Jack Sheppard, also in Bentley's Miscellany by William Harrison Ainsworth (the plate in the serial appeared in the November 1839, eleventh weekly instalment). Each page 18.8 x 10.5 cm. [The frontispiece prepares the volume reader for Jack's acquiring the status of a folk-hero as he becomes the subject of portraiture for two of the leading graphic artists of the age, the history painter that worked in the Baroque tradition and was responsible for the Painted Hall at the Greenwich Naval Palace, Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), and the visual satirist and gifted engraver William Hogarth (1697-1764), a former pupil of Thornhill and his son-in-law. Later, implies Ainsworth, Jack will also serve as the model for Captain MacHeath in The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay (1685-1732), also among the distinguished visitors depicted here. The scene in Jack's cell at Newgate as the frontispiece for the third volume, The Portrait, alerts the reader to Jack's celebrity status as a jail-breaker, and presents itself as historical documentary by naming each of the principals in the captions that the illustrator has provided underneath, something which Cruikshank has not done for any other illustration in the novel.]— nineteenth volume illustration for
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The illustrations appearing here are from the collection of the commentator.
Sir James Thornhill's preparations being completed, Mr. Pitt desired to know if he wanted anything further, and being answered in the negative, he excused himself on the plea that his attendance was required in the court at the Old Bailey, which was then sitting, and withdrew.
"Do me the favour to seat yourself, Jack," said Sir James. "Gentlemen, a little further off, if you please."
Sheppard immediately complied with the painter's request; while Gay and Figg drew back on one side, and Hogarth on the other. The latter took from his pocket a small note-book and pencil.
"I'll make a sketch, too," he said. "Jack Sheppard's face is well worth preserving."
After narrowly examining the countenance of the sitter, and motioning him with his pencil into a particular attitude, Sir James Thornhill commenced operations; and, while he rapidly transferred his lineaments to the canvass, engaged him in conversation, in the course of which he artfully contrived to draw him into a recital of his adventures. The ruse succeeded almost beyond his expectation. During the narration Jack's features lighted up, and an expression, which would have been in vain looked for in repose, was instantly caught and depicted by the skilful artist. All the party were greatly interested by Sheppard's history — especially Figg, who laughed loud and long at the escape from the Condemned Hold. When Jack came to speak of Jonathan Wild, his countenance fell.
"We must change the subject," remarked Thornhill, pausing in his task; "this will never do."
"Quite right, Sir James," said Austin. "We never suffer him to mention Mr. Wild's name. He never appears to so little advantage as when speaking of him."
"I don't wonder at it," rejoined Gay.
Here Hogarth received a private signal from Thornhill to attract Sheppard's attention.
"And so you've given up all hope of escaping, eh, Jack?" remarked Hogarth.
"That's scarcely a fair question, Mr. Hogarth, before the jailer," replied Jack. "But I tell you frankly, and Mr. Austin, may repeat it if he pleases to his master, Jonathan Wild, — I have not."
"Well said, Jack," cried Figg. "Never give in."
"Well," observed Hogarth, "if, fettered as you are, you contrive to break out of this dungeon, you'll do what no man ever did before."
A peculiar smile illuminated Jack's features.
"There it is!" cried Sir James, eagerly. "There's the exact expression I want. For the love of Heaven, Jack, don't move! — Don't alter a muscle, if you can help it."
And, with a few magical touches, he stamped the fleeting expression on the canvass.
"I have it too!" exclaimed Hogarth, busily plying his pencil. "Gad! it's a devilish fine face when lit up." — "Epoch the Second, The Prison Breaker, 1715," Chapter 16, "How Jack Sheppard's Portrait was Painted," Volume 3, p. 139-142.
The frontispiece for the third volume was actually the second illustration in the November 1839 (ninth) instalment for novel when it was first serialised in Bentley's Miscellany, the triple-decker simultaneously appearing (November, 1839). In this famous illustration, Cruikshank alludes to the actual practice of having a convicted felon "sit" for his portrait so that all turnkeys would know the criminal by sight, and would be able to distinguish him from mere visitors, as in the May 1837 illustration for The Pickwick Papers, in which Hablot Knight Browne presents the scene in which the hapless picaresque hero Samuel Pickwick, having lost the breach-of-promise suit with his quondam landlady, Mrs. Bardell, is the object of intense study by Fleet Prison staffers, Mr. Pickwick sits for his Portrait in Chapter 40, towards the end of the novel's serial run. Having already alluded directly to several of William Hogarth's satirical series, notably Industry and Idleness (1747) and The Rake's Progress, Cruikshank now pays homage to two of his visual masters by depicting the celebrated print-maker in company with the poet-dramatist John Gay, author of The Beggar's Opera (1728), along with Austin, the Head Turnkey; Figg, the prize-fighter; and the portrait painter and interior designer of the Greenwich Naval Hospital and St. Paul's Cathedral, Sir James Thornhill, already at his easel (left) doing Jack's portrait in oils as Hogarth sketches the prisoner (right). The time and date are specific: the visiting hours at Newgate on the morning of Thursday, 15 October, 1724.
- The illustrations of George Cruikshank for Jack Sheppard: A Romance (1839)
- William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) — King of the Historical Potboiler: A Brief Biography
- A Chronology of William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882)
- An Introduction to Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard. A Romance (1839)
Ainsworth, William Harrison. Jack Sheppard. A Romance. With 28 illustrations by George Cruikshank. In three volumes. London: Richard Bentley, 1839.
Ainsworth, William Harrison. Jack Sheppard. Edited by Edward Jacobs and Manuela Mourao. With 31 illustrations. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2007.
Sutherland, John. "Jack Sheppard" in The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 19893. Pp. 323-324.
Vann, J. Don. "Jack Sheppard in Bentley's Miscellany, January 1839 — February 1840." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Page 19.
Last modified 3 January 2017