“He Drinks the
Knowledge in Greedy Haste”: Tasting History Through James Gillray’s Political Prints 1
SAVI MUNJAL, PhD University of Leeds (UK)
This chapter examines the multiple ways in which Georgian satirist James Gillray used the metaphor of eating and drinking to intervene in political debates of the late-eighteenth century Britain. It adopts an inter-disciplinary perspective to explore the images of eating and drinking and their numerous permutations and combina- tions, including starvation, hunger, indulgence, fasting, excretion, and cannibalism, in order to investigate the ways in which Gillray’s prints engage closely with political events of the day and distil those events into ostensibly accessible graphic images.
It argues that Gillray’s visual satires need to be seen as complex constructions char- acterized by a dialogic play of multiple ideologies. To corroborate this argument, it situates Gillray’s satires alongside historical and literary texts of the age including a series of late eighteenth-century literary pamphlets, religious pamphlets, ballads, broadsheets, historical treatises, and “polite” literature. This helps the author con- clude that the body politic forged by Gillray’s use of exaggerated metaphors of food, eating and hunger, provides a lynchpin for understanding both socio-political events and the psychology of the common man in a remarkably nuanced fashion.
Keywords: eighteenth-century studies; food riots; bread; British caricature; James Gillray; cannibalism; French Revolution.
“They receive him in a half-circle; twelve speakers behind cannons with lighted torches in hand [...] he asks, in temperate but courageous language: What they, by their journey to Versailles, do specially want? The twelve speakers reply, in few words inclusive of much: ‘Bread’” (Carlyle, 1857: 210).
C Carlyle’s iconic account of the French Revolution foregrounds the centrality of bread in one of the most tumultuous events in European history. It comes as no surprise, then, that the metaphor of food remained imperative in a revolution that started over bread. Whilst Eng- land had seen a number of food riots in the eighteenth century, they started to acquire a distinct political dimension only towards the end of the eighteenth century. This was primarily because the dissatisfaction arising from the shortage of food, especially wheat and corn, in England in 1794-95, provided a perfect
1The phrase comes from Jane Taylor’s sentimental celebration of the diﬀusion of knowledge amongst the lower classes at the tail end of the eighteenth century in England. The metaphor of hunger dominates her portrait of the self‐improving underdog:
“From needful sleep the precious hour he saves, To give his thirsty mind the stream it craves:
There, with his slender rush beside him plac’d
He drinks the knowledge in with greedy haste” (1816: 137).
opportunity for the Jacobin lobby to promote their cause11. The resultant “disorder” is evident in the ways in which French revolutionary language percolated into the threats of the English plebeian classes.
Adrian Randall insists that the “rhetoric of radicalism was routinely added to threats over food prices”
in late eighteenth-century England (2006: 226). This linking of chronic food shortage to political revo- lutionary vocabulary can be witnessed in handbills, ballads, notices and political prints. “Peace and Large Bread, or a King without a head” begins one notice put up in Bath. In Banbury, “Cheap Bread or No King” was written on a church door. At Windsor, a notice proclaimed: “Notice is hereby Given to George III and all his Tiranical Crew that Unless we the starving Poor have Bread at 6d Quarter loaf Meat 4d pound and no Taxes He May Expect No less than Be Shot – all Farmers upholders of Corn their Farms Burnt and Take the Hint – So shall it Be – for We Value not our own Lives to rid the Earth of Tirants.”22
In 1795, there were a number of reports of men and women near starvation attacking mills and granaries, not to steal food, but to punish the owners. Corn and flour was thrown along the roads and discarded in the rivers, and machines were damaged. In an attempt to stop food riots, anti-Jacobin satires such as Jack Cade’s The Quartern Loaf for Eight-pence(1795) tried to prove to the populace that they were mere pawns being exploited by the Opposition lobby: “a scarcity here [...] has rendered the present mo- ment the fittest time to push forward our Jacobin plans here, by propagating our levelling principles of reform, in riots” (4) whilst agronomists like Arthur Young delivered lectures to the poor, insisting that attacking mills would not increase the supply of bread (1793). A plethora of anonymous verses berated the lower classes in engaging ways:
“When with your country Friends your hours you pass, And take, as oft you’re wont, the copious glass, When all grow mellow, if perchance you hear That ’tis th’ Engrossers make the corn so dear;
They must and will have bread; they’ve had enough Of rice and Soup, and all such squashy stuff:
They’ll help themselves: and strive by might and main To be reveng’d on all such rogues in grain:
John swears he’ll fight as long as he has breath,
’T’were better to be hang’d than starv’d to death:
He’ll burn Squire Hoardum’s garner, so he will, Tuck up old Filchbag, and pull down his mill’.
Now when the Prong and Pitchfork they prepare And all the elements of rustick war
Tell them what ills unlawful deeds attend, Deeds, which in wrath begun, and sorrow end, That burning barns, and pulling down a mill,
Will neither corn produce, nor bellies fill” (Thompson, 1991: 232)33
1Disastrous harvests and the war led to food prices soaring in the 1790s. The price of wheat went up from sixty shillings and six pence a quarter in 1794 to ninety‐one shillings and eight pence in 1795 and to one hundred and forty two shillings and ten pence in 1800. See Frank McLynn, Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth‐century England, London: Routledge, 1989: 337.
2Home Oﬃce Papers 42/50, George to Master of the Rolls, 13 and 16 March 1800; Home Oﬃce Papers 42/49, Walford to Morice, 27 April 1800; Home Oﬃce Papers 42/55, Notice Undated December 1800, quoted in Randall, 2006: 227.
3For more contemporary responses to the scarcity of bread, see Author of An Appeal to the Good Sense of the Higher and Wealthy Orders of the People, Striking Facts Addressed to Those Who Still Disbelieve in a Real Scarcity, and a Solemn Appeal to all who think Otherwise, London: J. Hatchard, 1800; Anonymous, Proceedings of the House of Commons, on the Eleventh day of December 1795, Respecting the High Price of Corn, London: n. p., 1795, and Anonymous, Facts for the Consideration of the Public at Large on the High Price of Meat, Shewing the Real Cause of the Same, London: F. and C. Rivington, 1795. In the latter ‘the extreme dryness of the last summer ‒ the uncommon ﬂoods that succeeded in the autumn – followed by the severest winter in the memory of man’ are pinned as the real causes for the scarcity of meat. Facts for the Consideration of the Public at Large on the High Price of Meat, p. 3.
The rhyme draws attention to the miserable conditions of the working classes. It marks a de- parture from writings that mythologized, and subsequently romanticized, poverty to diffuse re- sistance. A commendable example of the latter is a sermon by William Paley, which promotes Christian resignation by interpreting hunger as a blessing: “The rich […] addict themselves to in- dulgence lose their relish. Their desires are dead. Their sensibilities are worn and tired” (Paley, 1793: 11-14). The verse in question moves away from this representation of frugality as “a pleas- ure” to highlight the sheer deprivation of the lower classes. The reference to “rice and Soup, and all such squashy stuff ” immediately brings to mind numerous pamphlets such as Useful Suggestions Favourable to the Comfort of the Labouring People, and of Decent Housekeepers(1795), which seek to high- light the existence of staple foods other than bread (Colquhoun, 1795; Davies, 1795: 13; Farley, 1783; Carter, 1795: 130)11. But the overarching didacticism “Tell them what ills unlawful deeds at- tend” only feeds into the dominant idea that the poor lack discernment. The verse ultimately dis- misses resistance of any kind as “unlawful deeds”.
