A Gem from Guildhall Library’s Shelves: George Cruikshank’s Fairy Library by George Cruikshank published by Routledge in London (c1870)


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Presented to Guildhall Library by George Cruikshank’s widow Eliza Cruikshank on the 6th of July 1889, George Cruikshank’s Fairy Library is a treasury for fairy tale lovers.

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Cruikshank (1792–1878) is probably best known for being an illustrator for Charles Dickens’ novels yet Cruikshank was a celebrated illustrator and social commentator before he met Dickens. In fact, it was Dickens who was initially described as ‘the Cruikshank of writers’ by the Spectator (26 Dec 1836, 1234). Cruikshank is not only the illustrator of this volume of fairy tales, but also the author. Included within the volume are: Hop-O’ My-Thumb and the Seven League Boots, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Cinderella and the Glass Slipper and Puss in Boots.

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From 1847 to the end of his life, Cruikshank attended multiple temperance meetings across the country even serving on the board of the London Temperance League. He preached sermons on the benefits of temperance as well as promoting the cause through his illustrations in books such as The Bottle (1847) and The Drunkard’s Children (1848) (please see catalogue links below). Temperance was a cause dear to Cruikshank’s heart, possibly because his own father died after a drinking competition in 1811, leaving him, at the age of nineteen, the principal breadwinner for the family. Cruikshank was upset by Dickens’ public opposition to what he saw as the extremes of the temperance movement. When Cruikshank first published these beautifully illustrated fairy tale books to which he added texts attributing all the violence and misery in the stories to drink, Dickens protested in his weekly magazine Household Words (1 October 1853). In Dickens’ leader entitled ‘Frauds on the Fairies’ he decries Cruikshank’s attempts to ‘propagate the doctrines of Total Abstinence, Prohibition of the sale of spirituous liquors, Free Trade and Popular Education. For the introduction of these topics, he [Cruikshank] has altered the text of a fairy story and against his right to do any such thing we protest with all our might and main… He has no greater moral justice in altering the harmless little books than we should have altering his best etchings…’
Dickens’ view prevailed. This led Cruikshank to profess on Dickens’ death that ‘One of our greatest enemies gone.’ Furthermore, he went on to later claim, in a letter to the Times published Dec 30, 1871 that it had been he, and not Dickens, who had come up with the characters and plot for Oliver Twist.

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Please find to the item on the City of London Libraries catalogue below:


Please note you do not need to make an advance booking to consult this item. However, you will need to bring one form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence or any library or archive membership card, with you when you visit in order to consult this book as it is designated a rare item.

The Bottle (1847):

The Drunkard’s Children (1848):
For those of you who are interested in learning more about George Cruikshank’s life and work we can recommend Robert Patten’s two volume biography, George Cruikshank’s life, times and art Vol.1, 1792-1835, and Vol.2, 1835-1878 which is available to consult at Guildhall Library:


Isabelle Chevallot
Assistant Librarian Guildhall Library


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