The King's drum shall never be beaten for Rebels for History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798, — Cruikshank's eighth illustration is otherwise known as "The Loyal Little Drummer" (1845), 10.2 cm high by 14.8 cm wide, framed. The image is one of twenty-one which Cruikshank completed for the 1845 revised edition of the 1803 historical work. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


The other dominant element in Cruikshank's compositions (aside from an interest in vigorous action) is his fondness for the grotesque, as seen here in the distorted visages of the rebels, and in his ogres in Fairy Library (1853-64). In the midst of battle, with plenty of armed adult adversaries, in picking on the unarmed drummer-boy the rebels are reduced to the level of bullies with weapons. Consistently, Cruikshank shows no justification for the rebellion, and focuses on the sheer violence, the loss of life, and the wanton destruction of property.

A few additional titles will suggest the extent and varied nature of Cruikshank's commissions as a book illustrator during his later career. In 1845, he achieved one one of his most remarkable successes in the twenty-one plates he made to embellish W. H. Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 (Cohn 541). There is nothing in the artist's work to prepare one for the brutal savagery of this picturing of the horrors of civil warfare; indeed, to match the stark ferocity of such etchings as "Murder of George Crawford and his Granddaughter," "The Rebels executing their Prisoners, on the Bridge at Wexford," or "Rebels destroying a House and Furniture," one would have to go to Goya's Los Desastres de la Guerra. Totally different in character are the artist's thirty etchings on steel for Frank Fairleigh: or, Scenes from the Life of a Private Pupil. . . . — E. D. H. Johnson, p. 19.

This grim, new realism in his work comes after his collaborations with novelists Charles Dickens and William Harrison Ainsworth; as with The Bottle and The Drunkard's Children. Here Cruikshank deals with the horrors of reality rather than of fiction; but his method is much the same: those with whom we should identify are touchingly human, whereas the villains are insensitive brutes, their faces distorted and animalistic.

The 1798 rising occurred in the spring and summer and involved between 30,000 and 50,000 insurgents and around 76,000 government troops. There were two main centers of rebellion: in Eastern Ulster, where the insurgents were decisively defeated at Antrim and at Ballynahinch, and in South Leinster, where the critical rebel defeat occurred at Vinegar Hill (Co. Wexford) on 21 June. A French landing, at Killala (Co. Mayo) in August, came too late to assist the Irish insurgents, and was defeated at Ballinamuck (Co. Longford) within a week of arriving. The rising cost perhaps 30,000 lives. — The Oxford Companion to British History.


Burton, Anthony. "Cruikshank as an Illustrator of Fiction." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 92-128.

Cohen, Jane Rabb. Part One, "Dickens and His Early Illustrators: 1. George Cruikshank. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1980. Pp. 15-38.

"The Irish Rising of 1798." The Oxford Companion to British History. Oxford, New York: Oxford U. Pr, 1997.

Maxwell, William Hamilton. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798; with memoirs of the Union, and Emmett's insurrection in 1803. Illustrated by George Cruikshank and E. P. Lightfoot. London: Baily Brothers, Cornhill, 1845. [Cruikshank, not mentioned on the title-page, provided etchings; he is more prominently mentioned on the title-page of the George Bell edition of 1884.]

Paulson, Ronald. "The Tradition of Comic Illustration from Hogarth to Cruikshank." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 35-60.

Kitton, Frederic G. "George Cruikshank." Dickens and His Illustrators. London: Chapman & Hall, 1899. Pp. 1-28.

McLean, Ruari. George Cruikshank: His Life and Work as a Book Illustrator. English Masters of Black-and-White. London: Art and Technics, 1948.

Last modified 11 July 2017