- Museum number
- Object: This is the House that Jack Built
Six designs arranged in two horizontal rows; below each is a verse of the squib.  A view of the new Covent Garden theatre, empty, showing the proscenium (left) with a lowered curtain, and the side of the house on the right of the stage, with the three tiers of boxes, the lower gallery, and the lunette-shaped 'pigeon-holes' under the roof which flanked the upper gallery. On the curtain (or drop-scene): 'Grand Theatrical Bagnio fitted up in the Italian Style Lodgings to Lett for the Season or Single Night'. In front of the stage, the place for the orchestra: 'Italian Band from the Opera House'. The wide pit: 'Roomy Pitt for Parsons Poets Presbyterians Quakers Grumblers Tumblers &c &c'. The first tier: 'Boxes for the Cyprian Corps with Snug Lobby to Ditto'. The second tier: 'Private Accomodations for the Members of both Houses of P—'. The third tier: 'Boudoirs pour la Noblesse'. Above this, next the stage, small boxes inscribed 'Rabbit Hutches 7 Shillings each', and adjoining these, 'Humbug Two Shilling Gallery'. Under the roof: 'Pidgeon Holes for the Swinish Multitude'. Below the design:
'These are the Boxes let to the Great,
That visit the House that Jack built,'
 A view of a section of the two upper tiers of boxes (seen from below) and the galleries. The 'Pidgeon Holes', their arches flattened, are in deep shadow; their occupants are merely indicated. Below is the 'Gullery', the occupants again being indicated. On the left, empty, are the side-boxes on the same tier, called 'rabbit hutches' in . Below, in the third tier of boxes, tiny figures indecorously embrace. One is the 'shew box', with a pair of legs waving in the air; from the adjacent 'Peeping Tom's Box' a man tries to see the occupants. Two boxes on the right are empty, one is 'Bespoke', the other is inscribed 'retired into the Ante Room'. This tier is inscribed: 'Private Boxes 26 in number, with a private room behind each and not connected with any other part of the House. The furniture will be according to the Taste of the Occupants 400 each for the Season'. In the second tier are more embracing couples; there is also a 'Dowagers Box' with two occupants, and two covered or curtained boxes, one inscribed 'Well aired NB a Strong Patent Lock', the other 'Box for the Dillitante' [sic]. The tier is inscribed: 'The Artist appears to have studied the Simplex Munditiis' [an allusion to the flirtations, see No. 11421 (Horace, 'Odes', 1. v. 5)]. Below:
'These are the Pigeon-holes over the Boxes let to the Great,
that visit the House that Jack built—'
 Catalani stands on the stage, singing dramatically, with both hands to her breast, in an ingratiating gesture. The pittites all stand, shouting, blowing trumpets, and brandishing rattles; there is one woman. A 'cellist in the orchestra turns to shout at the rioters. Two placards are held up on poles: 'Dickons for ever No Catalani' and 'No Annual Boxes or Italian Singer'. Behind are the boxes and galleries as in  and , crowded with people, and inscribed 'Pidgeon Holes'. Below :
'This is the Cat engaged to squall, to the
Poor in the Pigeon holes over the Boxes, let . . .' [&c.]
 A similar view of the theatre. A man and woman stand together on the stage, addressing the audience. The pittites are behaving as in , but some are seated, and in the foreground stands a man in top-boots (John Bull) blowing a horn. The boxes, &c, are merely indicated; across them is stretched a long cloth inscribed: John Bull advises, To save your fame and sink your Prices. Below:
This is John Bull, with a bugle horn,
that hiss'd the Cat, engaged to squall. . .' [&c.]
 A scene outside the theatre. 'John Bull', still blowing his horn, is led off by a burly 'thief-taker' (Townsend) with a constable's staff, who holds him by the shoulder. Behind, a violent affray is in progress. The principal front of the theatre, in Bow Street, with the portico, forms a background. Below:
'This is the Thief taker shaven and shorn, that took up
John Bull with his bugle horn, . . .' [&c.]
