Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856). "By St. Peter this is no Sham - or - a New Cut for the Groom of the Stool."
London: G. Humphrey, April 1821. Hand colored engraving. 14 3/4 x 10 3/4 (sheet). Light soiling, some chipping and loss of margin, especially at bottom right margin. Fair condition.
Like his brother George, Isaac Robert Cruikshank learned his trade from his father, Isaac. Originally setting himself up as a portrait and miniature painter, he later returned to printmaking, often collaborating with George. In 1830, he left caricature work to focus on book illustration.
In 1810, James Wedderburn-Webster (1788-1840) had married Lady Frances Caroline Annesley (1793-1837) who reputedly flirted - or more than flirted - with men ranging from Lord Byron to the Duke of Wellington. Major-General Charles Stanhope, 4th Earl of Harrington (1780 - 1851), styled Viscount Petersham until succeeding the 3rd Earl in 1829, was an English peer and man of fashion. The Prince Regent, later George IV, was highly impressed with Petersham, emulating his dress, his tea-drinking and his use of snuff. Worthy of note here is that Petersham had a collection of 365 snuff boxes, using a different one each day! Oftentimes, comments were made that Petersham looked Jewish.
From 1812 until 1820 Petersham served as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, first for George III then for George IV. The origin of the position in Tudor times was "Groom of the Stool" which means exactly what it sounds like: assisting Henry VIII at the toilet, helping him disrobe, watching over what he "passed" for signs of illness, and eventually controlling access to the King in his personal chambers. By the Stuart era the position emphasized the disrobing/robing function and was known as "Groom of the Stole," which position was held by the first among the several "Gentlemen of the Bedchamber" who took turns in personal attendance to the monarch. By Hanoverian times this had become a position of honor (and payment).
Petersham was infamous for his attentions to any and every lady he found attractive, and this print caricatures an incident that took place when Wedderburn-Webster became outraged by Petersham's flirtations with Lady Frances. In St. James's Street the outraged husband accosted the roué and applied a whipping with a whip, as shown here, or perhaps a cane. This would lead to a farcical "duel" wherein neither was injured, leading to a reconciliation.
Other caricatures by Cruikshank father and sons: