Nov 222017

I always feel sorry for Dorothea Jordan. I have blogged  about her before (here). She was an actress with a stunning pair of legs, who delighted audiences on the London stage, and who also went by the name of ‘Dora’ and ‘Dorothy’. She was persuaded to become the mistress of the Duke of Clarence, who later became William IV, and she stood by him for years and bore him ten children – all of them bearing the surname ‘Fitzroy’. She was then dumped unceremoniously the moment he saw that he had a chance to become king and needed to marry. She was treated most shabbily, and died impoverished and abandoned in 1816.

What I find intriguing is the viciousness of the attacks on her when she became the Duke’s paramour. Caricaturists such as Gillray must have whooped with delight at being able to have a go at someone with a surname (Jordan) which was an obsolete slang word for a chamber pot.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

From 24 October 1791 we got “The devil to pay : the wife metamorphos’d, or, Neptune reposing after fording the Jordan” with its highly derogatory depiction of a chamber pot under the bed, bearing the words “Public Jordan. Open to all parties.” It shows Dorothea sitting up in bed alongside her sleeping Prince, imagining that the last night has all been a dream.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

The day after, print-maker W Dent published “The royal tar and country girl from Oldford, or, An Englishman in all his glory” showing the sailor prince  sweeping Dorothea off her feet. The map behind his head contains the words “directions for steering up the River Jordan”

J3A week later Isaac Cruikshank came out with “The pot calling the kettle black, or, Two of a trade can never agree” drawing attention to the differences – and similarities – between Maria Fitzherbert (mistress of the Prince of Wales) and Dorothea Jordan. The “trade” was of course being a royal whore, although that was a bit hard on Maria who had at least gone through a form of marriage ceremony with her prince.

j4Not all representations of the couple were so derogatory: in December 1791 another Isaac Cruikshank print appeared, entitled “The hambug or An attempt at tragedy”  and showing Dorothea on stage at the Drury Lane Theatre in front of the Royal Box. She is shown sinking back as if fainting, and is supported by the Duke of Clarence who kneels  on one knee, offering her a wine-glass.


j5More crudely, another image entitled “The Tar and the Jordan” shows the prince running past a group of four horrified women as he cries “Why what a rout is here about a damned crack’ed Bum Boat. B”’t the Jordan. I wish it was at the bottom of the deepest Jakes [i.e. lavatory] in England.” He wears a chamber pot on his head as he hurtles towards a flock of startled sheep, while a second pot is dragged behind him along the ground. The print, by Richard Newton, appeared in around 1797.

The ‘cracked jordan’ was a source of regular guffaws, with both lavatorial and sexual connotations. This is nowhere more apparent than in Gillray’s “Lubber’s Hole” (otherwise better known as ‘The Crack’d Jordan’) which appeared in November 1791. The prince has practically disappeared inside the suggestively shaped fissure of the jordan. His coat hangs on a peg while he shouts “yep yee yeo”.

Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Poor Dorothea – how she must have dreaded walking past a print-shop window! How she must have winced at the crude portrayal and smarted at the suggestion that she was a common whore! No-one had bothered much about her morals before, but as soon as she bedded the prince she was fair game for all. No matter that it was the prince who had spent most of his naval career becoming an expert on the brothels of Jamaica. No matter that she stood loyally by him for two decades, rearing his children and still appearing on stage. She was totally devastated when she was turfed out by the ungrateful prince in 1811, after a relationship which had lasted some 21 years.

So to endj44 with, a kinder portrayal of a popular comic actress who strutted her stuff on stage for nearly thirty years, and shown courtesy of the Twickenham Museum. 22 November was the old girl’s birthday – so Many Happy Returns of the Day, Dorothea. Or Dora. Or Dorothy. More than 250 years on, and still going strong.

She does of course feature in my book “In bed with the Georgians; Sex, Scandal and Satire” which is published by Pen & Sword and is available from you know where – well, here actually!



Nov 192017

Philip Thicknesse – a miniature by  Nathaniel Hone, 1757

In yesterday’s post I looked at the earlier part of the life of Philip Thicknesse – today I wanted to show how his notoriety as a quarrelsome bully was reflected in contemporary prints. The National Portrait Gallery has an almost inoffensive one by Gillray, of all people, used as the frontispiece to James M. Adair’s ‘Curious Facts and Anecdotes, not contained in the Memoirs of Philip Thicknesse, Esq.’

©  National Portrait Gallery. Thicknesse by Gillray, 1790,

O.K. -“No ties can hold him, no affection bind, And fear alone constrains his coward’s mind…” is hardly complimentary but it was nothing, but nothing, to what Gillray moved on to. As will be seen, Gillray was not going to let a good target go undamaged….First though, an offering from Isaac Cruikshank:

Thicknesse, complete with his ‘Foul Letter bag’, according to Cruikshank…

The reputation of Philip Thicknesse as a ball of bile led to various caricatures, including the one above, but my favourite is this one below showing Thicknesse with his codpiece marked Genius but also standing on Moral and Religious Duties, with legs of Deceit and Hypocrisy. In his right arm he holds a quill pen marked Assassination and he has a stomach for Cruelty, Cowardice Quackery and Buffoonery. On his left thigh the Devil is shown chasing a figure of Thicknesse,  kicking him away from the flames of Hell, saying, “I won’t be troubled with you – you are too bad for me; this is Hope”.

© The Trustees of the British Museum.   A man of many parts….

Beneath the title is etched: ‘Most heartily Addressed, (without permission) to Phil. Thicknesse, Esq. Formerly a Lieutenant Governor and lately Doer of the St. James’s Chronicle, but now Nobody at his Hut in Kent.’ (This, a reference to the fact that Thicknesse had been living for a time in a converted barn on the South coast, with views over towards France). The image, by W Dent, is entitled  ‘The cutter cut up, or, the monster at full length.’

Thomas Rowlandson also had a pop at Thicknesse – the British Museum site shows a pen and ink drawing by him entitled ‘Philip Quarrel the English hermit and beaufiddelle the mischievous she-monkey, famous for her skill on the viol de gamba’ with a picture of Thicknesse and his third wife, complete with references alluding to her affair with Lord Jersey, allegations of blackmail and extortion, and so on.

But an even more vicious personal attack was to come from James Gillray. You might think that Gillray would be nice to a fellow dyspeptic, always complaining about one thing or another. Wrong! Gillray managed in 1790 to produce a caricature in which just about every single misdemeanour associated with Thicknesse in his long history of grumbling, bullying and blackmail was exposed, in his ‘Lieut goverr Gall-stone, inspired by Alecto; or, the birth of Minerva.’ By way of explanation, Alecto was one of the Erinyes, or Furies, in Greek Mythology and Minerva was the goddess of strategic warfare.

© The Trustees of the British Museum.

It is a complicated caricature, described by the British Museum in its site as follows:

“Philip Thicknesse writes at a table; he listens to Alecto who whispers slyly in his ear, her right hand on his right shoulder; she is seated partly on his knee partly on a cloud behind him which rises from the jaws of Hell, the gaping mouth of a monster in the lower right corner of the design. Alecto  is a winged hag, with hair of writhing serpents, one of which coils round Thicknesse’s right arm, its poisoned fang touching the tip of his pen. He is seated on a close-stool inscribed ‘Reservoir for Gall Stones’.

An explosion issues from the crown of his head in the centre of which is Minerva who is shot into the air surrounded by books written by Thicknesse. She is a classical figure in back view; her head is the source of a billowing pillar of smoke which conceals it. In her right hand she supports a gun, which rests on her hip, and is inscribed ‘The Coward’s delight or, the Wooden Gun’.

On her left arm is an oval shield, cracked and bordered with serpents, inscribed: ‘Acts of Courage and Wisdom. Running away from my Command in Jamaica, for fear of the Black-a-moors, Refusing to fight Lord Orwell, after belying him; & afterwards begging pardon. Extorting 100 pr Annum from my eldest Son by a Pistol – Swindling my youngest son Phil: out of £500 by a forged Note of Hand – Debauching my own Niece, on a journey to Southampton – Horsewhipping my own Daughter to death for looking out at Window. Attempting to gull Lord Thurlow. Extorting £100 pr Annum from Lord Camden for suppressing his confidential Letters to myself. Gulling of Lord Bute: – Ditto Lord Bathurst: – Ditto Lord Coven: Causing my Footman to be pressed from Bath & cruelly Flogg’d for refusing to Father my own Child by the Cook Maid, Scandalizing Women of Virtue, to be reveng’d upon their Husbands: – Noble defence before the Court Martial for embezzling the Kings Stores; – Patient endurance of my Sentence in a Goal: – and heroic bearing of my discharge from the Service for Cowardice.’

The Museum description continues:

“Beside Minerva (right) is her owl, flying towards the spectator and holding three papers including ‘Character’ by Sam Foote. (Phill: is as stupid as an Owl; as senseless as a Goose; as vulgar as a Blackguard; & as cowardly as a Dunghill Cock). On the writing-table is a pile of books on which stands an ape-like creature dressed as a postillion and flourishing a whip above his head. In his left hand he holds up a bottle labelled ‘Laudanum, or the Preservative of Life – prepared by Lieut Genl Jackoo, Spanish Postillion to Dr Viper – O Death! where is thy Sting?’ A bottle protrudes from each coat-pocket, one inscribed ‘Extract of Hellebore’, the other ‘Extract of Hemlock’. One bare claw-like foot tramples down the broken end of a long spear, held by Death, a corpse-like body, almost a skeleton, who stands on the extreme left, frowning and raising a denunciatory hand. Between Death’s legs lies a dead dog on its back; a pamphlet beside it is inscribed ‘Elegy on the death of my favourite Dog. – Horsewhipped to Death for Barking while I was kissing my Wife’.. ..Over the front of the table hang two prints:

[1] a rat-trap inscribed ‘Landguard Fort’, “a Frontier Garrison of importance”.

[2] a boy wearing a cocked hat and holding a hammer and a hoop: ‘The Cooper’s Boy, turnd Soldier – an old Song’. Under the table are ‘Extortive Letters’ spiked on a file and a number of money-bags, three being labelled: £100 pr A’, ‘£100 pr Annum from Lord Comb. and £100 from Lord B.’ The background is covered by scenes and objects interspersed among the clouds produced by the fires of Hell and the explosion from Thicknesse’s head. Behind the table the apex of an obelisk partly obscures a framed picture of a building inscribed ‘St Ardres Nunnery or, a Grave to immure my Daughters alive; to keep their Fortunes myself’. “

It really was an extraordinary attack on Thicknesse and shows a very detailed knowledge of his misdemeanours – and a willingness on the part of Gillray to leave himself open to an action in defamation. But although Thicknesse printed a card by way of a response (see his printed announcement to ‘The Nobility and Friends’) no retaliation seems to have occurred.

In 1792 Mr and Mrs Thicknesse set off for Italy but it was a journey he never completed. He had a massive stroke in Boulogne and died there on 19 November. His poor wife Ann was promptly locked up for being a foreigner and had to spend eighteen months in a convent, until after Robespierre’s execution. She died in 1824.

And why am I interested in the curmudgeonly old fellow? Well one of the men he crossed swords with (wrong word: ‘crossed quill pens with’) was a chap called Edmund Rack.

Edmund Rack

Rack was an interesting guy: the founder, in 1770, of the Bath and West of England Agricultural Society – still going strong as the ‘Royal Bath and West’ with its annual show at Shepton Mallet. During his time in Bath, Rack was believed by Thicknesse to have been the author of a somewhat insulting ‘A Letter addressed to Philip Thickskull, esq.’ and Thicknesse called him out with his reply: ‘A Letter from Philip Thickskull, Esq., to Edmund Rack, Quaker’. Handbags at dawn boys, and may the best man win!

I have been asked to give a talk about the city of Bath in 1780, to coincide with the publication of a book based on Rack’s journals, by the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute. The BRLSI are hosting a trio of talks on 24 March 2018 under the title ‘Science, Scandal and Society in Georgian Bath’, The event will be held at 16 Queen Square Bath BA1 2HN and although it is a while off, tickets can be obtained from Bath Box Office 01225 463362

Talk details:

24 March 2018 10.30 to 13.00

Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution

Science, Scandal and Society in Georgian Bath

Dr Andrew Swift, author and local historian

‘Inspir’d by Freedom’

Catharine Macaulay was one of the most remarkable women of her age – an eminent historian and avowed republican who inspired and influenced both the American and French Revolutions. She shocked Bath society by running off with ‘a stout brawny Scotsman of 21’.

Stuart Burroughs, Director at Museum of Bath at Work

Experimental Roots: Edmund Rack & the Origins of the Bath and West

Edmund Rack, a Quaker and the son of a Norfolk labouring weaver, moved to Bath in 1775. Dismayed by the poor farming practice in the West Country, he initiated the founding of an Agricultural Society to investigate ways of improving the agricultural resources of the country.

Mike Rendell, writer on 18th century social history

Bath in the 1780s: Quakers, Quacks & Quadrilles

A look at everyday life in the Georgian ˜City of Fun” its diversions and eccentricities.

Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution, 16 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN

Visitors £6 Members/students £4 – (plus £1 booking fee)

I hope to see some of you there!

Nov 102017

A couple of years ago I found myself in Bergerac on Bastille Day (July 14th): Roads were cordoned off, crush barriers erected, stands became packed, and at the appointed hour there was a solemn march-past of be-medalled and be-ribboned members of the armed forces. Then there was silence and a lone man approached the microphone and sang an unaccompanied solo version of La Marseillaise. It was stunning and very moving.

I remember how strange it was to feel a lump in the throat listening to such a beautiful and stirring patriotic song, when it wasn’t my country which was being eulogized. It made me wonder at the origins of the song….

On 25 April 1792, the mayor of Strasbourg requested that his guest Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle compose a song “that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat” At the time France was at risk from invasion by armies from Austria and Prussia. That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote ‘Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin’ (‘The War Song of the Army of the Rhine’) and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner.

