PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.27, NO.1 (Winter 2006)
Lampooning the Prince: A Second Solution to the Second Charade in Emma

Colleen A. Sheehan


Colleen A. Sheehan (email: is Associate Professor of Political Science at Villanova University.  Her research focuses on eighteenth-century ethical and political thought and includes articles on Jane Austen, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.  She is currently working on a book on Madison. 


          In “Jane Austen’s ‘Tribute’ to the Prince Regent: A Gentleman Riddled with Difficulty” (posted a month earlier in this issue of Persuasions On-Line),  I argue that Austen’s novel Emma contains numerous barbs aimed at George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales and Prince Regent of the United Kingdom.  I also claim that there is a second answer to the charade in chapter 9 of the novel.  Once again, here is the second charade:


My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,

Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.

Another view of man, my second brings,

Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!


But, ah! united, what reverse we have!

Man’s boasted power and freedom, all are flown;

Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,

And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.  (71)


Emma quickly and confidently dismisses Harriet Smith’s guesses to the charade and readily offers the solution:  court and ship, or courtship.  While this is a perfectly credible solution to the riddle, I do not think it is the only one. 


Harriet’s more literal guesses to the charade include kingdom, Neptune, trident, mermaid, and shark.  If unlike Emma we are not so quick to reject the more literal approach to solving the charade, then   


“Lords of the earth” could be princes or, in the singular, prince.  (Since in later lines “Lords” becomes “Lord,” we are encouraged to change plurals to singulars, and vice versa.) 


And the “monarch of the seas” is certainly whale or, in the plural, whales.


United?  Well, you have it:  Prince [of] Whales! 



On 15 March 1812 a satirical poem about the Prince was published in the Examiner, the English periodical edited by James Henry Leigh Hunt and his brother John Hunt.  The poem was entitled “THE TRIUMPH OF THE WHALE,” replete with kings, sharks, mermaids, and a Regent to boot:


Io! Paean! Io! Sing

To the funny people’s King.

Not a mightier whale than this

In the vast Atlantic is;

Not a fatter fish than he

Flounders round the polar sea.

See his blubbers—at his gills

What a world of drink he swills,

From his trunk, as from a spout,

Which next moment he pours out.


Such his person—next declare,

Muse, who his companions are.—

Every fish of generous kind

Scuds aside, or slinks behind;

But about his presence keep

All the Monsters of the Deep;

Mermaids, with their tails and singing

His delighted fancy stinging;

Crooked Dolphins, they surround him,

Dog-like Seals, they fawn around him.

Following hard, the progress mark

Of the intolerant salt sea shark.

For his solace and relief,

Flat fish are his courtiers chief.

Last and lowest in his train,

Ink-fish (libellers of the main)

Their black liquor shed in spite:

(Such on earth the things that write.)

In his stomach, some do say,

No good thing can ever stay.

Had it been the fortune of it

To have swallowed that old Prophet,

Three days there he’d not have dwell’d,

But in one have been expell’d.

Hapless mariners are they,

Who beguil’d (as seamen say),

Deeming him some rock or island,

Footing sure, safe spot, and dry land,

Anchor in his scaly rind;

Soon the difference they find;

Sudden plumb, he sinks beneath them;

Does to ruthless seas bequeath them.


Name or title what has he?

Is he Regent of the Sea?

From this difficulty free us,

Buffon, Banks or sage Linnaeus.

With his wondrous attributes

Say what appellation suits.

By his bulk, and by his size,

By his oily qualities,

This (or else my eyesight fails),

This should be the PRINCE OF WHALES.  (Lamb 196-97).


“The Triumph of the Whale” was written by the essayist and poet Charles Lamb.  It is a thinly veiled portrait of the corpulent, self-indulgent, philandering, leviathan-like “Regent of the Sea,” a.k.a., the Prince of W[h]ales.  According to Robert L. Patten, the poem alludes to two recent developments under the new Prince Regent in England.  First, following the one-year limitation on the authority of the Regency that expired on 7 February 1812, the Prince Regent still had not instituted a change of ministers from Tory to Whig.  Second, the Prince now had a new mistress, who was believed “to be influencing his politics” (Patten 103).       


