Byron’s uncle Fred the Caricaturist

The Vol­cano of Oppo­si­tion: A bur­lesque of a famous quar­rel in the House of Com­mons between Burke and Fox in May, 1791. Burke pours out a tor­rent of fiery scorn, his clenched fist extend­ed towards Fox (left) who stands weep­ing, con­soled by Sheri­dan.

Fred­er­ick George Byron was a nephew of the 5th Baron Byron: William, the “Wicked Lord”. Gorge Gor­don Byron — our hero — who was a grand-nephew of the same mur­der­ous old coot, inher­it­ed the title at the age of 10 and became 6th Baron when both William’s son (William) and his grand­son (also William) pre-deceased him. Serve him right, say some. Fred­er­ick George, had died, too, in 1792 aged only 28!

Con­trast­ed Opin­ions of Paine’s Pam­phlet — F.G. Byron

F.G. was an ama­teur car­i­ca­tur­ist and painter in an age when all “gen­tle­men” of sci­ence or in the arts were ama­teurs (except those such as Southey and Wordsworth who took the Crown’s mon­ey). He had a style rather like that of Thomas Row­land­son, if not quite the latter’s facil­i­ty with draw­ing. He did not sign many of his works and pub­lished most for a sin­gle Lon­don print­er. There are a sev­er­al dozen of his prints col­lect­ed in libraries and muse­ums (here’s the British Muse­um col­lec­tion).

Most of Fred’s sketch­es poke rather gen­tle fun at man­ners and foibles. His polit­i­cal car­toons lam­pooned Edmund Burke (“Don Dis­mal” in the char­ac­ter of a Don Quixote) and his devo­tion to Marie Antoinette and, espe­cial­ly, the Pitt government’s claims that Eng­land was a par­adise of order and lib­er­ty com­pared to France. But his satires on French man­ners and the Rev­o­lu­tion are most­ly iron­ic rather than bit­ter: he had died before the exe­cu­tion of Louis XVI and the bloody excess­es of the Ter­ror of 1793–4 made a mock­ery of all that the ear­ly Jacobins stood for. He also pro­duced a short series of com­i­cal prints on Eng­lish­men jour­ney­ing through France in the 1790s.

Here are a few of his images. Some of those that remain (one exam­ple here) were designed for a lengthy ‘fold-out’ fan of paper either fold­ed or bound in a pam­phlet.

Old Maids at a Cat’s Funer­al
Priscil­la Tomboy
The Prince’s Bow

The “Prince’s Bow” refers to an inci­dent at the 1787 open­ing of the Par­lia­men­tary tri­al of War­ren Hast­ings, for­mer Gov­er­nor of India, which last­ed 7 years and result­ed in his acquit­tal. The Prince of Wales, lat­er Prince Regent and lat­er still George IV, made an appear­ance, bow­ing before the throne. It was such an elab­o­rate ges­ture that every fop imi­tat­ed it… or tried to. F.G.‘s car­toon shows 20 fig­ures try­ing, most­ly with­out suc­cess.

Fron­tispiece: Reflec­tions On The French Rev­o­lu­tion (Burke in rap­tures before a vision of Marie Antoinette)

As for the “cat” car­toons… Nev­er imag­ine that stuff you see on Twit­ter or Insta­gram is in any degree ‘orig­i­nal’. It’s all been done before.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: