- Museum number
- Object: Lady P aragraph championizing. - Vide Letters
Lady Perceval sits at an ornate writing-table, pen in hand. A serpent issues from her breast, coils round her arm, and darts its fang at the tip of her pen. She frowns meditatively, saying, "Now then for something strong but not libellous, I hate half measures we must rush upon the enemy—suprise [sic], astound him—and unhorse him by Terror—John Bull have at you! I'll open your eyes—." The table is littered with papers and books; some are docketed: 'For the Star', 'To the Editor of the Star', 'For the News', 'Extracts from the Book', one is 'Copy', a book is 'Politicks', and a large paper is displayed: 'Select Scraps from Shakespeare—with my own comments "Some achieve greatness "some have greatness thrust upon them .... Querie was this not the case with Nunky [Spencer Perceval], why not happen .... Son—.' Other papers and books lie on the floor: newspapers are 'The News' and 'The Star', a paper is headed 'Memorandums Billy Austin [see No. 12027]—the Will—' Books are 'Life of Lord Nelson', 'A very Woman by Massinger', 'Machiavael', 'Johnson', 'Indiscretion a Novel', 'Don Quixote'. On the left John Mitford, identified by a letter in his coat-pocket 'To John Mit—', stands facing the wall, and hanging one picture over another: he places a view of a country inn, 'The Tigers Head' above one of '[War]burton's Mad House', saying, "Come this is a prettier picture than the other [I] shall catch some fish in this neighbourhood." He is fashionably dressed, wearing Hessian boots. This picture is on the left of a row: a large picture of 'Alecto' (cf. No. 7721), naked, wreathed in serpents, and brandishing scourge and fire-brand, with a background of flames hangs between three-quarter length portraits of 'Lady Douglas' and 'Lady A Hamilton'. The former covers her face with a tragic gesture; a dagger lies on a table beside her, she seems to contemplate suicide. The latter clasps her hands. Over the chimneypiece (right) is a three-quarter length portrait of 'Lord P . . . . val' concealing his face with his hat; below, and partly hiding the frame, is a statuette of a knight killing a dragon. On the chimney-piece there is also a bottle labelled 'Cephalic' (for diseases of the head). Papers are burning in the grate, one inscribed 'To[o] Libellous'.
4 March 1814
- Production date
Height: 234 millimetres (cropped)
Width: 335 millimetres (cropped)
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
A satire on the revelations of the trial of John Mitford (1782-1831) in the King's Bench, 24 Feb. 1814, on an action by Viscountess Perceval for having falsely sworn that articles, &c., published in newspapers were by her; it was proved that she had written them, and he was acquitted. Lady Perceval had organized a publicity campaign in favour of the Princess of Wales, and engaged Mitford to get paragraphs and 'hints' (written by herself but copied by Mitford) inserted in the papers, especially in the 'Star', the 'News', and the 'Pilot'. The campaign continued from the end of 1811 till late in 1813. Mitford was voluntarily confined in Mr. Warburton's private asylum at Whitmore House, Hoxton while thus engaged, at Lady Perceval's desire (he said), that he might not be examined at the bar of the House, She afterwards proposed his residence at The Tiger's Head, but countermanded this as too near the Princess at Blackheath. Among Lady Perceval's letters (some of which were rejected by editors as too libellous) was one ostensibly from Lady Anne Hamilton (see No. 12030). The campaign seems to have begun with the publication of 'the Book', see No. 11990. Lady Perceval was especially anxious to show that Princess Charlotte was 'uncommonly attached to her mother and afraid of her father', cf. No. 12081, &c. Her object was apparently to secure a 'proper establishment' for the Princess, with (according to Mitford) positions in her Household for herself and her son. A house was taken in Abingdon Street, and the assistance of Whitbread was secured. Her husband (b. 1767), styled Viscount Perceval 1770-1822, was the nephew of Spencer Perceval. The trial probably contributed to the decline in the Princess's popularity, and increase in that of the Prince, reversed in June, see No. 12279, &c. See Mitford's 'Trial' and his 'Narrative of Facts' in the 'Scourge', vii. 303-15, 361-71, 454-69 (Apr.-June 1814). For Mitford see No. 13176, &c.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number