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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

John Wilkes (1725-1797), Journalist, agitator and politician; MP for Aylesbury and Middlesex

Demagogue; MP 1757-64, 1768-69 and 1774-90; arrested in 1763 under a general warrant for a seditious article in the North Briton no.45, but discharged through parliamentary privilege; his continuing provocation (including a pornographic Essay on Woman) led to outlawry in 1764; until 1768 he lived abroad; re-elected to Parliament on his return and duly imprisoned 1768-70, in which time he was three times elected MP; finally received back in Parliament 1774; alderman 1769, lord mayor 1774-75 and chamberlain 1779 of the City of London.

‘a charming, wicked, honest, jolly, candid sort of fellow’ (John Holroyd, 1765).

‘in his person he was a little above the middle size: his complexion was somewhat sallow; and before he died he appeared to be affected by a marasmus. His eyes always possessed an unfortunate cast, which exposed him to the impertinence of rude observers and malignant artists’ (John Almon, 1805).

‘if any man ever was pleasing who squinted, who had lost his teeth, and lisped, Wilkes might be so esteemed’ (Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, 1815).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.