George Cruikshank (27 September 1792 – 1 February 1878) was a British caricaturist and book illustrator, praised as the “modern Hogarth” during his life. His book illustrations for his friend Charles Dickens, and many other authors, reached an international audience.
Work with Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens had written a number of sketches under the pseudonym Boz and which had appeared in various newspapers. A publisher, John Macrone, seized the opportunity to reproduce the popular sketches, which he did as two volumes in 1836 and called Sketches by Boz. Macrone hired noted caricaturist, George Cruikshank, to illustrate the collected work. Cruikshank illustrated both the first and second series of the Sketches.
At the height of his fame as a caricaturist, Cruikshank was arguably more famous than the young reporter Dickens and Macrone dabbled with using Cruickshanks name in the title before dropping the idea.
The pairing was a perfect combination. Dickens, writing as a newspaper reporter gave descriptions with a wonderful eye for detail whilst Cruickshanks brilliance with his pen was able to bring them to life.
As well as Sketches by Boz (1836), Cruikshank would also illustrate The Mudfog Papers (1837–38) and Oliver Twist (1838) for Dickens. As a friend Cruikshank even acted in Dickens’s amateur theatrical company.
The friendship between Cruikshank and Dickens soured in the latter parts of Dicken’s life when Cruikshank became a fanatical teetotaler in opposition to Dickens’s views of moderation.
After Dickens’s death, on 30 December 1871 Cruikshank published a letter in The Times which claimed credit for much of the plot of Oliver Twist. The letter launched a fierce controversy around who created the work. Cruikshank was not the first Dickens illustrator to make such a claim. Robert Seymour who illustrated The Pickwick Papers suggested that the idea for that novel was originally his; however, in his preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens strenuously denied any specific input.