The Truth Within: A Harlequinade About Inner Virtue

Cotsen 14167

The juxtaposed irony of a work with the above title being contained in a slip case covered with beautiful marbled paper isn’t lost on us. But that doesn’t make the actual content of the case any less externally impressive either! Probably published in England around 1775 by an unknown publisher, The Falsehood of External Appearances is a harlequinade that shows how the true state of one’s inner virtue and heavenly merit (or moral turpitude) might not superficially appear to the naked eye.

A Harlequinade, so named because many works featured the comic Harlequin character, is created when two engraved sheets are paste together. Each sheet contains four vignette engravings. What makes the Harlequinade so unique, however, is that the top sheet is cut into eight separate sections which reveal the sheet beneath when one turns up the flaps of each section (thus, why the harlequinade is also called a metamorphic book, flap-book, or turn-up book)Each vignette is accompanied by simple verse, usually containing instructions to turn the flaps and reveal the transformative accompanying image (and last verse) underneath.

Harlequinades are usually didactic and interactive. Although this particular work doesn’t contain the Harlequin character, it is nevertheless a finely preserved example both in form, and for its moral. A fitting medium for revealing the falsehoods of external appearances, click on the video below to see the true spiritual state of the characters shown above:

The hidden last verse of each panel cannot be easily viewed (the top flap is pasted very close to the text). So I’ve transcribed the final verse of each panel below:

Panel 1:

He’s chaind secure until a Shameful Death,/ Shall put a Period to the Villains breath,/ When all his knavery will be unfurld,/ And a vile monster quit an injur’d world.

Panel 2:

Complete & perfect is his peace of mind,/ And all his troubles leave no sting behind,/ Such ever will be honest Virtues fate,/ And such it’s sure reward be soon or late.

Panel 3:

Pure earthly Pleasures of each fort and kind,/ You at the mansion of the Just will find,/ Plenty smiles round them & their doors enfold,/ Treasures more precious far than Ophir’s gold.

Panel 4:

Thus merit shall to high distinction rise,/ And claim the highest blessings of the Skies,/ Respect shall on its footsteps still attend,/ And every worthy mortal be its Friend.

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