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Updated: 14 April 2015
A midsummer night's dream.
- A midsummer night's dream.
Plate from 'Town Talk', iii. 1. The Regent lies with closed eyes, registering horror, in a magnificent canopied bed. A mountainous lady (Lady Hertford), beside him, raises herself to address him. The characters of his dream approach from the right, headed by the ghost of Fox. The Prince:
'Oh! I have had a miserable dream
So full of ghastly forms and nameless horro's!
Methought strange phantoms, unsubstantial shapes
Glided along; while in my palsied ear, piercing as death
"A voice cryd "sleep no more"'
Lady Hertford: "My life, my love, let not a dream disturb you, come to my arms and give your thoughts to pleasure."
Fox very solid in his accustomed dress but with a sheet over his head, stands in profile to the left, with outstretched arms, exclaiming: "Wher is the early promise of thy of thy [sic] greatness? hast thou forgotten Me?" He is followed bv an emaciated and ragged Britannia, with broken spear and shield. She says: "I once believed thee faithfull. Now a victim to famine, poverty and woe, I fall unpitied by thee." Beside her walks her lion, also emaciated and shedding tears. Next comes Erin holding up a broken Irish harp. She says: "I also was credulous, and I also was desieved, my shamrock is withered and my harp broken and unstrung." She is followed by the Princess of Wales, slim and elegant, wearing a small broken crown and holding an open book: 'A Delicate Investigation'. She says: "Can Slumber sit on that brow which ought to be wrinkled by agony "canst thou sleep undaunted by the threating forms which croud thy pillow." The procession ends by two burly rough-looking constables holding on their backs large sacks labelled 'Informations'. One says: "Here are heaps of treasons, plots conspiracies and every description of mischief brewing in in [sic] various counties. every line smells of Gunpowder." The other: "I have got a rare load too and seized a great many pop guns." Beside the procession, as if guiding it, walks a woman in classical draperies with a serpent coiled round her body. She holds towards the Regent a scourge whose lashes are writhing serpents; in her other hand is the staff of a (torn) banner, also surmounted by serpents; it is inscribed: 'Hand writ[ing] on the wall—Balthazzar [sic] Mene Mene Tekel . . . Har . . . Daniel—[cf. No. 10072, &c.] Awake and banish sleep.' She says: "Come on my friends follow your leader Conscience and let us try the temper of his soul."
The canopy of the bed is decorated with the Royal Arms and the Prince s feathers. Two three-quarter length portraits are on the wall, one (left) of 'Wm Duke of Cumberland' in uniform (erroneously coloured blue) and holding a baton; the other of 'A Wise Man of Gotham', with face obscured but clearly the Regent. On a table by the bed are two pistols, a guttering candle, pill-boxes, one inscribed 'Tonic Pills', and bottles labelled 'Cantharides' and 'Oblivion Water'. Papers hang from the table-drawer: 'My dear [Pr]ince' and 'dear'. Into a chamber-pot are crammed a book: 'Youngs Night Thoughts' and a torn paper: 'Reform'. Other books on the ground are 'Seneca Mor . . .', a Bible with torn pages headed 'Kings; Ovids Metamorphoses / The [Fall] of Phaeton' [cf. No. 7335], with a rolled document: 'Bill of Fare'. On a chair with the Regent's coat is another book '[Roche]sters Wors' [sic]. On a high chimney-piece, besides a bottle, are two goats butting at a terminal figure of a satyr.
1 August 1812
- Height: 268 millimetres
- Width: 415 millimetres
Inscription ContentLettered with title and 'Pubd for the Proprietors of Town Talk August 1st 1812.'
(Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
One of many satires in which the Prince's devotion to Lady Hertford is associated with desertion of the Whigs, see No. 11853, &c. He is accused especially of denying Ireland Catholic Emancipation, cf. No. 11869, a less usual reproach. The sacks of 'Informations' connote Informations 'ex officio' by the Attorney-General in libel cases, see No. 11717, &c., as well as civil disturbances, cf. No. 11897. Britannia's sad state connotes the distress due to dearth and industrial difficulties, often attributed to the Orders in Council, see No. 11876, &c. The Whigs had already begun to support the Princess of Wales as a means of attacking the Prince, see No. 11864; for the 'Delicate Investigation' (of 1806) see No. 11990, &c. Cf. No. 9381, &c., where the Prince's great-uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, warns him of the effects of drink and debauchery.
Satires British 1812 Unmounted Roy
- Associated with: George IV, King of the United Kingdom
- Associated with: William Shakespeare
- Associated with: Isabella Anne Ingram Shepherd, 2nd Marchioness of Hertford
- Associated with: Charles James Fox
- Associated with: Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland
- Associated with: Caroline of Brunswick
- Associated Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Prints & Drawings
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Object reference number: PPA84720
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