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William Pitt; Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville

56 of 82 portraits of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville

William Pitt; Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville

by John Kay
etching, 1798
4 5/8 in. x 3 1/4 in. (119 mm x 82 mm) plate size; 10 3/8 in. x 7 5/8 in. (263 mm x 193 mm) paper size
Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Pilgrim Trust, 1966
Reference Collection
NPG D16449


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  • John Kay (1742-1826), Miniature painter and caricaturist. Artist associated with 287 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This is a rare political subject among Kay's work. It is a satire on the Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, made at the time when hostilities were started against the recently created French republic. In the background, a fictitious invasion of Britain is shown taking place, which terrifies Pitt. Kay satirises his dependence on Dundas, his great friend and political ally, who in contrast shows self-possession and points to his pistol as if recommending suicide. The print's title, and the inscription, compare Pitt to the first son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel.

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Events of 1798back to top

Current affairs

To meet war costs, William Pitt introduces a Finance Bill which levies income tax for the first time.

Art and science

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge publish Lyrical Ballads; a key publication for the romantic movement in poetry. Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner opens the volume.
Publisher and printseller Rudolph Ackermann establishes his popular 'Repository of the Arts' shop, gallery, library and social centre on the Strand.

International

Uprising of the United Irishmen: a republican rebellion which attempted to achieve Ireland's total independence by force with the aid of a French invasion. It was only narrowly defeated.
Battle of the Nile. Napoleon's visionary Egyptian campaign offers British first major victory as Nelson destroys the French fleet.

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