- Museum number
- Object: The antiquities of Malmsbury
A middle-aged man (right) leads by strings attached to their coats, seven elderly men, the Antiquities of Malmesbury. He says, "I'll wait on you Gentlemen I knows what it is to Sarve". The first two have each a shrunken leg, lengthened by a block under the shoe; one says to the other, grinning, "for here I go up up up & there you go down down downe". His companion, a fat parson, answers, "Aye Aye Moses, you and I have seen many tips & downs in this world, never mind we will have a Pitcher of Strong Beer & a Sheeps fry for Supper." (They appear to be the vicar and his clerk, Moses, cf. BMSat 6130.) The others wear civic gowns and hold horn-books, inscribed with the alphabet, as then used by children learning to read; the first hobbles on a crutch. One says, "I wish any of us could reaa or write", another says, "if I could I might now Get in for the Borough". In the background (right) are the ruins of a Gothic abbey or church. 14 February 1792.
- Production date
Height: 245 millimetres
Width: 330 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
The man holding the leading-strings is probably Dr. Wilkins who controlled the thirteen electors of Malmesbury: Paul Benfield, returned in 1790, joined the Opposition shortly afterwards and was ordered by Wilkins to vacate his seat, which he did in Feb. 1792. He was succeeded by Sir James Sanderson. The electors of Malmesbury were the alderman and twelve capital burgesses, but in 1796 an (unsuccessful) claim was made that the electors were the burgesses at large. Oldfield, 'History of Boroughs', 1792, iii. 173; 'Representative Hist.' v. 171.
Oldfield notes that ten of the thirteen electors were recently unable to sign their names. 'Representative History', 1816. The Municipal Corporations Commissioners of 1835 found some of the capital burgesses of Malmesbury to be totally illiterate. They were labourers and petty tradesmen: 'a body which has long ceased to answer any municipal purposes and has exercised no function but that of returning to parliament the nominees of the patron of the burgh.' 'Municipal Corporations First Report', 1835. Appendix, Part I, p. 79.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number