In a similar vein, Hannah More’s cheap repository tract of 1796, The Riot; Or, Half a Loaf is Better Than No Bread, counsels the masses to wait ‘patiently for the prices to fall’ and dismisses ri- oting as an effective measure (1796). The doggerel verse comprises a dialogue between Tom Hod and Jack Anvil; the latter effectively classifies initiative as “passion” and resistance as “sin”, which results in capital punishment:
“So I’ll e’en wait a little till cheaper the bread, For a mittimus hangs o’er each Rioter’s head;
And when of the two evils I’m asked which is best, I’d rather be hungry than hang’d, I protest.
Derry Down Quoth Tom, thou art right; If I rise I’m a Turk,
So he threw down the pitchfork, and went to his work”
Her tract insists on inaction because the Church will “bear all wants of the weak”, “The Gen- tlefolk too will afford us supplies” and “the King and the Parliament manage the rest”. More’s insistent use of the collective pronoun “us” is effective; her pamphlet gains credibility by impli- cating her in the misery faced by the lower classes.
Her association of improvement with traditional charity continues in The Cottage Cook(1797) where she demonstrates how to reduce the consumption of white bread. The text depicts a widow, Mrs. Jones, instructing a lower-class woman to bake her own loaves of brown bread instead of buying small loaves of white bread from the market. The woman’s agreement, like Tom’s cheerful acceptance in The Riot, seems to validate the argument from below. Mrs. Jones’s fauxmaternalism actually provides an alternative based on accommodating the lack of bread, rather than resisting it. The verisimilitude of the pamphlet is dangerous because the domestic veneer is used to de- politicize the scarcity of bread. Mrs. Jones’s benign discourse, like Jack’s well-meant suggestions in The Riot, goes back to a traditional model of paternalistic benevolence that “typifies right-wing propaganda” (Sherman, 2001: 67).
Gillray engages with similar concerns in his print titled The British Butcher Supplying John Bull with a Substitute for Bread(1795), produced in the wake of the riots in June-July 1795, in response to the increasing scarcity of corn and bread in England. Unlike More, who never once mentions
11In the late eighteenth century wheat’s association with food value was very strong. David Davies, an eighteenth‐century pamphleteer, asserts that “wheaten bread” contains much more nourishment than barley bread and “is the only good thing of which they (poor people) can have a suﬃciency”. Cookbooks by John Farley and Susannah Carter oﬀered dozens of recipes for breads, cakes and pastries which could be made only with “the ﬁnest ﬂour”. Following the shortage of wheat and corn, a number of pamphlets tried to dismantle this perception. In keeping with this, Colquhoun’s pamphlet highlights soup as a great source of nutrition and provides recipes of numerous soups which could be consumed without bread.
escalating prices as the reason for Jack’s hunger in The Riot, Gillray immediately grounds his print within this particular socio-political crisis by virtue of two notices on the butcher’s stall. These compare the rates of provisions against a common man’s wages, demonstrating that the rate of meat and bread often surpassed an average journeyman’s weekly wage. Billy the Butcher is offering a piece of meat to John Bull, who looks malnutritioned and starved, which is unusual with him (Hunt, 2003)11. Here Gillray echoes pamphlets like An Address to the Plain Sense of the People, on the Present High Price of Breadwhich dwell on “the high price of wheaten bread, the ordinary food of a great part of the people” and insist there was “never was there a time when the poor man called more loudly for assistance” (Anonymous, 1800: 14). The lines at the bottom of Gillray’s print explicate the butcher’s advice to John Bull:
“Since Bread is so dear (and you say you must eat) For to save the expense you must live upon meat;
And as twelvepence the quartern can’t pay for bread Get a crown’s worth of meat, – it will serve in its stead”
Not only does the butcher sport a bonnet rouge, the piece of meat that he is offering to John Bull, the ubiquitous Everyman, also bears an uncanny resemblance to the most popular symbol of the Revolution: the cap of liberty. Following the Revolution, the Phrygian cap or bonnet rouge had become the most common symbol of popular radicalism in France. The prominence of the cap of liberty in Gillray’s prints immediately politicizes the issue of hunger and links it inextricably to lower-class radicalism. Increasingly, the cap comes to bear an exclusive attachment to Jacobin- ism, as the symbol of French anarchy endangering the ordered liberty of Britain (Epstein, 1989:
Ostensibly, then, this print suggests that the rise in food prices is a direct consequence of French revolutionary principles being promulgated in England. But a clever pun on “crown” in the Butcher’s ultimatum “A Crown, take it or leave it” drives the viewer to believe that a baffled John Bull needs to accept the bonnet rougeto satiate his hunger; the acceptance of Republican principles holds the promise of prosperity. It is this complexity that animates Gillray’s graphic satires and differentiates them from the array of other texts that address the lack of food either by censuring increased food prices and straightforwardly demanding reform or by depicting a passive, repentant Everyman figure, dependent on charity for sustenance.
In this way, Gillray’s prints can be described as hybrid constructions characterized by a dialogic play of multiple, even conflicting ideologies. The dialogic interaction ensures that these images are layered, and subsequently endowed with multiple connotations. This chapter argues that the
“Loyalism” depicted by Gillray’s visual rhetoric provides a marked departure from the expository prose of authors and pamphleteers such as Hannah More, Arthur Young, and William Paley. The layered nature of his prints betrays the co-existence of varied ideological planes, which are im- portant because they result in diffusing the intention of the caricaturist. As a result, the print is characterized by a complex ideological vacillation, which betrays the temperament of the age.
This dynamic is evident in Gillray’s print titled The Tree of Liberty(1798) where Charles James Fox is conjured as the biblical serpent trying to tempt John Bull to taste the “nice napple” of re-
1The ﬁgure of John Bull gained prominence in the early eighteenth century through John Arbuthnot’s The History of John Bull (1712). Tamara L. Hunt argues that the allegorical ﬁgure of Britannia was replaced by John Bull as a national symbol during the revolutionary decade. John Bull emerged as the spokesman for the British public and was used widely to depict Loyalist allegories. In Gillray’s prints the John Bull ﬁgure is mostly rotund, often monstrously fat.
22In the century before the French Revolution, the cap of liberty was often used to represent British patriotic sentiment.
But during the French Revolution, it frequently accompanied the tri‐colour cockade and became part of the uniform for sans‐culottes. Transformed into the bonnet rouge, it became inextricably linked to the cause of the French Revolution in the British imagination.
form. The Tree of Opposition is rooted in “envy”, “ambition” and “disappointment” with a bonnet rougeadorning its branches, which are inscribed with “The Rights of Man” and “profligacy”.
The fruits, in Gillray’s prints, are labelled “murder”, “revolution”, “conspiracy”, “democracy”,
“treason”, “slavery”, “plunder”, and “atheism”; a web of references linking Republicanism to a series of evils. The Tree of Justice in the background boasts of roots and branches inscribed with the words “king”, “lord”, and “religion” and its fruits include “happiness”, “security”, and
“freedom”. Prints such as these seek to clarify complex political issues so as to simplify choices and decisions. The satire is effective because it draws upon an available body of symbols. Here Gillray derives his imagery from J. A. Russell’s sermon of 1795, where France is described as ‘a tree whose branches spread far and wide, and appear blooming and flourishing to the eye, but the whole trunk is decayed and rotten, and is fast approaching to its Fall’ (11). In addition to re- ligious discourses, Gillray also draws upon popular depictions of the contrast between France and Britain such as the 1793 song The Contrast. English Liberty, French liberty – Which is Best?:
“True Britons [...] are free,
And know Liberty’s not to be found on a tree.