 A view of the theatre similar to that in  and , but showing more of the stage. Kemble, in ordinary dress, stands on the stage, arms extended, addressing the audience. The pittites are even more frantic, and there are several women. The placards are: 'None of [your] Jesuitical tricks you black Monk'; 'Be silent Mr Kemble's head aitches' [see No. 11424]; 'No Theatrical Taxation No intriguing Shop'; 'Kemble remember the Dublin Tin man'; 'Dickons for ever No Catalani'; 'No Annual Boxes no Italian Singers'. Below:
'This is the Manager full of scorn, who Raised the
Price to People forlorn, and directed the Thief-taker
shaven and shorn, to take up John Bull. . .' [&c.]
27 September 1809
- Production date
Height: 242 millimetres
Width: 342 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VIII, 1947)
Illustration to a famous squib on the O.P. riots (see also Nos. 11415, 11416, 11417], reputed the best of the many that appeared, 'Jack' = J. P. Kemble; it was reprinted in the 'Examiner', 1809, p. 617 and in Tegg's 'Rise, Progress, and Termination of the O.P. War', 1810, p. 34 f. Covent Garden Theatre, burnt down, see No. 11413, reopened on 18 Sept. 1809, having been rebuilt at a cost of £150,000. Insurance and salvage amounted only to c. £53,000. An increase in price had been announced: pit from 3s. 6d. to 4s., boxes 6s. to 7s., the two galleries at the old prices. Twenty-six boxes (the whole third tier) were reserved for annual subscribers, and the lower gallery was flanked by boxes. At each end of the upper gallery were partitioned spaces with lunette openings, called 'Pigeon Holes' (see vol. ix for Rowlandson's plate). It was reported that the new prices were due to the rapacity of Catalani (see No. 10628, &c.). Riots for the old prices, 'O.P.', occurred on every night from 18 to 23 Sept. (placards being displayed, as depicted), when Kemble announced that the theatre would be closed till a committee had examined the accounts. The riots were partly political (see H. Hunt, 'Memoirs', 1820-2, ii. 385), organized by the Westminster Committee (see Nos. 10733, 11429, 11430) and influenced by the rivalry of Drury Lane, the Whig theatre, deserted by Kemble. They developed into a trial of strength between the Management, with special animus against the Kemble family, and the mob, which claimed to be the public, represented by John Bull and professedly supporting the cause of Liberty against arbitrary magistrates and hired bruisers. The grievance of 'Private Boxes' lay in the exclusion of the public from a part of the house reserved for the aristocracy, with a separate entrance, staircase, and saloon, and each box having its private ante-room. See Boaden, 'Memoirs of Kemble', ii. 487 ff., 502; 'Examiner', 1809, pp. 618-20, and passim from p. 648; 'Cobbett's Pol. Reg.' xvi. 890-2, 911 ff.; 'European Magazine', 1809, 211-16, 297-301, 383-6; Oulton, 'Hist. of the Theatres of London', 1818, ii. 200 ff.; 'Memoirs of Grimaldi', 1838, ii. 78-86. For squibs, pamphlets, &c., see R. W. Lowe, 'Bibliographical Account of English Theatrical Literature', 1888. [At the sale of Kemble's library 'among the curiosities . . . was a complete series of the pasquinades produced by the O.P. disturbance. . . . One of these effusions of public spirit was remarkable; it had been appended to the captured sleeve of a police-officer, resisted, as the placard eloquently observed, in the noble defence of public liberty.' 'Examiner', 18 Feb. 1821.] For the old and new theatres see 'Microcosm of London', 1808-9, i. 212, iii. 263 (plates by Pugin and Rowlandson, reproduced in reprint of 1904). O.P. riots were always a potential danger, cf. No. 8011 (1791). One of many parodies on 'The House that Jack built', cf. (e.g.) Nos. 9044, 11215. See also Nos. 11415-37,11556.
Grego, 'Rowlandson', ii. 165.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1992 Jun-Nov, Essen, Villa Hugel, 'London 1800-1838'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number