Odd Fellows from Downing Street Complaining to John Bull
Coloured etchingpublished 4 June 1808
About the work
The spokesman for a group of Whig politicians here remarks: ‘You must know Mr Bull we are a Society of Odd Fellows who had a lodge in Downing Street… however we have left Downing Street intirely [sic]!’ To the right John Bull, representing a personification of the British public, replies: ‘…I must own I am of opinion if some more Odd Fellows in Downing Street were to quit theire [sic] situations it would be very much to my advantage!’
The ‘Odd Fellows’ friendly society was, and remains, a non-profit organisation owned by its’ members, effectively the parent of modern-day trades unions. The removal of the Society from their Downing Street offices was reported in the ‘Morning Chronicle’ in 1807. The journalist for the ‘Chronicle’ quipped that a satirist ‘might perhaps say it was “all for the best,” if other ODD FELLOWS in the same street were also to change quarters.’ This jibe is here illustrated.
The fictitious character of John Bull, a cloth merchant, first appeared in ‘The History of John Bull’ (1712), by John Arbuthnot. The publication used events in the life of Bull to attack the foreign policy of the Whig party. However, by the time of this print, Bull’s character had become less clearly defined.
About the artist
George Moutard Woodward was an amateur caricaturist from Derbyshire, who moved to London in about 1792. He designed numerous political caricatures, some in the form of comic strips. Woodward’s designs are often coarse and crudely drawn. Several examples were etched by Thomas Rowlandson. Woodward is said to have lived a ‘dissolute’ life. He was in his forties when he died in a tavern in 1809, the year after this work was published.
Thomas Rowlandson was born in London, the son of a bankrupt wool and silk merchant. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools, making a trip to Paris during his time there, and won the silver medal in 1777. During the next two decades he made several continental tours, visiting France, Italy, Germany and Holland, as well as travelling extensively in England and Wales. He exhibited from 1775 to 1787 and, in 1789, received a legacy from an aunt, which he is said to have gambled away. From 1798, much of his work was for Rudolf Ackermann, most notably his illustrations for the three Tours of Dr Syntax (published 1812, 1820, and 1821) and The Microcosm of London (1808–10). He revisited France in 1814 and Italy in about 1820. Rowland continued to work almost until the end of his life. He is most famous as a caricaturist, but his work also included figure studies, portraits, marine subjects and landscapes.
- Odd Fellows from Downing Street Complaining to John Bull
- published 4 June 1808
- Coloured etching
- height: 24.50 cm, width: 32.10 cm
- Purchased from Grosvenor Prints, May 2008
- Grosvenor Prints, London
- GAC number