Derry down, & c.
We know of no Despots, we’ve nothing to fear, For this new-fangled nonsense will never do here.
Derry down, & c.
Then stand by the Church, and the King, and the Laws, The Old Lion still has his teeth and his claws;
Let Britain still rule in the midst of her waves, And chastise all those foes who dare call her sons slaves.
Derry down, & c.” (Songster, 1793: 6)
Gillray’s symbolism replicates Russell’s image of an ostensibly healthy tree that is decaying from within. His John Bull figure is fat, ugly and naive, but is also smart enough to resist the rotten fruit hanging from the Tree of Opposition. But, unlike the simple dichotomy created be- tween France and Britain by the song, John Bull’s speech here does not dismiss Republican ideals as “new-fangled nonsense”; instead, it testifies to the allure of the views of the Opposition “Very nice Napple indeed! – but my pokes are full of Pippins from off t’other Tree: and besides, I hates Medlars, they’r so damn’d rotten they’ll gee me the Guts-ach for all their vine looks!”
Clearly, Gillray’s caricatural form allows for a multiplicity of ideas to co-exist within one strik- ing image11. The incipient counter-discourses ensure that Gillray’s caricatures foreground the cul- tural attributes of counter-revolutionary propaganda, but they also testify to the changing social fabric, governmental oppression, and carry a tacit admission that a society is in the making. These prints come to epitomise the interaction between a number of ideologies and multiple schools of thought. This does not mean that Gillray’s depictions of political events are neutral. They are always entangled in an intricate web of tensions and need to be understood in the context of their publication and circulation. Each image is embedded in a particular political, social and his- torical context, which must be unpacked in order to render it comprehensible. They exist in a di- alogue with both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary prose of the period. For most critics they achieve cognitive authority because of their capability to refer to a certain political or social event, but I intend to offer an interpretative framework, which highlights the polyphonic narra-
1This reading pertains to Gillray’s deployment of the caricatural form and cannot be broadened to include the genre of Loyalist graphic satire in its entirety. For an unequivocal denunciation of Republican ideals, see Rowlandson’s print The Contrast(1792).
tivity of his prints (Jameson, 2002: 60-61)11. This chapter will adopt an inter-disciplinary perspec- tive to explore the myriad ways in which the metaphor of food is deployed by Gillray to examine the complex nature of counter-revolutionary graphic satire by looking closely at the images of eating and drinking and their numerous permutations and combinations, including starvation, hunger, indulgence, fasting, excretion, and cannibalism, in order to investigate the ways in which Gillray’s plates engage closely with political events of the day and distil those events into ostensibly accessible graphic images.
It is important to note that the inclusion of food in Gillray’s oeuvre is not restricted to the depiction of riots. In a number of his prints he deploys the metaphor of hunger to articulate po- litical concerns; politics and the imagery of food intersect to produce his wittiest and most com- plex prints. In his Sans-Culottes, Feeding Europe with the Bread of Liberty(1793), Gillray responds, in an ostensibly Loyalist fashion, to the French revolutionary regime’s publicly stated intention of inciting revolution throughout Europe. Grotesque and ragged sans-culottesare shown dethroning the Pope in Italy, driving citizens out of their country in Germany and Prussia, and forcing bread, representative of liberty, on people in Holland and Savoy while they rob their victims at the same time. But the central space of the plate is reserved for England, for it is Britain’s plight that con- cerns Gillray the most. In this central scene, Fox and Sheridan imitate their French compatriots, using bayonets to force John Bull to eat bread while picking his pockets. Their transformation into sans-culottesis near perfect except for a small detail, one which is often overlooked in popular readings of this print; whilst the other sans-culottesare thin, even emaciated, Charles Fox, the Eng- lish sans-culotte, is still plump. Is the reader to believe that Gillray is hinting at an incipient hierarchy within the sans-culottesand pointing to the fact that even English radicals, who usually occupy the lowest rung(s) in Gillray’s iconography, are better off than French sans-culottes?
Even as one speculates about the possibility of Fox’s health being a covert marker of English superiority despite the fact that he has joined the ranks of the bestial French, Gillray ironises this very corpulence in his famous print titled French Liberty, British Slavery(1792). In this print, Gillray, like his contemporaries, seems to rely on a simple juxtaposition of a Frenchman and an English- man. He points out the frenzied madness of French revolutionaries as compared with the pros- perity of John Bull, who at the time of the Revolution represented the characteristics of the ordinary British citizen. On the left, a ragged, emaciated sans-culotteeats his dinner of green onions, to be followed by snails, exclaiming, “O Sacre Dieu!- vat sing be de Liberte vive le Assemble Nationale!– no more Tax! No more Slavery! – all Free Citizen! Ha hah! By Gar how ve live! – ve Svim in de Milk & Honey!”. In contrast, a grossly fat Englishman sits carving his roast beef, with a tankard of ale on the table. However, he claims, “Ah! This cursed Ministry! They’ll ruin us with their damn’d Taxes! Why, Zounds! – they’re making Slaves of us all, and Starving us to Death!”.
Gillray’s juxtaposition of the scrawny, disgusting Frenchman and the well-fed Englishman re- lies on a British myth reproduced by prints such as Hogarth’s O The Roast Beef of Old England (1748). Whilst Gillray inherits the dualist paradigm from earlier caricaturists like Hogarth, the iconography is reconfigured in the face of the French Revolution and Republican threats to the status quo. He introduces symbols such as the bright cockade on the Frenchman’s hat, which identify the starving figure as a proponent of the Revolution. The print also underlines the event’s linguistic significance by pointing to the semantic changes in political terms such as “liberty”,
“slavery” and “freedom”.
Another change is visible in the Englishman’s room, which includes a statue of Britannia, who has a sack of money instead of a shield. The rest of the furnishings in the room are in strik- ing contrast to the bare walls, floor, and broken windows of the Frenchman’s room. A sword lies
1This theoretical idea has its basis in Fredric Jameson’s assertion that the literary text comprises of ‘three concentric frameworks’ which function as “distinct semantic horizons” and his belief in the narrativity of the historical process itself.
This is closely related to the central premise of my thesis; studying the caricaturist as a historian who uses the visual dis‐
course to transpose history onto prints.
atop a violin, suggesting Liberty’s abnegation of aesthetic skills for militaristic pursuits. The royal blue of the Briton’s clothes seems to symbolise masculinity which can be contrasted with the pink of the Frenchman’s attire: the effeminate pink articulates anxieties of the seductive allure of French models of masculinity including the fop and the libertine, both reviled in the literature of the time. Gillray’s unmistakable xenophobia is comparable to the lurid Loyalist propaganda produced by contemporaries like Cruikshank (Hobsbawm, 1990: 91)11. But unlike the proliferating Loyalist depictions, Gillray’s satire does not stop at the Frenchman. He goes on to ironise British identity by depicting the repulsive corpulence of the meat-eating Englishman who is blotched with drink. The plump John Bull figure has often been seen as a representative of English pros- perity, but Gillray’s Englishman is obese. His greed is evident in the way he has tucked the table- cloth as a napkin and pulled what seems to be the armchair towards the table. Interestingly, his eyes belie this gluttonous instinct. His gaze seems satiated for he is looking not at the table but at something beyond the space in which he is situated. So is the Frenchman. Despite the apparent line that separates the prints, the fact that both the Englishman and the Frenchman are looking into smoke, seems to coalesce the two sides of the print and unifies what appears to be a diptych.
