4 Frontispiece to Reflections on the French Revolution

Attributed to Frederick George Byron (1764 – 1792)

Frontispiece to Reflections on the French Revolution, 1790

Etching with hand-colouring

Published by William Holland, No. 50 Oxford Street, London, 2nd November 1790

Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France was published on 1st November 1790 and provoked an extraordinary number of responses including this print that was produced the very next day. Print publishers in England such as William Holland, who published this caricature, and many others of the period, were eager to exploit the sensational events, especially those occurring in England. In this caricature, recently attributed to Frederick George Byron, Edmund Burke is represented kneeling before Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. Dressed in robes reminiscent of a Greek goddess and standing upon a cloud, Marie Antoinette is the subject of Burke’s enraptured gaze.

Burke is here ridiculed for the admiration he displayed for Marie Antoinette in Reflections on the Revolution in France. The caricature picks out the famous passage, beginning, ‘It is now sixteen years since I saw the Queen of France’ and ends with ‘I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult – But the age of Chivalry is gone.’ Several months prior to its publication, Burke had sent a draft to Philip Frances, a British Statesman and Pamphleteer, who said of this passage, “all that you say of the Queen is pure foppery.” Caricaturists wishing to sway people against Burke and his opinions on the Revolution were quick to mock the praise lavished by him on the Queen.

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