The Search for Herne the Hunter, George Cruikshank's sixth steel-engraving for Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance for the seventh instalment in Ainsworth's Magazine. "Book the Second: Herne the Hunter," Chapter X, "How Herne the Hunter was himself hunted," facing p. 131. 9.8 high by 14.3 cm, framed (originally published in the February 1843 number). Once again the illustrator orients the scene by placing the Round Tower of Windsor Castle in the centre, on the horizon, as Henry's minions attempt to raze Herne's Oak and suspected place of refuge. The intensity of the activity points to Henry's determination to eradicate Herne the Hunter, and Cruikshank invests this group activity with the energy and academic seriousness of an heroic canvas such as Jacques-Louis David's epic painting The Sabine Women Enforcing Peace by Running Between the Combatants (1799). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated

The sergeant was immediately admitted to the royal presence,​and on the close of his marvellous story the king, who had worked​ himself into a tremendous fury during its relation, roared out, "What!​ foiled again? ha! But he shall not escape, if I have to root up half the trees in the forest. Bouchier and his fellows must be bewitched. Harkye, knaves: get together a dozen of the best woodmen and yeomen in the castle​ —​ instantly, as you value your lives; bid them bring axe and saw, pick and spade. D'ye mark me? ha! Stay, I have not done. I must have fagots and straw, for I will burn this tree to the ground —​ burn it to a char. Summon the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk —​ the rascal archer I dubbed the Duke of Shoreditch and his mates —​ the keepers of the forest and their hounds —​ summon them quickly, and bid a band of the yeomen of the guard get ready." And he sprang from his couch.

The king's commands were executed with such alacrity, that by the time​ he was fully attired the whole of the persons he had ordered to be summoned were assembled. Putting himself at their head, he rode forth to the home park, and found Bouchier and his followers grouped around the tree.

"We are still at fault, my liege," said Bouchier.

"So I see, Sir," replied the king angrily. "Hew down the tree instantly,​knaves," he added to the woodmen. "Fall to —​ fall to."

Ropes were then fastened to the head of the tree, and the welkin​resounded with the rapid strokes of the hatchets. It was a task of some difficulty, but such zeal and energy were displayed by the woodmen that ere long the giant trunk lay prostrate on the ground. Its hollows were​ now fully exposed to view, but they were empty.

"Set fire to the accursed piece of timber!" roared the king, "and burn​it to dust, and scatter it to the wind!"

At these orders two yeomen of the guard advanced, and throwing down a​heap of fagots, straw, and other combustibles on the roots of the tree,​ soon kindled a fierce fire.

Meanwhile a couple of woodmen, stripped of their jerkins, and with their​brawny arms bared to the shoulder, mounted on the trunk, and strove to​ split it asunder. Some of the keepers likewise got into the branches,​ and peered into every crack and crevice, in the hope of making some​ discovery. Amongst the latter was Will Sommers, who had posted himself​ near a great arm of the tree, which he maintained when lopped off would be found to contain the demon.​[Book the Second, "Herne the Hunter," Chapter X, "How Herne the Hunter was himself hunted,"​pp. 130-131]


Although the composition is epic-like in its large cast, only a few of the many figures can be identified. The London archer, Shoreditch, is in the lower right-hand corner, and the man to whom he is talking is presumably Paddington, the archer with an arrow blessed by a priest. Henry on horseback, well to the left, gives a gesture of command. A nameless yeoman wields a pick, aiming at the tree-root, just right of centre in the foreground. The verderer, Gabriel Lapp, is whipping the large hound, left of centre, but one will search in vain for the witty Will Somers, Henry's jester. Captain Bouchier is the uniformed yeoman holding the spear, just in front of the mounted King. In short, the energy that should accompany the heroic enterprise of destroying the haunted oak seems rather muted. Cruikshank captures the energy and enthusiasm of the workmen engaged in the task of eradicating the supernatural pest that plagues the otherwise jolly monarch of Windsor Castle. The activity of uprooting trees in order to destroy his places of sanctuary seems counter to the notion that Herne is a supernatural entity.

Delamotte's realisation of the backdrop for this scene in the Windsor Forest

Left: W. Alfred Delamotte's atmospheric realisation of the countryside, which sets the scene for the action sequence, Oaks, on the Road from Lachester Lodge to Hardiman's gate, as the headpiece for Chapter 10, this nineteenth-century scene presumably corresponding to that which existed nearby before Henry ordered Herne's Oak destroyed. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


Ainsworth, William Harrison. "Preface" to Rookwood. A Romance. With 12 illustrations by George Cruikshank. London: George Routledge, 1882. Pp. xxxiii-xxxviii.

Ainsworth, William Harrison. Windsor Castle. An Historical Romance. Illustrated by George Cruikshank and Tony Johannot. With designs on wood by W. Alfred Delamotte. London: Routledge, 1880. Based on the Henry Colburn edition of 1844.

Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.

Jerrold, Blanchard. The Life of George Cruikshank. In Two Epochs. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1882.

Johnson, E. D. H. "The George Cruikshank Collection at Princeton." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 1974, rpt. 1992. Pp. 1-34.

Patten, Robert L. Chapter 30, "The 'Hoc' Goes Down." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 2: 1835-1878. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1991; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1996. Pp. 153-186.

Vann, J. Don. "Windsor Castle in Ainsworth's Magazine, June 1842-June 1843." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. P. 23.

Worth, George J. William Harrison Ainsworth. New York: Twayne, 1972.

Last modified 16 December 2017