This introduces a disruptive sub-stratum to this propagandist print. It seems to suggest that there are more similarities than dissimilarities between avowedly “anarchic” Frenchmen and “orderly”
This multivalence continues in John Bull Taking a Luncheon; – or – British Cooks, Cramming Old Grumble Gizzard, with Bonne-Cherie(1798). The print celebrates several British naval victories, the most famous being Nelson’s defeat of the French navy at Aboukir Bay at the mouth of the Nile on 1 August 1798. Here a plump John Bull gorges on French warships, served up to him by Nelson on the right. Other naval heroes include Lord Howe (to Nelson’s right) and Admiral Duncan (on the far right), who defeated a Franco-Dutch expedition to Ireland. But in Gillray’s characteristic style this celebration of British victories is not unambiguous; as the title informs the reader, John Bull, the “Old Grumble Gizzard” actually complains gracelessly as he is force- fed on numerous naval victories: “What! more Frigasees? Why you sons o’bitches, you, where do ’ye think I shall find room to stow all you bring in?”. The overflowing pot of British stout kept on the floor reiterates the idea of excess. Outside the window, Fox and Sheridan retreat hastily, hinting at John Bull’s insatiable greed: “O Curse his Guts, he’ll take a chop at Us, next”.
His protruding belly in these two prints emphasises that the Englishman’s condition was im- measurably better than the Frenchman’s, and yet this very prosperity is reconfigured as mon- strous obesity by Gillray and eventually comes to bear the brunt of his satire. John Bull’s corporeality is used to depict, and subsequently ironise, Britain’s political status. The polyphonic caricatural form and Gillray’s allusive ideological affiliations both lend ambivalence to his prints which prevent them from propounding absolute belief in “the virtues of tradition and continu- ity” and a love for the English constitution (Hobsbawm, 1990: 292). The proliferation of mean- ing in his caricatures seems to be circumscribed only by decisive coordinates such as his Francophobia.
This ambiguity gives rise to complex prints like Pig’s Meat; - Or - the Swine Flogged Out of the Farm Yard(1798), which depicts Pitt and Dundas driving the Opposition Pigs, representatives of the “swinish multitude”, out of John Bull’s farmyard. The text under the image provides a moral lesson on the ramifications of greed. Gillray’s depiction of the pigs is based on Burke’s famous description of the lower classes as a “swinish multitude” in Reflections on the Revolution in France:
1See French Happiness, English Misery(1793). Cruikshank’s French Happiness, English Miserycontrasts four prosperous and content Englishman with a group of emaciated Frenchmen ﬁghting over a single frog. Francophobia was bound to be an increasingly potent factor in eighteenth century Britain for ‘there is no more eﬀective way of bonding together the disparate sections of restless peoples than to unite them again outsiders’.
“Nothing is more certain, than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles;
and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion. The no- bility and the clergy, the one by profession, the other by patronage, kept learning in existence, even in the midst of arms and confusions, and whilst governments were rather in their causes than formed. Learning paid back what it received to nobility and to priesthood, and paid it with usury, by enlarging their ideas, and by furnishing their minds. Happy if they had all continued to know their indissoluble union, and their proper place! Happy if learning, not debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor, and not aspired to be the master!
Along with its natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast into the mire, and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude” (1790: 117).
Burke’s rhetorical delineation is based on a series of prior references to swine. They are used to represent ingratitude as early as the Bible: ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you’ (Matthew 7:6). Later literary works endow the word with additional connotations of over- indulgence. Milton’s Comus(1634), a masque written in honour of chastity, uses the word ‘swinish’
to suggest Comus’ sexual pleasure and intemperance:
“for swinish gluttony
Ne’er looks to heav’n amidst his gorgeous feast, But with besotted base ingratitude
Crams, and blasphemes his feeder” (1637: 27).
The word continued to have negative connotations well into the eighteenth century. “Swinish”
is defined as “slovenly, boorish in manner” by Nathan Bailey’s Universal Etymological English Dic- tionary(1759) and “gluttonous, greedy, selfish” by Thomas Dyche’s A New General English Dictionary (1777). But it is a 1789 tract, Glimpses of the Dark Ages, published in London by the Religious Tract society, which first uses the term “swinish multitude”. In this tract the phrase evokes the hordes of pigs infesting Parisian streets. Burke’s picture of a “debauched” mob, determined to trample “natural” hierarchies borrows heavily from such material. But he markedly politicizes his representation. He uses the term as a basis for creating a continuum on the one hand between the aristocracy, religion and order; and on the other, democracy, atheism and anarchy. This is done with a specific hegemonic purpose of defending the hierarchies propagated by the Estab- lishment.
The radical democratization of the Public Sphere in the revolutionary decade ensured that Burke’s response was immediately denounced by a number of pamphlets and tracts that were circulated in response to his politically pointed categorization of the populace as “swinish”. A number of them like the anonymously printed Rights of Swine. An Address to the Poordrew attention to the misery of the lower classes: “Thousands of honest and industrious people in Great Britain are literally starving for want of Bread” (1794: 1). Others, like ballad writer R. Thompson’s To the Public, Alias the “Swinish Multitude”, adopted a caustic tone to mock what they saw as Burke’s dis- regard of the needs of the masses: “[W]ill you never believe you are happy [...]. Can you not be- lieve that your hunger, and thrift, are gratified, unless you eat and drink? [...] O! What political unbelief is this? [...] What! will you not believe the King himself, and all the royal family?” (1794:
Thompson’s mock-horror turns each one of Burke’s assumptions on its head. This attack is amplified by two of the most important responses to Burke’s Reflections: Thomas Spence’s Pig’s Meat (1793) and Daniel Isaac Eaton’s Politics for the People: or, a Salmagundy for Swine(1794-95). A verse on the title page of the second volume of Eaton’s pamphlet uses the mock-epic style to great effect:
“The praise of him, who talk’d so big For training up one learned Pig, Is far below, friend Daniel, thine!
The Feast of Words, which you supply To your illuminating Stye,
Makes herds of literary Swine”
This short verse, recited by a “spare rib”, mocks the widespread Loyalist dissatisfaction at the unprecedented circulation at this period of cheap printed material, which led to an unparalleled social penetration and diffusion of knowledge (Thompson, 1963: 621)11. The Attorney General Archibald Macdonald’s response, recorded by numerous pamphlets documenting the trial of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, typifies the conservative backlash against this phenomenon:
“But when I found that another publication was ushered into the world, that in all shapes was, with an industry inconceivable, circulated, either personally or locally, and was thrust into the hands of parties of all de- scriptions, that even children’s sweetmeats were wrapped with portions of it, and all the industry, such as I described, to obtrude and force it on that part of the public who cannot correct as they go along; I thought it behoved me, on the earliest occasion, to put a charge on record against the author of that book.”
