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Worse and worse or the sports of the 19th century.

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Worse and worse or the sports of the 19th century.
  • Description

    Plate from 'Town Talk', ii. 353. The 'sports' take place in an open landscape: in the centre foreground a see-saw is poised on a block of stone inscribed 'Constitution'. Britannia (left) is outweighed by the spherical Lady Hertford, whose end is further held down by the Regent's foot and several bottles of wine, while empty bottles lie on the ground. Britannia, a blooming young woman, drops her shield and spear, exclaiming, "O dear I shall be down." The Prince looks at her, saying, "Well done my thriving County of H, when thou art placed in the opposite scale, that poor wither'd, meagre looking jade Brittannia is but a feather—take care of yourself Brit!!" The British lion bounds angrily towards the unconscious Lady Hertford, who extends her arms towards her rival.
    Behind and on the left is an open pavilion formed by hangings fastened to a massive but broken and moribund oak. It is decorated with the Royal Arms, as is the carpet spread beneath it. On this Mrs. Fitzherbert and Lady Hertford play battledore and shuttlecock with the Prince of Wales's feathers bound with his motto: 'Ich Dien.' Both are fat but the latter is more grossly so; the former wears a large cross and rosary. The feathers fly above Mrs. Fitzherbert's head, and Yarmouth, who stands behind her, is about to catch them. She says: "This Shuttlecock is to light for me I'll have no more to do with it." Her rival: "You have play'd with it till you are tired; but it suits me to a nicety, the game's mine Y-h take care of the Shuttlecock!" He answers: "O yes Maam, I'll take care of the Shuttlecock I warrant you." In front of the pavilion is a pool in which fish swim towards Lady Hertford; this is inscribed 'Treasury Stew'.
    On the right and in the foreground is a narrow piece of water in which politicians are fishing. Grenville and Grey, one on each side, use a drag-net. Grenville (left) says: "I'm tired of draging, I'll give it up Mate." The man next him has hooked a big fish inscribed 'Place'; in his pocket is a paper inscribed 'Voters at Old Sarum 3' showing that he is Vansittart, M.P. for Old Sarum 1807-12, who succeeded Perceval as Chancellor of the Exchequer on 20 May. He says: "Aye You may drag away, but give me a corrupt maggot for catching, Gad I'm afraid it will break my rod!" His vis-à-vis sits in a chair holding a rod; he turns to his neighbour, Grey, to say: "I think you trouble the water still more, we Anglers will have no chances." Grey, hauling at the net, answers Grenville: "Let's have another cast made, it's the only chance in troubled water." A man kneels on the bank with a landing-net, from which a small fish is leaping; he says: "D—n it heres a Thames Flounder, but he 's off again"; in his pocket is a paper: 'Road to Liverpool'. The head is unrecognizable, but resembles Liverpool in No. 11888. On the opposite bank stands a spectator, saying, "I say Van there [sic] enough to regale the Voters of Old Sarum." Behind the fishermen a very fat man with a basket of bread faces a clamouring horde of men and women, saying, "I have but a few small loaves and what are they among so many."
    In the middle distance a conical volcano, 'Mount Albion', is in violent eruption; on its side are the words (partly obscured by smoke): 'Orde[rs in Counc]il, Orders'. Great rocks fly up among the flames, inscribed 'War' [twice], 'National Debt', 'Taxes', 'Sinecures'. A pall of smoke extends over the sky, containing other rocks about to descend upon the groups below, who are unconscious of their doom: 'Secret Influence', 'Petticoat Government', both above Lady Hertford; 'Rotten Borroughs' and 'Corrupt Influence' above the fishermen and the distributor of loaves. 'Taxes' [eight times] and '&c' [sixteen times] are widely distributed.
    1 June 1812
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1812
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 278 millimetres
    • Width: 447 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered: "Pubd June 1st 1812 for the Proprietors of Town Talk."
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
    One of many satires on the political influence of Lady Hertford, see No. 11853, and the first recognition in these prints of the separation of the Regent and Mrs. Fitzherbert. For national distress and the Orders in Council see No. 11876, &c. The negotiations for a new Ministry which followed Perceval's assassination, see No. 11881, were in progress, and as usual are represented as a contest for the loaves and fishes of office (cf. No. 10697). For this crisis see No. 11888, &c. The question of Parliamentary Reform and nomination boroughs (see No. 11551, &c.) had been raised by a motion for Reform on 8 May 1812. The volcano suggests that the forces of unrest are becoming potent in politics. For 'Worse and Worse' cf. No. 11874.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 11886 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Satires British 1812 Unmounted Roy)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat)   Hand-coloured etching

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat) Hand-coloured etching

Image description



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