Romantic Circles Gallery
Winding up to a pitch the Automaton Scaramouch, --or--, Harlequin Courier’s Delight
This political caricature depicts Queen Caroline as a puppet of her lover Bartolomeo Pergami (aka Bergami). Dorothy George describes the print as follows:
Bergami, mustachioed, whiskered, and alluring, in a tight-fitting harlequin’s suit over which is a short gold-laced jacket, sits on a tall stool, holding up a life-like puppet representing the Queen. He grasps it by the waist, and pulls a ribbon, making arms and legs fly up. She smiles delightedly down at him, her ringlets flying. She wears the décolletée over-dress . . . open to show frilled and spotted drawers. Bergami, part courier, part Harlequin, has a heavy queue of hair hanging from his black curls and wears a peaked cap with a big gold tassel. A heavy postilion’s whip projects from his pocket. He is directed to the l., towards an open French window and a vine trellis, with a view of Lake Como. He raises his r. leg, looking over his l. shoulder, away from his puppet. On the floor are the courier’s discarded pistol, powder-flask, holster, and saddle; behind his chair are portmanteaus, one inscribed B . B. A large book propped against a decanter inscribed A Boire is: Hop Step and Jump, or, every man his own Courier. List of Postes on the high road from Dunghill, to Barona. A partly dropped curtain (r.) reveals two figurines embracing below a shelf of books. The carpet is patterned with hearts. (191)
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Copyright, 2009.
Marks DescriptionAt the bottom of the print is written the title of the print and its publication information, “London Pub’d by G. Humphrey 27 SE James’s St. Feb. 17 1821.”
Printing ContextThis individual circulating print may also have appeared as part of a series of divorce trial caricatures by Lane and the Cruikshank brothers (George 191).
Associated EventsThe Trial of Queen Caroline (1820)
The trial of Queen Caroline for divorce on the grounds of adultery took place from August to November 1820, and resulted in her acquittal, or the exclusion of the Divorce Bill, by the House of Lords. The Queen was accused of having a long-term affair with the low-ranking Italian courtier Bartolomeo Pergami (also called Bergami). The scandalous nature of the published testimonies, as well as the political instability caused by radical support of the Queen, made the trial a public sensation. Weak and conflicting testimony, the radical threat, the Queen’s popular support, and the Queen’s threat to recriminate George, contributed to the House of Lords' decision (Robbins).
Associated PlacesVilla D'Este
Villa D'Este, Lake Como, in Lombardy, Italy, near Milan, was Queen Caroline’s estate from 1815-17. It was also the site of focus for much of the divorce trial, as those years mark the central period of Caroline’s and Pergami’s alleged affair.
Associated TextsThere is a large body of satire, caricature, ballads, etc. surrounding the Queen Caroline divorce trial. This particular caricature is interesting for its historical detail: the costumes are drawn directly from testimony taken during the divorce trial of Queen Caroline. British Naval Lieutenant Joseph Hownam, an old friend of Queen Caroline who stayed at the Villa D’Este and accompanied her travel party, testified during cross-examination to the Queen and Pergami’s supposed staging of scandalous theatrical performances at the Villa D’Este. The transcript of his testimony records his account of the two relevant episodes. Louis Bergami is Pergami’s brother:
'Did you ever see her Royal Highness perform in the theatre at the Villa D’Este?—YesAn earlier political caricature by George Cruikshank, A Dutch Toy!!!—Or, A Pretty Play-Thing for a Young Princess!!!—Huzza (1814) satirizes the relationship between Princess Charlotte, Queen Caroline’s daughter, and the Prince of Orange through similar iconography, though the male-female positions are reversed:'Have you not seen her perform the part of Columbine when Louis Bergami was the harlequin?—I do not recollect that, but it was before more than two hundred persons she performed; I do not recollect what parts she performed. . . .'Do you remember any part that the Princess performed that evening upon the stage?—Yes, I think she performed the part of an automaton.'What do you mean by an automaton; in what way did she perform?—The history was—it is so long ago that I do not recollect, but it was a man that wanted to sell an automaton, a woman in fact that you could wind up to anything; I forget the history of the thing; it was a farce upon the person who bought it, to find his mistake; it is a long time ago; I do not recollect the whole of the story; it was a little story composed by the Princess herself, I believe.' (The Important and Eventful Trial 659-60)
Princess Charlotte sits enthroned under a canopy, holding up a jointed puppet (a pantin) representing the Prince of Orange in military dress. She pulls the string that passes vertically through head and body so that arms and legs are extended. (George 409)
SubjectThis politically satiric print, produced after the unsuccessful trial of Queen Caroline for divorce on the grounds of adultery, depicts Queen Caroline as a puppet of her lover Bartolomeo Pergami (aka Bergami), dressed as a Harlequin, at her estate at Lake Como, Italy. Queen Caroline is depicted as the popular jointed puppet known as a pantin, but the title makes reference to a supposed theatrical performance in which she appeared as an automaton (see "Associated Texts"). Scaramouch is a stock figure in Italian pantomine, like the harlequin or Columbine. Caroline’s exposed and fleshy body and her masculine face are particularly exaggerated but still similar to other caricatures of the Queen. Pergami is dressed as a harlequin, in reference to a supposed performance in which the Queen appeared as Columbine and Pergami’s brother played the harlequin. He is identifiable by his appearance: Bergami “was six foot three with a fine masculine physique, a mass of curly black hair and a luxurious dangling moustache” (Robins 62). The naked figures in the background represent statues of Adam and Eve at Villa D’Este which figure several times in the trial testimonies (George 191). The title of the book in the print references Barona, the residence Caroline purchased for Pergami, also referred to in the trial as Villa Bergami (The Important and Eventful Trial 65). Another witness testified that during a journey from Naples to Rome, Pergami served as the Queen’s courier, riding alongside the carriage. At one point in the journey, he approached the Queen for something to drink (“A boire, madame?”), upon which request she gave him a bottle of wine (The Important and Eventful Trial 531-32).
