Fanning the Flames of Revolution

Political turmoil, coupled with the tearing down of repressive ancien régime laws on press censorship, prompted a boom in satirical print publishing in Paris during the revolutionary summer of 1789. The French print market, which had hitherto been dominated by elaborate, classical-style, engravings of landscapes, historical subjects and genre scenes, was suddenly swamped by a flood of crude political caricatures that were shocking to the sensibilities of cultivated observers. When the educational reformer and publisher Joachim Heinrich Campe visited Paris as a revolutionary tourist in the summer of 1789, he noted that the walls of every building on the banks of the Seine were festooned with printed images concerning the Revolution [1].

Whilst most of these images were designed to appeal to the baser sentiments of the Parisian mob, others were evidently targeted at the middling classes and members of the aristocracy (some of whom were still sympathetic to the early phase of revolutionary fervor.) These images were often executed in the same careful manner as traditional ancien régime engravings and were presumably sold at a higher price and in much small numbers than the prints which Campe had observed littering the streets of Paris.

This printed fan-leaf is one such object. It is decorated with a satirical etching entitled La pompe funèbre du Clergé de France, décédé à l’Assemblée Nationale, le 2 novembre 1789 [The funeral pomp of the Clergy of France, died at the National Assembly, November 2, 1789], elements of which appear to have been copied from a contemporary engraving with aquatint. The image is an ironic scene of mourning, in which clergymen grieve for the loss of their wealth and privileges following the Revolutionary government’s decision to nationalise the property of the Catholic church. The liberation of the people from the burden of ecclesiastical taxes and the subordination of the church to the will of the state is celebrated in four columns of printed text on the rear of the leaf. 

The image does not appear to have been based on a real event. However, mock funerals were feature of both the French and American Revolutions, as well as Radical agitation in Great Britain. As one historian who has studied the phenomena of mock funerals in the context of the protests against British policy in colonial America explains, these ceremonies provided a means of translating political events into everyday life and “to transform a political conflict into a ritual defeat of evil.”[2].

  1. Hubertus Kohle, R.R., Visualizing the Revolution: Politics and the Pictorial Arts in Late Eighteenth-Century France, (London, 2008), pp. 37-38.

2. Fairfax Withington, A., Towards a More Perfect Union: Virtue and the Formation of American Republics, (Oxford, 1991), pp. 144 – 145.


Transfer printing on pottery – James Gillray’s Independence


James Gillray’s caricature of Thomas Tyrwhitt Jones (1765 – 1811), entitled Independence (1799), was copied and used as a decorative design on English pottery during the early nineteenth-century. The potteries would employ an engraver to etch the desired image onto a copperplate. The plate was heated and inked in the normal way, before being overlaid with damp tissue paper and passed through a rolling press. The tissue paper was then peeled from the plate, wrapped around a piece of pottery and burnished to leave an impression on the body of the vessel. Finally, the pot was soaked in order to remove the paper and could then either be sold or passed to a painter who would add colour to the design.

Copperplates used for engraving pottery transfer sheets can be distinguished from normal printing plates because the image, particularly the text, did not have to be engraved back-to-front. This was because image was pressed onto the inked underside of the wet paper, which was then lifted, placed onto the vessel and rubbed from the reverse side, meaning that it remained the right way around. This presumably made the whole task a lot quicker, easier and cheaper to accomplish than with conventional copperplate etching.

This plate, which is coming up at auction in the next couple of weeks, was used to print the text which appeared on the obverse of jugs carrying the Independence design. I have included a image of a creamware jug carrying the design on the right and you can read more about this object HERE.


Guest Post: C.J. Grant’s ‘Modern Puritan’

C.J. Grant, The Political Drama No. 6. The Modern Puritan, published by G. Tregear, 1833.

I’m delighted to introduce another guest post by Daphne & Mike Tregear. The Tregears are descendants of Gabriel Shire Tregear; a well-known publisher of satirical prints in early nineteenth-century London. Having previously provided us with articles on Tregear’s life, his publication of the Rum Jokes series, and his somewhat tempestuous relationship with the artist C.J. Grant, they have been kind enough to offer some further thoughts the The Modern Puritan, a caricature produced by Grant and published by Tregear in the spring of 1833.

