- Museum number
- Object: The chase of a will o' the wisp by the liberators on the celebrated racers Cat-Ass.
Two barristers, one riding a cat, the other (much larger) on an ass, ride (right to left) across the tops of a range of small rocky hills forming the base of the design. They make for a cloud-borne vision (left): a king on his throne surrounded by a cornucopia showering coins, coronets, mace, woolsack, Purse of the Great Seal, a ribbon and star, and a succession of castles in the air, one above the other. The smaller, Sheil, is leading. He has a shield inscribed SHEIL'D, and holds out a pennant. The larger man, O'Connell, rides with rein saddle and stirrup of rope, a two-pronged fork serves as spur. To his shoulders are attached feathered wings, one inscribed 40. Shilling Wing, the other Clerical Wing. Against his shoulder he holds the big (closed) green umbrella with which he is often depicted. A brief-bag hangs from his shoulders, torn to show its contents, the inside of the torn fragment inscribed Rent. Three briefs project from the bag: Veto, Bill for . ., Petition. The gaping rent shows papers inscribed Terms Fee, Silk Gown, M.P &c. &c. He says: My brave associate, partner of my toils, my feelings, and my fame, I fear this phantom after years pursuit will ultimately elude us and that defeat will be the recompense for all my services Oh. Hope! you jilting jade where are your promises of bench and gown M.P. and Chancellor and the association I had formed of these delusive reveries.—But ho! intrepid rider loose not your hold on this uneven path where fatal chasms await the thoughtless victim. Sheil, who has dropped his rein, answers, looking over his shoulder: Fear not I always promised to the Cats a free and unrestricted reign [altered to] rein while I reserve the spur, to regulate and command, for give them but apparent freedom they'll bear the utmost tyranny for I would cheat the deluded beings with a show of liberty which yet they ne'er must taste of" and oh! illustrious patriot have you held out so long untired, and stop you now for breath" we will succeed, the Gods ordain it" "and I will strain my utmost nerve to reach it" "for tho' Im small, Im right good stuff" "and I've a tongue could wheedle with the devil" if he opposed the progress of our deep ambition. Below the title: Session referred to Session, and to seek was not always to find, and thus to pursue Emancipation was like the first inhabitants of Arcadia to chase the Sun, which when they reached the hill on which he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them. "Parody on Johnson."
True hope ne'er tires but mounts on eagles Wings,
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures Kings
Shakespeare [Richard III, v. ii. 'Swallows' altered to eagles.]
c. March 1827?
- Production date
Height: 201 millimetres
Width: 340 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', X, 1952)
O'Connell and Sheil are 'Liberators', showing that the publication date is after Aug. 1826. Their support of the Catholic Association ('Cat-Ass') is attributed to self-interest. O'Connell's wings are the two 'wings' of the Emancipation Bill of 1825: the bills for disfranchising 40s. freeholders in Ireland, and for the state endowment of the Irish Catholic clergy; both lapsed when Emancipation was defeated in the Lords on 17 May 1825, see No. 14768. The 'Rent' (see No. 14766) discloses O'Connell's secret ambitions: Jack Lawless attacked O'Connell for accepting the Wings, alleging (without evidence) that he did so on account of a promise that if emancipation were carried he would be given a silk gown. The Veto was a scheme for securing the acceptance of Emancipation by giving the Crown a veto on Papal appointments of bishops; it was acceptable to English but not to Irish Catholics, see No. 11898. An adaptation of this plate (1828) is described in vol. xi.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number