Monster Soup Commonly Called Thames Water

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William Heath (1794/95-1840), Monster Soup Commonly Called Thames Water, Being a Correct Representation of that Precious Stuff Doled Out To Us!!! [Above the design:] Microcosm, dedicated to the London Water Companies, Brought Forth All Monstrous, All Prodigious Thigs [sic], Hydras, and Gorgons, and Chimeras Dire. Vide Milton. [‘Paradise Lost’, ii.], ca. 1828.

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mclean caricature album7.jpg William Heath, The Beau Monde. “Our modern ladies heads are fill’d with bows.” July 6, 1829.

This satire on the Metropolitan Water Supply of London was drawn and etched by William Heath. Although not dated, the Commissioners were appointed in 1827 and reported in 1828. This is also the time when Heath was using the figure of Paul Pry as his signature [bottom left]. Here Pry has his own water pump and says “Glad to see you hope to meet you in every Parish through London.”

The young, obviously well-read artist often used verses from Shakespeare or Milton as the basis for his satire. For this print, he takes a section from Paradise Lost, which reads, “Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds / Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things / Abominable, inutterable, and worse / Than fables yet have feigned or fear conceived / Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.”

Princeton recently acquired a unique compilation of caricatures organized by one of Heath’s publishers, Thomas McLean, in the early 1830s. The album includes approximately sixty hand-colored caricatures, most by Heath but also a handful by Robert Seymour, Michael Egerton, Robert Cruikshank, and another unidentified artist.

McLean sold many versions of these albums, each with its own decorative letterpress title page. This one reads: A Select Collection of Humourous Engravings, Caricatures, &c. by Various Artists Selected and Arranged by Thomas McLean.

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William Heath, The March of Bonnetism, ca. 1828.

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William Heath, An Outside Jaunting Car (from the series: Sketches of Irish character plate 1), ca. 1827

mclean caricature album5.jpg William Heath, The Landlady at Your Service Sir, You Will Find Your Bed Well Air’d as I Slept in it Myself Last Night (from the series: Sketches of Character, plate 5) ca. 1829.
mclean caricature album3.jpgAttributed to William Heath, The Wish Granted. [above design]”I’d be a butterfly,” 1820s. Note the same carpet in both prints.

I am working on a catalogue raisonné of William Heath, including his prints, drawings, and illustrated books. Here’s a first draft (pdf). If anyone would like to comment or correct, I’d be glad to hear from you. list 6.pdf