Today’s image of philanthropy goes back to the late Georgian period. It focuses on Britannia herself: philanthropy as an empire.
The idea comes from William Seward Hall’s Dramatic Poem ‘The Empire of Philanthropy with a Portraiture of British Excellence as a National Example’. Published in 1822, the work highlights the diverse philanthropic endeavours undertaken by, and required of, ‘Britannia’ at home and abroad.
While the work’s verse might not be quite Shakespearean, it paints its own version of a ‘Global Britain’. As the poem’s characters of Europe, Asia, Africa and America, as well as Philanthropy herself, unite in song, they declare:
“Britannia rose at Heaven’s command,
With ardent flow of gen’rous fire –
Warm is her heart, and kind her hand,
To bless mankind her high desire.
Blessings she sends, with sails unfurl’d,
Her Philanthropic range – the World.
Hall, WS (1822), The Empire of Philanthropy with a Portraiture of British Excellence as a National Example. A Dramatic Poem with Notes. Longman & Co. Paternoster Row and John Booth, Duke Street, Portland Place
Drawing on some of the findings from our ‘Images of Philanthropy’ Initiative, each entry in this accompanying blog series introduces one image that has been put forward in an academic or non-academic context to depict or characterise an aspect of philanthropy in its different forms and expressions.
For further information about the ‘Images of Philanthropy’ Initiative, please contact Dr Tobias Jung.