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Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts
This volume is a compilation of material relating to the 1784 Westminster Election, including a number of the many satirical prints published during the campaign. Thomas Rowlandson was one of the most prolific printmakers satirizing the election, and the prints he produced on the subject firmly established his position as one of the leading satirists of his time.
Public speculation and interest in the election drew on the background of the rivalry between Charles James Fox and William Pitt. The coalition government formed by Fox and Lord North had collapsed in 1783, and was replaced by a weak administration headed by Pitt. Fox styled himself as a man of the people, while Pitt had the favor of the king. The general election of 1784 saw Pitt returned to parliament by winning the University of Cambridge seat, and Fox was in a battle for the 2 available seats of the borough of Westminster. His rivals were Sir Cecil Wray and Admiral Hood. The public's interest in this election was fed by the involvement of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. A known beauty, her strong support of Fox and active canvassing in his name was a favorite subject of satirists, Rowlandson included, who presented her as a woman willing to bestow kisses on commoners in an attempt to gain their vote. The impropriety of a woman involving herself so publicly in politics seemed to be the main cause for complaint. While many of Rowlandson's satires include the duchess, she is always shown as a beautiful, well-dressed woman, in contrast to his short, overweight, gruff caricature of Fox.