Mrs. Moore and I went to New York in January 2004 to celebrate my birthday. To cheer me up, she took me to the JAMES GILLRAY EXHIBITION at the New York Public Library. I was familiar with Gillray’s work which I had encountered at the print shops in Cecil Court, in history books, and at various places in Williamsburg, Virginia. The social and political satire of the late 18th century/early 19th century pulled out all the plugs, and nothing was held sacred–not the King, the Prince Regent, Napoleon, the Government, Nelson, social mores, nor religious traditions. Every aspect of British life was under a microscope and made fun of. James Gillray was an engraver who sold his engravings in Mrs. Humphrey’s Print shop on St. James’s St., St. James’s, London. People would crowd the windows of the print shop to see the latest cartoons and caricatures. Some of these masterful engravings were so sensitive that even the Prince Regent offered to pay large amounts of money to destroy the engravings which offended him. They were a great source of public humor that exposed corruption, vulgarity, gluttony, styles, royal manners, and political injustices. Gillray’s prints were one of the sources which caused the British public to have little regard for their King Georges: III and IV. This engraver’s dislike for all things French reflects the long standing suspicion of all things on the other side of the English Channel–particularly Napoleon. James Gillray was eventually recognized for his high level of artistic work and was appointed to the Royal Academy. When you are wandering down Cecil Court or other print and engraving shops in London, see if you can find a JAMES GILLARY ENGRAVING. They are hilarious and will enrich your library walls. Wonderful. That’s the 18th and early 19th century Britain.
This one is particularly bitter showing King Louis XVI execution, the death of the Church, the death of the legal system–all carried out by the lowest level of society who were just having a Sunday holiday at the guillotine. Deep hatred of the French.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918