Tag Archives: 1792

Bengal Tiger Eats Westerner, 1792

Man’s fascination with the gruesome is often rooted in power—who has it, who doesn’t. In the case of Tipu’s Tiger, the 18th century Indian automaton that terrified and thrilled Europeans after the defeat of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, it was an emblem of domination. Much like Louis XIV and his golden sun, Tipu Sultan cultivated an affinity to the almighty tiger, stitching its image on his standard, running its stripes along his soldiers’ uniforms, and placing its head on the hilt of his favorite saber. Even his gold and jewel ornamented throne bore the tiger’s shape.

Unlike his father Sultan Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan understood the importance of a fearsome image. His nickname, the Tiger of Mysore, was reinforced in his palace and beyond, but the depth of his representations weren’t understood by the west until the sack of Seringapatam in 1799 when many of his treasures were seized by the British.  Enter the object of Tipu’s amusement.


Tipu's Tiger, Victoria and Albert Museum

Attribution: Victoria and Albert Museum

Like any good Indian Sultan, Tipu grew up hating the British East India Company.  Their expansion across his father’s kingdom was an affront that resulted in four Anglo-Mysore wars, the first two bannered by Hyder Ali, the third and fourth by Tipu Sultan.  It was during the Second-Anglo Mysore War in 1781, when his father suffered a loss of 10,000 men to the British General Sir Hector Munro, though, that a cruel fate was sown.  Eleven years after Indian blood had been shed, a hunt for deer commenced on Saugur Island.   Bengal tigers had a reputation among westerners for being vicious predators, but they were unpredictable, sometimes attacking, other times retreating.  Sir Hector Munro’s only son, Hugh Munro, was not lucky enough to come upon a retiring tiger.  He stumbled upon a beast to make Tipu Sultan proud and died from the mauling within twenty-four hours.

Many think the automaton Tipu’s Tiger specifically commemorated the event.  One of the charms of his automaton–if it may be called that–is that when you turn a crank, the tiger emits a bellow while the man cries in agony.  You can see Tipu’s Tiger played in the video below, though from what I can tell we’re hearing the organ play a tune rather than the wretched sounds of Hugh Munro’s earthly departure.

If you’re interested in the Mysore/British conflict, Youtube also has a few educational videos on Tipu Sultan and his infamous tigers. You can also see why Tipu was trending in January 2014.

Susan Ardelie is the author of Shadow Fire Lady, the first book in the Incorporeal Lords series, a historical paranormal romance.  

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Cries of London: 1688-1799

Francis Wheatley’s paintings of London street criers represent the century’s most successful depiction of hawkers, albeit also the most idealized. This is not surprising given that they appeared at the Royal Academy from 1792 to 1795 when romantic aesthetics and neoclassical sentiments were reaching their zenith.  But I must say they are pleasant enough to look at.  A sense of healthfulness pervades.  The hawkers are rosy-cheeked and clean, going about their day to day business in a tidy, calm manner.

“Hot Spice Gingerbread, Smoking Hot!” (1796)


“Sweet China Oranges!” by Luigi Schiavonetti after Francis Wheatley (1794)


“Old Chairs to Mend!” by Giovanni Vendramini after Francis Wheatley (1795)


Thankfully, though, for those of us who like variety, Wheatley wasn’t the first to start the trend.  The first prints of London criers date from 1600 and enjoyed three decades of popularity. For comparison to Wheatley, take a look at Marcellus Laroon’s “Cryes” first published in 1687; Paul Sandby’s in 1760s; and my favorite, Thomas Rowlandson’s satirical Cries of London, which first appeared in 1799.  As is expected of Rowlandson, the latter are delightfully absurd.  I personally like ‘Letters for Post’.

Letters for Post by Thomas Rowlandson (1799)

A Girl with a Basket on Her Head, “Lights for the Cats, Liver for the Dogs” by Paul Sandby (1759) — Doesn’t she look like she’s having tooth pain?  I vote “most realistic”.

Girl with a Basket on Her Head by Paul Sandby (1759)

The Merry Milk Maid by Marcellus Laroon (1688) — aka, the miss who has mastered the fine art of balance.

The Merry Milk Maid by Marcellus Laroon (1688)

If you guys are interested in learning more, check out Old London Street Cries and the Cries of To-Day from 1885.  It’s loaded with pictures and all the cries you would ever want to learn.

A French Family, 1792

after Thomas Rowlandson“Such precious manners and such indecency,” scowl the English.

Displayed here is the perennial contentiousness of French vs English through the eyes of satirist Thomas Rowlandson in 1792. What’s being poked at in this engraving? Fashionable deshabille. The central man is without his breeches, the lady wears a scandalously clingy and popular Chemise a la Reine, and the child below the fiddler is inspecting the curiosities beneath its nightshirt. Beyond the hired musicians, the most fully dressed figure is a dog. One of them wears not only a dress but a hat, and has feigned a delicate paw. The flaw, however, can been seen in the impudently raised tail, peeping out the too short vestment.

Can you readers spot any other bits an actual French family might find objectionable? Do tell! To the delight of his most astute observers, Rowlandson loved to sneak in telling details.