William Hogarth

Start Free Trial

Joel Blair (essay date spring 1976)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Blair, Joel. “Hogarth's Comic History-Paintings and the Satiric Spectrum.” Genre 9, no. 1 (spring 1976): 103-19.

[In the following essay, Blair explores Hogarth's redefinition of history painting as a means of representing middle-class subjects.]

Even though the twentieth-century public has finally acknowledged the virtues of Hogarth's portraits and traditional history-paintings, his reputation still rests, as it should, on his great cycles, beginning with A Harlot's Progress (1732) and ending with An Election (1758). Frederick Antal calls them “the very beginning of a purely English art”; their author, he says, created a “genre unique in Europe.”1 While the style of the series is anticipated in the large Hudibras illustrations (1728) and reappears in later paintings, appreciation of Hogarth's genius depends on an understanding and response to this mature work produced during the fruitful years between 1731 and 1758—before this he was discovering his genius; afterwards he was defending it.

Both Hogarth and his public realized that he was creating something new in his cycles, and they attempted to define and give value to what they saw. Fielding saw Hogarth as a “comic history-painter” and drew parallels between the painter's work and his own new form, the “comic epic in Prose.” Late in his life, Hogarth calls his work “Modern Moral Subjects”; in his distinctions between character and caricature he is in fact denying that his major work is burlesque and low and asking that it be seen as serious art. Ronald Paulson interprets certain manuscript fragments to show that Hogarth distinguishes between burlesque (or grotesque) art, tragic or sublime painting, and comedy, which Hogarth claims “represents Nature truely in the most familiar manner”—it pictures “what might very likely have so happened.”2 In the general statements by Hogarth and Fielding and the analyses by Paulson and Antal, a consistent view of Hogarth's comic work emerges. What Hogarth saw as his invention was to redefine history painting and to treat, in Paulson's words, “the contemporary, local, and commonplace as history rather than genre” (I, 279).

These modern histories possess a particular style, called by Antal “agitated baroque,” separate from Dutch realism on the one hand and classicism on the other (pp. 22-31). Its subjects are middle-class people, who are neither burlesqued nor idealized; its scene is recognizable, contemporary eighteenth-century England; its “action” is similar to that of its corresponding genre in literature, the modern novel as practiced by Defoe and Fielding. Paulson summarizes this achievement: “Hogarth had replaced the exaggeration of traditional history painting on one side and grotesque emblematic satire on the other with a more restrained delineation, closer to experience, and reliant on ‘character’ rather than ‘caricature,’ on the variety rather than the exaggeration of expression” (I, 469).

While such analysis helpfully distinguishes Hogarth's art from other types of European art, it misleadingly lumps together very disparate works. Underlying these generalizations about the comic history-paintings are assumptions that the style and purpose of the histories are similar and that they can be read in more or less the same way. Comparisons of individual works within this apparently coherent body of work call such assumptions into question. Both Marriage à la Mode and the two Before and After series are painted in a lushly colored baroque-rococo manner with contemporary middle or upper-middle class characters, and yet the viewer knows instinctively that he is facing very different phenomena, which possess different moral values and purposes. The differences in style between Marriage à la Mode and The Four Stages of Cruelty are more apparent than any similarities, and the audience intuitively reads the series in different ways. If the...

(This entire section contains 6951 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

issue is raised generically, isn'tAn Election or The Four Stages of Cruelty a panoramic social satire similar to The Dunciad or Gulliver's Travels in structure and composition, whereas A Rake's Progress and Marriage à la Mode are much closer to the personal, domestic comedy (or tragedy) of Moll Flanders or even a Dickens narrative? And what features of Industry and Idleness relate it to or separate it from the broad satire of An Election or the domestic melodrama of the two progresses? Hogarth's greater works allow an exploration of the relationship between style and subject; they illustrate different types of satiric methods; they raise questions about the relation of satire to comedy (or other modes), and help answer questions about the “form” of satire, of the resulting shape of a work infused with satiric intent.

The metaphor of the satiric spectrum provides a useful framework to explore the variety of Hogarth's comic and satiric methods. The earliest use of the metaphor, as far as I know, was in David Worcester's The Art of Satire: “The spectrum-analysis of satire moves from the red of invective at one end to the violet of the most delicate irony at the other.” “The content of satire is criticism, and criticism may be uttered as direct rebuke or as impersonal logic.”3 Alvin Kernan employs the terms used by Dryden and Northrop Frye—morality and wit—to establish the two poles of satire.4 These correspond to the extremes suggested by critics using the spectrum metaphor: on one hand is morality with its related technique, invective; on the other, wit or fantasy, a fable presented realistically which is at times difficult to distinguish from comedy or—Frye would add, significantly—from tragedy.

The principal statements by Hogarth on his work, the comments on it by Fielding, and the analyses of it by twentieth-century commentators would seem to locate the work on the part of the spectrum most distant from invective and rhetoric, on the borderline between satire and some other mode; fantasy and wit seem to predominate over morality and rhetoric. But this in fact is not the case. Hogarth employs very different techniques in the series; each cycle requires a different kind of reading and each elicits differing aesthetic responses. Four of the series—The Four Stages of Cruelty,Industry and Idleness,An Election, and Marriage a la Mode—illustrate the range of Hogarth's modern history-paintings. They show that his major work covers the entire spectrum possible for satire, and it can be argued that some of the series should not be considered satire. His single prints illustrating modern history have affinities with one or the other of these cycles.


In relation to verbal satire, Four Stages of Cruelty is a curse or denunciation in pictures. It virtually says, “The wages of sin is death.” (The chalk drawing of Tom's hanging in the first foretells his actual death in the last.) The last print pictures the spiritual meaning of death; the dissecting room becomes a hell with doctors as tormenting devils and the president an aloft Satan, unwittingly carrying out God's judgment. These prints arise from the most basic, primitive—in the sense of original—impulse towards satire, that of direct attack, and employ techniques that approach direct statement. The distinctive feature of such satire is the closeness between statement and object—or in terms of modern poetics, between the tenor and vehicle of the satiric metaphor.

Both Hogarth and his critics have noted the difference in style between Four Stages of Cruelty and the other series. Intending it for a large, popular audience, Hogarth wanted these prints to be reproduced by woodcut. The simplicity in style aids in direct and immediate understanding of the satiric statement. But the style also conforms to that of the other modern history-paintings in that they employ neither caricature nor emblems. While Hogarth draws life-like, contemporary figures in Four Stages of Cruelty, he nevertheless produces the kind of satire—direct didactic statement—that he did in such prints as The South-Sea Scheme or Masquerades and Operas, which use allegory and emblematic figures to make their direct statements.

There are many satires drawn by Hogarth during his middle years that employ the same techniques as Four Stages of Cruelty. The satires on professions attack their subjects directly, while retaining those characteristics which link them to other modern history-paintings. The stupidity of scholars, the vanity of physicians, the indolence of lawyers, the fantasy-world of the poet, the dullness of preachers—these qualities mark the faces of the professionals and are objectified in the material objects and physical scenes of the prints. Certain prints that satirize manners also approach rhetorical statement—The Charmers of the Age,A Midnight Modern Conversation,The Laughing Audience, and The Sleeping Conversation. While these individual satires lack the horror of Four Stages of Cruelty (the horror results from its subject, rather than from its techniques), they allow the viewer no alternative but rejection of the objects of attack because of Hogarth's rhetorical method.

Industry and Idleness illustrates a second method of satire, one moving away from statement. Basically, the method is contrast; instead of making a direct statement, Hogarth pictures the alternatives of good and evil—here, specifically, work and sloth. Tom Idle and Francis Goodchild appear together in only two of the twelve prints: in the first, which contrasts their degree of industry, and the tenth, in which Goodchild rejects Tom's pleas for mercy; but the other prints picture their contrasting lives as one moves from work to its rewards and the other from idleness to the gallows. This type of satire at first seems to be as direct in its statements of blame as the first; the morality of Industry and Idleness seemingly strikes with the same immediacy and obviousness as that of Four Stages of Cruelty. Yet the satiric methods of the two series are sharply different and result in different kinds of satiric statement. The addition of a contrasting good to the immediately visible evil enlarges the range of human experience in the prints, which expands the reference of the satire. This results in more complicated effects. The good is sometimes harmed by the evil, but more frequently the good (pictured in the same style and existing in the same world as the evil) is compromised and shown to be human—and therefore subject to error—just as the evil is. This enlargement of reference is caused by the greater objectivity of the art; whatever the author's intention, this technique seems to demand that the characters be at a greater distance from the meaning they exemplify.

The apparent simple-mindedness of Industry and Idleness repels most admirers of Hogarth as it did Horace Walpole. One has to be either a company boss, it seems, or a Trusler (Hogarth's Bowdler) to admire the series. When Hogarth's commentators notice strengths in the series, they point to the prints featuring Tom Idle or to the near-caricatures of common people in the other prints. Both the discomfort with the cycle and the appeal of several of its prints have been explained, I think, by Paulson's reading. On one level is the popular middle-class narrative. Yet the series, he notes, “hails the industrious hero but casts doubts upon the value of his reward, and perhaps even on his kind of success.” “Idle's is an open, unprotected world full of freedom, temptations, and dangers, with the threat of some sort of retribution always hanging over him. Goodchild never ventures out of a safe enclosure, remaining careful, comfortable, and protected.” Paulson then makes extremely interesting connections between certain traits in Hogarth's character that are visible in Tom and suggests the exorcising of these traits by Hogarth in his series of wicked or foolish men and women. Such a reading reveals an implied, and probably unintentional, criticism of the middle-class world that serves as the norm and alternative to Tom's criminal world, and acknowledges the vitality of the world specifically condemned in the series.5

The other prints that use contrast as the principal satiric method further illustrate the different effects achieved by this structural technique from those of other methods. The Lottery, an early print employing emblems and allegorical figures—quite unlike the modern history satires—uses contrast, and like Industry and Idleness requires a different kind of reading from its companion piece, The South-Sea Scheme, which approaches direct statement. The South-Sea Scheme pointedly attacks the South Sea Company and the people's desire for speculation by presenting a crowded, randomly structured scene with Self-Interest beating Honesty, Villainy flogging Honor, South-Sea directors turning a wooden merry-go-round, Trade dying in the right foreground, and Churchmen gambling in the left foreground. The Lottery on the other hand has a schematized structure with a more or less static center; Good Luck is on the right; Misfortune, on the left. The print seems to be an attack on lotteries and has consistently been so read; and the fact that Wantonness and blind-folded Fortune are the drawers of the lots certainly exposes the dangers of lotteries. But the print mainly illustrates the choices men have at a particular moment in their lives—at the getting or losing of riches.

The allegorical figures on the central stage seem actually to support rather than oppose state lotteries. The caption reads: “1. Upon the Pedestal National Credit leaning on a Pillar supported by Justice. 2. Apollo shewing Britannia a Picture representing the Earth receiving enriching Showers drawn from her self (an Emblem of State Lottery's).” Directly below this, Suspense on a turnstile is moved alternatively by Hope and Fear, the general condition of man in all of his activities. On the floor below this group are Industry and Philosophy. Minerva points to Industry as the proper choice for Misfortune, who has drawn a blank in the lottery; his false alternatives are Sloth and Despair. Fame directs Good Luck to Philosophy; his alternative choices are Folly and Pleasure. (It is significant, however, that the floor under Philosophy is cracking under her weight, suggesting an ambiguous good.) So while lotteries provide the occasion for the print, they are not its principal subject. That is the choice man has when good or bad fortune befalls him. The print makes clear the proper choice for man in each case, and baldly exposes the dangers of the alternatives, but the construction of the figures into contrasting alternatives dissipates the satire against lotteries. The print raises general questions about the possible ways man can conduct his life, rather than denigrating the particular practice that occasioned it. As in Industry and Idleness, the use of contrast as the major satiric method enlarges the reference of the satire and complicates its meaning. The print has two meanings: it is a satire on lotteries and a commentary on human choice. Both meanings are present while not being inconsistent, just as it is not inconsistent for Hogarth to favor hard work and conventional success in Industry and Idleness while illustrating the value of freedom, even though men too often abuse it.

Three other sets of prints that contrast a good and a bad are also instructive. The Invasion prints are the closest to rhetorical statement of any in which the method is used. In those two prints Hogarth is a propagandist, using his art for the government to arouse the public when the French were threatening the nation. Yet even here the sign-board, picturing the Duke of Cumberland—extremely controversial at this time—and its caption, “Roast and boil'd every day,” are ambiguous politically in that the Duke is either the savior who is rejected or he is the “Butcher” who ought to be repudiated. Gin Lane has the directness of Four Stages of Cruelty, but its companion, Beer Street, does not just present a prosperous England. There is the ragged sign-painter, a persecuted Frenchman (in an early state), and an affected highhooped lady in a drawn chair. The deformity and diversity of the actual world invade the safe street of the beer drinkers just as the pain and suffering of the lower orders blur the moralistic message in the print of Goodchild refusing Tom Idle's pleas for mercy. In The Times, Pl. II, Hogarth is unable to make a strict contrast to The Times, Pl. I. The political references are ambiguous and conflicting; unsatisfied, Hogarth did not publish the print. The satiric method, I think, led him as an artist into the inconsistent political statements in that print, and those—counter to his intentions—forced him to reject the print. The method causes distortions of the good because the good must be shown operating in the same world with evil, and that corrupting force automatically complicates and compromises the good. Artistically, this is not to be regretted: the art that results is richer and more disturbing than the simple good-bad dichotomy that was probably intended by the artist.

The two methods described above appear in literature also as general types of satire. Perhaps the most frequent use of direct attack is in prose and verse characters, so prominent in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century satire. Butler's prose characters are bald derogatory analyses of general types; Dryden's imagery reduces Og and Doeg to mindless, vulgar, dirty animals. The literary form that corresponds most directly to the second method is formal verse satire. In her classic study of the genre, Mary Claire Randolph points out its A:B structure—A the vice or folly attacked and B the corresponding virtue. In this form as in Hogarth's contrast-satire A “outweights” B, with B at times only implied.6 In Juvenal's tenth satire and in Johnson's imitation of it the appeals of the satirists either for good sense or Christian stoicism are strongly felt conclusions to the poems, but somehow they are inadequate to balance and correct the rampant evils or delusions explored in the bodies of the poems. Two centuries of readers have rejected Pope's presentation of the virtues of himself and his friends in his imitations of Horace, and have read those sections as blatant fictions and smug elitism. While twentieth-century critics have properly modified such readings, they illustrate the difficulties of maintaining pure distinctions between vice and the virtue that condemns it. In analyzing the complicated relationship of fool and knave in the verse satires of Juvenal and Horace, Paulson notes that “a satiric relationship tends to diffuse guilt.”7 In attempting to embody a convincing virtue corresponding to the vice attacked, this method of satire must necessarily incorporate additional aspects of contemporary society into the work of art; and while not dissipating the attack on vice, the method involves the good in the world of evil or shows the good as incapable of controlling the vice or folly. National Credit uses the Lottery which results in loss as well as gain to individual Englishmen; the crowd around Goodchild as he becomes Lord Mayor is as violent and uncontrolled as that which surrounds Tom Idle as he is carted to Tyburn.

“Irony” is perhaps the most appropriate term for the third type of satire in Hogarth's work. This type pictures a comic scene, but there is an unemphasized element in the scene that turns the comedy into satire. Criticism or attack is the suppressed element. In contrast with the first type where the norm or the good is not pictured and must be surmised, here the evil or folly in the scene is the suppressed part of the satiric metaphor. In the first, there is little distance between the statement of the satire and the specific object that makes it; the general term, the tenor, is obvious: “this” we see immediately “is wrong”; here, the object, the vehicle of the metaphor, dominates and the satiric statement is only implied. Since in ironic satire the example rather than the precept predominates, it is much more difficult to state exactly the norm or the good that would oppose or correct the implied vice or folly. The artist is further removed from the pictured scene than in the other types.

The major prints in which this method predominates are March to Finchley,Southwark Fair,The Cockpit,Strolling Actresses, the two Before and After prints and paintings, The Four Times of the Day, and An Election. What immediately differentiates these prints from the others is their greater topicality and contemporaneity; these are at first sight modern history-paintings. The places were immediately identifiable to eighteenth-century Englishmen; the people in them were often recognizable contemporaries (there are five or six portraits in An Election Entertainment); and the topics were current: An Election alludes to the Excise Bill, the “Jew Bill,” Newcastle's bribery, the change to the Gregorian calender, the Militia Bill, and the Jacobite interest, among other current political topics. What turns these pictures of eighteenth-century England into satire is the persistent use of irony. The events are historically accurate and at first glance are matter-of-factly pictured, but elements in each print direct the viewer to see the implied attack or satiric exposure.

Three of the Election pictures allude to other paintings: the first to The Last Supper, the second to Hercules at the Crossroads, and in the fourth commentators have found several allusions to other paintings.8 These larger structural references establish an implied mock-heroic contrast. In Strolling Actresses the juxtaposition of heroic garb and common actresses makes the mock-heroic obvious; that contrast is the principal statement made by the print. (The actors in Southwark Fair provide reference to the heroic in a less obvious way than the costumes do in Strolling Actresses.) In An Election the mock-heroic is less pervasive, but nevertheless operates by contrasting contemporary reality to the heroic ideals represented by the allusions to serious history paintings.

Irony also results in the contrast between a realistically pictured scene and the inappropriate title given to it. This kind of irony is the dominant technique in The Four Times of the Day where the actual events in the prints are parodies of the ideas suggested by the titles: morning, noon, evening, and night; the tension is between a pastoral ideal the titles allude to and the everyday reality of the scene.9 The most obvious discrepancy between name and scene in An Election is in the last picture, The Chairing of the Member, where the member is actually being unchaired, but irony exists in the others also—Entertainment,Canvassing, and Polling. The title specifies a norm of ideal while the picture illustrates a debased reality.

The presence of emblems or allegories in some of the prints immediately forces a satiric reading of the entire print in which they appear. Instead of an ideal reducing the actual by ironic contrast, an allegorical figure in the midst of a realistic scene ironically comments on the pictured “history.” The technique is more direct than mock-heroic, but both are ironic; the actual, the historical scene dominates, but is commented on by another level of reference. The most obvious use of this technique is the allegory in The Polling of Britannia's coach going out of control. The device is repeated when in the later states of the prints of Canvassing for Votes Hogarth removes the teeth of the British Lion. And the signboard in this picture contains two satiric illustrations which, satirizing governmental bribery, comment on the scene. A less direct but related means of forcing a satiric reading than random emblems and signs is the introduction of violence that is at a distance but comments on the actions in the foreground. There is a disorderly mob in each of the first three pictures of An Election; fighting dominates the last. The violence that first only threatened the scene finally erupts and overtakes the participants. In a comic plot the impending disaster is controlled; misrule is banished as the procreative forces dominate at the end and promise a rejuvenated society. In satire the disruptive forces triumph, with chaos actually pictured or at least suggested as a final stage in the downward spiral.


The three series The Four Stages of Cruelty,Industry and Idleness, and An Election, then, illustrate three basic methods of exposure Hogarth uses in his satires—direct statement, contrast, and irony; and these correspond to methods used in literary satires. But what of his most famous cycles, the two progresses and Marriage à la Mode? Here we are dealing with the series most justifying the term “modern history-paintings.” Are these satires? I think one should be decisive and say, yes and no. There is certainly satire in the series; they contain many “satiric moments,” to use Rosenheim's phrase. There is satire on art, customs, professions, religion; satire against affectation, social manners, hypocrisy. The subjects of the series, manners and morals, are proper concerns of satire, and the essential feature of satire, criticism or exposure, is present. And the ironic distance between the names, A Harlot's Progress and A Rake's Progress, and the actual action recalls that between the names and scenes of The Four Times of the Day and An Election. Yet these series place the audience in a position similar to that experienced by a reader of The Rape of the Lock. Important social structures and mores are exposed and ridiculed, but the reader has ambivalent, not primarily negative, responses to the principal actor; he senses value in the characters and propriety in the movement of the action not usually experienced in basically satiric works. So the series can be placed at the extreme edge of satire and be called dramatic satire; the author has now removed himself from the scene and allows his characters to expose themselves and their actions to make the satiric statement. Yet there are techniques uncharacteristic of most satire, which lead to ambivalence in the response of the audience to the characters and action.

Hazlitt called Marriage à la Mode “domestic tragedy”; Herbert Read used the same term for A Harlot's Progress. There is much to recommend that designation in that the series explore private experiences that lead to disaster—individuals make wrong decisions that result in their destruction. But the term has associations with a minor dramatic genre that limit its usefulness. Returning to Fielding's identification of what he and Hogarth were doing places us on firmer ground. The tension in the series is between satire and the impulse that led to the modern novel, between exposure of fools and knaves and understanding of character and exploration of the results of action.

If Hogarth's progresses and Marriage à la Mode are both satiric and novelistic, the critical reader should be able to define the essential features of the series that move them outside the realm of satire. A writer unsympathetic to satire is helpful here. After noting the limitations of the mode and its distortions of the real world, Basil Willey goes on to point out that the satirist “must ignore the explanation of the thing satirized—how it came to be, its history.” “It is a fact of experience,” he continues, “that tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner and the satirist ex offficio cannot pardon, so he must decline to understand all and explore all. Satire is by nature nonconstructive, since to construct effectively—to educate, for example, to reform, to evangelize—one must study actual situations and actual persons in their historical setting, and this kind of study destroys the satiric approach.”10 The last sentence suggests Willey's lack of sympathy for satire, but the passage as a whole—although too dogmatic about what satire cannot do—suggests one element lacking in most satire: causality. Transferred into terms of plot, the concept would mean that a work which possesses an action with a causal sequence—a beginning, middle, and end—is not satire; or stated in terms of character, when the motivations of characters are presented (and those motivations are not simply reflections of humors), then the work is not satire but some other form of art.

While Willey's analysis is certainly too narrow and restrictive, it does suggest what is true of a great deal of satire and helps define the features of Hogarth's three series that move them away from satire. The explanation of character in most satire is circular—the reason the miles gloriosus acts the way he does is because he is a braggart; Mr. Booby of Shamela is the way he is because he is lustful. And the action in satire is fragmented; one event follows the other but with little or no causal relationship—the lives of Tristram Shandy or of Encolpius in The Satyricon or of Lucius in The Golden Ass could go on forever since no central action shapes the narrative and no personality develops from one stage of experience to another. Dramatic comedy allows a testing of the above generalizations. If the three plays The Clouds, The Alchemist, and The Misanthrope were placed alongside Lysistrata, Volpone, and Tartuffe, I think most readers would say that the former group is more satiric than the latter. The former are more fragmented in structure and explore character more superficially; they are also more concerned with ideas and abstraction than the latter. The latter plays, while certainly satiric, conform more clearly to a comic structure; the restoration of order at their conclusions is more convincing than is so in the others. In general, then, satire tends in its structure to be fragmented; its basic unit is the episode. The presentation of character in satire is at best skimpy; the “hero” of satire is a flat character.

With the idea of causality as the general boundary between satire and comedy or tragedy, we can identify the techniques of the three series under consideration that move away from satire towards another mode. The first print of each suggests the past life of the participants in the drama; it contains exposition while beginning the major action of the cycle. Such presentation of extensive exposition occurs in these series only—not in the other series or individual satires; through this exposition the audience is aware of the forces that help determine character and motivate action. Plate 1 of Marriage à la Mode pictures the reasons why the fathers want this particular marriage; the Earl wants money to complete the vast building project, seen through the open window, which has been halted. The merchant's gold chain wrapped around his handkerchief shows him to be an alderman; this is as high socially as he himself can go, and he is now using his daughter to further advance his family.

The first prints also effectively establish the character of the major actors. Hogarth is of course famous for revealing a person's essential personality in his face. But the features he draws of his hero-villains in these series do not reveal a fixed character, as do the portraits in the satires. The faces here show the fluidity of personality that makes what happens to them understandable, although not inevitable. The catastrophe that befalls each results from the expression of character in action, and the weaknesses and strengths of that character are evident in the initial prints. As in literary drama, the series dramatize the interrelation of character and plot and the dependence of each on the other. F. G. Stephens says of Moll in the first plate of A Harlot's Progress: “With much simplicity of expression, there is a voluptuous character in her features, and a certain frivolity appears in her face which Hogarth probably intended should suggest the nature of a woman whom he proposed to depict in the career of a meretrix.”11 The same combination of diverse traits that nevertheless tend towards a particular fate appears in the rake and the young couple in Marriage à la Mode. The sensuality and vanity of the young heir of the latter series shows in his face, and the sullen dissatisfaction of the girl about to be sacrificed promises that she will not suffer her future abandonment but will respond in kind to the fashionable vices of her husband.

