WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ John Bull

Political satire is a delicate thing.

It’s a fine line to tread ‘twixt making a point about an unjust occurrence – war, taxation, poverty, education, et. al. – without angering the powers that be to the point of retribution. Dr. John Arbuthnot, compatriot of the eloquent satirists Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, created a character in 1712 meant to both represent the frustrated common sense of the average Englishman and skewer the crown and parliamentary policies under which he existed. He was not the fervor-inspiring figure of America’s Uncle Sam or Liberty Leading the People in France. Rather, this entirely English character entered into scrapes and fell victim to outside conditions that prevented him from enjoying his beer and his thoroughly middle class existence. He is earnest virtue until felled by circumstantial vice.

In essence, we are all John Bull.

John Bull (noun)

Englishman who exemplifies the coarse, burly form and bluff nature of the national character, 1772, from name of a character representing the English nation in Arbuthnot’s satirical “History of John Bull” (1712). A blunder.

And before you ask … why, yes, James Gillray did document John Bull. His caricatures are quite a fun way to brush up on your late 18th century geo-political history. So without further ado, behold the first ten John Bull satires.

1 John Bull Triumphant by James Gillray, published by William Humphrey 4 January 1780, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull Triumphant by James Gillray, published by William Humphrey 4 January 1780, National Portrait Gallery. “The Bull see enrag’d, has the Spaniard engag’d, And gave him a terrible toss, As he mounts up on high, the Dollars see fly, To make the bold Britton rejoice, The Yankee and Monsieur, at this look quite queer, For they see that his strength will prevail, If they’d give him his way and not with foul play, Dtill tug the poor beast by the tail.”

John Bull, in a Quandary (Lord John Townshend; Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 July 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull, in a Quandary (Lord John Townshend; Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 July 1788, National Portrait Gallery. “Which way shall I turn me, how shall I decide?”

John Bull, Baited by the Dogs of Excise by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 9 April 1790, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull, Baited by the Dogs of Excise by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 9 April 1790, National Portrait Gallery.

Alecto and Her Train, at the Gate of Pandaemonium; -or- the Recruiting Sarjeant Enlisting John Bull, into the Revolution Service by James Gillray, published by Samuel Wm. Fores 4 July 1791, National Portrait Gallery.

Alecto and Her Train, at the Gate of Pandaemonium; -or- the Recruiting Sarjeant Enlisting John Bull, into the Revolution Service by James Gillray, published by Samuel Wm. Fores 4 July 1791, National Portrait Gallery.

Anti-Saccharrites; -or- John Bull and His Family Leaving Off the Use of Sugar by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 27 March 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

Anti-Saccharrites; -or- John Bull and His Family Leaving Off the Use of Sugar by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 27 March 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

William Pitt (John Bull Bother'd; -or- the Geese Alarming the Capitol) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 19 December 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

William Pitt (John Bull Bother’d; -or- the Geese Alarming the Capitol) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 19 December 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

The Landing of Sir John Bull and His Family, at Boulogne sur Mer by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 May 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

The Landing of Sir John Bull and His Family, at Boulogne sur Mer by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 May 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

 John Bull's Progress by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 3 June 1793, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull’s Progress by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 3 June 1793, National Portrait Gallery. From clockwise, John Bull Happy; John Bull Going to the Wars; John Bull’s Property in Danger; John Bull’s Glorious Return.

King George III (The French Invasion; -or- John Bull, Bombarding the Bum-Boats) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 5 November 1793.

King George III (The French Invasion; -or- John Bull, Bombarding the Bum-Boats) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 5 November 1793.

 John Bull Ground Down by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 June 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull Ground Down by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 June 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

 

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