Here is a picture painted fifty years later, showing the composer singing his rendition of the song:

The melody soon became the rallying call of the French Revolution and was adopted as La Marseillaise after the melody was first sung on the streets by volunteers from Marseille at the end of May 1792. A young officer from Montpelier called Francois Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in that city. Later, when volunteers entered the city of Paris on 30 July 1792 printed copies were handed out to supporters, and the troops adopted it as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille. The irony is that Rouget de Lisle was actually a royalist, and he narrowly escaped a trip to the guillotine…

Subsequently La Marseillaise was made the official French national anthem (14 July 1795) although it subsequently fell out of favour. Napoleon disliked it, and later French rulers banned it altogether. In the middle part of the eighteenth century it became the anthem of the international revolutionary movement, being adopted as such by the Paris commune in 1871. Its status as the national anthem was restored in 1879.

This is how Richard Newton illustrated the words in a drawing published on 10th November 1792

Newton is one of my favourite caricaturists from the end of the eighteenth century – he only lived to the age of  21 and died in 1798 but in his lifetime displayed an irreverence and a sense of humour – often lavatorial – which I still find appealing!

This is his self portrait:I have often included Newton in my blogs – see here for a post about him from way back in 2012.


Oct 172017

O.K. I am a sucker for Richard Newton  caricatures, so I rather liked this one on the Lewis Walpole site. It features eight depictions of women who are worse for drink. No-one would think it funny to show eight cartoons of men in their cups, but women are of course fair game to all cartoonists…

The first image (top left)  has the words “May we have in our arms what we love in our hearts. No tax upon Gin! Here we go – up, up, up. There we go, down, down, down!

Her pose bears more than a passing resemblance to the image used by Newton in his Progress of a Woman of Pleasure, which is  featured in my book “In bed with the Georgians; Sex Scandal & Satire”:












In the second image an old hag is looking up at the night sky, unsure if she is seeing the sun or the moon:

The third image shows a drunken woman spilling the pail of water which she carries on her head, all over a grave digger. The caption reads “Hollo!  Damn your blood, you old faggot – where are you coming to?”

Next in line we have someone who has had too much of a good thing – she is shown holding a bottle marked ‘Comfort for the Cholick’ while being violently sick:The next one shows our heroine displaying her assets (‘ample’ seems to be the word the Daily Mail feels constrained to use) under the heading “I’m a little sickish or so, but no matter, I’ve given Sal her gruel. She drink Gin with me! Blast me she could as soon swallow the fat landlady!” I like the night watchman in the background waving his rattle, and the street sign showing that we are in the ward of St Giles, one of the poorest and most overcrowded areas of London.

Next up, a lady who needs a lift home. Her companion, smoking his pipe through clenched teeth, remarks “She’s got her quantum by Jingo! She smells as sweet as a daisy, but no matter, I will get the blunt in the morning from her old goat of a keeper. ‘Pon my conscience and soul he will have a precious bedfellow of her tonight!”In the next image the drunken crone has been hit on the head when she walks into a tree stump, bloodying her nose and causing her to drop her bottle of gin. She exclaims “What’s that for you saucy rascal. Here, Watch, Watch, Watch! Lord a Mercy upon me, what a blow! My poor head spins like a top!”And to end with, a woman who can hold her liquor as well if not better than her companion, a soldier who wields a truncheon while apparently unaware that his shoe has come unbuckled and is about to fall off. He is carrying a sword. Somewhat out of breath he remarks “Stick … close… my dear… Charlotte. Hold up your head, my lily of the valley…. I am as sober as a judge…. Women and wine for ever, damn me!”   Her expression suggests that she has seen it all before…An uncoloured version of the print appears on the British Museum site but it is slightly harder to find because it has been mis-named as ‘Specimens of Sweethearts’ rather than ‘Samples’. The Lewis Walpole version appears here. In its original form the print was published by William Holland from his premises at 50 Oxford Street on 23 July 1795, which would have made Newton eighteen at the time. Not surprisingly, the young lad loved drawing ladies’ knockers, so to end with an example of one of my favourite drawings of his, complete with dreadful pun – Newton’s “A peep into Brest with a navel review”

Jul 022017

I came across these two prints on the ever-excellent Lewis Walpole site while looking for something entirely different! They are both the work of Elias Martin, an artist who died in 1818, but the first was published by William Humphrey on 6 February 1772 and the other, published by Richard Marshall, followed ten days later.

The first print is entitled ‘A city taylor’s wife dressing for the Pantheon’ and it shows the soon-to-be-cuckolded tailor, holding a pair of half-made trousers on his lap, watching in despair as his wife prepares for a night on the town. His fists are clenched, his face etched with despair. He wears outdated clothing – complete with night-cap.

