- Museum number
- Object: British Tars, towing the Danish fleet into harbour;.
The title continues: 'The Broad-bottom Leviathan trying to swamp Billy's old-Boat, & the little Corsican tottering on the Clouds of Ambition -' Two sailors, Hawkesbury and Castlereagh, seated side by side, row a small ship's boat or dinghy, 'the Billy Pitt', towing the ships of the Danish fleet. Canning, in the stern, holds the ropes attached to the ships. He looks alert and roguish, the others are grave. They are going through rough water caused by 'Leviathan' (l.), a porpoise-like monster with three heads and a forked tail. The heads spout water at the boat, particularly at Canning. They are (r. to left.) Grenville, who spouts "Opposition Clamour"; Howick (whom Canning had replaced as Foreign Secretary), spouting "Detraction"; and St. Vincent, spouting "Envy". The boat nears the shore, indicated by a rock projecting into the sea (r.); on this is an anchor leaning against a pile of cannon-balls stacked against the wall of a small thatched inn. On the stock of the anchor sits John Bull, a stout countryman, holding a frothing tankard, and waving his hat. He shouts "Rule Britannia! - Britannia Rules the Waves!!" On the inn is a placard: 'Sheerness Harbour'; it has a sign hanging over the water: a profile bust portrait of George III: 'The Good Old Royal George'. Above it waves the Union Jack.
On the horizon countries of Europe are indicated by low-lying coastlines backed by tiny buildings, all on fire, the flames and smoke covering the sky. These are, l. to r.: 'Poland', 'Russia', 'Germany', 'Prussia', 'Italy', 'Holland'. In the smoke Napoleon capers in impotent rage, sword in hand, his feathered bicorne flying upwards from his head. In his dismay he drops a paper: 'Projet pour Sub-juger [sic] la Mer' [cf. BMSat 10599, &c.]. On the extreme left., behind the Danish ships and isolated from Poland, is Copenhagen, its buildings on a larger scale, with a fortress flying a British flag. The buildings behind the fortress are on fire. 1 October 1807
- Production date
Height: 248 millimetres
Width: 350 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VIII, 1947)
Canning, on news (21 July) from Tilsit (see BMSat 10750, &c.) that foreshadowed a league (as in 1800-1) of France, Russia, and Denmark, to close the Baltic, and further convinced that Napoleon intended to seize the Danish fleet with a view to the invasion of England, sent a mission and a fleet to Copenhagen. Great Britain demanded the deposit of the Danish fleet, offering an alliance and an annual payment of £100,000 for the ships. Denmark refused, a British force was landed, Copenhagen refused to surrender, and a bombardment followed; a capitulation on 7 Sept. provided for the delivery of the ships and naval stores to the British. Canning divined (or knew) the substance of the Secret Treaty, by which, if England refused the Tsar's peace mediation (cf. BMSat 10760), Russia and France would summon Denmark, Sweden, and Portugal to declare war. Gillray anticipates the attacks of Opposition on the Copenhagen Expedition in the next Session (beginning 21 Jan. 1808). St. Vincent's 'envy' may derive from his own expedition to Lisbon in 1806, to secure the Portuguese fleet if necessary. The action was vigorously defended by Cobbett, 'Pol. Reg.', 22 Aug. 1807. See 'Ann. Reg.', 1807, pp. 249-70; 'H.M.C., Dropmore MSS.' ix, pp. xlix-lvi, 182-92; 'Camb. Hist. of Br. Foreign Policy', i. 361-4; Fremantle, 'England in the Nineteenth Century, 1806-10', 1930, pp. 209-22, 429 f.; J. H. Rose, 'Napoleonic Studies', 1904, pp. 133-65; Hall, 'Four Famous Mysteries', 1922, pp. 9 ff. See also BMSats 10757, 10760, 10763, 10765, 10766, 10767, 10770, 10772, 10776, 10961, 10966, 10968, 10969, 10971, 10972, 10977, 11333, 11564.
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 251 f. (reproduction). Wright and Evans, No. 343. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830. Broadley, i. 262. Reproduced, Temperley, 'Life of Canning', 1905, frontispiece.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
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