SATIRICAL PRINT OF A NOTABLE FRACAS AT RANELAGH

A Night Scene at Ranelagh on Wednesday 6th of May 1752. Thus I bore my point; six rogues in buckram let drive at me.

[London], May 29 Publish’d … by H. Carpenter … [1752]

Satirical print, folio, engraved surface 13 x 8 inches, a very good, clean copy apart from a split along edge of plate mark (no loss), laid down on a light card.

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Sole edition. The self-styled ‘Sir’ John Hill, sometime a physician and an actor, is best known for the ‘Paper War’ in 1751-2 between his ‘Inspector’ columns in the London Daily Journal and Fielding’s Covent-Garden Journal. It began in good humour but soon turned to real antagonism after the incident depicted at Ranelagh.

In his column of 30 April 1752, Hill had attacked the character of Mountefort Brown, a young buck about town. When the two men met accidentally at Ranelagh a few nights later, Brown gave him a drubbing. This print shows them at the entrance to the Rotunda. Brown has pulled off ‘Sir’ John’s wig and seized him by the ear, crying out ‘Draw your Sword Swaggerer’. Hill is trying to pull away and calling out to Mr. Cole, the Master of Ceremonies, ‘Oh! Mr C–– get me a Constable, for here’s a Gentn going to murder me’. As two constables approach from behind, Cole tells Brown; ‘Yes Sir Yes. Pray Young Gentleman don’t hurt him for he never has any meaning in what he writes.’

The text below quotes Falstaff (‘I am a Rogue if I were not at half Sword with a Dozen of them two hours together’), and prints an extract from the Covent-Garden Journal reporting that Brown had appeared before a justice on Dr. Hill’s complaint, but was admitted to bail when it was clear that Hill was not in any danger of his life.

The court was Bow Street and the justice was in fact Fielding. ‘Here was a very comic situation … a source of mirth for months. Squibs and sixpenny pamphlets filled the air …. More entertaining than the pamphlets were two prints immediately put into circulation’, A Night Scene at Ranelagh and Le Malade imaginaire. ‘After this fracas, Hill became very bitter towards Fielding’ (Wilbur L. Cross, The History of Henry Fielding, II, 419-22).

Catalogue of Prints and Drawing in the British Museum … Political and Personal Satires, no. 3183.

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