Oct 212021

A nice mezzotint by Carington Bowles, dating from 1771 and shown courtesy of the British Museum:

It is entitled “Hi! Ho! These late hours will soon destroy me” and shows a fashionably dressed lady –  a prostitute –  sitting down after a late night, hands raised, mouth wide open in a yawn.  She sits alongside a table where a piece of paper reads ‘Lady Racket’s compts to Sr George Airy’.  I don’t think we have to worry about who George Airy was – it is a pure coincidence that a famous astronomer had that name as he wasn’t even born until 1801, at least thirty years after this print first appeared.

Clearly, she has charged for her services and now, as ‘a lady of the night’ she  is regretting the loss of her beauty sleep.

Below the image are the words ‘Printed for Carington Bowles. Map & Printseller, No. 69 in St. Pauls Church Yard, London’.

Oct 012021

If there is one caricaturist I love more than Thomas Rowlandson it has to be James Gillray – and  I  feel I should mention one site which really helps understand this wonderful, vituperative and often scandalous artist. It belongs to Jim Sherry and is called ‘James Gillray – Caricaturist’ and the link is here.

Every month or so sees a small list of caricatures which are then explained in detail and put into their historical context – and the explanations are fascinating.

I give as an example a delightful piece which is included in the current list, entitled ‘Flannel Amour – Female Patriotism’. I can do no better than repeat it verbatim – with Jim’s permission. I must admit I wasn’t familiar with this particular caricature, which came out nearly 228 years ago. It reads as follows:

“In this delightful print in which he takes full credit for both the drawing and etching, Gillray imagines a hands-on response among the British female population to the growing likelihood that the Flanders campaign, after its initial successes in the Spring and Summer of 1793, would be extended into the colder months of Winter and into 1794. He shows these patriotic women—both old and young, plump and slim—assisting the troops in donning their new “flannel armour” donated as part of the war effort.”

Flannel-Armour;_Female-Patriotism. . .

Flannel-Armour;_Female-Patriotism. . . [November 18, 1793]
© Trustees of the British Museum

“Predictably, the print is full of sexual innuendo. The woman on the left bends way over using both hands to pull up a flannel sock over a soldier’s one extended member, leaving him to protect a more intimate one (for which his leg may be a symbol) with a scrap of shirt and his hand. Two women with their eyes obviously on the prize pull up the flannel breeches of a soldier with his back to us. It is certainly no accident that the central figure is dressed in vivid scarlet or that a musket with bayonet behind her rises prominently and precisely in the center of the entrance to an interior room.

As early as October 11, 1793, the Edinburgh Advertiser announced the formation of a “VOLUNTARY SUBSCRIPTION for supplying the BRITISH TROOPS on the CONTINENT with FLANNEL WAISTCOATS.” The article pointed out that

the present seat of the war [Holland] is a cold and a damp country; and the season is approaching when our soldicrs in those parts may, it is to be feared, be in greater danger from disease than from the sword of the enemy. (P.9)

The announcement was followed by a list of more than 50 Scottish donors, including Lady Dundas, the wife of Sir Lawrence Dundas, Commissary General and supplier of goods to the British Army who must have known a thing or two about cold raw weather and the kind of clothing appropriate to it.

Although the idea for a voluntary subscription for protective clothing seems to have orginated in Scotland, it was soon imitated by dozens of others further south, and enlarged to include “YARN WORSTED STOCKINGS and FLANNEL CAPS,” as advertised in the London Times for November 9. In the same article, the “Duchess of Leeds” was listed one of the principal subscribers.

But the most likely inspiration for Gillray’s print was the following note appearing in the St. James’s Chronicle just nine days before Flannel Armour appeared.

Ladies' Subscription

Ladies’ Subscription [November 9, 1793]
© London St. James’s Chronicle

Taking the article at its word, Gillray ladies took the “opportunity of contributing” to the generous scheme, but not in the way that the Chronicle’s author intended.

Sources and Reading


So, if you like Gillray’s etchings do have a look at Jim’s site – and if you add your e-mail address to his subscription list you too can receive regular snippets about the work of this extraordinary artist.

Sep 222021

I came across this interesting image on the Wellcome Collection site. It was etched by George Cruikshank and published by Thomas Tegg in December 1819 and has the title “Villagers shooting out their Rubbish”. It shows three grinning yokels pushing a lawyer, a skinny physician and a rotund, gouty, vicar in wheelbarrows out of their village.

As a former lawyer I was always used to the idea of being held in low public esteem, and it is nice to see that two hundred years ago any opprobrium was shared equally with medical men and men of the cloth. But if it is a race, I am pleased to see that the lawyer is definitely in the lead….

