- Museum number
- Object: The genius of the times.
Plate [not folded, showing that it was issued separately] to 'Town Talk', iii. 325. A wide curving road leads up Parnassus to the Temple of Fame. In the foreground (left) is a deep pool fed by a culvert inscribed 'Lethe'; to this a cup is chained. On the right is a signpost, one arm pointing uphill 'To Fame', the other (right) 'To the Bank of England'. A laurel twines round the post, turning in the direction of the Temple. Authors are variously grouped on the road to Fame, in or near the waters of Lethe, or rushing headlong from fame towards riches. The Temple is a rotunda with pilasters, pediment, and portico, set between curving colonnades which form wings; Fame blows a trumpet from the roof and in front of it Pegasus paws the ground. Busts of 'Milton' and 'Shakespeare' stand on the ends of the colonnade; the names of lesser writers are in ovals on the colonnade and on the pillars of the portico. On each side of the door are (left) 'Rabelais' and 'Le Sage' and (right) a blank and 'Pope'; outside these are (left) 'Fielding' and 'Moliere' and (right) 'Racine' and 'Dryden'. In places of honour below Milton (left) are 'Chaucer' and 'Cowper', and below Shakespeare (right) 'Johnson' and 'Gay'. The other names are 'Ben Johnson '[sic], 'Swift', 'Newton', 'Locke', 'Akenside', 'Congreve', 'Tickell', 'Savage', 'Prior', 'Spencer', 'Addison', 'Rowe'.
Nearest the Temple, though some way from the top, is Walter Scott carried on the shoulders of (presumably) his publisher John Ballantyne. In his pocket is a book, 'Lady of the Lake'; his right hand is in Ballantyne's coat-pocket, his left arm extended as he declaims: "Give all thou cans't, and let me hope for More" [parodying Pope in 'Eloisa to Abelard'] another 2000 for another Lady of the Lake, and a seat near Milton, or I will write a Dunciad!" Ballantyne, disgruntled, exclaims: "Five shillings a line by G—d." They are followed by a procession dragging uphill a large cask of 'Whit[br]ea[d's] Enti[re]', slung from a drayman's pole carried by two men. Two others haul at it by ropes, and three more push or walk behind. Astride the barrel sits Byron, fashionably dressed and (incorrectly) wearing a ribbon and star. In his pocket is 'Childe Harold Pilgrimage'; he holds up his 'Address for the opening of the New Drury Lane Theatre' and declaims: "What with my address, title and Pilgrimage I shall be sure to get a seat on the mount, for I know the road well enough, having travell'd this classic ground before." In the pockets of two of his bearers are papers, inscribed respectively 'Fleet Street' and 'Pater Noster Row'; two followers say "His Lordship seems tickled," and "Well he might when the Committee were determined he should bear away the Palm." Facing the spectator, with his back to Byron, stands Wolcot (Peter Pindar) with his hands in his pockets, holding a large book, 'The Lousiad' [see No. 7186, &c.]; from his pocket hangs a paper inscribed 'Pension' [see No. 7399]. He says: "A pretty troop of Candidates for fame I have left at the bottom of the hill, all for getting Money, fools if they think to get a sprig of laurel much less a bundle!!" Next him (left) is George Colman, fashionably dressed, who seizes a woman in classical draperies. She holds a pen and removes a smiling mask inscribed 'Wit' to show a sour and elderly face. He says: "I have caught thee at last! "Come live with me and be my Love"" In his pocket is a book, 'Broad Grins by G' [Colman, cf. No. 11963] and 'Day Rule', showing that he was a debtor living in the Rules of the King's Bench Prison. In the foreground Sheridan, staggering drunkenly, seems about to walk into the waters of Lethe; he tries to drink from a bottle of 'Sherry', but pours the contents down his waistcoat. In his pocket is 'The Rivals'. He says: "I see a vacant seat near Rabelais that shall content me for the loss of one at St-d [Stafford] a parcell of rotten leather-heads and be damend to them."
On the left are men struggling in the waters of Lethe. Near the waving legs of a man who is head downwards floats a book, 'The Friend', indicating Coleridge. Near another floats 'Thala[ba] the Destroy[er]', indicating Southey. Near two emerging hands floats 'Political Justice by' [Godwin]. Between two men who are falling is a book inscribed 'Novel/etts (?) / in Rhym'. One of these clutches at the coat of a neatly dressed man in dark clothes who staggers backwards and will inevitably fall in. A book inscribed 'Lyrical Ballads' shows that he is Wordsworth, since Coleridge is accounted for. Two men clutch desperately at the bank, but have little chance of getting to dry land. The mercenary writers are a pendant to these unfortunates. They rush forward to the right with their books. The two foremost are 'Monk' Lewis, holding up 'The Monk by G M Lewis', and Pratt with his 'Gleanings in' [England] (2nd ed. 1801). Close behind is Hayley clutching his 'Triumphs of Temper' [1781, many later editions, ridiculed by Byron in 'English Bards . . .']. Next is Pye, holding up his epic (1801) inscribed 'Alfred by . . .' Next is Kemble holding a paper inscribed 'Burnt Out'; he looks over his shoulder at the last of the party (Arnold), running fast, who shouts: "Why Hello Spangle Jack what are you running so fast for en't you contented yet!" Kemble answers: "No! I never shall recover burning out!" [see No. 11413, &c.]. Arnold is identified by a book inscribed 'The Devils Bridge'; this was a 'grand operatic romance' played by the Drury Lane Company on 6 May 1812; a roll of music projects from his pocket. Between him and Kemble runs a man holding out a book inscribed 'Dramatic Censor', implying that he is John Williams (Anthony Pasquin). [Alternatively he is Thomas Dutton, who edited the 'Dramatic Censor; or, Weekly Theatrical Report', 1801; he also wrote verse satires, and translated German plays, &c.]
1 December 1812
- Production date
Height: 262 millimetres
Width: 405 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
The figures are poorly characterized and are identified only by inscriptions; those in Lethe are unidentified. Scott nominally received £2,000 for the copyright of 'The Lady of the Lake' (1810), but Ballantyne & Co., in which Scott was secretly a partner, retained three-quarters of the property. Byron returned from Greece in 1811 and published 'Childe Harold' (i and ii) in Mar. 1812; for his Drury Lane Address and its connexion with Whitbread see No. 11940, &c. For Wolcot (1738-1819) see vols. vi, vii, viii. He continued to publish verse satires till 1817, leaving much unpublished verse; he attacked the Regent in 'Carlton House Fête ...' 1811. For Colman's insolvency see No. 12328. Sheridan was ruined, owing to his defeat at Stafford in October (cf. No. 10607), and his exclusion from the management of Drury Lane, see No. 11914, 11936, &c. Eight authors condemned to oblivion include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, and Godwin, cf. No. 9240 (1798) where the three last appear; a fifth may well be Leigh Hunt. The best-sellers have had more ephemeral reputations: Dr. Johnson, placed under Shakespeare, was in 1783 caricatured by Gillray as 'Dr. Pomposo', scourged round Parnassus by Apollo and the Muses, see No. 6328. See No. 12338.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1989 April-Aug, Grasmere, Dove Cottage, Byron ...
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number