An Album of Caricatures by George Townshend at Raynham Hall
Essay by Oliver Cox
George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend (1724–1807) has been described as ‘warm-hearted, sensitive and capable of enthusiasms, but unsteady and odd, intermittently ambitious, often disgruntled, quarrelsome, lacking in judgement, and burdened with an insuperable urge to ridicule’. 1 It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that, aside from his political and military accomplishments, he was a gifted and versatile caricaturist.
There exist today three main collections of caricatures by George Townshend, split between the McCord Museum of Canadian History in Montreal, the National Portrait Gallery, London, and Raynham Hall, Norfolk. The nine drawings by George Townshend in Canada were produced by him while in Quebec serving as a brigadier under Major General James Wolfe. The provenance of these drawings is unknown, seven having been acquired probably at some point in the early twentieth century by the lawyer David Ross McCord, whose collections formed the basis for the foundation of the McCord National Museum in 1921. Two further drawings were gifted by the Canadian banker Sir Frederick Williams Taylor. The significance of the drawings for Canadian national history is clear, ‘as the earliest caricatures that are known to have been made in what is now Canada’.2 The drawings in the McCord Collection demonstrate that Townshend could play it straight, as in his watercolour portrait of General Wolfe dedicated to ‘his friend’ and fellow soldier Isaac Barré (fig. 1); use toilet humour to lampoon the disconnect between Wolfe and the realities of military campaigning (fig. 2); or turn the knife in a vivid and ferocious character assassination of Wolfe that harnesses both the skills of the caricaturist and the lessons of British history (fig. 3).
The Townshend Album at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), London, is a collection of George Townshend’s caricatures and portrait sketches collected by his friend, neighbour and second-in-command of the Western Battalion of the Norfolk Militia, William Windham of Felbrigg Hall.3 The seventy-three drawings were bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery by Windham’s descendant, Robert Ketton-Cremer, following his death in 1971.4 The drawings in the album range from quick outline sketches of local political figures in Townshend’s home county of Norfolk (fig. 4), prominent characters in national politics captured in the House of Commons (fig. 5), to drawings from the fringes of the expanding British Empire during Townshend’s time in Canada (fig. 6). As the Gallery’s director, Roy Strong, noted at the time, the volume drawings constituted ‘welcome and important additions to the national collection’.5 This album, as the most readily accessible of Townshend’s drawings, has formed the basis for subsequent scholarship that has explored Townshend’s role and significance in the development of caricature and political satire in eighteenth-century Britain.6
The Raynham Hall album is the largest of the three albums, containing 287 drawings, with a date range from the mid-1750s through to at least the 1780s, including the work of George Townshend’s two eldest sons, the 2nd Marquess (1753–1811) and Lord John Townshend (1757–1833). Herbert Atherton, comparing the Raynham and NPG albums, noted the extraordinary range of subject matter:
There are dozens of sketches of pompous officers and martinet serjeants, country farmers and ladies of fashion, over-fed clergy, macaronis, North American Indians, and the notorious and celebrated in London’s social world. The collections include several excellent portrait caricatures of political and military luminaries Townshend had known and a series of Irish drawings from the time of his Vice-royalty. His love of the hunt, horseracing and prizefighting is also evident, particularly in the sketches he sent to Windham.7
The drawings are a mixture of pen and ink sketches and pencil sketches overlaid with pen and ink, and occasionally with wash. The subject matter ranges from a posing connoisseur (fig. 7) to an elongated and foppishly posed ‘Lieutenant Superlative’ (fig. 8), through to pen-portraits of leading political actors including William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, George Lyttelton, soldiers such as Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Howard (fig. 9) and Townshend’s bête noire, the Duke of Cumberland. Among the most compelling non-political caricatures are the depictions of the Italian dancers Gaëtan and Auguste Vestris and the actor James Quin, all three recorded in performance on the London stage.
