Tag Archives: satirical prints

The Dutch Toy

Before her marriage to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Princess Charlotte of Wales, the heiress to the British throne was betrothed to Prince William, the Hereditary Prince Of Orange. That was an union the Princess, much to her father’s chagrin, had never been too keen on. Both her mother’s hatred for the Orange family, and her reluctance to leave England and live abroad, even for a few months a year, eventually prompted her to end the engagement.

Of course these events were closely observed by the satirists of the time, who had a field day (or year) with it. Here are a few of the satirical prints making fun of the whole thing:

A Dutch Toy!!!-Or, a pretty Play-thing for a Young Princess!!! Huzza

Sitting under a canopy, Princess Charlotte is pulling the strings on a jointed puppet representing the Prince of Orange in military dress, holding a flag inscribed “Orange Boven”. Across her knees rests a miniature portrait of a man, inscribed “Fitz Mo” (the rest of the name is illegible). At her feet lies an open book inscribed “Clarence’s Dream”. In the garden, we can see a fountain, with water spurting from a cupid seated on a swan. Is Charlotte serious about the Prince of Orange, or is she just toying with him?

The Dutch toy

Princess Charlotte is raising a whip to lash a top spinning on the floor, on which sits the Prince of Orange smoking a pipe. In his pocket, he carries a piece of paper inscribed “Contract”. The Princess says: “Take this for Ma! and this for Pa!—and this! and this! for myself, you ugly thing you!—”

From the open door, we can see the leg and arm of the concealed Prince Regent, Charlotte’s father. He’s holding a birch-rod tied with orange ribbon, and, with a threatening voice, says: “If you don’t find pleasure in whipping the Top, I shall whip the Bottom!”

Behind Charlotte, there’s a piano, on which lies a copy of “School for Wives”, a comedy by Hugh Kelly, and an open music-book, inscribed with the words and music of a song:

“An Obstinate Daughter’s the plague of you [sic] life
No rest can you take tho your rid of your Wife
At twenty she laughs at the duty you taught her
Oh! what a plague is an obstinate Daughter.”

On the wall, hangs a portrait of Cupid. He’s standing on his head on a terrestrial globe, in the country of Holland, aiming his arrows at England.

Miss Endeavouring to excite a glow with her Dutch Play thing-

Printed one month after the previous print, Miss Endeavouring to excite a glow with her Dutch Play thing depicts Charlotte, still with a whip in her hand, standing over and pointing at the “Dutch Toy”, who is falling forward. The Prince of Orange is still smoking and carrying the contract in his pocket, but he’s now resigned he’s never going to marry Charlotte. Between his knees, he holds a bottle.

The Princess says: “There, I have kept it up a long while you may send it away now, I am tired of it, Mother has got some better play things for me.” The Regent replies, “What are you tired already? Take another spell at it, or give me the whip.” But Charlotte refuses: “No, No, you may take the Top, but I’ll Keep the Whip.”

At the Regent’s feet lies an open book titled The Way to Teaze him a Play in V acts’. On the wall hangs another portrait of Cupid. This time the god of love, who has dropped his bow and broken arrows, is resting his head on a large orange inscribed “Orange Boven”.

What do you think of these prints?

Making Fun Of Napoleon

There was no love lost between the English and Napoleon. In the years between the Corsican’s rise to power and his exile at St Helena, the English mercilessly made fun of him in lots of satirical prints. Here are a few:


A crowded fair-ground, full of spectators, attractions, performers, placards, and flags. The German stall sells “German Sour Crout with French Sauce” and a waiter hurries with a steaming dish towards Germans at a table. The Russian Booth claims that “this day will be presented the Comedy of The Double Dealer to which will be added a new Burletta called The Bear in Leading Strings – The Music principally French”. The bear, on its hind-legs, is padlocked to a post inscribed with the words “French Influence”.

