From the Gin Shop to the Dancing Rooms, from the Dancing Rooms to the Gin Shop, the Poor Girl is Driven on in That Course Which Ends in Misery. — George Cruikshank. 1848. Third illustration in The Drunkard's Children. Folio page: 46 x 36 cm (24 inches by 14.5​ inches), framed. The etchings were reproduced by glyphography, "enabling the publisher [David Bogue, London] to sell the entire series for one shilling" (Vogler, p. 159). "This suite appeared in similar size and editions to that of The Bottle, but it was never reissued in smaller format" (Vogler, p. 161), except that throughout this sequel the majority of the scenes are not individually signed. [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.]


As V. S. Pritchett remarks in his June 1980 review of Vogler's book on Cruikshank in The New York Review of Books, “The feverish care of the artist is still there; his wonderful command of details of people in their scene is unabated, though the crowd has gone, and the private moral life and the sinister figures who prey on individuals replace myth. Victorian drinking was indeed ruinous to the poor and Cruikshank's The Bottle, like Zola's L'Assommoir, was an inescapable social document” (pp. 7-8). Cruikshank's Hogarthian crowds (seen only in Plate VII in The Bottle) have returned in Plates I, II, III, and V of The Drunkard's Children, the first two replete with an excess of animal spirits and mirthless laughter. Cruikshank offers a single respite from this purgatorial trajectory in Plate III, although through the rather ample caption the artist makes plain that the Dancing Rooms, despite their atmosphere of bonhomie, are another step downward on the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire. As an anteroom of Hell, the Dancing Rooms, however, have no shortage of happy young people, equally male and female, who are consuming far less alcohol and tobacco than their counterparts in the previous two illustrations. In "George Cruikshank: A Master of the Poetic Use of Line," John Harvey concludes that this dancing scene is one of the most effective in the series because it effectively conveys lightness and rhythm in the movement of the dancers:

many of the designs are well-composed as to balance, space, and proportion, and in the plate showing the Dancing Room (Plate III), the rhythm and movement of the dance undulates from figure to figure, animating the whole design (a lovely characteristic of all Cruikshank's dance scenes). There is a largeness and relaxation in the picture that is not habitual to Cruikshank: clothes, for instance, sweep energetically round, not with all their actual ripples and flutters, but in bold expressive simplifications of the way clothes move in dancing. [150-51]

The Embedded Texts

The number of embedded texts behind the dancers momentarily distracts the viewer, doing what the bare image by itself cannot to impart a festive ambience and convey a sense of the kinds of "recreation" available here. The posted "rules" imply that Cruikshank may have had a particular establishment in mind: (in the left-hand register) "Imperial Pop 2d per Bottle," "Real Havanas," "Real Cubans," "Fine Lemonade 2d per Glass," "Theatre: 'The Fiend,' after which 'The Vampire'," "All Liquors to be paid for before Delivery," "A Grand Masquerade will take Place in these Rooms on Monday Next / Admission . . . Gents 6d Ladies . . . 3," (in the upper register) "Judge and Jury Sittings at St. Giles's Pound This Evening will come on the great cause of Slang and Sootbag," "Rules of the Assembly No Gent to Dance with his Hat on / No two Gents to Dance together / No Gent to Smoke except at Refreshment time," "Les Poses Plastiques Every Evening before Le Bal." Cryptic as some of the signs, advertisements, and prohibitions may be to the modern viewer, they lay out "house rules," which a number of the dancers are disregarding: nine men wear their hats, and five people (including a woman) are smoking. However, in the absence of any regulation against women dancing together, two young women to the right (one apparently dressed as a man) are waltzing together. Presumably permitting two men dancing together would have beeen viewed as encouraging homosexuality, so that Cruikshank does not show any young men dancing together. The implication of the extended caption may be that, having embarked upon a life of prostitution, the daughter is here to pick up clients, and that the young smoker at the bar, right, seen in the previous illustration, is her pimp.

Richard A. Vogler finds malign meanings in some of the realistic details of this illustration:

In this composition the pattern of the dancing itself is made to show the instability of the life now led by the daughter. The same woman seen in the first plate, now appears mixing drinks behind the bar and the young man who stood next to the girl in the first plate, here leaning against the counter, cigar in mouth, looks on leeringly as she dances with another young man, who caresses her fingers in such a way as to indicate his sexual desire. The same gesture can be seen occurring between another dancing couple in the background [right of centre]. As is often the case with Hogarth, later plates in a series confirm vague suggestions contained in an earlier plate: the woman talking to the girl in the first plate is her procuress; the young man, her pimp. As usual the various signs and posted notices contribute to the theme of the design. Despite the notice that no gentleman is to dance with his hat on or smoke except at refreshment time, it is clear that these rules, along with the general and more significant principles of Victorian morality, are not being observed. The "Poses Plastiques" advertised on one of the signs indicate that the dancing girls can be seen posed in the nude each night before the ball. [p. 161]

