Political Dreamings!

political dreamings.jpg
James Gillray (1757-1815), Political-Dreamings! -Visions of Peace! -Perspective Horrors! November 9, 1801. Hand-colored etching. Graphic Arts (GA) 2006.01460. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

Not quite fifty years after Hogarth published his Election series, James Gillray offered his own commentary on contemporary politics (one of many). This print was so popular that the large stock was exhausted in just a few days.

A thorough description of each character, human and animal, can be found by searching the title at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database. In the meantime, here’s a synopsis of their research.

In the bed lies the statesman William Windham (1750-1810), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and War Minister in the first phase of the conflict with France; later he became Secretary for War and Colonies. Above his head is an olive branch bent down by the weight of a vulture, who says “Peace!” while killing a rabbit. On the left is Death standing on British trophies. One catalogue suggests a reference to Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Death Grinn’d horrible a ghastly smile, to hear His famine should be fill’d … “. On the extreme left is the Tower of London flying the French flag. Bonaparte is holding a rope attached to Britannia’s neck and a fat demon (Whig Charles James Fox (1749-1806)) is playing a guitar while London burns. Justice sits on a chamber-pot nearby. For more, see M. Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum, VIII, 1947.