The biggest, largest, most central booth is the British one. It says: “The Best – Booth in the Fair John Bull and Company – The Englishman’s Fire Side, and The Wooden Warn of Old England, Principal Characters by John Bull, Paddy Bull, Ben Block &c.”. On the stage, Britannia is pointing her spear to a group seated round a punch-bowl: John Bull smoking a long pipe, Erin with her harp, a fat Welshman with a leek in his hat, and a lank Scot in Highland dress. Apart from John Bull, they are all drinking and toasting to “Old England for ever the land Boys we live in”. Next to Britannia stands her lion, supporting her shield.

The Prussian’s attraction is “Tis Well tis no Worse” with “the Poor Soldier”. They are two comic operas. On the stage, stands a Prussian officer with wooden legs, supported on crutches. The Prussian flag is tattered. The American Booth is showing “Much ado about Nothing” with “The Deserter” [a musical drama]. The Austrian Booth is almost completely hidden. You can see only the flag displaying the Hasburg eagle.

On the ground, the French booth is displaying a large tricolour flag surmounted by the cap of Liberty. The inscription reads: “Boneys Imperial Gingerbread, Gingerbread Kings and Oueens Wholesale and Retail, Now is your time to purchase.” A Dutchman is complaining about his purchase, saying “I don’t like this King Master Boney”. Napoleon replies: “I never change Mynheer after the goods are taken out of the Shop”.


Napoleon, whose trademark boots have been replaced with cloven hoofs, stands in the center of a semicircle of scowling and bloodthirsty soldiers. He’s waving a flag decorated with a double-headed skeleton holding arrows. He says: “Legions of Death, After having Ravished, Murdered and Plundered, on the banks of the Danube & the Vistula–I shall order you to march through France without allowing you a moments rest!! I have occasion for you–the hideous presence of Religion and Loyalty contaminates the continent of Spain and Portugal, let your aspect drive them away from thence–let us carry our conquering Eagles to the gates of Heaven there also we have an injury to avenge–you have exceeded all modern Murderer–you have placed yourselves on a level with the most ferocious cannibals–eternal War Robbery & Plunder shall be the reward of your Exertions, for I never can enjoy rest till the Sea is covered with your Blood!!” A soldier laughs “Ha ha more Blood!,” not realising Napoleon has predicted he and his comrades will have to spill their own blood too.


This print refers to Napoleon’s disastrous war in the Iberian peninsula. In the “Grand Kitchen of Europe”, Wellington is basting, on a bayonet inscribed “British spit”, a goose with a human head. With his left hand, he’s holding a frying-pan inscribed “Portugal”. Inside it, there are many French officers which are trying to escape by leaping into the flames. Graham (another general), is plying bellows inscribed “British Bravery”. Behind Wellington, on a large large rectangular charcoal stove, there’s a saucepan inscribed “A Stew”, from which Napoleon, wearing his crown, is emerging. On the ground, there’s a jar inscribed “A Pickle”. Ney, Marshal of the Empire, is inside.


General Frost shaving Boney with a razor inscribed with the words “Russian steel”. The general, from whose nostrils issue snow, sleet, and cold winds, says: “Invade my country indeed! I’ll shave – freeze – and bury you in snow, you little monkey.” Under his feet, lie Napoleon’s troops. The emperor of the French, almost completely frozen, is begging for mercy.


This illustration refers to the retreat from Moscow. Napoleon, here represented as a mongrel bloodhound with a tin kettle tied to his tail, is closely pursued by Russian bears. One of them is shouting: “Push on, my lads. No grumbling; keep scent of him; no sucking of paws this winter, here is food for the bears in all the Russias.” From the kettle emerge various pieces of papers, inscribed with the words oppression, famine, frost, destruction, death, horror, mortality, and annihilation.


Napoleon was almost captured by a Cossak. The event is satirized in this print. Cossacks are approaching the house Napoleon and one of his marshals are hiding in. To escape, they jump from a window, and will inevitably end up in the wash-tub right below it. The marshal is saying: “Courez, mon Empereur, ce Diable de Cossack, dey spoil our dinner!!!”


