Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fans, Fan-making, and the Fan Museum at Greenwich.

Afternoon tea at the Fan Museum
I love a beautiful fan, and they have been the must-have accessory for  young women in the UK since the 1500s. Though not widely used now I think most people with an interest in history of fashion wish they'd make a come-back! 
The Fan Museum at Greenwich is dedicated to the history of fans and craft of fan making, and holds over 5,000 fans and fan leaves with examples from all over the world from the 11th century to the present day. This year the museum is celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary and the museum’s curators have handpicked an array of fans that showcase the extraordinary diversity of the museum’s holdings.

Exhibition highlights include seventeenth century fans painted with mythological subjects, elaborately carved & gilt rococo confections, and twentieth century fans by artists George Barbier and Salvador Dali.
They also do the most wonderful afternoon tea in a beautiful room painted with trompe l'oeil scenes so I would highly recommend making a day of it! 

Amusing motto at the Greenwich Fan Museum
If you can't go to see the exhibition itself, you can search the collection - a wonderful resource for Regency writing or just for drooling over. 

Here's a very potted history of fan making.
Elizabeth 1 holding a feather fan
Queen Mary received seven fans as a New Year’s gift in 1556, and a number of portraits in the 1570s show her sister Queen Elizabeth 1 holding a rigid fan of feathers set in a bejewelled handle - it’s claimed that the fashion for fans and other accessories in Great Britain was born at this time following the tastes of Italy and France. Folding fans followed soon after - the records show that repairs were made on fans ‘with branches of Iverye’ or ‘blackwood’.
The fan industries of Western Europe evolved through the 16th and 17th centuries, before they established their own guild. The charter of the London Guild of Fan Makers was awarded by Queen Anne in 1709 and protective legislation was introduced to curb the import of fans. By 1723 it was claimed that English ivory carving was as good as the Chinese, and that English fans were as good, if not better than the French.
Chinese Brise Ivory fan-1790s
By the end of the 17th century it had become usual for the fan leaf (and often the back too) to be decorated with figures in settings. Most subjects were associated with romantic love, but Biblical and mythological subjects were considered suitable too. As well as painted leaves, print was also used, sometimes hand-coloured after printing. Fans were used widely outdoors and indoors, and the demand was great by the 18th century. Printed fans could be used for political ends, social scandal and other news such as the royal family’s visit to the Royal Academy in 1788. Other printed leaves might show the rules to a card game or show popular destinations on the Grand Tour. By the 1790s printed fan leaves were being issued by silk mercers as well as print publishers.
The role played by jewellers was important - Queen Caroline and Queen Charlotte both owned fans with guards encrusted with jewels.
In this period the royal ladies also enjoyed decorating fans. In 1786 the Princess Royal completed four fans and two muffs for the King’s birthday celebrations and four years later described ‘finishing a
Princess Frederica
beautiful fan for the Queen, with feathers, flowers, insects and shells …’ The painted leaves would have been made into fans by professional fanmakers, and many were proud of their royal associations.
In 1791 Prince Frederick, Duke of York married Princess Frederica in Berlin, followed by an English ceremony in the Saloon at Buckingham House - now Buckingham Palace. The description of her fan states that the ‘whole is of pierced ivory held together with coquelicot ribbons … the outside sticks, in exception to the ivory are of gold, in the form of a chain closely set with diamonds … The inner sticks of ivory, when open, exhibit an oval medallion of His Royal Highness the Duke of York in relief, a correct likeness and masterly execution … It’s a beautiful fan, part of the royal collection.
In 1797 printed fans were published with the rules of ‘Fanology’, the secret language employed to allow ladies to ‘converse at a distance on any Subject without speaking.’ In the 19th century this was developed into lists of ‘signals’, which could be made by holding a fan in different ways. A fan held in the left hand in front of the face meant ‘I’d like to get to know you’, a fan drawn across the cheek declared, ‘I love you’, a half-opened fan pressed to the lips meant ‘You may kiss me’, whilst one drawn through the hand meant ‘I hate you’.
An example of a cockade fan
Ivory fans from China were prized for their skilled carving, and the best were paper thin. Cockade fans, which open to a 360 degree circle were first recorded in medieval times and were still popular in the 19th century. This type of fan was ordered from England and were often worked on from designs sent over to the customer’s preference.
With the hardships during the Napoleonic Wars, fan production dwindled in the early 19th century. As communication improved quantities of high quality fans were imported from Paris once more, despite the efforts of the guild.

