Thursday, June 2, 2016

A. V. Koshy writes

An Epic from Childhood - 13 - The Mayfly

blew bubbles from his pipe
into the day
saw the door
on one of them, its rainbow-coloured side
became a micronaut
clambered inside
without breaking the veil!
on looking outside, through the concave
the world looked like a penumbra of colours
floating slower and slower and ever gently by
for a few minutes,
mated with another ephemeroptera
made a popping sound and
the child, back down on the floor
it is all a matter of scale -
blew his next Lilliputians
out, up and away
this time they were little helicopters, and insect- drone-Ariel spies

File:The Royal Extinguisher, or the King of Brobdingnag & the Lilliputians by George Cruikshank.jpgThe Royal Extinguisher, or the King of Brobdingnag & the Lilliputians -- George Cruikshank


  1. The Irish satirist Jonathan Swift, the Anglican dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, published “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships” in 1726, and amended “Gulliver's Travels” (as it is popularly known) in 1735. During his first voyage, after a shipwreck, Gulliver was washed ashore in Lilliput, inhabited by tiny people (less than 6 inches [15 cm] tall. On his second voyage he became separated from the rest of the crew and was taken to Brobdingnag, inhabited by giants 72 feet (22 m) tall. Swift began these first two parts of the novel in 1720, and he wrote Part IV (concerning Gulliver’s adventures among the Houyhnhnms, a race of wise, talking horses, and the savage, ignorant humans called Yahoos) in 1723, then backtracked in 1724 to Part III (featuring the flying island of Laputa, a country devoted to impractical pursuits such as music and mathematics, expending its resources on such pursuits as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, softening marble so it can be used as pillows, learning how to mix paint by smell, and uncovering political conspiracies by examining the excrement (the episode about the rebellion of the city of Lindalino against Laputa’s rule was an obvious attack on the British rule over Ireland); in Glubbdubdrib, he visited a magician and has a discourse with the ghosts of historical figures; in Luggnagg, he met the immortal Struldbrugs who did not have eternal youth and so were legally considered dead at 80 though they continued to live, increasingly plagued by the infirmities of old age. Each part is the reverse of the preceding part—Gulliver is big/small/wise/ignorant, the countries are complex/simple/scientific/natural, and the forms of government are worse/better/worse/better than England's; and, likewise, his viewpoint between parts is mirrored by that of his antagonists in the contrasting part—Gulliver sees the tiny Lilliputians as being vicious and unscrupulous, but the king of Brobdingnag sees Europe in exactly the same light; Gulliver sees the Laputians as unreasonable, and his Houyhnhnm master sees humanity as equally so. Meanwhile, as M. B., Drapier, Swift wrote seven pamphlets against a privately minted copper coinage that had been imposed on Ireland. The writing were condemned by the collaborationist Irish government but nevertheless prompted a popular boycott that led to the withdrawal of the patent to mint the coins. Despite Swift’s alias, his handwriting was used as evidence against him, so he had his “Gulliver” manuscript copied to avoid similar legal problems from the Whig government; he secretly delivered it to Benjamin Motte in London, who distributed it among five different printers to speed production and avoid piracy but also cut or altered various passages to avoid prosecution, and then published it anonymously. The poet Alexander Pope wrote five “Verses on Gulliver's Travels,” which Swift added to the second edition, which George Faulkner printed in 1735 as part of Swift's collected works; Faulkner attempted to restore Swift’s original text, though Motte’s copy was no longer extant. In addition to Pope’s verses, Swift also added “A letter from Capt. Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson,” which repudiated Motte's alterations and the various spin-offs that the popularity of his book had engendered.

