Does this piece not drip with sarcasm ?

A Warm Tribute to the Vicar of Bray (1734), and the Power he Wielded
fari quae sentiat = to speak what he feels

Oppressing true merit, exalting the base,
And selling his Country to purchase his peace.


Sir Robert Walpole

comments culled from
Walpole in Power
by Jeremy Black, 2001,
and further comments from other places

starting with views on Horace

In August, 1824, Lord Liverpool, the British Prime Minister, 1812 - 1827, expressed his opinion that the "publication of any letters" of Horace Walpole ... would "rather mislead than instruct the rising generation." He believed Horace "to have been as bad a man as ever lived."

In October, 1824, John Wilson Croker, Irish statesman and author, unloaded his mind of these opinions on the pernicious personality of Horace Walpole: "There never lived a more selfish man; a more factious politician, a more calumnious writer. ..... I am anxious to prevent ..... his poisoning the sources of history ..... his 'Memoirs' and letters ..... give a most false colour to the transactions and characters of his day ..... I did something ..... towards exposing his errors and defeating his personal malevolence ..... the mixture which his partiality has brewed ..... will poison the minds of posterity ..... Walpole seems to have taken care that all his remains shall be published ..... without one word to explain or correct the grossest errors or injustice."

like father, like son

Robert Walpole is often presented as "one of the great political figures of the eighteenth century". The blurb on Jeremy Black's 2001 study states: "In the twenty years that he was prime minister, Walpole was the chief architect of the Whig supremacy which laid the foundations for modern Britain. He secured the Hanoverian dynasty through his close relationship with George II and achieved the seemingly impossible task of harmonizing the interests of people, parliament and monarch in a way which became the model for future British prime ministers."    How wrong can you be ?

The real and solid foundations for modern Britain were laid secure by the time of the Year of Victories, 1759, as a result of the staunch and resolute patriotic opposition to Robert Walpole, his politics and his knavish tricks. But perhaps he did lay the foundations for modern modern Britain: Wilson, Callaghan, Heath, Blair, Cameron and the rest of the slippery crew. Robert's Whiggery was strictly "pragmatic", like Harold Wilson's socialism.

"Historians are right to see 1725 as marking a new point of departure in London politics. That year witnessed the beginnings of a broadly based opposition to Walpole's Election Act which sought to remodel the constitution of the City and circumscribe its democratic tendencies." From Nicholas Rogers, in London in the Age of Reform, 1977; edited by John Stevenson.

The Great Man is summarily nailed by Swift's 1733 'vicious "Character of Sir Robert Walpole", the "Cur dog of Brittain & spaniel of Spain".'   See Goldgar, p 117. A poem of fourteen lines, in rhymed couplets, worth checking here. See also couplet above.

What I'm trying to get at on this page is that the Walpoles contrived, in their separate ways, to suppress Monamy's true merit, since he was a genuine promoter of Britain's anticipated greatness. Here's an interesting quote: "J.B.Van Loo was among the painters Walpole admired. He also supported British paintings, patronising the young Samuel Scott, a marine painter and drawer of waterfront scenes. .... A critic complained that none of Walpole's paintings showed 'the tragic end of rogues of state'." From Black, page 72. Samuel Scott was, however, not truly a British marine painter, but indubitably a Walpole poodle, deliberately patronised in order to undermine the message Monamy projected of trade expansion and ocean rule. Until, with the capture of Porto Bello, Scott felt obliged to join in the pan-national hysteria. Van Loo will be remembered as one of Hogarth's excoriated bêtes noires. Hogarth rejected Robert Walpole's humiliating overtures of patronage. Horace decried Hogarth's painterly merits as "slender".

1736/37. The fate desired for Robert Walpole by the patriots ?

The late storm, which happened the 20th day of December 1736, wherein his present majesty King George II was in imminent danger. A positively Hogarthian image.

The ejection of Robert Walpole from his political eminence, and effectively from the Royal entourage, was not achieved until about 5 years after the production of Monamy's mezzotint. It is rewarding to think hard about what is being conveyed in this print. As pointed out by Ragnhild Hatton, in her biography of George I, the Hanoverian Accession (and dynasty) had been safely secured by that king's enlightened policies during his reign, 1714 - 1727. It was being threatened by Walpole's self-interested cultivation of the unpopular George II. The opposition was headed by George II's son, Prince Frederick.

It is a pity that Christine Gerrard's 1994 account of the opposition to Walpole is largely restricted to poetry, in the patriots' concern to resurrect the National Myth, and only incidentally includes visual media. She mentions Andrew Marvell once, in a footnote on p 151, "See esp. 'Britannia and Rawleigh' (1674), sometimes ascribed to Marvell". The poem is believed to be by John Ayloffe, but it was published in Cooke's edition as by Marvell, in 1726. The date and ascription to the English Aristides are significant.

Tell em the Generous scorn their Rise to owe
To Flattery, Pimping, and a gawdy shew:
Tell 'em to scorn the Carwells, Pembrookes, Nells,
The Cleavelands, Osbornes, Barties, Lauderdales...
Make 'em admire the Sidnies, Talbots, Veres,
Blake, Candish, Drake, men void of slavish fears,
True sons of Glory, Pillars of the state,
On whose fam'd Deeds all tongues, all writers wait.

From Britannia and Rawleigh, published in
Thomas Cooke's edition of Marvell's works, 1726.


The National Myth, and its association with generous maritime endeavour, and true sons of glory such as Blake and Drake, men void of slavish fears, was pictorially, and effectively, presented to Vauxhall Gardens visitors of all classes by Monamy's first two paintings: Sweet William's Farewell, and Kempthorne's engagement against seven Algerines. See here. These were obviously meant to stiffen the mariners' sinews for the coming conflict against Spain, and incidentally against the Bonnie Catholic Prince, Charlie Stuart, optimistically supported by France. For the second of these paintings Monamy was obliged, for the last time in his career, to refer to a decorative mural undermantel painting at Ham House, by van de Velde.

Pictures and Popery: Art and Religion, 2006, by Clare Haynes, appeared to offer a promising study, but I was disappointed to discover there was not a single mention of marine painting or painters in its 185 pages. The book addresses "the seeming contradiction [of] a militantly Protestant nation, such as England" during the 17th and 18th centuries having "a high regard for Catholic art". British art historians, of course, do not regard marine painting as "art", and thereby fail to recognise the visually most vigorous anti-Catholic expression of the times. It is confusing that the van de Veldes, unmentioned by Haynes, sought patronage from the Medicis and were patronised by Charles II and James II, both Roman Catholics, and were in all likelihood crypto-Catholics themselves. At least one of the van de Velde children was baptised in a Roman Catholic church. The patriotic expressionism detectable in Monamy and Swaine did not reach its full flowering until Turner, and his championing by the semi-insane Ruskin.

Meanwhile, the curious Sermon on Painting, 1742, by Horace Walpole, discussed by Haynes on pp 83-84, and in which she suggests Horace "was trying ..... to develop a specifically and theoretically cogent, Protestant approach to art", including "a rather elaborate comparison of Sir Robert to Moses" needs more cogitation and comment. Another day. Protestant approach ?

From the Monamy & Walker conversation piece c 1730-33
About as authentic a Monamy painting as might be found.

A work of art is an otherwise useless artefact which I could not make myself.
A pile of bricks, an unmade bed, or an Alfred Wallis seascape are therefore not works of art.

Kosterlitz, 2016 Nobel Prizewinner and sometime Brasenose Alumnus, said his "complete ignorance" was an advantage. "I didn't have any preconceived ideas", he said.

Helen Gardner, in The Business of Criticism, 1959, has a chapter entitled The Historical Approach. I was told to ingest this newly published book when I began to read English, and that chapter made an impression lasting the rest of my life. It may even have had an effect on the mind of the nincompoop employed by the AHRB, without dispelling his/her ignorance, or preventing him/her from using a pitifully uninformed phrase like "second-rank practitioner". Here is an excerpt: "When we are confronted with the expression of the mind of someone long dead, embodied in a work of art, [in] the process of coming to understand it ..... we have to develop a technique of questioning, asking questions which arise out of the work itself." p.35.

Interesting Historical Context

The London Gazetteer, 9th February 1749

.... by industrious valour climb
To ruin the great work of time
And cast the kingdom old
Into another mould

à bout de souffle
walpole's anecdotes
sir robert's epitaph
macaulay on horace walpole
father henry walpole: catholic martyr
hervey & others on robert walpole
peter monamy and british art historians
monamy explained

monamy website index

How wrong can you be ?
about the Vicar of Bray, the trimmer
and heir to numerous Papacy supporters
"The spaniel of Spain."

A Reading List

1967     The English Court in the Reign of George I     John M.Beattie
1976     Walpole and the Wits: 1722 - 1742     Bertrand A.Goldgar
1977     Resistance to Oligarchy: City Opposition to Walpole: 1725 - 1747     Nicholas Rogers
1978     George I: Elector and King     Ragnhild Hatton
1994     The Patriot Opposition to Walpole : 1725 - 1742     Christine Gerrard
2001     Walpole in Power     Jeremy Black
2006     Pictures and Popery: 1660 - 1760     Clare Haynes
2007     The Great Man: Sir Robert Walpole: Scoundrel, Genius     Edward Pearce

"Shiploads of dead Christs, Holy Families and Madonnas, and other dismal dark subjects." See Haynes p 6.

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© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2016
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