Julius Soubise (1754–1798) was a freed Afro-Caribbean enslaved man who became a well-known figure in late 18th-century Britain. His life of luxury as a free man of color allowed him to excel in elite activities such as fencing and made him notorious in London's social scene as an exception to norms. This satirical print shows him engaged in a fencing match with the Duchess. Soubise wears the dress of a foppish Macaroni, a male figure in 1760s and 1770s England satirized for extravagantly fashionable dress influenced by France. Part of the satire for this image involves the viewer reconciling the supposed outlandish idea that a person of color could be stylish, and if so, they wore exaggerated styles. The Duchess of Queensbury's face is concealed by a fencing mask, and she wears old-fashioned dress. In the foreground, behind Soubise, lies his cane, hat, and nosegay, with an opened book whose page reads "Les École des Armes Avec Les Attudes [sic] est Positions Par Angelo [sic]", a reference to the fashionable riding school taught by Henry Angelo in which Soubise was enrolled. Next to the Duchess, two books are on the ground, with the top one titled "Vol 5th Mungo Bill," suggesting the expenses Soubise incurred - and had paid for - by Queensbury. Austin's engraving was based on illustrations of fencing compiled by the Angelo fencing dynasty, combined with accounts of Soubise from Henry Angelo’s memoir. These accounts were satirized by Austin in a way which addresses Soubise and the Duchess’ uncustomary relationship, depicting Soubise as Mungo the servant. "Mungo" was a name of an officious enslaved character from the 1768 comic opera The Padlock by Isaac Bickerstaffe and Charles Dibdin. The use of the term "mungo" here was often aimed towards Soubise being treated like an elite's pet. In the print, text shows Soubise saying, “Mungo here, Mungo dere, Mungo every where; Above and below. Hah! Vat your gracy tink of me now?,” direct lines from the Mungo character. This work has reappeared historically under several titles, including “The Eccentric Duchess of Queensbury fencing with her protégé the Creole Soubise (otherwise ‘Mungo’)” and “The Duchess of Queensberry playing at foils with her favourite Lap Dog Mungo after Expending near £10,000 to make him a—." One of the series 'Nature Display'd . . .' but without title or number. On the reverse of the etching are later drawings and fragmentary writing done in orange/brown crayon or pastel. "No. 62" is handwritten in cursive ink on the proper left margin, and "273 x 375" is written in pencil on the proper right margin.
satire; historical figures; race; African American
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