I’ve included a brief addendum of my own at the bottom of the article, which aims to explain the immediate political context in which the print was created.

The Modern Puritan – by Daphne & Mike Tregear

In 1833 C.J. Grant began publishing the series “The Political Drama” with G. Drake as the printer. This series would run for some 130 editions. The first six of the series have the agitation in Parliament and elsewhere for the passing of legislation enabling the enforcement of strict Sabbatarian laws as a clear target [1]. At the same time as Grant is working with Drake, a second publisher (G.S. Tregear), began to publish a series with the same name. This appears to be a collaborative partnership since Grant’s signature appears on all of the three prints listed below. All of Tregear’s are dated April 1833 and no. 7 is dated as the 9th April. Tregear and Grant chose to re-order this series. The titles which have come to light so far are:

We do not know that numbers 1-5 in the Grant/Drake series were ever published by Tregear nor the order in which they were published. In the Tregear series all of the known examples were lithographs while the Drake versions were woodcuts.

It might be supposed that Grant and the two partnerships were aiming at two different markets or, perhaps, two different client groups. The cheaper, less nuanced, version by Drake from his premises in Clare Market aimed at the mass market and the more expensive by Tregear in Cheapside. Pound [2] notes that “The two (Fireside) prints are almost identical in composition, although this one uses the tonal qualities of lithography to great effect and allows for much greater detail, especially in the figure’s face”.

In both number 6 and 7 one of the principal targets of Drake’s satire is clear. He is Sir Andrew Agnew, 7th Baronet Agnew of Lochnaw, who was the Member of Parliament for Wigtownshire from 1830 to 1837. He stood as a moderate reformer but took up the cause of Sabbatairism, seeking to ban all labour on Sundays. He introduced four Sabbath Observance Bills into the House of Commons, none of which were passed.

In the “The Modern Puritan” Agnew is shown standing in the centre of the print dressed as a Puritan with dark coat and knee breeches, a large white shirt collar, ruffs at the wrist and knees and an exaggerated hat with a long pointed peak. Around his shoulders is a tartan cloth. He is preaching to a cat hanging from a tree and watched by a crowd including young children.Underneath his left arm are a bundle of papers which have titles including “A Bill for the Better Protection of Cant and Hypocrisy”, “Petition from … Reverend E. Irvin(g)” [3], “A Petition from the Devil Dodgers for the Better Observance (of the) Sabbath”. He is standing in a space in front of a building named as “St. Andrew’s Late St. Luke’s” which is the St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics (Moorfields) which was opposite the Bethlem Hospital. The implication of the re-naming is clear and one of the on-lookers emphasises the point by saying in response to the question “Who’s that ‘ere Merry Andrew” — “Vy he’s a Member of vun ‘o them ‘ere Houses behind us, the Kiddy is hung his cat, cos the poor starved creature vas about to make a meal of a mouse on Sunday, and vots vusser he calls this here a Religious Act”.

Sir Andrew is lecturing the cat with the words “Verily, verily I say unto thee thou wut a fool and Infidel in thine heart, thou wut hungry but heedth not the Sabbath day.” It is the theme of hunger and privation inflicted onto the working class which is carried forward in both prints seven and eight.

The observers of this little drama are the sort of people that could be expected on a London street. However this print includes to the left a figure standing behind a group of children. Clearly dressed as a woman, who appears to be taking a pleasurable and confirmatory attitude to the whole event, who is she/he?

The sub-title of the print is not original. Drunken Barnaby’s Four Journeys to the North of England, in both Latin and English verse [4] is an extended poem by Richard Braithwaite (1588—1673) which includes the lines:

To Banbury came I,
O, Profane one.
Where I saw a Puritane One
Hanging of his cat on Monday,
For killing of a mouse on Sunday.

Both the 1805 and 1822 editions of the book have an illustration of the Puritan hanging his cat although the 1805 edition [5] with the cat hanging from a tree is perhaps more nearly the inspiration of C.J. Grant’s caricature than the 1822 version [6]. Braithwaite’s book was frequently republished; longevity for Barnaby if not for the cat.

The original woodcut edition of The Modern Puritan which Grant produced for G. Drake. One of two versions of the image known to have been issued by Drake.

Postscript – Mathew Crowther

On 6th March 1833, Sir Andrew Agnew announced that he intended to bring legislation before Parliament to curb Sunday trading and restore the sanctity of the Sabbath. The Sabbath Observance Bill duly sought to impose strict limitations on the types of business activity that could be carried out on a Sunday, with special emphasis being placed on stamping out practices that evangelicals found to particularly objectionable, such as the publication of Sunday newspapers and the opening of alehouses.

Despite heavy opposition to the bill in Parliament and large sections of the metropolitan press, it received a rapturous reception amongst the growing congregations of evangelical chapels up and down the country, who responded by inundating Parliament with petitions of support. Their efforts were coordinated by the Lord’s Day Observance Society, which has formed in 1831 for the express purpose of securing legal recognition for the divine authority and sanctity of the Sabbath [7]. Opponents of the bill, particularly the Radicals, angrily rejected the petitioners demands, arguing that most evangelicals were drawn from the affluent ranks of the middle classes and would therefore not be inconvenienced by the measures they proposed [8]. Working people on the other hand, would find themselves unable to enjoy the most rudimentary leisure activities on Sundays, such as strolling public parks, and would even be unable to buy and prepare food (as poorer households were often reliant on the local baker’s over to cook meals).

The Modern Puritan appears to have been conceived as a satirical rebuttal to the evangelical petitioning movement. The documents under Agnew’s arm carry titles such as “A petition from the Devil Dodger[s]”, “Petition from the Ranters”, and “Petition from the Jumpers”, the latter clearly attempting to associate the views of contemporary evangelicals with the excesses of the extreme puritanical sects of the seventeenth-century. Immediate inspiration for the design may also have come from an editorial in the Morning Chronicle of 20th February 1833, which urged the government to ignore the Sabbatarian petitions and quoted Braithwaite by asking its readers: “who had not heard of the Puritan – ‘who hang’d his cat on Monday for catching a mouse on Sunday’?


1.The numbering of the plates in “The Political Drama” series published by G. Drake is as follows:

  • No. 1. Protecting the Sabbath!!! Or Coercion for England.
  • No. 2. The Modern Puritan. Hanging a Cat on Monday for Killing a Mouse on Sunday.
  • No.3. The Sabbath Breakers.
  • No. 4. John Bull: or an Englishman’s Fireside.
  • No. 5. Things not to be done on the Sabbath.
  • No. 6. The Sinners before St. Andrew.
  1. Richard Pound, editor, C.J. Grant’s Political Drama, A Radical Satirist Rediscovered. University College London and The Paul Mellon Centre for the Studies in British Art 1998.
  2. Edward Irving (1792 – 1834). Irving had come to London in 1821 to minister to Scottish Presbyterian communities in the capital. However, he gradually drifted towards ever more extreme strains of evangelicalism, eventually breaking away to form the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church in 1832. Irving’s belief in Pentecostal phenomena such as speaking in tongues radical interpretation of the Bible ultimately resulted in him being branded a heretic and expelled from the Church of Scotland in March 1833.
  3. Drunken Barnaby’s Four journeys to the North of England,1805, J. Harding, No.36 St. James’s Street, London; 1822, T. and J. Allman, Princes Street, Hanover Square, London with lithographic illustrations by D. Dighton.
  6. Norris Pope, Dickens and Charity, (London, 1978), pp.44-45.
  7. The Poor Man’s Guardian of 6th April 1833, described the bill as a measure “… for converting the people of England into hypocrites, slaves, and morose fanatics… It would convert a day of rest and enjoyment into a day of tribulation and misery. It would let loose a host of spies and informers on the country”. Radical activists also began disrupting Sabbatarian meetings with the aim of preventing petitions and motions of support for the bill from being passed. See The Morning Post, 28th February 1833.

Thomas Rowlandson, Grog on Board, ink and watercolour

This seems like a fitting image to take us into the weekend. An original ink and watercolour wash by Thomas Rowlandson, whose signature appears at the bottom left-hand corner of the paper. It measures approximately 11.5 x 15 inches.