We recall that the second charade in chapter 9 of Emma is to be considered a kind of “‘prologue to the play’” (74).  The second solution to this charade is precisely a prologue to the play:  it is a second dedication to HRH, the Prince of Whales.  Moreover, as I have argued in the essay preceding this one, the novel itself includes numerous mischievous plays on the Prince and his exploits, though of course, as Austen expected, he seems never to have picked up on them.  


With Charles Lamb’s poem in mind, now look at the first letter of each of the first four lines of the second charade.  Thus,


My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,

Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.

Another view of man, my second brings,

Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!


If you anagram this acrostic, what does it spell?  Yes, indeed, the name of author of “The Triumph of the Whale,” on which Austen based her second charade.  This combination of letters could be pure chance of course.  But since an acrostic might be purely coincidental, particularly if it were a short one, it was not an uncommon practice for authors to repeat the letters in order to demonstrate the deliberate intention attached to it.  Here is the second stanza of Austen’s second charade:


But, ah! united, what reverse we have!

Man’s boasted power and freedom, all are flown;

Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,

And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.


Lamb was himself a lover (and inventor) of acrostics, riddles, and puns.  On one occasion, on “being told that somebody had lampooned him,” he remarked, “Very well, I’ll Lamb-pun him!” (Hunt 158).


And now for the cream.  Less than two months after Charles Lamb published “The Triumph of the Whale” in the Examiner, the Scourge published a new caricature by George Cruikshank, entitled, “The Prince of Whales or the Fisherman at Anchor.”  Cruikshank’s inspiration was Lamb’s poem.1  Here is Cruikshank’s rendition2:




George Cruikshank.  “The Prince of Whales or the Fisherman at Anchor.”

By Permission of Princeton University Library.





1.  Both Lamb’s poem and Cruikshank’s print were inspired by Milton’s description in Book I of Paradise Lost of the mariners casting anchor on the scaly rind of the enormous Leviathan.  I am indebted to Susan Allen Ford for directing me to this passage about the “Arch-Fiend,” which Lamb was clearly referencing in his poem (Milton 1.194-209).  The original printing of the Cruikshank caricature of “The Prince of Whales or the Fisherman at Anchor” in the Scourge included a reference to Milton’s description in Paradise Lost.  According to Robert Patten, Cruikshank’s “fat whale” depicts the “head of the Regent swimming in the ‘Sea of Politics’ and spouting two streams:  one, ‘The Liquor of Oblivion,’ baptizes disappointed aspirants for office; the other, ‘Dew of Favor,’ falls on the Prime minister Spencer Perceval, a fisherman who has anchored his boat in the prince’s lips.  This anchor, inscribed ‘Delicate Inquiry,’ implies that Perceval has blackmailed the regent as a result of information obtained during an earlier investigation into the conduct of the prince’s estranged consort, Princess Caroline”  (Patten 103; see also 104-05).


2.  The author wishes to thank Arnie Perlstein for directing her to this Cruikshank caricature.  And congratulations to Santo Caruso, Sashika Kalansuriya, Catherine Lamb, Thomas Nardi, Katherine K. Olsen, Elizabeth Steele and Heather Urness—all of whom solved Jane Austen’s riddling lampun of the Prince of Wales!




Austen, Jane.  The Novels of Jane Austen.  Ed. R.W. Chapman.  3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1933-1969.

Hunt, Leigh.  Essays of Leigh Hunt.  London: Dent, 1891.

Patten, Robert L.  George Cruikshank’s Life, Times, and Art. Vol. 1.  Rutgers: Rutgers UP, 1992.

Lamb, Charles.  “Poems, Plays and Rosamund Gray.”  The Work of Charles Lamb.  Ed. William MacDonald.  New York: Dutton, 1903.

Milton, John.  Paradise Lost.  Ed. John Leonard.  New York: Penguin, 2000.

The Scourge, or Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly 1 May 1812.

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