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The New Peerage or Fountain of Honor

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The New Peerage or Fountain of Honor
  • Description

    George III stands on a circular dais of four steps blowing soap-bubbles which are transformed as they fall into coronets; a crowd of greedy supplicants surrounds him. He wears royal robes and holds, in his left hand, his crown, reversed. The steps of the dais are inscribed respectively: 'Flattery', 'Servility', 'Impudence', 'Duplicity'. A ribbon stretched horizontally above the King's head has been broken by the bubbles: its two ends are inscribed 'Modern Qualification Interest' (left) and 'Ancient Qualification Merit' (right). Beneath the title is etched 'What is Honor but a Bubble!' Persons wearing coronets stand in the background in back view: none of the supplicants has actually received a coronet though one is about to settle on the head of 'Eden', who kneels on the left wearing an apron inscribed 'Cobler Extraordinary' (an allusion to his mission to Paris to negotiate the Commercial Treaty, see BMSat 6995, &c). The most prominent figure, kneeling in profile to the right before the King, is Dundas in Highland dress with a bundle inscribed 'Sawney Controul licensed to deal in British Wares' (an allusion to his position on the Board of Control, see BMSat 7152, &c.). Next is Kenyon, his hands clasped in entreaty. Behind these three are Pepper Arden, a chimney-sweep with his sack and brush on his back, Wilkes, inscribed 'Turn-coat' (cf. BMSat 6568, &c), and an unidentified aspirant, full-face and open-mouthed. The candidates on the right, behind the King, are less obsequious but equally eager: one, in quasi-Elizabethan costume and wearing a fool's cap with bells, is kneeling, the others stand to catch the falling coronets. One has a porter's knot on his back. One with a wooden leg and patched clothes is Alderman Brook Watson. One resembles Alderman Curtis, another, wearing a hunting-cap, may be Alderman Newnham. 12 November 1787


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1787
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 247 millimetres
    • Width: 342 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with title, followed by "What is honor but a bubble", and publication details: "Designed by Pride / Executed by Scraping / Published as the Act directs for the proprietor, by W.Moore, No.48 New Bond Street, E.Macklew, No.9 Haymarket, & W.Dickie, No.195 Strand, Novr 12, 1787"
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
    For the great number of peerages given by Pitt see BMSat 6631, &c. The chief years for new peerages were 1784 and 1786: the only new peer in 1787 (6 July) was Heathfield, the defender of Gibraltar. The peerages of Eden (Nov. 1789,01. BMSat 7623), Kenyon (June 1788), Dundas (1802)are anticipated.


  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 7183 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Unmounted Roy)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 12 November 1787  Etching

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 12 November 1787 Etching

Image description



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