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- Object: The Theatrical Bubble:-being a new specimen of the astonishing Powers of the great Politico-Punchinello, in the Art of Dramatic Puffing-
Sheridan, as Punch, grotesquely caricatured, stands on a platform, above the heads of a cheering crowd, blowing soap-bubbles. Clusters of soap-suds fall from the pipe, and from it rises an oval containing a figure of Young Roscius, in Highland dress as Douglas in Home's play. The boy, breathing fire, holds out a coral and bells, striding arrogantly over decollated heads inscribed 'Exit Garrick - Kemble - Cooke'. Other actors, freely indicated, stagger back from the young conqueror, over whose head are the words 'Veni. Vidi Vici.' Sheridan's pipe is irradiated against a dark sky. From the pipe, and a source of some of the rays, project little trumpets with banners inscribed respectively: 'Times', 'Morning Chronicle', 'True Briton', 'Sunday Observer', 'Herald'. From each issue the words (sometimes repeated): 'Roscius!' followed sometimes by faintly-drawn ciphers. Sheridan gazes up at his huge bubble. He is bloated and pimpled; his head sunk between hump and paunch. His dress is striped, his contour defined by close-set buttons, ound his paunch is twisted a tricolour sash; a tricolour cockade decorates is hat, which has a conical crown, curved brim, and erect feather. His pocket angs inside out, patched and empty. The cheering crowd (r.) fling coins to the platform, on which lie two pamphlets: 'Account of the Profits of the Bubble' and 'Petition of the Renters for a Share in the profits of the Bubble'. Behind Sheridan lies the dog, 'Carlo', hero of 'The Caravan', see BMSat 10172, &c. Beside Carlo is a padlocked money-box: 'Drury Lane Strong Box'. These are under a table at the back of the stage. On the table is a barber's bowl, filled cubbies issuing from a pipe; the largest is inscribed 'Forty Thieves'; under the bowl is a paper: 'Materials for bran-New Pantomimes for Johnny Bull's Amusement'. Beside the bowl is a bottle labelled 'To be repeated the first opportunity', in whose neck is a funnel inscribed 'Bottle Conjurer', which is filled by a little fat man who grasps his paunch. The back of the stage is bordered by a curtain from which project over the table a sign and a banner. On the former is a dog with the inscription: 'The Wonderful Red Lion, of surpassing Abilities - to be seen within.' On the banner: 'In a few Days, will be Perfom'd - a new Comic Divertisment, called The Bubble-burst, accompanied bv Laughing Song by John Bull.'
In the foreground are the heads and shoulders of the applauding audience (l. to r.): a little chimney-sweep, waving his brush; Lord Derby, holding un hunting-cap (with a tricolour cockade) and whip; Lord Carlisle, clapping senile hands; Mrs. Jordan in back view, identified only by her association with the Duke of Clarence, her hand on his shoulder. Just round the corner and facing Sheridan, is Fox. All are much caricatured. The other heads' which recede in perspective, are plebeian, but guineas are being flung on to the platform. Behind is Drury Lane Theatre with its statue of Apollo. This looks disparagingly towards the bubble; a serpent twined round its pedestal hisses at Roscius: 'Ssssss'. After the title: '-Vide. New method of Raising ye Wind.' 7 January 1805
Hand-coloured etching and aquatint
- Production date
Height: 360 millimetres
Width: 263 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VIII, 1947)
For Sheridan and Roscius see BMSat 10320. He is pilloried for insolvency, defrauding shareholders (renters) in the theatre, cf. BMSats 9086, 10619, and for theatrical stunts, beneath the dignity of Drury Lane. For the Bottle Conjuror, the most notorious hoax of the eighteenth century, see BMSats 3022-7, 5275. 'The Forty Thieves' was first played on 8 Apr. 1806; this was written by Ward, Mrs. Sheridan's brother-in-law, to whom Sheridan gave unlimited powers to order scenery, &c. The play was damned in the Green Room and re-written by Colman. Genest, 'Hist. of the British Stage', 1832, viii. 706 f. The first sketch was attributed to Sheridan. Baker, 'Biog. Dram.' Cf. BMSats 10415, 10546, 10562, 10690, 10764, 10941, 11079. For Gillray's dislike of newspaper puffs see (e.g.) BMSat 9085.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 324. Wright and Evans, No. 532. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830. Reproduced, Rhodes, 'Harlequin Sheridan', 1933, p. 225.
- Not on display
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- Prints and Drawings
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