History of Columbus is well known; and Mr. John Ireland, who has given us a good epitome of it, adds, "By the success of his first voyage, doubt had been changed into admiration; from the honours with which he was rewarded, admiration degenerated into envy. To deny that his discovery carried in its train consequences infinitely more important than had resulted from any made since the Creation, was impossible. His enemies had recourse to another expedient; and boldly asserted, that there was neither wisdom in the plan, nor hazard in the enterprize. When he was once at a Spanish supper, the company took this ground, and being by his narrative furnished with the reflections which had induced him to undertake this voyage, and the course that he had pursued in its completion, sagaciously observed, that "it was impossible for any man, a degree above an ideot, to have failed of success—the whole process was so obvious, it must have been seen by a man who was half blind! —Nothing could be so easy!" —"It is not difficult now I have pointed out the way," was the answer of Columbus, "but, easy as it will appear when you are possessed of my method, I do not believe that, without such instruction, any person present could place one of these eggs upright on the table." The cloth, knives, and forks were thrown aside; and two of the party, placing their eggs as required, kept them steady with their fingers. One of them swore that there could be no other way. "We will try," said the Navigator; and giving an egg, which he held in his hand, a smart stroke on the table, it remained upright.The emotions which this excited in the company are expressed in their countenances. In the be-ruffled booby at his left hand it raises astonishment. The fellow behind him, beating his head, curses his own stupidity; and the whiskered ruffian, with his fore-finger on the egg, is in his heart cursing Columbus. As to the two Veterans on the other side, they have lived too long to be agitated with trifles. He who wears a cap exclaims, "Is this all!"— and the other, with a bald head, "By St. Jago, I did not think of that!" In the face of Columbus there is not that violent and excessive triumph exhibited by little characters on little occasions. He is too elevated to be overbearing; and, pointing to the conical solution of his problematical conundrum, displays a calm superiority, and silent internal contempt.
Two eels, twisted round the eggs upon the dish, are introduced as specimens of the Line of Beauty, which is again displayed on the table-cloth, and hinted at on the knife-blade. In all these curves there is peculiar propriety; for the etching was given as a Receipt Ticket to the "Analysis," where this favourite Line forms the basis of his system.
In the Print of Columbus, there is evident reference to the numerous criticisms on what Hogarth called "his own discovery." The Painter, when once asked why he did not answer them, replied, that he had not seen one which promised to live so long as it would take to engrave a Plate.