Checklist Part 6
Pitt’s death on January 23, 1806, led to the formation of the “Ministry of all the Talents,” believed – incorrectly – to be in service to the Prince of Wales. Here, Charles James Fox, portrayed as the Devil, sports a bonnet rouge, the triple plume of the Prince of Wales, and wings, inscribed with the words “Honesty” and “Humility.” He soars upward, part of this new ministry, with the support of former Prime Minister Henry Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) and Baron Grenville. Their destination is the “Land of Promise” represented by the façade of Carlton House, the Prince’s residence. John Bull, none too securely, holds on to Fox’s cloak, which proclaims his commitment to “Loyalty, Independence & Public Good.” Gillray tucks in three tiny vignettes that comment on the character of those he regards in power: “Liberty” shows Sheridan and the Prince gambling; “Chastity” depicts a tryst between the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert; and “Temperance” presents a drinking scene.
Gillray portrays the new ministry as motivated by greed and self-interest, with many claimants for office vying for far fewer sinecures. In a parody of a painting by George Morland, Gillray shows John Bull alarmed at the sight of thirty-two piglets – all of them identifiable political figures – as they suckle his British sow to death. The Prince of Wales, wearing a sash, seen from the rear in the center foreground, is far from a teat; closer to sustenance, to the Prince’s left, is Fox (who has clambered on top of the Prince’s brother, the Duke of Clarence), and to Fox’s left, recognizable by his plump posterior, is Baron Grenville. Sheridan is on top of the pile on the upper left. As Draper Hill points out, the Broad-bottoms offered Gillray a golden opportunity. “For the first time since gaining his full stature as a satirist he was in energetic opposition to the party in power.” Moreover, this new ministry brought together “most of his favourite targets … united in one bizarre administration.” A publication issued shortly after Gillray’s death reported on popular response to this print: “even the lowest mechanics, gazing at Mrs. Humphrey’s shop-windows in St. James’s-street, were convulsed with honest broad grins.”
While the Whigs had always protested excessive taxation under the Tories, now that they were in power they not only continued the policies of their predecessors, but added additional taxes. Gillray’s attack on the Whig budget shows Henry Petty, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a fountain from which gushes a “Flood of new-Taxes.” The “Ministry of all the Talents” is portrayed as a flock of voracious cormorants, with human heads and greedy pelican-like gullets, who gorge on their revenue-catch. Grenville, in the center, devours the Treasury and the Exchequer, while on his right, Sheridan and Viscount Sidmouth (Henry Addington), and behind him, Fox and Lord Moira, join with their fellow ministers to gobble up everything in sight. John Bull, his boat swamped, calls for help.
In the guise of an elaborate theatrical performance, Gillray visualizes Fox’s peace negotiations with Napoleon, which he indicts as Jacobin treachery. The leading actors are a bemused, but not cowed, George III, and a belligerent Napoleon, who grandly gestures to a scroll, unfurled by Talleyrand, containing his outrageous peace demands. Talleyrand stands on a cornucopia, from which pours subversive literature and references to radical organizations: “Address to the Papists”; “London Corresponding Society”; “United Irishmen.” Skeletal French grenadiers, leading banners of English, Irish, and Scottish armies, stand at attention, while the Irish radical Arthur O’Connor, his finger conspiratorially pressed against his nose, reminds the Whigs of their (unwitting) collusion in his treachery. Gillray suggests that each member of the new “Broad-bottom” Ministry “orchestra” plays a different tune, but the audience, nevertheless, enjoys the show. The Prince’s brother, the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) and his paramour, the actress Mrs. Jordan, sit in the top balcony, while the radicals Horne Tooke and Sir Francis Burdett, seated above the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert, applaud Napoleon and Talleyrand. One account states that the King was incensed that Gillray showed the Prince with Mrs. Fitzherbert, but whether it was at the King’s or the Prince’s request, Gillray later substituted Lord Derby for the Prince in a second state of this satire.
Gillray shows Napoleon in a fit of temper, triggered by the news of the French defeat at Maida in Calabria and the capture of Buenos Aires (albeit briefly) by the English. These defeats are contrasted with the French successes, celebrated by the paintings ascribed to Jacques-Louis David on the wall in the background. Talleyrand takes the brunt of Napoleon’s ire, though Josephine is unfortunately in the path of a cascade of boiling water, which gushes from an urn Napoleon wields as a weapon. The Emperor is also besieged by supplicants, whose petitions suggest that there is mounting political resistance to French rule throughout Europe. Such reports of unrest and revolt were mostly premature. Although Britain continued to demonstrate naval supremacy and Trafalgar ended fears of a French invasion, it would be a number of years before the war on land began to turn in her favor.