The celebrated dancers Gaëtan and his son Auguste Vestris arrived in London, where they performed at the King’s Theatre in the season 1780–81 to great acclaim. Townshend’s caricature must therefore have been made at that time (fig. 10). It is not entirely clear whether the ‘mon chere Vestris’ featured here is father or son, although the annotation ‘Il Seignier Volti subito’ (meaning ‘to turn quickly’) may be a reference to Gaëtan who, it was observed, ‘while he is turning at the highest possible speed he stops in a-plomb, wth such perfection that he remains perfectly immobile in that balancing position’.8 In addition, whereas his son was only in his early twenties, Gaëtan was by this time in his early fifties, an age which corresponds more closely with the figure in Townshend’s caricature. The caricature of Quin (fig. 11), who had died in 1766, is somewhat earlier and possibly contemporaneous with the portrait of Quin by Hogarth, which was at Raynham until it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1904 at the Townshend Heirlooms sale (Tate, London, N01935). In the caricature Quin is depicted by Townshend as Cato, the eponymous title of Joseph Addison’s celebrated tragedy of 1712. Although Quin was known principally for his comic roles, notably Sir John Falstaff, he played the role of Cato from the mid-1730s until his retirement from the stage in 1751.9 While Townshend appears to have admired Quin, the historical character of Cato would surely have appealed to him greatly, as the epitome of republican virtue and liberty.
Herbert Atherton is the only scholar thus far to have published material from the Raynham album, although a note at the back of the album confirms that the volume was deposited at the British Museum in August 1949, ‘for the purpose of getting the drawings identified, if possible’.10 Dorothy George, who had been appointed by the Trustees of the British Museum in 1930 to complete the monumental Catalogue of Personal and Political Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings, made a range of suggestions based on comparisons with the few orphaned Townshend drawings in the British Museum (fig. 12), along with references to the series of printed caricatures which are recorded in a list at the back of the album (fig. 13).11
Aside from the insights which it provides into Georgian society as a whole, the album is significant in particular because, in concert with the sketches collected by William Windham, they form a pictorial representation of a particular political world-view – an approach to eighteenth-century political life that found it impossible to countenance anything that might impact on the virtuous independent gentleman committed to the sacred flame of liberty. Townshend’s caricatures visibly highlighted the distorting effects of corruption.
On 24 January 1759, George Townshend, then aged nearly thirty-five, wrote to his Norfolk neighbour at Holkham Hall, Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, then aged sixty-two and the county’s lord lieutenant, challenging him to a duel:
As I have been disappointed in the opportunity I much wished for to express myself publickly in the manner I think it becomes me to your Lordship upon your very unprovoked indecent and insolent behavior towards a body of Gentlemen of respectable property and characters in the County for their spirited and generous engagements for the service of their Country; I cannot now (being called out of the Country on publick service) leave it without first demanding from your Lordship that satisfaction which I think I have a right to expect from you as well you know I being Colonel of one of those Battalions of Militia which you have been pleased so plentifully to abuse, consequently my Lord one of the first objects of your bitterness and ribaldry however ineffectual and contemptible, it is natural to expect the efforts of a malignant mercenary renegade must be to obstruct the publick service and blacken the characters of a set of Gentlemen who devote themselves from principle solely to the defence of their country.12
This fiery, posturing letter, written as the new Militia Act was being put into practice in the counties, gets right to the heart of the so-called Militia Debate, ‘the only serious political movement surviving in England in the middle years of the eighteenth century’.13 On one side stood George Townshend, who had from the autumn of 1756 gained increasing political prominence as the most vocal and most articulate supporter for the extension of a militia – an armed citizenry responsible for national self-defence – as the importation of Hessian and Hanoverian mercenaries to protect Britain from invasion became the cause for much patriotic soul-searching.14 On the other stood the Earl of Leicester, a supporter of the incumbent government ministry led by the Duke of Newcastle and a vocal critic of the idea of a militia, who to men like Townshend represented all that was wrong with Britain in the mid-1750s, nothing more than a ‘malignant mercenary renegade’, whose moral corruption would paralyse patriotic exertion, leading to a successful French invasion.