  2. George Cruikshank created nearly 10,000 prints, illustrations, and plates, including 1821’s hand-colored print etching, “The Royal Extinguisher, or the King of Brobdingnag & the Lilliputians,” which was based on his father Isaac’s print, "The Royal Extinguisher or Gulliver Putting out the Patriots of Lilliput!!!." George IV (George Augustus Frederick) was the king of the United Kingdom and Hanover after the death of his father, George III, in 1829, but as prince regent he had been in charge of the kingdoms since 1811. For most of his regency and reign, the actual governance was by the prime minister, Robert Jenkinson (2nd earl of Liverpool), and the principle that the prime minister was the person supported by a majority in the House of Commons, whether the king personally favored him or not, became established.He married his first cousin Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in 1795, though they had never met (and he was already secretly married to Maria Fitzherbert, a commoner six years his senior, twice divorced, and a Catholic, in violation of the Act of Settlement of 1701, which barred the spouse of a Catholic from taking the throne, and the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which prohibited his marriage without the king’s consent; the two remained “married” for the rest of their lives and may have had a son, James Ord, who moved to the United States and became a Jesuit priest); despite several grants from Parliament and an annual income of £50,000 (worth £5,429,000 today), he was heavily in debt (£630,000 = £58,700,000 today) but knew Parliament would increase his allowance if he married an eligible princess; indeed, it gave him an additional £65,000 (£6,056,000) per annum), and in 1803, a further £60,000 (£4,941,000) was added.George claimed that he only had sexual intercourse with Caroline three times: twice the first night of the marriage, and once the second night, and that "it required no small [effort] to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person." For her part, she claimed George was so drunk that he "passed the greatest part of his bridal night under the grate, where he fell, and where I left him,” and later that the only time she had ever committed adultery was with the husband of Marie Fitherbert. Nevertheless, nine months later, their only child, Charlotte Augusta, was born; three days later, George made out a new will, leaving all of his property to "Maria Fitzherbert, my wife," except one shilling for Caroline. The royal couple separated soon after.

  3. George's mistresses eventually included Mary Robinson, an actress who threatened to sell his letters to the newspapers but was bought off with a generous pension; Grace Elliott, the divorced wife of a physician; Frances Villiers, countess of Jersey, who dominated his life for some years and was installed as Caroline’s lady in waiting when she arrived in England; the married marchionesses of Hertford and Conyngham; he fathered several illegitimate children, including Captain Henry A. F. Hervey, the son of the songwriter Anne Lindsay Barnard, the daughter of the 5th earl of Balcarres; Major George Seymour Crole, the son of a theatre manager's daughter Eliza Fox; William Hampshire, the son of Sarah Brown, a publican's daughter; and Charles "Beau" Candy, the son of a French woman. Rumors that Caroline had also taken lovers circulated, allegedly including Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, Captain Thomas Manby, George Canning (who would succeed Liverpool as prime minister in 1827), the artist Thomas Lawrence, and the son of Lord Hood; she also adopted eight or nine poor children who were fostered out to people in the district, including three-month-old William Austin. Her neighbors, Sir John and Lady Douglas, claimed that she sent them obscene and harassing letters and touched Lady Douglas in an inappropriate manner, and in 1806 Lady Douglas alleged that William Austin was actually Caroline's illegitimate son. A secret commission was set up, the "Delicate Investigation," including the prime minister, the lord chancellor, the lord chief justice of England and Wales, and the home secretary, to investigate the issue; they concluded that the rumors had "no foundation," but nevertheless her access to her daughter was greatly reduced. At the same time, George's debts of 1795 were finally cleared, but the debts he had incurred since then remained.

