Regency Satirical Prints

Our current fascination with gossip and scandal is nothing new. Regency England reveled in ‘tittletattle,’ and had its own colorful scandalsheets and “paparazzi.” Newspapers and pamphlets reported in lurid detail on the celebrity bad boys—and bad girls—of high society. Like today, sex, money and politics were hot topics. As for pictures, there were, of course, no cameras to capture candid snapshots and personal transgressions. But the artists of the Regency could be even more cutting than modern-day photographers, and their sharp wit make them famous in their own right. Here are just a few examlpes:

The art of satire was honed to a fine edge in the Regency London. (In his book, City of Laughter, Vic Gatrell estimates that 20,000 prints were published between 1770 and 1830.) The top printmakers of the day, in particular James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank, were masters at creating caricatures of famous figures of the day—anyone from leading politicians to notorious courtesans. Irreverent and scathingly satirical, the prints were wildly popular with the public, and serve as a wonderful social and cultural record of the era.