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  3.26 Good News from Madras  


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British Museum
© Copyright The British Museum
Good News from Madras; 1791

Coloured engraving
32.4 x 30.3 cm

Possibly by WILLIAM HOLLAND (fl. 1798)

his is an imaginary scene, which shows Tipu , victorious, receiving the sword of Cornwallis who surrenders, pointing to his dejected troops. British corpses, broken guns and dead oxen strew the ground, and 'the patriot' looks on as British soldiers are trampled beneath the feet of Tipu's elephant. Behind this, on the fort, the Union flag has been supplanted by Tipu's banner, and in the background, the sea is an allusion to Madras, where Tipu's forces had threatened the outskirts of the city during the Third Mysore War. The disastrous condition of his bullock train, and the lack of any realistic support from his masters, forced Cornwallis to retreat to Madras in 1791.

Although Tipu was finally defeated in February 1792, the campaigns of the previous year left the British army in no doubt that they faced, in Tipu, a formidable foe. News of the storming of Bangalore on 21st March 1791 finally reached London on 4th September. Tipu was defeated but not captured, and, to Cornwallis's indignant amazement, the Opposition in the House of Commons, attacked the war against Tipu as a costly and ill-thought out policy. 'If the devil was to appear in the figure of an Asiatick Prince, and disturb the peace of the British Government, he would find some friends in this country.' Cornwallis exclaimed, in exasperation and disbelief.

The heroes and villains of the Third Mysore War provided rich fodder for the political satirists of the day, including William Holland, George Gilray and William Dent. Richard Newton's satirical print, entitled 'Wonderful News from Seringapatam,' published 18th May 1792, presents a cavalcade of portraits, each commenting, in rhyming couplets, on the 'News.' The Prime Minister (Pitt); Dundas; Cornwallis; and even 'Great George', the King himself, have only their own interests at heart, while 'The People of England most heartily damn / The Wonderful News from Seringapatam.' The clumsy verses accompanying Newton's mocking figures provide a sharply focussed comment on contemporary public opinion, and are worth quoting in full:

       I cannot express how delighted I am
To hear we have taken Seringapatam
     The Chancellor look'd like a frolicsome Ram
To hear we had taken Seringapatam.
     Dundas fled from bottle, from chicken and ham
To Windsor to tell of Seringapatam.
     Will Pitt eat a cake with some raspberry jam
When told we had taken Seringapatam.
     The Prince gave a nod to his Porter big Sam
You hear we have taken Seringapatam.
     We are happy to find in this Victory sham,
Not an Englishman fall at Seringapatam.
     The Vestal it seems had arrived in the Cam
With the news of the taking Seringapatam.
     The mighty Tipoo from a battering ram
Got shot in the thigh at Seringapatam.
     Pagodas, and cannon, beef, mutton and lamb,
Were found in the streets of Seringapatam.
     Lord Cornwallis bestow'd on each Soldier a Dram,
For his gallant attack on Seringapatam.
     Great George look'd as sapient as old Abraham
When he heard we had taken Seringapatam
     The Stocks were forc'd up five per cent by the flam,
Of our having taken Seringapatam.
     Now the People of England most heartily damn
The Wonderful News from Seringapatam!


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