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Geography Bewitched! or, a Droll Caricature Map of Ireland – c.1793-1800

  • Author: Robert Dighton
  • Publisher: Bowles & Carver
  • Date: c.1793-1800
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 18.5 x 22.3 cms


Dighton’s “droll caricature map” of Ireland, the bonneted figure of “Lady Hibernia Bull” published by Bowles & Carver c.1793-1800

About this piece:

Geography Bewitched! or, a Droll Caricature Map of Ireland. This Portrait of Lady Hibernia Bul, is humbly dedicated to her Husband, the great Mr. John Bull

Sheet: 18.5 x 22.3 cms. Original hand colour. Narrow margins, extending only some 5 mm beyond plate mark, but often the case with these prints. Very slight barely visible paper crease across diagonal at lower left corner, otherwise in fine condition.

The third and last of this late 18th Century set of “droll caricature maps” depicting the four home nations of the British Isles (England and Wales; Scotland; and Ireland). Originally designed by artist and caricaturist, Robert Dighton [1751-1814], they were amongst the last prints published by London print seller, Carington Bowles, prior to his death in 1793. They were subsequently republished, as here, by his successors, his son Henry Carington Bowles who went into partnership with his father’s former apprentice, Sameul Carver, to form the new firm of Bowles & Carver, whose premises were located at No.69 St.Paul’s Churchyard.

This map is the only one of the three maps not actually signed by Dighton, though it is clearly his work. Ireland here takes on the female persona of “Lady Hibernia Bull”, a much-Anglicized counterpart to the symbolic female form of Erin or Eriu, goddess of ancient Irish mythology, with whom the island of Ireland is usually more closely associated, especially in nationalist literature and Irish print culture in the 19th Century. The text dedicates the map to her husband, the great Mr. John Bull, symbolic national personification of England (and by extension Great Britian) in this period of ongoing war and conflict against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

Carrying a baby in a sling over her shoulder, Lady Hibernia Bull looks westwards, smiling amiably, as she plays an Irish harp, which takes the shape of the Province of Connaught. Her head, bonnet and parts of the baby’s sling represent much of what is present-day Northern Ireland, formerly the Province of Ulster.

This print was published just 5 years before the Great Irish Rebellion of 1798, the first in a series of popular uprisings against British political power and authority in Ireland, which clouded Anglo-Irish relations through the early 19th Century, and which found an increasingly nationalist and violent outlet over the issue of Home Rule during the 1870s and 1880s, particularly under the British Premiership of William Gladstone.

Similar caricature maps appeared at this time with comic depictions of Ireland both by Lilian Lancaster [1869] in her Geographical Fun and the more politically propagandist anti-Liberal, Tom Merry [1888], whose St. Stephen’s Review Presenation Cartoon of June 23rd of that year depicted Ireland in the form of mytholigical (nationalist) Erin strangling the harp-playing Gladstone (The Hag of Hawarden) beneath whose underskirts lurk black-masked Fenians, wielding cases of explosive dynamite.

Dighton’s designs for these three maps were widely copied and replicated in the early 19th Century but the original Carington Bowles and Bowles & Carver editions of the maps have now become increasingly scarce and much sought-after by collectors.


British Museum

BM Satires 8399

British Library