Blowing up the Pic Nic's – or – Harlequin Quixote attacking the puppets

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Blowing up the Pic Nic's - or - Harlequin Quixote attacking the puppets. Sheridan leads the forces of the professionals against the amateurs of the Pic Nic Society, who are performing on a small, elegant stage, rising (without orchestra) from the boards in the foreground where these enemies advance. He is dressed as Harlequin. The tight chequered dress (slightly torn) accentuates his obesity. An empty purse hangs from his belt. In his left hand is a hat with a tricolour cockade (emblem of Jacobinism). In his right hand he flourishes a large pen whose feather makes wide swirling curves, terminating in firework-stars, and inscribed with the names of newspapers. He is masked, to indicate that he has been writing anonymous squibs against the Pic Nics. The swirls of his pen partly obscure a figure of Comedy, meretricious, and half-naked, holding up a mask which decorates the left pilaster of the proscenium. The actors follow in characteristic attitudes. Kemble (as Hamlet) wearing a ribbon, ranting in tragedy, directly behind Sheridan, staggers back with legs astride, both arms raised. On the left is Mrs. Billington, singing, left hand on her breast. Mrs. Siddons (? as Lady Macbeth) clutches a dagger. Behind is the head of Lewis with a comedian's smile, wearing a cocked hat. Crowds of actors pressing on from behind (left) and in deep shadow, are indicated by arms holding up banners. The chief one with the head of 'Shakespeare,' badly torn. Others are 'Otway Rowe,' 'Kotzbue,' and 'Schiller,' both tricolour (indicating the supposedly revolutionary tendencies of modern German drama. In the foreground, through splintering boards, the ghost of Garrick rises, a mask in his hand. A playbill shows that Fielding's farce is being performed. Only the left part of the stage is visible (on the right); the performers are terrified at Sheridan's squibs, they can hardly have seen his followers. The actors, dressed in character, are feasting on the stage. In alarm at the attack, the table is upset and dishes cascade to the ground. Dollalolla, Lady Buckinghamshire, her breasts bare, throws up her fat arms and one gouty leg. She wears a spiky crown or tiara, behind her is the sharp profile of Lady Salisbury (Huncamunca). The tall Lord Cholmondeley (not Lord Buckinghamshire) as King Pic Nic stands in profile to the left. with both arms raised. Next him is a man dressed as a military officer, Colonel Greville. Little Lord Mount Edgcumbe [styled Lord Valletort by Wright and Evans, his courtesy title 1789-95] as Tom Thumb (or Alexander the Great) sits in profile to the left on a three-legged stool, arms and legs extended, holding knife and fork. He wears armour and a feathered helmet. The front of the proscenium below the stage is decorated with swags of grapes and roses hung with coronets and centred by a comic mask with daggers thrust through the eyes. Below is a frieze of dressed-up dancing dogs (BM). / The Pic-nic Society is understood to have originated with Lady Albina Buckinghamshire; it was formed in the spring of perform farces and burlettas..The society was very exclusive. Each member, previous to the performances, drew from a silk bag a ticket which was to decide the portion of entertainment which he was expected to afford. The performances took place in rooms in Tottenham Street. The regular theatrical performers took alarm at this scheme, which they imagined would draw from the stage much of the higher patronage on which it depended for support. A charge of immorality was also raised against them, and they became the butt of the attacks of many of the newspapers..The greater actors are here attacking the Pic-nics, led by Sheridan, who was said to be the great instigator of the newspaper attacks (Wright/Evans). Artist: Gillray, James, 1756-1815. Date: April 1802. Sourced from Digital Commonwealth website.

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