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SAYERS or SAYER, JAMES (1748–1823), caricaturist, born at Yarmouth in August 1748, was son of the master of a trading vessel. He was at first articled as a clerk in an attorney's office at Yarmouth, and rose to be a member of the borough council. He quitted his profession on inheriting a small fortune from his father. Having already shown some skill in writing satirical poems at Yarmouth, Sayers now gave full bent to his inclination by becoming a caricaturist. The political and theatrical worlds supplied him with themes. He came to London about 1780 and espoused the cause of Pitt against Fox and the so-called advocates of republicanism. From 1783 onwards, for several years, he drew a series of caricatures, which were etched and published by the two Brethertons, mainly upon Fox, but subsequently upon Burke and other opponents of Pitt. These caricatures have next to no merit as works of art, but were so powerful and direct in their purpose that Fox is said to have declared that Sayers's caricatures did him more harm than all the attacks made on him in parliament or the press. Some of these were published in series, entitled ‘Illustrious Heads designed for a New History of Republicanism, in French and English,’ or ‘Outlines of the Opposition;’ others were caricatures on Fox's India Bill, the trial of Warren Hastings, and other current topics. When Pitt succeeded to office, he rewarded Sayers with the post of marshal of the court of exchequer. Sayers continued, however, to publish occasional caricatures and satirical poems, and on the death of Pitt in 1806 he wrote ‘Elijah's Mantle,’ which was wrongly assigned to Canning. Sayers died in Curzon Street, Mayfair, on 20 April 1823, and was buried in St. Andrew's, Holborn. His name is sometimes spelt Sayer, but on a portrait, drawn by himself and lithographed by M. Gaucir, he is described as ‘James Sayers, aged 65,’ and the name Sayers appears on some of his caricatures. A large collection of these is in the print-room at the British Museum, with a few etched portraits and other subjects.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Wright's Hist. of Caricature and Grotesque in Art; Sayers's own works.]

L. C.