The accusation that “even children’s sweetmeats” were being wrapped in the pages of Paine’s book underlines the extent of his anxiety. This explains his use of the word “thrust”, which is deployed to suggest the forced indoctrination of the “ignorant” and “credulous” lower classes (Browne, 1810: 298-315). His disapproval is in direct contrast with Eaton’s and Spence’s endorse- ment of such dissemination of knowledge. This is evident in their professed motive of making
“herds of literary swine” by providing the masses with a “feast of words”. Spence’s Pig’s Meatis an anthology that combines biblical passages, radical tracts demanding the freedom of the press, The Analytical’s review of Rights of Man, satirical songs written to the patriotic tunes of Hearts of Oak, Rule Britannia, and God Save the King, a collection of passages from the chapbook tradition and excerpts of works by authors such as Shakespeare, Goldsmith, Barlow, Cromwell, Harrington, Milton, Hume, Locke, Berkeley, Swift, Tacitus, D’Alembert, Paine, Richard Price, Priestley, John- son’s Dictionaryand segments of the new French Constitution. All of this has been collected, the magazine announces, “by Poor Man’s Advocate, in the course of reading for more than twenty years”. It is intended “to promote among the Labouring Part of Mankind Ideas of their Station, of their Importance, and of their Rights”, and to convince them “that their forlorn condition has not been entirely overlooked and forgotten, nor their just Cause unpleaded, neither by their Maker nor by the most enlightened of Men in all Ages” (Spence, 1793: 1). It also includes a ques- tion-and-answer version of the Rights of Manand a serialized account of Erskine’s defence speech in the trial of the book, all substantiating what Spence pins down as the central point of the de- fence: “Every man, not intending to mislead and to confound, but seeking to enlighten others with what his own reason and conscience, however erroneously, dictate to him as truth, may ad- dress himself to the universal reason of a whole nation either upon the subject of governments in general, or upon that of his own particular country.” (168)
Spence’s Pig’s Meatquestions the exclusionary logic of the public sphere and dismisses Loyalist dissatisfaction at the growing plebeian counter-culture. Instead it stresses the need to educate the lower classes. Nothing is exempt from Spence’s satirical eye. He exposes the greed and hypocrisy involved in ostensibly sacred customs, and dismantles political and social hierarchies through car- nivalesqueliterary strategies. By offering a polyphonic product, Spence succeeds in adding a political
1E. P. Thompson estimates that 200,000 cheap six penny editions of Paine’s Right of Man were in circulation within a few months. The phenomenon was by no means limited to radical texts. Hannah More’s Loyalist Cheap Repository Tracts are estimated to have sold more than double the number of copies of Paine’s book.
dimension to the subversive undertones of chapbook literature, which tended to remain sceptical about religion and social order without politicizing this anarchic spirit. This plurality of voices which foregrounds a more inclusive social vision gains importance when compared to the con- servative undertones of a number of anti-Loyalist accounts of the period. John Gale Jones’s Ad- dress to the Nationat the London Corresponding Society meeting on 29 June 1795 epitomises the radical reluctance to embrace plebeians. Jones advocates peaceful action and condemns violent resistance of any kind:
“Are we BRITONS, and is not LIBERTY our BIRTH-RIGHT! There is no Power on Earth (that) shall silence the Voice of an Injured Nation, or prevent the Progress of Free Enquiry! – Bring forth your Whips and Racks, ye Ministers of Vengeance! – Produce your Scaffolds and your Executioners! – Erect Barracks in every Street, and Bastilles in every Corner! – Persecute and punish every innocent Individual! � but you will not succeed! [...] The Holy Blood of Patriotism, streaming from the fevering Axe, shall carry with it infant seeds of Liberty, and Men may perish! – but Truth shall be eternal […] famine stalks the streets, and haggard Wretched- ness assails you in every shape; mark, Citizens, the shameful negligence and unfeeling conduct of those who hold that power which ought to be intrusted to none but your real Representatives” (emphasis and italics – author’s own); (Anonymous, 1795d: 6).
Jones is dismissive of the government and his speech stresses on the need for “real” rep- resentatives, but his demonization of the enlightened multitude mirrors Loyalist propaganda of the time. The influence of popular counter-revolutionary propaganda on a “radical” lumi- nary like Jones goes a long way in suggesting that “Jacobin”, “anti-Jacobin”, “Loyalist”, “rad- ical” and “reactionary” ceased to be water-tight categories during these politically tumultuous decades.
Unease with the concept of a plebeian public sphere can frequently be detected in the speeches and writings of luminaries who were in favour of reform. A young Coleridge echoes this in his description of the English crowd:
“Sufficiently possessed of natural Sense to despise the Priest, and of natural Feeling to hate the Oppressor, they listen only to the inflammatory harangues of some mad headed Enthusiast, and imbibe from them poison, not food; rage, not liberty. Unillumined by philosophy and stimulated to a lust of revenge by aggravated wrongs, they would make the altar of freedom stream with blood, while the grass grew in the desolated halls of justice”
Coleridge’s professedly anti-Burkean agenda is undercut by his detrimental characterization of the lower classes as irrational creatures wholly governed by their senses. He might not val- idate the aristocracy or clergy as custodians of the populace, but he echoes the conservative lobby in his stark dismissal of radical nationalism. Ultimately, his pleading for the masses, and not to them, disenfranchises the lower classes and veers dangerously close to More’s model of paternalistic benevolence.
Eaton’s Politics for the Peopleoffers a strong criticism of this tendency. The author adopts a satirical voice with the same radical effect as Pig’s Meat in the pamphlet The Pernicious Effects of the Art of Printing Upon Society Exposed(1793). In an entertaining passage, Eaton expresses mock horror at the impossibility of governing with unquestioned authority following the overwhelming ex- pansion of print culture: “The lower orders begin to have ideas of rights, as men – to think that one man is as good as another – that society at present is founded upon false principles […] the scum of the earth, the swinish multitude, talking of their rights! And insolently claim- ing, nay almost demanding, that political liberty shall be the same to all […] what audacity”
Eaton’s compilation of “high” and “low” literary sources mock-ventriloquises in order to parody and ridicule establishment cant. This intention can be traced even within the titular
“Salmagundi for Swine”, a witty riposte to Burke “swinish multitude”.11
Spence’s and Eaton’s influence is evident in Gillray’s choice of a title for the print under con- sideration. The print seems Loyalist in intent. But the dismay on the faces of the “pigs”, coupled with the whips in the hands of the ministers, underlines the coercion exercised by the represen- tatives of the state in a bid to check a bourgeoning plebeian counter-culture. It would not be an overestimation to propose Gillray’s print as a visual accompaniment to Spence’s and Eaton’s lit- erary works22. The presence of this contentious sub-stratum ensures that this caricature cannot be read unambiguously as a potent polemical weapon, produced to reiterate hegemonic beliefs at a key historical moment. Rather, the image amalgamates multifarious materials into striking images and the resultant ideological hybridity challenges established hegemonic discourses.33
This newness is illustrated in Gillray’s derision of the gentry in Substitutes for Bread(1795), which alludes to the debate regarding the Corn Laws. Disastrous harvests forced the government to urge the populace to eat things other than bread. Here the heads of state substitute bread with fish, wine, champagne, venison and roast beef amongst other delicacies (Sherman, 2001: 48).44 Everyone at the table is busy gorging on gold guineas whilst the mob milling outside is dressed in tatters. On the right, William Pitt sits atop a locked chest labelled “treasury” and in the fore- ground a huge sack, which claims to be the “Product of New Taxes upon John Bull’s property”, is displayed with a small basket full of potato bread, to be given away in charity.55 A notice stating:
“Proclamation of a General Fast to avert the impending Famine” is the final nail in the proverbial coffin; the mise-en-scenevisualises the stark disparity between the promises made by the leaders of the state and their actions. Gillray uses the metaphor of gluttony cleverly to suggest the immense, insatiable greed of the politicians. Gillray’s representation here echoes Paine’s Rights of Man, for both construe the populace as “a vast mass of mankind […] degradedly thrown into the back- ground of the human picture, to bring forward, with greater glare, the puppet-show of the state and aristocracy” (1791: 35). In fact, the immediacy of Gillray’s image, the brevity of the caricatural form, and its deployment of easily recognizable symbols make it more convincing than Paine’s literary pamphlet.
