- Museum number
- Object: The repeal of the Test Act A vision.
A complicated design: advocates for religious toleration in a church, the pulpit occupied by Priestley, Price, and Lindsey. The central figure is Price, to whom the clerk standing below has passed up in a cleft stick a paper inscribed: 'The Prayers of this Congregation are desired for the Success of the patriot Members of the national Assembly now sitting in France'. Price takes the paper, and, raising his left hand sanctimoniously, says: "And now Let us fervently pray for the Abolition of all unlimited and limit[ed] Monarchy, for the Annihilation of all ecclesiastical Revenues and Endowments, for the Extinction of all Orders of Nobility and all rank and Subordination in civil Society and that Anarchy and Disorder may by our pious Endeavours prevail throughout the Universe - See my Sermon on the Anniversary of the Revolution" (see BMSat 7629, &c). Priestley leans over the left edge of the pulpit, his right arm raised; flames issuing from his mouth expand into four columns of smoke inscribed respectively 'Atheism' (smaller than the others), 'Deism', 'Socinianism', 'Arianism'. This blast strikes an angel carrying a cross; he flies out of a window (left), looking over his shoulder at Priestley with an expression of horror. Through the window is also seen a church steeple, being pulled down by a rope. Seated in a pew below is Fox (left) who looks up at the preacher, smiling; a similar column of smoke issues from his mouth and rises towards Priestley, inscribed 'Hear hear hear'. Lindsey leans over the right side of the pulpit, holding out 'A Table of the Thirty nine Articles' in a frame, this he tears to pieces. The back of the pulpit, above Price's head, is ornamented with an inverted and irradiated triangle containing the letters 'PPL', the initials of the three preachers. Above it is suspended a marquess's coronet with Lord Lansdowne's beehive crest. On the sounding-board are (left) two books: 'Priestley on civil Government' and 'Price on civil Liberty'. Beside them hangs from the roof a striped flag inscribed 'America' (Price's 'Observations on civil liberty . . .' (1776) had encouraged the Declaration of Independence, see BMSat 5644). On the books stands a small demon. Another demon, wearing the steeple-crowned hat of the puritans of the Commonwealth, sits on an open book (right) inscribed 'a Sermon on the Anniversary of the glorious Revolution'.
Beneath the pulpit is a pew running across the church from left to right and containing the clerk's desk. In this sits Fox (left); facing him in profile to the left is Dr. Abraham Rees looking through a large magnifying-glass at a large open volume inscribed 'Bacons liber Regis' and 'Cantuar'. On the clerk's desk is a paper: 'Ye are desired to take Notice That a Vestry will be held on Tuesday to take into Consideration some necessary Reforms both in the Church and State'. Behind and between these two is a shadowy head, partly obliterated by the smoke issuing from Fox, identified as Sir Henry Hoghton. Next him is a woman with the closed eyes and upturned face of an enthusiast; she holds out an open book: 'Margt Nicholson her Book' (see BMSat 6973, &c). Seated in profile to the right is Dr. Kippis. Standing beside him is Lord Stanhope, smiling, his head turned in profile to the left. He tears in half a paper inscribed: 'Acts of Parliamt for the Uniformity of Common Prayer, and Service in ye Church and Administration of the Sacraments'. Beneath his elbow is a paper: 'Heads of a Bill for the Abolition of Tithes and other ecclesiastical Endowm[ents]'. In front of the pulpit the central figure is an exciseman standing with his back to the pulpit and looking over his shoulder at Stanhope with a smile. An ink-bottle is attached to his coat, under his arm is a book inscribed 'Excise'. His folded hands rest on the head of a cane, the tip of which is in a chalice which stands at his feet. Under his foot is a paper: 'Order for the Ministration of the holy Communion'. He is gauging a Communion cup, and is evidently Thomas Paine. Next him (right) in back view, kneeling, is a bishop, with enormous lawn sleeves; he is identified by Miss Banks as Edward Law, Bishop of Carlisle, but an open book in front of him is inscribed 'Watson Tracts', suggesting that he is Watson of Llandaff, cf. BMSat 7419. In the foreground on the left a kneeling man is flinging out the contents of an open chest on which are a bishop's escutcheon, and a female figure with a cross and chalice, probably representing religion. He throws out a large book: 'The Book of