George Cruikshank (1792–1878) was, from the 1820s onwards, one of Britain’s most renowned satirical illustrators. This hand-tinted drawing comes from a collection called Scraps and Sketches, an annual series published by Cruikshank between 1829 and 1832. Though not financially successful, the series confirmed his status as a leading humourist. Pirated copies of its contents appeared, much to the artist’s frustration.
This image shows the eclectic nature of the pages. At the bottom, two unrelated miniatures are a visual play on words, one bringing together all four classical elements (earth, water, fire, air), and the other the virtues of faith (the dog), hope and charity (the beggar).
The main subject, however, is the exciting new technology of the steam engine, and the horses it will replace. Cruikshank’s visualisation of linguistic puns gives us a ‘fiery steed’, and hints at the superseded nags literally ‘going to the dogs’.
- Article by:
- John Mullan
- The novel 1832–1880, Technology and science
The first railway line in Britain opened in 1830, transforming how the public travelled and communicated – and read fiction. Focusing on the work of Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens and George Eliot, Professor John Mullan explores the influence of the railway on Victorian novels.