Isaac and Ede Antique Prints
Morland RecruitMorland Recruit

Morland RecruitMorland Recruit

George Keating after George Morland

The Military Recruit

Trepanning a Recruit
Recruit Deserted
Deserter taking leave of his Wife
Deserter Pardon'd

21.5 x 25.5

A set of four mezzotint engravings, partly printed in colour and finished by hand, engraved by George Keating after George Morland and published in London in 1791.

To fully appreciate this magnificent and scarce set of Georgian prints, one has to recall the precarious situation in which England found itself at the beginning of the 1790s. The French Revolution of 1789 had sent shock waves across Europe and the British government, under William Pitt (the younger), was anxious, lest the contagion should spread across the Channel. Although Louis XVI was technically still in power, he had seen his authority diminish from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. By 1793 the king would be dead and the Reign of Terror would be in full swing: little wonder the British were worried!

In anticipation of an invasion by the French, the British army and navy went on a massive recruitment drive and in this series of prints we follow the fate of one such recruit as he is plied with alcohol and "trepanned" into service. The poor fellow deserts the army, returns to his wife and hides under the bed to avoid conscription. By the fourth plate, however, he has been forgiven and is presumably all set to serve for king and country. Today these prints have an evocative, almost romantic, feel but it is crucial to remember that in 1791 they would have carried a strong political message, appealing to people's patriotism in the government's propaganda war against foreign invasion.

£2500 Set of 4

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