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The spirit of the book- or anticipation of the year 1813.

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The spirit of the book- or anticipation of the year 1813.
  • Description

    Plate from 'Town Talk', iii. 405. A figure, draped in white (right), supports on outstretched arms the open pages of a huge book which covers his person. He stands at the foot of the double throne, from which Lady Hertford has hurled herself; she lies face downwards on the dais, putting out a hand to ward off the dread apparition. The Regent has risen to his feet, terror-struck. The pages are inscribed in large letters: 'Spirit / of / The / Book / Chapter / of / Evidence / and / Delicate / Investi/gation'. The figure, with a menacing gesture, holds out to the Regent a sheaf of papers, the uppermost inscribed 'Perigord' [a dispatch from Talleyrand], the others: 'Berlin', 'Vienna', 'Antwerp', 'Paris', 'Impeachment'; he says (adapting the Ghost's words to Hamlet): "I will to the peoples ear a tale unfold, shall make their matted and combined locks to part—and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretfull porcupine." The Regent, his hair rising, exclaims: ""Angels and Ministers of Grace'', but alas I have no Angels but fallen ones, and my Ministers are not Ministers of Grace, Grim Spectre approach not, I thought thou hads't been laid forever—I will listen to thee. What woulds't thou have with me?" Lady Hertford moans: "Hide it, oh Hide the hideous Spectre from me!" The throne, an ornate settee for two people, surmounted by a crown, and having a tent-like canopy on which are the royal arms, forms, with the three principal figures, the centre of the design.
    The spectre throws his left arm backwards as if pointing to a large picture (right) partly obscured by a recording angel seated on clouds and writing in a book: 'Records of . . . Court of [Regen]cy'. Her pen rests on the word 'INOCEN . .' The picture represents a scaffold surrounded by spectators; a body lies under the blade of a guillotine. The figures are in shadow, and partly hidden, but the subject is clear on close scrutiny. The picture hangs above a group headed by the (unrecognizable) Princess of Wales, who is tall, slim, and youthful. She extends her arm towards the throne, turning her head to say to her followers: "I will have Justice on my enemies!" The most prominent is the Speaker, a commanding presence in his robes, quite unlike the puny Abbot; he grasps a document inscribed 'Impeachment', and points a menacing finger towards a group of Ministers (left), saying, "We have examined witnesses and in the name of the Commons I impeach those men." Behind him are (next the Princess) Whit bread (?) and Burdett, carrying a book inscribed 'Witnesse[s]'. Other heads are poorly characterized.
    The Ministers on the left of the throne all register terror at the apparition. Lord Liverpool, in front, is on his knees, his hands clasped, exclaiming, "I knew not of thy wrongs mysterious Spirit do not let thy Anger involve me in the ruin thou threateneth to my unworthy colleauges" [sic]; in his pocket is a paper: 'New Taxes for 1813'. Lord Ellenborough flinches to the left, exclaiming, "oh that I had never been a commissioner! or that I had been a more upright one." Lord Mulgrave, also preparing to flee, exclaims: "Ruind! lost, for ever that d—d book will haunt us for ever." Lord Eldon exclaims: "Commissioner, said'st thou, say not that cursed word again, it racks me with the Tortures of the Damned, Avaunt Grim Spectre." On the extreme left Castlereagh clasps his hands, saying, "Oh dear this is worse than Walcheren its all over with us [see No. 11364, &c.]." From his pocket hangs a paper: 'Song by Catalani' [cf. No. 10979]. Sidmouth, in silent terror, holds up a clyster-pipe (cf. No. 9849). On the right of the group, and peeping round the hangings of the throne, is Lord Yarmouth, exclaiming, "Mother! where are you." All these figures are on a larger scale, and nearer the throne than the opposite and vengeful group. Behind them is a picture, a pendant to the execution scene: George III, enthroned, receives a book ('The Book') from the kneeling Perceval; courtiers include the Lord Chamberlain, Dartmouth, with his wand; there is also a beefeater.
    1 January 1813
    Hand-coloured etching


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1813
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 268 millimetres
    • Width: 424 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered: "Pubd Jany 1st 1813 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)
    A satire on the pending publication of 'The Book' (suppressed in 1807) in a campaign to attack the Regent through his wife. It was originally prepared for publication by Perceval, who acted as the Princess's adviser in the 'Delicate Investigation' of 1806, see No. 11864, and contained the depositions and the letters from the Princess to the King, drafted by himself, which attacked the Commissioners of the Investigation, Erskine, Ellenborough, Eldon, Grenville, and Spencer (see No. 12031). On the appointment of the Portland Ministry 'The Book' was withheld, but Perceval took office only on condition that the Princess was received (once) at Court. After the failure of the Whigs to obtain office in 1812, followed by violent attacks on the Regent, publication of 'The Book', copies being known to exist, was hinted at as part of a violent campaign against Ministers and the Regent. Grey wrote to Grenville, 10 Apr., suggesting that persons 'not implicated as we were', should take up the Princess's case: Grenville strongly disapproved. 'H.M.C., Dropmore MSS.', x. 234. Although the letters were an able defence of the Princess, the depositions were highly damaging, except on the supposition that they were complete perjuries (see No. 12026, &c). More than one version, containing much supplementary matter, appeared early in 1813. 'The Spirit of the Book or Memoirs of Caroline Princess of Hasburgh', 3 vols., 1811, ostensibly a novel, was an attack on the Princess by Thomas Ashe (see 'D.N.B.'); in 1820 he offered to swear that he had been suborned to write it and other works 'to prepare the public mind for "A divorce"'. See 'Corr. of George IV', 1938, ii. 364-6, 375. The print foreshadows a violent attack on the Regent through the Princess, who was the instrument of Brougham, Whitbread, Creevey, and others, the first overt act being her letter to the Regent, see No. 12011, &c. This campaign followed the attacks on his connexion with Lady Hertford, see No. 11853, &c. See 'Corr. of George IV', 1938, i. 186 f.; 'The Book', ed. C. V. Williams, 1813; 'Croker Papers', 1884, i. 300-2. 'The Book', a 'Melodrama in two acts' is the subject of Letter vii, in Moore's 'Twopenny Post-Bag', 1813. The letter from Talleyrand may be Napoleon's peace overture before the Russian campaign, which Whitbread maintained (21 July 1812) was the best possible opportunity for a negotiated peace. 'Ann. Reg.',1812, p. 126 f. For'The Book'see also Nos. 11864, 11869,12026,12092; cf. No. 12194.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 11990 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Satires British 1813 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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Object reference number: PPA84827

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