Napoleon travels in an open sledge, drawn by two galloping but exhausted horses. The officer in front of him asks: “Will your Majesty write the Bulletin?” Napoleon: “No! you write it! tell them we left the Army all well, quite gay in excellent Quarters, plenty of provisions — that we travelled in great style, — received every where with congratulations — and that I have almost compleated the repose of Europe.” All around him lie dead or dying French soldiers. A soldier says: “Ah Sire! so dat John Bull says! I wish I could have some repose I’m tired of Glory.”


Napoleon, wearing a tattered uniform, is carrying a tray of gingerbread royals, those he had installed on the thrones of the countries he conquered. He’s saying: Buy my Image! Here’s my nice little Gingerbread Emperor & Kings Retail and for Exportation!” His bakery, now run down and closed, bears the signs “Tiddy-Doll Gingerbread Baker. NB Removed from Paris.” On the other side of the sea, the Bourbons are triumphantly returning to France.


The ex-emperor of the French, miserable, ill, and dressed in rags, is sitting on a makeshift Imperial throne in the Elba island. A fiend is handing him a pistol, saying: “If you have one spark of courage left, take this.” “Perhaps I may,” replies Napoleon, “if you’ll take the flint out.”


This is an adaptation of Gillray’s “Gloria Mundi, or—The Devil addressing the Sun”. Fox is replaced by Napoleon, who is represented as a devil, with horns (tipped so they are harmless) and cloven hoofs. He’s wearing a French flag as a scarf on top of his tattered uniform. The sun encloses a portrait of the Prince Regent, and his rays are inscribed with the names of Napoleon’s enemies: Alexander, Fredk William, Francis, William 1st of Orange, Wellington, Blucher, Hill, Beresford, Anglesea. Napoleon, who is emitting flames from his mouth, exclaims: “To thee I call— / But with no friendly voice, & add / thy name—G—P—Rt!. to tell thee / how I hate thy beams, that bring to / my remembrance from what state / I fell &c.”

Poor Napoleon! Those English satirists could be quite mean!

Further reading:
English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century by Graham Everitt

A Satirical Look At The Queen Caroline Affair

To say that King George IV and his consort, Caroline of Brunswick had never got on well would be an understatement. The two separated soon after their wedding, but never stopped trying to make life hell for each other. George, in particular, was keen on getting rid of his wife and tried several times to divorce her or annull their marriage, but without luck. When he became King in 1820, he was adamant Caroline, who had technically become Queen, wouldn’t stand at his side.

After trying to bribe her to stay away, but without success, he got Parliament to introduce the Bill of Pains and Penalties to dissolve the marriage. There was a trial, in which Caroline’s infidelity was proven. The bill was then passed, by a small majority in the House of Lords, but it dropped because of its unpopularity. A large section of the press and public, in fact, were appalled at George’s behaviour and sided with his slighted Queen.

Caricaturists obviously had a field day covering what became known as the Queen Caroline Affair. Here are a couple of prints that were published at the time:

The Secret Insult, or Bribery and Corruption Rejected

Among the caricatures on the popular side in connection with the queen’s trial in 1820, we find one by Robert*, entitled, The Secret Insult, or Bribery and Corruption Rejected, which has reference to the overtures which, as we have seen in the previous chapter, were made to her by the ministers in the hope of avoiding, if possible, a public exposure; and here Lord Liverpool is represented in the act of offering to Her Majesty a purse. “Abandon,” he says, “your claim to the throne, change your name and the livery, and retire to some distant part of the earth, where you may never be seen or heard of any more; and if £50,000 per annum will not satisfy you—what will?” To which the queen (who assumes an appearance of virtuous indignation) replies, “Nothing but a crown.” Brougham turns his back, saying, “I turn my back on such dirty work as this,” the fact being, as we have seen, that he had really entered into negotiations with the ministers on the queen’s behalf, which she afterwards angrily repudiated. The devil pats him on the back. “Well done, Broom,” he says; “you have done your business well.” By the side of the queen stands a figure, possibly meant for Alderman Wood, carrying “a shield for the innocent,” and “a sword for the guilty”; behind her in the distance is a ship, bearing the title of “The Wooden Walls of Old England.”