11Salmagundi is a salad dish, which originated in early seventeenth‐century England. It consists of cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and ﬂowers, oil, vinegar and spices. These disparate ingredients can be mixed together, arranged in layers or geometrical designs on a plate. The lack of a deﬁnite recipe allows the cook to experiment. The titular ‘Salmagundi for Swine’ uses the metaphor of food for the assortment of literary tracts by authors such as Bolingbroke, Swift and radicals like Godwin and Thelwall which are included in the collection.
2Even within a broader context, Gillray’s profession itself reiterates this idea. Loyalist propaganda maligned cheap texts primarily for dismantling the idea of a traditional, exclusive public sphere. But unlike earlier artists who sold their work to pa‐
trons, caricaturists were associated with publishers who aimed at reaching the maximum number of customers for maximum proﬁt. For those who could not aﬀord the two‐shilling price tag on a coloured print, print‐sellers created colourful window displays, allowing passers‐by to share the joke free of cost. Thus these visual images, irrespective of their ideological intent, epitomise the growth of a vast, all‐inclusive public sphere. For a lengthy engagement with the growth of the Public Sphere see The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.
3It is interesting to note that Gillray uses revolutionary colours (red and blue) to dress the statesmen in this print. This highlights the way in which the visual vocabulary of the Revolution percolates in Loyalist caricature and ends up lending ad‐
ditional meanings, perhaps unintended by the caricaturist, to a print. In any case, Gillray’s choice of a covert representation seems to be a conscious survival strategy; Spence was charged with treason and imprisoned in Newgate without trial from 17 May 1794 to 22 December 1794 but Gillray continued to draw throughout his life.
44Gillray uses the caricatural form but his representation is rooted in fact. Sandra Sherman points out that in popular cookery manuals such as R. House’s Family Cookery, Combining Elegance and Economy(1800) bread is peripheral to the up‐
scale diets they describe, used only as a side dish with duck, beef, lamb, venison etc.
5William Pitt, a favourite of George III ever since his appointment as the youngest Prime Minister at the age of twenty‐
four. This led to his inﬂuential position, which Gillray depicts in the print. But Pitt’s government borrowed more than £156 million in loans between 1793 and 1796 to fund the war with France, which destroyed his earlier public popularity. When going to open parliament in October 1795, George III was greeted with cries of ‘Bread’, ‘Peace’ and ‘no Pitt’. On 27 April 1797, Pitt submitted a record budget of £42 million, attributing over three‐quarters of it to the war eﬀort. Following this he increased taxes, which led to a public backlash. For a detailed study of Pitt’s political life, see William Hague, William Pitt the Younger, London: Harper Perennial, 2005.
The effectiveness of graphic satire as a popular cultural form is further demonstrated by witty prints such as John Bull and His Dog Faithful(1796) where Gillray exposes the predatory nature of the ministers. Here John Bull has lost a hand and a leg and is weighed down by a huge bag of debts into which William Pitt has led him. The size of John Bull’s bag is suggestive of the mon- umental national debt England was under at the end of the eighteenth century. Pitt is chewing on a bone even as he leads John Bull into further debt. But Gillray does not stop at satirizing Pitt’s greed. Fox, on John Bull’s right, is seen barking at Pitt whilst Sheridan, to his left, bites the wrong leg. Charles Grey, the greyhound, is eyeing his clothes.11 John Bull himself is wearing ragged clothes, is limp and blind, very close to a ditch.22
Such complaints proliferated in the wake of the growing scarcity of food in England. But a number of statesmen continued to gloss over the acute shortage of food. In his Thoughts and De- tails on Scarcity, Originally Presented to the Right Hon. William Pitt(1795), Burke argues that starvation is God’s will and nothing, be it charity from the upper classes or governmental regulations, can alleviate it completely. By exempting the rich and the government, Burke obliges nobody to pro- vide food to the lower classes. In fact, he markedly omits the acknowledged scarcity when he in- sists that the poor are happy because they have better food, which is proven from “the known difficulty of contenting them with anything but bread made of the finest flour and meat of the first quality” (1800: 5). In this print Gillray rejects these claims completely in his depiction of a malnourished John Bull and a canine William Pitt. Instead, he echoes the opinions expressed by populist pamphlets such as Alexander Dalrymple’s The Poor Man’s Friend(1795), which berates William Pitt’s strategy of mixing maize and barley with wheat to reduce costs, and insists that the poorest of Englishmen have a “right to eat good wheaten bread” (4). Moreover, Gillray’s deploy- ment of the comic form allows him to go a step further by depicting the ministers of state and the leaders of the Opposition as animals, not even human anymore. The range of techniques available to the caricaturist allows for witty exaggeration and a degree of impudence absent from the literary pamphlet.
In print after print, Gillray resorts to the metaphor of food to suggest the greed of the heads of state. In an early print Monstrous Craws, at a New Coalition Feast(1787), he refers to the partial reconciliation between the royal couple and the Prince of Wales following the suspension of his massive debts by William Pitt. Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) is depicted as an ugly hag and King George III (1738-1820) is dressed like a woman.33All three have craws resembling giant breasts attached to their necks. They can be seen devouring a huge pot full of gold coins, which is in- scribed with the words “John Bull’s blood”. Despite their acquisitiveness, the Prince of Wales’
goitre is remarkably empty, underscoring his boundless appetite.
The Prince of Wales continues to be satirized for his dissipation in A Voluptuary under the Hor- rors of Digestion(1792). Here, a satiated Prince picks at his teeth with a fork. His protruding belly and undone waistcoat foreground his over-indulgence. A number of signifiers encoded in the print suggest his gluttony and debauchery; his trousers (three of the five buttons have come un- done), gnawed bones, empty bottles of wine, the tanker of port on the table, pills for venereal disease behind him, and the crossed fork and knife in the background which parody his Coat of Arms. Unpaid bills under a pot and more unpaid bills in the foreground provide proof of mount-
1Charles Grey (1764‐1845), MP for Northumberland, Fox’s follower and Pitt’s critic. In 1792, Grey joined a group of pro‐
2Gillray’s emphasis on dogs as the animal of choice could be inﬂuenced by the government’s imposition of a controversial tax on dogs in 1796. The supporters of the bill insisted that dogs could be considered at par with other taxable luxuries whilst the opponents of the tax protested against this objectiﬁcation and focussed on the mutual aﬀection that brings humans and animals together. The print‐maker could be hinting at the fact that the government was leaving no stoned unturned to glean money from the masses. For detailed information on the contemporary reactions to the tax see Lynn Festa, ‘Person, Animal, Thing: The 1796 Dog Tax and the Right to Superﬂuous Things’, in Eighteenth‐Century Life, 33, 2009: 1‐44.
33The Queen’s representation is particularly cruel as she ravenously stuﬃng her mouth with gold using two ladles and thrusting her body forward in sexual abandon. For a detailed discussion of Gillray’s representations of Queen Charlotte, see Chapter 3 of this thesis – ‘Body/Bawdy Inscriptions: Gillray’s Representations of Women’.
ing debts whilst the presence of the dice confirms his gambling habits.
