- Museum number
- Object: A poet mounted, on the court- Pegasus
Southey, the poet laureate, sits astride a cask, the official butt of sack, inscribed: 'G. R. (with a crown), Sack'. From the tap gushes a flow of liquid inscribed 'Adulation', which expands over the floor in the foreground as: 'Sycophancy', 'Flattery', 'Servility', 'Meaness' [sic], 'Apostacy'. The spigot lies on the ground. Southey, handsome and athletic-looking, wears a laurel-wreath and a sleeveless coat which is inside out; in his pocket is a paper, 'Recantat[ion]'. He looks to the left, exclaiming "GOD save the KING!!", holding up a goblet, his left arm flung out in a dramatic gesture. In front of him on the cask rests a money-bag, '£100 Pr Anm', standing on a large paper headed 'Birth-Day Ode'. Behind him, a heavy fringed and festooned curtain hanging from a pillar partly hides the throne, with cushion, crown, and sceptre on its seat. From behind the cask (right) the Devil peers out at Southey with sly malignity; he holds up a wreath of nettles tied with a ribbon inscribed 'Net / tle'; in his other hand is a bulky MS. or unbound book: 'Wat Tyler A Dramatic Poem'. Four large volumes flank the cask: (left) 'Duty of Self Interest' [supporting inkpot and pens] and 'Consistency no Virtue'; (right) 'Virtue of Sack-Posset' and 'Court Guide'. His works, in pamphlets or in sheets, lie on the ground: (left) 'Ode to the P . . . Regent', 'Ode to the Emperor Alexander', 'Ode to the King of Prussia', which lies on 'Cha[tterton] In his steady way as Learn thou to tread'. [The three odes were published in 1814 and reprinted in 1821 as 'Carmen Triumphale for the Commencement of the Year, 1814'; Southey was joint-editor of the works of Chatterton, 1803.] On the right: 'Anual [sic] Anthol[ogy', edited and partly written by Southey, 1799-1801]; 'Joan of Arc' [an epic in celebration of the French Revolution, 1796]; 'Thalaba the Destroyer' ; 'Amad[is of Gaul', trans. 1803]. Below the title:
'Aye, aye, hear him—
He is no mealy mouthed court Orator
To flatter vice, and pamper lordly pride!!
vide Wat Tyler.'
1 April 1817
- Production date
Height: 291 millimetres
Width: 236 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
Southey's transition from Republican to Laureate, see No. 12082, was given publicity by the appearance of 'Wat Tyler', written in 1794, which had long passed from his hands and his mind; this was published early in 1817 by Sherwood, when Southey failed to get an injunction from Eldon, on the ground that the law could not countenance 'unhallowed profits of libellous publications' (thus ensuring the wide circulation of a work which Southey wished to suppress). 'Memoirs of Romilly', under date 21 Mar. 1817; Wickwar, 'The Struggle for the Freedom of the Press, 1819-1832', 1928, p. 259 f. Four other editions appeared in 1817. Hazlitt attacked Southey in the 'Examiner' (9 Mar.), publishing long extracts from 'Wat Tyler' and contrasting the former 'Ultra-Jacobin' with the present 'Ultra-Royalist'. On 14 Mar. William Smith, M.P. for Norwich, quoted a violent passage from the poem in defence of Reformers and the inhabitants of Norwich, traduced in the Report of the Secret Committee, see No. 12868. 'Parl. Deb.' xxxv. 1088-94. Southey thereupon published as a '2s'. pamphlet 'A Letter to William Smith Esq....' which was savagely ridiculed in the 'Examiner' by Hazlitt in three long articles (4, 11, 18 May), reprinted in Hazlitt's 'Political Essays', 1819. Southey's transition, according to Hazlitt, is from 'frantic demagogue' to 'servile court-tool'. He is attacked in the 'Black Book; or, Corruption unmasked!', 1820, p. 78. Southey appears as a revolutionary poetaster in Gillray's 'New Morality', No. 9240.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number