His wife, on the other hand, is dolled up to the nines. She is sporting ever-so-fetching patches all over the place, she is putting on a necklace which has just been taken out of a box, and she is rocking a hat which is ever-so a la mode. No matter that she looks like a hideous raddled old bag – she is on the pull! The house is humble, the furniture spare, and on the wall is an advertising placard – and a chalked figure of a pair of antlers, signifying a cuckold. No-one seeing the print would have been in any doubt as to the intentions of the wife!

Interestingly the Pantheon, just off Oxford Street, opened its doors on 27th January 1772 – just a week before this was published – so it was referring to somewhere very much in vogue. In practice the Pantheon had a very exclusive clientele in its early days – admission was at the invitation of a peer of the realm only. 1700 people drawn from the very highest echelons of society paid fifty pounds each to attend the opening night. For that first season, tickets only got you in to assemblies, without dancing or music, held three times a week. In later years the Pantheon was the venue for masquerades, balls – even operas, and became much more egalitarian. The point about the print is that in its early days, there was no way that the wife of a tailor would gain admission – the trollop clearly had ideas above her station…..

The second print was entitled The Suspicious Husband – apparently the title of a play by Dr Benjamin Hoadly. According to the Lewis Walpole site:  “A fashionably dressed young woman sits at a writing table as she seals an envelope with her stamp while her maid, standing in front of the table, waits attentively. A picture on the wall behind them depicts Cupid flying with an envelope in his hand. From behind a curtain on the right, a man peers into the room, curious and wide-eyed.”

I rather like the details – the attentive maid, the flickering candle, the wax seal being impressed from the lady’s ring, the lady’s left hand holding the letter firmly but delicately in place, the bar of wax on the table, the quill pen….

I know very little of the artist, Elias Martin. Wikipedia has him as a Swedish landscape painter who came to London in 1770 and became an Associate of the Royal Academy. I am not quite sure why he used his talents on producing drolls like these, but there you go! I suspect that he needed the pin money….


May 282017

I have always liked eighteenth century prints featuring eighteenth century print shops – and here is one of my favourites.

It appears on the excellent Lewis Walpole site here and as today marks the anniversary of its publication (28 May 1793) I thought that I would dust it off and give it an outing. It was published by SW Fores and therefore, not surprisingly, shows the scene outside one of his premises ( No. 57 St. Pauls Church Yard, the other being at No. 3 Piccadilly) on a windy day.

It has got it all, really: the cleric on the left using his quizzing glass to admire the naked rump of the lady bending over to pick up her hat, unaware that his own hat, trimmed with  the cleric’s wig, has blown into the air; the two smart young things battling against the wind, which billows up the front of their skirts to reveal their stocking tops; the fish-wife sprawled on the roadway with her basket overturned and the fish flapping in the dirt; the elderly man trying to hold on to his hat and wig while having a good ogle; the young blade in what I think is called a Jean de Bray jacket.

In the background we have a porter carrying a bale on his head, and a couple who appear to have fallen against each other for support, hat to hat. And a sign above the bow-fronted shop window reminding us that Fores did not just sell individual prints but also supplied them wholesale to other print shops, as well as “for exportation”.

Samuel William Fores, to give him his full moniker, was born in 1761, the son of a cloth merchant. He went into the business of selling prints when he was 22, from premises at City Arms, 3 Piccadilly, near the Haymarket. From there he expanded and operated also from addresses at 50 Piccadilly and 312 Oxford Street. After he died in 1838 the business was carried on under the style of ‘Messrs Fores’ by his sons George Thomas Fores (1806-58) and Arthur Blücher Fores (1814-83). They moved the business away  from satirical towards sporting prints. Indeed the Fores name continued well into the 20th Century.

So, 224 years after it first appeared, many happy returns to a High Wind in St Pauls Churchyard!

May 212017

I came across this Thomas Rowlandson etching on the Lewis Walpole site, and as my ancestor Richard Hall spent a lot of his time and energy eating and drinking I thought it was worthy of closer inspection. The site says that it was published “not before 1828” – Rowlandson died in 1827 – and presumably it was therefore an earlier drawing, done in around 1800, and found among the artist’s papers after his death. Indeed there seems to be some disagreement as to where is being depicted. One title shows it as the Rainbow Rooms, Fleet Street, and another has it as The Wheatsheaf Eating House, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street.

I love the detail and the sense of animation which Rowlandson conveyed – his characters always seem to be talking. There is nothing static about his crowd scenes. Here, many of the faces are grotesques – but they are full of expression and movement. You can almost hear the buzz of conversation you get from a room full of men – and indeed all the customers are male, with just one serving girl to show that women did actually exist in Georgian England. And even she is being knocked out of the way by a male servant bringing a tureen of soup to the table.