As Matthew McCormack has recently suggested, Townshend’s attempt to duel with Leicester provides a snapshot for understanding the importance of the militia ideal in the Georgian political imagination. ‘The ideal of an armed citizenry, standing up to domestic and foreign tyranny, had long appealed to those of a republican and opposition bent’, for it was a key component of a neo-classical world-view, which contrasted the virtuous and patriotic with the forces of ‘corruption’. The ideological appeal of the militia lay in its ability to act as a guardian of liberty through extolling ‘a citizenry with the masculine qualities of independence, patriotism, and vigilance’.15 Crucially, the militia provided the means of limiting the impact of a standing army which could be both a menace to the liberties of Englishmen and a potential source of corrupting political patronage. The militia, therefore, was a key political issue as ‘it went to the heart of constitutional debates about executive power, national strength, and the rights and responsibilities of the ordinary citizen’.16
The index inserted into the album during the time it was on loan to the British Museum, based on Dorothy George’s attributions, starts with the fifty-third caricature in the album, ‘Wm Pitt, Earl of Chatham: gouty & older than in the other drawings’, and neatly maps onto Townshend’s political career. The major political players of the mid-eighteenth century are well represented: Bubb Doddington, the 3rd Earl of Bute, Earl Temple and the Duke of Newcastle all feature. Townshend’s stint in Ireland as lord lieutenant provided material for his caricatures of Isaac Mann, Bishop of Cork, and Philip Tisdale, attorney general of Ireland. Other identifiable characters include Henry, 2nd Earl Bathurst during his time as lord chancellor (1771–8), Lord Albemarle, Lord Sandwich and Lady Harrington. The drawings in the album do not appear to be in a particular date order, with only thirty-six out of the 287 identified in the British Museum’s index.
It seems likely that this attempt to source attributions from eighteenth-century specialists was led by Thomas Sydney Blakeney, the honorary archivist to the 7th Marquess Townshend (1916–2010), who had himself purchased large parts of the dispersed Townshend archive not acquired by H. L. Bradfer-Lawrence after sales in 1911 and 1924.17 A letter of 1950 included in the album from Aydua Scott-Elliot, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at Windsor Castle, to Blakeney, indicates that she was ambitious to situate the Raynham album within the broader context of eighteenth-century print collections. Scott-Elliot’s letter links Townshend’s caricature of ‘Lord Clare’ (no. 276 in the Townshend Album) with a drawing in the Royal Library called ‘Robert Nugent Craggs boring his auditors’.18 Additional attributions have been provided by Humphrey Minto Wilson, whose collection of English caricaturists, especially Rowlandson, is referenced extensively in twentieth-century studies. Minto Wilson also wrote the introduction, which appeared posthumously, to the large selection of his prints and drawings which formed the basis of a 1961 Arts Council touring exhibition, Hanoverians in Caricature.19
Study of the Raynham album also encourages scholars to remember the significance of the military to country-house life in the eighteenth century for, in an era where as many as one in four men had direct experience of wartime service, this was a society that was deeply literate about military life.20 In the Small Dining Room at Raynham is a painting by the Swiss artist David Morier of a review of the West Norfolk militia led by George Townshend (fig. 14; RN42), and a portrait of Townshend gesturing to the assembled militia in the background (RN45). Together, these pictures demonstrate not only the importance of the militia in fashioning a manly, virtuous and patriotic identity but also underscore its significance in reinforcing regional networks of kinship and patronage.
Douglas Fordham has suggested that George Townshend first met David Morier during the campaign in the Netherlands towards the end of the War of the Austrian Succession, when they were both in the Duke of Cumberland’s entourage.21 Andrew Moore and Charlotte Crawley suggested a likely date of 1758 for the review which Morier captures on canvas, for Townshend had recently been promoted to colonel and had yet to sail to Quebec as part of Wolfe’s expedition.22 This militia conversation piece links the central figure, George Townshend, with his gentry neighbours – a ‘set of Gentlemen who devote themselves from principle solely to the defence of their country’ – in a scene of orderly patriotism. These orderly, regimented and uniformed bodies stand in stark distinction to the corporeal corruption of Townshend’s caricatures.
Morier’s portrait of Thomas de Gray in the uniform of the lieutenant colonel of the Norfolk Militia (fig. 15; RN44) further asserts these connections at a personal level. It is likely that a number of other key figures in the Norfolk militia were painted by Morier during the summer of 1758, as suggested by the portrait of Sir Armine Wodehouse, colonel of the Eastern Regiment of the Norfolk Militia now in the collections of the National Army Museum (NAM 1998-11-1-1).
Placed in a political context, the album of caricatures by George Townshend, housed in the archives at Raynham Hall, is of great scholarly significance. Not only can it add further texture and detail to existing scholarship on Townshend and the birth of caricature but it also preserves a visual record of an insider’s view of Georgian political culture while, in concert with other surviving art works at Raynham, it re-emphasises the importance of the military, and military culture more broadly, within the polite drawing rooms of the eighteenth-century country house.