On April 3, 1806, Robert Castlereagh, Secretary of State for War until Pitt’s death, reported to his successor, William Windham, that Pitt’s scheme for the military had been a success. Contrary to “the difficulties and embarrassment under which they [the new Grenville “Ministry of all the Talents”] are disposed to represent themselves … [they] may be considered as on a Bed of Roses.” To which Fox retorted, “Really it is insulting, to tell me I am on a bed of roses, when I feel myself torn and stung by brambles and nettles, whichever way I turn.” Gillray must have considered Fox’s point was well taken. Although the danger of French invasion had ended with Trafalgar (October 21, 1805), Napoleon had won a major victory over the Austrians at Ulm, and on November 13, 1805, he had entered Vienna in triumph. In December, he defeated the combined Austrian and Russian armies in the Battle of Austerlitz. With the Treaty of Pressburg (December 26, 1805), Austria gave up considerable territory to further Napoleon’s plan to create a “ring of French client states” beyond the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees.
Here, Fox and his wife are beset by nightmares: the ghost of William Pitt and a barking John-Bulldog sound the alarm that Britain is under siege from Napoleon and his troops. A skeletal Death slithers out from under the bed, holding an hourglass showing that time is running out. The rose-patterned bedspread becomes a thorny political situation.
In this early study, Gillray reiterates (on the left) Castlereagh’s speech, as he develops the image of Death emerging from under the bed. On the other side of the sheet, he seems to be ruminating about a gathering of the Broad-bottoms: “Grande Regime. i.e. a Broadbottom Ordinary, a Cabanitical Dinner,” not unlike, as Richard Godfrey points out, the dining scene in Political Mathematician’s (#115).
Here Gillray works up the center portion of his scene, the embracing couple. Numerous voyeurs, including Napoleon, peek out of the surrounding foliage.
This drawing of a plump cook basting John Bull, personified as an ox, never evolved into a print. In one of the inscriptions that punctuate the image, Gillray wrote, “Lord Castlereagh convincing John Bull that he will be ruin’d if his plan of finance be not adopted.” On February 12, 1807, Castlereagh had criticized at length the financial program espoused by Henry Petty, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and proposed an alternative plan. Possibly Gillray was referring to that exchange. Among the inscriptions and sketches on the verso of this sheet, Gillray scribbled: “vide. Debates on abolition of slave trade / Grenville Breaking off the Shackles.” In 1807, under Grenville’s leadership and driven by William Wilberforce’s righteous zeal, Parliament abolished the British slave trade (but not yet slavery).
In this mock-heroic satire, etched but not conceived by Gillray, Fox is seen on his deathbed. At the time this print was published, Fox was considered dangerously, but not terminally, ill. The grieving friends include, to the left of the invalid, the Prince of Wales, who was a regular visitor; Lord Henry Petty, Chancellor of the Exchequer, portrayed as always ready to dance; William Windham; and, towering above them all, Lord Moira. The Roman Catholic Mrs. Fitzherbert, dressed as an abbess (as she was in End of the Irish Farce of Catholic-Emancipation, #102), encourages Fox to confess. In the left corner, Lord Derby administers smelling salts to Mrs. Fox, who had once been his mistress. In the background, Lord Sidmouth (Henry Addington) and the Grenvilles relish Fox’s imminent demise. On the right, the Bishop presses for Catholic Emancipation, and Sheridan, at the far right in front of the grieving First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Howick (Charles Grey), is ready with a “Scheme for a new Adminis[tration].” Under a chamber pot on the table next to Fox is a document, “Negotiation for Peace,” referring to his peace overtures with France. The Grenville administration was weakened with Fox’s death on September 13, 1806. He was the only minister able to unite the various factions and interests to which Gillray alludes in this print.
Gillray here elaborates upon the Westminster election in 1806, a three-way race between Sheridan, Sir Samuel Hood (a supporter of Grenville), and a newcomer and rich radical, James Paull. Sheridan had seen himself as a natural heir to Fox’s old seat, but when he appeared before his constituency, he was greeted with hoots and catcalls. Radical pamphleteer and politician William Cobbett, who is present as part of Paull’s entourage, wrote in his Political Register, “[Sheridan] retired from before the people for the first time perhaps in his life, in an agony of mortification and in a rage too violent to admit of concealment.” Gillray captures this moment of shocked humiliation, as Sheridan recoils from the verbal attack, despite reassurances from Whitbread (holding a mug of his own brew). Admiral Hood exits the stage, seemingly amused, while Paull, surrounded by his liberal supporters, including Sir Francis Burdett and the round-faced Cobbett, verbally abuses his opponent. Ultimately Sheridan and Hood were elected, with Paull coming in third. As Draper Hill points out, Gillray consistently ridiculed Sheridan and, undoubtedly aware of Sheridan’s sensitivity to the redness of his face, made certain Mrs. Humphrey’s colorists emphasized that disfigurement. This print was included as a folded supplement in The History of the Westminster & Middlesex Elections, and was also sold singly, unfolded, at Mrs. Humphrey’s printshop.