In Northanger Abbey Jane Austen uses the fan as a way for Catherine Morland to avoid having to dance with John Thorpe - in the hopes she will soon see Mr Tilney!

The others walked away, John Thorpe was still in view, and she gave herself up for lost. That she might not appear, however, to observe or expect him, she kept her eyes intently fixed on her fan; and a self–condemnation for her folly, in supposing that among such a crowd they should even meet with the Tilneys in any reasonable time, had just passed through her mind, when she suddenly found herself addressed and again solicited to dance, by Mr. Tilney himself. With what sparkling eyes and ready motion she granted his request, and with how pleasing a flutter of heart she went with him to the set, may be easily imagined. To escape, and, as she believed, so narrowly escape John Thorpe, and to be asked, so immediately on his joining her, asked by Mr. Tilney, as if he had sought her on purpose! — it did not appear to her that life could supply any greater felicity.

I have several beautiful books on fans - 
The Fan Museum by Helene Alexander
Unfolding Pictures - Fans in the Royal Collection by Jane Roberts, Prudence Sutcliffe and Susan Mayor
Advertising Fans by Helene Alexander
Presenting a Cooling Image by Helene Alexander and Russell Harris 

Jane Odiwe
Mother of Pearl fan - 1830s

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sir Francis Dashwood and the Hellfire Club

West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire
If you find yourself in Buckinghamshire, you might enjoy stopping in the little village of West Wycombe.

It is very nearly as pretty as dear old Lacock, although the road to Oxford goes right through it and the odd oversized lorry rather spoils the effect of the several Tudor cottages and coaching inns.

West Wycombe Park is open in the summer months and you can admire this gorgeous residence, exquisite inside and out, set to advantage by the side of the lake.

Dashwood Mausoleum and St Lawrence Church
You will not fail to notice that, high up on the opposite hill, there is a rather grandiose structure that dominates the landscape.

It is the Dashwood Mausoleum, crowned by the tower of St Lawrence’s Church.

They were both commissioned in the late 1740s by the then owner of West Wycombe Park, Sir Francis Dashwood.

Sir Francis Dashwood

By everybody’s standards, Sir Francis was not a religious man and even the building of this church was dismissed by his contemporaries as for show rather than prayer. Indeed, why else build a church at the top of a hill, when the entire congregation lives at the bottom?

As the story goes, during his visits to Italy on his Grand Tours, Sir Francis had developed a profound antipathy for the Roman Catholic Church. This was later shown in a variety of ways, not least in having himself painted as a Franciscan monk in irreverent parodies of Renaissance art. 

In one of those paintings, the deity ‘San Francisco di Wycombo’ worships is Venus, and the book he reverently peruses is not the Bible, but a copy of an erotic novel, while the profile of Dashwood’s friend and partner in mischief, Lord Sandwich, peers from the halo.

Sir Francis Dashwood and the Earl of Sandwich were members of the notorious club that began by meeting at the George and Dragon inn as the Order of the Knights of St Francis, then at Medmenham Abbey where they became the Friars of Medmenham, and lastly in the caves dug under the hill crowned by the Dashwood Mausoleum, known to this day as the Hellfire Caves.

The Hellfire Caves are a network of man-made caverns excavated by the local villagers who were employed to mine chalk and flint. The chalk was used to build the road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe, and also the church, the Mausoleum and some of the houses in the village.

Hellfire Caves Entrance
The caves were used as a meeting place for Sir Francis Dashwood’s gathering of ‘friars’, by then renamed the Hellfire Club. Its members included various important XVIII century figures such as William Hogarth, John Wilkes, Thomas Potter and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. Though not believed to have been a member, Benjamin Franklin was a close friend of Dashwood’s who visited the caves on more than one occasion.

Two of those notable personages are immortalised in the names chosen for some of the chambers. The route through the caves progresses from the Entrance Hall to the Steward’s Chamber and Whitehead’s Cave, then passes through Lord Sandwich’s Circle, Franklin’s Cave , the Banqueting Hall, the Triangle, the Miner’s Cave and finally, across a subterranean river named the Styx, into the Inner Temple, where the meetings of the Hellfire Club were held.

According to Horace Walpole, the members’ practice was “rigorously pagan. Bacchus and Venus were the deities to whom they almost publicly sacrificed; and the nymphs and the hogsheads that were laid in against the festivals of this new church sufficiently informed the neighbourhood of the complexion of those hermits.”