On the other end of the spectrum is its complementary print, Temperance Enjoying a Frugal Meal(1792), which, like a number of Gillray’s plates, highlights the miserliness of the royal family.
Here the king is eating a semi-boiled egg while the Queen crams salad into her mouth. They are drinking plain water, the king’s trousers are patched, the fireplace is empty, and so is the frame in the background. Ironically, the border of the frame reads: “The Triumph of Benevolence”.
This depiction of the frugality of the royal family is similar in intent to Anti-Saccharites, ‒ or
‒John Bull and His Family Leaving Off the Use of Sugar(1792). In this telling visual, the King and Queen boycott sugar from the West Indies in a bid to oppose slavery and the Queen tries to con- vince their daughters of the same. Ostensibly, both these prints seem to replicate a Paleyesque understanding of hunger as a blessing and frugality as “a pleasure” (Paley, 1793: 11). This mythol- ogizing of hunger in order to diffuse threats of the impending famine is repeated in a series of religious sermons preached on the days of national fasts in England between 1793 and 1795.
These fasts were promoted by the King as a way to cleanse the body, but this period of ritualistic abstinence essentially served to propagate reactionary dictums. For instance, Ebenzer Verax, in his sermon delivered on the day of the nationwide general fast on 25 February 1795, requests the populace to:
“[K]eep your bodies unpolluted with food this day; humble yourselves before the King, and pray as he has commanded you [...]. Pray for the utter destruction, extirpation, and damnation, of that impious, and sacrilegious nation, who have shed royal blood. That their children may be delivered upto famine, and their blood be poured out by force of the sword. Let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and their men be put to death” (8).
These sermons need to be read as key moments of national expression because they endow the idea of starvation with patriotic overtones. Ritual starvation is not only recommended, it is necessary to foreground the solidarity of English citizens and overcome Britain’s problems. Es- sentially, the religious rhetoric of these sermons helps to dilute resistance in a fashion similar to Loyalist pamphlets of the period. This is evident in Noah Hill’s characterization of ministers as
“sent of God, faithful to their trust, whom nothing can withdraw from their allegiance to the son of God” in his sermon on the day of the general fast. He goes on to express his disgust at the Opposition:
“What an idle, senseless boat is Love of Country, and attachment to the British Constitution, in those who are devoted to pleasure, or live in a state of open, or secret rebellion against the great Lord of Heaven and Earth! They are the enemies from whom Britain has most to fear. Their sins are pregnant with every national evil. They distract our Councils [...] cut short the staff of bread, undermine the Constitution, shake the pillars of the state and put everything to dreadful hazard [...] Amen” (italics � author’s own);
(1795: 27, 51-52).
Sermon after sermon relies on creating a simplistic dichotomy between the Establishment and the Opposition in order to instil ‘patriotism’ in the minds of the ordinary British citizen.
John Aikin’s Discourse Intended for the Approaching Fast Day(1793) exalts the government so much that it becomes synonymous with Britain itself. He summons the people “on this day for the express purpose of humbling ourselves before the Maker for the sins of the nation” (4). Clearly, the focus is not on individual, but national faults. All these discourse endow the ordinary citizen with agency; he too can play a part in transforming England back into a prosperous and boun- tiful country again. Ironically, this agency manifests itself in the form of conscious abstinence.
Even when the sermons are not suggesting starvation or promoting hunger, they emphasise the importance of being niggardly. Anna Barbauld’s admonitory Civic Sermonsare addressed only to “you who have a love of order [...] who, are accustomed to say to yourselves, I will not
buy strong drink today, because my children will have no bread tomorrow” (1792: 8).
Gillray almost replicates Barbauld’s disciplinary discourse, but his ostensibly Loyalist cele- bration of stinginess is undercut by the fact that he chooses not to highlight the altruism of the royal couple. Instead, he pokes fun at their greed; the Queen’s primary reason for boycotting sugar is to add money to their personal coffers: “O my dear Creatures, do but Taste it: you can’t think how nice it is without Sugar: – and then consider how much work you’ll save the Poor Blackeemoors? by leaving off the use of it! – and above all remember how much expence it will save your Poor Papa! – O it’s a charming, cooling Drink”.
The corpulence of the King further highlights his avaricious nature and provides a basis for gauging the intent of the print-maker. A far cry from mainstream religious sermons, Gillray comes close to depicting what William Richards articulates in a radical pamphlet of 1795 in- tended to question the very premise of a general fast. Dismissing the royal proclamation of the fast as “blowing a trumpet to call the witness and admire how very pious and devout” one is, Richards insists: “Religion has been too often sadly degraded, and rendered subservient to the unworthiest and vilest of purposes [...] it is seldom anything else but a piece of political machinery to promote their own perverse and crooked designs” (4, 16).
Gillray’s brazen critique of the royal family reverberates with this understanding of self-in- terest being the motivating factor behind royal family’s penny-pinching habits.
These conflicting “heteroglot waves from all sides” underline the fact that there is no single overarching ideological conception in Gillray’s Loyalist prints (Bakhtin, 1981: 307). This play of ideologies ensures a layered and complex depiction of the nature of popular sentiment in Britain during the 1790s, very different from the monolithic politics of traditional historiogra- phies. “There is a lot going on here that the conventional histories of those years seldom ac- commodate” (Gatrell, 2007: 14). The power of Gillray’s iconography to undermine the legitimacy of the monarchy as a social, moral, and political system is proven when he extends the metaphor of eating to its utmost and uses scatological imagery as an artistic trope. The French Invasion; – or – John Bull, Bombarding the Bum Boats(1793) provides a scatological embod- iment of nationalism with George III shitting a number of tiny gunboats on France. The King here embodies John Bull, so the image is ultimately patriotic, but the patriotism is reduced to a capacity for directing excrement at the enemies. The British Declaration, which is part of the matter that the king excretes, refers to the port of Toulon then occupied by the British, which would be given back to France on the restitution of its monarchy.
This is especially interesting because a strikingly anti-British image in Jacques Louis David’s oeuvre, Le Gouvernement anglais sous la forme d’une figure horrible et chimérique(“The English Gov- ernment in the Form of a Wild and Horrible Figure”, 1794), borrows heavily from Gillray’s representation of George III. The king forms the anus of David’s titular “horrible figure” shit- ting, quite literally, from his mouth.
In an equally gross print titled Midas, Transmuting All to Gold / Paper(1797) Gillray portrays Pitt as Midas, straddling the Bank of England, shitting and spewing forth paper money, thereby transforming the gold coins stuffed in his huge belly. The allusion is to Pitt’s mercenary motives behind the substitution of gold with paper money in the face of a shortage of bullion in the Bank of England, owing to the French invasion of Ireland and mounting war costs. Pitt’s stature, compared to the relatively miniscule figures of the Opposition on the left, underlines his increasingly influential position in England.
Gillray’s imagery here is starkly reminiscent of pamphlets being written by members of the radical lobby, especially Thomas Beddoes, who, in his tract, titled A Letter to the Right Hon. William Pitt:
on the Means of Relieving the Present Scarcity, and Preventing the Diseases that Arise from Meagre Food, criticises Pitt for lacking foresight: “Did it never, Sir, occur to you, that unproductive years were to be guarded against? [...] The French, with ready money chinking in their purses, bought up American crops as they were growing, in the winter of 1794 and 1795 [...]. What did you
do? ‒Nothing that is apparent, certainly nothing that was effectual” (1796: 5-7).
