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Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

The sub­ject of one of the most ex­pen­sive lots in the Blooms­bury sale, which was largely drawn from two pri­vate col­lec­tions, was not the Prince and his amours, but the po­lit­i­cal af­fairs of his father and Wil­liam Pitt’s gov­ern­ment. Al­though they were cat­a­logued as ‘13 Broad­sides’, I am not sure that is quite ac­cu­rate. They were a set of mock ad­ver­tise­ments for plays and en­ter­tain­ments, in­clud­ing Guilielmo Pit­ta­chio, Pittpatches Req­ui­si­tion!, Pop-gun Plot, or As­sas­si­na­tion of the King, The Ex­or­cis­ing Spirit, Ge­orge’s Head in a Bas­ket, Grand Ex­hi­bi­tion at Wim­ble­don!!! and An En­tire Change of Per­for­mances?. These were po­ten­tially in­cen­di­ary squibs put out in 1794 by rad­i­cal sup­port­ers of the French Rev­o­lu­tion.

The group has been stud­ied by Dr John Bar­rell, the au­thor­ity on 18th­cen­tury lit­er­a­ture, who notes that, like the Rev­o­lu­tion in France, this move­ment was led by an elite rather than the mob—‘resid­ual and re­luc­tant def­er­ence is one of the things that dis­tin­guish, I think, the move­ment of the 1790s from the Chartists of forty and fifty years later. In this con­text es­pe­cially, the mock play­bills make sense of the ques­tion-mark in the ti­tle of An en­tire Change of Per­for­mances?, the only ad­ver­tise­ment which rep­re­sents the swin­ish mul­ti­tude as ac­tors as well as au­di­ence in the imag­ined rev­o­lu­tion. We can read that query as point­ing to a con­tin­u­ing dilemma in the pop­u­lar rad­i­cal move­ment about how far it could use an aris­to­cratic par­lia­men­tary Op­po­si­tion which it ad­mired but did not trust, which sought to use it but did not trust it’. Unil­lus­trated and sti­mated only to £150, the in­ter­est of this lot took the price to £2,914.

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