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London : W Humphrey

History of the Westminster election 1784

Full leather bound in dark-blue goatskin with elaborate gold tooling | 27.0 cm (Height) x 5.0 cm (Depth) (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1081248

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  • Campaigns for the Westminster constituency in the late-eighteenth-century were among the most fiercely fought and the tactics used by candidates were often controversial. The borough was the most populous in the country and the prestige of holding it was enormous. This history of the contest in the 1784 general election, held in the aftermath of the loss of the American colonies, was issued by the publisher William Humphrey on behalf of the supporters of the radical Whig politician, Charles James Fox (1749–1806). Written on behaf of 'Lovers of Truth and Justitce', the volume is a compilation of Foxite material relating to the election, including parliamentary debates, newspaper advertisements and satirical prints. A number of Thomas Rowlandson's prints were reissued in the volume. 
    Both Fox and his Tory opponent, Sir Cecil Wray (1735–1805), spent huge amounts of money and employed outlandish tactics to get votes. Fox, who had vocal support from the Prince of Wales, later George IV,  won out, defeating his opponent by a margin of 225 to gain the second of the two seats, the first going to Wray's fellow Tory, Samuel Hood (1724–1816). 
    The book was dedicated to Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806), who had also supported Fox. While the Duchess had campaigned for him in the previous election of 1778 and had inspired a large number of women to support the Whigs, in 1784, she came under huge scrutiny and criticism from the press who accused her of offering kisses to voters in return for their supporting Fox. In the next election in 1788, the Duchess maintained her support for Fox but no longer campaigned openly. Despite this, by the 1810s and particularly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, other women became rallying points for advocates of political reform. Most significant among these were the Prince Regent's estranged wife, Caroline, Princess of Wales, whose relationship with her husband was regularly invoked by radicals to argue their case against perceived tyranny and injustice, as well as the royal couple's daughter, Princess Charlotte, upon whom hopes for a brigher future were placed. 

    Binding information

    Bound in the Whig colours of tan and blue, with gold tooling of Britannia holding aloft a cap of liberty (a symbol of radical Whigs) within central onlaid tan leather oval, with floral and sunburst tooling. Within border frame of faces within ovals, in floral volute design, with two tan thin roll tooled borders, and caps of liberty to each corner. Greek key design to turn ins, all edges gilt. Flat spine in six compartments, with lettering to second and date to bottom, others decorated with liberty caps, laurel leaves, volutes and onlaid tan leather dividers of circles and suns.

    An almost identical copy, bearing the lion rampant rather than Britannia, and bearing a long inscription from the editors to Charles James Fox, can be found in King's College Library, Cambridge. The Royal Library volume does not have an inscription, but is almost certainly also a presentation copy as the Prince of Wales was one of Fox's high-profile supporters.


    Possibly a presentation copy. Acquired by George IV when Prince of Wales for his Carlton House library.

  • Medium and techniques

    Full leather bound in dark-blue goatskin with elaborate gold tooling


    27.0 cm (Height) x 5.0 cm (Depth) (book measurement (conservation))

    27.0 x 5.0 cm (book measurement (inventory))

  • Alternative title(s)

    History of the Westminster election, containing every material occurrence ... to which is prefixed a summary account of the proceedings of the late Parliament ... / by Lovers of Truth and Justice

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