And the separate scenes of these three series are interlocked far more tightly and purposefully than in the others. The incidents in Industry and Idleness, for example, are simply stages in a rambling allegorical story; the middle plates could be reordered and scenes could be added or removed without injuring the effect of the whole. (Hogarth in fact sketched three drawings for Industry and Idleness that he did not use: one of Goodchild and his wife with decorators, and a pair showing Goodchild helping his poor parents and Idle stealing from his mother. With or without them the series would be essentially the same as it is now.) While there is some looseness in the action of A Rake's Progress, that series, A Harlot's Progress, and Marriage à la Mode have plots that move naturally and inevitably to their conclusions, satisfying to a considerable degree the need for unity of action. After the first print of Marriage à la Mode establishes the incompatibility of the couple, the next two prints show the husband as the initial offender, but Plate 2 also reveals the beginning of dissipation in the wife. The lawyer who converses with the girl in Plate 1 points in Plate 4 to a masquerade scene on a screen; Plate 5 occurs after a masquerade (there are masks on the floor) doubtless similar to the one on the screen in Plate 4. The lawyer is present in the last scene in that his execution speech lies on the floor. His hanging and the death of her husband are the causes of the Countess's suicide.

Not just characters working out their destinies, but objects associated with them help unify the series. The cap in the husband's pocket, which the dog sniffs at, Plate 2, reappears on the head of his young mistress in Plate 3. The ring dangling on the young girl's handkerchief in Plate 1 is removed from her hand by her father in the last scene. The appearance of the crippled child in Plate 6 is prepared for by the coral hanging from the Countess's chair in Plate 4; the wife may have been pregnant in Plate 2. The separate prints of the series are not, then, independent fragments aimed at satiric exposure but are sequences in which the characters and scenes are interrelated and by means of which a more or less unified action unfolds.

The role of art here is significantly different from its function in other prints. The pictures on the walls do not establish a mock-heroic contrast as do the allusions in An Election or the heroic trappings of Strolling Actresses or Southwark Fair; rather, they comment on the action they overlook. There is no separation between a real and an ideal. The incident itself is what must be understood rather than its departure from the heroic or good. In Plate 1 of Marriage à la Mode, besides illustrating the derivative taste of the Earl, the pictures have suffering and violence as their subject, making general statements about the action occurring in the print. In Plate 4, the Countess's levee, the paintings are of perverted sexuality: Jupiter and Io, the rape of Ganymede, Lot and his daughters, and the portrait of Silvertongue, the seducer of the Countess. Not a means of satirizing the action in the prints, the pictures explain the meaning of the action or comment on the character of the participants in the action.

The fact that the action of these series occurs almost exclusively indoors suggests that they are different in important ways from Hogarth's satires. Even though Hogarth often uses buildings as structural frameworks in his satires, as in Southwark Fair or The Polling, the action is nevertheless free spiraling, moving in all directions. This is also true of An Election Entertainment; even though it pictures a room, the guests spill out of the frame. Of the twenty prints in the two progresses and Marriage à la Mode, only two are out of doors. Seven of the twelve plates of Industry and Idleness are indoors, one in An Election, none in The Four Times of the Day. I think these facts suggest that rather than being concerned with abstract, social issues—cruelty, idleness, corruption, quackery—Hogarth in these domestic dramas is exploring the lives of individual members of society who act and suffer primarily within parlors and bedrooms.

One of the most convincing ways to see the difference between these three series and Hogarth's other satires is to compare the imitations of Hogarth's series with the originals. The imitators see primarily the social satire and miss the character study and the interrelation of the scenes. One imitation in particular illustrates the contrast in method. The Rake's Levee, “S. Mosley Sculp. Sept. 7, 1751,”12 imitates Plate 2 of A Rake's Progress. The Rake's clothes are disheveled; a servant drinks behind his back. In his bed is a bare-breasted woman; various merchants are in the room; on a chair are clothes taken off after a masquerade. While Plate 2 of Hogarth's series is not a particularly unified picture, the print as a whole makes a single statement about Rakewell's profligacy and vanity. The imitation, however, jumbles together characters and incidents from several of Hogarth's prints: Plate 1 of A Rake's Progress, Plate 3 of A Harlot's Progress, several scenes from Marriage à la Mode, as well as the print principally imitated. Here is the kind of multiple attack that occurs in such satiric pieces as Southwark Fair, not in A Rake's Progress itself. The minor figures satirized in the three cycles under discussion serve a function similar to that of the pictures on the walls; they exist as commentary on the character and lives of the main actors in the drama. The imitator of A Rake's Progress, Plate 2, saw only the satire; comparison of the imitation with the original reveals that Hogarth is merging satire and another genre.


It is altogether proper to see Hogarth's major work as possessing a distinctive style and imitating a neglected area of human experience that is as appropriate for art as any other. But the viewer should be as aware of the multiplicity of narrative techniques as of the consistency in Hogarth's artistic style and subject. The diversity results, not just from the creative genius of the artist, but from the necessities of art as well. While Hogarth sought to paint people as he saw them and to paint them in an unidealized manner, the ways that contemporary history could be presented varied, and Hogarth uses a variety of methods throughout his mature career. The four series principally considered in this paper show a gradual, but marked, removal of an authorial presence. Hogarth moves from the role of a rhetorician stating his moral, to a contraster of vice and virtue, to an ironist painting a seemingly objective scene while subtly forcing a satiric reading. Finally, (finally, not in terms of the chronology of Hogarth's development as an artist, but in terms of the satiric spectrum), the scene is objectively dramatized; the audience can properly view the action both as satire and as a skeletal, pictorial novel. The idea or impulse from which the work sprang determined the particular method of presentation, the length and sequence of the series, the use of particular kinds of detail (profusion of detail dominates ironic satire, whereas it is less evident in the other types), and the presence or lack of development of plot or character. And while Hogarth's work is unique, it possesses qualities and employs methods similar to those of other genres in art and literature and can be categorized according to generic definitions. The major cycles show Hogarth as a modern history-painter, but they also show him to be using three very different, but traditional, methods of satire. And in his most famous series he illustrates stories with developing characters and unity of action similar to drama or the novel and with effects not altogether satiric.


  1. Frederick Antal, William Hogarth, His Place in European Art (London, 1962), pp. 23, 27.

  2. Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times (New Haven and London, 1971), II, 408. Hereafter cited as Paulson. The fullest exploration of Hogarth as painter of modern histories appears in this biography and in the introduction to Paulson's Hogarth's Graphic Works (New Haven and London, 1970), I, 23-53, hereafter cited as HGW.

  3. David Worcester, The Art of Satire (Cambridge, Mass., 1940), p. 16. See also Arthur Melvill Clark, “The Art of Satire and the Satiric Spectrum,” Studies in Literary Modes (Edinburgh, 1946), pp. 31-49, which charts the movement from invective to wit. The most elaborate use of the metaphor is by Edward W. Rosenheim, Swift and the Satirist's Art (Chicago, 1963), who separates nonsatiric from satiric rhetoric by noting the use in the latter of a fiction which the audience recognizes as a departure from truth. Within the mode of satire, he argues, is persuasive satire, close to rhetoric, and punitive satire, which approaches comedy but is separated from it by always relying upon “discernible, historically authentic particulars.”

  4. Alvin B. Kernan, The Plot of Satire (New Haven and London, 1965), pp. 3-18.

  5. Paulson, II, 73-74. Accepting such a reading of the series does not mean that one must accept Paulson's argument that there is a chronological movement in Hogarth's satires from telling the reader what to think to allowing the reader the choice between alternatives, which is at least partly the case here. The reader is certainly more actively involved in Industry and Idleness and in The Four Stages of Cruelty (significantly, published after Industry and Idleness), but the involvement results from the satiric method which pictures two worlds simultaneously rather than from a change in Hogarth's attitudes towards his subject or his audience, as Paulson suggests.

  6. Mary Claire Randolph, “The Structural Design of the Formal Verse Satire,” PQ [Philological Quarterly], 21 (1942), 368-84.

  7. Ronald Paulson, The Fictions of Satire (Baltimore, 1967), pp. 27-28. He then continues: “Horace too is a fool in his satires; in Juvenal's the guilt extends to the persecuted fool as well as to the knave.”

  8. For contemporary references in An Election and allusions to other paintings, see HGW, I, 226-35.

  9. Paulson, I, 403, notes the parallels between days, seasons, and ages of man suggested by the series.

  10. Basil Willey, The Eighteenth Century Background (London, 1940), p. 107.

  11. F. G. Stephens, Catalogue of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Division I. Political and Personal Satires (London, 1873-83), No. 2031.

  12. Catalogue of Prints and Drawings, Satires, No. 2185.

Samuel L. Macey (essay date 1976)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Macey, Samuel L. “Hogarth and the Iconography of Time.” In Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Volume 5, edited by Ronald C. Rosbottom, pp. 41-53. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.

[In the following essay, Macey discusses Hogarth's representation of time and timekeeping devices in his graphic art.]

If, in Maynard Mack's terms, we think of the City in contradistinction to the Garden, then Hogarth is clearly the artist of the City. As one might expect, both the denotation and the connotation in Hogarth's work reflect the radical changes taking place in London life. The most influential technological change was probably the achievement of mechanical timekeeping sufficiently accurate for the needs of modern urban man. Related to this were the batch production and division of labour methods then being introduced into the manufacture of clocks and watches. Some of the key dates are the use of the pendulum in clocks from 1657, and the use of the balance spring in watches from about 1674.

Until the third quarter of the seventeenth century, clocks and watches were expensive and decorative toys. The pendulum clock provided the first reasonably accurate method of mechanical timekeeping at a point in history ready for accelerated urbanization. Britten's Old Clocks and Watches introduces its chapter on the period as follows:

The present chapter covers perhaps the most important period in horological history. In the space of a quarter of a century accurate timekeeping became a possibility and to a very large extent it was actually achieved. In 1655 a clock did well to keep time to within five minutes a day; in 1675 its error might, under favourable circumstances, be only as many seconds. Similarly watches were brought from an almost entirely unpredictable performance to within two or three minutes' accuracy a day or even less with reasonable luck.1

Some clocks certainly could keep time “within five minutes a day”; for general purposes, Ward's statement that “clocks could not be relied on to keep time more closely than to about a quarter of an hour per day”2 is probably a better reflection of the standard of technology before the advent of the pendulum clock. The revolutionary factor is that for the first time in man's history, it was possible to produce timekeepers accurate enough for any normal domestic purposes of urbanized man. The use of minute and second hands in clocks or watches—previously a rarity—now became common. The modern mechanical age had arrived and the techniques as well as the thoughts of men would never be quite the same again.

In 1675, Wycherley ridicules Sir Jasper Fidget, the City knight, when he is obliged to leave his wife in the home of Horner because his watch shows him that it is “a quarter and a half quarter of a minute past eleven,” but the influence of watches and clocks was to permeate all areas of London life. Tompion, the father of English clockmaking, had produced no less than six thousand watches and five hundred clocks by the time that he died in 1713. (Both he and his successor, Graham, are buried in Westminster Abbey.) In the following year, the British Government offered by Act of Parliament the unprecedented prize of twenty thousand pounds for an accurate method of determining the longitude at sea. (The impetus for the greatest horological inventions came frequently from the needs of astronomy and navigation.) The Act set off a spate of invention not unlike our own advances in interplanetary technology that have recently pushed timekeeping to an accuracy of one second in thirty thousand years. It has been claimed—by Commander Waters and Bruton among others—that this prize “was in many ways responsible for the Industrial Revolution that followed.”3 Harrison's marine chronometer H3 was ready by 1760, and led to his ultimate receipt of the award. That was the year (shortly before the death of Hogarth) when our schoolbooks tell us that the Industrial Revolution began. Though steam power was ultimately essential to the Industrial Revolution, Lewis Mumford has claimed with some justification that “The clock, not the steam engine, is the key machine of the modern industrial age.” As Carlo Cipolla puts it, “the construction of high precision timekeepers presupposed the solution of basic problems of mechanics that were at the very heart of the Scientific Revolution.”4 Insofar as the clock was concerned, the essential inventions belong to the “horological revolution” of 1660-1760.

This paper is not concerned with the many advances in metallurgy, mechanical invention, precision engineering, machine tools, and production methods that are directly attributable to the London centered “horological revolution.” We should, however, be aware of the use of the clock analogy for the body, traceable from the “mechanistic” philosophy of Descartes through to Hartley and our modern behavioral sciences; the use of clock analogies during the horological revolution by such essentially different philosophers as Hobbes, Locke, Leibniz, Shaftesbury, and the early Berkeley; and the use of the clockmaker-clock analogy for God and his universe by such eminent scientists as Boyle and Newton.

It is the nature of language to explain difficult abstract concepts through an analogy with aspects of a topical concrete phenomenon readily understood by author and audience. During the horological revolution, clocks and watches frequently supplied this metaphor, but they were also of interest for their own intrinsic value. Defoe's Moll Flanders demonstrates remarkably well the importance of watches in the developing urban economy. It is worth noting that when his accomplice produced a gold watch taken during church from a lady's side, Defoe's Colonel Jack was “amaz'd at such a thing, as that in a Country Town.” Yet, as Moll said of herself and her first fellow thief, before the latter was executed, “we had at one time one-and-twenty gold watches in our hands.”

After 1675, men's watches disappeared into the waistcoat or the fob of the breeches, but ladies' watches were a most important piece of jewellery that hung from the waist, often with winding key, seal, and much else. Gulliver is made fast with “chains, like those that hang from a lady's watch in Europe, and almost as large.” As Moll tells us more than once, “I had very good clothes on and a gold watch by my side, as like a lady as other folks.” Hogarth's best example of a lady with her watch is his portrait of Miss Mary Edwards.5 There are more equivocal and probably not unconnected examples in Taste à la Mode and Marriage à la Mode, Plate 4. Mother Needham in Harlot's Progress, Plate 1, and Young Squanderfield's mistress in Marriage à la Mode, Plate 3, demonstrate the use of the watch by low life aspiring above its station. Since Tompion's standard price was “£23 for an ordinary watch in a gold case” or “£70 for a gold repeating watch,”6 and Moll was eventually caught by an unusually honest servant who earned three pounds annually, we can readily understand the temptation to “take a watch” reflected throughout the literature of the period.

For reasons that I am unable entirely to explain, the artist most directly concerned with the artifacts for measuring time was not a poet but a caricaturist and painter. The life of Hogarth (1697-1764) runs concurrently with the latter part of the horological revolution, and is almost exactly suited to the portrayal of its impact on society. The works of James Gillray (1757-1815) and Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), who took over the mantle of Hogarth, differ in nothing so much as the almost total absence from their works of clocks, watches, and sandglasses.7 Much the same is true of Joseph Wright of Derby, “the first professional painter directly to express the spirit of the industrial revolution.” In fact Klingender's valuable study, Art and the Industrial Revolution, finds no need either to mention or to portray clocks and watches. Steam engines and forges—whether as objects for pride or antagonism—provided a much more compelling metaphor through which to depict an industrial age. In a comparable manner, Sussman—though he has a whole chapter on Dickens in Victorians and the Machine—avoids horology. As he puts it: “machine technology did not truly engage the literary imagination until the coming of the railway.”8

There had of course been illustrations of clocks and watches before the time of Hogarth. But these had been exceptional cases rather than themes found throughout the whole corpus of an artist's work. Of the earlier major artists, in any way comparable to Hogarth, one might have expected that Dürer would have treated symbolically the question of time. With one exception, there is a marked absence of clocks, watches, and sandglasses from Dürer's works. The hourglass is not only portrayed but it is essential to the symbolism of Dürer's three most famous copper engravings: Knight, Death, and the Devil; St. Jerome in his Study; and Melancholia I. (The hourglass after its invention early in the Renaissance was added to the iconography of Time and Death.)9

Like Dürer, Hogarth was trained as an engraver, but the nature of the times had added a new dimension to that trade. As George Vertue reported of Hogarth, he was “bred up to small gravings of plate work & watch workes.”10 Hogarth seems to have been conscious of the value of time for planning his own work. In his later portraits, he “sometimes painted little more than faces,” and proposed to Wilson “to paint a Portrait in four sittings, allowing only a quarter of an hour to each.” Hogarth extended his ingenious work-study methods to the sale as well as the paintings of pictures. Vertue reports on his auction of paintings—that included A Harlot's Progress,A Rake's Progress, and The Four Times of the Day—“by a new manner of sale … to bid Gold only by a Clock, set purposely by the minute hand—5 minutes each lott … and by this suble means. [sic] he sold about 20 pictures of his own paintings [sic] for near 450 pounds in an hour.” When Hogarth is defending himself from the suggestion that he is vain, he turns to watchmaking for his exemplum. “Vanity,” he maintains, “consists chiefly in fancying one doth better than one does”; but if a watchmaker claims that he can make a watch as good as any man, and demonstrates that he really can, “the watchmaker is not branded as infamous.”11

It is in the nature of Hogarth's age that, unlike Dürer, he is generally concerned with mechanical timekeeping. A sermon glass is prominently displayed in The Sleeping Congregation, and a vertical sundial in the country scene of Chairing the Member; but these reflect the pulpit and the country in which such methods of timekeeping continued to prevail throughout the eighteenth century. In Hogarth's work, they are the exception rather than the rule. He is essentially an urban artist, a painter of the City. We have noted how the originals of A Harlot's Progress and A Rake's Progress were sold “by a Clock.” Like Hogarth's other great progress, Industry and Idleness, they are both concerned, at one point, with the important “low life” occupation of “taking a watch.” Ronald Paulson suggests that “It may have been Moll Flanders that first planted in Hogarth's mind the image of a harlot as one who, like Moll, simply wants to be a ‘gentlewoman.’” Certainly, in Plate 3 we see Hogarth's harlot sitting on the edge of her bed with one breast exposed, and holding up a stolen watch. In Fielding's Covent Garden Tragedy “Plate 3 is alluded to when Stormandra reminds Bilkum ‘Did I not pick a pocket of a watch, / A Pocket pick for thee?’”12 In exactly the same structural position as the Harlot's Progress (the third plate out of six), the taking of a watch is once again the central motif for the Rake's Progress. In this case, the protagonist is the dupe who sits dallying with the inmates of a bordello. Industry and Idleness shows, in twelve plates, the very different progresses of two apprentices who start with equal opportunity. In much the same structural position as the Harlot and the Rake, the idle apprentice is disclosed in bed with “a common Prostitute”; she has stolen watches (complete with keys and seals) in front of her (Plate 7). The reverse side of life's coin is illustrated in Plate 8, “The Industrious ‘Prentice grown rich, & Sheriff of London.” This is in sharp contrast with Plate 9, “The Idle Prentice betray'd by his Whore, & taken in a Night Cellar with his Accomplice.” They are caught red handed; the watches are between the men in the front center of the plate.

But Hogarth goes beyond Defoe; his horological allusions are not limited to the taking of a watch. In addition, he uses clocks for both denotation and connotation. In terms of denotation, Four Times of the Day indicate both morning and noon by means of the clock. In much the same way, The Battle of the Pictures uses a clock to denote the time of Hogarth's auction, to which reference has already been made. The Battle of the Pictures—whose theme is reminiscent of Swift's Battle of the Books—was to be used as the ticket of admission “on the last Day of Sale.”13

In Masquerade Ticket (second state), the large clock at top center shows 1:30. Heidegger's face is so placed that the hour hand marked “Wit” looks like a riband over his left shoulder. But Impertinence on the minute hand and Nonsense on the pendulum dangle indecently beneath, flanked on each side by a pair of “Lecherometers” and the clearly suggestive notices “Supper below.” On the left, as Paulson indicates, “masqueraders are killing ‘Time’” at the altar of Priapus.14

The clock face in the top left corner of The Times (hanging outside the home of the Government) seems relatively innocuous in the scene of fire and chaos. But The Times takes on new connotations when one has “read” the engraving across to the bottom right hand corner. There a destitute child is playing with an almost identical clock. In the third of the four Stages of Cruelty, the gruesome murder of Ann Gill (who has become a thief for her seducer, Tom Nero) uses an iconography of stolen watches in the same climactic position as Industry and Idleness,The Harlot, and The Rake. The scene's graveyard atmosphere is emphasized by the clock. The woodcut (though not the engraving) shows a winged hourglass,15 suggests the year 1750, and has enough lettering for one to decipher the message: “memento mori.” It may be of significance that there is a full clock only in the engraving; it is cut in half by the outer edge of the woodcut. The same is true as between the clocks in the painting and engraving of Hogarth's Morning. In Southwark Fair, the clock in the clock-tower at the centre is also cut in half, this time by the large picture of the Trojan Horse.

Hogarth is, above all, a producer of character portraits; for this, too, he can make use of the watch. In Analysis of Beauty, Plate 2, the weakness of the apparently cuckolded husband, at the ball, is emphasized by the way that he points to his watch; in the drawing of Thomas Morell, the clock above the head of the protagonist serves a similar purpose to the hourglass above Jerome's head in Dürer's St. Jerome in his Study. The hourglass could be used as a general symbol of Temperance, Time, or Death. But the precise mechanical measurement of time and the widespread use of the minute hand began only in the second half of the seventeenth century. The extra possibilities for symbolism that the clock now offered provided Hogarth with a tool unavailable to his predecessors, and never fully exploited by subsequent artists.

The denotation and connotation of time that a clock could provide is perhaps exemplified as well as anywhere in Hogarth's delightful study in seduction, The Lady's Last Stake. The ornate clock on the mantlepiece is probably French, but it has an English-type dial and Hogarth has symbolically put Father Time's scythe into the hands of Cupid. At 4:55, with the moon rising through the window, the clock is about to show sunset, and there is very little time left for the lady to resolve the titillating dilemma. Hogarth describes the subject of the painting as “a virtuous married lady that had lost all at cards to a young officer, wavering at his suit whether she should part with her honour or no to regain the loss which was offered to her.” The clock adds to the piquancy of the situation; Cupid with his scythe is mounted above it on a pedestal inscribed: “NUNC NUNC.” Some seventeen years earlier, Hogarth had painted The Graham Children with Cupid and his scythe similarly (and perhaps even prophetically) placed. Here Hogarth depicts an English striking and probably also repeating clock of the type that is now very highly prized by collectors.

An even more ornate clock than the one in The Lady's Last Stake stands above the head of the dissipated husband in Marriage à la Mode, Plate 2. Even without considering the specific symbolism of the clock, in which fish and foliage are juxtaposed, one can readily observe how the over-dressed nobleman and the over-ornate clock emphasize each other's excesses. By way of contrast, in Plate 6, his City alderman father-in-law stands beneath a simple weight-driven clock that emphasizes frugality and punctuality.

In discussing the two states of A Midnight Modern Conversation, Paulson says: “By comparing these two pictures, it is easy to see how Hogarth moved from a portrait group, a ‘conversation’ in that sense, to a picture with moral overtones as well as portraits.”16 The same point is further stressed by the change in the position and nature of the clocks. The relatively small bracket clock on the right of the picture becomes a towering grandfather clock in the subsequent version. From the left hand rear corner of the room, it unmistakably points out the lateness of the hour to revellers and readers alike. Here, as elsewhere, there may be an intentional “pun” in the denotation of time. What at first seems to be twenty past midnight, appears on closer inspection to be three or four o'clock in the morning.

Not surprisingly, there is also a grandfather clock at the rear of Hogarth's Frontispiece for Tristram Shandy. This has a symbolic value of its own, but Sterne's clock (among other things) already symbolizes some of the negative qualities that came to be associated with the mechanical aspects of clockwork. Hogarth's own awareness of a negative quality in clockwork is demonstrated by his emphasis on the stiff and mechanical attributes of Vaucanson's duck, when he refers to this famous automaton in the Analysis of Beauty (1753).17 Time is clearly involved in the complex and sinister symbolism of The South Sea Scheme (first state). There, Father Time has become the Devil himself. In his shop set up in the Guildhall, he uses his scythe to hack flesh from the golden haunches of the goddess Fortune (Hogarth has here reverted to the older iconography of Saturn-Time who consumed human flesh and was occasionally portrayed with Fortune and her wheel.)18 Above Father Time, beside the clock, stands God or Magog. It is past 6:00 p.m. and the storm clouds are gathering. Just as the pillar at which Honour is being beaten is artistically related to the London Monument, so the wheel on which Honesty is being castigated is related to the South Sea merry-go-round and the clock.

In the same year as the Frontispiece for Tristram Shandy, Hogarth produced his provocative The Cockpit (1759). Paulson perceptively relates this to the influence of Dante and the circular structure of Inferno. But if it is a picture of hell and the apocalypse, it is one over the very center of which there falls the highly symbolic shadow of a condemned man holding up a watch. Klingender gives a valuable demonstration of the influence of contemporary iron mines, iron works, and railway tunnels on the haunting illustrations that John Martin made for the hell of Paradise Lost during the industrial revolution.19 It is possible that Hogarth used the watch as a comparable metaphor for hell in his Cockpit. Certainly, he makes an ominous statement about time in the Tailpiece.

