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Copenhagen House 1795

James Gillray, November 1795.

Copenhagen House was a pleasure resort and tea rooms.

Beneath the design: '"I tell you, Citizens, we mean to new-dress the Constitution and turn it, and set a new Nap upon it."

Underneath that, the text — added by (presumably) the cartoon's owner — reads

"On the 12th of November 1795 a public meeting was summoned by the London Corresponding Society in Copenhagen Fields which was attended by more than a hundred thousand persons. Five rostra or tribunes were erected, and Mr. Ashley, the secretary, informed the meeting that it at each of them petitions to the King, Lords and Commons against the Bill for preventing seditious meetings would be offered to their consideration."

The original text was published in the Annual Register and read

Yesterday, in consequence of a public meeting, in the fields behind Copenhagen house, having been called by the London Corresponding society, an immense concourse of persons assembled there about twelve o'clock. Five rostra or tribunes being raised in different psrts of the fields, Mr. Ashley, the secretary, informed the multitude, that at each a member of the society would offer to their consideration three petitions : i. To the king ; 2. To the house of lords; 3. To the house of commons ; which he entreated them to hear and receive with a decorum, that should refute the misrepresentations of their enemies. At two o'clock, the rostra were entirely filled, and not less than an hundred thousand persons surrounded them. The petitions were signed, and the multitude dispersed with perfect peace and good order.

A large and plebeian crowd is being addressed from three roughly made platforms, one being in the middle distance, another in the background. In the foreground (right) a man, supposed to be Thelwall, leans from his rostrum in profile to the left, shouting, with clenched fists, and raised right arm. Behind him stands a ragged barber, a comb in his lank hair, holding out a paper: 'Resolutions of the London Corresponding Society'. Next to him, a man with the high-crowned hat and bands of a dissenting minister holds a tattered umbrella over the orator. A man on the steps leading to the platform, wearing a bonnet-rouge (the only one in the crowd) has a vague resemblance to Fox. From the next platform (left) a butcher, supposed to be Gale Jones, bawls at the crowd with raised right arm. Beside him stand a man holding a scroll inscribed 'Rights of Citizens'. The third orator is a tiny figure (Hodgson) with both arms raised. All the platforms are surrounded by crowds, and hats and arms are being waved by those addressed by the butcher. In the foreground (left) a man sits holding out for signature a document which is supported on a barrel of 'Real Democratic Gin by Thelwal & Co.' Three little chimney-sweepers stand round it, one of whom, holding a pen, has just made his mark on the 'Remonstrance', below the signatures of 'Jack Cade', 'Wat Tyler', 'Jack Straw'. All wear caps with the name of their master on a brass plate (according to the Chimney-Sweepers' Act of 1788); this is 'Thelwall'. A fat woman sells a dram to one of the crowd. Another presides over a portable roulette or E.O. table, a 'teetotum', inscribed 'Equality & no Sedition Bill'; three barefooted urchins are staking their pence. The heads in general do not appear to be portraits, but in the centre of the design, with his back to the woman selling drams, is Priestley, caricatured, standing with folded arms facing Thelwall. There is a landscape background with trees up which spectators have climbed.

 


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