Sep 182021

I rather like this reminder of how the River Thames had made London into a thriving fishing port two centuries ago. This Rowlandson  image appeared on 18 September 1810 and shows the area around Billingsgate market not as some huge industrial dockside scene filled with  trans-Atlantic ships, and vessels belonging to the East India Company – but as a simple landing stage where fishing boats could haul ashore their catches, straight from the North Sea. Entitled: ‘Procession of the cod company from St. Giles’s to Billings Gate’ the British Museum on-line catalogue describes the scene as follows:

“Seven enormously fat and brawny Irishwomen approach (right to left) the quayside at Billingsgate, below which are fishing-smacks. All carry baskets on their heads, two smoke pipes. An eighth woman, also smoking, sits on a low stool on the extreme left, with cod and lobsters spread out for sale. In the background (right) an open pent-house attached to the large houses flanking the dock is filled by tiny figures with baskets of fish; a man ascends a ladder towards it from the water with a basket on his head. One of the pent-house stalls is placarded ‘Salt Cod Bar . . Ling Pilcha[rds]’. In the background larger vessels lie at anchor against buildings on the south side of the Thames.”

The hand-coloured etching was published by Thomas Tegg at  his Cheapside premises and originally cost one shilling. It is shown on the Lewis Walpole site here.

And just as a balance, a second Rowlandson which actually appeared a few years earlier, probably in 1803. Entitled “Queer Fish” it shows a corpulent gentleman buying fish from a fisher-woman, and as usual, I love the way the artist depicts his characters (as well as the fish!) as being somewhat ugly. The scene is full of action and, as ever, there is always a more attractive lady lurking in the background. The detail is great. Again, my thanks to the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University for the use of the image.

Aug 312021

Vicars were often shown as being mercenary and corrupt – interested only in money and in collecting tithes from their parishioners. First up, a slightly different story, entitled The Old Dog’s Legacy and appearing in 1800:

The writing underneath tells the story:

Vicar: How could you be so profane as to inter your dog in the church yard. You are liable to be punished in the spiritual court.

Farmer: Why, aye doctor, but when you consider what a sensible creature he was, you will not be so severe. The day before he died he made his Will and left you a Legacy.

Vicar: A Legacy?

Farmer: Yes he left you six guineas and I’ve come to give it to you.

Parson: Oho, if that’s the case why did you not mention it before and he might have been laid inside the church.

The original drawing was by Isaac Cruikshank – father to the George Cruikshank who illustrated the earlier novels of Charles Dickens. Isaac lived between 1756 and 1811 and this etching and stippled engraving appears on the Lewis Walpole Library site here.

Another image showing greed on the part of vicars is this one from 1760 and entitled La Dime – the Tythe Pig. (The phrase ‘la dime’ referred to a French land tax, levied in much the same way as the English tithe, and representing a payment to the church of a tenth of the value of the year’s harvest etc). Once more, it is from the excellent Lewis Walpole Library site.

According to the British Museum site, the verse underneath ‘represents a satire on the clergy; a farmer and his wife offering their tithe to a clergyman by the tithe barn at the gate of his rectory; the man holds a sucking pig, the woman holds out an infant, saying that if the clergyman wants the former he must also take the latter; the clergyman turns away looking back over his shoulder in distaste’.

The verse starts off  with the words: ‘In Country village lives a vicar/Fond as all are of tithes and Liquor/ For mirth his ears are seldom shut/He’ll crack a jest and laugh at smut’.

It ends with the words: ‘The Vicar comes – the pig he claims/And the good wife with taunts inflames/But she, quite arch, bow’d low and smil’d/Kept back the pig and held the child/The priest look’d warm, the wife looked big/ Zounds sir! quoth she, No child, no pig’.

The British Museum dates the mezzotint as being slightly earlier (1751) and it appears to be a based on an etching by Louis Philippe Boutard, who was trading from the Golden Pineapple in Durham Yard in London’s Strand around the middle of the century. It was etched by the German-born print-maker Johann Sebastian Müller who operated out of premises at The Golden Head, on the corner of James Street, Long Acre, London.

Third up, another Richard Newton print from 1792 and which appears on the Lewis Walpole site showing a kneeling parson pledging undying love to an aged crone – who just happens to be loaded.

The verse reads: Hear me, angelic object of my love/Whose charms eclipse the brightest saint above!/Tis not your pedigree, nor large rent-roll/Nor funded thousands that enslave my soul./No, tis the magic sweetness of your smile (….  and so on, and so on).

The prints are just three of many from the period showing the avarice of Anglican clergy. And to end with I rather like “A flight of Parsons”, showing the vicars behaving like crows flying home to roost.

The seated man is saying “Zooks, there be a rare flight of parsons. I hope in my heart they wonna [won’t] alight on my farm, they’ve done mischief enough already in these parts.”

Published by S W Fores, I like the wording underneath the engraving – “Folios of Caricatures lent out for the Evening” – you can just imagine  a gathering at a fashionable house being handed around a folio of similar prints lampooning  the great and the good – and the clergy.

Aug 242021

The Lewis Walpole site has this mezzotint of what is described as “an exact representation of the depositing the body of her late Majesty Queen Caroline in the family vault at Brunswick, Augt. 24, 1821 : with the Revd. J.W.G. Wolff delivering her funeral prayer amidst the tears and sobs of the company’.

The description on the site is as follows:

“The coffin of Queen Caroline on a cloth-covered platform over which pallbearers hold an elaborate black canopy is carried down the aisle of church, followed by a minister who lifts his right arm as if speaking from the text in his left hand. To the right stand young women who throw flowers from their baskets as the procession passes. On the right, with an organ behind, soldiers stand in attention holding torches.”

The mezzotint was published by W B Walker and reflects the public concern for a woman who was treated appallingly by her husband, George IV. He banned her from attending his coronation at Westminster Abbey on 19 July 1821. Despite this snub, she turned up and tried to gain entry but was turned away from the coronation at the point of a bayonet. That night, she fell ill. Rumours circulated that she had been poisoned. More likely, she was suffering from stomach cancer. She lingered for three weeks before dying at Brandenburg House in Hammersmith at 10:25 p.m. on 7 August 1821 at the age of 53. Her body was carried through London to the port of Harwich and from there was shipped to her native Brunswick where she was interred under a gravestone marked “Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England.”

Poor Queen Caroline. Deserted by her husband the King, she had  spent some years travelling in Europe accompanied by a number of male admirers including her servant the swarthy Italian Bartolomeo Pergami. She had been ridiculed endlessly by the English Press, and hounded by her husband, who sought to divorce her on the grounds of her adultery. Talk about ‘kettle’ and ‘pot’!

Bartolomeo Pergami being installed as a Knight Companion of the Bath – a print showing the scandalous suggestion that the Queen was sharing her ablutions with her servant Bartolomeo.

Queen Caroline may have been no oil painting but she didn’t deserve the ridicule and  scorn heaped on her by large sections of the British public. After all, she married the King in good faith. He reportedly got so drunk  when he met her, for the first time, on their wedding day, that he passed out later in the fireplace and failed to perform his marital duties, finding her offensively ugly and exhibiting poor personal hygiene. Forget the fact that he was a serial womaniser, was probably suffering from venereal disease, and was grossly overweight: in the view of many she was ‘beyond the pale’ and she deserved no sympathy.

R.I.P. Caroline, buried two hundred years ago today.

Aug 122021

Thomas Rowlandson always enjoyed showing the realities of life, contrasting the rather mundane pleasures of  life at home with the distinctly more heady pleasures of playing away from home.

Here, a double scene, drawn by Rowlandson in February 1807 and published by Thomas Tegg. It is described on the British Museum site, but without an image, so I have  used the image on the Lewis Walpole Library site.

The description is as follows:

Upper image: A fat woman sits in a nightgown on the edge of a curtained bed while her husband (right) yawns in an armchair, glass and decanter beside him. He has dropped a (broken) pipe and his book: ‘Memoirs of an Amorous Fat Rump’d Old Tabby’. She watches him anxiously, holding out his nightshirt to the fire (left). An elderly maidservant leaves the room with warming-pan and candle, looking over her shoulder much amused. On the chimney-piece by the bed are bottles labelled ‘Restorative Drop’ and ‘Corn Plais[ter]’. A cat and kitten sit by the fire.
Lower image: A young man and a pretty courtesan caress each other on a sofa. Beside them are wine and fruit on a round table. Behind a curtain (right) a degraded-looking woman drinks furtively. 

I love the way that Rowlandson had just a few stock characters he used time and time again – the young couple are typical in being shown as handsome and healthy, whereas older married couples are always shown as being overweight and slothful.

Aug 052021

A lovely caricature from Thomas Tegg’s “Caricature magazine, or Hudibrastic mirror”, drawn by George Woodward and engraved by Thomas Rowlandson. It was entitled ‘The Mother’s Hope’ and appeared on various occasions – this one, from 1808, appears on the Lewis Walpole Library site.

The explanation is as follows:

A little boy (looking more like a girl) in a frock and cross-gartered shoes, with short, untidy hair, stands aggressively, one foot raised to kick, fists clenched. At his feet are a battledore and shuttlecock and a doll; above his head hangs a canary in a cage.

He shouts: ‘I don’t like Dolls! – I don’t like Canary Birds – I hate Battledore and Shuttlecock, I like Drums, and Trumpets –  I won’t go to school  –  I will stay at home –  I will have my own way in every thing!!’

The mother, an ugly middle-aged woman (right), in an old-fashioned dress, with a cap and apron, stoops towards him, saying, ‘Bless the Baby–what an aspiring spirit–if he goes on in this way–he will be a second Buonaparte!’

Behind her (right) stands a pretty nursemaid holding a younger child who screams and waves a rattle.”

It is a useful reminder that  there is nothing new about over-bearing, brattish, behaviour from young children – nothing has changed for several hundred years!

Aug 012021

Carrying on the theme of men of the cloth being seen as being more interested in matters carnal than matters theological, and ending with a dig at the sexual proclivities of the Prince of Wales, here are a trio of eighteenth century caricatures under the title of The Man of Feeling.

First up, this one from the Royal Collections site showing what is described as being “a plump Parson standing regarding a young woman as he places his hand on her breast. The young woman looks on demurely with a basket over her left arm. The couple stand in front of a tree and the Parson’s place of employment, the church, stands in the background. In the man’s pocket is a paper entitled Essay on Woman “. It was etched by Thomas Rowlandson and appeared in 1788.

Another Rowlandson, with much the same title, and with the male character fondling  the bottom of a much younger woman, appears  on the Digital Commonwealth Massachusetts Collection site.

The original is in the Boston Public Library and was etched by Rowlandson in 1811, forming part of  the first volume of a publication called  The Caricature Magazine or Hudibrastic Mirror . The site comments on it saying that it ‘represents the college rooms of a Master of Arts and a Fellow of decidedly convivial tendencies, whose predilections appear to be the reverse of ascetic’.

The sign to the side of the fireplace gives the headings ‘Term starts’ ‘Term Ends’ and ‘Long Vacation’ and there is another notice entitled ‘Oxford Almanac’. A copy of the ‘Doomsday Book’ lies open on the floor beneath a table supporting bottles of Gin, Rum, Cognac and what looks like ‘Prescribed Ginger’. As with all Rowlandson’s there is a wealth of trivial detail, and the male character is, as usual, shown as a rather revolting lecherous older man.

Gillray used a similar title in 1800 to have a dig at the porcine Prince of Wales – the full title was ‘A man of feeling in search of Indispensibles’ and below the title it has the lengthy explanation:

“NB. A number of disputes having arisen in the Beau Monde, respecting the Exact Situation of the Ladies Indispensibles (or new Invented Pockets) whether they were placed at the Ancle, or in a more elegible situation, – the above Search took place, in order to determine precisely the Longitude of these inestimable conveniences”. It appears both on the V&A site here and on the British Museum site here.

It shows the Prince ferreting around under a ladies skirt and the British Museum site adds this explanation: “Girls, fashionably dressed, sit sewing round a large table. In the foreground the elephantine Prince of Orange kneels, feeling the leg of two girls on his right and left; they throw up their arms and scream. The others look on, amused or astonished. The mistress of the establishment enters by the door (right), elaborately and indecorously dressed, a feathered bonnet in her hand. On the wall hang cloaks, feathers, a hat, &c, and on a shelf is a bust wearing a feathered hat. A placard: ‘le Magasin de Lancastre pour Embellir les Dames Angloise [sic] – Indispencibles’. One of these pockets is on the ground, a girl works at another.

By way of explanation, the British Museum site goes on to say that the fashionable substitute for a pocket was necessary because of transparent dresses moulding the figure. It was called the reticule or ‘ridicule’, called also in Paris the balantine, and was carried in the hand and dangled to the ankle.


(The phrase ‘the man of feeling’ became widespread after the novel of that name was published in 1771.  The book was regarded as being ‘a sentimental novel’ and was written by the Scottish author Henry Mackenzie.Wikipedia tells me that it  apparently ‘presented a series of moral vignettes which the naïve protagonist Harley either observes, is told about, or participates in’).

Needless to say, caricaturists revelled in showing ‘the man of feeling’ as being a man doing rather a lot of feeling….


