- Museum number
"The Cave of Spleen" from William Hayley's 'The Triumphs of Temper'; semi-nude figures around a table with arms raised in terror at the sight of the devil (?), within a circle
Brush drawing in grey wash, with pen and grey ink
- Production date
Height: 283 millimetres
Width: 200 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- In Binyon as Stothard.
When purchased, this drawing was identified as a copy after Stothard and stored among the Anonymous unmounted English drawings. It has since been confirmed that the sheet is neither an original by or copy after Stothard. (N. Pressley, 14 Oct,77). The drawing actually represents another stage in development from a composition formerly in the Alfred de Pass collection, very similar to this one (Royal Institute of Cornwall, large vol. fo. 12, C.I. neg. 182/25 (6)). The de Pass sheet shows two upright oval compositions, that to the left is loosely drawn in pencil while that to the right is worked up in pen and wash. In the British Museum sheet the figure holds up a wand to the left is placed more prominently and further forward that in the Truro composition and a phantom is added in the upper centre. In the Witt Library on the mount of the photograph of the Truro drawing, the title is given as the cave scene from Macbeth but it is noted that the drawing is 'unlike any other Romney drawing of this subject and does not follow Shakespeare's text closely. It could therefore be some other subject as witches and phantoms were a speciality of Romney's and he was familiar with many stories which we do not know now.'
Other connected studies are with the Folger Shakespeare library (t.5.15) and (t.6.56). The scene illustrates the first canto written by William Hayley in 1780. Romney was staying at Hayley's estate, Eartham, Sussex in September 1780. It was the poet's practice to read each day's work aloud in the evenings and Romney, relishing such stimulus to his imagination, frequently illustrated the scenes.
The composition is also reminiscent of Romney's 'The Ghost of Darius appearing to Atossa' now in Liverpool Art Gallery. This composition was orginally chosen by Hayley and Flaxman to be engraved in Hayley's 'Life of George Romney' by William Blake (Exh.: Early English Drawings and Watercolours, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1968, 4041, pl.11).
In 2018, Morton Paley (email) wondered whether it might have something to do with Maria Flaxman's illustrations to Hayley.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2014-15 Sept - Jan. London, BM, Witches and Wicked Bodies
- Lifted and laid down, flattened out creases and mounted Royal.
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Triumphs of Temper
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number