Bethlem Hospital, London: the incurables being inspected by a member of the medical staff, with the patients represented by political figures. Drawing by Thomas Rowlandson, 1789.
- Rowlandson, Thomas, 1756-1827.
About this picture
On the right of the drawing (and on the left of the print derived from it), two men enter the ward: one, not resembling the physician of Bethlem, Dr John Monro, but identified by O'Donoghue as perhaps the hospital's apothecary John Gozna, says "I see no sign of convalescence", while the other, carrying strait jackets, says "no damme they must all be in a state of coercion" On the left of the drawing (and on the right of the print derived from it) are three cells, each containing a patient, chained at the neck to the cell-wall. The right-hand one in the drawing is William Pitt the younger, Prime Minister, who wears a crown of straw and holds a sceptre of twigs: above him is the legend "went mad supposing himself next heir to a crown". Pitt was promoting a bill by which, in the event of the king's insanity, Parliament, not the Prince of Wales, would be responsible for determining the terms of the regency. The middle patient has an assortment of model cannon: he is inscribed "went mad in the study of fortifications", and is identified as the Duke of Richmond, Master General of the Ordnance, whose recent plans for the defence of the Portsmouth and Plymouth dockyards had been defeated by the casting vote of the Speaker. The left inmate has a smoothing iron and is inscribed "went mad and fancied himself a taylor's goose": the figure is unidentified, and has a different inscription from the corresponding one in the print ("Driven mad by a political itching", referring to a woman) A tailor's goose is a smoothing-iron, so called from the resemblance of the handle to the shape of a goose's neck. Could this figure be Michael Angelo Taylor, Member of Parliament for Poole and later promotor of the Metropolitan Paving Act, 1817, to improve the condition of the London streets? He is described in the British Museum catalogue of satires (nos. 6777, 7493 etc.) and in the Dictionary of national biography as being a sometime associate of Pitt (but later he went over to Fox)
1 drawing : pen and ink and grey wash over pencil ; sight 19.5 x 25.5 cm
The hospital for lunatics
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