This elaborate etching, which recalls sixteenth-century emblematic Netherlandish satires, comments on domestic politics after the 1806 elections. Gillray addresses the political tensions affecting the “Ministry of all the Talents” (the Broad-bottoms), seen here dining lavishly on the largesse of office inside an inflated, transparent pair of the late Charles James Fox’s breeches. James Paull, who lost the 1806 Westminster election, serves as the fulcrum in a seesaw tug of war, which threatens to topple the breeches (the current ministry), here poised insecurely on the tri-feathered emblem of the Prince of Wales, set in a bed of roses (a reference to Lord Castlereagh; see #109), infested by gnawing rats. On one side, the radical Burdett and his friends pull down on a lever attached to the breeches, but they are checked by the Pittites in the distant background, among them, Robert Castlereagh, George Canning, and Lord Hawkesbury (Charles Jenkinson), who tug in the opposite direction. Above them, a statue of Pitt is partially hidden in the clouds; at the lower left, a spectral Fox crawls out of his tomb to “save [his] Breeches.” Meanwhile, Napoleon carefully watches these machinations with his spyglass, ready to take advantage of domestic dissension and unrest, whether caused by the self-interest of the current ministry or pressures from the Burdettites. Gillray was apparently inspired by Burdett’s comment: “Paull is fixed upon a Rock, and be assured he will prove the Fulcrum by means of which the present Broadbottomites will be Overset.”
Grenville’s “Ministry of all the Talents” (the Broad-bottoms) was dismissed when Lord Howick (Charles Grey) proposed opening all military ranks to Catholics. Though the Army and Navy Bill advocating Catholic Emancipation was withdrawn in response to royal resistance, the King further demanded that the Ministers never again approach him on the issue of concessions to Catholics. On March 18, 1807, they refused to agree to this order, and the King formed a new ministry the next day.
Gillray shows the King (hidden behind a pillar, but immediately recognizable) holding Grenville by the hair, while he applies his foot to the latter’s broad bottom. Grenville loses his hold on the “Catholic Bill, for bringing the Papists into power, and supporting the Broad-Bottom Jesuits in their places”; the torn document floats over its author, Lord Howick. Grenville’s brother Buckingham (wearing glasses) is alarmed, and his nephew, the massive Temple, rubs his posterior, which has already received the regal reprimand. Lord Petty and Erskine have toppled over, while Sheridan and Viscount Sidmouth (Henry Addington) lead the retreat.
Although Grenville had strengthened his administration in a general election, his ministry was undermined when Lord Howick (Charles Grey) proposed political concessions to Roman Catholics. The King vehemently opposed the proposition, and when the Broad-bottom ministry refused the King’s subsequent demand that they never again mention Catholic Emancipation, he dismissed them. Seen here as Farmer George, the King drives the Broad-bottoms, portrayed as plump pigs (a reprise of Gillray’s earlier satire, “More Pigs than Teats,” #105), into the sea. Gillray enjoys emphasizing the girth of Grenville, who has already hit the water, soon to be joined by his spectacled brother, Buckingham. His nephew Temple, partially submerged, is identified by his generous rump. Lord Howick, who introduced the bill, floats on his back, feet in the air. Reluctant to go, Sheridan requires a royal boot.
Five members of the new ministry, under the leadership of the Duke of Portland, sleep off the effects of the contents of a punch bowl. In April 1808, there was little reason to think that the tide of war would turn against Napoleon, then virtual master of Europe. George Canning’s vision, which materializes above his head, is only a dream. He imagines triumphant Britannia in a coach, drawn by John Bull, dragging behind her Napoleon in chains, a Russian bear, and three ex-gingerbread kings. A cheering crowd holds up flags announcing: “Britannia rules the World” and “Britannia Triumphs.” From left to right, Viscount Castlereagh of the War Department, Chancellor of the Exchequer Perceval, Lord Portland, and Lord Hawkesbury seem to share similar happy musings. Lord Melville (Henry Dundas) naps under the table.
