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Engraving - 'Hero's Recruiting at Kelsey's; - or - Guard-Day at St James’s’, 1797
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Engraving - 'Hero's Recruiting at Kelsey's; - or - Guard-Day at St James’s’, 1797

Measurements: Overall: 25cm (9.9in) x 38cm (15in)

£375

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Hand coloured etching bu James Gillray. Published by Hannah Humphrey 9 June 1797.

The central figure in James Gilray’s commentary on the duties of officers of the Life Guards and Foot Guards during the French Revolutionary War is the ‘gaunt visage and stature’ of Captain Birch of the First Life Guards, devouring a jelly. Birch by all accounts was well known about Town for his ‘cheerful and kindly temper’. A buxom woman behind the counter of Kelsey’s proffers a tray of jellies in glasses. In the doorway a rotund third officer, stands with his hands clasped behind him watching a coroneted coach drive by Francis Kelsey’s fruit and confectionery shop that would have been well known to Gillray owing to its proximity to his lodgings over Hannah Humphrey’s print shop.

Colonel Thomas James Birch retired from the Life Guards in 1810. He sold his ancestral seat, Thorpe Hall, Lincolnshire, and under the will of his cousin, the Rev. Thomas Bosvile, of Ravenfield Park, Rotherham, assumed the name of Bosvile. He was a fervent fossil collector but fuelled his interest by buying them rather than hunting them.

Hannah Humphrey was one of a handful of successful women print sellers operating in regency London.  Between 1797 and 1817 she ran her business from premises at in 27 St. James's Street, the shop being depicted in the print ‘Very Slippy-Weather’. James Gillray lodged with her for much of his working life, and she looked after him after his lapse into insanity around 1810 until his death in 1815. She was known as Mrs Humphrey although she remained a spinster for all her life.

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