Chapter

The Contrast I: Serpents, Rocks, and the Gates of Hell

Emma Major

in Madam Britannia

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199699377
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738029 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199699377.003.0008
The Contrast I: Serpents, Rocks, and the Gates of Hell

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This chapter discusses responses to the French Revolution, when British Liberty is repeatedly contrasted with French Liberty. Montagu, Scott, Carter, and Piozzi become addicted to newspaper reports and fascinated by the working-class fishwives who stormed Versailles. Their correspondence becomes filled with references to Biblical texts and the Book of Common Prayer, and the poor crops and weather of the 1790s lead some of them to read events in terms of prophecy: Piozzi adds up the numbers of Napoleon’s name to 666, the number of the beast. Prophecy and eschatology are evident in graphic satire of the period, which draws extensively on Biblical imagery to give shape to the nation’s fears. Serpents often appear and the French are repeatedly depicted as demonic, for the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars are for these commentators a battle between good and evil.

Keywords: French Revolution; poissardes; serpents; prophecy; sermons; Hester Piozzi; James Gillray; Church of England; William Pitt; Britannia

Chapter.  20644 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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