Benjamin Harrison, the autocratic treasurer of Guy's hospital, receiving tributes from Sir Astley Cooper and his associates. Coloured lithograph attributed to R. Cruikshank, ca. 1830.

  • Cruikshank, Robert, 1789-1856.
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The scene contains eight pieces of dialogue and various annotations referring to Benjamin Harrison, who, as treasurer of Guy's Hospital in London, controlled the hospital's funds and appointments. In 1826 he had founded at Sir Astley Cooper's suggestion a medical school which provided posts for many of the people in this print: Charles Aston Key (husband of Sir Astley's niece), Bransby Blake Cooper (Sir Astley's nephew), John Hilton (Sir Astley's protégé), John Flint South (former pupil of Sir Astley and joint demonstrator of anatomy with Bransby Cooper), John Morgan (articled pupil of Sir Astley Cooper) and Edward Cock (Sir Astley's nephew)

In the centre a man sits in back view, arms akimbo, on top of a padlocked chest, 'Treasury box', supported on a table or platform covered by a green cloth. His posterior is the 'Seat of honor'; above his head, an inscription 'Old Harry's son', shows that he is Benjamin Harrison, who succeeded his father as Treasurer of Guy's Hospital in 1797. He says: 'They who honor me shall be rewarded with promotion, but they who neglect me, shall be treated with scorn & contempt'

On the left two well-dressed men approach him obsequiously: one silently proffers a huge key labelled 'Servility', showing that he is Aston Key; his tight trouser is slit almost to the knee on the left leg showing a wound. The other (John Morgan) stands erect, saying, 'Most exalted Sir, had it not been for your wise discrimination, & fostering rare, we, the present luminaries, which now honor the sphere in which we move should have continued in the mist of obscurity; or as costly gems undiscovered in the deep recesses of the Earth' (although according to Plarr's Lives, Morgan, while of Glamorganshire stock, was laconic)

On the right stands Sir Astley Cooper, inscribed 'A barren knight' (i.e. baronet), and his nephew Bransby Cooper who (like Polyphemus) has a single eye in the middle of his forehead and a gold or silver vase (upside down) on his head, inscribed 'Consolation'. The latter holds a large book inscribed 'Ligaments', and in his pocket a paper inscribed 'Bones'; he points at Harrison, saying, 'That is the seat of my honor & the source of my consolation; tho' my ligaments & bones are sore, & the stones have cried out against me'. Sir Astley Cooper, also pointing, says: 'Very good nevey Polyphemus, they, who say it is not so, are all fools, they dont know their duty, and they ought gentlemen to be flogged out of their profession: I have tried tried [sic] it for upwards of 40 years, & have always found it answer'

On the far left are three people who refer to Harrison: an old woman with a crutched stick says 'Thats the man wot clap his face & call'd me a poor Devil'; a youngish man wearing over-sleeves, says 'Thats the man who break his promise'; and a lame man says 'Thats the man wot Dam my eyes & told me to go to Hell'

On the far right, behind Bransby Cooper, is a trestle table inscribed 'Demonstrations daily' and 'Demonstrations in a Hill[H crossed out] Tone'. In front of it a man (John Hilton), dressed like the younger doctors in black tail-coat and grey trousers, kneels obsequiously holding the end of a long scroll or address. On the trestle table is a big jar inscribed 'Cabbage in a pickle'; in this stands a youth (John Flint South; B.M. catalogue says John Hilton) wearing a fool's cap with big dangling bells, holding a knife and intently studying the book 'South manual'. There are also a bone and a skull on which stands a cock. A second young man (Edward Cock) operates on the cock, putting forceps in its mouth, and saying, I'll make you speak plain my Cock!'

On the wall behind are two large framed pictures. The picture on the left is inscribed 'Dead house' and 'Oh! Monsieur de Quaker'. A vulture (Thomas Hodgkin) wearing a quaker's hat and clutching a knife leaves a small trap inscribed 'A French trap for an English booby', to lean menacingly towards a naked man, dead or moribund, saying, 'Art thou dead friend?'. On the right, 'Guy's burial ground', showing a grave inscribed 'And they stoned Stephen Acts c 7 v. 59'; on the headstone: 'Sacred to the memory of Stephen', referring to Stephen Pollard, a man who died at Guy's after an operation for lithotomy performed by Bransby Cooper in 1828. Thomas Wakley had published a report of the operation in the 'Lancet' which was intended to expose favouritism and incompetence by forcing Bransby Cooper to resign or sue for libel: Cooper sued and lost



Physical description

1 print : lithograph, with watercolour ; image 20.3 x 30.1 cm


The seat of honor, or servility rewarded. In the impression catalogued (Wellcome Library), the names of the persons are written in pencil below their portraits in the lithograph

References note

British Museum, Catalogue of political and personal satires, vol. XI, London 1954, no. 16428


Wellcome Collection 11400i


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