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‘Administering A Bitter Dose To A Fractious Patient’, 1833

© 2021 Royal Pharmaceutical Society


Mounted lithograph, entitled ‘ADMINISTERING A BITTER DOSE TO A FRACTIOUS PATIENT’, drawn by John Doyle, lithographed by A. Ducotes, and published by Thomas McLean in 1833.

This caricature features one of the most frequently repeated visual metaphors of political and social prints of the early 1800s, is that of the nation, symbolised by the long suffering John Bull being advised by his doctors. John Bull is a national personification of Great Britain in general and England in particular, especially in political cartoons and similar graphic works. He is usually depicted as a stout, middle-aged man, well-intentioned, frustrated, full of common sense, and entirely of native country stock.

John Bull is dosed by Peel, Grey and Castlereagh in the guise of a doctor, his assistant and a nurse. He struggles as one, tipping back John Bull’s chair says, “His agitation is quite alarming.- I can scarcely keep him down”. The second, measuring a dose from a medicine bottle into a spoon, declares; “These inflamatory s