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A Correct Plan and Elevation of the Famous French Raft
Early in 1798 there were reports of a planned French invasion of the southern English coast, with the build-up of troops in the northern French ports. On the French side there was a belief that their invading army would be broadly welcomed by the majority of ordinary British people. By contrast, across the Channel fears of an invasion induced the promulgation of a fable about an enormous raft that the French were supposedly constructing in order to transport huge numbers of French soldiers to England. Several prints, of which this is an example, were produced claiming to be based on eyewitness accounts or other authentic information. They vary in the raft's reported carrying capacity, most claiming that 60,000 troops could be transported. This print, which shows the raft as the impossible product of severe rational geometry, combined with the fantasies of Baron MÃ”Ã²Ã¡_nchhausen and Noah's Ark, claims just 30,000 capacity. It is difficult to know how seriously prints such as this were intended to be taken. While there was genuinely founded fear of invasion, there was also widespread ridicule of the idea of a raft, including a theatrical afterpiece on the subject. J. C. Cross's 'The Raft, or both Sides of the Water' had its first performance at Covent Garden on 31 March 1798, with the predictable denouement of the raft being blown up.
Original size: 376 mm x 255 mm
- Image reference: PU4060
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London