- Museum number
- Object: Cooling the brain. Or - the little major, shaving the shaver.
Burke, as a lunatic, is seated on straw dressed only in breeches, but wearing a rosary and crucifix round his neck; Major Scott stands behind him, shaving his head. His right wrist and left ankle are chained to a staple in the floor, the chains being inscribed 'The Censure of the Commons' and 'The Contempt of the Lords'. He clenches his fists and turns his head in profile to the right, towards a vision of Hastings, saying, "Ha! Miscreant! Plunderer! Murderer of Nundocomar! where wilt thou hide thy head now ?" Hastings walks in profile to the right, carrying a sack over his shoulder inscribed '£4000000'; he is about to enter the gate of 'St James's' from which two hands emerge to receive him labelled (in reversed characters) 'Welcome'. Clouds surround Hastings and the Palace, showing that this is a vision. In the background (left) is a gibbet from which hangs a figure rudely drawn, as if chalked on awall, representing 'Nundocomar'. Beneath the design is etched in three columns:
'Madness thou chaos of the brain;
What art, that pleasure giv'st and pain?
Tyranny of Fancy's reign!
Mechanic Fancy! that can build
Vast labyrinths & mazes wild,
With rule disjointed, shapeless measure,
Fill'd with horror, filld with pleasure
Shapes of horror, that would even
Cast doubt of mercy upon Heaven!
Hoadley' 8 May 1789
- Production date
Height: 259 millimetres
Width: 351 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
The trial of Warren Hastings, interrupted by the King's illness, was resumed on 21 Apr. On 27 Apr. Major Scott in the House of Commons read a petition from Hastings complaining of extraneous matter introduced by Burke and not included in the charges found by the House; that on 21 Apr. he had accused Hastings 'of murdering Nuncomar by the hands of Sir Elijah Impey'. After prolonged altercations in the House, these words of Burke were proved by Gurney from his short-hand notes - the Opposition protesting against the admission of his evidence. A letter from Burke justifying himself was read in the House on 1 May and answered by Scott in a letter to the Press dated 9 May. A motion by the Marquis of Graham that the words in question 'ought not to have been spoken' was carried after a stormy debate by 135 to 66 on 4 May (a vote of censure on Burke), 'Trial of Hastings', 1796, Part II, pp. 9 ff.; 'Parl. Hist.' xxvii. 1344 ff.; Sir G. Elliot, 'Life and Letters', i. 306-7; Parkes, 'Memoirs of Sir P. Francis', ii. 461-3; 'Letters of Simpkin the Second', 1789 (Letter xii). See BMSat 7269, &c.
Burke was lampooned as less than sane for his violence during the Regency debates: a handbill was stuck up at Whitehall on his health similar to the medical reports on the King: 'calmer this morning but tending towards unquietness.' 'Harcourt Papers', iv. 195. Cf. BMSats 7689, 7863.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 110.
Jim Sherry (email Nov 2021): It is worth noting that the image of the manacled, bare-chested, and shaved Edmund Burke in this print derives from Plate 8 of Hogarth's 'Rake's Progress' where Tom Rakewell is shown similarly manacled, bare-chested and shaved in Bedlam.
The caption of Gillray's print beginning "Madness, thou chaos of the brain..." is, in addition, virtually identical to the first three columns beneath Tom Rakewell in Hogarth's print.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number