Hogarth used a complex symbolism of time for his last and perhaps most haunting work, Tailpiece, or the Bathos (1764). The title of the engraving, The Bathos, or Manner of Sinking in Sublime Paintings makes clear the debt to Pope's Peri Bathous: or the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1727). The subject cannot help but remind one of the end of Dunciad IV (1742-43), when the corruption in the arts has polluted all phases of existence: chaos is come again, “And Universal Darkness buries All.”

But Hogarth's tailpiece, also produced at the end of his life, relies heavily on symbols of time. Father Time (so often and so variously represented in Hogarth's canon) rests on a broken column in the middle of the work. He had appeared three years earlier in Time Smoking a Picture. But now the word Finis is written in the smoke that comes from Time's mouth after he has removed his broken pipe. Among the debris lying around, are a broken palette, musket, crown, and bottle. The last page of a play shows the words Exeunt Omnes; a statute of bankruptcy—sealed with the rider on a white horse (from Revelation)—indicates that Nature is bankrupt; and a flame is just about to consume a picture entitled The Times. In the hand of Father Time, lies his last will and testament; he bequeaths his world, “all and every Atom thereof to [an erased lacuna] Chaos whom I appoint my sole Executor.” The witnesses to the document are the three fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Hogarth's message is further stressed by the broken building, the ruined tower, the gibbeted man, the ominous gravestone, the sinking ship, and the falling inn sign that is entitled “The World's End” and shows an orb in flames.

All these are symbols indicating the passage of time. But there are also precise allusions to time reminiscent of the roles that the sun, the moon, the seasons, the bell, the hourglass, and the clock respectively had played in their contributions to time measurement. In Hogarth's great “Apocalypse,” the sun chariot of Phaeton is falling from the sky, the moon is overcast, the autumnal scythe of time is broken, the great bell is cracked, the sand-glass is splintered, and the clock has no hands. In the original drawing, Time had been leaning against a much larger clock face which came between himself and the gravestone. Time's wing partly covered the clock, and the clock partly covered the skull and crossbones at the top of the gravestone.

Apart from the fact that he lived through London's horological revolution and was “bred up to small gravings of plate work and watch workes,” it is difficult to suggest why Hogarth is the only plastic artist of the first rank to have demonstrated so wide an interest in mechanical clocks. One might argue that until the horological revolution clocks and watches were neither as numerous, as accurate, nor as readily marketable as Hogarth's symbolism required. The De Horologiis in Arte of Alfred Chapuis curiously illustrates nothing by Hogarth; Holbein and Jan Breughel are the two painters from whom he draws most examples.20 But in these artists the iconography of time through clocks and watches is far less pervasive than in Hogarth. After the horological revolution, mechanical timekeeping probably lost some of its topical appeal. There is an almost total absence of clocks, watches, and sand-glasses in the works of James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson who took over the mantle of Hogarth. As has also been previously noted, Klingender neither mentions nor illustrates clocks and watches in his standard work, Art and the Industrial Revolution. In addition, after the horological revolution, certain connotations—like “mechanical art” and “clockwork automations”—were to put a different emphasis on the clock than is generally evident in Hogarth.

It has, I think, been widely recognized that his City and his times are inextricably bound up in the denotation and connotation of Hogarth's work. My purpose has been to demonstrate how true this is in respect of clocks and watches that made so remarkable an impact on London life during the horological revolution of 1660-1760.


  1. G. H. Baillie and C. A. Ilbert, Britten's Old Clocks and Watches and Their Makers, 7th ed. (New York: Bonanza Books, 1956), p. 66.

  2. F. A. B. Ward, Time Measurement: Historical Review (London: Science Museum, 1970), pp. 1, 17.

  3. D. W. Waters, “Time, Ships and Civilization,” Antiquarian Horology, 4 (June 1963), 85; and Eric Bruton, Clocks and Watches (Feltham: Hamlyn, 1968), p. 84.

  4. Carlo M. Cipolla, European Culture and Overseas Expansion (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970), pp. 133, 135.

  5. Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1971), I, 336. I am indebted throughout this study both to the Life and to Paulson's other definitive work: Hogarth's Graphic Works, rev. ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970). All Hogarth references are to Paulson's Life and Works unless otherwise stated. The illustrations are from Rev. John Trusler's Works of Hogarth (London: E. T. Brain, n.d.). In 1766, Trusler was employed by Hogarth's wife, Jane, to write explanations of the prints.

  6. R. W. Symonds, Thomas Tompion: His Life and Works (London: Spring Books, 1969), p. 232.

  7. See Bernard Falk, Thomas Rowlandson: His Life and Art (New York: The Beechhurst Press, 1952), passim; and James Gillray, Works (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1851), passim. Gillray frequently alludes to opulence and loot, but he uses gold coins (in great profusion), and not watches.

  8. Francis D. Klingender, Art and the Industrial Revolution, ed. Arthur Elton (London: Paladin, 1972), p. 46; and Herbert L. Sussman, Victorians and the Machine: The Literary Response to Technology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 9, 41.

  9. Karl-Adolf Knappe, Dürer: The Complete Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts (New York: Harry N. Abrams, n.d.), p. xliv and plates. See Erwin Panofsky's “Father Time,” Studies in Iconology (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), pp. 71, 73, 80, 82, as well as the bibliographical references in this important article; and Soji Iwasaki's The Sword and the Word: Shakespeare's Tragic Sense of Time (Tokyo: Shinozaki Press, 1973), plates 21, 23, 24, 34, 46, 48, 51, 60, 61. Clocks and sundials were used less frequently. See Panofsky's plates 51 and 55 (Time appears here to be standing on the foliot of a clock rather than on a sundial as Panofsky seems to suggest on p. 80); and Iwasaki, plate 12.

  10. Paulson, Life, I, 48, 513. See also pp. 50, 176, 514.

  11. Ibid., II, 244; I, 494; and I, 433, 554.

  12. Ibid., I, 251, 291.

  13. Ibid., I, 492.

  14. Heidegger's head was probably intended to move mechanically from side to side. Paulson suggests that Nonsense and Impertinence would be set in motion more frequently than Wit (Works, I, 133). See also references in Edward J. Wood, Curiosities of Clocks and Watches (1866; rpt. Wakefield: EP Publishing Ltd., 1973), pp. 127-28.

  15. Panofsky, Iconology, p. 83n.

  16. Paulson, Life, I, 234.

  17. Ibid., II, 175.

  18. Iwasaki, Sword, plates 5, 12, 28 (also pp. 21-32), and Panofsky, Iconology, plates 42, 46, 47, 56, 57, 60. Hogarth seems to have taken one step beyond Iwasaki's “Saturn-Time and Death” (pp. 32-44), and given some of Saturn's qualities to a fusion of Satan with Time.

  19. Klingender, Art, plates 52 ff., and pp. 106, 109-10, 117, 128-29. See also Boswell's London Journal, December 15, 1762.

  20. Alfred Chapuis, De Horologiis in Arte (Lausanne: Scriptar, 1954). Illustrations 55-64 (Holbein), 79-85 (Jan Breughel).

Robin Simon (essay date 1978)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Simon, Robin. “Hogarth and the Popular Theatre.” Renaissance & Modern Studies 22 (1978): 13-25.

[In the following essay, Simon examines Hogarth's relationship to popular theater, suggesting that the artist drew inspiration from a number of productions and, in turn, provided inspiration to various theatrical producers.]

I have endeavoured to treat my subject as a dramatic writer; my picture is my stage, and men and women my players, who by means of certain actions and gestures, are to exhibit a dumb show.

I wished to compose pictures on canvas, similar to representations on the stage; and farther hope that they will be tried by the same test, and criticised by the same criterion.

[William Hogarth]

His gesticulation was so perfectly expressive of his meaning, that every motion of his hand or head, or of any part of his body, was a kind of dumb eloquence that was readily understood by the audience.

[Thomas Davies on the pantomime of John Rich]

The most popular form of theatre during Hogarth's lifetime (1697-1764) was that of the booths in the London fairs, and I would suggest that these booth-theatres were one of the most pervasive influences on Hogarth's art throughout his career. I would also like to make some suggestions in support of the little-known tradition that one of Hogarth's earliest commissions in his attempts to turn himself into a painter was to paint scenery for Lee and Harper's booth at Bartholomew and Southwark Fairs in 1724.1 Hogarth's influence on the theatre in turn was considerable: at its highest level he waged a fruitful campaign for the revival of Shakespeare in the original; at its simplest, his works provided the song-writers and the booth-theatres with any amount of material for pantomimes, ballad-operas, drolls, and songs. It is largely with his mutually profitable relationship with the booth-theatres that I wish to deal here.

In a brief note, Sybil Rosenfeld posed the question Was Hogarth a Scene-Painter?, drawing attention to a tradition recorded by that most amusing anecdotalist J. T. Smith to the effect that, soon after Hogarth left his master (which was in 1720), Hogarth and William Oram painted scenes for Drury Lane together. That in itself is interesting enough, in view of the way in which Drury Lane appears so frequently in Hogarth's work, but in addition ‘they were also employed by a famous woman who kept a droll booth at Bartholomew Fair, to paint a splendid set of scenes. The agreement specified that the scenes were to be gilt but, instead of using gold leaf, they covered them with Dutch metal. The mistress of the drolls thereupon declared the contract broken and refused to pay for the scenes’.2 Rosenfeld identified this play with The Siege of Troy by Elkannah Settle which Mrs. Lee advertised in 1724 for Batholomew Fair in lavish terms:

the Booth coming as near the perfection of the Theatre as possible, being adorned by the most ingenious Workmen: Her Head Characters are all Dress'd in real Gold and Silver beyond what was ever worn at any Fair before but by her own people.

The Siege of Troy had indeed to be postponed that year from Bartholomew Fair (the site of the anecdote, held at the end of August) to Southwark Fair (held early in September) because the scenes and dresses were not ready. Rosenfeld concluded that the tradition involving Hogarth was therefore probably true and that it referred to this production.3 I feel that a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence can be offered in support of this conclusion.

It is to c. 1724-5 that Hogarth's earliest paintings are generally dated, and of a very humble kind they are, including the Sign-board for a Paviour (Mellon Collection) which itself suggests Hogarth's readiness to accept any commission which came to hand.4 And the Oram mentioned as his collaborator was almost certainly the one employed under Hogarth (in his capacity as Serjeant Painter) in 1761 to paint the Grand Triumphal Arch for the Coronation of George III.5 But the most compelling evidence comes from a hitherto unexplained anomaly in Hogarth's Southwark Fair of 1733, the presence, among so many details which are historically correct for that year—in the way of performances, sites of booths and so on—, of The Siege of Troy right in the middle of the picture at Lee and Harper's booth, when it had not been acted since 1726.6 Its anachronistic presence in such a prominent position—and the confusion of the architecture of the ‘Great Til'd Booth’ with that of the church behind is deliberate—can only be explained as a wryly personal reference to Hogarth's own difficult beginnings as a painter. This seems the more reasonable if we take into account the fact that Lee and Harper were putting on (at their own booth) the first theatrical ‘spin-off’ of a Hogarth series, Theophilus Cibber's pantomime, The Harlot's Progress or, The Ridotto al'Fresco: Hogarth's prints had only appeared the previous year, but such was the speed with which the popular theatre cashed-in on popular engravings.7 Such too was the measure of Hogarth's rapid rise to success since 1724; and the pattern of reciprocity is completed by Lee and Harper's revival of The Siege of Troy in 1734, no doubt as a result of the success of Hogarth's engraving of Southwark Fair. By this date, indeed, there can have been no element of rancour between Hogarth and Lee and Harper, whatever the dispute of 1724, for very shortly after those difficulties Hogarth had recorded John Harper in his most famous role as Falstaff in Henry IV (and in itself this tends to add one more detail in favour of Hogarth's scene-painting).

Hogarth's painting of Falstaff Examining his Recruits (Earl of Iveagh) has always been discussed briefly in the Hogarth literature and an air of uncertainty has hovered about it, and about the dates of the theatrical performance it is thought to record. No attempt, so far as I can see, has been made finally to settle the dates, the precise performance, nor to identify the cast beyond the leading figures. The picture does not show, in fact, Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2, III, ii, as it is universally held to do, but IV, iii of Betterton's adaptation, in which form it was invariably played at this time. To be more precise still, it seems to me certain [that] the painting records the Drury Lane production which opened on 21st February 1726/7 and then played on 25th February, 14th March, and 9th September.8 It had not been produced since 1722 (an unthinkably early date for this picture) and after its revival was not performed again until 18th October 1728. Stylistic comparison of the preliminary drawing and painting with the drawing and earliest paintings of The Beggar's Opera (which opened 29th January 1727/8) has always placed it c. 1727-8 and I would tend to go for the 1728 performance as that actually recorded. But in any case the main cast did not change until the last Drury Lane performance of 1733. In the reasonable attempt to identify the actors, therefore, it is important also to stress that the preliminary drawing (H. M. the Queen) is clearly taken directly from the stage. It bears all the signs of a hasty note of a passing moment of the action: the scene in question would be a conveniently extended, rather static, one for this purpose (as is that in The Beggar's Opera) with little movement of the main characters, Falstaff, Shallow, and Silence. There is a vestigial indication, also, of a curtain at the left, carefully omitted from the painting. Falstaff, then, is played by John Harper; Silence, seated behind the table nearest to Falstaff, actually shows us another booth-proprietor at the fairs, Josiah Miller; while the figure of Shallow, to Silence's right, shows us none other than Colley Cibber. As a matter of fact, each of these actors in the Falstaff painting also appears in Southwark Fair, on a stage-cloth, ‘The Stage Mutiny,’ above the collapsing stage which makes all-too-literal the bathetic ‘Fall of Bajazet’ (i.e., Tamerlane).9 Colley Cibber, wearing his laureate wreath, is seated at one side labelled ‘Quiet and Snug’; Josiah Miller is identified under the banner ‘We eat’; and most telling of all, John Harper stands in the middle dressed in a costume identical with that of Falstaff Examining His Recruits. The actual painting of Southwark Fair (Mellon Collection) shows him with the same red jerkin and breeches, white boots, the same hat, white hair and beard.

The presence of this stage-cloth, ‘The Stage Mutiny’, is itself evidence of Hogarth's intimate knowledge of theatrical goings-on of the time, for it is adapted from a print by John Laguerre of 4th July 1733 satirising the split between the new manager of Drury Lane and most of his actors (who had staged a ‘walk-out’). Within a month, Laguerre's print had been turned into farce at Covent Garden by the rival manager John Rich. As it happens, Laguerre (son of the Louis Laguerre immortalised by Pope) was the chief scenery-painter for Rich, and, among other additions to the original design, Hogarth identified the trade of his scenery-painter friend John Ellys with a paint-pot and brushes. All these details seem to add circumstantial evidence to the tale of Hogarth's working as a scenery-painter himself, while the one picture of his certainly executed in stage-distemper, The Turk's Head (Angus A. Brown, Esq.), was painted ‘in a fit of pleasantry, one evening in the Painting Room at Covent Garden Theatre’.10 In 1724, in any case, Hogarth was already engaged in his earliest attacks on the degeneracy of the theatre, in the engravings Masquerades and Operas (February 1723/4) and A Just View of the British Stage (December 1724).11 Here, it is important to distinguish between Hogarth's obvious love of the popular theatre in all its vigour, and his contempt for the abuse of the serious theatre in pandering to ‘the Bad Taste of the Town’—his own title for Masquerades and Operas. Thus John Rich, the greatest harlequin and pantomimist of the age and producer of The Beggar's Opera, is not really the target of that print, which is rather the public's preference for harlequinades and masquerades at the expense of the serious theatre. In it, the works of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson are being hawked about the streets as wrapping-paper for shops.

The harlequinades and masquerades really did flourish at the expense of serious drama: A Just View of the British Stage, for example, satirises the actual decline of Drury Lane to the level of extravagant competition with such as John Rich in the way of harlequinades. Cibber, Wilkes, and Booth, the proprietors, had hit on the idea of a criminal harlequin, Harlequin Shepherd, based on the escapades of the notorious (even popular) Jack Shepherd (or Sheppard). Hogarth's print shows the stage at Drury Lane, with Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar reduced to paper of an even more fundamental kind, while Ben Jonson's ghost (in part-parody of the ‘machinery’ of popular productions) rises through the floor to gaze in horror at the spectacle. The caption to the print is well worth repeating:

This Print Represents the Rehearsing a new Farce that will include ye two famous Entertainments Dr. Faustus and Harlequin Shepherd to wch. will be added Scaramouch Jack Hall the Chimney Sweeper's Escape from Newgate through ye Privy, with ye comical Humours of Ben Johnsons Ghost, concluding with the Hay-Dance Perform'd in ye Air by ye Figures A, B, C, Assisted by Ropes from ye Muses. Note, there are no Conjurors concern'd in it as ye ignorant imagine [N.B.] The Bricks, Rubbish &c. will be real, but the Excrements upon Jack Hall will be made of Chew'd Gingerbread to prevent Offence.

Vivat Rex.

The similarity in conception between Harlequin Shepherd and The Beggar's Opera will not be missed, but this venture in 1724 was a failure, ‘dismiss'd with a universal Hiss’. There is a suitable irony therefore, in Rich's ultimate success with The Beggar's Opera in 1728 and it was with his paintings of this production that Hogarth really established himself as a painter: Rich bought the first and commissioned another, and in all there were at least six versions. From our point of view, it seems characteristic opportunism on the part of Hogarth to have painted The Beggar's Opera and no doubt an element of opportunism was present. But Hogarth was already an archetypal ‘stage-door johnny’, and everything about his career so far had made a success in such a medium inevitable.

The ‘stage mutiny’ of 1733 involved another close friend of Hogarth's, Henry Fielding, who remained loyal to John Highmore, the manager of Drury Lane. At this time Fielding was pouring out satirical plays of all descriptions and already the similarity of method in the work of Hogarth and Fielding is often as striking as the identity of the reforms at which they aimed. Not least among these was the reform of the theatre, and both were in effect working at its reform from the inside.

In the pattern of mutual inspiration and frequent cross-reference which was to develop in the work of the two men, it is possible that Hogarth first inspired the other with one of his early attacks on masquerades. A spoof Masquerade Ticket by Hogarth of 172712 specifically attacked Heidegger, the master of masquerades now newly under royal patronage, and carried the following key:

A. a Sacrifice to Priapus. B. a pair of lecherometers shewing ye Companys Inclinations as they approach em. Invented for the use of Ladys and Gentlemen by ye Ingenious Mr. H[eidegge]r.

Fielding's first published work, The Masquerade, followed in 1728 and was, as Professor Paulson suggested, probably influenced by Hogarth's print.13 A decade later, the most important turning-point in Fielding's career, the Theatre Licensing Act of 1737 designed to silence his attacks on the government, finds Hogarth joining in the fight. At the time, Hogarth was starting work on Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn and The Four Times of the Day, the engravings being eventually published in 1738. All these prints are related to Fielding's career in one way or another,14 but from Strolling Actresses especially certain features of Hogarth's relationship with the popular theatre emerge.

Across the bed lies the play-bill for The Devil to Pay in Heaven ‘being the last time of acting before the Act commences’ (the ‘Act against strolling Players’ is placed in the crown at the left foreground). This play did not, so far as one can see, ever exist, but is an amalgam of several which did, and it is interesting to note where they had appeared. Thus, there was a ballad-opera by Coffey, The Devil to Pay (which has a different dramatis personae), which had been put on at Harper and Lee's other booth at Southwark Fair in 1731. In 1733 at their main booth they had put on The Fall of Phaeton, which followed Jephtha's Rash Vow, the characters for which are visible at the centre of Hogarth's Southwark Fair. There are certain similarities between The Fall of Phaeton and the Strolling Actresses: Phaeton, Apollo, Jupiter, Eagle, a Thunderbolt feature in the synopsis. Clearly this is largely a matter of coincidence, but less of a coincidence is the relationship between the play and Fielding's Tumble-Down Dick or Phaeton in the Suds of 1736, although it is only with the ‘original’ Fall of Phaeton in mind—familiar both to Hogarth15 and Fielding—that the relationship established by Paulson between Phaeton in the Suds and the Strolling Actresses makes its full impact: ‘with its emphasis upon the reality of stage properties, the play of Fielding's that most inspired Strolling Actresses [was Phaeton in the Suds]: the Sun is a lantern, the Palace of the Sun is a round-house, Aurora is delayed going out to meet the sunrise because her linen is not washed’.16 In fact, Fielding's play has further interesting light to shed on the common preoccupations of the two artists. It is, of course, a brilliant satirical squib, and in its constant movement in and out of the ‘play’ and in and out of character, the beginnings of the profounder ironical structure of Fielding's novels can be discerned. It also includes the following scene (Fustian is an author):

MR. Machine to Mr. Prompter:
. … Mr. Prompter, I must insist that you cut out a great deal of Othello, if my pantomine is to be performed with it, or the audience will be palled before the entertainment begins.
We'll cut out the fifth act, sir, if you please.
Sir, that's not enough, I'll have the first cut out too.
Death and the Devil! Can I bear this? Shall Shakespeare be mangled to introduce this trumpery?
Sir, this gentleman brings more money to the house than all the poets together.
Pugh! Pugh! Shakespeare!—Come, let down the curtain, and play away the overture.
(The curtain draws up, discovers Phaeton leaning against the scene).

Now it is to this period, c. 1736, that Hogarth's most brilliant exercise in the interpretation of Shakespeare's original text, The Tempest (Major the Rt. Hon. Lord St. Oswald), can be assigned. At this time the play was invariably performed in near-unrecognisable form as an opera.17 In view of Hogarth's friendship with so many actors and with Garrick especially (who owned Falstaff Examining His Recruits, among other paintings by Hogarth), it seems reasonable to suppose that Hogarth exerted a distinct influence on the revival of Shakespeare in the original which took place in the next two decades. In the 1730's Hogarth must have decided that if actors would not perform Shakespeare properly on the stage, then he would ‘produce’ a good example in paint.

The remaining sources for Strolling Actresses are less significant, though very characteristic of Hogarth. The Devil to Pay in St. James's, published as a pamphlet in 1727, most nearly suggests the parodic nature of the play-title in the picture and featured the activities of one of Hogarth's early targets, the Italian singer Cuzzoni: it includes the scandalous occasion when she had had an on-stage fight with her rival as a prima donna, Faustina, during a performance of Bononcini's Astynax.18 The remaining specific theatrical reference is to John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee's Oedipus: in the top right of the engraving appear the painted heads of Oedipus and Jocasta. As Nichols pointed out, ‘painted prodigies of this description were necessary to the performance of Lee's Oedipus’,19 and Hogarth would surely have seen these close-to in the ‘painting room’ of Covent Garden Theatre where the Beefsteak Club met: the play was performed there on 1st November 1736. He could even have seen it at the time that he was, as I believe, painting scenery in Southwark Fair, for it was put on there in 1724 by Bullock and Spiller, whose booth figures so prominently at one side of Hogarth's Southwark Fair.

To return to Hogarth's relationship with Fielding, among several interesting examples of Hogarth's providing inspiration for the author may be mentioned Fielding's Covent Garden Tragedy (1733) which ‘shared at once the impact and the popularity’ of Hogarth's Harlot's Progress (1731/2).20 By this date the two obviously knew each other well, and Hogarth had provided the frontispiece for Fielding's Tragedy of Tragedies, or the History of Tom Thumb the Great in 1730. This, and much more, has been discussed in great detail by Professor Paulson. One of the points of contact between them, however, could do with a little clarification, and that is the source of the sub-title to Hogarth's Gate of Calais (the print published 6th March 1748/9), ‘O the Roast Beef of Old England’. The picture is a very personal one, and so, inevitably it seems, it is very theatrical, both in its ‘stage-like structure’ and in its various references. The theme approximates to the motto of John Rich's Beefsteak Club, ‘Beef and Liberty’, and implicitly contrasts the diet, the political and religious freedom, of the English with those of the French. The action is based on an actual experience of Hogarth's which seemed to confirm all his chauvinistic contempt for the French: he was arrested as a spy while sketching the walls of Calais, and he shows himself in profile at the side of the picture, drawing the gate while the hand of an unseen soldier grasps his shoulder. Paulson states that Hogarth takes the sub-title from ‘Fielding's song that originally appeared in his Welsh (or Grub-Street) Opera (1731)’;21 this is not entirely correct for, although the theme is similar in that song, the words do not correspond. In fact the theme was more fully developed in Fielding's Don Quixote in England (1733) where the famous refrain quoted by Hogarth actually appears:

Oh the roast beef of old England
And old England's roast beef!

