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- Object: The dagger scene;-or-the plot discover'd.
A caricature of the famous scene in the House of Commons on 28 Dec. 1792. Burke (right) stands in profile to the left, his hands extended, having just thrown down the dagger, which lies at his feet; he looks with a contemptuous frown at Pitt and Dundas, who are seated on the Treasury Bench (left). On the extreme left the Speaker is represented by his hat, wig, and gown; his headlessness perhaps indicates Gillray's opinion of Addington. On the opposite side of the table Fox clutches his hat, looking at Burke out of the corners of his eyes with an alarmed expression; Sheridan, equally alarmed, clutches Fox's shoulder; behind them sits M. A. Taylor, clasping his hands. Burke, whose corpulence and a bag-wig suggest that he is now drawing funds from the Treasury, says: "There! that is what you are to gain by an alliance with France! - such are the Instruments with which they have determin'd the destruction of the Human race! - Three Thousand such Daggers are now manufacturing for this Country! - for where French principles are introduced, you must prepare your hearts for French Daggers! - Nineteen Assassins are already here, who aided & abbetted by wretches who do not believe in a God, are preparing to scour the filth from your Streets with the Blood of all who are Virtuous & Honorable!!"
Pitt, seated in profile to the right, very thin, with his hair rising on his head in terror, says, "The blood of the Virtuous & Honorable ? then Lord have mercy upon Me!" Dundas, wearing a tartan plaid, adds, equally terrified, "And upon Me!" Fox says "Confusion! - one of Our daggers, by all thats bloody! how the devil did he come by that ? - ha! what's that ? Nineteen Assassins ? - O damnation! - we're found out & all our schemes ruin'd for ever!!!" Sheridan says: "O Charley, Charley! - farewell to all our hopes of Levelling Monarchs! - farewell to all our hopes of paying off my debts by a general Bankruptcy! - farewell to all hopes of plunder! - in a moment of Victory we're trap'd & undone!!!" 30 December 1792
- Production date
Height: 374 millimetres
Width: 302 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
Burke's words are based on his speech on the Alien Bill, in answer to one by Fox opposing the Bill, when he 'mentioned the circumstance of three thousand daggers having been bespoke at Birmingham.... It is my object to keep the French infection from this country; their principles from our minds, and their daggers from our hearts'. 'Parl. Hist.' xxx. 189. For the order of 20,000 daggers by a Dr. Maxwell, of dimensions which tally with those of the dagger thrown down melodramatically by Burke, see Rose, 'Pitt and the Great War', p. 64. 'Bland-Burges Papers', pp. 203-4; Twiss, 'Life of Lord Eldon', i. 217-18. Cf. BMSat 8131. See also BMSat 8148.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 155 (reproduction, p. 154). Wright and Evans, No. 96. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830. Reproduced, 'Social England', ed. Traill, 1905, p. 669.
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