- Museum number
- Object: The Mountebanks, or opposition show box.
Plate to the 'Scourge', iii, before p. 87. The show-box is a small platform on four legs, like a high table, the front partly covered by drapery. On this members of Opposition are performing. The front legs are inscribed 'Avarice—Treason' (left) and 'Impudence Apostacy' (right). To the legs on the right had been fastened bands or leading-strings inscribed 'Restrictions', attaching to the platform a spirited thoroughbred horse with the head of the Regent. These, however, Time has just cut with his shears, and the horse gallops off to the right. The rider is Wellesley, in oriental dress with a jewelled turban; in triumphant exultation he holds the reins high above his head, while he flourishes the long knotted lash of his whip towards the stage which he is leaving behind him. His left leg is thrust forward, so that Canning (right) may obsequiously lick his toe. The Regent's head has the enormous curled whiskers of recent prints.
On the edge of the platform sits Grey, leaning forward to tie a bandage inscribed 'Catholic Emancipation' over the eyes of an alarmed John Bull, who stands below, with his back to Grey. John is a countryman with a short smock and gaiters to the knee. Against his breast is a dagger, perhaps falling from Grey's hand. Whitbread, a quack doctor in old-fashioned dress, stands behind Grey, holding out a placard inscribed 'Infallible Panacea—Reform'; in his coat-pockets are medicine-bottles, one labelled 'Whitbreads intire' [cf. No. 10421]. Little Lansdowne capers behind him, apparently dancing a Highland fling (cf. No. 10589). On the left of the platform kneels Sheridan, dressed as a zany or clown; he holds a tumbler from which he blows froth through a pipe; this rises not in bubbles but in smoke inscribed 'Drury Lane Promises, Old Drury Promises'. Two vulgar would-be fashionables, holding pouches inscribed 'Token of English Credulity', advance to the platform to drop coins in Sheridan's tumbler. On the right of the platform is a box inscribed 'State Box'; from under the lid papers project inscribed 'Corruption', 'Reform', 'Abuses', 'Catholic Bill'. On this is a pile of coin and money-bags, inscribed '16000 Sinecure', on which Grenville is seated; his huge projecting posterior is inscribed 'Modesty'; he shakes towards the right (and towards the departing Regent) a large piece of swirling drapery, much tattered, and inscribed 'Cloak of Patriotism'.
On the ground between the platform and the horse's heels is an overturned box inscribed 'Opposition'; it has been upset by a dog with the head of Burdett who leaps towards the horse barking 'Bow woo woo woo'. From the box project the heads of animals on short posts; these are a fox, an ass, and a dog. Perceval, wearing his gown, stoops under the platform to put a torch to a barrel inscribed 'Stephens's Inflamable'. He says: "Here goes! for a Complete blow up." On the ground between John Bull and Perceval reclines (?) Ponsonby, holding upside down a bottle labelled 'Compassion for the Irish'. Smoke or cloud billows along the ground behind the figures, only Canning being partially engulfed in it.
1 February 1812.
- Production date
Height: 220 millimetres
Width: 500 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
It is anticipated that when the restrictions on the Regency (see No. 11706) expire on 5 Feb. the Prince, ridden by Wellesley, will be released from ties with Opposition, here represented as beguiling the people with advocacy of Reform and clamour against corruption in high places. Sheridan is accused of deception over the rebuilding of Drury Lane Theatre, see No. 11767, &c. From 1784 he had been occasionally depicted as the zany who attracts the public to a booth at a fair, see Nos. 6384, 8690. For Grenville's lucrative sinecure, the Auditorship of the Exchequer, see No. 10543, &c. That Wellesley would succeed Perceval was generally expected, despite his resignation on 17 Jan. He was in close touch with the Regent and with Canning, who counted on office if Wellesley should be appointed. See Huskisson Papers, ed. L. Melville, 1931, pp. 75-8, and No. 11888, &c. For the Prince's desertion of the Opposition see No. 11855, &c- There is no explanation of the plate in the text, except for an article, 'Drury-Lane Theatre and Mr. Sheridan', alleging the impossibility of rebuilding on account of the claims made (on compassionate grounds) for Sheridan. For the lapsing of the Restrictions see Nos. 11856, 11860.
Reid, No. 151. Cohn, No. 732.
Not folded, showing that it was issued separately.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number