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Here’s Gillray’s ”Stealing Off;-or-Prudent Secession”, from November 1798. It depicts Charles James Fox, who, at the time, was in a political wilderness following his ambitious attempts to wrangle premiership from Pitt the Younger (and undermine the king). In August 1798 the British, led by Nelson, had defeated Napoleon’s troops at the Battle of the Nile. Subsequently many satirists, such as Gillray, attacked Fox, who had originally supported the French Revolution, for entertaining republican tendencies.
The satire portrays the shadowy figure of Fox fleeing in horror from the House of Commons. Beside him, a greyhound, reminiscent of a hell-hound, whose collar reads ”Opposition Grey-Hound”. The small animal scurrying from the Commons, seen between Fox’s legs, has the face of Michael Angelo Taylor, a politician who had originally supported Pitt, but then advocated Fox.
Through the door, we can see Pitt’s hands as he’s speaking (on the left), and the Opposition benches (to the right). One of the scrolls Pitt is holding reads ”Destruction of Buonaparte - Capture of the French Navy - End of the Irish Rebellion - Voluntary Associations - Europe Arming - Britannia Ruling the Waves”. The Opposition members are eating their papers: Fox’s ally, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, eats ”Loyalty of the Irish Nation”, while George Tierney, another Fox ally and opponent of Pitt’s, eats a ”Homage to the French Con[stitution]”. Also note the hat Fox has left behind, squeezed between Sheridan and Tierney, suggesting their personalities don’t give much room for Fox.
Image © The Trustees of the British Museum
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