It is surely doubtful whether Hogarth could have relied on people to recall a single song from a farce of fourteen or more years earlier, and indeed the Grub Street Opera (in its earlier version as The Welsh Opera) had been last performed on 4th June 1731, while Don Quixote in England had been last performed on 5th October 1734. In fact, there is another theatrical friend of Hogarth's involved here, Richard Leveridge (1670?-1758) who had set the song from Don Quixote and made it his own. By the time of Hogarth's Calais Gate, Leveridge (a famous bass) had turned ‘The Roast Beef Song’ into a popular entr'acte and benefit night song. He had first performed it on 5th April 1735 at Covent Garden Theatre. As the Beefsteak Club had been founded there on 11th January of that year it might be reasonable to suggest that the song was their idea. In turn, Hogarth's painting was specifically the inspiration of the ‘Roast Beef Cantata’ of Theodosius Forrest, son of Hogarth's fellow-member Ebenezer; the later official song of the club was his also and also probably related to Hogarth's picture.22 By 1735 Hogarth would certainly have known Leveridge for he produced a frontispiece for Leveridge's Collection of Songs in 1727.23 Perhaps the most instructive, if amusing, indication of the immediate popularity of Leveridge's Roast Beef Song itself is that, six days after he had first performed it, it was featured as an added attraction to Othello (!) at Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was in opposition, of course, to this sort of jovial mutilation of Shakespeare that Hogarth and Fielding were so united. But there is no sense of contradiction in Hogarth about the inspiration which he drew from the theatre in its most popular forms, despite his missionary zeal for high drama; and I would be tempted to say that Hogarth's early experience in Lee and Harper's booth-theatre had a profound effect on the shaping of his imagination: it is difficult to find a satirical picture of his which is not connected with the popular theatre in some way.

Although so many of Hogarth's sources have been so thoroughly dealt with, especially by Professor Paulson, I have attempted thus far to clarify a few aspects specifically of Hogarth's relationship with the popular theatre, and have tried to make a few new suggestions. I hope that I have emphasised the fundamental importance of the booth-theatres in general, but especially that of Lee and Harper, to Hogarth's art, and two final examples must suffice to reinforce the argument: The March to Finchley (1750) and The Bathos (1764).24 In both cases, 1733, the year of Southwark Fair, is significant.

Sybil Rosenfeld noted the probable presence of another booth of Lee and Harper in the background of The March to Finchley (this time, for Tottenham Fair):

The Lee and Harper combination returned [to Tottenham] in a booth behind the King's Head in 1733. This is probably the tall wooden building which is shown behind the tavern [i.e. the tavern-brothel with the head of Charles II] in Hogarth's March to Finchley. It was probably permanent.25

I think this identification must be correct, and propose that Hogarth's picture derives the most prominent details of its action from the performance which Lee and Harper gave that year at Tottenham Fair on 30th July. It is only reasonable to assume that Hogarth would have gone to the fair—he lived in Leicester Fields—not least because Lee and Harper were giving their first performance of The Harlot's Progress. The main attraction, which this followed, was Bateman, or The Unhappy Marriage: with the Comical Humours of Sparrow, Pumpking, and Spicer going to the Wars. The coincidence is striking, for Hogarth's March to Finchley has three soldiers in the foreground clearly displaying ‘Comical Humours. … going to the Wars’. At least this would explain Hogarth's choice of this particular site in Tottenham Court between the Adam and Eve and King's Head for the ‘march to Finchley’ of 1745, showing Lee and Harper's booth in the background. In view of Hogarth's obvious knowledge of the details of Southwark Fair in 1733, the probability of this production of Bateman's being the inspiration for much of The March to Finchley is enhanced by the fact that Lee and Harper took it on to Southwark Fair, where it was acted on 10th September. This ran at their second booth at the lower end of Mermaid Court, together with The Harlot's Progress. At their main booth they played Jephtha's Rash Vow, the characters for which are seen (in part) on the balcony of their booth in the centre of Southwark Fair. Following Jephtha's Rash Vow was the pantomime of The Fall of Phaeton.

In his very last work, The Bathos of 1764, I believe that Hogarth recalled The Fall of Phaeton. Sick, bitter, and disillusioned, with all his hopes dashed and his revolutionary schemes scorned, Hogarth produced what is still a defiant, though rather self-pitying engraving, and I feel that the fall of Phaeton had become a very personal image. The print itself is more obviously personal than any other which Hogarth produced: expiring Time lies surrounded by the broken remnants of Hogarth's career, in the form of mangled remains of many of the pictures closest to his heart. Thus, for example, the palette of the manifesto Self-Portrait of 1745 is split; nearby lies the now-broken bow from Strolling Actresses. As for the rest, it is best described by way of reference to the synopsis of The Fall of Phaeton (printed in 1733):

[Phaeton] ascends in the chariot through the air to light the world. In the course the Horses prove unruly, go out of their way, and set the World on Fire. … the whole intermixed with comic scenes between Punch, Harlequin, Scaramouch, Pierrot and Columbine.26

Punch, Harlequin, and Scaramouch were indeed all to be seen on Lee and Harper's balcony in Southwark Fair … :27 in his last engraving, Hogarth has omitted any ‘comic scenes’. But, in its wholly natural announcement of what is really a quite extraordinary mixture of low comedy and potentially epic grandeur (certainly of subject), the pantomime synopsis suggests both the very nature of Hogarth's art and the closeness of the popular theatre to his instinctively parodic habit of mind. The very title of his last print, The Bathos, suggests as much, as does the final characteristic flicker of humour—Hogarth had to ‘set the World on Fire’ in a pub-sign.


  1. Hogarth had been apprenticed only to ‘a mean engraver of arms on plate’; he then turned himself into an independent engraver and publisher of prints (c. 1720), and finally into a painter, largely self-taught. In December, 1727, he was commissioned to produce a tapestry-design which Morris, the tapestry-maker, refused to pay for. Hogarth sued for payment and in the process established his right to work as a painter. Cf. R. B. Paulson, Hogarth, his Life, Art, and Times, 2 Vols., New Haven and London, 1971, hereafter Paulson, Life. I am grateful to Mr. Neill Menneer for taking the photographs which accompany this paper.

  2. Rosenfeld, ‘Was Hogarth a Scene Painter?’, Theatre Notebook, VIII, [1952?], p. 18; J. T. Smith, Ancient Topography of London (1815), p. 60. I cannot see that Professor Paulson is aware of this tradition, and he has consistently attacked the early attributions to Hogarth and ‘the idea that he painted publicly’ before 1726/7; cf., e.g., R. B. Paulson, ‘Hogarth the Painter’ (review of Hogarth exhibition), The Burlington Magazine, CXIV (1972), pp. 71-79, v. pp. 72-3.

  3. Cf. also S. Rosenfeld, The Theatre of the London Fairs in the 18th Century, Cambridge, 1960, pp. 83-4, 28, hereafter Rosenfeld. She states (p. 19) that The Siege of Troy was ‘the most famous and elaborate of drolls’. Poor Elkannah Settle! He ended up playing a dragon in the booths, dressed in a green leather costume of his own invention (Rosenfeld, p. 20 etc.).

  4. Late in life, Hogarth held a sign-painters' exhibition at which he himself exhibited (Paulson, Life, II, pp. 334 ff.). The Sign-board for a Paviour (v. L. Gowing, Hogarth, Tate Exhibition catalogue, London, 1971, no. 9) is only grudgingly admitted to be Hogarth's by Paulson, (Hogarth the Painter, art. cit., p. 74), but it is quite inconceivable, in terms of the phenomenon of style (on which Paulson apparently bases so many of his criticisms), that the Sign-board should be a late imitation of a sign-painter's technique. To accept this picture but not The Carpenter's Yard (Tate Gallery) is even odder.

  5. Paulson (Life, II, pp. 339-40) describes the coronation arrangements. Rosenfeld correctly identified the Oram referred to by J. T. Smith as William (‘Old’) Oram (d. 1777) rather than Edward his son (ff. 1770-1800) from whom J. T. Smith learnt the story. Old Oram and Hogarth would thus have been about an age in 1724, and they certainly collaborated later in life on the Coronation when Oram was Master-carpenter to His Majesty's Board of Works and Hogarth Serjeant-Painter (cf. Dictionary of National Biography). Rosenfeld (‘Was Hogarth a Scene-Painter?’) mentions the fact that Hogarth definitely painted scenery on one occasion when he and Garrick helped to put on ‘a vulgar parody on the ghost scene in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar’ (cf. D.N.B. entry on Dr. John Hoadly, Hogarth's friend, who wrote the parody).

  6. Southwark Fair is illustrated and discussed by R. B. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, 2 Vols., New Haven, 1965, no. 131, pl. 137, hereafter Graphic Works. But Paulson is wrong in arguing for the ‘generalised’ nature of the fair-scene, e.g., on the grounds that Tamerlane (The Fall of Bajazet) was not performed that year by Bullock and Cibber at Southwark, but rather, at Bartholomew Fair. In fact, they were surely performing it at Southwark, intermixed with Fielding's adaptation of Molière's The Miser (Rosenfeld, p. 94), it is just that The London Stage (v.n. 8 below) gives no details at all of Cibber and Bullock's booth at Southwark Fair in 1733; v. J. Genest, Some Account of the English Stage etc., 10 Vols., 1832, Vol. III, p. 401. Another point which my argument here explains is that raised by Paulson (Life, I, p. 320), ‘why Hogarth chose Southwark Fair, rather than Bartholomew, with which he was so much more familiar’ (itself a confusing presumption).

  7. Another such, Rich's farce The Stage Mutiny, is discussed below. The acting of The Harlot's Progress at the fair may conceivably be referred to in the scene at the right of the print which echoes the first plate of the series. The girl is ‘a close copy of the Harlot as she appears in the first plate’ (Paulson, Graphic Works, I, 156) and in addition, as Miss Anne Lloyd has pointed out to me, the gesture of the would-be seducer in raising the girl's chin is identical with that of Mother Needham in the same plate.

  8. Performance dates and details throughout have been checked against The London Stage, 1660-1800, five parts, Carbondale, Ill., 1960-1968, edited respectively by W. van Lennep, Emmett L. Avery, A. H. Scouten, G. W. Stone Jr., and C. B. Hogan; and against C. B. Hogan, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 1701-1800, 2 Vols., 1952 and 1957. As these are arranged in calendar-form, in order to avoid too tedious a proliferation of footnotes, no further reference will be made to these works save for specific details. Falstaff Examining his Recruits is illustrated in F. Antal, Hogarth and his Place in European Art, London, 1962, pls. 19(a) and (b).

  9. Cf. Graphic Works, no. 131, pl. 137 for details of The Stage Mutiny and of the engraving as a whole.

  10. The quotation is from an inscription on the back ascribing the painting to Hogarth; v. Gowing, exhibition catalogue, No. 196. It was in the ‘Painting Room’ at John Rich's Covent Garden that the ‘Sublime Society of Beef Steaks’ met, of which Hogarth was a founding-member (see below). Perhaps I may point out that an identical Turk's turban is falling off the collapsing stage in Southwark Fair, another slight circumstantial detail to add to the many more convincing ones in support of the inscription and style of this painting since Paulson bafflingly claimed that this picture was not by Hogarth (Hogarth the Painter, art. cit., p. 79, Note ‘196’). None of Paulson's arguments makes any sense and the points he raises can be readily explained in terms of characterisation or medium. Nor is this painting surely to be considered in terms of a comparison with Hogarth's portraits; in addition to the theatrical connection (and Bajazet, Emperor of the Turks, was to be seen regularly on the stage of Covent Garden) the artists met at The Turk's Head tavern in Gerrard Street. Here might indeed be a brilliant ‘imitation’, in a strictly eighteenth-century sense, of a sign-painter's style.

  11. Graphic Works, respectively No. 34, pl. 37, and No. 45, pl. 48. In view of the tradition of Hogarth's employment there, it is worth noting that the stage of Drury Lane is portrayed in 1724 in A Just View of the British Stage.

  12. Graphic Works. No. 109, pl. 113; J. Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of Hogarth (2nd. ed.), 1782, pp. 133-140, pp. 435-6.

  13. Paulson, Life, I, p. 291.

  14. Cf. Ibid, pp. 394 ff. Strolling Actresses is no. 156, pl. 168, in Graphic Works.

  15. See below, in the discussion of The Bathos.

  16. Paulson, Life, I, p. 398.

  17. I am grateful to my colleague Mr. Simon Shepherd for first pointing out to me the dominance of the operatic version during this period. I discuss The Tempest in more detail in a forthcoming study of Hogarth's Shakespeare paintings.

  18. Cuzzoni appears on a theatre-sign in Masquerades and Operas with a nobleman begging her ‘Pray accept £8,000’. There is a discussion in Phaeton in the Suds, following the passage quoted above, concerning the gross over-payment of foreign, compared with English, performers. Dr. Arbuthnot was the supposed author of The Devil to Pay in St. James's, and Nichols (p. 157) pointed out that Hogarth is mentioned in a complimentary manner in it.

  19. Nichols, op. cit., p. 211.

  20. Paulson, Life, I, p. 292.

  21. Graphic Works no. 180, pl. 192, I, p. 203; there is a somewhat confusing reference ibid., no. 111, to Leveridge's having written the music to Fielding's song ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’. This latter is the one identified here, and not that in The Grub Street Opera.

  22. Cf. The London Stage, Part 3, Vol. 2, 6th illustration (The Roast Beef Cantata); Paulson, Life, I, p. 548 n. 58. Another favourite song of Leveridge's was Of English Brown Beer, the superiority of which was also admitted by craven foreigners in Fielding's Don Quixote. Hogarth's Beer Street (1751) comes to mind, and his pair of etchings, The Invasion, France and England (1756), is more specific still:

    ‘With lanthern jaws, and croaking Gut
    See how the half-starv'd Frenchmen Strut,
    And call us English Dogs!
    But soon we'll teach these bragging Foes,
    That Beef and Beer give heavier Blows,
    Than Soup and Roasted Frogs’.
  23. Graphic Works no. 111, pl. 116.

  24. Ibid, respectively no. 237, pl. 277, and no. 216, pl. 240; for The Bathos drawing and engraving cf. Paulson, Life, pls. 313(a) and 313(b). Among the several changes from drawing to print is the addition of Phaeton's chariot (identified as such here, identified by Paulson, Graphic Works I, p. 260, as ‘Apollo and his horses dead’).

  25. Rosenfeld, pp. 124-5.

  26. Rosenfeld, pp. 40-1.

  27. Scaramouch is mixed up with the actors on the main balcony. The Fall of Phaeton was actually last performed in this year. It was distinct from the very superior production of The Fall of Phaeton: with Harlequin a Captive, first performed at Drury Lane on February 28, 1735/6. This was by William Pritchard and featured music by Thomas Arne and (interestingly enough) scenes by Francis Hayman. In the long and elaborate cast there is no Scaramouch nor Punch.

David Kunzle (essay date 1979)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Kunzle, David. “William Hogarth: The Ravaged Child in the Corrupt City.” In Changing Images of the Family, edited by Virginia Tufte and Barbara Myerhoff, pp. 99-140. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979.

[In the following essay, Kunzle discusses Hogarth's sympathetic representation of children who were, in his view, neglected by their parents as well as by society as a whole.]

The rich iconography of the child and family in Western painting since the Renaissance remains a great source of untapped information for the social historian. Philippe Ariès has looked at many pictures and considered them within broad lines of development, but specialized studies which take into account the problems peculiar to the study of imagery, as opposed to other sources of documentation, are generally lacking. The iconography of any given period and place may both confirm and seem to contradict conclusions drawn on the basis of literary or archival materials. The image of the child developed in Italian Renaissance art, for instance, belies the impression we have of that era as one largely indifferent to the special characteristics of children and their various stages of development. The splendid figures of adolescents ranging from early puberty to near manhood, familiar from the masterworks of Italian Renaissance and Mannerist art, have no discernible points of reference in the literature. The sense developed by Leonardo da Vinci of the uniqueness of each stage of the infant's or child's growth, or the ability manifest in many painters to see ideal and heroic proportions in the infant male without his appearing one whit less of a child—these were obviously foreign to Montaigne, no observer of the visual arts, who saw in children “neither mental activities nor bodily shape.”1 It is almost the rule that in Italian art children have a great deal of bodily shape, and show much mental as well as physical activity. In the earth-based putti of Raphael's Sistine Madonna, the gaze eloquent at once of adult wonder and childish curiosity, the pose which bespeaks the mature intellect while the form remains so infantile, contributed essentially to the canonization of the painting by the popular taste of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Another iconographic area which should reward extensive investigation is that of Dutch seventeenth-century art. The privileged status of the child, the relatively liberated condition of women, and the humane treatment of servants in that precociously bourgeois republic are attested in memoirs and other literary documents.2 Painting, notably that of Pieter de Hooch, reveals as no other medium can the particular triangle of relationships which existed between three traditionally inferior elements in society: child, woman, and servant. They, rather than the men, are the natural denizens, makers, and emanations of the Dutch home. The rendition of space and atmosphere in Dutch middle-class houses, their hushed penetration by exterior light (Vermeer) should be studied in conjunction with what social historians can tell us of Dutch family structures and domestic habits.

The relatively idyllic view of child, mother, and family life generally, which is transmitted by the Dutch painters, stands in sharp contrast to the embittered and contentious view of women, marriage, and family responsibilities which comes to us from German Protestant broadsheets of the same period. In the brutal power struggles between husband and wife the children do not, however, appear as primary victims.3 But there is a rich and untapped source of information about family habits and family morality in the German sixteenth- and seventeenth-century broadsheets, which are satirical, moralistic, and also pedagogic in the sense that some served to instruct the young. They illuminate the cult of domesticity, certainly part-inspired by the teachings and example of Martin Luther, in an early bourgeois Protestant society.

William Hogarth drew on both the tradition of the satiric broadsheet, politically acclimatized in England by the eighteenth century, and that of Dutch domestic genre painting, which was eagerly collected in that country. Hogarth has not lacked interpreters; his work has always been acclaimed in general and quarried piecemeal, as the most significant single body of hard facts about English manners of his age. What follows is an attempt to show that Hogarth's perception of the child was as an essentially parentless creature in a society which reneged upon parental responsibility within both the private nuclear family, and the public family formed by social institutions. The public responsibilities Hogarth took upon himself, establishing himself as moralist, educator, and social activist—as father-figure to middle- and lower-class society, and gadfly to the upper classes—in a way unprecedented for any artist in any country, and comparable only to Dickens in the nineteenth century.

The term “Hogarthian London” popularly conjures up a teeming, steaming city of ramshackle slums, filthy garrets, gloomy gambling dens, and taverns rank with prostitutes, drunkards, and thieves. It is the view of a particular artist at a particular moment of the eighteenth century, which appears to us as a projection into a later age, paralleled in literature by the social criticism of Dickens and Mayhew rather than the still rural vision of Hogarth's friend and literary counterpart Henry Fielding.

Dickens accepted Hogarth's view of London as morally and to a great extent physically his own, despite the fact that the novelist would hardly have recognized the geography of London in 1730, still a collection of villages compared with what it had become a century later. Hogarth touched many of what Dickens considered, and we today still consider, the characteristic evils of industrial life, long before the Industrial Revolution had even started. Dickens was very familiar with Hogarth's work, displayed it in his Gad's Hill home, and referred admiringly to it on several occasions. He saw in the artist a sensitivity like his own, singularly well tuned to the derelictions, corruptions, and cruelties engendered by city life. Like Hogarth, he saw the city as the destroyer of family, a vulture battening upon childhood. But there are major differences, of course, in their definition of the concepts of childhood and family, and in the remedies they offer for the destructive process.

Like most writers of the post-romantic era, Dickens sought in the countryside escape from urban corruption. Hogarth did not. He is unique among major British painters in having shown only a very minimal pictorial response to landscape, then a popular artistic category in itself. It is true that later in his life he acquired a small house in Chiswick, then well outside London, but he does not appear to have needed the countryside as a refuge from the town, nor did he conceive it as possessing particular aesthetic merits lacking in the interior and street scenes which were his constant subject matter. This is not merely because Rousseau was not available to him; well before that apostle of nature, ever since the beginning of capitalism and urbanization, and carried in part by the revival of the pastoral tradition in the Renaissance, the feeling had been growing that the countryside and only the countryside, only the simpler, rustic life, could regenerate the corrupt, commercialized character of urban social relations.

It seems as if Hogarth was so obsessed with this corruption, and yet at the same time so imbued with a faith that it might still be reformed or cured, that the question of an alternative environment never arose. Since the mid-eighteenth-century city did not stand as the universal, ever-expanding, and overwhelming phenomenon which it was to become a century later, reform rather than outright escape may have yet presented itself as a viable way of dealing with it. But if Hogarth worked with a vision of reform through private philanthropy, he saw very clearly that it was not individual and separate abuses that had to be reformed, but a whole structure which was the basis and vehicle of corruption—social custom, law, church, constituted authority in its various forms—a structure which, having usurped the systems of rural or feudal community, was unable to offer any protection or security whatsoever.

The humanitarian movement which spread under the reigns of William III and Anne decayed rapidly under the first two Georges. The Poor Laws were modified toward a greater rigidity; provision for orphans, whose numbers increased with the wars of Marlborough and the general growth in population, diminished. The cost of Poor Law Relief actually fell from £819,000 in 1698 to £689,000 in 1750.4 No parliamentary assistance was given to charity schools. Crime, pauperism, and drunkenness increased. Hogarth grew up and matured as an artist during this period of humanitarian decay. Nowhere is his satire sharper than when he considers the fate of children, and the forces which determine that fate. Children, the embellishment of so much family portraiture and genre painting of the baroque era, are in Hogarth like festering sores on a rotting body politic: children unwanted and rejected, the fruit of loveless marriages, capricious lecheries, or depraved professions; the offspring of parents who pass on to them only their physical diseases and moral vices.

They are not however—unlike in Dickens—deliberately and ritually beaten, despite the fact that we assume the beating of children to have been normal and widespread at this period. In Hogarth, children get morally, not physically, beaten. Hogarth's are the children of all social classes, but especially those of the lower orders who appear to have been born parentless and thrown in infancy upon the cruel world, where they live as prematurely aged and vitiated adults. They are incarnations of the social principle that the fruit of rotten trees ripens rotten, and is either crushed underfoot when it falls, or else survives to add to the surrounding rottenness.

Hogarth's first really important and independent enterprise, A Harlot's Progress, was planned and executed in 1730, at the time he married and was under particular pressure to establish himself as an artist and provider. Hogarth's marriage, as far as we can tell, was happy, but he was to have no children of his own. He developed, however, a fierce instinct which we may legitimately term “paternal,” an aggressive sense of propriety, toward a kind of artistic offspring which would be to his credit socially and aesthetically, and profit him economically. He had hitherto, in the 1720s, engaged in artistically “illegitimate” or socially and economically marginal activities which had yielded only poor results—book-illustration and broadsheet satires, all badly paid, constricting in subject matter, and open to plagiarization and exploitation by middlemen. Henceforth, with the Harlot's Progress, he would initiate and control all aspects of the genesis, evolution, and distribution—the begetting and rearing—of his productions. As a particularly crucial measure of protection, he got Parliament to pass England's first artistic copyright act (known ever since as “Hogarth's Act,” 1735).

We are presented at the outset with what is now discernible as a centuries-long historical evolution, which Hogarth compresses into the few years of the harlot's career, an evolution which had begun long before Hogarth was born, and was to reach its maturity only deep into the nineteenth century: the movement from the countryside to the town, from innocence to corruption, from the “natural family” life to lonely competition for survival, from work with a materially productive community to domestic and sexual service productive only of distress and disease. Hogarth's harlot progresses rapidly from virginal girlhood to premature old age and death—making along the way a child which, born into the city itself, and formed by the same circumstances which ruined its parent, is doomed from the start. Sociologists have tracked this movement over the nineteenth-century period, with reference to the transformation of country girls, become superfluous and a burden at home, into the domestic servants of the urban rich, into factory workers, beggars, and prostitutes, beyond the reach, care, or control of parents, thrown upon their own devices and treacherous or coldhearted parent-substitutes.5

Hogarth's buxom country wench, who is called Mary or Kate Hackabout, falls into temptation at the very outset. She has been sent to London in the York waggon (the cheap way—her family must be poor) in care of her cousin Tom, for whom she has brought a present of a goose; but poor goose that she is, she is left unprotected, at her point of disembarkation, against the lusts of wolves and wolverines. Two other young girls arriving, with the same purpose, in the same York waggon, have what would appear to be the proper protection, a clergyman engaged in reading the direction of the place to which he is bringing the girls to safety.6 Prudently, the girls stay inside the waggon, although one wonders whether they, too, will not be exposed to temptation, and are not doomed to fall, like the pots nearby, disturbed by the munching horses of the careless rider. The clergyman, the church, standing within a yard or two, chooses to ignore the vicious seduction initiated in the foreground—it is none of his business, and he is impotent anyway before those who usurp parental authority and offer these debased parodies of parental attention. The bawd was identified as the notorious Mother Needham; the man behind, hand in pocket masturbating at his prospects, was recognized as the wicked “Colonel” Charteris who, we read in a biography published at the time when he was on trial for rape, employed “some noted Procuress to furnish him from time to time with a variety of fresh Country Girls, which were to be hired (to prevent Suspicion) to live with him as Servants.”7 Charteris was a friend of the prime minister, so he escaped punishment.

