- Museum number
- Object: Exhibition extraordinary in the horticultural room.
An exhibition in the 'Great Room' of the Horticultural Society, containing portraits of officials and caricatures of spectators; the exhibits embody political and other allusions. The three officials command the room from seats at a raised table, each with a sloping desk. The chairman, hammer in hand, sits between the Secretary and Assistant Secretary. His desk is inscribed: A most respectable Cauliflower always in order—. He is John Elliot, F.R.S. (1764-1829, Treasurer, and one of four Vice-Presidents; he often presided). On his right Joseph Sabine (1770-1837, Hon. Sec. of the Society 1816-30); on his desk: The friend of Mæcenas— —"arvum cælumq Sabinum non cessat laudare"—Hor. Epist. On Elliot's left, John Turner, Assistant Secretary, wearing spectacles: on his desk: An highly cultivated specimen requires Glass.
The exhibits are on an oblong counter against and below that of the officials, and also on a slightly lower annexe to it, having a curved front which corresponds to the horse-shoe benches facing it. Immediately below the officials are four exhibits:  a miniature rocky mountain or crag on a dish, with mining apparatus projecting from its summit and having berried sprigs attached to it, labelled Vapor Vincit Omnia et Omnium. Round the rock is a scroll: Comparative Declension—Mine—Miner—Minus—New Lat Gr. The berries are placarded: The New Golden Drop or Marvel of Peru—a native of No-Mans land To be bought in the City—only—£500 pr leaf! Cheap as dirt & production beyond beleif.  A few ears of corn labelled Matchless Specimen stand in a blacking-bottle inscribed Rye Coffee By Act of Parliament— Almighty Roasters!!—H H [Henry Hunt] Radical Corn Doctor—& General Polisher of Mankind.  A cannon-like brass cylinder projects horizontally from the back of a kettle, its muzzle being filled with a bunch of grapes; it is fixed to a stand inscribed Perkins's New Grape House Forced by Steam NB—Warrented [sic] not to end in Smoke. Beside it is a second bunch of grapes; a poker leans against the kettle.  Two small squared pieces of wood ticketed: Specimens of American Acasia NB these Trees must not be too much exposed they require warmth & thrive best in a Register.
The exhibits on the projecting table are of naturalistic fruit, with one exception: a basket inscribed Keen's Seedling A Hot Bed Plant contains a plump manikin (Kean), naked except for buskins and a head-dress like a strawberry, with a spray of leaves attached to it. He holds up a grinning mask decorated with antlers. This is ticketed NB Does not thrive in America. A bunch of grapes has the inscription: a bunch of Grapes from Lady Bacchus which upon Dissection will on a Moderate Computation afford ½ a grape & one stone to each man of taste—NB Beware of Drunkenness & appoplexey. Two huge pears, placed like the Green Bags of BM Satires 13735, are in a dish inscribed Sure such a Pear—was never seen. A giant apple: "A most Prodigious Pippin"—Byron. Two plates of apples: Sundry Specimens of forbidden Fruit NB le Meilleur de son Espéce [sic].
The spectators [Footnote: Identifications by Reid are doubtful, and it is not always clear to whom they refer: they are here given in quotation marks.] are in the foreground, some standing over the exhibits, others on or beside the green-covered benches. Each has a punning caption in the lower margin. A dandy, 'Mr. West', stands on the extreme left, holding the head of a slim cane to his mouth; he is The Pink of Fashion or Dandy-Lion [cf. BM Satires 13029]. Next him sits Alderman Cox with antlers sprouting from his bald head; he clutches an umbrella and stares through an opera-glass at 'Keen's Seedling'. He is A variety of Horn-beam—a double bearer (an allusion to his wife's two lovers). A gouty old man, frenzied with pain and rage, shouts at a dandified supercilious-looking fellow who plants the heel of his Hessian boot on his swollen toe; they are 'Mr Rogers' and 'Mr Wilbraham': A Passionflower in full bloom and A Species of Misletoe. Seated on the front bench in back view is a vast, shapeless, and plainly dressed woman, with a child, a small replica of herself, seated beside her; each has placed next her on the seat a flat broad-brimmed straw hat. They are A Bulb from Holland with Offset. A stout man fingers fruit, furtively stuffing a capacious pocket; he is A Monstrous Medler in full bearing ('Mr Richard Salisbury'). A dandy, out at elbows and with patched trousers, stands aggressively in back view: A Sprig of Nobility running to seed—mem—while in this state not to be trusted out of doors—if kept under lock & key it will receive the benefit of the Act [for the relief of debtors] ('Mr. Motheaux', i.e. John Motteux, d. 1843, a Vice-President of the Society, and very rich). On the seat behind him are two open books: Hortl Transtns Letters from Corresponding Mr—Mustard & Cress how to choose the seed—Essay on a Radish with highly finished Engravings. Another volume of the same: . . . On the Best mode of planting a—Pip &c. A grotesquely tall cavalry officer stands in profile to the left: A Scarlet Runner ('Captain Maxwell'), (? identification intended for the naval officer), more convincingly identified by E. Hawkins as Captain Scarlett (1799-1871). An ugly scowling fellow stands in profile to the left, with folded arms, grasping a stick with a knob carved in a portrait-head of himself: An English Crab—a Native of this Country. He is 'Dr Henderson', i.e. Alexander Henderson, M.D., 1780-1863, a Vice-President of the Society. Behind him stands a naval officer with an empty right sleeve, a patch of sticking-plaster on his forehead, and a fixed smile: Heart of Oak—with its timber lopp'd—little cultivated at present the old plants vegetate in the background. Identified by E. Hawkins as Murray Maxwell (see BM Satires 12999) whom he resembles apart from the sleeve; by Reid (improbably) as 'Lord Verulam'. He may stand for the brave but neglected naval officer, with attributes both of Nelson and Maxwell. On the extreme right a brandy-faced undergraduate with a gold-tasselled cap bestrides a bench as if on a horse, hands placed as if holding whip and reins: Hortus Cantab— propagated at Newmarket ('Mr Labouchere'; ? Henry Labouchere, 1798-1869, an Oxonian).
