Tories go to Hell

July 8, 2018 4 Comments

After a week of poisonous anarchy among our Tory rulers it seems apt to give space to a cartoon in Welsh, issued in Llanrwst as a woodcut print in around 1834-36 (according to Peter Lord).

The artist is James Cope. Almost nothing is known about him, except that he was born in Caernarfonshire in 1805 or 1806 and that he was living in Caernarfon in 1841. The area was a centre of political and religious radicalism at the time, and a place where popular printing flourished. John Jones, the publisher of the image, started printing at Trefriw before moving to Llanrwst in 1825. Cope holds little back in his picture of ‘The Tories being taken home to their family’.

The horned and hooved demon Belphegor is one of the seven princes of hell, and carries out missions on earth for his master, Satan (he features in Milton’s Paradise lost). We see him striding back to the underworld with a crop of well-dressed Tories.  Some are strapped to his back.  One, with a gallows set on top of his hat, is grasped by the demon’s tail.  Another, a bishop or clergyman, has his ample rump impaled on a pitchfork.

The conversation at the foot of the image goes like this, in translation:
‘Hey ho’, says Lucifer, ‘what have you there’?
‘Fifteen Tories’, says Belphegor.
‘What?’, says the King, ‘only fifteen? They should be arriving by the hundred. You’ve been away for three days, Sire, and could only find fifteen for me?’
And the bubble from Belphegor’s well-fanged mouth reads, ‘But can’t I do whatever I wish with my own possessions?’

Comments (4)

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  1. Chris Edwards says:

    Thanks Andrew – curious, amusing and very timely! What are we to make of the man sitting on a cage containing two small animals (perhaps foxes)? What was his especial peccadill, or worse?

    • Andrew Green says:

      I’ve no idea! Maybe someone can tell us? (I wonder, by the way, whether Peter Lord’s date for the cartoon is not too late: the Tories were out of power by 1834.)

  2. Oliver Wills says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your write up of this amazing image! I know I’m three years late on this, but do you know whether I can find a print of this, or whether I’d be able to get a HQ print made up somewhere? No worries if not but I fell in love with this as soon as I saw it so worth a try!

    Thanks very much

    • Andrew Green says:

      Thanks, Oliver. The National Library of Wales has a copy, and I’d recommend you ask them for a copy to your specification.

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