Four illustrations about temperance by George Cruikshank


George Cruikshank (1792-1878) was, from the 1820s onwards, one of Britain’s most renowned satirical illustrators. His targets ranged from politicians and the anti-slavery movement, to royalty or foreign enemies – indeed, any foreigners – and he enjoyed great popular success. He illustrated three books by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), but quarrelled with the author late in life. 

In the late 1840s, Cruikshank – formerly a heavy drinker – became a firm follower of the Temperance Movement. This started around 1826, driven by concerns about the drunkenness of the working classes – British pubs could open 24 hours a day – and moved from advocating moderation to demanding total abstinence and legal prohibition. 

Joseph Livesey (1794-1884) opened the first temperance (i.e. alcohol-free) hotel in 1833, which was followed by hundreds of others. The temperance ideal was taken up by various political and religious groups, and temperance societies were formed to save those whose lives had been blighted by the demon drink, encouraging people to ‘sign the pledge’ to never drink alcohol. 

Cruikshank’s new outlook dominated his work, and his 1840s publications such as The Bottle, The Drunkard's Children and Upas Tree have a firm anti-drinking message. Some of their illustrations were reused for this 1876 work, a pro-Temperance poem by John O’Neill (1777-1854) about a reformed drunkard. 

The temperance movement eventually had some legal success, bringing about lower-strength beer and higher taxes. Tight restrictions on pub hours in England came in during World War I, and stayed in place for most of the 20th century.

Full title:
Four Rare Etchings by the celebrated eorge Cruikshank, drawn and etched for O'Neill's “Blessings of Temperance,” with letterpress Showing from whence came those famous works of the Artist, - “The Bottle,” “The Drunkard's Children,” & “Upas Tree.”
1876, London
Pamphlet / Illustration / Image
George Cruikshank
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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