Country girls arrived in London with social ambitions. By the second plate, Kate has become an accomplished courtesan, provided with an exotic child-servant from a “child-race”—the Negro—and an exotic pet which apes her antics and dress. Expelled for infidelity by her wealthy Jewish keeper, she rapidly declines, is arrested in a garret for receiving stolen goods, or else simply as a common harlot (scene III), and is sent to Bridewell women's prison, in the company of children too young and idiotic looking to be considered responsible for whatever crime they are charged with (scene IV). Hogarth is clear on this, and this is what differentiates him from the long tradition in popular moralization: the girls have sinned, but they are victims of evil social forces and cruel laws which punish them and leave their seducers to prosper.8 The authorities which conspire against her are: the ruthless harlot-hunting Justice Sir John Gonson (a notorious figure in real life), entering in the third scene and himself hanged in effigy by an inmate graffitist, in the next; the villainous and sadistic jailer and his thieving wife (scene IV); and the doctors who engage in a trivial and despicable quarrel about the relative merits of their cures, at the very moment the harlot is dying, thus mocking the misery of their patient, and ignoring that of her child, who scratches his verminous head as he tries to smoke a piece of bread (scene V).

The child, moving rapidly into the center of the European social stage, is the centerpiece of Hogarth's final plate. While the sisterhood, the harlot's colleagues, pay their last respects with hypocritical and drunken wailing and sniveling, and with lecherous gestures, the chief mourner, the pathetic remnant and fruit of the harlot's career, is left to play with a top—a symbol, perhaps, of the emptiness of his existence. No one takes the slightest notice of him. Officialdom—clergyman, undertaker—is occupied in pursuit of its own amorous designs.

Hogarth followed up his tremendously successful Harlot's Progress with the progress of her male equivalent, the rake, in eight scenes. Tom Rakewell, like Kate Hackabout, is thrown as a mere adolescent upon the temptations of the town, made available to him through the fortune left by a miserly and neglectful father (scene I). The Harlot had been of low, rustic origin, and rose socially, only to fall into the deepest degradation; her male successor is of middle-class, nouveau-riche origin, and is also ruined by social ambition. At the outset, however, he is put in the position of being not only the exploited—the willing victim of tailors, thieving lawyers, and the sundry artists and sportsmen he patronizes (scene II)—but also the exploiter: of the simple country girl whom he, as a student, had seduced on the promise of marriage, and who now honorably spurns his attempt to buy her off with money. She remains faithful to him in the most heroic and improbable fashion: after his debaucheries (scene III) she rescues him with her meager savings from arrest for debt at the hands of the villainous-looking minions of the law (scene IV); she attempts to interrupt his marriage to a rich old hag (scene V); and finally, when, having lost his all gambling (scene VI), Tom is reduced to debtor's prison and madhouse, she assumes the role of mourner—the role, ironically, of Mary Magdalene, the reformed prostitute of the Bible, mourning the dead Christ, whose position in an unmistakable iconographic parallel Rakewell near-duplicates (scene VIII). She has, quite properly, left their child at home for this truly frightening scene; but in the previous one the child adds her strident voice and efforts to comfort and revive her mother, who has fainted on encountering her beloved, already half-mad in his debtor's jail.

The girl's counterpart, on the other side of this plate, is the boy demanding money for the beer he has brought; he might be the harlot's son, whom we last saw, three years earlier, when he was about five, and now, at age eight, is imbued with an air of hardened cruelty. Once again the social parent-substitutes, the representatives of authority, the law (I and V), the military (III), and the aristocracy (V and VI) are the active instruments of corruption. Hogarth shows that authority has broken down in various symbolic ways also: the Tablet of the Ten Commandments is cracked (V); the law, as represented by the portraits of Roman emperors (III), has been desecrated: the good emperors have had their heads torn out, only Nero is intact. Here the world itself (or a map of it) is set on fire. And in the madhouse (VII) it is the same: the upper classes, represented by two elegant young tourists peering in hypocritical dismay and curiosity at the naked, urinating man who, thinking he is a king, unconsciously mocks the very concept of royalty—these fine young ladies incarnate the ultimate corruption of a society which, having driven people mad, mocks them in their madness.

It was not only in paintings and prints that Hogarth gave voice to his distress at the plight of unwanted children. He became a social activist on their behalf. In the first half of the eighteenth century, to counter the governmental and official torpor we noted above, there was much practical response to the new concern for children, in the creation of numerous philanthropic institutions, notably charity schools and hospitals of various kinds, including for maternity. These were not municipal or ecclesiastical foundations, but the result of individual humanitarian efforts. Hogarth was involved in many of them, such as the prison reform committee of 1729, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, the Bethlehem or Bedlam Hospital (the same where his Rake had died), and in particular the Foundling Hospital, which has been called “the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth-century benevolence.”9 Hogarth was no mere figurehead director; he contributed not only money but also labor and time in committee work, and his art. His Progresses pleaded, indirectly, for just such a charitable institution as the Foundling; but he also donated to the hospital building large, impressive paintings in a serious style and of a more traditional subject matter: Christ Healing the Sick at the Pool of Bethesda, which includes a mother with a crippled child being brutally pushed away, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan, two canvasses for St. Bartholomew's Hospital, still in situ; and among the paintings he presented to the Foundling were Moses Brought before the Pharaoh's Daughter, and a portrait of Thomas Coram, chief instigator of the hospital, also happily still in situ. The portrait of Coram, the kindly old sea captain, like Hogarth childless after many years of happy marriage, is regarded as a major monument in the history of art, and in the development of the heroic bourgeois portrait. A new type of man, the middle-class philanthropist, brought forth a new category of art.

Hogarth was personally present at the opening of the hospital on 25 March 1741. He must have noted the great crowd, the manner in which the mothers were received, and the condition of the children. The women who brought the children were dismissed with no questions asked. As an eyewitness saw it:

On this occasion the expressions of grief of the women whose children could not be admitted were scarcely more observable than those of some of the women who parted with their children. So that a more moving scene can't well be imagined. All the children who were received (except three) were dressed very clean, from whence and other circumstances they appeared not to have been under the care of the parish officers, nevertheless many of them appeared as if stupefied with some opiate, and some of them almost starved, one as in the agonies of death through want of food, too weak to suck, or to receive nourishment, and notwithstanding the greatest care appeared as dying when the governors left the hospital, which was not until they had given proper orders and seen all necessary care taken of the children.10

In that first year, 136 infants were admitted, more than twice the number originally planned for; but of those who lived to be sent into the country, and to be apprenticed, the survival ratio appears to have been good.

Moses Brought before the Pharaoh's Daughter, the subject which old Coram had put on the seal of the corporation, as well as that of Hogarth's presentation painting, reproduces the hierarchy of social classes which constituted the hospital. The numerous artistocrats elected as governors in the original charter, who included twenty-three dukes, thirty-four earls, and twenty-two members of the Privy Council, could identify with the Egyptian princess in her palace. The middle-class governors and managerial staff could identify with the steward or treasurer (described as imbued with “austere dignity”):11 the lower servants with Moses' mother and the princess's servants whispering to the right; and the children of course with the foundling Moses himself, confronting the ruling class itself, as they must frequently have done in the hospital buildings and grounds which became a kind of cultural club and rendezvous for the rich. (Some of the foundlings, incidentally, grew up to become, if not leaders of a nation, relatively successful citizens, who later visited the hospital in fancy carriages.)

But Hogarth has also, I believe, inserted into the painting certain criticisms which have hitherto passed unnoticed. The major one is of the attitude taken toward the children by the foster-parents with whom they were boarded out for the first few years. Moses' foster-mother (hired and treated as such, although she is also the real mother) gazes with evident pleasure at the money the grumpy old steward pours into her hand.12 Since the recent cleaning of the painting, the coins (again) glisten with particular brilliance, and it is evident that the artist meant to emphasize this money transaction, and the two parties' involvement in it: he the parsimonious treasurer displeased at having to disburse so much for a mere single child, of an inferior and subject people; she the foster-mother so pleased at getting paid off as to raise the suspicion that money was her primary motivation in accepting the child; neither showing any concern for the child who is thus bought and sold, and who is so obviously—and naturally—afraid at this moment, overawed by the magnificent princess, and clinging nervously to his mother's sash.

Hogarth's critical excursion here is all the more remarkable in that it is not justified by the biblical text, which is inscribed on the frame “Exodus II Chap 10th Verse: And the child grew; and she brought him unto Pharaoh's Daughter; and he became her Son; and She called his name Moses.” The payment is mentioned not in this verse but in the preceding one, given to another painter, Francis Hayman, to illustrate. The inscription below Hayman's painting, whose position right next to Hogarth's on the hospital wall facilitates comparison,13 runs “Exodus II Chap. 9th Verse: And Pharaoh's Daughter said to her, take this Child, and nurse it for me and I will give thee thy Wages.” Hayman's picture, presented at the same time as Hogarth's, to a degree in rivalry, and so unlike it, is all sweet sentiment and maternal tenderness. The (foster) mother reaches eagerly for the infant, which is lovingly cradled by the princess's maid. The gesture of the pharaoh's daughter toward Moses, that of directing the child to be given away to the nurse, is more or less repeated by Hogarth in the reverse situation. The gesture of Hogarth's princess, as well as her aristocratically languid reclining pose, seems to us, and was perhaps even intended by Hogarth, as that of a lady whose adoption of a child of the lower classes is an act of public policy rather than a movement of the heart. The bourgeoisie tended to see the aristocracy as deficient in maternal feeling. Artists later in the century, under the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, moralize the theme “Return from the Nurse” by showing the child fearful at being thrust suddenly into an alien and luxurious environment, clinging to the nurse, as in Hogarth, and the unnatural, aristocratic parents annoyed at having to take their child back. (The princess's pose in Hogarth's painting is actually rather similar to that of the unmaternal and flighty Countess Squanderfield at her levee in Marriage A-la-Mode, which Hogarth had recently published and which we shall describe shortly.) Her lack of apparent enthusiasm may be taken in conjunction with the whispering of the servants behind her: the “Ethiopian” was judged by a contemporary critic14 to be passing on to her companion the rumor that Moses was in fact the illegitimate child of the princess; she could not, therefore, afford to show too much affection toward him. Whatever Hogarth may have intended in this respect, he has conceived of Moses, despite his two mothers, despite the biblical story, despite the ostensible purpose of the picture which was to show the philanthropic exemplar sanctified and in action, as a child afraid and alone.

The Foundling Hospital became a fashionable enterprise, and was certainly of good publicity value for Hogarth, as recent writers on the artist have not failed to stress. By the 1740s he was fairly well known as a printmaker and satirist, and also as a portrait painter, although he never became a fashionable face-painter as Reynolds was shortly to become. His most ambitious portrait after the Coram was, logically enough, a painting of children—the children, significantly, of the apothecary at the Royal Hospital for war veterans at Chelsea. Hogarth already had considerable experience with family portraiture, which became very popular among the English aristocrats who wished to demonstrate their commitment to the new (bourgeois) concept of the family. But these “conversation pieces,” as they were called, tended to be very small in scale, and cramped and crowded in their arrangement. One feels that the children do not really have enough room to run around in, despite the grandeur of the spaces they inhabit; that their childish antics are self-conscious performances, or that they are inhibited by the grown-ups.15 In The Graham Children and The MacKinnon Children,16 parents are altogether absent, which is still unusual in family portraiture, although there are scattered examples from earlier periods, especially seventeenth-century Holland. One wonders whether the choice was more Hogarth's than that of the parents, at this time when the painter was intensively occupied with the foundlings. The Graham Children, unlike the usual family portrait, is not about a family hierarchy but about spontaneity and freshness, feminine and gracious in the girl, of an animal vivacity in the boy, over whose shoulder the cat watches the bird with fearsome intensity.

Such pictures represent a brief and private respite from Hogarth's abiding public preoccupation with the child as victim, a theme to which he returned in his most exquisite narrative painting, and in his most carefully elaborated and engraved satirical story, Marriage A-la-Mode. The child appears only at the very end, but once again he starts with a demonstration of parental irresponsibility and selfishness, within a convention still largely accepted in practice by all classes at this time: the marriage arranged for economic and social advantages. It is now a matter not only of implicit or explicit neglect, although moral neglect is certainly one of the issues. It is a matter also and primarily of the active exploitation of children in order to promote corrupt socioeconomic ambitions: the middle-class, nouveau-riche father who buys his daughter a titled husband, and the aristocrat of ancient lineage, physically and financially crippled by his sexual and artistic-architectural extravagance, who sells his son to the highest bidder.

In their forced, loveless marriage, the children are seduced into artistocratic vices. The young low-born countess compensates for the boredom of marriage, and expresses her new status by the acquisition of bad art on various levels, and later, bad artists of various kinds; the young Earl Squanderfield reveals his moral turpitude through his liaisons with pathetic child prostitutes and, when venereal disease threatens, through his recourse to the lowest class of quack physician (III). The countess repays his infidelity with one of her own (IV); and even as she makes the assignation, she shows her contempt for the sacred duties of maternity. A mother she is, as we know by the coral bauble over her chair; but the family to which she commits herself is an entourage of more or less suspect artistic performers and groupies. Here is the child she and her friends dote upon: a gross, enameled, effeminate Italian castrato singer, who warbles in an unnatural treble voice for the pleasure of those with infantile musical tastes. The countess's taste in fine art embraces both the senile and the infantile: she has bought old, smoky, violent paintings of mythological seduction and rape, appropriate to the senile sensibility of an aristocracy looking backward to exhausted continental and Catholic models; and, on the floor, the latest acquisition at the latest auction, absurdly childish, primitive or Oriental knickknacks. The only object which makes any sense at all does so in a satirical fashion. The Actaeon figure symbolizes the earl's impending cuckoldry, and mocks the depravity at once of artistocratic artistic taste and aristocratic morals. The mockery here is incarnated in another child representative of the child-race: the Negro servant boy. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings—and primitive people—shall come forth satiric truth. There are other occasions when Hogarth uses the child to mock adult foolishness.17

Sinner as she is, the countess is capable of a kind of heroism, pleading for forgiveness before her husband, who dies in a duel of honor with her paramour in a masquerade bagnio, the place of the illicit rendezvous; and, finally, committing suicide by an overdose of laudanum, because she has lost both her husband, killed by the lover, and the lover, executed by the law. In these circumstances the child, hitherto present only in the form of the coral amulet, makes a belated, but tragic appearance. Crippled and deformed as he is, he attempts to deliver a departing kiss, his unhealthily flushed face contrasting with the deathly pallor of his mother's cheek. Her father, the alderman, meanwhile, with an expression of pained concern, withdraws from his dying daughter's finger the wedding ring which he had led her into defiling (her feelings about the marriage in the first place were eloquently expressed in the opening scene, where she idly draws this same ring through a handkerchief). Avarice dictates the father's last ritual gesture, which actually defrauds the crown, in English law at this time the sole legal heir to a suicide's estate.18

The child is surely a male.19 Most art historians and commentators, misled by the female dress customary for infant boys, have taken him to be a girl, who would normally wear a cap (as we remember from the Rake's daughter, and the three Graham daughters). The fact that it is a boy is of some moment: chance has favored the degenerate artistocratic line by producing in the nick of time the necessary male heir, and guaranteeing the perpetuation of the name; but nature, punishing the family by transmitting the physical taints of the father onto the child, has already rendered further propagation unlikely. The child has a leg brace for his rickets, and a black patch over his (perhaps) hemophiliac taint, in almost exactly the same place as that of the father, in the first scene.20

In his later work Hogarth gives no indication that, despite his efforts with the Foundling Hospital and other charitable endeavors, he saw any sign of improvement in the social situation, especially vis-à-vis children. While his personal financial situation continued to improve, his reputation polarized, and he became himself the butt of much personal abuse and satire. More combative than ever, in his late middle and last period, he conjures up the most desperate vision of the plight of the urban child.

Hogarth attempted to follow up Marriage A-la-Mode with the complementary story of a happy marriage, which was to have a rural setting in contrast to the urban one of the first. But, having executed a few sketches of wedding ceremonial—dance and banquet—and finding himself confronted with the inevitable scenes of connubial and family bliss, he gave up, in the realization that happiness and virtue and the rustic life did not lend themselves to moral exegesis, to comic or interesting effects. There is another parallel with Dickens here, of which I am reminded by Sylvia Manning's essay on Dickens, who concludes his epic narratives of unhappy families with rapidly sketched epilogues of happy families. Like Hogarth's, Dickens's remain mere sketches, a few perfunctory and quite unconvincing paragraphs, showing how in the next generation, somehow, miraculously, in a kind of never-never land, the happy family shall arise.

But Hogarth was already or soon to be at work on another subject which was to provide for a demonstration of virtue of a kind, and to be ingeniously interwoven with a life of vice. He called it Industry and Idleness (1747). He starts with two fatherless youths, first shown as apprentice weavers. The master-weaver is reinforced in his traditional role of parent-substitute, but it is significant, I think, that he is not shown as physically present in the room, supervising the work, watching over his charges. They are left basically to their own devices, to work or fall asleep, to read good Christian or bad popular literature. The essentially absent master merely looks in to threaten the physical punishment of Tom Idle. Such punishment looms nearer, in a much less well-intentioned way, in the third plate, where the parish beadle is about to smite Idle, and roll him, perhaps, right into the open grave gaping beside him, as he gambles his life away. The group of children around him are already hardened criminals in the making, as much gripped by the game as adult professionals. Gambling vagrant children must have been a very common sight in London; and Hogarth later added a boisterous little knot of seven boys to his much earlier depiction of the Rake's arrest, in the second state of the engraving.

We have to assume that Idle and Goodchild, despite their names, start with equal chances, both apprenticed, perhaps, out of the Foundling Hospital. They are old enough to be responsible, and it is by choice that Idle casts off both his apprenticeship and the church he profanes—that institution Hogarth does not believe in anyway, and which serves Goodchild only for purposes of courtship and professional advancement, as he shares his hymnal with his master's daughter and wife-to-be (II). While Idle is sent to sea (V), spurning at once his mother's tears and the warning of the gallows, Goodchild, now a partner in the business, celebrates his wedding. His hard work and virtue qualify him to become a good father, but, characteristically, we never see his biological family, his private family, not even his wife, except in a glimpse through the window here, for they are of no interest to Hogarth. We see only the wider social family for which Goodchild, rising in the scale of civic office, assumes responsibility. And here things go wrong from the start, through factors beyond Goodchild's control. At the wedding breakfast customary compliments are exchanged: the groom gives a money gratuity to the well-dressed guildsmen who come to congratulate, but nothing to the pathetic crippled ballad-singer, whose dog knows better than even to beg for payment for their music. At the banquet celebrating Goodchild's election as Sheriff of London (VIII), it is only the fat and gluttonous and undeserving officials who get to eat, while the poor and hungry are rudely turned away. When he administers justice (X), Alderman Goodchild tearfully condemns his former fellow apprentice who is certainly guilty of some crime, but not necessarily that for which he is to be hanged: he is a thief, but not necessarily a murderer, and the oath sworn against him by his treacherous accomplice is sworn on the left hand by an usher who accepts a bribe behind his back. The poor mother of the accused, meanwhile, is rudely pushed away and prevented from seeing her son.

In the last two plates the procession celebrating Goodchild's election as Lord Mayor of London is almost as chaotic and drunken as that following Tom Idle to the gallows. In the former, a child is injured (significantly, center foreground) while oblivious royalty beams down upon the riotous crowd. In the latter, ecclesiastical paternal authority is derelict in its duty: the fat Anglican prison chaplain rides comfortably in his coach, neglecting Idle who is exhorted to repent by a lower-class non-Conformist, a Wesleyan minister. And the public execution, instead of serving as a moral warning, becomes a pretext for drunken rioting and quarreling, in the course of which a baby is trampled underfoot, and an unattached older child is subjected to the kind of temptation that started Idle off on his evil career. He stands with folded arms, undecided as yet whether to steal the gingerbread which a vendor cries to the crowd.

Hogarth did not make any paintings of Industry and Idleness as he had of his previous three stories. He was aiming, increasingly, at a cheaper and more popular market, at the master craftsmen and tradesmen responsible for the moral welfare of the young apprentices, and at the city fathers themselves. He was working with the Fielding brothers, Henry the novelist and the blind magistrate Sir John, who were enquiring into the causes of poverty, crime, drunkenness, and infant mortality, seeking out not individual and moralistic, but structural, that is legal and administrative explanations for social abuses.

The city fathers of London, so proud of the city's independence of crown and parliament, its democratic government, its system of elected officials, its legal autonomy, and—not least—the flourishing of its trade and manufactures, had not provided a humane framework for society. For all the private philanthropic energy, little was legally, or substantially, or visibly changed. The charitable institutions were insufficient. It is a charity boy from St. Giles Parish, called Tom Nero, who begins his career in Cruelty, in the four-part progress of that title, by torturing small animals—dogs, cats, and birds. This scene groups twenty-one children in a street. Childish vice is prophetically punished in effigy by child art—the graffito, which was a matter of more than casual interest to Hogarth.21 In the next plate, although gainfully employed, Tom enlarges upon his cruel instincts. Fully grown now, he vents his fury upon larger animals. His savage beating is provoked, be it noticed, by the starved horse collapsing and the coach overturning because it had been overloaded with lawyers too mean to pay separate fares, and too cowardly and callous to protest the coachman's cruelty. Meanwhile, in the background, a small child is run over and killed by another accident, this one caused by simple negligence and slothfulness. In the third plate, called Cruelty in Perfection, Nero slaughters his mistress, his unwilling accomplice in theft, committing a sadistic murder, which leaves gaping slashes at wrist and throat, a double murder too, for she was pregnant.

The authorities take a revenge which punishes cruelty with more cruelty, butchery with butchery. The doctors who with full moral and scientific sanction dissect and disembowel the corpse of a hanged man (disemboweling had been in Elizabethan times the final and most degrading stage in the execution itself—now it was used to further scientific progress)—the doctors, barbarian-surgeons, are clearly as morally corrupt, in their own way, as the criminal himself. The only justified revenge is that taken casually by the dog who eats his former tormentor's heart—the pre-child here and the only innocent in this macabre judicial atrocity.

Hogarth was very proud of his Cruelty sequence, which he believed had actually reduced the incidence of cruelty to animals in the streets of London. Certain animal sports became prohibited by law. Hogarth sold these plates together with a pair called Beer Street and Gin Lane; he called the group of six “Hard Prints for Stony Hearts,” advertised them heavily in the popular press, produced and priced them as cheap as possible. Beer Street and Gin Lane were made as part of a campaign aimed at raising the price of gin, the lethal drink of the poor, and lowering that of beer, the healthy beverage of the productive laborer. Henry Fielding believed gin to be at the root of all the most prevalent crimes, the “principal substance (if it may be so called) of more than a hundred thousand people in this metropolis.” Fielding continues, “What must become of the infant who is conceived in gin? With the poisonous distillations of which it is nourished both in the womb and at the breast.”22 The Gin Act of 1751 (the date these prints were published) is regarded as a turning point in the social history of London; it certainly helped check the marked decline in population which demographers have noted during the years 1730-60.

Gin Lane is perhaps Hogarth's most famous single plate. It is, with the Reward of Cruelty, the most horrible scene Hogarth ever devised. It imprinted itself indelibly on my memory when I first saw it in an old album of Hogarth's collected prints, reengraved from the original copper plates.23 I discovered this album, which I could barely lift, and which is still the largest volume I have ever held in my hands, as an eight- or nine-year-old, in a huge ornate cupboard in my grandfather's house, a cupboard which was a building in itself, a magical house full of real and false drawers, twisted pillars and ornate locks and hinges, containing a fairyland of objects, strange old games and foolish old puzzles. The books in the house of my grandfather (a wealthy but rather uncultured man), which included apart from the Hogarth album many Dickens first editions, had been acquired by a less uncultured uncle. He had died young, as I believed, of tuberculosis, a disease surrounded by much deadly mystery for me as a child, the same which I was led to suppose had also deprived me of my father, in unexplained circumstances, when I was two. So the Hogarth album offered me, at the outset, a link with the mystified immediate family past. I perused it with fascination and fear. Hogarth has never left me since. It was, I am convinced, that first impression, the emotion of that particular childhood encounter, which much later decided me, after many necessary detours, to enter the history of art as a profession. My family context was one in which death, disease, cruelty, hatred, and anger were all carefully suppressed. My family was not only culturally but also emotionally innocent. A cultural sensibilization and a profound, if vicarious, emotional experience first came together for me in Hogarth. Disease, cruelty, and terror first spoke to me directly in Hogarth's Reward of Cruelty and Gin Lane. What my family suppressed, Hogarth revealed. Hogarth knew how to talk to children. The particular horror I have to this day of physical political torture or medical mutilations has had the curious effect of turning me toward those pictorial distortions, dismemberments, and assaults which we call cartoon and caricature, and toward that threshold which caricature and satiric art often occupies, between the tragic and comic. The threshold is also that between the world of the child, where fantasy and distortion is natural, and that of the adult, where distortion is—or used to be—considered inappropriate. Hogarth felt himself precariously poised between the primitive, caricatural, anarchic, spontaneous, magical world of the child, which was also that of the people, and the sophisticated, aesthetically controlled world of the adult, which was that of the elite—the wealthy art connoisseur who prized neoclassical decorum. Hogarth had the instincts of the childish graffitist, whom he loved to show in action, and the ambition of an academic painter, whom he sought to rival.

