Crusoe, regaining consciousness, sees the dead Tartar by George Cruikshank as the vignette realising a scene in the second part of the John Major edition of The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1831) — possibly Cruikshank's satirical response to an earlier illustration by Thomas Stothard. Chapter XIV, "Attacked by Tartars," 5.1 cm high by 6.1 cm wide, vignetted, middle of page 525. In this scene, Crusoe is once again the focal point, but most of the action has transpired while he has been unconscious. [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.]

Passage Illustrated: Crusoe out of action

I walked it on foot, with my old pilot in company, and a Chinese, being very desirous of a little variety. When we came to the place it was a low, marshy ground, walled round with stones, piled up dry, without mortar or earth among them, like a park, with a little guard of Chinese soldiers at the doors. Having bought a camel, and agreed for the price, I came away, and the Chinese that went with me led the camel, when on a sudden came up five Tartars on horseback: two of them seized the fellow, and took the camel from him, while the other three stepped up to me and my old pilot; seeing us, as it were, unarmed, for I had no weapon about me but my sword, which could but ill defend me against three horsemen. The first that came up stopped short upon my drawing my sword, for they are arrant cowards; but a second, coming upon my left, gave me a blow on the head, which I never felt till afterwards, and wondered, when I came to myself, what was the matter, and where I was, for he laid me flat on the ground; but my never-failing old pilot, the Portuguese, had a pistol in his pocket, which I knew nothing of, nor the Tartars either: if they had, I suppose they would not have attacked us, for cowards are always boldest when there is no danger.

The old man seeing me down, with a bold heart stepped up to the fellow that had struck me, and laying hold of his arm with one hand, and pulling him down by main force a little towards him with the other shot him into the head, and laid him dead upon the spot; he then immediately stepped up to him who had stopped us, as I said, and before he could come forward again, for it was all done as it were in a moment, made a blow at him with a scimitar, which he always wore, but missing the man, struck his horse in the side of his head, cut one of the ears off by the root, and a great slice down by the side of his face. The poor beast, enraged with the wound, was no more to be governed by his rider, though the fellow sat well enough too, but away he flew, and carried him quite out of the pilot's reach; and at some distance, rising upon his hind legs, threw down the Tartar, and fell upon him.

In this interval the poor Chinese came in, who had lost the camel, but he had no weapon; however, seeing the Tartar down, and his horse fallen upon him, he runs to him, and seizing upon an ugly ill-favoured weapon he had by his side, something like a pole-axe, but not a pole-axe neither, he wrenched it from him, and made shift to knock his Tartarian brains out with it. But my old man had the third Tartar to deal with still; and seeing he did not fly, as he expected, nor come on to fight him, as he apprehended, but stood stock still, the old man stood still too, and fell to work with his tackle to charge his pistol again: but as soon as the Tartar saw the pistol away he scoured, and left my pilot, my champion I called him afterwards, a complete victory.​ [Chapter XIV, "Attacked by Tartars," pp. 5423-524]


In comparison to how other illustrators have rendered this foreign scene, Cruikshank does not an heroic image of the protagonist, a suggestion, perhaps, that at this advanced age he should be back on his quiet farm in Bedfordshire. By the time that Crusoe regains consciousness in the Cruikshank vignette, the action is long over: the Tartars are mere specks on the horizon (right), having beat a hasty retreat. Since Crusoe has been delirious this whole time, the reader must assume that he has constructed the narrative of the robbery and the travellers' resistance from accounts by the Chinese merchant and the valiant pilot. In contrast to Cruikshank's focus on Crusoe, lying on the ground, Phiz has elected to illustrate the incident with multiple characters in a variety of poses, physical action, and suspense — as well as horses caught in the midst of action.

Related Material

Stothard's (1820), Cruikshank's (1831), Phiz's (1864), and Cassell's (1864) Scenes in Tartary

Left: Stothard's first illustration of Crusoe's adventure on the Russian steppes, Robinson Crusoe travelling in Chinese Tartary, a scene full of apprehension, but no action. Right: Cruikshank's dramatic tailpiece for Farther Adventures: Crusoe and his party deliver a furious volley from behind a stockade of stacked tree trunks in The Europeans fire a withering volley at the charging Tartar horde in Russia. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Above: A far more animated and detailed full-page illustration of the Europeans' heroic cavalry charge: A Fight with the Tartars. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Above: Phiz's far more animated and detailed full-page illustration of the same scene: Robinson Crusoe attacked and robbed by Tartars. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner, with introductory verses by Bernard Barton, and illustrated with numerous engravings from drawings by George Cruikshank expressly designed for this edition. 2 vols. London: Printed at the Shakespeare Press, by W. Nichol, for John Major, Fleet Street, 1831.

De Foe, Daniel. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Written by Himself. Illustrated by Gilbert, Cruikshank, and Brown. London: Darton and Hodge, 1867?].

Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. (1831). Illustrated by George Cruikshank. Major's Edition. London: Chatto & Windus, 1890.

Patten, Robert L. "Phase 2: "'The Finest Things, Next to Rembrandt's,' 1720–1835." Chapter 20, "Thumbnail Designs." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 1: 1792-1835. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1992; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1992. Pp. 325-339.

Last modified 7 March 2018