Meetings occurred twice a month, with a gathering of all members for a fortnight or so in June or September, and rumours of black magic, satanic rituals and orgies circulated in the area and beyond. Nevertheless, it would appear that the majority of the participants were merely interested in drinking, singing bawdy songs and meeting in privacy with their mistresses, while a handful of others, which included Sir Francis himself, were genuinely interested in the revival of some ancient ‘pagan’ cults.

A satirical engraving of John Wilkes
There is a very entertaining story about a practical joke played on Lord Sandwich at one of the meetings of the club. John Wilkes, the notorious radical, contrived to bring a baboon to the proceedings, dressed the animal in ‘phantastic garb’, kept him secreted away, and eventually released him at a chosen moment without being noticed, by means of an elaborate contraption. Finally freed from his place of confinement, the baboon leapt on Lord Sandwich’s shoulders. Shocked by the sudden appearance of the shrieking creature, his lordship was gripped by the fear that it was the very Devil whom they had been invoking, come to carry him away. The harder he tried to shake the baboon off, the tighter it clung, while Sandwich cried: “Spare me gracious Devil! Spare a wretch who never was sincerely your servant. I sinned only from vanity of being in the fashion. Thou knowest I never have been half so wicked as I pretended, never have been able to commit the thousandth part of the vices which I have boasted of. Leave me therefore and go to those who are more truly devoted to your service. I am but half a sinner!”

Whether half- or full-measure sinners, and whatever the Hellfire Club had been up to in the bowels of the earth, by the late 1760s the party was over. The club was disbanded in 1766 and the caves, disused after Sir Francis Dashwood’s death in 1781, fell into disrepair. However, after the Second World War, they were renovated and turned into a visitors’ attraction by another Sir Francis Dashwood, a descendant of the notorious sybarite, and the profits used to refurbish the dilapidated family home.

If you find yourself in the area, do visit the caves for a remarkable experience.

So far I have heard no tales of naughty spectres haunting the caverns, but maybe this is just a story waiting to be written. So here’s to the Ghost of the Banqueting Hall :)

(Art and history sources:; and Wikipedia. Contemporary photos J. Starnes).

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What He Wants...Is What She Needs

In my new novella, out next month, a gentleman who unexpectedly comes into an earldom meets a businesswoman from the City of London, and the inevitable happens (well, it’s inevitable in my books!)
It's in the anthology "Seven Nights of Sin," where you'll find stories by Victoria Vane, Sabrina York, Eliza Lloyd, Suzi Love, Maggie Andersen and Hildie McQueen. Oh yes, and yours truly.
My hero, Gerald, knows he’s third in line to an earldom, but since there are two perfectly healthy heirs to himself, he discounts the possibility. He has a comfortable fortune, and lives, until he inherits, in an unfashionable part of London with his three sisters. Inheriting a title wasn’t all sweetness and light, especially when the new title holder was unknown to society. Gerald and his sisters weren’t interested in fashionable society, so they had a lot of ground to make up, if they were going to do the title justice.
My heroine is based on one of my ancestors, Hester Bateman. After discovering that several women
had flourishing businesses in Georgian London, I became more intrigued with this possibility. Women could inherit property if it was unentailed, and they could live independently. They couldn’t do their own legal business and they were barred from the House of Commons but they could employ people to do that part for them.
Hester Bateman was left a young widow with three young sons to support. Her husband left her the business, not in trust for her sons, but in her own right. So Hester set to improving the business. She made silver wire, which was used to do things like applying fancy trims to flatware or jewellery, but that wasn’t enough for Hester. She registered her own mark at the Guildhall, with the Goldsmith’s Company, and started to make domestic silverware.

I hadn’t realized how she could do this before I tucked into the research. Hester owned a mill. It was a machine that rolled the silver. One man turning the handle could operate it. They were developed and used abroad, and rare at this time. The other way of beating out silver was the way the Romans had used, with hammers and human skill, beating out the sheets to thinness. The machine could produce more consistency, and it could also go thin. That meant Hester could produce moderately priced silverware for the emerging urban middle class. Added to clever design, that made her business a huge success. With the mill, she could make flatware, tea sets, rolled candlesticks with lead inside for ballast and cheapness, and a plethora of other articles.
I loved researching this book, and it’s given me a new avenue to explore. Independent heroines who have a choice. Lovely!
While my heroine Annie only gets as far as the silver wire part, I did give her a mill, and made it a significant part of the story at one point.
She had a shop on Bunhill Row, near Smithfields, so that was where I gave Gerald his London house. Annie’s landlord wants her, so he uses her place as blackmail. So she asks Gerald if she can have his house, but of course, Gerald has his stipulations, too. He wants her, but instead of offering her marriage, he asks for one night. Gerald knows he has to marry well, in order to give his sisters a good footing in society, so Annie just won’t do.
So does Annie take Gerald’s rakish proposal, or does she plump for the man who is offering her marriage?