SignificanceQueen Caroline’s trial marks one of the most infamous political moments in Romantic-era England, and was the subject of numerous prints, caricatures, satiric ballads, poems, and other media. In this anti-Caroline print, Caroline is depicted as a puppet manipulated by her lover, but her joyful expression and indecent dress, as well as his knowing glance, render her lewdly complicit. In the spirit of the often scandalous and humorous trial testimony, this print foregrounds the sexual relationship with the couple’s wide-open legs, the suggestively extending string, the whip, the naked embracing statues, and the gun in the corner. Although Caroline is depicted as a puppet, the print’s title describes her as an “automaton,” both referring to her supposed theatrical performance as a woman who could be “[wound] up to anything,” and transferring control from the puppet-master to the self-generated automaton machine (The Important and Eventful Trial 660).
Queen Caroline’s trial brought the issue of the morality of female sexuality to the forefront of public discussion and satire (cf. Clark, “Queen Caroline and Sexual Politics...”). The idea of woman as android was an important metaphor during the Romantic period, and one that Caroline seems to have satirized in her Villa D’Este play. If such a performance did occur, she would have been echoing numerous other images and texts that imagined a woman’s body, mind, sexuality, and education as automated and disturbingly mimetic (Park 24-26). The discourse on female bodies as automata was both influenced by and generative of the production of automata in the period, which became increasingly gendered female in the nineteenth century (Wise 163). In this print, however, as in Caroline’s supposed performance, the metaphor is turned on its head so that the automated female body becomes powerfully self-motivated and sexually explicit. Caroline is not a passive doll or puppet, as the dandy is depicted in The English Ladies Dandy Toy, but a joyful participant in her lover’s string-pulling. This has obvious political resonances; however, it also illustrates, first, the instability of the automaton as a consistent metaphor, and second, the complexity of the mechanized body.
FunctionAs a political caricature, the print harshly satirizes the Queen. The Cruikshanks and the caricaturists around them did not present a unified anti- or pro-Queen stance, but took advantage of the trial's publicity and scandal to create satiric prints drawn from court testimonies.
BibliographyClark, Anna. “Queen Caroline and the Sexual Politics of Popular Culture in London, 1820.” Representations 31 (1990): 47-68. Print.
George, Dorothy. “14120 ‘WINDING UP TO A PITCH’ THE AUTOMATON SCARAMOUCH--.OR,---HARLEQUIN COURIER’S DELIGHT.” Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Vol. 10. 1820-1827. London: British Museum, 1952. 191. Print.
Hunt, Tamara. “Morality and Monarchy in the Queen Caroline Affair.” Albion 23.4 (1991): 697-722. Print.
The Important and Eventful Trial of Queen Caroline, Consort of George IV. For ‘Adulterous Intercourse,’ with Bartolomo Bergami. London, 1820. Print.
“Lane, Theodore.” Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. New Edition Revised and Enlarged under the supervision of George C. Williamson. Vol. 3. London: Bell and Sons, 1927. Print.
Bryant, Mark and Simon Heneage. “Lane, Theodore.” Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730-1980. Aldershot: Scolar P, 1994. Print.
Park, Jane. “Pains and Pleasures of the Automaton: Frances Burney’s Mechanics of Coming Out.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 40.1 (2006): 23-49. Print.
Robins, Jane. The Trial of Queen Caroline: The Scandalous Affair That Nearly Ended a Monarchy. New York: Free P, 2006. Print.
Wise, M. Norton. “The Gender of Automata in Victorian Britain.” Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life. Ed. Jessica Riskin. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. 163-195. Print.
Long TitleWinding up to a pitch” the Automaton Scaramouch,--or--, Harlequin Courier’s Delight
17 February 1821