Abstract

James Gillray's The Liberty of the Subject (1779) introduced a new visual power and sophistication into English caricature. At first sight the print appears to be an ambivalent response to press-ganging, depicting both victims and oppressors in a grotesque mode, but I will argue that these visual distortions reflect a popular perception that the press gang represented an ugly contortion of English liberty. I will also argue that the print's focus on female violence is a clue to its transformation of a specific event: the trial of a plebeian woman who defended her shoemaker lover by stabbing to death a member of a press gang.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 223-242
Launched on MUSE
2010-01-06
Open Access
No
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