Preparing the Witnesses—a View in Cotton Garden

Those who saw them before they were housed in Cotton Garden, describe them as swarthy, dirty looking fellows, in scanty ragged jackets and greasy leathern caps; at the bar of the House, however, they looked as respectable as fine clothes and soap and water could make them. To this a caricature of Robert’s, entitled, Preparing the Witnesses—a View in Cotton Garden, refers. Three dirty foreigners are being washed, with no satisfactory result, in a bath labelled, “Waters of Oblivion,” “Non Mi Ricordo,”** and “Ministerial Washing Tub.” One of the operators (probably the Attorney-General, Sir Robert Gifford) remarks that “he never had such a dirty job in his life”; seated around are a number of equally dirty foreigners awaiting their turn.

* Cruikshank
** I don’t remember

Further reading:
English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century by Graham Everitt

The Lecture By William Hogarth

In 1736, Hogarth created a satirical print in which he ridiculed the university of Oxford. Its students were accused to be ignorant and lazy, more interested in having fun that studying. Doesn’t sound much different from today, does it?

Here’s how John Trusler, in his The Works of William Hogarth, describes this satirical print:

“No wonder that science, and learning profound,
In Oxford and Cambridge so greatly abound,
When so many take thither a little each day,
And we see very few who bring any away.”

The scene is laid at Oxford, and the person reading, universally admitted to be a Mr. Fisher, of Jesus College, registrat of the university, with whose consent this portrait was taken, and who lived until the 18th of March, 1761. […] His eye is bent on vacancy: it is evidently directed to the moon-faced idiot that crowns the pyramid, at whose round head, contrasted by a cornered cap, he with difficulty suppresses a laugh. Three fellows on the right hand of this fat, contented “first-born transmitter of a foolish face,” have most degraded characters, and are much fitter for the stable than the college.

A figure in the left-hand corner has shut his eyes to think; and having, in his attempt to separate a syllogism, placed the forefinger of his right hand upon his forehead, has fallen asleep. The professor, a little above the book, endeavours by a projection of his under lip to assume importance; such characters are not uncommon: they are more solicitous to look wise, than to be so.

Thomas Clerk adds:

We are here presented with a motley assemblage of graduates and under-graduates of one of the universities, profoundly attending to a philosophical lecture, the subject of which is a vacuum, (or space unoccupied by matter). Dulness and stupidity seem to characterize the drowsy audience. The portrait of the person reading the lecture is said to be that of the late Mr. Fisher, of Jesus College, Oxford, of which university he was registrar. He sat to the artist for this purpose.

A Constitutional Plum Pudding

In 1848, revolutions broke out all over Europe, and even in some parts of Latin America. Over 50 countries were affected. But everything remained quiet in Great Britain. A cartoon published in an edition of Punch, and titled “John Bull Showing The Foreign Powers How To Make A Constitutional Plum-Pudding,” explains why.

The picture shows John Bull sitting proudly at a table, with a fork and a knife in his hands. In front of him, the Magna Carta is laid out as a table cloth. Upon it, there’s a plum pudding inscribed with English values: Liberty of the press, Common sense, Order, Trial by jury, Religion, and True liberty of the subject. European and Asian sovereigns look on, with sad and even skeptical expressions on their faces.

The shape of the pudding is not casual either. It’s round, like that of a globe. John Bull, with his knife and fork, is boasting of his ability to carve up the world as he likes, while the other crowned heads stand by and watch on, without being able to do anything about it. Therefore, the cartoon is also a celebration of the British Empire and the British identity.

All was not well within the empire though. Some revolts broke down in some distant parts of it, showing that not everyone saw the British people in the same way they saw themselves…

Further reading:
English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. How they Illustrated and Interpreted their Times. by Graham Everitt

The Battle Of The Pictures

William Hogarth originally engraved “The Battle of the Pictures” as a bidder’s ticket for an auction of his paintings, which included sets such as A Harlot’s Progress, A Rake’s Progress and The Four Times of the Day. But the work also represents a scathing commentary on the action houses of his time, and the unethical ways in which they conducted their business.

