Thursday, June 23, 2011

Political Valentines

This Charles Jameson Grant newspaper cartoon is from Cleave’s Gazette, published by Benjamin Davy Cousins on 10 Feb 1838. I asked Mathew Crowther to identify the knavish personages depicted.

“Grant seems to have been quite fond of producing satirical 'line-ups' in which caricatures of four different political or social figures are represented and their various faults highlighted either via speech bubbles or captions. He issued a number of very similar prints to this one as part of the Political Drama series and as stand-alone satires.

The first two figures are Wellington and Cumberland; then comes Sir Robert Peel whose association with the "blue devils" of the Metropolitan Police led Grant to portray him either as a rat catcher, or in police uniform; next comes Earl Grey, whose increasing conservatism is derided as apostasy and I think the final figure is Viscount Melbourne. The Devil appears in a number of Grant's satires and is usually portrayed as a mischievous figure rather than a symbol of outright evil or menace. I would guess that Grant's decision to portray Melbourne in this way may be a satirical reference either to the Prime Minister's decision to introduce reforms to the established Church of England and to further relax laws governing Nonconformists and Roman Catholics, or to his decision to rebuff demands for a second reform act to introduce a more radical overhaul of the British political system.

Images like this give us some idea of Grant's own political leanings as, the fact that he hits out at the reformist Whigs as much as the Tories, suggests he sat somewhere at the radical end of the British political spectrum.”

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