London: Baily, Brothers, 1845. Item #05644
"Cruikshank's etchings likewise have been hailed as the highest point in his invention
and the most tragically terrible of all his graphic works" (Patten)
CRUIKSHANK, George, illustrator. MAXWELL, W[illiam] H[amilton]. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798; With Memoirs of the Union, and Emmett's Insurrection in 1803. By W.H. Maxwell, Esq. London: Baily, Brothers, 1845.
First edition. Octavo (8 1/2 x 5 1/4 inches; 216 x 133 mm.). viii, -477, [1, imprint] pp. Twenty one engraved plates by George Cruikshank and six full-page portraits.
Contemporary full dark green morocco, covers ruled in gilt, spine with four raised bands decoratively ruled and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt-ruled board edges and turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Armorial bookplate "Brighton" on front paste-down. Corners slightly bumped - still an excellent copy.
"The United Irishmen launched a full-fledged revolt against British rule in May 1798, but their fight was short-lived. The British and loyal Irish forces swiftly crushed the Irish Revolution. In just five months, the fighting left over 30,000 Irish men, women, and children dead, regardless of their loyalties." (Museum of the American Revolution).
"No information survives about Cruikshank's commission to illustrate W. H. Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. There is, therefore, no way of knowing what attracted Cruikshank to the subject, nor of ascertaining his own views on the rebels, the loyalists, and the British regulars who savagely put down a savage uprising. Conceivably the publisher, A. H. Baily, approached Cruikshank on the basis of the work he had done for them illustrating Barham's son's book, Martin's Vagaries, in 1843. Or they may have been inspired by his historical plates for Ainsworth, or by recalling etchings Cruikshank had made two decades previously for Ireland's Life of Napoleon. Baily's advertisement touts the "bold and graphic sketches descriptive of [the] most startling scenes," and those Cruikshank supplied in abundance: twenty-one full-page steels depicting bloody murders and riotous pillage that exercise his talents in narrative, theatrical tableaux, melodrama, and pathos.
Maxwell's account is one of the earliest and most vivid; Cruikshank's etchings likewise have been hailed as the highest point in his invention and the most tragically terrible of all his graphic works. Several authorities have compared them to Goya's Disasters of War, and Thomas Wright judged the plates "equal, if not superior, to anything ever produced by Hogarth or by Callot." Cruikshank is unsympathetic to the rebels, giving them broad fat faces, staring eyes, and wide mouths in contrast to the patrician British; yet even in this propaganda for the established order he humanizes the peasants." (Patten II, pp. 210/211).
William Hamilton Maxwell (1792-1850) was an Irish novelist. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He claimed to have entered the British Army and seen service in the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo, but this is generally believed to be untrue.