'Nature Unveiling Herself to the Infant Shakespeare'

A baby lies in a basket with three figures standing over

The birth of Shakespeare, as described in Thomas Gray's Progress of Poesy, was a favourite subject of Romney's. Gray's theme was that Shakespeare was a child of Nature, his genius not the product of education. His lines would have held a strong personal message for Romney. Himself poorly educated, and frequently conscious of his lack of book-learning, Romney nevertheless burned with ambition and the conviction of his greatness as an artist.

Romney's passionate enthusiasm for classical statuary, and the effects of his study of it in Rome, are nowhere better expressed than in the two attendants in profile. These are among the most beautifully drawn figures in all the cartoons.