Tarleton didn't catch the satirical eye of Gillray as often as George Hanger, but he didn't escape entirely. In this 1782 cartoon, he mesmerizes the Prince of Wales (personified as a "featherhead" in the literal sense -- the triple feather was George's royal emblem) with tales of his daring-do in the field. The small "whirligig" figure in the background is Mary Robinson; a biting allusion to the fact that she was mistress to each man in turn. (Allegorically, at least, impalement was considered an archaic punishment for prostitution.)
In Green Dragoon, Bass identifies the central figure as Tarleton, whereas Wright claims it is Major Topham, an ex-soldier turned social reformer who edited the newspaper The World. However, this identification leaves him struggling for an explanation for Mary's presence in the image. Between the figure's facial resemblance to Tarleton's portraits, the style of his helmet, Tarleton's known penchant for braggadocio, and his connection to Mary, I can only assume that Bass is right, and Wright is *ahem* wrong on this one. (In another Gillray cartoon, Wright misidentifies as Tarleton a figure who bears no resemblance to him whatsoever, so he seems rather confused in this area.) Of course, working against the identification as Ban is the fact that "The Thunderer" clearly possesses all five fingers, whereas Tarleton was missing a couple by this point in life.1
The subtitle of the piece is "Vide; Every Man in his Humour, alter'd from Ben Johnson."
As for the dialogue, Mary is saying "This is the Lad'll Kiss most Sweet. Who'd not love a Soldier?" The sign on the building -- Bass identifies it as a Chop House -- reads "The Whirligig" with a subtitle of "Alamode Beef, hot every night."
Tarleton is bragging, "They have assaulted me some Three, Four, Five, Six of them together, & I have driven them afore me like a Flock of Sheep; -- but this is nothing, for often in a mere frolic. I have challeng'd Twenty of them, kill'd them; -- challeng'd Twenty more, kill'd them; -- Twenty more, kill'd them too; -- & thus in a day have I kill'd Twenty Score: twenty score, that's two hundred; two hundred a day, five days a thousand; thats -- a -- zounds, I can't number them half; & all civilly & fairly with this one poor Toledo!"
The Prince of Wales responds, "I'd as lief as twenty Crowns I could
Talk as fine as
The fact that the Prince originally called his companion "Coll" (Colonel), then corrected himself and said "Captain" also points to Tarleton. I don't know anything about Major Topham's military career, but through much of the Revolution, Tarleton held the rank of Captain in the regular army (79th Regiment) and the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel only in the Provincial forces. (Though this was prior to the time the cartoon was published.)
1 Robert D. Bass, The Green Dragoon; The Lives of Banastre Tarleton and Mary Robinson (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1957), p201, and Thomas Wright and R. H. Evans, An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray, Comprising a Political and Humorous History of the Latter part of the Reign of George the Third (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1851), description of plate 378. If you look closely at the reproduction of the print in Bass's photo section, the names "P. of Wales" and "Col. Tarleton" are written along the bottom. These must be handwritten additions to this individual copy, since they appear on neither the copy I own, nor the one reproduced in James Gillray, The Works of James Gillray: 582 Plates and Supplement Containing the 45 So-called "Suppressed Plates," ed. Henry George Bohn (New York: B. Blom, 1968), plate 378. Without knowing who added them to that copy (and when), I have no idea if they constitute a positive identification. [ back ]
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