The Earth Stopper

George Smart (1774-1846)

about 1840

Mixed media (patchwork and watercolour)

36 x 48 cm

A cutting attached to the reverse of this picture tells the object’s story: ‘The Business of an Earth Stopper, the Night previous to a Day’s Sport, is to stop up the Fox’s Earth whilst he is out Feeding. The above gentle Swain is supposed to be on his way home, when by a sudden turn of the Lane he is brought plump upon what he conceives to be nothing more or less than the Devil, but which in fact is a simple Sweep and his Donkey’.

George Smart was a tailor in the Sussex village of Frant. A local celebrity, references to him appear in various contemporary guidebooks from the early 1820s onwards. Contemporary prints show Smart’s house in the village, with an array of cloth figures displayed on the wall; Smart himself can be seen standing in the road, tempting passers-by with his wares. The Postman is one ‘Old Bright’, a familiar local sight at the time, who trudged the road between Tunbridge Wells and Frant, ‘satchel across his shoulder and leading his ass.’