This is a finished study, or cartoon for Brown's painting The Last of England. His inspiration for the work came from the departure of his friend and fellow artist Thomas Woolner to Australia in 1852 and his own desperate thoughts of emigrating to India due to lack of recognition and commissions. The middle class couple who dominate the oval are portraits of Brown and his future wife Emma.
This drawing was produced in December 1852 and it reveals that the composition was originally to be slightly more oval in shape with far fewer figures; only the reprobate, his mother, and the young woman with her arm round the straggly haired boy from the painting can be seen in this drawing. The name of the boat carrying the emigrants was altered from 'White Horse Lin[e] of Australi[a]' to the more symbolic 'Eldorado' in the painting. Emma's shawl also changed; she is seen here in a wide checked shawl. Unlike the final painting the man has no string attached to his hat. This was added to the painting at the insistence of Brown's dealer David Thomas White. According to his diary Brown took up the cartoon again in 1855, most likely with a view to selling it (Virginia Surtees, ed., 'The Diary of Ford Madox Brown,' p. 127).
In 1855 September his dealer D. T. White, bought the finished painting along with this cartoon, before selling both on to the collector B. G. Windus (Mary Bennett in The Pre-Raphaelites, exh. cat., 1984, p. 125). The financial boost given by the sale of the two works ended Brown's notions of emigrating to India.