A rare Wilkes and Liberty punch bowl,
Lot 218
A rare Wilkes and Liberty punch bowl,
Sold for £2,232 (US$ 3,752) inc. premium
Lot Details
A rare Wilkes and Liberty punch bowl,
Qianlong Period, circa 1770, decorated in famille rose with John Wilkes, the notorious liberal [and MP for Middlesex] above the legend 'Always Ready in a Good Cause', and Lord Mansfield above the legend 'Justice sans Pitie', 26cm./10.25in. diam. [damage]


  • Cf. 'A Tale of Three Cities [Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong]' by David Howard [page 118] for a similar punch bowl, also bound with a white-metal band like the example offered here. John Wilkes [1727-1797] was a politician whose parliamentary career raised a number of issues about Parliamentary Privilege, seditious libel and freedom of speech. G.M. Trevelyan's summary, as ever, will stand: 'The characteristic episode of the period was the martyrdom and deification of the scandalous Wilkes, turned by government persecution into the champion of popular rights, against an encroaching executive and a House of Commons claiming to override the choice of the Middlesex electors as to the man who should represent them in Parliament.'

    Wilkes was a supporter of Pitt when he entered Parliament as the Member for Aylesbury in 1757. However, Wilkes firmly opposed British Foreign Policy and in June 1762 founded a political pamphlet called The North Briton, arguably the 'Spitting Image'or 'Private Eye' of its day. The unrelenting satire of this pamphlet culminated with issue number 45 which contained an article on the King's Speech which was considered as libellous, and even seditious. The implications of this for a Member of Parliament were clearly far-reaching. Although protected by Parliamentary Privilege, Wilkes was arrested and, in 1763, expelled from the House. He became outlawed, not only for re-printing the infamous issue number 45, but also for privately printing an 'impious libel' entitled 'Essay on Woman'.

    Wilkes spent his exile in France and Italy, returning to England in 1768, despite still being outside the law. He, nevertheless, was elected as MP for Middlesex, and was again expelled from the House, this time with a two year prison sentence. Incredibly, the popular Wilkes returned to the Commons again in 1774, serving the constituency of Middlesex until his retirement in 1790.
    He served as Lord Mayor of London in 1774, representing the City's interests against Parliament and Court, but it his for his articulate wit, and for the first 46 issues of the North Briton, that this precursor of modern political satire is best remembered.