This parody of an academic history painting (from “the Pope’s Gallery at Rome”) is the last of Gillray’s satires on the departure of the “Ministry of all the Talents” (the Broad-bottoms), who appear here as passengers on Charon’s boat, the “Broad-Bottom Packet,” on its journey to the Underworld. Lord Howick (Charles Grey), ex-First Lord of the Admiralty, in the role of Charon, uses a “Whig Club” as a punt-pole; the sail, inscribed “Catholic Emancipation,” is now torn and useless. The boat rides low in the water, weighed down by the three Grenvilles. Buckingham (only his posterior visible), Sheridan, and Erskine all suffer from seasickness, while others seem to enjoy the journey. Lord Petty plucks on a fiddle, while Whitbread, with a tankard of his own brew, sings. Ex-Prime Minister Viscount Sidmouth (Henry Addington), who is submerged in the River Styx, hangs onto the gunwale for dear life. Gillray liberally injects throughout the print references to Catholicism and France. Awaiting their arrival on the distant shore is Fox, joined by Cromwell and a headless Robespierre. Three witches or Fates hover over Hades, representing members of the new ministry under Lord Portland: Viscount Robert Castlereagh, in the center, flanked by George Canning and Lord Hawkesbury. Elsewhere in the sky, strange bat-like birds, including one double-headed creature with the faces of radicals Horne Tooke and Burdett, rudely bombard the boat below.
The “Ministry of all the Talents” was followed by an administration composed of an association of Pittites, led nominally by the Duke of Portland. The portrayal of George Canning, the new Foreign Secretary, appearing here as Phaeton, invites comparison with that of his mentor, William Pitt, as Apollo, in Gillray’s 1795 satire Light Expelling Darkness (#42, in the North Hall). In his chariot race across the heavens, pulled by horses with the faces of fellow cabinet ministers, Canning is attacked by the Opposition, who appear as constellations and signs of the zodiac. Particularly imaginative is Lord Grenville as Scorpio Broad-Bottom: his small claws bear the heads of Grenville’s nephew, Temple; Lord Spencer; the Duke of Bedford; Lord Moira; and Tierney, while his broad-bottom forms a glowing ring, containing a chalice with the Host, surrounded by the heads of assorted Whigs. Lord Howick, Canning’s most implacable enemy, is a fire-breathing python.
Gillray suggests that, like the importunate Phaeton cast down by Zeus, Canning is losing control of the chariot, whose fiery wheels crush the scales of justice. Gillray may also have hoped to subtly suggest to his patron, Canning, that his campaign against the Danish navy (the crushed scale is labeled “Copenhagen”) fuelled attacks by the Opposition and contributed to the devastation seen on the earth below, dominated by Napoleon riding a Russian bear. Fox appears as Pluto in the lower right corner, while in the lower left, the ghost of Pitt, again in the guise of Apollo, weeps as he sees his son Phaeton under attack. The print was accompanied by a broadside, which quotes Ovid’s Metamorphoses (brief excerpts are included in the print itself), with its tale of the terrors faced by Phaeton.
Canning and the new ministry are here viewed more optimistically than in Phaeton Alarm’d! William Pitt in the guise of Elijah, illuminated by “Immortality,” ascends to heaven in a chariot of fire. He tosses down his mantle to the newly appointed ministry, led ostensibly by the Duke of Portland, as they stand on “The Rock of Ages,” before “The Altar of the Constitution.” George Canning, the new Foreign Secretary (in the center), is Elisha, his arms raised up to catch his mentor’s cloak. This heavenly manifestation panics the Opposition, cowering under the “Republican Mantle” worn by the ghost of a demonic Fox. Those who attempt to flee from the “Broad-Bottom Dunghill” include Lord Grenville (allusions to his support of Catholic emancipation abound, from his cardinal’s hat to the cross on his cope-like cape), his brother Buckingham in papal regalia, and Viscount Howick (Charles Grey), who raises his hands in fear, releasing his extinguished “Torch of Discord.” Viscount Howick, the ghostly Fox, and Lord Holland wear bonnets rouges. In the background, a British man-of-war takes aim at the French coast, alarming Napoleon, who loses his hat.
To carry out a campaign against England’s ally Portugal, Napoleon, with the French King’s permission, crossed into Spain, and began an extended occupation of northern Spain. On May 2, 1808, the citizens of Madrid rose in revolt against the French. Napoleon demanded that both Ferdinand VII, who had succeeded his father Charles IV as King, and Charles IV, abdicate in favor of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, then King of Naples. The Spanish rejected Joseph Bonaparte as their new king, and though the Madrid uprising was ultimately suppressed, the insurrection spread throughout Spain and Portugal. On July 23, 1808, the French general Dupont, with some 18,000 troops, was defeated at Baylén by the Army of Andalusia under Spanish general Castaños. Napoleon said of this battle, “The capitulation of Baylén ruined everything. In order to save his wagons of booty, Dupont committed his soldiers, his own countrymen, to the disgrace of a surrender which is without parallel.” The British were quick to appreciate the importance of this battle, which proved that Napoleon and his army were not invincible.
Gillray’s text mentions “Loyal Briton lending a lift.” A
British grenadier in the foreground dispatches the enemy with his bayonet,
yet it was not until several days after this print was issued that Sir
Arthur Wellesley and his troops joined the fight. The Spanish forces
are here reinforced by nuns and monks (the Church’s power was threatened
by the French), while two courtesans help man a cannon.