Isaac Cruikshank. “Who’s affraid!! Or Great & Glorious news for Old England!!!” London: J. Johnstone, August 1809. 8 3/4 x 12 3/4. Etching. Original hand color. Very good condition. George, 11353.
A caricature by Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856). Like his brother George, Isaac Robert Cruikshank learned his trade from his father, Isaac. Originally setting himself up as a portrait and miniature painter, he later returned to printmaking, often collaborating with George. In 1830, he left caricature work to focus on book illustration.
This image show Sir William Curtis (1752-1829), who, as a comic leitmotif for poets and satirists, appeared often in caricature prints throughout his political career. Born into a family of sea biscuit-bakers in Wapping, Curtis was first alderman and then Lord Mayor of London. A personal friend of George IV, he appeared nonetheless as a boor to the public. Stout and illiterate, Curtis’ speaking skills were said to have led, unintentionally, to the expression, “three R’s: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic,” which he used as a banquet toast (not intending the pun now implied).
Here, the then-alderman Curtis sails on his yacht, accompanying the British fleet en route to an embarrassing defeat at Walcheren. Adding to the disgraceful nature of the expedition was the attitude of Curtis, who sailed his sumptuous yacht with the warships as though on a pleasure trip. The artist takes aim here at the alderman’s gluttony (showing empty bones, bottles, various glasses, and larder), his poor speech (writing incorrect syntax and pronunciation), and indiscretion (juxtaposing the man of leisure with naval vessels, seen outside the window) with the wit and detail that distinguish Cruikshank caricature.