This anonymous caricature etching was included as a fold-out frontispiece to Advice to the Officers of the British Army. With some Hints to the Drummer and Private Soldier, published by George Kearsley (fl. 1758 – 1790) in 1783. The book is presented as a serious treatise on military practice but it is in fact one long satirical lampoon of almost every facet of army life. It could be argued that some of the author’s pearls of wisdom are still valid in the workplace of today, for example:

To senior officers:

  • You must… take care of your own sacred person, and never expose it to any dangers. You have not arrived at this rank without knowing the folly of knocking one’s head against a post, when it can be avoided. When any service of danger is to be performed, you should send your second in command, or some inferior officer – but whomever you send, if he succeeds in the business, be sure to take all the merit of it yourself.”
  • “As you probably did not rise to your present distinguished rank by your own merit, it cannot reasonably be expected that you promote others on that score.”
  • “If… economy is the word, make a great bustle… it will [also] be prudent for you… to put it in practice, but not so as to extend to your own prerequisites.”

To non-commissioned officers:

  • “… you are probably at the summit of your preferment (unless you have a pretty wife, sister or daughter).”
  • “When you command a guard… go to the next alehouse and take post by the window, in order to see that none of the soldiers quit their guard.”
  • “You are not only to entertain a hearty contempt for your officers, but you must also take care to communicate it to the soldiers. The more you appear to despise your superiors, the greater respect… your inferiors will profess to you.”

To the rank and file:

  • “If you are a sentinel at the tent of one of the field officers, you need not challenge in the forepart of the evening, for fear of disturbing his honour, who may be reading, writing or entertaining company. But as soon as he is gone to bed, roar out every ten minutes at least ‘Who comes there?’, though nobody is passing, this will give him a favourable idea of your alertness.”
  • “You may be sure that, go into what quarters you will, the landlord will heartily wish you out of them. You should therefore make it a point to give him good cause for it; as it is hard a man should be hated and despised without reason.”

The print is titled Veluti in Speculum (‘as in a mirror’) and shows a satyr inviting a party of British officers to look at themselves in a large mirror topped with military regalia. The Library of Congress catalogue identifies the officers as (l-r) Amherst, Murray, Burgoyne, and possibly Tarleton, Cornwallis, Clinton, and Sir William Howe. Their reactions range from shock (Amherst) to rapt self-adulation (Howe), but all manage to effectively convey the impression of preening narcissism. This message is reinforced by the fact that the generals are so distracted by their own reflections that they have completely neglected the charts on the walls behind them, both maps of theatres in which the British had recently experienced humiliating military reversals, namely Menorca and the North American colonies.

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