George and Robert Cruikshank
These two brothers often watched their father, a caricaturist, prepare drawings and etchings in his attic studio. Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856) was allegedly the model for the fashionable Corinthian Tom in Life in London; he and George drew the illustrations, and Robert superintended the scenery for the hugely successful Adelphi Theatre production of the book as a play. Robert Cruikshank also worked on imitations of Egan's and George Cruikshank's productions; the latter was so irritated by his elder brother's capitalizing on his fame that relations cooled for some time. Robert was devoted to town life and skilled as a portraitist; he later became a successful portrait painter.
George Cruikshank (1792-1878) was the most original and deft graphic satirist of his day. He was influenced by many current and past artists, including Rowlandson. Book illustration was a second career for George Cruikshank, as he made his beginnings as an artist through caricature and for many years published his own comic almanac. Life in London was the first book he illustrated, and his knowledge of the city he portrayed was gained first hand. George was keen observer of character, and his drawings have a lively wit. He crowed humorous details into all corners of his illustrations, sometimes to the sacrifice of artistic unity.
Although the Cruikshank brothers generally etched their prints, Life in London is illustrated using aquatint. The color palate used is generally very simple, but the wit and humor found in George Cruikshank's drawings and illustrations can be easily seen. The book was so popular that it inspired a number of sequels and imitations, just as the Dr. Syntax series did. William Makepeace Thackeray, the great nineteenth century novelist, said of Life in London: "It must have had some merit of its own, that is clear; it must have given striking descriptions of life in some part or other of London, for all London read it, and went to see it in its dramatic shape" (Prideaux 307).
Pierce Egan, author of Life in London, also wrote this collection of sporting anecdotes, which has illustrations by Robert Cruikshank. Egan and Robert Cruikshank collaborated on a number of works. Not all the plates in this book are colored, however.
The true author of this book appears to be unidentified. Like The adventures of Johnny Newcome in the navy, it was part of a vogue for books with military settings. George Cruikshank illustrated other military books, including two versions of the life of Napoleon.