Journalist and author William Blanchard Jerrold (December 1826 — 10 March 1884), the eldest son of the journalist and dramatist Douglas William Jerrold, was named after his father's closest friend, journalist Samuel Laman Blanchard (15 May 1804 — 15 February 1845). Quarrelling with the educational policies of MAO ("Martin's Academy at Old Slaughter's") school, which he attended for nearly three academic years, he left school before graduation and began working for various newspapers. In 1853, he was appointed the Crystal Palace commissioner to Sweden in 1853, and wrote A Brage-Beaker with the Swedes (1854) when he returned to England. In 1855 he went to the Paris exhibition as correspondent for several London papers, and from then on spent much of his time in Paris. In 1857, he succeeded his father as editor of Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, a post which he retained for twenty-six years. From the outbreak of the American Civil War he was a staunch supporter of the North and an equally strong opponent of slavery. Although not as prolific a dramatist as his father, he saw four of his plays successfully produced on the London stage, the popular farce Cool as a Cucumber at London's Lyceum Theatre in 1851 being perhaps the best known. He is buried with his father Douglas William Jerrold at West Norwood Cemetery. Aside from his biography of George Cruikshank, his published works include the following:

Blanchard Jerrold as Cruikshank's first biographer conducted extensive interviews with the crotchety illustrator. On one occasion, Cruikshank recalled his relationship with the prolific author William Harrison Ainsworth during their collaboration on The Tower of London throughout 1840.

Blanchard Jerrold on Cruikshank's Rembrandt-like scenes for The Tower of London

On the retirement of Ainsworth from Bentley's Miscellany, business relations were resumed between himself and the artist; and Cruikshank was advertised as illustrator of Ainsworth's Magazine. And at this point Cruikshank passed from his humorous to his more ambitious and higher phase.

The Tower of London appears to have made a strong effect on Cruikshank's mind. In the Omnibus ​he drew some curious bits of observation of the wreck of that part of the Tower which the fire had attacked, and in his illustrations to Ainsworth's story he manifested a desire to express the historical power as an artist that was in him. He composed pictures free from exaggeration, and grand and impressive both in conception and treatment. Having substituted steel plates for copper, he felt that he was upon more lasting work, and he laboured hard to produce pictures of the highest finish. He was right: some of the finest work he has left lies between Ainsworth's pages, and indicates a range of power in the artist which he was never destined to prove fully. The fates had been against him in early life; and he was, although even much later he could not bring his eager and intrepid mind to admit it, too old to take his seat in an academy, and get through the drudgery, without which not even the most bountifully gifted artist can do himself justice. In these Rembrandt-like scenes in the Tower, he taught the world that his idea that he was a great historical painter who had lost his way, was no wild and vain fancy.

The new arrangement was one of the most lucrative Cruikshank ever enjoyed, receiving forty pounds monthly for his plates. It opened a connection, during which Cruikshank executed, as he rightly believed, “a hundred and forty-four of the very best designs and etchings" he ever produced. It is a pity that such a connection should have ended in an unworthy quarrel in which Cruikshank, with his usual vehemence and wildness in statement, made charges against his author which it was utterly impossible for him to justify. He has described their relations in this way:​—

"I must here first state that, as large sums of money had been realized from my ideas and suggestions for the work of Oliver Twist​, it occurred to me one day that I would try and get a little of the same material from the same source; and as Mr. Ainsworth and I were at the time upon the most friendly​— ​ I may say brotherly​— terms, I suggested to him that we should jointly produce a work on our own account, and publish it in monthly numbers, and get Mr. Bentley to join us as the publisher. Mr. Ainsworth was delighted with the idea of such a partnership, and at once acceded to the proposition; and when I told him I had a capital subject for the first work, he inquired what it was; and upon my telling him it was the Tower of London, with some incidents in the life of Lady Jane Grey, he was still more delighted, and then I told him that I had long since seen the room in the Tower where that beautiful and accomplished dear lady was imprisoned, and other parts of that fortress, to which the public were not admitted; and if he would then go with me to the Tower, I would show these places to him. He at once accepted my offer, and off we went to Hungerford Stairs, now the site of the Charing Cross Railway Station; and whilst waiting on the beach for a boat to go to London Bridge, we there met my dear friend, the late W. Jerdan, the well-known editor and part proprietor of the Literary Gazette, who inquired where we were going to. My reply was, that I was taking Mr. Ainsworth a prisoner to the Tower. With this joke we parted. I then took Mr. Ainsworth to the royal prison, and when we arrived there, I introduced him to my friend Mr. Stacey, the storekeeper, in whose department were these 'Chambers of Horrors'; and then and there did Mr. Ainsworth, for the first time, see the apartment in which the dear Lady Jane was placed until the day she was beheaded, or, in other words, the day on which she was murdered! and which place I had long before made sketches of, for the purpose of introducing them in a Life of Lady Jane Grey, and which for many years I had intended to place before the public. I have now most distinctly to state that Mr. Ainsworth wrote up to most of my suggestions and designs, although some of the subjects we jointly arranged, to introduce into the work; and I used every month to send him the tracings or outlines of the sketches or drawings from which I was making the etchings to illustrate the work, in order that he might write up to them, and that they should be accurately described." Cruikshank goes on to assert that the plates were printed before the manuscript was printed, and sometimes before the manuscript was written.

The Tower of London​ was a great success. Cruikshank states that, while it was running, one bookseller told him that if he and Ainsworth brought out "another work similar in style and interest," he would take 20,000 a month to begin with, while another offered to take 25,000, or even 30,000. On the completion of The Tower, according to Cruikshank, he suggested to Ainsworth The Plague and the Fire of London.​ [Jerrold, Chapter 9, "Illustrations to Harrison Ainsworth's Romances"]

Related material


"Ainsworth, William Harrison."

Ainsworth, William Harrison. The Tower of London. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Richard Bentley, 1840.

Ainsworth, William Harrison. The Tower of London. Illustrated by George Cruikshank and Frank Brangwyn. The Novels of William Harrison Ainsworth, vol. 3. The Windsor Edition. London: Gibbings; Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott; Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hanson, July, 1901.

Jerrold, William Blanchard. Chapter 9, "Illustrations to Harrison Ainsworth's Romances." The Life of George Cruikshank. New York: Scribner and Welford, 1882. 2 vols.

Last modified 21 November 2017