Jacobin newspapers also leapt to the occasion and maligned Pitt. The Morning Postof De- cember 29, 1797 claims that “for a person to fill Mr. Pitt’s station, it is necessary to be qualified to defraud the Nation” (Gifford, 1803: 322). Gillray sticks to a similarly accusatory tone in his print, but his scatological rendition of Pitt’s greed furthers the critique; it is savage and betrays blatant disrespect of an influential minister.
The focus on what Bakhtin calls the “lower bodily functions” in The French Invasion and Midas, Transmuting All to Gold / Paperviolates bourgeois norms of bodily shame, degrades the aristocracy, and opens the aristocratic body to carnivalesque humour (1984: 10, 28, 192).11 In doing so, his prints border on being malicious, sardonic, and indecorous. They undermine the exaltation for the members of the royal family, and representatives of the Government, pro- moted by a number of Loyalist pamphlets. Each one of Gillray’s dirty jokes, scatological puns, and explicit jibes at the overindulgence or frugality of the royal family can be considered as historical micro-subjects, conditioned by political events and literary writing of the period. The resultant strain of parody and non-conformism helps Gillray encode resistance within his prints.
His prints are influenced by anti-Loyalist tracts and, in turn, influenced revolutionary im- ages. This triadic dialogue that exists between pro-revolutionary texts and images and a “con- servative” caricaturist like Gillray alerts readers to the number of meanings that inhere in each of his images. His prints exist at the cross-roads between Loyalist historiographies, Republican historiographies, revolutionary and anti-revolutionary historiographies. This continuing dia- logue between varied historiographies manifests itself in Gillray’s anti-revolutionary caricatures in recurrent images of the decapitated head of the King. The macabre tableaux depicted in his prints featuring cannibalism echo the most grotesque permutation of eating, drinking and feast- ing possible. It is only fitting that a dinner party, a concept revolving around the communal consumption of food, is the chosen location for the earliest of these prints.
In A Birmingham Toast, as Given on the Fourteenth, by The ---- Revolution Society (1791), Gillray visualises the 14 July 1791 meeting of the Birmingham Constitutional Society as a gross parody of the Last Supper. The meeting welcomed “any friend of freedom” to join in its dinner cel- ebrating the second anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, but the event is said to have instigated riots in Birmingham, including an attack on Joseph Priestley’s house. In his anti-Jacobin por- trayal of popular Whigs and radicals, Priestley (in a visual pun on his name) can be seen holding the Eucharistic chalice and calling for the King’s head upon a tray. In the centre, Opposition leader Charles James Fox proclaims “My Soul & my Body both upon the Toast”, and on his left another prominent member of the Opposition Horne Tooke lends his support to “so glo- rious a toast”.22 On the right, members of the society implore God to “preserve us from Kings
& Whores of Babylon!”, and to “Put enmity between us & the ungodly and bring down the heads of all tyrants & usurpers”. On the far left Sheridan, surrounded by empty bottles of sherry and broken glasses, says: “Damn my eyes! But I’ll pledge you that toast tho Hell gapes for me”. None of the Whigs in Gillray’s representation ‒playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Charles James Fox or Horne Tooke ‒attended the dinner, but Gillray’s con- figuration visualises the anxieties of the conservative faction in England during the 1790s. Not only is a toast raised to the future beheading of the King, the religious vocabulary deployed here “Amen! Amen!” seems to consecrate that beheading as a glorious ritual, according it a
1In Rabelais and His World, Bakhtin asserts that the oﬃcial feast is deﬁned by stability and existing religious, political, and moral hierarchies. It is monolithically serious and the element of laughter is alien to it. On the other hand, the carnival temporarily marks ‘the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions’. Carnivalesque humouris blas‐
phemous and is tantamount to ‘the profanation of everything sacred’. Gillray’s scatological prints, I believe, foreground a car‐
nivalesqueconception of the world by focussing on the ‘lower bodily stratum’ which could not express itself in oﬃcial cult and ideology.
22John Horne Tooke (1736‐1812), radical English politician and agitator for parliamentary reform.
A later print is a perfect corollary to Gillray’s rendition of Priestley’s intentions in A Birm- ingham Toast. In The Blood of the Murdered Crying for Vengeance(1793) he deploys the decapitated head of Louis XVI in order to underscore the gruesome excesses of the Revolution. Decapi- tation, traditionally symbolic of the lack of authority, is reconfigured, because in the textual accompaniment of the print the dead king still speaks:
“[M]y Throne is seized on by my murderers; my Brothers are driven into exile; my unhappy Wife and in- nocent infants are shut up in the horrors of a Dungeon; while Robbers and Assassins are sheathing their Dag- gers in the bowels of my Country […] O! Britons vice-gerents of eternal justice, arbiters of the world […]
revenge the blood of a Monarchy most undeservedly butchered, and rescue the Kingdom of France, from being the prey of Violence, Usurpation and Cruelty.”
Ventriloquizing for the king, the satirist glorifies Britain as the stronghold of rationality in this print. This speech single-handedly reinforces his belief in monarchy and dismisses the fra- ternal ideal propounded by the revolutionaries in France by representing French citizens as
‘Robbers and Assassins’ interested in unleashing anarchy in the whole country.
Interestingly, Gillray’s anti-revolutionary print is heavily influenced by a popular revolu- tionary print by Villeneuve entitled Matière à réflection pour les jongleurs couronnées(“Matter for Thought for Crowned Twisters”, 1793). But Villeneuve’s 1793 engraving highlights the “im- purity” of the King’s blood. The severed head of the king is followed by these words from the Marseillaise: “Let impure blood water our furrows”. The text, an excerpt from the third letter of Maximilien Robespierre to his constituents, reads:
“Monday 21 January 1793 at 10.15 a.m. on the place de la Revolution formerly called place Louis XVI. The tyrant fell beneath the sword of the laws. This great act of justice appalled the aristocracy, destroyed the superstition of royalty, and created the Republic. It stamps a great character on the National Convention and renders it worthy of the confidence of the French […]. In vain did an audacious faction and some insidious orators exhaust all the resources of calumny, charlatanism and chicane; the courage of the Republicans tri- umphed: the majority of the Convention remained unshakeable in its principles, and the genius of intrigue yielded to the genius of Liberty and the ascendancy of virtue”.
As in Gillray’s 1791 print (A Birmingham Toast, as Given on the Fourteenth, by The Revolution So- ciety), the slaughtering of the King takes on the air of a sacrifice that has a rationale behind it.
The understanding promoted here is that the blood that is shed, especially the blood of a monarch, is sacred and serves a healing function; it is meant to restore order to a disorderly world. This conception is reiterated by revolutionary propaganda repeatedly: “The blood of Louis Capet, shed by the blade on 21 January 1793, cleanses us of a stigma of 1300 years”
proclaims a radical newspaper of the time (Sagan, 2007: 346). Another dated 22 January, pres- ents an eye-witness account: “A number of people hurried to get hold of his hair, others drenched the paper and even their handkerchiefs in his blood” (DeBaecque, 2001: 106). This imagery is replicated by overtly anti-revolutionary accounts as well. A pamphlet titled AReview of the Proceedings at Paris during the Last Summerdescribes the horror of such a spectacle:
“Two female furies, quarrelling for a handkerchief that had been dipped in the blood of a wife, and neither of them getting the advantage the other, each put an end in her mouth, and sucked the blood, contending who should have the greater share” (Fennell, 1792: 390).
These savage images of the common man craving the blood of the monarch, almost as if it were sacramental blood, go to the very core of the visual and verbal imagery surrounding