A Block for the Wigs – or, the new State Whirligig

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A Block for the Wigs – or, the new State Whirligig
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James Gillray

A Block for the Wigs – or, the new State Whirligig

London ,H Humphrey May 5th. 1783

Etching

Original hand colouring

245 x 340 mm

A later issue c. 1810

£280

A merry-go-round in violent action, ministers seated on the horses etc. , fixed on a circular platform which is supported on a short central beam. This beam is held in place by three blocks or wedges inscribed; Tresury, Navy Army. In the center of the platform, on a tall pedestal, a continuation of the supporting beam, is a bust of the king in profile, the features blank, the head bald, a bob-wig being supported on a pole above his head; from this pole floats a ragged British flag. The King, the centre of the structure is represented as a wig-block, or a block for the Whigs. The foremost figure on the merry-go-round on the exreme right is Fox, seated in a chair, with a fox’s head and brush; he holds up a large money-bag in his left hand, looking over his shoulder at his followers with a jeering expression; his large brush flies out behind him. Behind him , riding a galloping horse whose legs are cut off at the knees, is North, his wig flying from his head with the violence of the motion. Behind him is Burke, on a similar horse, dressed as a Jesuit, wearing a large biretta, spectacles and is reading from a book inscribed Sublime &Beautiful. His leg is that of a skeleton, probably to indicate his policy of economic reform. Behind Burke is Keppel, in naval uniform, riding on an ass with its legs folded beneath it. He is saying ; Damn’d rough Sailing this, I shallnever be able to keep my Seat till the 27th. July, an allusion to the battle of Ushant. Behind Keppel, seated on a throne inscribed President, full-face and smiling, is a man with bare knees , short turban, breeches, and tartan stockings. From the crown which decorates the back of his throne hang two large thistles. He wears the ribbon of an order, and represents Scottish influence personified possibly by Bute. The rim of the merry-go-round opposite Keppel, Burke and North is respectively inscribed Balaam, Oeconomy, Secretary. The roundabout is outside an inn, part of which appears on the left. On the signboard, which swings from a beam inscribed Crown & Royal Bob, is a crown, above which is a bob-wig like the one suspended over the King’s head. Beneath is written John Bull Good Entertainment. A clock-face on the wall points to 12.15. From an upper window a man reaches out to take a large bundle which is being handed to him by a man on a ladder. Above, on the upper margin of the print, is inscribed; Poor John Bull’s House plunder’d at Noon Day. On a low stool outside the inn sits a lame man, with swathed legs and closed eyes, his crutches beside him; he holds a pipe in one hand and a tankard in the other. He is singing; Tis Liberty Tis Liberty, Dear Liberty alone, signifying how easily john Bull is plundered and bemused by talk of liberty.. One of many satires on the coalition. BM 6227