My18th

Image of the Week: The Political Locust (1795)

Inspired by the oncoming summer heat waves, this week’s image is a hand-colored cartoon etching by Isaac Cruikshank (1764-1811), a British printmaker and caricaturist. The above image is of a giant locust eating the remains of “Poor Old England,” as reinforcement locusts (labeled “French Priests”) fly in the background, during the summer of 1795.

As seen in the image, the summer of 1795 saw an influx of destitute French clergy, food shortages, high taxes and monopolies, and military setbacks. The tone of this summer was picked up by a variety of cartoonists and printmakers. Seen here, devouring locusts descend upon England and eat away at the last few leaves of a dying and tattered plant, labeled “The Remains of the Old Constitution.” The large locust head is most likely a caricature of General John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, whose apparent self-serving interests are best described by the inscription in the upper right corner: “I must take care of myself and my own Relations.”

Cruikshank’s print is an excellent example of caricature and satire in 18th-century England, and it reveals the skill and detail inherent in political cartoons of the period.

Sources:

Cruikshank, Isaac. The Political Locust. 1795. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D.C.

Cruikshank, Isaac. The Political Locust. 1795. The British Museum, London.

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