On the pilastered wall are three pictures and a portrait bust:  A large picture of a burly man wearing a loin-cloth only, linked to three naked children by a root which they all gnaw. This is An Irish Potatoe Plant with young ones dressed in their Jackets after the fashion of the Country.  The portrait of Sir Joseph Banks, still belonging to the Society, realistically copied, with the title Hortus Siccus—The Flower of the Flock.  A bust of George IV as a Roman Emperor, resembling the Coriolanus of BM Satires 13677: Penny Royal— used for various purposes raised by slips—offsets &c—vide Dictiony. (This bust of the then Regent (as patron of the Society) was commissioned from Goblet for £12).  A portrait of a pregnant woman (Lady Ann Monson) standing in a garden, inscribed, Arethusa Bulbosa—a Species of Egg Plant—hatches once a Year & bears fruit in all Climates—Introduced by Dr Fothergill A. 1778, as appears from Miss Lee—daughter of a nursery-man—it grows wild occasionally—reports speak of a specimen presented to Society Anno 1 & cultivated for amusement, by one Adam. Perhaps a portrait belonging to the Society is burlesqued.
1st January 1826
- Production date
Height: 274 millimetres
Width: 377 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', X, 1952)
The furniture and arrangement of the room are more or less authentic, the building being in Lower Regent Street on the site now occupied by the Plaza Cinema. The 'Marvel of Peru' satirizes the promotion of South American mining companies, their inflated values, and the crash which followed, involving a fall in Government Stocks (Omnium), see No. 14814, &c. 'Rye Coffee' connotes the coffee-substitutes (of corn, beans, &c.), or 'Radical Breakfast Powder' sold by Hunt to defeat the excise on tea and coffee, see No. 13540, &c. For his 'Matchless Blacking' see No. 15150. Jacob Perkins (father of Angier March Perkins) was the inventor and manufacturer of a much publicized 'Steam Gun', see No. 14813; the grapes seem to represent grape-shot. One of Cobbett's ventures at his Kensington farm was the sale of American seedling trees, especially the locust or acacia, much puffed in his Political Register. For Kean and Cox see No. 14710, &c. 'Keen's Seedling', with a punning reference to Kean and his ill-treatment in America (see No. 15106), is the name of a strawberry exhibited by Michael Keen, an Isleworth market gardener who wrote in the Society's Transactions on their cultivation, with advice on the correct proportion of males to females in the strawberry-bed. Mr. Rogers may be one of two Fellows of the Society of that name, or he may be Samuel Rogers, the banker-poet: a bald head and bristling hair support this, but he is less cadaverous than S. R. Mr. Wilbraham is probably Roger Wilbraham, one of the Vice-Presidents. For R. A. Salisbury the botanist see article by A. Simmonds, Journal of the Royal Hort. Soc, Mar. 1944, pp. 58 ff. with portrait (1817), unlike the man depicted who would seem to have acquired by 1826 a wig and a bottle-nose. His furtive appropriation of fruit may indicate his dishonesty in money matters. 'Captain' John Maxwell (1791-1865) seems excluded by his uniform; he was a militia officer only: if Scarlett he wears appropriate uniform for the (5th) Dragoon Guards, in which he was gazetted major in 1830; a later portrait supports the identification; his father (see No. 14820) was a Fellow of the Society. Lady Ann Monson (1726-76), d. of Lord Darlington, was a distinguished botanist, after whom Linnaeus named the genus Monsonia; she had assisted among others James Lee the nurseryman to whose daughter Ann she bequeathed a collection of insects made by her in India. See Andrews, Botanist's Repository, 1803. She had been divorced by her first husband. For other allusions to the Secretary's 'Sabine Farm' see vol. xi. Merle was a Fellow of the Society whose transactions he burlesques. See H. Simmonds, 'A Caricature of the Society', Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, lxix, 1944, pp. 524-32 (reproduction). (I am much indebted to Mr. Simmonds for help in elucidating this print.)
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number