I like the  hats lined up on the rail above the diners – and the way that the tables are separated by curtains, with the diners sitting on bench seats. The clock on the wall tells us it is 8.30, and the drinks which you can see include both beer, in tankards, and wine in glasses. I am never too keen on dogs begging at the table, but there you go….

Here are a couple of close ups, showing the faces of the diners:

Nice one Thomas – a good evocative scene of what a public dining area was like in Georgian England.


May 122017

I don’t often look at purely political caricatures but I came across these on the British Museum site, and it occurs to me that they  exhibit the same jingoistic patriotism (and anti-French sentiment) as currently fill our newspapers a propos Brexit. Of course, to get the flavour we would need to swap George III for the head of a certain T. May, and I rather feel that the head of Jean-Claude Juncker would be a fine substitute for  the Emperor Napoleon*.

First up,The Rival Gardeners by Charles Williams, published by S W Fores on 10th February 1803. According to the BM site”The gardeners, George III and Napoleon (right), stand on opposite sides of a stream, ‘The Channel’, in which floats a sailor’s cudgel inscribed ‘British Oak’. Each has a plant growing in a tub hooped with gold: Napoleon’s is a drooping weed on which dangles a small imperial crown. Behind him are serried rows of ‘Military Poppies’ in pots; beside him (right) is a wheelbarrow filled with coins, in which he has stuck his sabre; this is ‘Manure from Italy & Switzerland’. Napoleon, in military dress with apron and over-sleeves, bends over his plant, holding up the crown; he says: “Why I dont know what is the reason – my Poppies flourish charmingly – but this Corona Imperialis is rather a delicate kind of plant, and requires great judgement in rearing.” George III, plainly dressed and wearing an apron, holds a spade, and points to a sturdy oak-plant growing in his tub, whose summit is a British royal crown. He says: “No – No – Brother Gardener – though only a ditch parts our grounds – yet this is the spot for true Gardening, – here, the Corona Britanica, and Heart of Oak, will flourish to the end of the World.”

Next we have Gillray’s well-known image entitled The King of Brobdingnag. As usual with Gillray, it was published by Hannah Humphrey, and also appeared in 1803. The vitriolic verse ends with the words ” I cannot but conclude you to be one of the most pernicious, little odious reptiles, that nature ever suffer’d to crawl upon the surface of the Earth.”

Then there is The Brodignag Watchman (no idea why it is Brodignag and not Brobdingnag) preventing Gullivers Landing. It shows the king, illuminating the world with his ‘constitutional  lanthorn’ (i.e. lantern) while observing a tiny figure of Napoleon stepping off a boat onto the beach. The Emperor, sword in hand, looks terrified at the gigantic figure of the King. George III utters the words “Stand ho! What little Reptile’s that?” It was published by William Holland right at the end of 1803.

To end with A British Chymist analysing a Corsican Earth Worm. It was published by William Holland in 1803 and is described as being ‘after Temple West’. The B.M. site explains that it shows George III sitting in profile scrutinizing through a glass the contents of a small bowl, which he holds in his right hand. These come from a retort containing a figure of Napoleon, who looks with angry apprehension over his right shoulder. Napoleon wears his usual huge cocked hat and sabre; his legs merge with the liquid contents of the retort. This stands on a rectangular brick furnace, with a tap facing the King, who says: “I think I can now pretty well ascertain the ingredients of which this insect is composed – viz, – Ambition, and self sufficiency, two parts – Forgetfulness one part, – some light Invasion Froth, on the surfase and a prodigious quantity of fretful passion, and conceited Arrogance! in the residue!!”

Ah well, a nice bit of invective and a few choice insults never did go amiss! And of course the caricatures established a fine tradition for diminishing the size and physical prowess of our enemies. Napoleon was average size – yet nowadays even many French will take it that he was smaller than average and we talk of  a ‘Napoleon complex’.

The other thing I find interesting is the way that the caricaturists adapted comments made in peace time, turning them from criticisms into virtues. Take the constant depiction of George III as ‘Farmer George’, suggesting in numerous pre-war etchings that he was only interested in matters agricultural. Come the war with Napoleon, and this is turned into a virtue – he is ‘nurturing’ freedom and the Constitution. Similarly, there are many highly critical depictions of the King using a quizzing glass – a sign of short-sightedness, political and optical. With war, this attribute is turned around to become positive – here is a king who scrutinises things carefully, doesn’t let anything escape his notice, and uses his vision to make sound judgments. An interesting twist!

All images appear courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum – their collection is searchable online, which makes it an excellent resource


*O.K. I’ll give it a try. Here goes…….

An odious little reptile indeed! I know Juncker’s not French –  in fact he hails from Luxembourg, but that is close enough….

Apr 302017

Richard dentist


“Thursday 16th

Had a very indifferent night the past, with my Tooth – today was enabled to go through the operation of having it drawn out, which gave me great relief.  Part fine, part dull, not very cold.”










