An indecently good New Year to all…

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Jan 012019

Having been commissioned to write a book on sex and sexuality in the eighteenth century, I started, as is my universal habit, by looking through the works of Gillray, Rowlandson and other caricaturists for inspiration.Here are two which caught my eye – definitely from the top shelf. The first is interesting in not relating to life in the capital, but suggesting, shock horror, that people in the country had sex. It is Rowlandson’s picture of ‘Sex around a country cottage’, and shows the irate old lady of the house, brandishing her broom at two dogs who have already engaged in coitus and are locked end-to-end. On the roof,  a pair of cats are at it like … cats, and no-one is taking any notice of the two sets of lovers having it off in the garden.

The second came to my attention as an interesting variation of a duet on the piano….

It is by Rowlandson,  and was probably etched some time after 1790 and before 1810, and bears the title ‘A music master tuning his instrument.’

I wish an indecently splendid New Year to everyone. Now excuse me, I must get down to some more research for next year’s book….

Christmas Past – 1826 to be precise

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Dec 252018

OK, so I know I am being lazy, but it is Christmas  and I am therefore once more ‘lifting’ a lovely George Cruikshank print from the Lewis Walpole site, and adding to it the description of what goes on, based on the information shown by the British Museum. The print is entitled “At home in the nursery, or, The Masters & Misses Twoshoes Christmas party”, and was published on 3rd January 1826.

1 xmasAccording to the British Museum site: “Fourteen small children amuse themselves uproariously in a small space. Four little girls in party-dresses, dance holding hands round a lady who tosses an infant; two of them hold up dolls. A fat and grinning cook stands in the doorway with a tray of jelly-glasses, cake, and fruit. The biggest boy rides a rocking-horse, giving a view-hallo; another boy with an overturned chair for horses, drives in a professional manner a high-slung rectangular cradle (left) in which sits a little girl holding a doll and an open umbrella. A little boy with a wooden sword tries to storm a table, defended by two others, with drum, trumpet, and Union Jack. These children are dressed up to suit their parts. In the foreground (right) two children build a card-house on the floor, with skipping-rope, toy soldiers, and horse and cart beside them. On the left are a top and whip, and an Eaton Latin Grammar. On the wall is pinned a caricature of Dr Syntax.”

I rather like it because it shows the excitement of Christmas in times gone by – it is noisy, exuberant, full of kids, lots of food, and everyone having fun. No computer games, no TV, no total lack of social interaction. And with that thought in mind: HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!

An interesting Robert Dighton – “A fashionable lady in dress & undress” – from 1807

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Oct 212018

Image shown courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

A rather nice  engraving from one of the clan of Dightons who helped illuminate the Georgian era  – this one by Robert Dighton who lived between 1752 and 1814. The version shown is on the Lewis Walpole site  and is also in the British Museum collection where it is described in the following manner:

“The design is partly bisected by a vertical line. The same lady sits (l.) directed to the left, at her dressing-table, wearing only a long chemise or petticoat, and slippers. On the r. she sits, in the same attitude but directed to the right, fully dressed at the same dressing-table. In undress she is almost bald; a wig of naturally-dressed hair is on a stand on the table. She has an over-long neck and skinny arms. On the  table (l.) are her fan, a locket suspended on a ribbon, cosmetic-boxes, and a bottle labelled ‘Wrinkles’.

When dressed her neck is concealed by a lace ruffle on a chemisette, she has long rucked sleeves, in her gloved hand is her fan. She wears a high-waisted gown under which her legs are defined; she wears elaborately embroidered stockings with flat slippers. Her wig seems to be luxuriant natural hair; she wears an ear-ring. On the dressing-table are boxes, a bottle of ‘Lavender’, and tickets inscribed ‘Opera’ and ‘Cards’. She looks young and handsome, the dress (not exaggerated) effectively concealing her weakest points.”

Actually, the Lewis Walpole site attributes the engraving to Robert Dighton Jnr, who lived between 1786 and 1865 but at that time (ie 1800-1810) he was mostly doing illustrations with a military theme and I suspect the whole family made use of the plates, and this one probably emanated from Robert Dighton Senior. Dad led a somewhat chequered career, having been caught pilfering original artworks from the British Museum, but had a good reputation as a caricaturist. He was a fine artist, exhibiting at the Royal Academy, and sold prints and artwork from his shop in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross. Maybe he lacked the bile and viciousness of Gillray, but his gentle satire, as here, can still hit the mark. Above all, it reflects the prevalent view amongst men in the 18th century that women were in some way behaving unfairly by using wigs and make-up to disguise their imperfections – leaving men to find that they had hitched themselves to a balding old maid instead of a nubile young bit of stuff. The men of course had no such imperfections…

I am thinking of including Robert Dighton Snr in my next book which profiles Georgians who have had a raw deal from history – men (and it is generally just men) who played an important part in 18th century history but whose reputations have largely disappeared in the mists of time. We all know of Hogarth and Gillray – but there is a whole panoply of other artists who helped society let off steam by enabling the public to mock, ridicule and above all laugh at the foibles of others. One of those was Robert Dighton – and another was the young Richard Newton. Together they provided a great escape mechanism for public displeasure!

Steam Power – the AI of its day!

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Mar 022018

It strikes me that we are in a similar position, viewing the arrival of Artificial Intelligence and trying to guess what impact robotics and so on will have on our daily lives, to our ancestors in the late 1700s and early 1800s looking at the way steam power was revolutionising their lives. Then, and now, we can see change coming – but no-one knows where it will end. Uncertainty – and the fear of change – is always a fertile ground in which caricaturists can operate, and so here are a few prints showing the sort of alarmist concerns.