The image was originally engraved for the publisher S.W. Fores, who issued it under the title Grog on Board in January 1789. It was originally accompanied by a companion piece titled Tea on Shorein which the raucous debauchery of the sailors is compared with a polite society gathering.

I suspect that this is a later version, drawn after the engraving was issued and possibly dating to the 1800s – 1810s, when the publisher Rudolph Ackermann began selling traced copies of the artist’s original works. It looks a bit too similar to the engraving to have been an original sketch that was produced off the cuff. The tone and application of the colouring also appears different (at least to my eye) than the thin washes of delicate colour that Rowlandson usually applied to his watercolours.

This picture is due to come up at auction in a couple of weeks. It carries an estimate of £600 – £800. Personally, I can’t quite make up my mind about it. It may be a genuine original, or a ‘licensed copy’ of the kind Ackermann is known to have produced. Alternatively, it could simply be a contemporary amateur copy which has subsequently been passed off as an original?

Perhaps something to mull over as I prepare to sail off into the weekend with a healthy cargo of grog on board.

A satirical skit-note and a ‘sticky’ situation

It’s not unusual to come across eighteenth and early nineteenth-century satirical prints that have been modified in some way. Our ancestors treated these prints with far less reverence than we do, regarding them as tactile objects which could be cut, coloured, and otherwise amended after purchase. This interaction with printed satire is not something which has been particularly well documented by historians, probably because academics tend to rely on large institutional collections of perfectly-preserved caricatures, but it’s something with which most private collectors will be familiar.

Modern amendments are something altogether different though, and would presumably only occur as a result of either accidental damage or gross ignorance on the part of the owner. I will let the reader decide which of those criteria applies to a former owner of this skit-note; for they, at some point during their custodianship of this 200 year old object, evidently decided that it’s appearance would be enhanced by the addition of  fuzzy-felt stickers spelling out the title “Compensation Wanted” across the top of the print. Sadly the aesthetic impact of their modification has somewhat diminished over time, as the felt is now starting to fall off, leaving patches of white sticky-back plastic visible underneath.

Let’s just take a minute to allow the classiness of that wash over us…

It’s a great shame, as this is an otherwise interesting and seemingly rather rare example of a satirical skit-note engraved by W.J. Layton of Oxford Street in 1810. The British Museum has a similar version of the note in its collection, but it’s of notably lower quality and is evidently a copy of Layton’s original edition.

The note carries a roundel imitating Josiah Wedgewood’s famous abolitionist logo, depicting a kneeling slave and the text “A Day, An Hour, of Virtuous Liberty is Worth a Whole Eternity in Bondage”, which is a quote from Joseph Addison’s Cato, a Tragedy (1712). The remaining text reads:

England Expects every Man to do his Duty 1810

I Promise to pays Messrs. Cambridgeshire, Ryecastle, & Co. Bearer on Demand TWO PENCE when Englishmens grievances be recompensed when Foreigners are Banished from our Land, & Willm. Cobbett cease to expound Britons Cause.

For the Govr. & Compy. of Integrity Innocence.

The image of the slave and the reference to money appear to have convinced the former owner of this print that it related to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Unfortunately, it’s got nothing to do with the slave trade or African slavery at all. The figure of the slave is entirely symbolic and probably refers to the perceived oppression of the British people. The satire is actually about the radical political journalist William Cobbett, who was jailed in June 1810 for attacking the government’s decision to garrison German soldiers on British soil and went on to publish a series of open letters attacking the economic hardships imposed on ordinary working people by the disruption of trade, war taxes, and inflation of the currency. The note promises that the bearer will be able to exchange their paper money for cold hard cash when the reformist cause is won, the King’s German Legion have been sent packing, and Cobbett has no more cause to complain about the government’s conduct. 

Sadly, the misinterpretation of this image means that not only has someone spoiled an antique print, but that they’ve also spoiled it for entirely the wrong reason!

The notes’ coming up for auction in the US in a couple of weeks time. The estimate’s £200 – £350, but I’d want to be pretty certain that those sticky letters will come off before paying that kind of money for it.