L. Namier and J. Brooke, eds, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754–1790, ‘Townshend, Hon. George (1724–1807), of Raynham, Norf.’, https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/townshend-hon-george-1724-1807 (accessed 22 December 2019.1
Dominic Hardy, ‘Caricature on the Edge of Empire: George Townshend in Quebec’, in Todd Porterfield, ed., The Efflorescence of Caricature, 1759–1838, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, p. 11. Since 2015, the Association of Canadian Cartoonists has presented the annual George Townshend Award.2
Eileen Harris, The Townshend Album, London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1974.3
The caricatures were photographed in 1960 by the Courtauld Institute after Ketton-Cremer had deposited the album at the National Portrait Gallery.4
Roy Strong to Woolsey & Woolsey, 29 October 1971, National Portrait Gallery, London, Heinz Library 4854.5
See, for example, H. M. Atherton, Political Prints in the Age of Hogarth: A Study of the Ideographic Representation of Politics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974, pp. 51–60; Diana Donald, ‘“Calumny and Caricature”: Eighteenth-Century Political Prints and the Case of George Townshend’, Art History, vol. 6, no. 1, 1983, pp. 44–66; Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996. Two further drawings attributable to Townshend in the collections of the British Museum are described in H. M. Atherton, ‘George Townshend, Caricaturist’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 4, no. 4, 1971, pp. 437–46.6
H. M. Atherton, ‘George Townshend Revisited: The Politician as Caricaturist’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, 1985, pp. 4–5.7
See Philip H. Highfill Jr, Kalman A. Burnim and Edward A. Langhans, A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660–1800, 16 vols, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Press, 1973–93, vol. 15: Tibbet to M. West, p. 148. For further information on the Vestrises in London see Martin Postle, 'Thomas Gainsborough's "lost" portrait of Auguste Vestris', British Art Journal, Vol.4, no.1, Spring 2003, pp. 64-68.8
Ibid., vol. 12: Pinner to Rizzo, pp. 226–42.9
Townshend Album, Raynham Hall Archives.10
The British Museum owns a number of prints after George Townshend’s caricatures, as well as a few original drawings, notably The Recruiting Serjeant, Or Britannia’s Happy Prospect, 1757 (BM 1868,0808.4057), the drawings including Thomas Pelham-Holles, George Lyttelton, Henry Frederick, Charles James Fox (BM 1931,0413.22) and Edward Gibbon (BM 1868,0808.13152).11
George Townshend to Thomas Coke, 24 January 1759, Norfolk Record Office, WKC 7/58, 404x3 (copy), quoted in Matthew McCormack, Embodying the Militia in Georgian England, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 191.12
J. R. Western, The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century: The Story of a Political Issue, 1660–1802, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965, p. 125.13
Stephen Conway, ‘War and National Identity in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century British Isles’, English Historical Review, vol. 116, no. 468, 2001, p. 889.14
McCormack, 2015, p. 192.15
Matthew McCormack, ‘“Turning Out for Twenty-Days Amusement”: The Militia in Georgian Satirical Prints’, in E. Charters, E. Rosenhaft and H. Smith, eds, Civilians and War in Europe, 1618–1815, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012, p. 158.16
Nicholas Vincent, ‘The Wills of Godfrey and Henry of Helhoughton (1270 and 1274)’, in Paul Brand and Sean Cunningham, eds, Foundations of Medieval Scholarship: Records edited in Honour of David Crook, York: Borthwick Institute, 2008, p. 90. See also James Rosenheim, The Townshends of Raynham: Nobility in Transition in Restoration and Early Hanoverian England, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989, p. 254.17
Aydua Scott-Elliot, Windsor Castle, to Thomas Sydney Blakeney, 3 March 1950, Raynhall Hall Archives.18
Humphrey Minto Wilson, introduction to Hanoverians in Caricature, Arts Council exhibition, 1961: see Arts Council, A Brighter Prospect: 17th Annual Report, 1961–1962, London, 1962, p. 58.19
McCormack, 2012, p. 159.20
Douglas Fordham, British Art and the Seven Years’ War: Allegiance and Autonomy, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010, p. 80.21
Andrew Moore and Charlotte Crawley, Family and Friends: A Regional Survey of British Portraiture, Norwich: Norfolk Museums Service; London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1992, p. 128.22
- by Oliver Cox
- 20 November 2020
- House Essay
- CC BY-NC International 4.0
- Cite as
- Oliver Cox, "An Album of Caricatures by George Townshend at Raynham Hall", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/RNE569