In his diaries my ancestor Richard Hall makes mention of several trips to the dentist – and it gives me the shudders just to think of what that would have entailed in an era before anaesthetics. But at least Richard was already in pain – and the procedure was aimed at reducing that discomfort. Imagine what it must have been like for someone with perfectly good teeth, volunteering  to have an

Extracting a tooth, by William Henry Bunbury

Extracting a tooth, by William Henry Bunbury

extraction. Why would they do that? Money. It is a fact of life that in some countries today people feel compelled to sell their organs to raise cash to pay off their debts – the trade in kidneys in India being a case in point. But in Georgian England the craze was for the rich (a description synonymous with excessive eating, rich foods – and gum disease) – to replace their blackened, stinking, stumps with nice fine white teeth. Where were  they going to get such pearly white replacements? Why, from the poor who, on account of their sugar-free diets, generally did not suffer from bad teeth.


This fashion started to become popular in the last 20 years of the 18th Century – before the trend to use ‘Waterloo Teeth’ ie the teeth removed from the corpses found on the battlefield of Waterloo, and harvested for dentists to use back in Britain. In her ‘Memoirs’ the writer Laetitia Matilda Hawkins tells the story of an impecunious Emma Hart, way before she became the mistress of Horatio Nelson, deciding to sell her front gnashers in order to pay off her debts. On the way to the dentist to face the horrors of the tooth-puller she met a fellow servant and was talked into selling something altogether different – her virtue. Somehow I think she made a wise choice – I doubt if she would ever have snared the Hero of the Nile if she had greeted him with a broad gummy grin where her front teeth had originally been.

John Hunter had been at the forefront of popularising the idea of using transplants: his book “Natural History of the Human Tooth” suggested that the dentist should always have  at least two potential donors in attendance. If the first one didn’t have teeth which fitted the recipient, try the stand-by! Once the dentist had found an approximate fit, he would then hold it firmly in position by wiring it in to the adjoining teeth. Other dentists used replacement teeth made out of pottery, ivory, bone or even gold. Contrary to some reports they were not made out of wood, which would have gone soggy and broken apart due to the acidity of the mouth.

The transplanted teeth did not of course grow – but there are instances where they remained in place for months, and sometimes even years. What had started as a craze in London spread to Paris. There, the dentist Pierre Le Mayeur perfected the technique before heading to America to make his fortune.

George Washington's dentures, courtesy of Mount Vernon

George Washington’s dentures, courtesy of Mount Vernon

He even treated George Washington and we know that Washington wore dentures – but there is no record that he received any transplanted teeth. However, his aide, Colonel Richard Varick, certainly did receive transplanted teeth – prompting Washington to write this fulsome endorsement: “I have been staggered in my belief at the efficacy of transplantation of living teeth”.

The New York newspapers of 1784 carried  advertisements from Le Mayeur, offering payment of £2.2.0 (two guineas) for a set of front teeth “on applying to Number 28 Maiden Lane New York.” Apparently there were not enough takers, and by the time Le Mayeur reached Richmond he was offering five guineas a tooth – “slaves teeth excepted.”

The latter comment reminds me that when I did my university thesis on organ transplantation nearly half a century ago I was in correspondence with a certain Christian Barnard, who of course used a non-white donor for the first heart transplant – into a white person. But 200-odd years ago, slave teeth were not considered suitable. Le Mayeur went on to advertise that he had transplanted upwards of a hundred and twenty teeth during a six month period “and that not one of his operations has failed of the wished-for success”. In practice however, few transplants stayed firmly in place for even six months, and back in England dentists were already pouring scorn on the practice. The view of Thomas Berdmore* and William Rae, both dentists to George III, was that the operations were “dangerous and immoderately expensive”. In particular they were of the opinion that the only way you could get a good fix was if the root of the tooth being transplanted was of the identical length, shape and size as the one which had just been removed. Mind you, that merely prompted the unscrupulous dentists of the period to resort to “re-planting” i.e. taking out the old tooth,  filling it, disguising the discolouration – and putting it straight back into its original socket without the recipient being any the wiser as to where his “new” tooth had come from!

Anyway, I am grateful to John Woodforde for his book ‘The Strange Story of False Teeth’ for the information which I have used: now for what I really like, a quick look at how caricaturists liked to show dentistry!

