Romantic Circles Gallery
The Nursery; —with, Britannia reposing in Peace

Description: 

Dressed as nursemaids with patriotic ribbons, Prime Minister Henry Addington, Lord Hawkesbury, and Charles Fox gather around Britannia as an oversized baby squeezed into a crib, the top of which reads “Requiescat in Peace.” In the crib, Britannia sucks her thumb and rests her head on her arm, her shield and scepter lying on her blanket. Hawskesbury holds a baby chair inscribed “French Cooking Chair,” Fox dries “French cambries” over the fire, and Addington sings a lullaby: “O by My Baby, my Baby, / o By in Peace! My dearee! / For such a sweet Nap as Thus / You never had far nor nearee! / so By my Baby my dearee.” A picture of Napoleon Bonaparte doing a jig while playing the violin hangs above the mantle; a tattered sheet entitled “Rule Britannia” hangs off to the side. On the mantle sit a bottle of opiate pills and a composing draught.

Accession Number: 

802.12.4.2
The Nursery; —with, Britannia reposing in Peace appeared in Hannah Humphrey’s 27 St. James’ Street print shop window for viewing or sale on December 4, 1802.
The Peace of Amiens, part of the recently instated Addington government, sought to secure peace with France in early 1802, for largely economic reasons: war was deemed unaffordable. At first, the measure received widespread support from within the government. During the yearlong interlude, Addington focused on rebuilding the institutions of national defense and building an alliance with Russia, a potentially effective ally against the French. The Peace was not expected to be a lasting one; even so, the measure was used to critique more broadly Addington and his ministers’ ineffectuality, for example, Addington’s poor debate skills (J.E. Cookson, Oxford DNB).
Dressed as nursemaids with patriotic ribbons, Prime Minister Henry Addington, Lord Hawkesbury, and Charles Fox gather around Britannia as an oversized baby squeezed into a crib, the top of which reads “Requiescat in Peace.” In the crib, Britannia sucks her thumb and rests her head on her arm, her shield and scepter lying on her blanket. Hawskesbury holds a baby chair inscribed “French Cooking Chair,” Fox dries “French cambries” over the fire, and Addington sings a lullaby: “O by My Baby, my Baby, / o By in Peace! My dearee! / For such a sweet Nap as Thus / You never had far nor nearee! / so By my Baby my dearee.” A picture of Napoleon Bonaparte doing a jig while playing the violin hangs above the mantle; a tattered sheet entitled “Rule Britannia” hangs off to the side. On the mantle sit a bottle of opiate pills and a composing draught.
Britannia is a classical personification of England that dates to the second century A.D., when she was depicted on Graeco-Roman coins. Her introduction into political satire occurred shortly after her reappearance on British medals in the seventeenth century. In Gillray’s catalogue, Britannia is often the victim of the politicians. For example, she receives an enema from Charles Fox and Lord Frederick North; she is on her hands and knees receiving smelling salts or petitioning for pity from France; in FASHION before EASE;--or,--A good Constitution sacrificed, for a Fantastick Form Thomas Paine forces her into a corset (K. Hart, James Gillray, 26-27).
This print marks a major point in British politics: the aftermath of the transition from William Pitt’s to Addington's government and the economic necessity of peace with France. Furthermore, the way in which caricature conceptualized the nation in this print, in that it reflects the way the nation conceptualized the power(lessness) of women on a public level, makes this print a significant view into the extent in which Romantic culture aligned national and public power with the masculine and weakness with the feminine. For the most basic example, this means the right to vote. The depiction of powerlessness depended on a pictorial language of feminine vulnerability; the threat implied is that in failing to produce definitively and ideally masculine ministers, Britain was open to a French attack, the British male citizen susceptible to French foppishness. In this way, The Nursery responds to both the increasingly rigid gender definitions Romantic Britain and to the ever-present interest in British and French relations.
Dressing up the government’s ministers at nursemaids, Gillray in this print conveys the latest political news, the Peace of Amiens, in an entertaining fashion. It furthermore satirizes the ineffectuality of the Addington government’s foreign policy.
Cannon, John. “Jenkinson, Charles, first earl of Liverpool (1729–1808).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008. 3 April 2009 .


Cookson, J. E. “Addington, Henry, first Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008. 2 April 2009 .


Hart, Katherine W. James Gillray: Prints by the Eighteenth Master of Caricature. Hanover: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2004.


Mitchell, L. G. “Fox, Charles James (1749–1806).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007. 2 April 2009 .


Wright, Thomas, ed. The Works of James Gillray, the Caricaturist. London: Chatto and Windus, 1874.


The Nursery; —with, Britannia reposing in Peace