Common Prayer' to join a book of 'Homilies'. Beside this lie a mitre, a crozier, a chalice, a communion plate with bread at which rats are nibbling, a paper: 'The Communion of Saints, &c.' Looking over the shoulder of this despoiler of the Church is a bearded Jew, his hands raised in admiration, saying, "O vat fine plaat I vil give you de Monies for it Sar." On the right and in profile to the left sits a soldier, with the lank hair and upward gaze of the enthusiast; he holds his sabre by the scabbard. In his right hand is a steeple-crowned hat. Behind him sits a shadowy worshipper, full face, with upturned head and clasped hands. In the foreground on the extreme right a beadle is seated on the floor asleep. His hat is inscribed 'Oliver Condable St James'. Beside him are a dog and an open book: 'Killing no Murder a Sermon for the 30th of January'. Above the back of a pew on the extreme right is part of the back of a wig, identified as that of the Lord Mayor. A large mace is beside it, and a pillar surmounted by the Royal Arms: the lion is headless and in place of the crown is a puritan's steeple-crowned hat. Through a doorway inscribed 'Sanctum Sanctor[um]' is a three quarter length portrait in an oval frame of Oliver Cromwell. From a gallery in the upper right corner of the design, a ruffianly looking man leans over with a clenched fist, saying, "No Test no Bishops". In his left hand is a paper: 'The Rights of the Protestant Dissenters vindicated a Sermon by Jos Priestley.' Beneath the design is etched:
'From such implacable Tormentors
Fanatics, Hypocrites, Dissenters
Cruel in power, and restless out
And when most factious, most devout
May God preserve the Church and Throne
And George the good that sits thereon,
Nor may their Plots exclude his Heirs
From reigning, when the right is theirs
For should the foot the head command
And Faction gain the upper hand
We may expect a ruin'd Land
Butler -' 16 February 1790
- Production date
Height: 502 millimetres
Width: 352 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
The first print showing hostility to the French Revolution. There had been motions for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts on 28 March 1787 and 8 May 1789; the print anticipates Fox's motion on 2 March 1790 and illustrates the effect of Price's famous sermon, see BMSat 7629, &c. Dissent is associated with irreligion and republicanism, with the sectaries of the seventeenth century, and with the 'enthusiasm' which leads to regicide.
There is also a tracing on oiled paper of an earlier version (1788) of this print, in which the head of the Jew bending over the ecclesiastical chest is 'Mr Bell of Yarmouth'; on publication he was,altered to a Jew and the figure of a Jew standing behind him was removed. The large label issuing from Priestley's mouth was absent; the paper he receives from the clerk was blank; the book of Watson's tracts was also absent; and there are other variations. The book was probably added to change the identification from Law (d. 1787) to Watson.
The characters, except the exciseman Paine, have been identified by Miss Banks, doubtless on information from Sayers. Price, Priestley, and Lansdowne (Shelburne) had been satirized in 1780 as associates in irreligion and sedition, see BMSat 5644. Kippis, Rees, and Lindsey were prominent and learned dissenters of similar views to those of their friend Priestley. Law was a bishop of advanced views who had been suspected of Unitarian opinions, see Abbey, 'The English Church and its Bishops', ii. 245-51. Sir Henry Hoghton, M.P. for Preston, seconded Beaufoy's motion for repeal in 1787 and 1788, and Fox's motion in 1790. For the voluminous literature relating to the movement for repeal see 'An arranged Catalogue of the several publications . . .from . . . 1772 to 1790 inclusive' (B.M.L., 126. i. 9); Belsham, 'Memoirs of the Reign of George III', 1796, iv. 277 ff. See also BMSats 7347, 7480, 7629, 7630, 7632, 7633, 7635, 7636, 7637, 7642, 7643, 7822, 8276.
This print is described in the 'St. James's Chronicle', 20 Feb. 1790, as 'the happiest of his [Mr. Sayers's] performances', the portraits being excellent likenesses, and the incidents 'the most forcible strokes of satire, that, since the time of Hudibras, have been aimed at the cause of fanatacism'.
Accompanied by a written note that identifies the figures.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Charles Burney's manuscript catalogue, vol. 1 p.22, lists in portfolio D, a print titled 'The repeal of the Test Act. A vision'.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number