  4. After becoming regent in 1811, George placed even more restrictions on Caroline’s visitations with Charlotte, and Caroline retaliated by launching a propaganda campaign against her husband, who countered by leaking Lady Douglas’ accusations. The reformist politician Henry Brougham then leaked the details of the Delicate Commission that exonerated Caroline. To celebrate Napoleon’s first defeat in 1814, European nobility attended celebrations in London that pointedly excluded Caroline. When George placed severe new restrictions on Charlotte, she fled to her mother’s house, but Brougham persuaded her to return since by law she could be placed in her father's care; the incident also posed a possible danger of public disorder against George, which Brougham worried might prejudice Charlotte's position if she continued to disobey him. But much to Brougham’s dismay, Caroline and foreign secretary Robert Stewart (Lord Castlereagh) negotiated a settlement: she agreed to leave the country in exchange for an annual allowance of £35,000. En route to her exile in Italy, she hired Bartolomeo Pergami as a servant, who soon become her lover. They traveled widely together through Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and Caroline created the Order of St. Caroline with Pergami as its grand master. A Hanoverian spy, Baron Friedrich Ompteda, bribed one of Caroline's servants to let him search her bedroom for proof of adultery, but he found none. By August 1817, due to Caroline's growing debts, so moved to a smaller residence near Pesaro, joined by Pergami's mother, brother, and daughter, but not his wife, as part of her household. The previous year, Charlotte, the heir to the British throne after her father, had married Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, but in November 1817 she died giving birth to a stillborn son. (Leopold, denied his chance to become the British prince consort, declined an invitation to become king of Greece but accepted the kingship of Belgium in 1831; however, he mentored his nephew, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in his rise to become Victoria I’s prince consort.) George refused to write his wife of her daughter’s death, but notified the pope; by chance the courier passed through Pesaro and informed her. George set up a new commission under the vice-chancellor and sent it to Italy to gather evidence against his wife, and Brougham sent his brother James to advise Caroline. She told him she would finally agree to a divorce in exchange for more money, but unfortunately in England adultery was the only grounds for divorce and Caroline refused to admit to that. Brougham tried to negotiate a settlement whereby she would accept a lesser title than Princess of Wales, but early in 1820 George II died, making Caroline the new queen. George managed to get her name removed from the Church of England liturgy, but his government offered her an increased annuity of £50,000 if she stayed abroad, but .the London alderman Matthew Wood advised her to reject the offer. When she returned to England to claim her royal rights, riots broke out in her support, and she became a figurehead for the Radical movement that demanded political reform; the day after her return, George submitted new evidence of adultery to Parliament in two green bags, which were to be examined in secret by 15 peers. Two weeks later the Guards in the King's Mews mutinied, and political tensions continued to rise. The examining peers reported their findings against Caroline, and the government introduced the Pains and Penalties Bill under which Parliament could have imposed legal penalties without a trial in a court of law; the bill would have annulled the marriage and stripped Caroline of the title of queen. It passed the House of Lords but was not submitted to the House of Commons due to popular disgust over George’s own immoral behavior and his extravagant lifestyle. Caroline accepted the offer of £50,000 annuity but without preconditions, and popular unrest abated.

  5. It was in this context that Cruikshank created his satirical etching. George is bringing down a bag inscribed Speech from the throne to extinguish the flaming torch of discord held by Caroline along with the Crumbs of Consolation (the annuity), accompanied by her Radical followers including Wood, while delighted ministers Robert Jenkinson (2nd earl of Liverpool), Henry Addington (1st viscount Sidmouth) John Scott (1st earl of Eldon), Robert Stewart (2nd marquess of Londonderry [Lord Castlereagh]); and Arthur Wellesley (1st Duke of Wellington) look on in delight. In the background the sun of enlightenment drives away the snakes and owls of obscurantism, and a verse from the national anthem is printed on the bottom. The entire sordid affair was nearly over. Liverpool advised Caroline not to attend the coronation services at Westminster Abbey in July, but she went anyway; under George’s orders, armed guards refused to allow her to enter the East Cloister, the West Cloister, or Westminster Hall, where the deputy lord chamberlain slammed the door in her face. She tried again, at an entrance near Poets’ Corner, but was finally persuaded to leave. The crowds jeered her as she left, and even Brougham expressed disapproval of her undignified behavior. That night she fell ill and died three weeks later after burning all her personal papers. Rumolrs that she had been poisoned circulated. Seeking to avoid public unrest if her funeral procession went through London, Liverpool rerouted it, but the crowd of mourners barricaded the intended route and forced a detour through Westminster and London. The honor guard opened fire and rode through the crowd with drawn sabers, and the crowd threw cobblestones and bricks at the soldiers. Two people were killed. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Sir Robert Baker, abandoned the official route, and the cortège passed through the city (Baker was dismissed from office as a result). In heavy rain it went through Hammersmith to Kensington (which was blocked) to Kensington Gore (which was blocked) to Hyde Park to Park Lane (which was blocked), back to Hyde Park, where soldiers forced the gates open, to Cumberland Gate (which was blocked) to Edgware Road, Tottenham Court Road, Drury Lane, the Strand, through the City of London, and then to the seaport of Harwich. She was taken to her native country and buried with the inscription, "Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England."


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?