Transplanting of Teeth by Thos Rowlandson 1787

First up, a rather appropriate Thomas Rowlandson print shown courtesy of the British Museum site, and which first appeared in 1787. It is entitled ‘Transplanting of Teeth’ and the site contains this explanation:

“A fashionable dentist is extracting the teeth of the poor in order to insert ‘live teeth’ immediately into the jaws of his patients. In the centre a young chimney-sweep sits in an arm-chair, over the back of which the dentist leans, holding the boy’s head, and inserting an instrument into his mouth. Next (left) a lady sits in a similar chair watching the sweep with a pained and angry expression; she holds a smelling-bottle to her nose; she has just endured an extraction and is about to receive a transplantation. On the right a good-looking young lady leans back, her fists clenched in pain, while a spectacled dentist peers closely into her face, placing his instrument in her mouth. Behind her a lean, ugly, and elderly man wearing regimentals stands in profile to the right, holding a mirror in which he inspects his mouth with a dissatisfied expression. On the left a ragged boy and girl are leaving the room, both crying with pain: the girl inspects the coin in her hand. On the door is a placard: ‘Most Money Given for live Teeth’. A placard on the wall is headed by a coronet and two ducks, indicating quackery: ‘Baron Ron——Dentist to her High Mightiness the Empress of Russia’.


Another Rowlandson, on a more general dentistry theme, is this one from 1811, showing the proud (French) dentist displaying his handiwork ie a full set of artificial dentures:

Rowlandson's French Dentist 1811

Other artists loved depicting the cruelty and barbarism of the dentist. Here we have ‘The Dentist, or teeth drawn with a touch’ by Robert Sayer from 1790-2The Dentist or teeth drawn with a touch by Robert Sayer 1790-2

Or how about this one:The London Dentist after Robert Dighton pubd Bowles & CarverIt is entitled ‘The London Dentist’ and is described as being ‘ after Robert Dighton’ and was  published by  Bowles & Carver in or shortly after 1784. But for my money I always like the drawings made by John Collier, sometimes described as ‘the Lancashire Hogarth’. He used the pseudonym Timothy Bobbin:


I recall doing a blog post once before about John Collier and dentistry – here. So I will end with another chance to see one of the images which I used at the time – with the sadistic tooth puller brandishing a red hot coal under the nose of the ‘patient/victim’, forcing him to pull his head backwards thereby pulling out the tooth.

Shown courtesy of the Wellcome Institute

Shown courtesy of the Wellcome Institute

And for anyone planning a trip to the dentist later today – my apologies!


*PS I recall doing a separate blog on royal dentist Thomas Berdmore five years ago here.

Apr 222017
Pattens from circa 1720, shown courtesy of the V&A

Pattens from circa 1720, shown courtesy of the V&A

It was not uncommon for women in the 18th Century to wear strap-on metal “shoe supports” to lift the shoe off from the ground, so that long coats and dresses did not drag along the mud and puddles which made walking around town so hazardous. Especially linked to working class women, the pattens often feature in caricatures, but I had forgotten how often Thomas Rowlandson makes use of them. Here are a few:

First up , from 1803 and shown on the excellent Lewis Walpole site, a Rowlandson entitled “A cat in Pattens”. The woman’s aspirations to being fashionable, complete with fur muff and collar, are clearly no more than a sight for sore eyes in the opinion of the one-eyed beggar and the chimney sweep. I love the poodle, trimmed and crimped.Pattens 3 Rowlandson 1803 lwlNext up, a Rowlandson from 1807 entitled “A Nincompoop or her henpeck’d husband”, also on the Lewis Walpole site. The ‘lady’ with her ostrich feather plumes, carries her fan, leaving her husband to tow alongside, umbrella under his arm, and carrying her bag – and pattens.Pattens 5 1807 Rowlandson lwl

Another Rowlandson, this time from 1811 and appearing on the British Museum site, shows a midwife on her way to see a client, clutching a lantern and a bottle of  cordial and passing the bored watchman and the yawning chimney sweep.

Pattens 7 1811 Rowlandson BMusA year later Rowlandson did a similarly unsympathetic  depiction of  a woman having to walk through rainy streets with his “Wet under foot” showing the woman wearing pattens and walking over cobbles. Again, it is on the Lewis Walpole site:

Pattens 4 Rowlandson 1812 lwlRowlandson was not of course the only caricaturist to highlight pattens. Here are two more. First up, “Piety in pattens, or Timbertoe on Tiptoe” showing the man with a wooden leg somewhat dwarfed by the mop-wielding woman perched on incredibly high pattens. Her smile suggests that she rather likes where he is putting his hands….

Pattens, circa 1720, courtesy of the V&A

To end with, a rather later drawing, once more from the British Museum site, by C J Grant. It dates from 1831 and shows what happened if you walked the streets without pattens…. although the lady in question is blissfully unaware of the dirt covering the back of her dress…. As she says “I’ve walked pretty clean, considering.”


Pattens 6 B Mus CJGrant 1831

Post script: you can find out more about the business of selling pattens etc on the excellent London Street Views site here, with its description of the premises of H E Morey in Bishopsgate Street.