Jul 262021

On 26 July 1745 twenty-two ladies gathered in a field on Gosden Common near Guildford. Half of them – the maids of  Hambledon – wore red ribbons around their hats; the other eleven, from Bramley, were bedecked with blue ribbons in their high hats. Both teams of eleven were decked out in floor-length white dresses. There then ensued what has been described as the first all-female cricket match – one in which the Maids of Hambledon triumphed, scoring 127 notches (i.e. runs, recorded with a notch being cut in a wooden tally-stick). The Maids of Bramley managed a disappointing 119 notches, but who cares, the result was probably the subject of many wagers and for all I know the Hambledon Maids were just more expert at sand-papering the ball, or slathering it with face cream to give their (underarm) bowlers an edge. (Oh no, sorry, that sort of thing came later, with the men’s game….).

Hambledon had become the spiritual home of English cricket and it is here that John Sackville, Third Duke of Dorset played. He was a keen patron of cricket, spending, it is said, over a thousand pounds a year on maintaining his team (according to the Whitehall Evening Post of 1783). And that was before taking into account the huge wagers he made on the match results. He too was keen to foster the women’s game, as well as making overtures to host what would have been the first international cricket match, between the English and the French…. but the French Revolution put paid to that absurd idea!

The women’s game remained a novelty, and was not confined to local village girls having a frolic in the long grass. In 1777 (or possibly a couple of years later) Elizabeth, the Countess of Derby, arranged a match in which both teams were drawn from the upper echelons of society. I have no idea who won, but at least we have some idea of the frocks they wore, thanks to the print made in 1779 – in colour, below, and as a monochrome close up, above). Apparently the game prompted the Reverend H R Haweis to remark “Do I object to cricket, for instance? Personally, I do not care to see a graceful girl straddling behind a wicket, with her nose above the bails, her body doubled-up like a frog’s, and her hands clapped on her knees for support; nor do I think that a young lady’s hands and arms were intended to swing a weighty club, and ‘swipe’, as the boys say, at cricket balls”.

Caricaturists loved showing women attempting to take part in ‘manly pursuits’. Below is an etching entitled “Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger” dating from around 1778.  It is based on a painting by John Collett, from which an engraving by Carrington Bowles was made. The inscription tells us ‘Miss Trigger you see is an excellent shot. And Forty-Nine notches Miss Wicket just got.’ The abstract on the Lewis Walpole site, quoting from the British Museum catalogue, reads:

‘Two well-dressed young ladies meet before a farm house. On the left, Miss Wicket leans on her cricket-bat turning towards Miss Trigger who advances with her dogs, holding aloft a pheasant and two partidges, as she tramples a paper marked “Effeminacy”. Miss Wicket wears a chip hat and jacket with waistcoat, her sporting petticoat short enough to reveal her ankles. Miss Trigger wears a large hat of the bergère style, a long coat with buttoned sleeves and boots. Behind the pair a young girl catches a ball.

I am much intrigued at the idea of Miss Wicket belting up and down a 22-yard track while sporting such exotic head-wear. The print is interesting in showing the early form of bat, shaped like a paddle, in use at the time. Also note the wicket, consisting of two ‘stumps’ being  sticks with a ‘V’ at the top to hold a horizontal stick or bail.

In October 1811 a print by Thomas Rowlandson appeared in the Thomas Tegg publication  called “The Caricature Magazine, or, Hudibrastic mirror”. It announced that: ‘on Wednesday October 3rd, 1811, a singular cricket match took place at Balls Pond, Newington. The players on both sides were 22 women, 11 Hampshire against 11 Surrey. …’
The print appears on the Lewis Walpole site , which quotes from the explanation in the British Museum catalogue :

“The scene is a sloping field. The batswomen are running hard, while one of the field leaps to attempt a high catch; the wicket-keeper crouches behind the wicket, hands on knees. The players have petticoats kilted above the knee, bare heads, necks, and arms; they wear flat slippers, mostly ‘en cothurne’. All the fielders look or run towards the ball; one has fallen with great display of leg; another, running headlong, trips over a dog. Eleven are playing, including those batting. Two girls sit together on the ground, one cutting notches on a stick to record the runs. Others stand near, one with a young man’s arm round her waist. Spectators stand round the field. In the middle distance is a marquee with a flag: ‘Jolly Cricketers’. Here, fashionably dressed men are entertaining the players; a very fat woman drains a bowl of punch, another sits on a man’s knee. A girl descends from a donkey. Behind is a fashionable tandem. The scene is rural except for a smoking lime-kiln.”

And to think that in a mere two hundred and fifty years* it has reached the stage where we meet ‘The Goddess of Cricket’ – the name given to Indian skipper Mithali Raj after she became the first woman to complete 7,000 runs in One Day Internationals. Top notch indeed!


(*I am being ironic)