It would not, perhaps, be out of place to glance through the whole of the ' Jack Sheppard ' plates, which are among the most finished and the most successful of Mr Cruikshank's performances, and say a word or two concerning them. Let us begin with finding fault with No. 1, 'Mr Wood offers to adopt little Jack Sheppard.' A poor print, on a poor subject; the figure of the woman not as carefully designed as it might be, and the expression of the eyes (not an uncommon fault with our artist) much caricatured. The print is cut up, to use the artist's phrase, by the numbers of accessories which the engraver has thought proper, after the author's elaborate description, elaborately to reproduce. The plate of ' Wild discovering Darrell in the loft ' is admirable -- ghastly, terrible, and the treatment of it extra- ordinarily skilful, minute, and bold. The intricacies of the tile- work, and the mysterious twinkling of light among the beams, are excellently felt and rendered, and one sees here, as in the two next plates of the storm and murder, what a fine eye the artist has, what a skilful hand, and what a sympathy for the wild and dreadful. As a mere imitation of nature, the clouds and the bridge in the murder picture may be examined by painters who make far higher pretensions than Mr Cruikshank. In point of workmanship they are equally good, the manner quite unaffected, the effect produced without any violent contrast, the whole scene evidently well and philosophically arranged in the artist's brain, before he began to put it upon copper.
The famous drawing of ' Jack carving the name on the beam,* which has been transferred to half the play-bills in town, is over- loaded with accessories, as the first plate; but they are much better arranged than in the last named engraving, and do not injure the effect of the principal figure. Remark, too, the conscientiousness of the artist, and that shrewd pervading idea of form which is one of his principal characteristics. Jack is sur- rounded by all sorts of implements of his profession; he stands on a regular carpenter's table, away in the shadow under it lie shavings and a couple of carpenter's hampers. The glue-pot, the mallet, the chisel-handle, the planes, the saws, the hone with its cover, and the other paraphernalia are all represented with extra- ordinary accuracy and forethought. The man's mind has retained the exact drawing of all these minute objects (unconsciously perhaps to himself), but we can see with what keen eyes he must go through the world, and what a fund of facts (as such a know- ledge of the shape of objects is in his profession) this keen student of nature has stored away in his brain. In the next plate,