The academic or “grand manner” painter looked to the art of the past for his themes and stylistic models; the graffitist or comic artist to the present reality. The work of the satirist in art tended to be regarded as childish or low, and it is a curious paradox in the history of our culture, which some Marxist theory of art might explain, that interaction with the present (that is, the attempt to determine the future) was viewed as a sign of immaturity, while obedience to the past (Renaissance, classical antiquity) alone could generate truly “great,” that is epic or tragic art. Hogarth raised the infant comedy to the level of “maturity” and respect traditionally commanded by tragedy. He integrated the comic with the tragic by creating a profoundly tragic world out of what are essentially comically degraded (or regressive) forms.

There are, perhaps, a few farcical or tragi-farcical elements in Gin Lane—the man, perhaps, chewing on the bone in rivalry with his dog. But there is no doubt as to the seriousness of Hogarth's purpose, and his own horror at what he depicts. Goya, in scenes of comparable physical brutality, at least could assume, in the captions, postures of detachment.

The gin is force-fed to starving babies, to silence them. It is also fed to the crippled and insane. Little charity girls drink it, in the shadow of those literally blinded and rendered murderous by it. Previously, Hogarth had depicted mad people only in the hospitals; now they fill the streets. The London street is a madhouse, and a charnel house. Passivity and activity are equally lethal. Next to an impromptu burial of the dead, an insanely dancing man has skewered a baby. In the foreground, a mother, in her diseased and drunken stupor, lets a child fall to its death from the gin-soaked breast he has been sucking. The distinction between life and death is elided; the man in the corner foreground is both alive and dead, with his hand still clutching glass and bottle. And London, that is the world, collapses all about.

These late prints were specifically directed at the lower classes, or (as the buying public) those immediately above and in contact with them. As a representative of the upwardly mobile middle class, Hogarth wished to expose the vices he saw particularly threatening to the lower classes, although these same vices were practiced, with much impunity, by the upper classes, whom the lower, by a natural social law, tended to imitate. The lower classes stood in relation to the upper as children do to parents. Focus upon the lower classes is another manifestation of Hogarth's concern for children, and vice versa. From the mid-eighteenth century and particularly from the 1760s with the advent of conservative Tory administrations, the reforming impetus of the first half of the century on the one hand dwindled into sentimental idealization of the lower classes, particularly the peasant, and his equivalent in the family hierarchy, the child; on the other hand, this same impetus hardened into an outright hostility toward the poor and their children, which sharpened, of course, immeasurably after the French Revolution.

Hogarth, whose late work overlaps chronologically with the early work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was never for a moment tempted by the sentimental view of either the lower classes, or the child. He sought no escape from reason into emotion, from the adult into the childish or rustic world, from the larger social into the private, nuclear family. He did not segregate them. He saw few situations from which children would normally be excluded, whether it be a cockfight, a gambling den, or a debtor's prison; he never depicted a scene from which adults would be categorically excluded—such as a schoolroom. The adult made the child what it was, society made the family what it was. Society was the family and the real dereliction was not that of the biological parent, but that of the authority structure. This may be regarded as an archaic, premodern, preindustrial conception. But within it, children are already primary victims, and this is decidedly modern.24

Associated with his feeling for the child, and inseparable from it, is Hogarth's real sympathy, such as no artist before him had evinced so consciously, for the weaker and lower and oppressed classes, especially women, prisoners, and servants. (The servant is often also a child, thus doubly subject.) As Hogarth himself grew out of and superseded what he consciously saw as his own state of childish or youthful economic servitude and exploitation, as he rose from hack engraver to become the father of the first native British school of art, as he rose from the lower-middle class, the son of a petty schoolmaster who had been imprisoned for debt when William was a child (there is another parallel with Dickens here), to enjoy the status of prominent citizen of moderate wealth and a household of five servants—Hogarth never lost sight of what he had been. He painted his servants with all the human sympathy he felt for his friends and equals—perhaps more, for there is some suffering in these simple faces. This document, which one may take together with the portrait of the Shrimp Girl, is unique in the history of art. It reminds us that already in Hogarth, embryonically, we may detect that essential nexus of feeling which sees the child not merely as the center of the private family in the nineteenth-century sense, with the strength of innocence and natural virtue, but as the biological quintessence of the socially childish—that is, the weak, vulnerable, presently inferior strata in society as a whole.

Dickens is to wrestle mightily with this feeling, and all too often suppress its proper development. Stephen Blackpool, in Hard Times, his only working-class hero, whose social oppression the novelist dramatizes with crystalline clarity, is ultimately infantilized by the author, and left to die in total and childish confusion and ignorance. Like Stephen Blackpool about his social condition, Victorian writers were “all in a muddle” about childhood. Hogarth was much clearer, and his clarity may serve as a beacon when we seek to clarify all the muddles about family and childhood that have developed since then.


  1. We may therefore pause to doubt the generalization of Philippe Ariès in Centuries of Childhood, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962), p. 38. “Most people probably felt, like Montaigne, that children had ‘neither mental activities nor bodily shape.’” Emphasis added.

  2. See Paul Zumthor, Daily Life in Rembrandt's Holland (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962). Ariès does not seem to regard Holland as unique or as a vanguard society in the development of European domesticity.

  3. See David Kunzle, The Early Comic Strip (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973), chap. 8.

  4. R. H. Nichols and F. A. Wray, The History of the Foundling Hospital (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), pp. 2-5.

  5. See Joan Scott and Louise Tilly, “Women's Work and the Family in 19th-Century Europe,” in The Family in History, ed. Charles Rosenberg (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975), p. 145.

  6. Many writers have assumed the clergyman is Kate's father. Among them are Rouquet, Lettre de Monsieur xx à un de ses amis à Paris, 1746, p. 4; John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 1781; G. C. Lichtenberg, The World of Hogarth, Lichtenberg's Commentaries on Hogarth's Engravings, translated from the German and with an Introduction by Innes and Gustav Herdan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966), p. 4ff.; and Ronald Paulson in Hogarth's Graphic Works (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1965), 1:144, cautiously countenances the possibility. It seems to me extremely unlikely that Hogarth intended such an identification, first because of the inherent implausibility of a daughter being seduced within yards of a father come expressly to protect her from this very eventuality, and second because, as this essay will show, Hogarth is throughout his life concerned with the concept of the father-substitute in a world where real fathers are absent or delinquent. The eighteenth-century writers evidently assumed the father was present because they knew he should be present.

  7. The whole scene is more or less duplicated by Steele in The Spectator 1711/12. Steele “projects the same mixture of pity, tenderness and prurience,” in the view of Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, His Life, Art, and Times (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1971), 1:239.

  8. Cf. Kunzle, Early Comic Strip, pp. 272-81, with seventeenth-century Italian examples of the careers of harlots and courtesans where the girls are presented as individually to blame for their fate.

  9. David Owen, English Philanthropy 1660-1960 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1964), quoted by Paulson, Hogarth, His Life, Art, and Times, 2:35.

  10. Nichols and Wray, Foundling Hospital, p. 39, with spelling and punctuation modernized.

  11. Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes, p. 31. My own interpretation of his expression is different (cf. below).

  12. In the painting the smile on her face is unmistakable. Even if we accept that her eyes are directed at the child rather than the money, why should she show pleasure at the prospect of having to surrender her son? In the engraving after the painting, however, which was done some years later (1752), her expression has been radically altered to one of distress. Perhaps someone influential pointed out to Hogarth the impropriety of his meddling with the biblical story where nothing suggests that Moses' mother is anything but virtuous and maternal. It is not even stated that she receives the foster-parent's fee on handing over the child, only that it is promised to her when she is given the baby to nurse.

  13. It is reproduced by Paulson in Hogarth, His Life, Art, and Times, vol. 1, fig. 203.

  14. Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes, p. 31.

  15. For instance, The Cholmondeley Family, repr. Paulson, Hogarth, His Life, Art, and Times, vol. 1, fig. 109.

  16. Repr. Paulson, vol. 1, fig. 179.

  17. For instance, in Chairing the Member from the Election series (1753), the children—again Negroes—are perched on the gatepost upper right.

  18. Martin Davies, The British School, 2d ed., rev. (London: National Gallery Catalogues, 1959), p. 65, n. 81.

  19. Davies, p. 65, n. 85, deduced this from the costume. With characteristic caution he adds: “A girl is not excluded; but it was usual that even very young girls should wear a cap.” The earliest commentary, published the year after Hogarth's prints and therefore representative of contemporary opinion (Marriage A-la-Mode: An Humorous Tale in Six Canto's in Hudibrastick verse; being an Explanation of the Six Prints Lately Published by the Ingenious Mr. Hogarth. London, 1746, p. 58), recognizes the child as a male: “Nurse with a rueful aged face, / Brings Master for a last Embrace.”

  20. Even to the watchful eye, this taint has seemed so unnatural as to be simply unthinkable. The designer at the University of California Press, which published my Early Comic Strip, carefully whited it out on the detail photograph I supplied, mistaking it for a technical blemish of the photograph.

  21. See Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty, 1753, fig. 105, pl. 1 (Joseph Burke edition, Oxford, 1955), p. 136. For Hogarth's theories on the facial character and posture of the child, cf. pp. 136-37, 140-44, 154-55.

  22. Paulson, Hogarth, His Life, Art, and Times, 2:99.

  23. The Works of William Hogarth from the original plates restored by James Heath, Esq., R. A. … [with] Explanations … by John Nichols, London, printed for Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1822. The volume measures 25 [frac12] by 20 inches.

  24. It may be useful to complete the panorama by listing other examples in Hogarth's satiric oeuvre of oppressed and/or vitiated children, apart from those already mentioned (there are virtually no examples of happy or cherished children). The numbers refer to plates in Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, vol. 2. Rake's Marriage (145)—small boy in tattered clothes, serving mercenary wedding in church. Morning (164)—small footboy numb with cold. Noon (165)—little girl ravenously picking spilled food from gutter. Evening (166)—boy in tattered clothes, sleeping in street. Strolling Actresses (168)—screaming baby being spoon-fed by older child (?); drunken children. Enraged Musician (170)—small boy exhibitionist urinating before shocked little girl; bawling baby. Mayor Goodchild (191)—little girl in foreground hurt by falling furniture; small boy selling (no doubt gruesome) ballad of Tom Idle. Election Entertainment (215)—small boy center foreground pouring more wine for already drunken revelers; small girl extreme left stealing ring from political candidate; child extreme right loudly complaining at neglect by father, a pious hypocrite about to be bribed and, ironically, also a tailor who leaves his son with shoes and stockings completely out-at-toe. Cockpit (228)—children joining in the betting and in certain instances indistinguishable from stunted and wizened men. Times I (233)—allegorical print attacking desperate state of nation reduced to poverty by Pitt government, with family groups foreground right victimized by minister's aggressive military policy: woman huddled and dying in street, with naked baby prostrate (dead?) beside her; another mother bringing collapsed (dead?) baby to crazily fiddling soldier; despairing mother with wailing children. March to Finchley (277)—terrified child foreground left clings to father, an enlisted soldier, who callously ignores both him and his weeping mother; another guardsman, centerpiece of whole composition, gloomily indifferent to or morally paralyzed by strident accusations of pregnant woman that he is abandoning her and their imminent child; far right, alarmed and hollow-eyed baby, precariously perched on shoulder of mother serving liquor to already drunken soldier.

Robert Halsband (essay date 1984)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Halsband, Robert. “Hogarth's Graphic Friendships: Illustrating Books by Friends.” In Johnson and His Age, edited by James Engell, pp. 333-66. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.

[In the following essay, Halsband examines Hogarth's secondary career as a book illustrator for such notable eighteenth-century authors as Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne.]

As a painter and draftsman-engraver William Hogarth ranks high in eighteenth-century British art. As a book illustrator, although here he expresses a lesser aspect of his genius, he is worthy of attention as well.1 When he illustrated works by contemporary writers whom he knew personally, we can examine the illustrations in a biographical context to supplement other relevant contexts. His friendships with writers cover a wide range, from close intimacy (as with William Huggins) at one extreme, to that of mere acquaintanceship at the other. The types of literature he illustrated are likewise varied: a collection of essays; four stage works—an oratorio libretto, a ballad opera, a comic interlude, a burlesque tragedy; and, most successfully, one of the famous novels of the century.

The earliest example of Hogarth's work as a literary illustrator for someone he knew is his frontispiece in 1726 for Nicholas Amhurst's collection of periodical essays Terrae-Filius: Or, The Secret History of the University of Oxford. Amhurst's connection with the university had been stormy: in 1719, at the age of twenty-two he was expelled—for libertinism and misconduct, according to the authorities; for Whig principles and opposition to the university's Toryism and high church sentiments, according to his own self-defense. He then settled in London as a journalist and in 1721 began a campaign of revenge by issuing Terrae-Filius, published twice a week for about six months. In 1726 he collected and republished the essays in two volumes.

Amhurst's earliest connection with Hogarth had occurred in 1724, when, in his periodical Pasquin, he praised Hogarth's satiric print Masquerades and Operas, “representing the bad Taste of the Town,” as Hogarth himself described it, since masquerades, opera, and pantomime had driven English plays from the theaters.2 Admiring Hogarth's work, Amhurst—rather than his printer Richard Francklin, who was politically oriented—probably engaged him to design and engrave the frontispiece for Terrae-Filius.

What does the print show? The first number of the periodical explains that at the Encaenia, Oxford's annual commemoration of founders and benefactors, an undergraduate in the role of university buffoon—called terrae-filius (or son of the soil)—delivered a mock, satirical oration made up of university gossip to divert the crowd of spectators, his “merry oration” being “interspers'd with secret history, raillery, and sarcasm, as the occasions of the times supply'd him with matter.” The setting is the Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Christopher Wren and opened in 1669, and today still used for the annual Encaenia (although an oration by a terrae-filius has long since been dispensed with).

In the gallery sit the undergraduates, one of whom is climbing over the balustrade; they frequently interrupted and heckled the speaker. Below them sit the masters and doctors. In the center the vice chancellor presides, with a proctor on his right. In the lower right corner stands the other proctor with a copy of Terrae-Filius that he has indignantly torn in half—probably because he believes himself slandered in it. But the focus of attention is the terrae-filius orator himself, the center figure in the cluster of people. His wig and gown have been torn off by an outraged woman. Others mentioned in his oration surround him menacingly; he is even being attacked by a dog. The print thus reflects the irreverent essays that it introduces.

Hogarth, of course, never studied at Oxford. Unless he attended an Encaenia for the purpose of designing the frontispiece, he could have based his design on a print of the Sheldonian and a description of the terrae-filius oration. As to his acquaintance with Amhurst, in 1729 the Craftsman, a political paper edited by Amhurst, printed a notice of Hogarth's secret marriage to the daughter of Sir James Thornhill, the painter.3 The information probably came to Amhurst through his friendship with Hogarth.

In contrast to Amhurst, who could not have known Hogarth intimately, William Huggins was a friend of long standing, and of such closeness that Hogarth addressed him in one letter as “My Dear best Friend.”4 To document their friendship we have engravings, letters, and a vivid little portrait in oils.

Huggins, born in 1696 and almost exactly Hogarth's age, was far from being a hack writer. An Oxford graduate, he was for brief periods a fellow of Magdalen and a functionary at Hampton Court. He also trained for the law, and assisted Hogarth in his campaign (in the 1730s) to persuade Parliament to draft legislation for the copyright of prints. But Huggins' main passion was Italian poetry. He was a pioneer enthusiast in the Romantic appreciation of Italian literature.5

His earliest known connection with Hogarth was as the painter's patron. About 1732 he bought from him two important paintings—a version of The Beggar's Opera and a picture of the Bambridge committee of the House of Commons during its investigation of the horrifying conditions in the Fleet prison. (Its warden, Thomas Bambridge, had bought the appointment from Huggins' father, who himself had been notorious for his profitable cruelty.) These two paintings had been intended for a collector, who when he became bankrupt fled England; Huggins generously bought them himself.6

About the same time on his own behalf he commissioned Hogarth to design a frontispiece for a literary work he had written. Its title, as published in 1733, was Judith: An Oratorio; or Sacred Drama, with music by Willem De Fesch, a Dutch composer recently emigrated to London. On the title page of the pamphlet Huggins modestly listed the author as W——H——. Through choruses, recitatives, and airs, Huggins dramatized the central episode of a story taken from the Old Testament Apocrypha. It tells how the beautiful and virtuous Judith, a Hebrew widow, determines to rescue her people from the besieging army of Assyrians. Accompanied by her maid, she goes to the camp of Holofernes, general of the Assyrian army. He is so struck by her beauty, which he hopes to enjoy that night, that he drinks himself into a stupor and falls asleep. Judith then seizes his sword and cuts off his head, which she carries back to the Hebrews. Their army then attacks, displaying the head on a spear, and the Assyrians, demoralized by the loss of their commander, are defeated and flee.

The story had frequently been used by Renaissance and baroque painters, most of whom depict Judith displaying the severed head. But Hogarth chose the less shocking but more suspenseful moment when Judith prepares to carry out her bold and bloody deed. Pointing to the victim with one hand, she holds his sword in the other. (His helmet and shield, no longer protecting him, lie nearby, symbolizing his helplessness.) Judith's grandly rhetorical gesture seems borrowed from history painting, as though Hogarth has miniaturized the biblical legend.7 The precise libretto passage that he illustrated in the frontispiece is Judith's air:

O God, a manly Strength impart
To my Hand as to my Heart,
For thy chosen People's Sake.
Rush forth thou massy glitt'ring Sword,
That on thy detested Lord
My just Vengeance I may take.

The quotation from Virgil printed at the bottom of the plate constitutes an ironic counterpoint to the picture. Translated it reads: “saved by these wounds of thine, and living by thy death.” In the Aeneid the lines are mournfully uttered by the Etruscan king when he sees the corpse of his son who was killed in the battle that has enabled him to survive.

As a specimen of Hogarth's draftsmanship, the design seems inferior. The heroine's arms are clumsily drawn, for example. But the weakness may also be blamed on the engraver, Gerard Vandergucht, who frequently engraved Hogarth's drawings. What can be said in favor of the composition is that it does reflect the pious fervor of Judith's heroism.

The oratorio was scheduled to be performed in the theater in Lincoln's Inn Fields on February 8, 1733, aided by new painted scenery and magnificent decoration.8 Cecilia Young, who was to sing the main part, was one of the best singers of her time, with a high and unusually flexible soprano. But the announced opening performance of Judith did not take place, for Miss Young withdrew because of illness, or so she claimed. Huggins angrily disclaimed responsibility for the cancellation, blaming it on “the Misconduct and pretended Sickness” of Miss Young.9 (Her frequent illness, Grove's New Dictionary of Music states, was attributed by some to intemperance.) A week later the performance took place, with an inferior singer in the leading part. The libretto, whose printing had evidently been arranged by Huggins, was sold only at the playhouse and could not have had a large sale. The performance, conducted by De Fesch, did not catch the town's fancy, and Judith was performed only once again, seven years later at a benefit for him.

Yet apart from the frontispiece, Hogarth made use of the oratorio in a curious way. Two months before its first performance, he issued subscription tickets for his own forthcoming large single engraving entitled A Midnight Modern Conversation. Most of the small subscription form is filled with a design usually referred to as “A Chorus of Singers.” The conductor, at the top of the heap of people, conducts from a score on which is printed “Judith: an Oratorio; or Sacred Drama by”; in the chorus, consisting of fourteen men and boys, five display their scores on which can be read “the world shall Bow to the Assyrian Throne”—the text of a choral number in Act I, Scene 1, of the oratorio. From the conductor at the top, evidently a caricature of the composer De Fesch, to the choirboys at the foot, the entire engraving has a crude, gutsy vigor about it, especially since all the individuals are characterized with sharp particularity.10 Hogarth's use of this oratorio chorus as the ornamental design on his subscription ticket can only be interpreted as an advertisement for his good friend's work, then in rehearsal. The oratorio's sacred theme served also as a moral contrast to the vice and debauchery that make up the subject of the engraving.

The warm friendship of Hogarth and Huggins continued to flourish. In January 1735 both men were among the group that founded the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks, a social club devoted to convivial pranks. During the next two decades Huggins passed most of his time at his country house busy with literary pursuits. In 1757 he published his anonymous translation of Orlando Furioso in two volumes. Soon after that he asked Hogarth to paint his portrait as a companion piece to one of his late father, done by Hogarth in the early 1740s.11 Hogarth graciously agreed. The result is an oval portrait showing Huggins, informally dressed in a morning cap looking to the side with an amiable expression as though pleased by what the artist has put in the background. The bust on the left is inscribed on its plinth “Il Divino Ariosto,” and on the right a wall plaque lists the three books of The Divine Comedy, a translation of which Huggins was working on. Foreseeing its publication, Huggins asked Hogarth to consider illustrating Dante's masterpiece. “What you propose,” Hogarth replied, “would be a Noble undertaking which I believe ten or a dozen years agoe I should have Embraced with joy, and would have pleased the Public, if I could have done the Author any degree of Justice, but consider now my dear Friend Sixty is too late in the day to begin so arduous a Task a work that could not be compleated in less than four or five years.” In his indolence, he continued, he could only be content with trifles.12

Almost two years later in 1760, when Huggins prepared to publish his translation, he asked Hogarth to make an engraving of his portrait to serve as frontispiece. Again Hogarth begged to be excused. He knew from experience, he explained, that he had the devil of a time copying his own work, and he was sure the poorest engraver could perform the task better than he. But, in fact, Huggins employed for the task Thomas Major, who would later be the first engraver elected to the newly established Royal Academy. As for Huggins' translation, except for a very brief excerpt published in a magazine,13 his ambitious work remained in manuscript (and is now lost), and his engraved portrait intended as a frontispiece was merely struck off in a few copies.14

Hogarth's frontispiece to Judith was not only a tribute to friendship but also a sign of his interest in the stage. He wished to compose his pictures, he once remarked, as though they were representations on the stage.15 Of the book illustrations he designed for friends, three others (besides Judith), were frontispieces for stage works.

Joseph Mitchell, a Grub Street poet and a member of the Scotch contingent in London, sought the patronage of the Prime Minister so strenuously that he was sometimes called Sir Robert Walpole's poet, although he failed to win Walpole's favor. He courted less exalted patrons as well. In February 1731 he published Three Poetical Epistles. To Mr. Hogarth, Mr. Dandridge, and Mr. Lambert, Masters of the Art of Painting. The first epistle, addressed to Hogarth as an “Eminent History and Conversation Painter,” praises him extravagantly: “Shakespeare in Painting, still improve / And more the World's Attention move.”

Perhaps in gratitude to Mitchell for his flattering notice,16 Hogarth designed the frontispiece for a ballad opera that Mitchell had recently completed. Entitled The Highland Fair: or, Union of the Clans, it was staged at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane on March 20, 1731. In its brief prologue the supercilious Critick laughs at the notion of a Scotch opera, to which the poet replies: “Why not, Sir, as well as an English, French, or Italian one?” (The Beggar's Opera by John Gay, a spectacular success, had started the vogue in 1728.) Mitchell's subtitle—the “Union of the Clans”—sums up the theme of its Romeo and Juliet plot. Three performances the first week and a fourth the next month make up its entire stage history. It was published during the first week, having already been advertised in The London Evening Post: “With a curious Frontispiece, design'd by Mr. Hogarth.”