Thomas Clerk, in his Works Of William Hogarth, explains the print thus:

On the right of the plate we observe an auction-room, on the top of which is a weather-cock, which has been thought to allude to Cock the auctioneer, with whom our artist was, at one time, not on very friendly terms. At the door is stationed a porter, with a huge stall“ in his hand; and, by way of a shewboard, a highly-finished head (after the Flemish school) is exhibited in a clumsy carved frame. Instead of the ordinary insignia of a sale (a catalogue and piece of carpet,) we here have at the end of a long pole an unfurled standard, blazoned with the auctioneer’s arms, “the fate deciding hammer”.

Beneath, an Apollo (whose godship is discernible only by the rays around his brow) is flaying Marsyas the satyr, who seems to undergo the operation with perfect indifference. Behind this stands a picture of St. Andrew on the cross, with a vast number of fac-similes arranged in goodly order; and by the saint’s side is a host of Jupiters and Europas, disposed in a similar manner. These are all marshalled in battle array, as the unquestionable productions of the great Italian masters; although it is more than probable that some at least of these genuine originals were painted by their disciples.

On the left of the print, we behold a number of pictures in hostile array. We begin with the founder of the order of Franciscans. The corner of the holy saint’s picture is driven through Hogarth’s Morning; a weeping Madona is forcing her passage through the third scene of the Harlot’s Progress; while the Aldobrandini marriage breaks into the splendid saloon of the disgusted couple in the second scene of Marriage-a-la-mode. Thus far the contest is favourable to the old masters. The aerial conflict, however, terminates differently. The riotous scene in the Rake’s Progress (No 3) very unceremoniously perforates Titian’s Feast of Olympus; and Midnight Modern Conversation penetrates a Bacchanaliau of Rubens.

David Bindman, in his Hogarth and his Times, further explains the unethical business practices of the time:

A witty reprise of the literary conflict between Ancients and Moderns, here shown as a battle of pictures rather than books. […] The elaborate system of advanced bids was in itself a criticism of the doubtful practices of auctioning Old Master paintings, and an attempt to find a way of marketing modern paintings. Hogarth distances himself from the taste for old paintings, claiming his own paintings to be contemporary equivalents of earlier types. […]The ranks of the Old Master paintings on the left suggest the mass production of dubious Old Masters for ignorant Connoisseurs and the essential speciousness of the market presided over by auctioneers such as Christopher Cock and dealers such as Robert Bragge.

Tea Just Over Or The Game Of Consequences Just Begun

Consequences was a very popular game in the Georgian and Regency eras. Players are required to fill in the blanks of a story, then fold the paper over and pass it to the next player, who’ll have to continue it without knowing what has just been written. Anything you could happen in these stories, and they often were hilarious. But this is not the game of consequences James Gillray portrayed in this satirical print. What you are seeing here are the consequences of one little piece of snuff.

Here’s how the print is described in English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. How they Illustrated and Interpreted their Times by Graham Everitt:

“The ‘consequences’ of one gentleman sneezing are the following: he jerks the arm of the lady next him, the result being that she pours her cup of scalding hot tea over the knees of her neighbour, a testy old gentleman, who in his fright and pain raises his arms, jerking off with his cane the wig of a person standing at the back of his chair, who in the attempt to save his wig upsets his own cup and saucer upon the pate of his antagonist Another guest, with his mouth full of tea, witnessing this absurd contretemps is unable to restrain his laughter, the result of which is that he blows a stream of tea into the left ear of the man who has lost his wig, at the same time setting his own pigtail alight in the adjoining candle. All these disasters, passing in rapid succession from left to right, are the direct “consequences” of one unfortunate pinch of snuff.”

Exhibition Stare Case

Victims of the steep staircase reveal all, says the heading of this satirical print. The steep staircase was located at Somerset House (now the Courtland Institute of Art) in Pall Mall, where members of the Royal Academy exhibited their paintings. Designed in 1776 by Sir William Chambers, who had been commissioned to create a new complex of government buildings with the Royal Academy as its centrepiece, the staircase was very elegant.

