the idiocy and incompetence of it all

It was a diverse set of characters that made up the hard-core of Josiah Wedgwood’s circle of friends, including even the fascinating figures on the fringes. They were collectively, the most brilliant group in England and also the most eccentric. By and large they are forgotten today, not really transferable into the contexts of pop culture. But, some of them changed the world…

Their attitude to the American war was typical of their feelings. Like all intelligent men they found the folly of their own country the hardest to bear, and they denounced the actions of the ministry with the bitterness of the betrayed. As Wedgwood ironically put it: “I could as soon pardon a man making crockery ware malleable ( as keeping) our present set of rulers” in power. Anna Seward dared rebuke even the mighty Dr. Johnson for his anti American opinions; Wedgwood and Bentley wrote in horror and alarm at the idiocy and incompetence of it all; and Thomas Day thundered his indignation in verse.

—The paintings of Johan Zoffany, 1733-1810, are always eye-catching. Visually stunning and full of interest, they document much of Eighteenth-century life, especially in England where the German painter became established. His specialty was the “conversation piece”, a group painting of a family or group of people, often engaged in refined occupations, and often surrounded by their possessions.—Read More:

They were not satisfied with mere abuse, however. The folly of the American war did more than disturb their conscience; it insulted their sense of competence, underlined their feeling of frustration, and strengthened their desire for parliamentary reform. In defeat minor irritants seemed gross afflictions. What had seemed regrettable now seemed intolerable. Wedgwood and his friends were sickened by the corruption of Parliament, infuriated by the venality of local elections, and frustrated by their lack of power to reform them.

—Johan Zoffany, The Drummond Family, c.1769, Yale Center for British Art
… Cosmopolitan and peripatetic, Zoffany trained in Germany and Rome, but spent most of his career in England, where he painted scenes from the theatre, portraits and conversation pieces, and genre scenes. Full of punning allusions, double entendres and layers of intellectual meaning, Zoffany’s paintings are complex works that engage the viewer in a playful process of decoding.—Read More:

Wedgwood might rejoice that America was free and greet the French Revolution as glorious, but it was little compensation for the situation in England. They had built roads, financed canals, conquered steam, and organized the factory system. Now they wanted to extend such rational and systematic reform elsewhere. Half measures could not satisfy them. When in April, 1785, Pitt’s abortive scheme for parliamentary reform was announced, Day spoke for them all when he wrote in contempt in The Disgusted Patriot:

When faithless Senates venally betray,
When each degenerate noble is a slave,
When Britain falls an unresisting prey,
What part befits the generous and the brave?

In vain the task to rouse my country’s ire,
And imp once more the stork’s dejected wings;
To solitude indignant I retire,
And leave the world to courtiers, priests,
and kings.

—Blind Mans Bluff
George Morland was an 18th century English painter. Morland mainly painted rustic scenes of peasants and country folk in interiors, playing games and living out their daily life. He exhibited first at the Royal Academy when he was only ten years old, and was an apprentice by the time he was fourteen.—Read More:

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