Modern Idolatry - or - editors and idols.

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Modern Idolatry - or - editors and idols.
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Charles Williams

Modern idolatry- or- editors and idols..

London, M. Jones April 1st. 1814, The Scourge


Original hand colouring

216 x 525 mm

Traces of old folds as issued


A satire on the Press, purporting to represent a vision, in which editors and newspaper proprietors are displayed by Truth. The editors write at tables arranged near an arc of the wall of a building, each in front of his respective idol, which stands on a pedestal against the wall, in the guise of a statue, though a life-like representation of the person depicted. The central idol is the Devil, on a pedestal inscribed 'Mammon', dark and hairy, with webbed wings, embryo horns, satyr's ears, and a barbed tail; he wears a sash in which is a weapon like Harlequin's sword; he is blindfolded, and holds up a money-bag in each hand; he says: "Here's your reward —he who humbugs best gets the most—Write away my boys—lie as fast as you write, and you shall be paid as fast as you lie." He looks down at the editor whose table is against his own pedestal. This writer (Peter Street), holding up a newspaper inscribed 'Courier', with both arms raised, exclaims: "Glorious News, the allies at Paris Bonaparte killed! let each Street rejoice! I shall sell eleven thousand to day!" A pile of the 'Courier' lies at his feet. On the extreme left is 'Bellona', in Roman armour, holding up shield and dagger, next it is 'Indian Juggler' [cf. No. 12134], i.e. Marquis Wellesley in oriental dress, wearing a dagger, and a jewelled cap. Beside both idols are two men representing 'The Times'. One writes on a lengthy script headed 'Vetus Letter xxxix', while others lie on the ground: 'xx letter .... Vetus, &c.' He apostrophizes Wellesley: "Even from your lifeless Image I catch such inspiration, that I dare the world to match you with an equal." He is Edward Sterling, whose identity was kept secret but may have been known to the writer in the 'Scourge'. Behind him stands a colleague holding a bunch of 'unpaid checks', who looks up at Wellesley saying: "The Times are so d—d hard. I I [sic] wish his Lordshis [sic] checks were saleable—but the Corsican Ruffian shall be hunted down if I never get a penny for them." He is presumably either John Walter (1776-1847), proprietor of 'The Times', or John Stoddart. Next sits a man who according to the text is the editor of the 'Morning Post', that is, Nicholas Byrne. He apostrophizes an effigy of Lord Liverpool, on a pedestal inscribed 'A Prime Minister'. Liverpool wears a long gown, and holds a large book, the Royal Arms on which are concealed by his arm. His left hand rests on a rudder. Byrne declaims: "Our never sufficiently-to-be-admired-Premier,—has shewn a moderation, which the miseably [sic] degraded minds of certain would-be-clever-politicians cannot comprehend—." The next is Sir Henry Bate-Dudley, wearing a parson's gown and bands; he writes, kneeling on one knee at an altar-like structure, his paper resting on a (pulpit) cushion. He addresses an effigy of the Regent on a pedestal inscribed 'Britain's Adonis' and holding a paper: 'List of British Beauties'. Bate-Dudley says (mis-quoting Wolsey): ""my blushing honors are thick upon me"—bestowed by the gracefull Hand of my divine master —Gratitude demands that I should bait my hook to catch the few gudgeons who now nibble at it—and be the Herald of his Princely virtues." Beside him lie two open books, 'Essay on Adulation' and [?] 'Works' (Bate-Dudley was a playwright, see No. 5550) on a newspaper: 'Morn[ing Her]ald'. On the right of Peter Street and 'Mammon' the next idol is Napoleon, standing in profile to the left with folded arms, a copy of Dahling's engraving (reproduced Dayot, 'Napoléon', p. 205). On the pedestal: 'The Imperial Fugitive'. The writer beside him is identified by a large book leaning against the table, 'Monthly Magazine Vol. xii', as Sir Richard Phillips; two other books are 'Review' and 'My own Works' decorated with a fool's cap. In his pocket is 'My Pocket Book' [the burlesque on Carr's 'Stranger in Ireland', see No. 11084, &c.]. He points to Napoleon and turns to a satellite who stands behind him, pen in hand, saying, "The low scurrility which venal hirelings vent upon the truly great Hero, who sways the sceptre of France is the disgrace of the Times, but while there is a Napoleon [coin] to be seen I'll praise him." The other answers delightedly, pointing at Napoleon: "Yes! Yes! so I say; but if matters go on as they have done it will be well if we get tizzies [sixpences] for nappies there will be plenty of Statesmen to sell but no buyers." (He is apparently John Scott editor of 'The Statesman', an evening paper.) Next, at the feet of Sir Francis Burdett, whose pedestal is inscribed 'Red Book Knight' [see No. 10745], Cobbett sits before volumes inscribed 'My Register'. He says reflectively: "Statesmen to sell—Aye and Patriots too—D—n my eyes if there is one uncorrupt man among them but Sir Frank—and bl—st me if I found him out till he bought a double set of my Register—" At his feet is an open book, 'History of the Porcupine' [see No. 11049], a porcupine being sketched, and papers, one inscribed 'Week'. Burdett holds a tilting-lance, and a shield on which is a lion rampant holding a javelin and a scroll; the motto: 'Reform' [see No. 11551]. Next sits a very dejected man, turning his head from his idol, which is merely a wig-block from which the wig has fallen. At his feet is a wig-box inscribed 'Dead Wigs'. He says: "Thy former fame, thy hapless fortune, and thy present ruin, dear lamented wigs [cf. No. 11728], be it my office to Chronicle with fidelity." [He is James Perry, editor of the 'Morning Chronicle'.] On the extreme right, a pendant to Bellona, is a meretricious-looking 'Pax'; she holds up an olive-branch, in her left hand is a firebrand with which she sets fire to (?) a helmet on her pedestal. Beside her, and clasping her pedestal is a bewildered John Bull (not named) who shouts towards the line of journalists: "This is the way I'm bamboozled—Patriots!—dirty work and the Devils hire are fit for each other—the highest bidder has you all!!!—"