 Get it here! 
And read about it here!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Okay then, hands up anyone visiting this blog who’s going to admit to reading Seth Grahame-Smith’s classic PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES? Anyone? Hmm. I thought not. Well then, I’m going to out myself so none of you have to. I have read it, but in my defence I am the mother of two sons and a secondary school English teacher and I struggle valiantly year after year trying to persuade teenage boys to immerse themselves into the clean, cool world of ballrooms, of whispered conversations behind fans, discovering the joy of 
clean, elegant prose examining the values of calico versus muslin...

Okay, can you see the problem? However much I adore my two boys and enjoy teaching, the words ‘elegant’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘ballroom’, ‘muslin’ and ‘teenage boys’ don’t really go together. On the rare occasions when I venture into our telly room (It used to be the lounge, a place where I had hoped to sit and discuss literature and art, but I surrendered that dream years ago) all I see are males of various ages, sitting slumped on armchairs, controls in hand while they scream “Kill it! Kill it! Oh my God, did you see the way the head exploded!” Boys are earthier, more interested in the thrill of the hunt, of battling monsters and revelling in the crimson gore of their prey. In short they’re savages.

We ladies, on the other, hand are lovely. We like things to be clean, neat, tidy, pretty. As I sit here typing I am drinking tea out of my lovely rose-patterned tea cup, poured from my bone-china teapot. If I’d had daughters I know they’d be more civilised, happy to sit down and discuss the books they’d read with me quietly, calmly and with wit and poise...

All right, maybe I’m exaggerating somewhat (especially the last bit – any mothers of teenage girls want to chip in here?) but you get the picture. The average boy isn’t going to enjoy PRIDE AND PREJUDICE the way Jane wrote it and anyone who says otherwise is kidding herself. So this is where Seth comes in. And the book is fun. It’s easy to read and introduces even the most resistant reader to a style that doesn’t rely solely on sentences like ‘KILL! KILL!’ or descriptions that include words like ‘SPLAT’ and ‘KERPOW’. The style is gentle parody: here ‘unmentionabIes’ don’t mean flimsy undergarments and women occasionally discuss the pros and cons of carrying a musket (necessary but unladylike). I defy anyone who’s read the real PRIDE not to get a kick out of the opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” And be honest, wouldn’t you be secretly glad that Elizabeth defeats Lady Catherine and her cadre of ninjas in a duel to the death with her trusty katana?  

So I shall continue to encourage boys to read P and P and Z and I shall also be visiting the local cinema to see the movie adaption of the novel. And who knows? I might even one day find a teenage boy who admits that he actually prefers the real thing.      
Jacqueline Farrell writes historical and paranormal romances with The Wild Rose Press. Her two paranormal novels ‘'Sophronia and the Vampire'and ‘Maids, Mothers and Crones’ and her historical romances, ‘The Scarlet Queen’ and ‘Dragonsheart’ are available from Amazon and all good e-book stores. Follow her on twitter @jacquiefw1 and on her website

Click here for link to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES . It really is a fun read.   

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Valentine Kisses - Regency Romantics Box Set 2016

Add caption
Being part of a multi-author box set is a good way to increase your readership. It is also a way of staying connected with other writers.
I spend the majority of my time sitting alone at my desk writing/editing or – I have to admit – wasting time on Facebook. However, in my defence, Facebook is another way of keeping in contact with the human race.
I'm privileged to be part of a group of six bestselling writers – and hope this collaboration continues for many more years.
We have changed the original name from –  Regency Quintet –  to – Regency Romantics – as Wendy Soliman has now rejoined us and we don't know from one boxset to another how many of us will be putting a book in for publication.
Another change is that we are all aiming to write new stories for the Christmas edition and Elizabeth Bailey is writing a new story for every box set in future.
Here are the blurbs for the books:

One        One Snowy Night by Amanda Grange
When snow drives Rebecca’s carriage off the road she is forced to take shelter at an inn, where she meets the impossible Joshua Kelling. Rebecca refuses to marry him in order to protect her reputation and is horrified to later discover that they have both been left equal shares in a mill. It is only when his life is in danger that she knows her own heart, and comes to understand his. 
Lady Eleanor’s Secret by Fenella J. Miller Lady Eleanor feels destined to forever endure the misery of living as an unpaid governess to her brother Edward’s children – until she meets Alexander, Lord Bentley. But Edward is determined to keep them apart as he needs Eleanor’s inheritance to fund his gambling debts. 
The Dream Chasers by Melinda Hammond 
When Vivyan Lagallan decides that it is time to settle down, Fate has other ideas, and one last adventure literally drops into his arms in the form of the spirited Miss Eustacia Marchant. Eustacia is determined to marry Rupert Alleyne, while Vivyan is engaged to the beautiful and highly respectable Helen Pensford. The ensuing tangle threatens the happiness of them all, unless Eustacia's final, audacious plan succeeds! 
A Duke By Default 
When Marc Rothwell unexpectedly inherits a dukedom he sets about finding a suitable wife in order to produce an heir. Caught in a compromising position with Miss Harriet Aston, Marc proposes. But she appears determined to make him fall in love with her, even though he makes it perfectly clear that theirs will be a marriage of convenience. Can Marc ensure the safety of his wilfully disobedient wife before his enemies strike again? 
A Chance Gone By 
Is there a chance for Marianne when Justin’s long-awaited betrothal goes awry, throwing the family into scandal? She long ago abandoned hope, hiding her heart in a friendship sealed in childhood. Nothing matters if Justin loves her. But does he? It seems the prospect of marital intimacy will drive them apart, not bring them closer. Can the tangle of love and friendship ever be unravelled? 

Click here UK

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Historical Charm of Shoreham by Sea

Yesterday I was in Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex, doing a talk at the library there to celebrate National Libraries Day. I’ll be blogging more about libraries tomorrow on the Word Wenches but here I wanted to share what a charming historical town Shoreham is. I love going to new-to –me places and having the chance to explore and I'll definitely be going back to Shoreham. I love the seaside anyway and when it's combined with a history of smuggling, wreckers and lots of other Georgian derring-do it's irresistible!

Shoreham (rather like Swindon only different!) developed in two parts. Old
Shoreham was founded in pre-Roman times, whilst the port and town of New Shoreham was established by the Normans in the 11th century. It’s “new” in the same sense that the New Forest is new – only a thousand years old.

Strolling through the town, I was particularly drawn to the old church of St Mary De Haura (St Mary of the Haven) and the narrow cobbled streets around it. The church was begun in 1103 and is now only half of its original size. Part of the nave had fallen down by the end of the 17th century and the ruins are in the graveyard. It’s not clear exactly why it collapsed. Some explanations suggest that the loss of half the town due to the encroaching of the sea forced the population to leave and there was not sufficient money for the church’s upkeep. Another idea is that was possibly used as an ammunition store or stabling in the English Civil War of the 1640s and was struck by cannon fire. The weather also takes its toll. There were a number of violent storms along the coast in the 14th and 15th centuries and the Great Storm of 1703 flattened some of the stone built buildings in the town. Whatever the cause, it had a very ancient and atmospheric feel to it yesterday, when the wind was once again howling through the town as another storm blew in.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson

If you are interested in what life in late 18th/early 19th century London was really like, then you need look no further than the prints of that consummate draftsman, Thomas Rowlandson, (1757-1827) currently on display in High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson at the Queen’s Gallery.

His genius for drawing lively caricatures of his fellow men and women with all their foibles: the drinking, eating, the amorous (and often ridiculous) goings-on, the fads of fashion and so on are all there, as well as prints exposing political scandals and financial skulduggery.

Dressing for a Masquerade

Take Dressing for a Masquerade, published on April 1st, 1790 – and the date may be significant (the characters depicted are all fools). The setting is a crowded room with a number of women in various stages of undress getting ready for a Masquerade. The woman on the right (who looks as if she is cross-dressing for the evening) is adjusting a stocking; another woman is standing on a chair looking at her reflection in a mirror held up by her maid. An elderly male hairdresser on the left is combing the grey hair of a seated woman. Behind, a woman dressed as a monk, is holding a bottle and a glass – the party is obviously already underway.

Masquerades were public affairs, open to anybody who could afford the ticket price. They gave ladies in particular the freedom to misbehave. Why not flirt (and, perhaps, more) with some handsome man whose accent plainly proclaims that his background is very different from hers? Who will know? And it looks as though Rowlandson’s ladies are about to take full advantage of their temporary ‘incognito’ status - the masks are ready.

