- Museum number
- Object: The Elgin Marbles! or John Bull buying stones at the time his numerous family want bread!! -
Castlereagh stands like an insinuating salesman, displaying to John Bull a collection of broken statues. John, a stout 'cit', in patched but neat clothes, stands directed to the left, his hand deep in his coat-pocket, gazing in dismay at a battered and broken Hercules to which Castlereagh points. Three starving children tug at his coat; an elder boy, emaciated and ragged, stands behind; an infant in the arms of a plump Mrs. Bull is sucking a bare bone. An older boy and girl stand behind, the latter holds by the frock a screaming child who tries to run forward. They exclaim together: "Don't buy them Daddy! we don't want Stones. Give us Bread! Give us Bread! Give us Bread!" Castlereagh, who has a star on his coat, and wears long full trousers gathered at the ankle (cf. No. 12840), says: "Here's a Bargain for you Johnny! Only £35.000!! I have bought them on purpose for you! Never think of Bread when you can have Stones so wonderous Cheap!!" At his feet is a paper: 'Ministerial Economy a Farce of 1816 by ... & Castlereagh'. John answers: "I don't think somehow that these here Stones are perfect! & had rather not buy them at present—Trade is very Bad & provision very Dear & my family can't Eat Stones!—Besides they say it will cost £40,000 to build a place to put them in— As the Turks gave them to our Ambassador in his official Capacity for little or Nothing & solely out of compliment to the British Nation—I think he should not charge such an Enormous price for packing and Carriage!!" At his feet: 'Good News for J Bull—In consequence of the Glorious Peace—Increase of Taxes & Decrease of Trade, the Quartern Loaf will be sold in future for one Shilling & Sixpence.' An enormously fat and disreputable woman of the Billingsgate or St. Giles type, stands on the right, scowling towards Castlereagh; she says: "Let him take his Stones back again to the Turks we dont want them in this Country!!" Beside her is a little ragged boy. At her feet is a large document: 'The Grand National Stone Buildg of the Strand or Waterloo Bridge impeded & delay'd by an Enormous & illiberal Demand for the purchase of the Crown land in the Savoy'. On the wall is a bill: 'Just Publish'd Speculation!! or Travels in the East in search of ruinous fragments of Stone by Lord Elgin'. The more prominent statues, a Hercules, a much mutilated Venus, and Mercury holding a caduceus have no relation to the marbles; a fragment from waist to thighs is mere burlesque; behind these are fragments of frieze based on the originals which had been displayed to the public by Lord Elgin on account of the controversy on their merits. There are also a shattered capital of a pillar, and small fragments of ornament.
c. June 1816
- Production date
Height: 247 millimetres
Width: 347 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
After a prolonged controversy a Committee of the Commons reported in favour of buying the Elgin marbles for £35,000, the cost to Lord Elgin having been about £74,000. The grant was opposed on the ground that the country could not afford such a sum. Peter Moore, M.P. for Coventry, said (7 June) he would claim the £35,000 on behalf of his constituents, rather than give such a sum to look at broken legs, arms, and shoulders ['Examiner', 1816, p. 357, not in 'Parl. Deb.') ; Brougham brought forward the cost of housing the marbles and voted against their purchase to redeem his share of the pledge to economy. 'Parl. Deb.' xxxiv. 1027-40. On 10 June the sum was voted. For the pledge to economy see No. 12747, &c. A bad harvest in 1816 increased the distress, see No. 12779, &c. The completion of the Strand Bridge (the name already changed to Waterloo Bridge) had been delayed, and the shares in the Company had fallen. Cf. the complaint of a 'ruined Proprietor'. 'Examiner', 18 Aug. 1816; see Nos. 11439, 12749.
A pencil drawing for this, in reverse (9 3/8 x 13 1/4 in.), is in the Print Room, with a preliminary study on the reverse. Binyon, i. 281, No. 4.
Reid, No. 565. Cohn, No. 1086.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1996 Jul-Nov, Grasmere, Dove Cottage, Benjamin Robert Haydon
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number