What Hogarth depicted in the frontispiece is the concluding scene of the opera. One clan chief, Colin (on the left) is accompanied by his piper, behind whom can be seen his vassals and servants. Confronting him stands Euen, chief of the enemy clan. Their exact actions are given in the stage directions: “The Chiefs bow thrice as they meet, Colin making the first Steps and Reverences, according to the Ceremonial agreed upon.” Both chiefs are armed with nondescript swords and shields, but with Scotch bonnets on their heads and a set of bagpipes to supply local color. The engraver of Hogarth's design was again Gerard Vandergucht, this time less graceless than in the Judith frontispiece. The caption under the print, far from reflecting its Scottish setting and story, comes from the Aeneid: “Perchance even this [distress] will some day be a joy to recall.” In the Roman epic this is how Aeneas consoles his men after they have been storm-tossed onto the shore of Carthage. Similarly, the Scottish clan chiefs, living in peace, will some day recall their former distressful strife. Presumably the Latin tag, like the one printed under the frontispiece to Judith, was provided by Hogarth. Yet neither literary work bears any relation to Roman epic or legend. Perhaps Hogarth was recalling his boyhood training, when his father was a schoolmaster and Latin scholar.

Such an ardent theater-goer as Hogarth inevitably encountered David Garrick, the greatest actor and after 1747 the most successful theatre manager of the time. In 1741 at the very beginning of his London career the young actor achieved instant fame as Shakespeare's Richard III. Hogarth must have met him soon afterwards. Unlike previous actors, who postured the role in the traditional declamatory style, Garrick transformed himself into the crafty, mercurial monarch, playing him with naturalistic expression and intensity. The high point of his performance was the tent scene in the final act, when Richard awakens from his guilty dream to be confronted by the ghosts of his victims. When Hogarth painted his portrait of Garrick in 1745 he chose this dramatic scene. Huge, life-size dimensions endow the picture with the sweep and grandeur of history painting. As Ronald Paulson writes, it is a remarkable fusion of history painting and intimate portraiture.17 Evidently not commissioned by Garrick, it was sold to a private collector, after being engraved as a print.

Not only actor and manager, Garrick was also playwright and poet, and he involved Hogarth in both these activities near the end of Hogarth's life. In March 1762 Garrick wrote a brief comic interlude in verse for the theatre in Drury Lane, calling it The Farmer's Return from London. In the preface he modestly claims that he wrote it only as a benefit for Mrs. Pritchard, one of his favorite leading ladies, and would not have printed it “had not his Friend, Mr. Hogarth, flattered him most agreeably, by thinking [it] not unworthy of a Sketch of his Pencil.” He was therefore dedicating “this Trifle” to Hogarth, he writes, to honor him “both as a Man and an Artist.

In his frontispiece Hogarth has delineated the homely kitchen-living room in which the farmer—played by Garrick—tells his family about his visit to London, where he has seen the coronation (of George the Third and his bride), attended the theater, and visited Cock Lane, scene of a recent ghost-hoax. Although Garrick provided the farmer and his wife with three children, Hogarth put only two into his design. The cracked wall and coarse furnishings reflect the rugged simplicity of the farmer, whose Falstaffian figure and rough costume are in tune with his rustic dialect and crude sense of humor. The scene glows with earthy realism of Dutch and Flemish genre paintings.18 When his children are out of the room the farmer assures his wife that he has not succumbed to any prostitutes in London: “I know, as we sow we must reeap, / And a cunning old ram will avoid rotten sheep.” The part of his wife was played not by Mrs. Pritchard, as intended, but by Mary Bradshaw, who won the greatest success of her career in that part.

On the stage the interlude was popular, no doubt for its topicality and robust humor. It played for twelve nights the first season, and three the following. In print, as a thin pamphlet, it went into a second edition the same year. Perhaps Hogarth's frontispiece helped sell it, particularly since the engraver had done the design justice. He was James Basire, who had recently been appointed engraver to the Society of Antiquaries, and who is best known today as William Blake's teacher and master.

The friendship between Garrick and Hogarth was acknowledged after Hogarth's death, when Mrs. Hogarth asked the actor to write an epitaph for her late husband's tombstone. It begins: “Farewell! great painter of Mankind! / Who reach'd the noblest point of Art …”19

Hogarth's friendship with Garrick runs a curiously parallel course to his relationship with Henry Fielding. Warmly admired by Fielding, Hogarth designed the frontispiece for one of his friend's minor plays and after Fielding's death honored him with the portrait that introduces his collected works.

In his brief career as playwright, from 1728 until the Licensing Act of 1737, Fielding wrote a variety of comedies, farces, and burlesques. When his burlesque Tom Thumb, A Tragedy (in two acts) was staged and published in March 1730 he was at least acquainted with Hogarth. A year later, after he had revised and enlarged the play as The Tragedy of Tragedies; or the Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great (in three acts), it bore the frontispiece designed by Hogarth. Here the artist could display his brilliance as caricaturist; and in this plate his customary engraver did justice to his design.

Tom Thumb, the hero, is hardly visible as he struts (in the lower left), dressed in armor with an over-sized plume decorating his helmet. This “little Hero, Giant-killing Boy,” as he is called in the play (p. 7) is further described: “Tho' small his Body be, so very small, / A Chairman's Leg is more than twice as large” (1731, p. 4). In the particular scene illustrated in the frontispiece two ladies in rivalry for Tom Thumb's love face each other. The taller one is Glumdalca, the captive Queen of the Giants, who is beloved by King Arthur, and she has just boasted of her amorous conquests to her rival, Princess Huncamunca, the king's daughter. The princess says, as she approaches the rival queen: “Let me see nearer what this Beauty is, / That captivates the Heart of Men by Scores.” And as she holds a candle up to the Queen's face she exclaims: “Oh! Heaven, thou art as ugly as the Devil (1731, p. 31). (These lines parody the passage in Dryden's All for Love, where Octavia scrutinizes Cleopatra to discover the charms that have bewitched Mark Antony.20)

In designing the frontispiece Hogarth was apparently guided by the stage representations at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, where he could have seen the play in rehearsal. (The text, with frontispiece, was published just before the first performance and during the play's run was sold at the theatre.) The background has the look of a stage set: an interior in the Palladian style. Tom Thumb's size in the frontispiece is necessarily subhuman—or, seen in a different perspective, he is human while the two women are superhuman giantesses. In the earlier version of the play Tom Thumb had been played by a girl (Miss Jones). In The Tragedy of Tragedies the part was played by a boy, “Young [John] Verhuyck,” whose only other recorded stage appearance, two years earlier, had been in The Beggar's Opera “perform'd by Lilliputians.” The high-pitched voice of this diminutive youth would have added a measure of humor to the swashbuckling boasts of Tom Thumb the Great.

That Hogarth was commissioned to supply this amusing frontispiece to the dramatic burlesque implies that Fielding held the artist in high regard; and he was not reluctant to express his admiration explicitly in print. In his periodical The Champion he called Hogarth “one of the most useful Satyrists any Age hath produced” (June 10, 1740). In the preface to Joseph Andrews (1742) and in the text of Tom Jones (1749) as well, he pointedly paid tribute to Hogarth's genius.21 He continued the compliments by referring readers to Hogarth's prints for characters and scenes in his novels;22 he modestly assumed that he could only approximate with words what Hogarth so eloquently expressed with brush, pencil, and burin.

An opportunity for Hogarth to exhibit his friendship for Fielding came in 1762, some eight years after Fielding's premature death, when Fielding's publisher issued the first collected edition of his works and needed a frontispiece for the first volume. Fielding had apparently never sat for his portrait. Hogarth designed a suitable sketch, and this was engraved by Isaac Taylor, one of the better engravers of the time. Whether Hogarth drew the portrait from memory or used a silhouette profile given to him—the facts are disputed—the framed bust is certainly his own creation. Himself nearing the end of his life, he was able to infuse the slight outline with a striking intensity of expression. The prominent nose and chin, the brilliant deep-set eyes, and the receding upper lip, indicating the loss of his teeth (which Fielding joked about)23—all contribute to the human likeness.

Set in its ornamental frame—designed probably by the engraver—the portrait hangs above various objects and emblems relating to Fielding as writer and lawyer. For the man himself, the sword symbolizes his aristocratic family background; he was a collateral descendant of the Earls of Desmond and Denbigh. The pen and inkwell stand for his literary profession, and as evidence the book titles can be read: Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and his last novel Amelia, opened to its concluding pages. Of the two masks decorated with laurel leaves, only the mask of comedy is placed upright, while the mask of tragedy—a genre Fielding never practised—lies supine and unused. The scales of justice refer to his appointment as justice of the peace; and the Statutes at Large Vol XIII is the annual volume of Sessions Acts for 1740 (the thirteenth year of George II's reign), when Fielding was called to the bar and began his legal career. Against the tome leans a bundle of legal briefs, and under it lies a legal document, perhaps a cognizance, unfolded toward the viewer to display a version of Fielding's own signature. His career as lawyer and judge bridged his activities as playwright and novelist: all these phases, placed under his portrait, have the effect of an epitaph. Thus Hogarth memorialized his friend.

Publishers at that time rarely added illustrative plates to contemporary novels, a new genre regarded as relatively ephemeral. Hogarth had once begun to illustrate the classic Don Quixote, a model of sorts for Joseph Andrews, in which Fielding invoked “the inimitable Pencil of my Friend Hogarth” (1742).24 But when Fielding's publisher decided to illustrate the third edition with a dozen engraved plates the following year, he did not turn to Hogarth, who would presumably have found the task congenial. Instead James Hulett designed and engraved the plates, and they seem feeble compared to Fielding's lusty text. His later novels Tom Jones and Amelia were not illustrated in any contemporary edition.

Two other novelists, however, both friends of Hogarth, commissioned him to illustrate their work. When Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded became a sensational success on its publication in November 1740, Samuel Richardson, its anonymous author and one of its three publishers, determined to have the second edition embellished with a frontispiece for each of the two volumes. He was not unfamiliar with illustrated books, the previous year having himself edited a collection of Aesop's fables that contained many illustrative plates. His purpose in adding plates to Pamela was probably to encourage the sale of a new edition, though in this instance it is difficult to understand why any encouragement was needed. Instead of hiring one of the hacks employed in the printing trade, he turned to Hogarth.

By the end of December (1740) Richardson's friend Aaron Hill, playwright and journalist, had heard that he proposed to use illustrations in the new edition. “The designs you have taken for frontispieces,” Hill wrote to him, “seem to have been very judiciously chosen; upon presupposition that Mr. Hogarth is able (and if any-body is, it is he), to teach pictures to speak and to think.”25 But when the second edition of the novel was published in February 1741 it contained no plates. In his lengthy introduction to the first volume Richardson explained that “it was intended to prefix two neat Frontispieces”; and that although one was actually finished, there was no time to execute the other because of the pressing demand for the new edition. Besides, he added, the engraving of the finished design, “having fallen very short of the Spirit of the Passages they were intended to represent, the Proprietors were advised to lay them aside.” No engraving or even sketch of either frontispiece survives as evidence of Hogarth's design and Richardson's disappointment. The publisher did not necessarily disapprove of Hogarth's design, since it was the engraving that he found wanting; and the two men remained friends. But Richardson persisted in his desire to illustrate the novel; and in the following year the sixth edition of Pamela Part I was embellished not with two but with fourteen plates by the leading book illustrator of the decade, Hubert Gravelot, and the up-and-coming Francis Hayman. These illustrations need not be discussed here since they do not concern Hogarth, but they demonstrate Richardson's serious intention to have his novel illustrated.

The other novelist with whose work Hogarth was connected, more fruitfully this time, was Laurence Sterne. Of all Hogarth's literary friends and (in a sense) patrons, Sterne stands out as the only one who both studied and practised painting.26 In The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman he discussed its craft as well as its aesthetics. When he alluded to Hogarth in the novel he could not have been certain that Hogarth would in fact be its illustrator.

Since Dodsley, the London publisher, had declined to publish Tristram Shandy on his terms (in 1760) Sterne arranged for the two volumes to be printed in York, and he shipped some copies to Dodsley to sell in London. The book's instant and striking popularity quickly persuaded Dodsley to publish a second edition.

He signed a contract with Sterne (on March 8, 1760) setting the terms for reprinting the first two volumes and for issuing (at the same time) the third and fourth. The contract was witnessed by Sterne's friend Richard Berenger, a bon vivant and man-about-town. To Dr. Johnson he seemed “the standard of true elegance,” and to Hannah More, “everybody's favourite.”

He could easily have been a favorite of Sterne's, for before the two parted that day he told Sterne that he would gladly be of service to him. “You bid me tell You all my Wants,” Sterne wrote to him later in the day; and then he specified: “no more than ten Strokes of Howgarth's witty Chissel, to clap at the Front of my next Edition of Shandy.” He then described the scene he wished illustrated: “The loosest Sketch in Nature, of Trim's reading the Sermon to my Father &c; w[oul]d do the Business—& it w[oul]d mutually illustrate his System & mine.” Since such a sketch by Hogarth was “not to be bought with money,” he tells Berenger, he would ask it as a favor from the artist he so much admired.27 Berenger's request on Sterne's behalf was successful. On March 25 a newspaper advertisement promised that the new edition of Tristram Shandy would appear the following week “with a Frontispiece by Mr. HOGARTH,” and on April 3—exactly four weeks after Sterne's request—the illustrated edition was on sale.28

Why had Sterne asked for this particular episode to be the subject of the frontispiece? First let us see what he had written about painting and painters (including Hogarth) in these first two volumes—which, one may assume, Hogarth had already read before being solicited through Berenger to provide a frontispiece. In the first volume Sterne had inserted, in chapter 8, a mock-dedicatory letter, which he then defends (in the next chapter) as being a good one, by analogy with the attributes of painting: design, coloring, drawing, and so on. He more pointedly alludes to painting in the second volume (chapter 6), where he draws an analogy between rhetoric, art, and music: “Just heaven! how does the Poco piu and the Poco meno of the Italian artists;—the insensible MORE OR LESS, determine the precise line of beauty in the sentence, as well as in the statue! How do the slight touches of the chisel, the pencil, the pen, the fiddlestick, et caetera,—give the true swell, which give the true pleasure!” When Sterne wishes to portray Dr. Slop, the man-midwife who so clumsily brings Tristram into the world, he invokes Hogarth by name. “Imagine to yourself,” he writes, “a little, squat, uncourtly figure of a Doctor Slop, of about four feet and a half perpendicular height, with a breadth of back, and a sesquipedality of belly, which might have done honour to a serjeant in the horseguards” (vol. 2, ch. 9). “Such were the outlines of Dr. Slop's figure,” he continues, “which,—if you have read Hogarth's analysis of beauty, and if you have not, I wish you would;—you must know, may as certainly be caracatur'd, and convey'd to the mind by three strokes as three hundred.”

How appropriate, then, that the scene Sterne asked Hogarth to illustrate should include Dr. Slop! The entire scene—of Corporal Trim reading the sermon to Mr. Shandy, Uncle Toby, and Dr. Slop—is sketched verbally by Sterne as though he were giving directions to the illustrator. As Trim prepares to read, Sterne interrupts: “But before the Corporal begins, I must first give you a description of his attitude.” Not that of a soldier standing in his platoon ready for action, but as unlike that as could be. “He stood before them with his body swayed, and bent forwards just so far, as to make an angle of 85 degrees and a half upon the plain of the horizon … He stood … his right-leg firm under him, sustaining seven-eighths of his whole weight,—the foot of his left-leg … advanced a little,—not laterally, nor forwards, but in a line betwixt them;—his knee bent, but that not violently,—but so as to fall within the limits of the line of beauty;—and I add, of the line of science too”; after which Sterne explains why a scientific as well as an aesthetic reason authenticates Trim's posture.

Hogarth has stated in the preface to his treatise The Analysis of Beauty (1753) that the serpentine is the “line of beauty.” And to be sure, Trim's figure seen from behind (as here) is serpentine, in contrast to the gross, swollen caricature of Dr. Slop seen in profile. He has not yet finished outlining Trim's posture and proportions: “He held the sermon loosely,—not carelessly, in his left-hand, raised something above his stomach, and detach'd a little from his breast” (vol. 2, chs. 15-17). What Hogarth had to do, then, was to carry out the directions set down by Sterne; and is it not plausible that Sterne specified this very scene to be illustrated because he himself had conceived it in graphic (as well as rhetorical) terms?

This frontispiece to the second edition of the novel was repeated in the third, but in the fourth edition—published later in the same year—Hogarth altered it. Using his original drawing, he made two conspicuous additions which were duly copied by the engraver. Centered in the foreground a tricorn hat lies on the floor. The justification for this is clear in Sterne's text: as Corporal Trim prepares to read the sermon he “laid his hand upon his heart, and made an humble bow to his master;—then laying down his hat upon the floor, and taking up the sermon in his left-hand …” and so on. In his former version Hogarth had overlooked the hat; he now gives it a place in the design. But why the grandfather clock in the corner of the room? It is unmentioned in this scene. Since the passage of time is so essential an element of the story, intricately woven into its texture, a clock serves as its visible presence.29 In the other plate—the frontispiece to volume 3—as we shall see, a clock again stands in the corner of a different room. Neither of these clocks, we should note, is the one that Tristram's father had forgotten to wind in the memorable first scene of the novel; that one stood at the head of the backstairs (ch. 4).

At the end of January 1761 Dodsley issued the third and fourth volumes of Tristram Shandy. In these Sterne again discussed painting and the sister-art of literature. In one passage where he wishes to describe the posture of Tristram's father, he writes: “his whole attitude had been easy—natural—unforced: Reynolds himself, as great and gracefully as he paints, might have painted him as he sat” (ch. 2). In contrast to this sober comparison, Sterne could also be ironic about the art criticism lavished by connoisseurs on grand pictures: “not one principle of the pyramid in any one group” (referring to the Italian treatise on painting by Lomazzo, mentioned by Hogarth in The Analysis of Beauty).30 And he then rattles off the flattering clichés applied to such masters as Titian (coloring), Rubens (expression), Raphael (grace); concluding with: “Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world … the cant of criticism is the most tormenting!” (ch. 12).

As a frontispiece in the third volume, Dodsley inserted the illustration of a scene from, oddly enough, the fourth volume; and again it was Hogarth who designed it. Unlike the illustration for the first volume, commissioned (so to speak) by Sterne, this one has no supporting documentation to explain its genesis. By then, since Sterne and Hogarth were on friendly terms, their agreement could have been personal and verbal. The scene chosen is the crucial one of Tristram's baptism. Susannah has been charged by Mr. Shandy to tell the curate to christen the boy Trismegistus, but she garbles the message, and the curate—whose own name is Tristram—bestows it on the infant. Then Sterne continues: “My father followed Susannah with his night-gown across his arm, with nothing more than his breeches on, fastened through haste with but a single button, and that button through haste thrust only half into the button-hole.—She has not forgot the name, cried my father, half opening the door—No, no, said the curate, with a tone of intelligence … Pish! said my father, the button of his breeches slipping out of the button-hole” (ch. 14). In this drawing the figure of Mr. Shandy—“almost incredibly clumsy for Hogarth,” writes the editor of his drawings31—stands with clenched fist, as though aflame with anger that his son has been misnamed. The baptismal basin, placed on a chair, has been overturned, thus adding an element of disorder and confusion to the scene.

Transferred to the copper plate by the engraver, the design was clearly altered, presumably by Hogarth's direction. Mr. Shandy holds out his hand as though uttering the pish directed at either Susannah or the buttonhole. This time the baptismal basin rests on a table, unspilled, next to a prayer-book; and instead a pillow, on which the infant had been laid, has fallen to the floor. Both frontispieces in Tristram Shandy were engraved by Simon François Ravenet, a French craftsman resident in London. Since he had been employed by Hogarth to engrave two of the plates in Marriage a la Mode (1745) he was presumably employed by Dodsley at Hogarth's suggestion.

If Sterne planned that Hogarth should design any additional frontispieces, he could easily have been discouraged by this crude one. In any case, no illustration accompanied any of the succeeding five volumes. Hogarth's involvement in political controversy with Churchill and Wilkes, as well as his poor health, would have discouraged him from any further work for Sterne, and his death in 1764 put an end to his career.

What have we seen in this rapid survey of Hogarth's book illustrations for his friends over a span of thirty-six years? Clearly he was stimulated by the most worthy works: Fielding's burlesque tragedy, Garrick's comic interlude, and Sterne's eccentric novel. His friendship with all these writers added, no doubt, some interest, even enthusiasm, to these illustrations. They are tributes to friendship as well as graphic embellishments. They also demonstrate Hogarth's versatility as an illustrator, a versatility matched in his paintings and various original series of engravings.


  1. I am greatly indebted to two important books by Ronald Paulson: Hogarth's Graphic Works, rev. ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1970) and Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1971), hereafter cited as HLAT. My essay can be regarded as a series of footnotes to Paulson in the sense that it amplifies minor topics of his large-scale works.

  2. Paulson, HLAT, I, 103, 121.

  3. Ibid., I, 204.

  4. Ibid., I, 263.

  5. Roderick Marshall, Italy in English Literature 1755-1815 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1934), p. 33.

  6. Paulson, HLAT, I, 230.

  7. Hogarth's design has striking similarities to a print of Judith by Bernard Picart, engraved by Pigne, probably dating from 1710 (Kitto extra-illustrated Bible, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, vol. 30, f. 5720). Paulson mentions Picart's influence on an earlier work by Hogarth (Hogarth's Graphic Works, I, 31).

  8. John Ireland, Hogarth Illustrated (London, 1791-1798), II, 526.

  9. Unless otherwise noted, all references to stage performances are drawn from The London Stage 1660-1800 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960-1968), Part 3: 1729-1747, ed. Arthur H. Scouten; Part 4: 1747-1776, ed. G. W. Stone, Jr.

  10. For a detailed analysis of the plate, see Frederick Antal, Hogarth and His Place in European Art (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), p. 62.

  11. Paulson, HLAT, II, 263.

  12. Ibid., II, 264-265.

  13. British Magazine, April 1760, p. 266.

  14. One copy is in the Huntington Library.

  15. Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, ed. Joseph Burke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), p. 209.

  16. Paulson, HLAT, I, 235-237, 531.

  17. HLAT, II, 29.

  18. For a detailed analysis of the plate, see Antal, Hogarth, p. 71.

  19. George Winchester Stone, Jr. and George M. Kahrl, David Garrick: A Critical Biography (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979), p. 105.

  20. John Dryden, Four Tragedies, ed. L. A. Beaurline and F. Bowers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 246.

  21. Joseph Andrews, ed. M. C. Battestin (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1967), p. 6, n. 1.

  22. Robert E. Moore, Hogarth's Literary Relationships (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1948), pp. 127-132.

  23. Wilbur L. Cross, The History of Henry Fielding (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1918), III, 71-73. For a thorough analysis of Fielding portraiture, see Martin C. Battestin, “Pictures in Fielding,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 17 (1983), 1-13.

  24. Ed. Battestin (1967), p. 41.

  25. Richardson, Correspondence, ed. A. L. Barbauld (London, 1804), I, 56.

  26. Sterne scholarship has not overlooked this rich topic; see especially William V. Holtz, Image and Immortality A Study ofTristram Shandy” (Providence: Brown University Press, 1970).

  27. Sterne, Letters, ed. Lewis P. Curtis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935), pp. 99-100.

  28. Kenneth Monkman, “The Bibliography of the Early Editions of Tristram Shandy,The Library, 5 ser., vol. 25 (1970), p. 22.

  29. Cf. Samuel L. Macey, Clocks and the Cosmos (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1980), p. 59.

  30. P. 91.

  31. A. P. Oppe, The Drawings of William Hogarth (London: Phaidon Press, 1948), p. 55.

Ronald Paulson (essay date 1992)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Paulson, Ronald. “Politics and Aesthetics: Hogarth in 1759.” In British Art 1740-1820: Essays in Honor of Robert R. Wark, edited by Guilland Sutherland, pp. 25-56. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1992.

[In the following essay, Paulson examines Hogarth's work as a response to the changing aesthetic and political contexts of the 1750s.]

The 1750s marked a period of intense and varied activity in Hogarth's career. At the beginning of the decade he had gambled with high stakes when he wrote his Analysis of Beauty (published in 1753), and the response had been partisan, ad hominem, centered in the insurgents of the St. Martin's Lane Academy. Following this outburst, he had buried himself in the elaborate Four Prints of an Election, which were not completely published until 1758. By then the political issue of the general election, and the ministerial juggling of the Duke of Newcastle (the “great Electioneer”), had been superseded by the Seven Years' War and the rise of William Pitt. The Election prints linked the macrocosm of the British government with the microcosm of the artists' academy, the politicking of the election with the politicking for precedence among the artists, bringing together the notions of voting and judgment with the French threat from abroad, both military and aesthetic.