And very long. Thomas Rowlandson, the author of this satirical work, believed that the architect was more interested in the beauty of the staircase than in its practical utility. And he was probably right. It certainly mustn’t have been easy to go up and down it when exhibitions were visited by big crowds of people, as it often happened.

Not everyone went to these exhibitions to admire the paintings, though. Some male spectators preferred to ogle the ladies, who exposed their ankles and parts of their legs to walk up the steep staircase. In Rowlandson’s print, they expose so much more, though! The artist imagines the women falling down the stairs in a domino effect, revealing what’s hidden beneath their delicate muslin gowns, while naughty old men look on with pleasure.

Poor ladies!

The Bad Taste Of The Town, Or Masquerades And Operas

Hogarth was an avowed patriot who was concerned about the spread of foreign fashions in England. In his print, The Bad Taste Of the Town, also known as Masquerades And Operas, he attacked the Italian operas and singers that were displacing classic English theater and the masquerade dances thrown by the Swiss impresario Heidegger, which he believed were degrading public morals.

The scene takes place in front of the Academy of Arts. Three men are walking beside its walls. The one in the center is the famous architect Lord Burlington, who favoured Italian styles; he’s talking to Mr Campbell, another architect. The other man is Lord Burlington’s postilion.

On the left, a banner is advertising an opera. The image is itself a satire that depicts the Earl of Peterborough kneeling to offer the singer Francesca Cuzzoni £8,000 to perform in London. Next to it, a board inscribed with the words, “Long Room. Fawks’s dexterity of hand”, is advertising a performance by the famous conjurer Mr Fawks. At the window of the palace, Mr Heidegger is trying to convince people to enter his establishment to see a masquerade.

A similar job has the man in the harlequin costume on the right. He’s standing above the entrance of the theater where the pantomime “Dr Faustus” is about to be performed. It ran for two years and always attracted large crowds, while English plays were poorly attended.

In the middle of the road, a man is selling the works of the great English dramatists, such as William Shakespeare and John Dryden, as waste paper. Finally, the grenadiers at the gates hint at the patronage of King George I, a German who had recently inherited the crown but didn’t speak one word of English.

John Bull In Clover & John Bull Done Over

In 1819, England was facing an economic crisis. The conditions of the country were summed up in a double print, “John Bull In Clover” & “John Bull Done Over”, published by Fores on 9th January.

In the first print, a fat John Bull is having a great time. He’s smoking a pipe and drinking a glass of port which, he says, “enables one to go through the fatigues of business”. His dog, in the corner, is enjoying his dinner too. On the floor, lie scattered the invoices of goods dispatched by him to customers in Spain, in Russia, and in America.

On the walls, hangs a picture of “Good Queen Bess,” who had ruled the country over an age of prosperity. Underneath her portrait, John has pinned several of his favourite patriotic ballads: “The Land we live in,” “Oh, the Roast Beef of Old England!,” and “May we all live the days of our life.” John Bull is prospering and is praising the government policies that allow his business to thrive.

But those policies weren’t too sound after all, cos a few years later John Bull is done over. John has now become very thin and his clothes are old and torn in several places. He has also lost his shoes. His dog too has become skeletal. In vain, he asks his master for food, but John has nothing to give him. The only food in the room is an onion.

On the floor, the Gazzete announces his bankruptcy. His invoices are replaced by tradesmen’s bills. John is so desperate that he is thinking of committing suicide. He’s reading a treatise on it Next to the book, lies a razor, while, on the back of his chair, is a coiled rope.

And yet, the government is demanding even more money from him. At the window, a tax gatherer who has come to collect his property tax, ascertains whether John is at home. The poor man sighs, “Why, there’s very little of me left, sure enough you need not trouble yourself to call anymore. For that will be gone soon.”

On the wall, the pictures of Queen Elizabeth I has been replaced with that of John Bellingham, the assassin of the British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. The patriotic ballads too have gone. In their place, doleful ditties, such as “Oh, dear, what can the matter be!” and “There’s nae luck about the house,” are pinned on the wall.