First up, a fascinating William Heath caricature entitled The March of Intellect – which I have featured before (see here), just to set the tone. It first appeared in 1829 and shows the endless opportunities offered by the March of Progress – for castles in the air, for steam powered iron horses, for bellow-driven personal transporters, and even a postman wearing what looks like a Red Bull flying suit:

Next, one featured on the British Museum site and published by Thomas McLeod in 1829 and entitled The Steam King- suggesting that steam-powered Members of Parliament would soon be generating Acts of Parliament for the Statute Book by the thousand, churning out legislation to match the needs of the growing populace.

And then a  handful shown  on the delightful Lewis Walpole Library site:

First up, Locomotion by Robert Seymour, dating from 1830 (and once more, published by Thomas McLeod).The man standing in the steam-powered exo-skeleton/mechanical stilts is complaining that the fire has gone out, while the lad with the bellows is doing his best to fan the flames. As its says, nothing is perfect. I like the various flying jalopies and delivery vehicles careering around in the background, creating havoc – and, interestingly, pollution!Next up, another McLean print from 1830, entitled New principles, or, The march of invention:

The clear message is that horse-drawn may be slow, but it is a darned less likely to blow up than your average steam-car!

The opportunities for change must have seemed endless, as here with a G Humphrey print from 1829 called ‘Pat’s Comment on Steam Carriages’ by someone calling themselves ‘A Sharpshooter’ – with the message that ‘ere long Pat would be going a-hunting before breakfast, not on his horse but atop his modified tea kettle…

Shaving by Steam, again by Robert Seymour and published in 1828, suggests that the days of the cut-throat razor would soon be over (ridiculous idea!):

And finally, a nice one about riding your own personal rocket, by George Edward Madeley and dating from 1830. It is called  ‘The flight of intellect : Portrait of Mr. Golightly experimenting on Mess. Quick & Speed’s new patent, high pressure steam riding rocket’

I guess it all goes to show: progress will happen with Artificial Intelligence, just as it did with steam power, whether we like it or not, but how those changes will affect us, goodness only knows…

In this context I quote from Erasmus Darwin, that great polymath and poet, who said of steam power in around 1790:

“Soon shall they arm UNCONQUER’D STEAM afar!

Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;

Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear

The flying chariot through the fields of air.

Fair crews triumphant, leaning from above,

Shall wave their fluttering kerchiefs as thy move;

Or warrior bands alarm the gaping crowd

And armies shrink beneath the shadowy cloud.”

Well, he also said that “there seems no probable method of flying conveniently but by the power of steam, or some other explosive material which another half century may probably discover.” OK, he was out by another half century in terms of forecasting the discovery of petrol-driven locomotion, but you cannot fault his analysis of the possibilities of speeding vehicles, or of attack aircraft bombing from a shadowy cloud. It reflects the confidence of the Georgian Age – they were starting to master the universe – everything was possible.

PS: Ok one more caricature: I rather like this one of the well-dressed ladies appalled at the passing oik in his steam powered velocipede, with its horse-like rear end spewing forth excrement/pollution! It was called The Progress of Steam and also came out in 1829 – a rich year for satirists lampooning steam locomotion.

Let’s have another visit to the ball: the 18th Century masquerade

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Feb 202018

1212One of the phenomena of the Georgian era was the popularity of the masked ball. It appealed to all social classes, and people did rather more than just put on a ‘Lone Ranger’ pair of eye-goggles; they dressed up as clowns, shepherdesses, allegorical figures vegetables – whatever took their fancy. They cross-dressed, and, liberated by their apparent anonymity, abandoned all propriety and sense of inhibition.

Probably for that reason they were often frequented by prostitutes on the pull. Which is where my interest came in, because I had been looking  at masquerades in context of my book “Sex, Scandal and Satire – In bed with the Georgians”.

The image at the top comes from the ever-excellent Lewis Walpole Library site, and shows all the principal characters at a masquerade in 1789 at the Rotunda. As you can see, the people attending theses balls went to a lot of trouble with their costumes. The same site gives us “The Beauty Unmask’d” (left) and “Lady Betty Bustle and her Maid Lucy preparing for the Masquerade at The Pantheon” on the right.

1313    1515











The one on the left, with her ermine-lined cape, dates from 1770, and the elegant lady dolled up to the nines on the right is from two years later. Somehow I don’t see them as bestowing their favours on the young gallants for less than a fortune. On the other hand, this one from the British Museum site, is clearly ready for a bit of horizontal jogging – her swain has already removed his mask and is absolutely sure that he is on to a good thing. It dates from 1771.


As the verse underneath puts it, ‘Our Buck unmasks and makes his wishes known, … No Art can curb, no Mask can hide desire.’

Here is a more ‘tasteful’ image, once more from Lewis Walpole, showing a masquerade at the Argyll Rooms in 1826:

1414It all seems a bit staid to me, so to end with, a view from the raucous, joyful, over-the-top Thomas Rowlandson in his 1790 picture entitled “Dressing for a masquerade”

171717A group of happy hookers are getting ready for the ball, decolletages to the fore. I love all the action, with the hairdresser, the maid holding up a mirror, the stocking being rolled up, the masquerade head-dress with its discreet veil, and the dog barking at all the excitement. The masked lady on the right is gazing at her reflection as she struggles with the lacing on the back on her outfit, and as ever with Rowlandson, the figures are either rather beautiful or incredibly ugly!  Somehow you know that their evening will revolve around pleasure – and that someone is going to have to pay for it!

(First posted in modified form 2014)

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.


Samples of sweethearts and wives: a Richard Newton caricature from July 1795.

 Comments Off on Samples of sweethearts and wives: a Richard Newton caricature from July 1795.  Tagged with:
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”

A pair of cuckolds…. from 1772

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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….