"The Works of James Gillray from the Original Plates with the Addition of Many Subjects Not Before Collected"
This print satirizes the scandalous relationship between Nelson and Emma Hamilton, casting them in the roles of Dido and Aeneas, the central love interest of the classical Roman poet Virgil’s epic, the Aeneid. Spurred on by the gods and his sense of public duty, Aeneas abandons Dido in Carthage in order to found Rome. Gillray plays with heavy irony upon the parallels between the Virgilian narrative and the recent history of Nelson and Emma: after the Battle of the Nile, Nelson recuperated at length (and notoriously) at the home of Sir William and Emma, Lady Hamilton, at Naples. They eventually returned to England in November 1800, by which time Emma was seven months pregnant with Nelson’s child. Nelson, promoted to vice-admiral, resumed duty as second-in-command of the Channel Fleet on 17 January 1801. The print, therefore, refers to this parting, with Emma, excessively fat, in an ‘attitude’ of despair, voicing the sentiments contained in the verse caption:
The last line refers to Emma’s aged husband asleep in the bed beside her. Meanwhile, a range of grotesque and suggestively ribald objects on the table, floor and settee refer to the sexual improprieties of her and Nelson’s relationship and undercut the pretensions of the classical allusions.
John Bull ground down
Sheet size: 16 5/8 x 11 1/2 inches
NOTE: This print is not from the 1847-1851 Bohn edition (it has no plate number) but IS printed on both sides, so is not an earlier lifetime print. Some sources would put this at around 1830 from the McLean edition of Gillray prints. Another possibility is that Bohn printed this without numbering to have hand-coloured and sold individually.
"Dido in Despair!" and "John Bull ground down"
|Gillray's "Political Series" Plates 1-366|
|Gillray's "Miscellaneous Series" Plates 367-582|
|Gillray's "Suppressed Series"|