Based on a painting of 1874 (Tate Britain) which Millais had exhibited with the subtitle: "It might be done and England should do it." We are asked to imagine the line spoken by an elderly sailor to his daughter and the image responds to repeated, failed British naval attempts to find a sea route around the northern edge of North America, to link the Atlantic and Pacific. A young woman here leans on the knees of her father and points to an open book on her lap. Charts are spread on a table behind, and naval flags draped over a screen, with an open window at left looking out over the sea.
Inscription: in plate lower left: 'Painted by J. E. Millais R.A."; lower right: "Engraved by A. Mongin"; below: "Imp. Chardon, Paris"; in plate: "pub. London January 1 1881 by the British & Foreign Artists Assoc."
Marking: stamp of Prinsteller's Association (Lugt 2051), with IF in center.