1834 Political Caricature of Men Trying to Quell the Flames of House of Commons

Something Like a Flare Up!

1834 Political Caricature of Men Trying to Quell the Flames of House of Commons


Political satire following the burning of the Palace of Westminster in 1834.

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Something Like a Flare Up!
  1834 (dated)    10 x 17 in (25.4 x 43.18 cm)


This is an uncommon 1834 political cartoon based on the fire that destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster on October 16, 1834. This satirical caricature uses fire and fire extinguishers to show powerful, flaming social issues and depicts the anger caused by political and social activists and dissent.

As the meeting place of the House of Commons is burning, men who appear to be parliament members attempt to douse the flames with fire engines with their ‘favorite bills’ scattered in the street. On the right we see a man with a rocket launcher on his back inscribed with the word ‘War’ and a woman dressed as a harlot aiming it at the House of Commons. Other members of parliament attempt to save the ‘bills’ and ‘acts’ as they go up in flames. A man in the center is struggling with a large and heavy sack labeled ‘budget’ which is also on fire. Two other men are seen trying to kill rats with a broom and a cage as they escape from the scene. Men on the right, who seem to be the members of the public, appear to be rejoicing and dancing. A man who is most likely a representation of Guy Fawkes, who planned the failed ‘Gunpowder Plot’, appears in the top right grinning while pointing at the flames.

Some of the speech bubbles read: ‘I mustn’t be prowling about here or else they’ll take me for Guy Vaux’. ‘Down the House of Commons, so long as the Hall is saved…I’m evidently in the Minority for my Motion on the House and Window Light is Carried by a flaming majority after a HOT debate’ and ‘This is the blackest of all Treasons. Mercy on us. What awful times we live in…we shall all be burnt in our beds…The Lord preserves us from the approaching Revolution. Here’s another bucket full of tears for the engine’, and ‘Here’s evident proof of the March of Reform…all our favourite bills are thrown out…’

During the actual fire that burnt the Palace of Westminster on October 16, a huge crowd of thousands gathered to witness the fire. According to parliamentary historian Caroline Shenton, the fire was ‘the most momentous blaze in London between the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz’. Sir John Hobhouse, First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, wrote: ‘the crowd behaved very well; only one man was taken up for huzzaing when the flames increased. ... on the whole, it was impossible for any large assemblage of people to behave better’. On the other hand Thomas Carlyle , the Scottish philosopher observed:
‘The crowd was quiet, rather pleased than otherwise; whew'd and whistled when the breeze came as if to encourage it: 'there's a flare-up (what we call shine) for the House o' Lords.' —'A judgment for the Poor-Law Bill!' — 'There go their hacts ' (acts)! Such exclamations seemed to be the prevailing ones. A man sorry I did not anywhere see'.
This caricature was drawn by Charles Jameson Grant and printed by S. Lingham. Published by J. Kendrick’s Caricature Depot, 54 Leicester Square, London on October 27, 1834, ‘Where may be had the greatest Variety of Original Caricatures under the Sun’.


Very good. Some tears near borders, repaired on verso. Minor stains near top border. Mounted on archival paper for reinforcement.


OCLC: 779611241.