop-p' My-Thumb." And, in fact, the numbers appear to be on Cruikshank's side of the argument since by the end of the 1840s the backlog was being cleared and reform was well underway: the court processed 1,700 cases in 1846–49 compared to 959 in 1819–24. The Suitors in Chancery Relief Act (1852) removed the problem of exorbitant fees by fixing salaries for all court officials salaries, and eliminating sinecures. In consequence, by the early 1860s, an average of 3,207 cases were submitted each year, of which the Court heard and dismissed 3,833, rendering Dickens's fictional long-running Chancery case, "Jarndyce and Jarndyce," specious, or at least unlikely, although ten years earlier the press was full of the widespread criticism of The High Court of Chancery which Dickens's novel reflects. For further details on the powers, responsibilities, and prerogatives of the Lord High Chancellor, see Constitution (1866).
An Address to Little Boys and Girls (1865)
Cruikshank was still perhaps nursing a grievance when he appended a short essay on fairy tales to his Puss in Boots: pp. 28-30. Here, invoking his own childhood and that of William Shakespeare, he sets out his credentials as a lover of fairy tales and of fantasy, which answers some of Dickens' charges, and assures his readers that fairies, giants and ogres do not exist in real life. In insisting on this, he can be seen as answering the charge laid by John Locke as long ago as 1693 in Some Thoughts Concerning Education. '[B]e sure to preserve his tender mind from all impressions and notions of sprites and goblins, or any fearful apprehensions in the dark', wrote Locke, for otherwise 'are stamped upon their minds ideas that follow them with terror and affrightment' (138). However, that Cruikshank had been chastened by his run-in with Dickens is perhaps evident in the lack of anti-alcohol polemic anywhere in Puss in Boots. (For more on the Dickens-Cruikshank controversy, see Stone 1973-74 and Kotzin 1972). — The Hockliffe Project. http://hockliffe.dmu.ac.uk/items/0038A.html
And now, my dear young ladies and gentlemen, having re-written, illustrated, and published these four Fairy Tales of Hop-o'-My-Thumb, Jack and the Bean-Stalk, Cinderella, and Puss in Boots, I wish to say a few words to you about Fairy Tales; and first, to tell you that I dearly love all little children, and have always through life done the best I could to amuse, and, if possible, at the same time to instruct them; and I am one of those persons who recollect that I was once a child myself; but I am sorry to say that many persons seem entirely to forget that they were once children themselves! And the consequence is that, in some cases, they are very angry and unkind to children for doing things which perhaps many of them were guilty of when they themselves were children.
In my childhood, and when a very little boy, I recollect that I used to be very much pleased and delighted with Fairy Tales; and it so happened that my nurse at that time was a young woman who used to tell a great many Fairy Tales, and many an evening have I sat by the fireside, listening with wonder and delight to her stories about these wonderful little people, and I once asked her where the little Fairies lived. She told me that some of them had houses in the white places in the corners of the cellars. These white places were composed of fungus — a sort of mushroom produced by the damp in the cellars.
I took the first opportunity of peeping at these white houses in the corners of the cellars, where these fungi were growing on the walls, and about which, in some places, were also large cobwebs; and whether they were spiders, or flies, or some other insects, or the force of my excited childish imagination, I know not, but I certainly did at the time fancy that I saw very, very tiny little people running in and out of these little white houses; and I now believe that any talent or power that I may have in drawing a Fairy, or describing one, had its origin in the early impressions these little people made upon my mind at that early age.
Between two and three hundred years back there lived a great poet or author — his name was WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE — of whom, if you have not yet heard, you will be sure to hear as you grow up, and whose writings or works you will be sure to read. I have often pictured in my own mind, and indeed have made a sketch of this great man when he was a little boy, seated on a little stool by the side of an old lady spinning threads from a distaff, and supposed to be telling the little Willy a Fairy Tale, which he listens to with upturned eyes and marked attention; and I am sure that it was by his thus listening to this sort of tales, and afterwards reading little books of Fairy Tales, that created in his mind a taste or liking for such things, and no doubt these early and first impressions were the foundation or the cause of his describing, when he grew to be a man, those beautiful fairies called Oberon, Titania, Puck, and others, in a work called the "The Midsummer Night's Dream;" also Queen Mab and other fairies in another work called "Romeo and Juliet," and Ariel in "The Tempest."
Now, my dear young friends, although these Fairy Tales about the little people, and about giants and ogres, may be very astonishing and very amusing, yet I do not wish you to believe that there are such things or that there ever were such great big creatures as these giants are described to be, or such horrible monsters as ogres, or such little creatures as fairies, either good or bad; and therefore I wish you to understand that I only place these little books before you to amuse you, and, if possible, to convey some good lessons and advice, but not on any account to frighten you. No! My little dears, do not be afraid of such things; but be sure that God is too good to let any such things exist to frighten or hurt dear little children or anybody, little or big. — George Cruikshank (1865), pp. 28-30.
