The Tower of London. A Historical Romance. Illustration for Book the Second, Chapter XIV. 9.9 cm high x 14.6 wide, framed, facing p. 207: running head, "Assault of the 'Tower of Strength'." The scene affords Cruikshank far greater opportunity than most in the novel to exercise his powers of fantastic creation, which one sees so often in George Cruikshank's Fairy Library. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]— George Cruikshank. Seventh instalment, July 1840 number. Forty-sixth illustration and twentieth steel-engraving in William Harrison Ainsworth's
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As soon as the Queen was seated, another flourish of trumpets was blown, and from the great gates at the further end of the court issued a crowd of persons clothed in the skins of wild animals, dragging an immense machine, painted to resemble a rocky island. On reaching the centre of the inclosure, the topmost rock burst open, and discovered a beautiful female seated upon a throne, with a crown on her head, and a sceptre in her hand. While the spectators expressed their admiration of her beauty by loud plaudits, another rock opened, and discovered a fiendish-looking figure, armed with a strangely-formed musket, which he levelled at the mimic sovereign. A cry of horror pervaded the assemblage, but at that moment another rock burst asunder, and a fairy arose, who placed a silver shield between the Queen and the assassin; while a gauze drapery, wafted from beneath, enveloped them in its folds.
At the appearance of the fairy, the musket fell from the assassin's grasp. Uttering a loud cry, a troop of demons issued from below, and seizing him with their talons bore him out of eight. The benignant fairy then waved her sword; the gauzy drapery dropped to her feet; and four other female figures arose, representing Peace, Plenty, Justice, and Clemency. These figures ranged themselves round the Queen, and the fairy addressed her in a speech, telling her that these were her attributes; —that she had already won her people's hearts, and ended by promising her a long and prosperous reign. Each word, that applied to Mary, was followed by a cheer from the bystanders, and when it was ended, the applauses were deafening. The mimic queen then arose, and taking off her crown, tendered it to the real sovereign. The four attributes likewise extended their arms towards her, and told her they belonged to her. And while the group was in this position, the machine was borne away.
Fresh flourishes of trumpets succeeded; and several lively airs were played by bands of minstrels stationed at different points of the court-yard. [Chapter XIV. —"Of the Masque Given by Courtenay in Honour of Queen Mary; And Xit was swallowed by a Sea Monster," pp. 205-206]
Although Ainsworth mentions four towers connected with the battlements around the corners of the court — "the Salt Tower, the Lanthorn Tower, the Wardrobe Tower, and the Broad Arrow Tower" — Cruikshank shows the summit of just the Salt Tower, crowded with spectators and bedecked by gigantic banners, but an edifice which in turn the flank of the White Tower in the background dwarfs. As in Ainsworth's text, Cruikshank shows the young Queen sitting on a wooden chair under a mulberry tree, attended by the handsome Courtenay, her senior courtiers, and two whippets ("beautiful Italian greyhounds") on silken leashes. The court and Queen, celebrating Mary's providentially having survived a recent assassination attempt, are observing a mock-battle in progressbeyond the low-arched balustrade of stone.Immediately behind the Queen, dressed in a long velvet robe, is the elderly nobleman who recently saved Mary's life when Edward Underhill had her in his sights — Sir Henry Bedingfeld, now Lord Lieutenant of the Tower. Behind this new royal favourite Cruikshank has positioned the Princess Elizabeth, Jane the Fool, and one other nobleman, likely the Earl of Devonshire.Cruikshank seems much more interested in the visual possibilities of the masque, and has not elaborated upon the spectators, other than those few just mentioned.
The artist delights in the varied cast of the masque and such properties as the armed tower, explicated by Courtenay as both "a tower of strength" and the Toer of London: "The Tower, itself, was not behind-hand in resistance. Its two arms moved about like the sails of a windmill, dealing tremendous blows" (p. 206). The effect of the costumed crowd of actors in vigorous motion, sea-serpents, and demons is spectacular, whereas Cruikshank has considerably downplayed the political machinations on the spectators' platform: the discrete Renard and the observant Elizabeth, who in the text gives Courtenay a reproving look as he curries favour with her sister, even though he has assured Elizabeth that she and not her sister is the object of his affections.
Whereas Ainsworth was generally the instigator of incidents in the main plot, which are, after all, a matter of historical record for the most part, apparently author and artist jointly invented much of the comic business. However, according to Robert L. Patten's examination of their extant correspondence, Cruikshank and not Ainsworth concocted the notion of Courtenay's staging the masque for Queen Mary in which the giant warders' using clubs to batter their opponents anticipates their heroic actions against the insurgents during Sir Thomas Wyat's assault on the Tower:
The Masque I have decided upon at last, one of the Giants dressed up or rather cased up, to represent a Tower of strength, on his head is a turret in which Xit as cupid is seated, under a crown of flowers bow and arrow in hand — the other two Giants — as the City Gog and Magog — are defending the Tower & the god of Love — against a Host of Dragons — Demons &c some mounted (ie on Hobby horses) — there is some rare fun & rough work for the Giants (mind the Tower uses his arms with a club in each hand) belabour and upsett the assailants. ["Cruikshank to Ainsworth," March? 1840, portion of letter transcribed by Patten and cited on page 136]
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Last modified 11November 2017