John Bull at the Italian Opera

 Rowlandson also pokes fun at obsessions of the day, such as the fashion for Italian opera. We see this is John Bull at the Italian Opera, published in October, 1811. Front of stage, a male singer, clad in Classical armour, is plainly in mid-aria. In the theatre box behind, John Bull, standing for a true Brit who disdains such pretentiousness, yawns ostentatiously. Yawns are notoriously infectious, and we note that other people in the box are yawning as well.  

Rowlandson shows us that many in the audience are heartily bored, a view neatly echoed in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, where Anne Elliot goes to a concert of Italian music at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Of course, the main dramatic focus in Persuasion is on the tension in Anne’s relationship with Captain Wentworth, but, nevertheless, Jane Austen allows herself a dig at the concert audience, as well.

After the interval, the audience returned, ‘the room filled again, benches were reclaimed and repossessed, and another hour of pleasure or penance was to be sat out, another hour of delight or the gapes (yawns) as real or affected taste for it prevailed.’  One can’t help feeling that Jane herself may have been on John Bull’s side.

Midnight Conversation

One of the prints I found most revealing was Midnight Conversation from 1790. It was bought by the Prince Regent himself and one suspects that the subject matter rang a bell with H.R.H. Here, drunken revellers of both sexes are carousing in a private room in a tavern. On the left, a man lies sprawled out between two women, one of whom is obviously amorously inclined. On the right, a women leans over a man to vomit on the floor – he is past caring. A woman centre stage, possibly an inn servant, brings in a large punch bowl.

The print pokes fun at the fashionable ‘Conversation piece’ group portrait, turning it on its head, and, to make the point further, the lounging man on the left is taken from Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress’.

Rowlandson was a canny man of business, and his prints were widely sold. The hand-coloured prints sold for five shillings (5/-) or seven shillings and sixpence (7/6), a not inconsiderable amount at the time, given that a working man would be lucky to earn eighteen shillings (18/-) a week – less than a pound. The Queen’s Gallery exhibition owns 300 Rowlandson prints, all collected by various members of the royal family – right down to Queen Victoria, in fact.

There is also a fascinating run of topical prints featuring the scandal of the Duke of York’s mistress, Mary Ann Clarke, selling army promotions. These were published almost daily charting the course of the scandal and I’ve chosen three to look at.

The Triumvirate of Gloucester Place, or the Clarke, the Soldier, and the Taylor.

On March 7th, 1809, Rowlandson published The Triumvirate of Gloucester Place, or the Clarke, the Soldier, and the Taylor. Gloucester Place was where Mary Ann Clarke entertained High Society, and the Duke of York. The print shows Mary Ann, her friend Mrs Taylor, and the Duke of York, discussing possible Army promotions. We can see that the list is inordinately long. Mary Ann is saying: I have a small list of promotions which I wish to be fill’d up, my Dearest. A bubble over the Duke’s head says: It shall be done, my Darling. Mary Ann will make a financial killing.

A General Discharge, or the darling angel’s finishing stroke

A few days’ later, on March 13th, 1809, the scandal broke and Rowlandson published A General Discharge, or the darling angel’s finishing stroke. Mary Ann sits a-stride a cannon and fiercely hammers a spike into it, thus rendering it useless. Her bubble says: A wise General makes good his Retreat. The Duke of York, on his knees is saying: Alas! Alas! For ever ruined and undone. For see, she has spiked my great Gun. The sexual innuendoes are plainly intentional. The reference is, of course, to the Duke of York’s impotence in the face of the scandal which rocked the country. Note that the Duke is kneeling on what appears to be a whale.

A York Address to the Whale Caught lately off Gravesend.

This is explained in Rowlandson’s print of April 5th, 1809: A York Address to the Whale Caught lately off Gravesend. The Duke is on his knees before the whale which had been towed up the Thames as a tourist attraction and Londoners have been flocking to see it. Unfortunately, by April 5th, the whale’s carcase is beginning to stink and people are losing interest. The Duke is imploring ‘The Mighty Wonder of the Deep’ to hold on for a few more days to keep John Bull’s attention off the royal scandal. And I like the touch of the Duke’s tricorn hat, which lies by his feet, giving him a sort of fishy tail as well.                           

I hope you have enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of a fascinating and illuminating artist.

High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson is at the Queen’s Gallery until February 14th, 2016. .

Images courtesy of: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

 Elizabeth Hawksley