Britannia Excisa

This satire on Robert Walpole’s 1733 Excise Bill was misplaced (maybe by Thomas Dodd, who did some rearranging after Douce’s death) and kept among Douce’s wood-engravings, which I have been cataloguing this week:

Anonymous, Britannia Excisa, 1733, woodcut (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The print has been cut from a pamphlet, as can be seen in this impression in the British Museum:

Anonymous, Britannia Excisa: Britain Excis’d, 1733, woodcut and letterpress © The Trustees of the British Museum

The accompanying ballad refers to the Excise crisis, “when it seemed that the entire country was rebelling against Walpole government’s proposal to extend their taxation powers to necessities like wine and tobacco” (see S. Aspden’s ‘Ballads and Britons’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, vol. 122, 1997, p. 41). According to the text, the six-headed dragon that represents the Excise scheme gobbles “Beef, Bread and Bacon”, while one of its heads throws gold back to the Minister, sitting comfortably in a chaise behind.

The print in the BM belonged to Edward Hawkins (1780-1867), Keeper of the Department of Antiquities of the Museum since 1826. He was almost certainly the Mr Hawkins who visited Douce to enquire about a medal given to the latter by John Flaxman on 24 December 1819. He was also the ‘E. Hawkins of the Museum’ whom Douce asked for an introduction to Thomas Burgon in 1833 (see Douce’s book of Coincidences). Moreover, his portrait was kept by Douce with his images of “English literati”:

Maxim Gauci after Eden Upton Eddis, Edward Hawkins, 1833, lithograph (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

When I catalogued Douce’s collection of satirical prints a few months ago, I noticed that, despite being much smaller, to some extent it replicates the collection of satires gathered by Hawkins and purchased by the BM after his death.

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