George Cruikshank: A Postscript
From then to the end of his life Cruikshank was always ready to help the Cause [of Temperance] on platform or paper. But his brother never repented, and his mother, who had once deplored his intemperance, refused to truckle to his temperance. She had her night-cap of hot toddy under his roof to the end of her life.
Cruikshank also gave up tobacco (having been all his life a smoker), and now attacked the vile weed on every propitious and unpropitious occasion.
Of bread-and-butter artistic work he did less and less, but the interesting thing is that what little he did do was as good as ever. Some of his very best work is in the twenty-one etchings he made for W. H. Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion, 1845, the twenty-four etchings in Hop o' my Thumb, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Puss in Boots (1853-4) 1, and twenty etchings for R. B. Brough's Life of Sir John Falstaff (1857). Later he illustrated those mildest of children's classics, The Brownies and Lob-lie-by-the-Fire by Juliana Horatia Ewing. It is not difficult to understand why people could not believe it was the same George Cruikshank that had caricatured with Gillray.
But the major part of Cruikshank's work as a black and white artist was in fact done before he turned over to teetotalism.
1 The stories themselves were rewritten by Cruikshank on temperance lines. Dickens could not forgive him for this, but perhaps we can afford to, for they are among the best fairy-tale illustrations ever made. . . . . It is impossible to reproduce such fine etchings as facsimile by line block; but the blockmakers have made the very best of their task, and the results will, it is hoped, give to those who have not seen the originals some idea of their imaginative power. In particular the original of Jack and the Fairy Harp escaping from the Giant is a miracle of fine etching: the sky is in the faintest grey line, the giant and the cliffs in pale tones, and only the rock and the harp in strong line. The feeling of immense distances, airiness, the fairy sun-drenched cliffs, are all remarkable. — McLean, p. 34-35.
- "Portrait Sketch of George Cruikshank" (1833)
- "Frauds on the Fairies" (1 October 1853)
- Editor's Note on "Frauds on the Fairies"
- Defending the Imagination: Charles Dickens, Children's Literature, and the Fairy Tale Wars
- George Cruikshank and Charles Dickens
- Fairy Tales: Surviving the Evangelical Attack
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British Library. "George Cruikshank's Fairy Library." Romantics and Victorians. https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/george-cruikshanks-fairy-library
Carpenter, Humphrey, and Mari Pritchard. The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1984.
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.
Cruikshank, George. Puss in Boots. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. The fourth volume in George Cruikshank's Fairy Library. London: Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1864. (Price one shilling) 11 etchings on 6 tipped-in pages, including frontispiece.
Cruikshank, George. George Cruikshank's Fairy Library: "Hop-O'-My-Thumb," "Jack and the Bean-Stalk," "Cinderella," "Puss in Boots". London: George Bell, 1865.
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Guildhall Library blog. "A Gem from Guildhall Library's Shelves: George Cruikshank's Fairy Library by George Cruikshank published by Routledge in London (c. 1870)." 8 August 2014. https://guildhalllibrarynewsletter.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/a-gem-from-guildhall-librarys-shelves-george-cruikshanks-fairy-library-by-george-cruikshank-published-by-routledge-in-london-c1870/
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University. "George Cruikshank." http://library.tulane.edu/exhibits/exhibits/show/fairy_tales/george_cruikshank
Hubert, Judd D. "George Cruikshank's Graphic and Textual Reactions to Mother Goose." Marvels & Tales, Volume 25, Number 2, 2011 (pp. 286-297). Project Muse. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/462736/pdf
Kitton, Frederic G. "George Cruikshank." Dickens and His Illustrators. London: Chapman & Hall, 1899. Pp. 1-28.
Kotzin, Michael C. Dickens and the Fairy Tale. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1972.
McLean, Ruari. George Cruikshank: His Life and Work as a Book Illustrator. English Masters of Black-and-White. London: Art and Technics, 1948.
Perrault, Charles. "The Master Cat or, Puss in Boots." Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts, University of Pittsburgh, 2002. From Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., ca. 1889), pp. 141-147. Edited by D. L. Ashliman. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/perrault04.html
Schlicke, Paul. "
Stone, Harry. Dickens and the Invisible World: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Novel-Making. Bloomington, IN: Indiana U. P., 1979.
Vogler, Richard, The Graphic Works of George Cruikshank. New York: Dover, 1979.
Last modified 8 July 2017