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Caricature Satire, William Heath, Antique Print, McLean, London, 1820s (Sold)

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William Heath (“Paul Pry”) (1795-1840)
A Desert [sic] — Imitation of Modern Fashion
from Modern Oddities
Thomas McLean, Haymarket, London: c. 1820s
Hand-colored etching
14.75 x 10.25 inches

Humorous satire of women’s fashions, an etching created by William Heath under the pseudonym Paul Pry and published by Thomas McLean. They were part of Modern Oddities, a collection of over fifty fashion and society caricatures. This particular etching pokes fun at the fashionable ensemble of a hoop skirt, cinched corset, puffed sleeves, and wide-brimmed hat piled with decorations, comparing such outfits to an overly elaborate dessert resting on an inverted goblet. In the lower margin, engraved in the matrix, are the publisher’s name and a verse that explains the illustration:

Turn a tumbler up side down
The foot for a hat a cork for the crown
Some grapes for trimming will give an air
And as for Sleeves have ready a pear
When join’d to gather tis sure to tell
A picture true of a modern belle

Product description continues below.


In the lower right margin is a tiny vignette sketch of a man in a top hat raising his glass in a toast, Heath’s avatar “Paul Pry,” whom he frequently portrayed in the lower corner of his prints commenting upon the content.  Paul Pry offers the following additional commentary in a comic strip balloon:

What have we got here
by Jove what we are all
fond of a Lass & a Glass
My service to you gents
tis but a frail fair after all

William Heath was a British caricaturist and illustrator. His illustrated books include his own Life of a Soldier (1823) and Sir John Bowring’s Minor Morals (1834). In the 1820s, he established himself as a leading caricaturist, first in Scotland for The Glasgow Looking Glass, and after 1827 in London, where he started to sign his social and political satires “Paul Pry,” named after a busybody character from playwright John Poole’s 1825 comedy of the same name, so-called because he liked to pry into other people’s business, along with a tiny sketch of Pry offering comments on the print from the lower margin. The Paul Pry device caught on to such a degree it was forged by other artists, so within a few years Heath abandoned it. Heath worked for the prolific publisher Thomas McLean, who published his fashion and society satires as Modern Oddities, and included his work in other collections and his monthly caricature magazine Looking Glass.

Thomas McLean (1788-1875) owned a printing firm in London publishing a range of works during the mid 19th century, especially humor, satire and political caricatures, as separately issued prints and in periodicals such as the Monthly Sheet of Caricatures. McLean published and sold collections of humorous illustrations by Henry Alken, George Cruikshank, Edward Lear, and William Heath, as well as portraits and collections of landscape prints such as J.D. Harding’s The Park and the Forest (1841). Britain’s National Portrait Gallery has at least 195 portrait prints published by McLean.

Full publication information: “Pub by T McLean 26 Haymarket London.”


Gertz, Stephen J. “William Heath On Womens Hats and Fashion Madness, Part I.” Booktryst. 12 September 2012. (21 September 2017).

“Thomas McLean.” National Portrait Gallery. 21 April 2005. (18 November 2010).

Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 3, p. 25.

Additional information


18th Century