Although Vogler does not feel it is significant, the poster advertising James Robsinson Planché's The Vampyre; or, The Bride of the Isles functions as an embedded comment about the fate of the daughter, whom the procuress and the pimp will bleed dry metaphorically. The theatrical poster does not advertise an actual, 1848 production of the Regency play, first staged at the English Opera House (Lyceum Theatre) on 9 August 1820. This is not, in fact, an allusion to any mid-century staging of a vampire play as the Dion Boucicault melodrama La Dame de Pique; or, The Vampire: A Phantasm Related in Three Dramas did not begin its run at The Princess's Theatre until 14 June​ 1852.​ However, the poster may be a topical allusion to the "penny dreadful" novel Varney the Vampire; Or,​ the Feast of Blood​ by Thomas Preskett Prest​and James Malcolm Rymer, which had first appeared in 1845–47 as a series of cheap weekly pamphlets​ before publication in volume form in 1847. Cruikshank could therefore refer to the legend of the blood-sucking monster preying upon unsuspecting females; even though the Planché play had not been staged in years, the "vampire trap" developed for that melodrama was still very much in use.

Cruikshank's illustrations of other entertainment venues, 1836-39

Having taken us to two very different working-class drinking establishments in London (a "gin palace" and "beer shop"), Cruikshank now presents the drunkard's daughter apparently enjoying herself at a dancing hall, less crowded and rather more refined than the previous locales in which the brother and have consorted with the dregs of society. The less raucous scene of the daughter's dancing a polka with a well-dressed young artisan recalls several of the scenes in Sketches by Boz in the previous decade: London Recreations (1839); Greenwich Fair (1836); and The Dancing Academy (1839). However, these scenes complementing Dickens's descriptions seem relatively innocuous compared to the Night Side of London as depicted by George Cruikshank in The Drunkard's Children, which unsurprisingly influenced Gustave Doré's illustrations for Blanchard Jerrold's London: A Pilgrimage (1872).

Left: Cruikshank's engraving of a more middle-class setting, London Recreations (1839). Centre: Cruikshank's bacchanal in the suburbs, Greenwich Fair (1836). Right: Cruikshank's illustration of a relatively benign entertainment establishment for the lower-middle classes, The Dancing Academy (1839). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Whereas in illustrating Dickens Cruikshank had to attend to the details in the text and shape his conception of a drinking scene such as those in Sketches by Boz accordingly, much to his delight in his project for the Temperance Union he could control every detail, including the storyline, in his own "wordless" novella, The Drunkard's Children. In his pictorial telling​ of this sordid tale, Cruikshank had to rely only on repeating characters since, unlike his strategy in The Bottle, he could not repeat a single room to develop the action. Moreover, in the 1848 sequence Cruikshank crowds a great many figures into the early scenes, so that the viewer sometimes has to search for the drunkard's son and daughter, upon whom the illustrator is relying to provide visual continuity.​ In this sequel, Cruikshank employs a number of settings associated with proletarian London: the gin-palace, the beer-shop, the dancing-rooms here, a three-penny lodging house (the scene that most influenced Doré's conceptions of the seamier side of the metropolis), the courtroom of the Old Bailey, a lockup, the infirmary aboard a prison transport, and one of the spans of New London or Waterloo Bridge. Whereas Cruikshank makes only one of the scenes in The Bottle an external view containing a public space (Plate IV, Unable to Obtain Employment, They Are Driven by Poverty into the Streets to Beg, and by This Means They Still Supply the Bottle), Cruikshank in the sequel makes extensive use of crowd scenes and public or communal places to show how the orphans have attempted to find companionship after the loss of their parents. Cruikshank's only intimate moment occurs in the lockup in Plate VI, when the brother, now a convicted felon, must bid his sister farewell before his transportation to Australia. The present scene, in which the drunkard's daughter temporarily escapes her problems in a relatively refined setting, is the only pleasant situation in either series, although, as Vogler points out, it is tinged with an unhealthy licentiousness.

Related Material


Chesson, Wilfred Hugh. George Cruikshank. The Popular Library of Art. London: Duckworth, 1908.

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.

Cruikshank, George. The Drunkard's Children. A Sequel to "The Bottle." London: David Bogue, 1848.

Harvey, John. "George Cruikshank: A Master of the Poetic Use of Line." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 129-156.

James, Louis. "An Artist in Time: George Cruikshank in Three Eras." George Cruikshank: A Revaluation. Ed. Robert L. Patten. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1974, rev., 1992. Pp. 156-187.

Jerrold, Blanchard. The Life of George Cruikshank. In Two Epochs. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1882.

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.

Meisel, Martin. Chapter 7, "From Hogarth to Cruikshank." Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1989. Pp. 97-141.

Mellby, Julie L. "More than 100,000 copies sold in the first few days." Graphic Arts: Exhibitions, acquisitions, and other highlights from the Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University Library. Web. 13 April 2011.

Pritchett, V. S. "A Fine Rough English Diamond: A Review of Graphic Works of George Cruikshank, selected and with an introduction and notes by Richard A. Vogler. Dover Publications, 168 pp., 279 illustrations, $7.95 (paper)." The New York Review of Books 12 June 1980. Pp. 5-8.

Sutherland, John. "Lloyd, Edward." The Stanford Guide to Victorian Fiction. Stanford: Stanford U. P., 1989. P. 380.

Vogler, Richard A. Graphic Works of George Cruikshank. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. New York: Dover, 1979.

Last modified 26 August 2017