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The opening of Pandora's box

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The opening of Pandora's box
  • Description

    Plate from 'Town Talk', iii. 85. The 'box' stands in a lofty panelled room. It is a pavilion with folding doors which are opened (left) by the Regent as Epimetheus, and (right) by Lady Hertford as Pandora. Within the doors are festooned curtains, which these two hold back to allow the occupants to walk out; the majority have done so. Lady Hertford says: "Heaven endued me with the powers of pleasing thee Epimetheus; and now let us give loose to our love and rejoice that we possess the power and the privelige to make the world fear and remember us." The Prince: "O Pandora! I almost repent this fatal curiosity. See what a number of plagues we have let loose upon the world, the sufferings we have entailed on mankind by this step, will induce them to brand us with everlasting curses." Against the wall of the room John Bull, a stout citizen, stands on a chair; he raises his arms, exclaiming, "Oh Jupiter, Jupiter! why did'st thou give the power of opening that d—d box to any who had not sence enough to keep it shut. I look'd for happiness but now my days are shortened and my grey hairs will come with sorrow to the Grave, alas poor Bull." In his pocket is an 'Essay on Patience'.
    Within the box, the last (according to the legend) to leave it is Hope with her anchor; she kneels on one knee, addressing Princess Charlotte (left) who stands in the foreground, near her father: "Lovely Princess the afflicted world looks to thee for help and Happiness!" Princess Charlotte soliloquizes, with clasped hands: "Alas, Hope alone remains to the world, and she directs her imploring eye to me, had I but the power how quickly would I heal the wounds made by those fiends of darkness, and restore to men Liberty and Peace." In the centre foreground Sheridan has collapsed, but is dragged along by a naked Silenus (Drunkenness), who drinks from a bottle. Beside Sheridan is a broken wine-bottle, in his pocket is a paper: 'Share of New Dr[ury]'; he extends an imploring arm to the Regent. The other figures proceed from the box and from left to right across the room. They are headed by Bellona in Roman dress with a sword in her right hand; she holds up a fire-brand and looks down at a paper which Castlereagh, who clasps her arm, displays to her. On this is the word 'Spain', but inscribed on the back is 'Walcheren'. In his pocket is a paper: 'Dispatch from Lord Wellington for'. Behind him Lord Liverpool offers a bottle labelled 'Ether' to an emaciated half-naked creature (Famine) gnawing a large bare bone inscribed 'Old Leo' [? a relic of the British Lion]. Behind them is Vansittart, holding open a bag inscribed 'Budget' into which a woman who holds up a flaming censer emitting smoke inscribed 'Discord', drops a disk. In his pocket is a paper: 'Taxes for 1812'. The smoke from Discord and Bellona's fire-brand extends to John Bull, and threatens to engulf him. A man in oriental dress holds a skull inscribed 'Plague' which he shows to a courtier holding a wand of office and wearing a ribbon and star. Behind them is (?) Lord Yarmouth next an emaciated invalid on crutches (Disease). The last figures to step from the box are (left to right): a fierce woman (? Envy) with serpents for hair, holding up two writhing serpents; an old man walking with two sticks (? Old Age); the Chancellor (Eldon) with a hand on the woman's shoulder; and a man wearing spectacles and a ribbon, with antlers (? Hertford). The 'box' is surmounted by the figure of a seated woman holding two cornucopias: from one (left) issues foliage (? thistles), from the other (right) the head of a demon puffing out scrolls inscribed: 'War', 'Famine', 'Discord', 'Pestilence', 'Drun[k]en[n]ess', 'Disease', 'Old Age', 'Envy'.
    1 September 1812
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1812
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 272 millimetres
    • Width: 423 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered: "Published for the Proprietors of Town Talk Septr 1st 1812".
  • 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. 11583. The attack on the war, and appeal for peace (cf. No. 11990), despite news of victories in Spain (cf. No. 11901), is characteristic of the Opposition Press, cf. 'Corr. of G. L. Gower', 1916, ii. 454. Castlereagh is reproached with Walcheren, see No. 11364, &c. The cry for peace was influenced by the dearth and industrial distress due to the Continental System, see No. 11876, &c. Hope's appeal to Princess Charlotte verges on sedition; on the opening of Parliament the Regent 'was received with a dead and most humiliating silence . . .'. Princess Charlotte was recognized and 'greeted with loud and repeated huzzas'. Romilly, 'Memoirs', under date 30 Nov. 1812. Cf. No. 12894. For the Pandora theme cf. No. 11219.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 11897 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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