This weeks ‘random item spotted in an auction catalogue’ is a mid-eighteenth-century satirical broadside which offers some truly awful advice on how to build a successful marriage.

Two columns of rhyming couplets tell the tale of a jealous weaver who disguises himself as a friar in order to trick his wife into unwittingly revealing her alleged infidelities. The wife duly confesses to having slept with a young man, an old man and a friar, only to later reveal that she was aware of the ruse and that three men she claimed to have slept with were the weaver at different stages of his life.

It is accompanied by two engraved images showing the despairing weaver at work at his loom and then dressed as the monk taking his wife’s confession. Whilst the quality of the engraving leaves a lot to be desired when considered against the elevated standards of the period, the artist has included some nice touches, such as the lounging cat, which liven up the composition somewhat.

What is perhaps unusual, or at least unexpected, given that this print was likely to have been published sometime during the 1740s, when Britons were vociferous in expressing a loathing of Popery, is that both the weaver and his wife are obviously Catholics (because the Anglican Church doesn’t practice confession and doesn’t have friars) and therefore not characters we would expect to see portrayed sympathetically in caricature. So it’s possible that this may have been a reworking of an earlier European print, or perhaps the artist simply couldn’t make the joke work without casting his two principle characters as practicing Catholics?

The publication line reads “Printed and Sold by Samuel Lyne Map and Printseller at the Globe in Newgate Street. The BBTI lists Lyne as active from 1741 to 1748. The British Museum has a small number of his prints and other items listed in its catalogue and it would appear as though he specialised in the publication of humorous prints and other ephemera (including trade cards and watch faces). The paper contains a large “Pro Patria” watermark suggesting it was probably manufactured in Holland especially for export to Britain (Britain’s own paper industry being virtually non-existent in this period). It’s valued at £400 – £600, which seems like a plausible hammer price given its age and apparent rarity.

Advertisements