In 1757, the first important aesthetic statement after the Analysis of Beauty appeared: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, by a young Irishman named Edmund Burke. (It is useful to remember that at this time Burke was not yet an M.P., not yet a member of the Reynolds-Johnson circle, not yet a paradigm of joint aesthetic and political realms.) Although the Enquiry was allegedly well under way before Hogarth published his treatise, the timing of its publication made it appear a response to the Analysis. One can imagine Hogarth opening a copy of the Enquiry and seeing in Part I, section i, the reduction of his term “curiosity” (the motive of his Variety/Intricacy) to “the most superficial of all the affections” with “always an appearance of giddiness, restlessness and anxiety”; and in the following sections the replacement of “pleasure” with “delight” and indeed “pain,” because the latter are more powerful, “productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling”: in short, the Sublime, based on terror and power.1

At this point Hogarth would have regarded Burke's treatise on the Sublime as an answer to his own on the Beautiful; and Burke's Sublime represented everything Hogarth saw going wrong with politics as well as art in the 1750s, much of it immanent in his Election prints: Burke associates beauty and pleasure (as Hogarth had done) with love and “multiplication of the species”; with society, “Good company, lively conversations, and the endearments of friendship” (43). But he clearly prefers the Sublime, with its focus not only on self-preservation, solitude, and self-enclosure, but also on the destructive power which Hogarth had connected in Analysis Plate 1 with judgment, hangings, and ruined cities.

The affront, however, must have come when Hogarth turned to Part II and read Burke's sections ii and iii, on “Terror” and “Obscurity,” in which, without mentioning Hogarth's name, he argues for the superior sublimity of the poet's more suggestive (because vague) words over the painter's graphic image, which unfortunately must specify details that the poet can leave to the imagination. Burke specifically found the Sublime in words and the Beautiful in pictures; but at the same time that he devalued the Beautiful he devalued pictures. Hogarth (following Locke) habitually emphasized the primacy of sight and noted the social relationship in which a word can be misunderstood; Burke took up the term “obscurity” (the realm of Dulness and Bathos for Pope and Swift as well as Hogarth) and attempted to revalue it, indeed privilege it, by turning it into the Sublime. The particular subject he singled out as his example corresponded rather closely to a painting by Hogarth.

Hogarth's painting of Satan, Sin and Death, probably datable to the late 1730s (pl. IV), would have been a topic of conversation among the St. Martin's Lane artists. Hogarth talked about such projects and displayed them in his shop. Burke, who was in London from 1750 onward, would have heard reports of Hogarth's attempt to illustrate Milton even if he had not seen the painting itself.2 Indeed, we can imagine that Hogarth assumed he had not actually seen the painting but was basing his judgment on hearsay, as, for example, George Turnbull had based his whole theory of antique painting on verbal descriptions of paintings that did not themselves exist.

The subject of Hogarth's “sublime” history paintings would have been especially warm as a consequence of the Academy controversy and his painting and engraving of biblical subjects in Paul before Felix and Moses brought to Pharaoh's Daughter. When he painted these histories he was implicitly honoring the sense of “great” or “sublime” applied in the first half of the century to the heightened idealization of Raphael's Cartoons and frescoes.3 This is why he employed the model of the Cartoons in almost all of his history paintings and why, in the engravings of Paul before Felix, he executed a spectrum of versions extending from a Rembrandt parody to a neoclassicized Raphael. “Sublime” may have been the wrong word for these un-comic histories; Hogarth—and probably Burke too, though derisively—would have regarded them as beautiful. But for his example of terror-as-obscurity Burke goes back to another, a peculiarly un-Raphaelesque composition, in Hogarth's Satan, Sin and Death.

Hogarth's painting, though unfinished and in places indistinct, could nevertheless have elicited the sort of response Charles Lamb later had to illustrations of Shakespeare in Boydell's Gallery: “To be tied down to an authentic face of Juliet! to have Imogen's portrait! to confine th'illimitable.”4 There is no doubt that Hogarth's figures, especially with their brightly colored garments, are slightly comic in their reach for the passions and may have elicited Burke's remark that in history painting “a gay or gaudy drapery, can never have a happy effect” (82). Hogarth's evident retreading of the basic composition he had used for his conversation pictures—making of this “sublime” subject virtually another Scene from “The Beggar's Opera”—might also have proved risible to the unsympathetic Burke, brought up on higher models of the graphic sublime than the group portrait.

Burke in fact adopts, or perhaps more precisely echoes, Hogarth's particular composition of Sin holding apart Satan and Death, for which there was no graphic precedent among Milton illustrations. He simulates it in his text by quoting first Milton's description of Death and second—a page later—of Satan rising up from the fiery lake. The verbal example Burke adduces for terror-as-obscurity is Milton's figure of Death in Paradise Lost, book 2: formless except for his crown, he cannot be grasped or comprehended, certainly not represented graphically by a painter. Then, by adding the passage in book 1 describing Satan rising to address his legions, Burke manufactures a confrontation of Satan and Death similar to Hogarth's. But he suppresses the third, and for Hogarth most important, element, Sin. Between Satan and Death in this scene is implicitly the female figure of Sin, the daughter-lover, mother-lover of the two contestants—whose positioning in Hogarth's painting is central.

In short, Burke shifts his emphasis from the Hogarthian woman (Hogarth's Beautiful) trying to reconcile Satan and Death (or in the Beggar's Opera painting, Polly Peachum between Macheath and Mr. Peachum) to the oedipal confrontation (Burke's Sublime) of two interchangeable males, father and son, king and subject, over a repressed mother-lover. For Hogarth, the female figure, Sin, represented the Beauty—in all of the Analysis of Beauty senses, of novelty, pleasure, sexuality, energy, and variety/intricacy—that was omitted or polarized by Burke's Sublime. For Hogarth, it was precisely the figure of the beautiful woman mediating between power and its antinomy chaos that was Beauty.

The Beautiful was also, of course, exemplified by a woman in Burke's system, but she is elsewhere subordinated to the sublime male.5 Like Hogarth's Beautiful she is associated with ordinary domestic, bourgeois values and objects such as the smokejacks, corsets, and candlesticks invoked in the Analysis. The features of this Beautiful are labor, utility, and repetition (literally epitomized for Hogarth in the repetition of his own engraving process), and so in a general way are therefore custom and constituted society. This sense of the Beautiful forms Hogarth's world, which he therefore saw threatened by the Burkean Sublime, embodied in the male who exerts power and represents an aristocratic, magisterial, warlike, and irrational ethos. He would have seen this confrontation as a corruption of his own formulation in his Enraged Musician and the other artist-satires of the 1730s and '40s, where the beautiful woman mediates between order and disorder, poet and chaos, musician and sheer noise. She had mediated between the authority of the poet or musician (or their texts, the bars of music, a rhyming dictionary) and the sheer unstructured underclass sounds of the street; and this situation was, in Hogarth's terms, the equivalent of the Sublime and the Picturesque mediated by “Beauty,” which led to the Serpentine Line of the Analysis that was intended to mediate between Carracci paintings and candlesticks or the curves of the human body.

But Hogarth himself had already, before 1757, begun to change the role or position of the beautiful woman. In the years following publication of the Analysis, this figure was distanced to the young women high above on a balcony, being courted by candidates; or to Britannia stranded in her broken-down coach (Election Plates 2 and 3); or—after he read Burke's Philosophical Enquiry—to Sigismunda, who, though she is alone and dominates the picture space, is taking poison; and even to the tempted young woman of The Lady's Last Stake. Beauty is under threat, absent except for the broken lines of beauty, until finally in Tailpiece; or The Bathos the Burkean Sublime is in complete control. The causes? Obviously not just the advent of Burke's Philosophical Enquiry, but also the reaction to the Analysis and the Academy quarrel, and especially the nature of Hogarth's disillusionment with politics and government in the mid-1750s. With the new political dimension of the Election prints, Burke's Sublime appeared in effect to be destroying Hogarth's Beautiful as the Pittites (and later Wilkites) were destroying England.

The Cockpit, published in December 1759, carries signs of the aesthetic controversy: Hogarth replaces his woman in the central position with the tall, imposing figure of a man, in fact a blind man. The Cockpit opens the last phase of Hogarth's engraved histories. This is basically a new composition for Hogarth, although it obviously owes something to the parodic Last Suppers of Election Plate 1 and Columbus breaking the Egg.

It is appropriate that he attended yet another performance of Gay's Beggar's Opera (with The Cheats of Scapin) on 21 November 1759;6 but it is also significant that, a year before, he had received sheets of William Huggins's translation of Dante's Inferno and promised to read it. Although he gently declined to furnish Huggins with illustrations, he evidently read the Inferno: he sighed that a few years before he might have undertaken such an ambitious project. Moreover, in 1756 in the Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, Joseph Warton singled out Dante's poem as an example of the Sublime: “perhaps the Inferno of Dante is the next composition to the Iliad, in point of originality and sublimity”; his example was the story of Ugolino, another lonely figure, surrounded by his “sons” (257).

The influence of Dante's Inferno is evident in The Cockpit, which conveys in the actions of people trapped in futile and repetitive actions a sense of “damnation,” which was not evident before in Hogarth's work. Even the circular structure—something required of a cockpit (and anticipated in the dissection theater of The Reward of Cruelty)—recalls the circles of Dante's hell.7

Once again literature has influenced Hogarth's art. But now it is no longer the Beggar's Opera, which imposed its pattern on Satan, Sin and Death; what followed Hogarth's encounter with Dante's hell was a series of prints that returns to the emblematic mode of his earliest efforts and in some sense portrays hell, whether in a cock match, a Methodist congregation, or a fire in a London street. Enthusiasm Delineated, of about the same time, recalls the Inferno, down to the Dantesque observer watching these damned souls with fascinated attention through a window. Huggins's Dante confirmed Hogarth's darker anxieties and the images (such as the Election's out-of-control crowd) he had already selected to express them. Dante provided a religious context, even one of apocalypse, and thus in both political and aesthetic terms a response to Burke.

Dante's hell furnished Hogarth with an idiom for an alternative to Milton's hell in the first two books of Paradise Lost and a response to Burke's criticism of Satan, Sin and Death.The Cockpit is certainly within the sublime range, with more terribilita than Satan, Sin and Death, as the print of The Reward of Cruelty is a more powerful expression of history painting than any of Hogarth's paintings; but its subject is not conflict, let alone mediation, so much as solitary obsession: the old Scriblerian interpretation of hupsous as bathous, of the “sublime” hero as self-deluded claimant to autonomous selfhood. The Cockpit produces an image of focused desire and self-enclosure that, in true Miltonic (rather than Burkean revisionist) terms, appears satanic. In terms of a Last Supper, the figure of Christ—in this context, anti-Christ—is a nobleman who gambles furiously among a crowd of equally obsessed plebeians (but including at least two other noblemen) who follow his lead. Even the man suspended in a basket for failure to pay his debts desperately tries to place another bet. The central figure imparts a kind of sanction to all the others, as Christ did to the disciples, as Satan did to the rebel angels, in this case with the implicit verbalization (of the sort employed in the Election prints) of “The Blind leading the Blind.”

One senses in the juxtaposition of the nobleman and the mixed orders grouped around him a residue of Hogarth's Election (certainly an echo of Plate 1) and the political situation of the late 1750s. For “the cockpit” was not only a place where cock matches were held; it was the name attached to a building opposite Whitehall Palace, erected on the site of Henry VIII's cockpit, used for government offices. It was a familiar designation for the “Treasury” and the “Privy Council chambers,” and so a word designating the reigning ministry, while at the same time suggesting the analogy between this government and the gamblers at a cockfight.8 In short, this is another print in the politico-allegorical mode of The Stage-Coach and Election Plates 3 and 4, anticipating The Times Plate 1: Pitt's ministry (and so England) is a “cockpit” (as later, in the revision of Rake 8, England is designated a madhouse), and the portrait of the nobleman, identified by early commentators as the blind Lord Albemarle Bertie,9 doubles as a reference to Pitt (at the same time activating another Hogarthian pun, Cock-Pitt) with the “blindness” and the Christological pose part of the satire. For Pitt was precisely seen by his enemies as “blind” and, they felt, by himself as “Christ.” The figure resembles Hogarth's versions of Pitt in The Times plates, especially his physique and wig. In the first state of The Times Plate 1 he also disguised Pitt, in that case as Henry VIII, an allusion to his absolute rule and his tyranny.10 In The Cockpit the disguise alludes to “blindness” and Pitt's slumming with the crowd—but also to gambling as a frenzy that must have been linked in Hogarth's mind with the religious frenzy of Enthusiasm Delineated, with which it has much in common.

It is at first difficult, looking back on the Pitt ministry and its peak in the “Year of Victories” (“this wonderful year,” as Garrick put it in his song “Heart of Oak”) of 1759, to understand how someone like Hogarth could have distrusted the “Great Commoner.” But we must recall one description of Pitt in 1757 as

a man who has not the command of his own passions, or resolutions; whose ambition is boundless and his pride without measure, and is intoxicated with the adulation of his followers, and the applause of corporations, coffee houses, etc.

(italics added)11

There are also references to “Pitt's vanity,” “his ambition, his pride, or his resentment”; but the writer adds that he “was bold and resolute, above doing things by half; and if he once engaged, would go farther than any man in this country.”12 It was in June 1757, as Hogarth was finishing his Election prints, that Henry Fox came within an inch of forming a government, but Pitt—and all he stood for (that is, mob, anti-Hanover, vanity and ambition, grandiloquence, demagoguery, let alone imperialism)—was in office with an ostensibly new kind of politics, based on the charismatic leader and wide popular support rather than the elitist oligarchic manipulations of a Newcastle.

What is particularly notable are those words applied to Pitt—“boundless,” “without measure,” and “go farther than any man”—words used in these years to describe the Sublime. Pitt's greatest fame was as an orator of unsurpassed eloquence, and with this went what has been called his “unique attempt to make ‘popularity’ a major continuing foundation of his political power.”13 Long before Burke, Longinus had associated the Sublime with the “power of the orator,” and his suggestion that the Sublime carries all before it, including the orator himself, was a notion Hogarth used in the Election in his imagery of the crowd that is created by the unscrupulous politician whom it may then destroy (as in Election Plate 4).

Of course, Pitt's oratorical powers and personality, which were (in Marie Peters's words in Pitt and Popularity) “much better suited to appeal from above to the adulation of the people than to co-operate with colleagues in the normal workings of political connections” (of the sort analyzed in the Election), should have appealed to Hogarth, whose aim was to circumvent the connoisseurs, dealers, and his fellow artists by appealing directly to the “public.” But, as Peters explains:

Opponents did not deny the claims to popularity and patriotism. Rather they sought to discredit them by suggesting that the popularity was unsoundly based, won by artifice from the giddy multitude who had no judgement in political affairs, that Pitt used it unscrupulously, and that the patriotic stands were insincere and inconsistent with previous or current actions.14

Pitt was a product of the forces unleashed by popular appeal—unchecked, Hogarth might have felt, by the subtle interplay of the popular and the polite, of the ironies that figure in his own rhetoric (and in his aesthetic theory in the Analysis). Hogarth may have shared Fielding's horror of the Penlez riots (going back to his childhood experience of the Sacheverell riots); certainly in the Election he shows distrust of the politically motivated, anti-Walpole riots of the excise crisis in 1733 (which was repeatedly resuscitated in the 1750s), of the Jew Bill riots in 1753, and of those riots associated with the fall of Minorca in 1756—the last of which contributed to Pitt's rise to power.

Pitt's oratory was regarded by his detractors as analogous to his ideology of aggressive commercial expansion—of imperialism—that was supported by the financial interests of the City (not the middling merchants with whom Hogarth associated himself). This had taken the form of huge and wasteful gambling by May 1759, the year of Pitt's greatest triumphs, when the London Chronicle calculated the cost of Britain's part in the German war as £3,289,954 (compared with £823,759 in 1757).15 The attacks on Pitt in June and July argued that he had been “blinded” by his military successes.16 By the end of the year he was thought to be “gambling” on war gains against peace. This had become an issue in 1759, when “popular” opinion was gambling on holding all gains and reducing France to nothing, and “ambitions were growing with victories,”17 while others, in view of the risks and the cost and burden of the German war, were arguing for cutting losses and agreeing to an early peace. Indeed, gambling could be read as a metaphor for trade: “Our dispute,” as Beckford's pro-Pitt Monitor said, “is about the extent of trade; whether the trading genius of britain or of france shall prevail” (15 September 1759).

The figure of the blind but magnetic Lord Albemarle Bertie is paralleled by the figure of the preacher in the two versions of the print variously called Enthusiasm Delineated and Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, of about 1759. Both preachers are surrogate Pitt figures, as Macheath, Cardinal Wolsey, Sir John Falstaff were surrogate Walpole figures in the 1730s, but characterized now by demagoguery, megalomania, and obsession. If the politician Walpole dominated the first part of Hogarth's career and stimulated his (as well as Fielding's) imagination, the politician Pitt can be said in the same way, but as a totally different sort of image, to have dominated the last years and determined their basic narrative.

But, as I have suggested, an added element was the specific significance accorded to the Sublime in the late 1750s. It was discussed not just in Burke's Philosophical Enquiry but also in Alexander Gerard's Essay on Taste, published in 1759: in both, the Sublime was a subject of chief concern. In Hogarth's lifetime there were three translations published of Longinus' Peri Hupsous, in 1712, in 1724, and in 1739 the popular one by William Smith. The crucial Longinian sentence was: “The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport.” “Transport” meant the breaking of boundaries, an excess. But above all, as Burke showed, it meant replacing ethical and theological sublimity with a purely psychological effect.

From Hogarth's point of view, it was possible—indeed, necessary—to position the discourse of the Sublime (primarily Burke's) within the context of the great cataclysm of the Seven Years' War. But the “great” political force at the end of Hogarth's life was Pitt, who was in power, in total control, from 1757 to 1760, and continued to dominate the English imagination thereafter.18 And “great” now meant something very different from when Walpole—who had created the old oligarchic structure of power epitomized in the Election prints—was ironically, in a mock-heroic, bathetic way, referred to as the “Great Man” (as Fielding wrote of “Tom Thumb the Great”). Pitt, in the second half of the 1750s and especially in the context of the Seven Years' War, could be construed as a political equivalent of the Burkean Sublime; and the modification of those key words of the 1730s, great as well as popular, must have created for Hogarth a dismaying Other.

Thus emerged the association of destructive power, tyranny, war, and the rest. Pitt's constituency and Burke's Sublime both find their sublime effect in the “shouting of multitudes … [which] so amazes and confounds the imagination, that in this staggering, and hurry of the mind, the best established tempers can scarcely forbear being borne down, and joining in the common cry, and common resolution of the croud” (Philosophical Enquiry, II.vii.82). Indeed, in section vi Burke quotes from Pitt's 1740 translation of the scene “at the mouth of hell” in Aeneid, book 6, invoking the “solemn empire” of Chaos, which “stretches wide around,” with its “great tremendous powers.”

Peter de Bolla has argued in The Discourse of the Sublime that the idea of excess in Pitt's personality, oratory, actions, and deeds was confirmed by the monetary, to some minds criminal, increase in the national debt that followed from (and made possible) the Seven Years' War—including the radical increase of foreign subsidies.19 Foreign subsidies was an issue that would have interested Hogarth and reminded him of the influence of the foreign in art—and of the inconsistency and insincerity of Pitt, who, prior to being chief minister, had been the greatest opponent of foreign subsidies. And, of course, Pitt's dramatic about-faces, his inconsistencies, and his reputed unreliability and insincerity, as well as his gambling with fortune, introduced another dimension of the Sublime.20 De Bolla's parallel between the Sublime and the national debt suggests why there was a shift from fear of sublime excess to absorption of it into an aesthetic system (as by Burke); why conservative contemporaries like Hogarth who feared the monetary consequences of the war would also fear the theory of the Sublime, the supposedly growing power of the crowd, of Pitt, and of his oratory, and the national mania for gambling that is embodied in the hoisted gambler who cannot pay his debt but continues desperately to gamble. From Hogarth's point of view, however, the situation took him all the way back to the 1720s, to his South Sea Scheme and Lottery and to Addison's figure of credit (one moment Brobdingnagian, the next Lilliputian) as a trope for chaos; the Sublime remained for Hogarth resolutely the bathetic, as it had for Pope.

The term “enthusiasm” established the “sublime” connection between art, religion (the upsurgence of Methodism, the resurgence of dissent), and politics. Enthusiasm Delineated, though undated and unpublished, can be placed near the end of 1759 or the beginning of 1760. Its conception is illuminated by another sequence of events that began in the first half of 1759 with Hogarth's painting Sigismunda for Sir Richard Grosvenor and Grosvenor's rejection of it; Warton's criticism of his history paintings; and Reynolds's Idler essays.

In the advertisement of 1-4 December 1759 for The Cockpit in the London Chronicle Hogarth says he is also republishing the engravings Paul before Felix and Moses brought to Pharaoh's Daughter, “with the Rev. Mr. Joseph Warton's curious Remarks on the Author's Manner of treating serious Subjects.” Warton's Essay upon the Genius and Writings of Pope, published in 1756, had also (besides arguing for Dante's sublimity) at one point argued that a writer or artist cannot excel in more than one line, with Shakespeare and Garrick two notable exceptions, equally good at comedy and tragedy. Hogarth would probably have agreed. After seeing Garrick one night as Richard III and the next as Abel Drugger, he said to his friend: “You are in your element, when you are begrimed with dirt, or up to your elbows in blood.”21 In Warton's essay, however, he found himself invoked, associated with Pope, who could not write Sublime and Pathetic poetry, only Ethical, which Warton regarded as poetry of the second rank:

some nicer virtuosi have remarked, that in the serious pieces, into which Hogarth has deviated from the natural bias of his genius, there are some strokes of the Ridiculous discernible, which suit not with the dignity of his subject. In his Preaching of St. Paul, a dog snarling at a cat; and in his Pharaoh's Daughter, the figure of the infant Moses, who expresses rather archness than timidity, are alleged as instances, that this artist, unrivalled in his own walk, could not resist the impulse of his imagination towards drolery. His picture, however, of Richard III. is pure and unmixed with any ridiculous circumstances, and strongly impresses terror and amazement.22

If Hogarth was disturbed by the judgment of his art, he was doubly irritated by Warton's egregious error, which showed that he had not looked closely at the painting in question. While both The Pool of Bethesda and The Good Samaritan contain dogs—the Pool has one leaning over the architectural parapet, the Samaritan has one licking a wound it probably received defending the injured man from the thieves, and the bas-relief has a dog barking to awaken the sleeping Rahere—there are none in Paul before Felix. Warton may have been right as to the background spirit of Moses and Paul, but he was wrong as to the letter, perhaps having vaguely in mind the burlesque subscription ticket.23

Apparently Warton, when shown his error, promised to correct it in the second edition, but this did not appear until 1762, and by 1759 Hogarth had painted his Sigismunda and been rebuffed; and with his reputation threatened (he feared) by Grosvenor's unflattering stories, his impatience got the better of him. At the end of 1759 he reissued Paul before Felix and Moses brought to Pharaoh's Daughter with copies of Warton's erroneous passages prominently displayed on both, as if to say Ecce Signum, behold the discrepancy between his words and the real image. In short, his feelings were so strong that he was willing to ruin the aesthetic effect of the prints in order to express them in this particular visual-verbal way—temporarily at least, since when Warton's second edition did appear in 1762 with an apology he burnished the passages out and reissued the plates as before (a technique that was one of the advantages enjoyed by the engraver).

Another reason that Hogarth added the inscriptions to these prints may have been to respond to the Idler papers written by Joshua Reynolds, presumably at the invitation of his friend Samuel Johnson, and published only a few months after the rejection of Sigismunda, just when they would have galled him most. (Reynolds also painted, around this time, his parody of Sigismunda,Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra, which was the more galling for its parallel between Kitty Fisher the courtesan and Jane Hogarth the painter's wife, the one as Cleopatra, the other as Sigismunda.) In Idler No. 76 (29 September 1759), Reynolds has a connoisseur, visiting Hogarth's beloved Raphael Cartoons, pause before Paul Preaching at Athens (recognized by contemporaries as an inspiration for Paul before Felix):

“This,” says he, “is esteemed the most excellent of all the cartoons: what nobleness, what dignity there is in that figure of St. Paul; and yet what an addition to that nobleness could Raffaelle have given, had the art of contrast been known in his time; but above all, the flowing line, which constitutes grace and beauty!”

(italics added)24

In one blow Reynolds has caught Hogarth's theories of “contrast” and the Line of Beauty, as well as his application of them in Paul before Felix. Reynolds's criticism is of Hogarth's imposing a “principle” (a word Hogarth overuses in the Analysis) such as the Serpentine Line on the practice of old masters like Raphael. Not the “rule” but the actual, complex practice of the earlier artist should be studied, according to Reynolds. But his real point, as Hogarth knew, was the authority of “Raffaelle” (as in the model-oriented system of the French Academy) as opposed to the ad hoc practice of a “modern academy” like that upheld by Hogarth. That is, if Hogarth had sought political analogies, he would have seen Reynolds wishing to run the academy as Pitt was running the country and with the same imperialist ideology.

Hogarth's position in the academy controversy is caught by Reynolds's ironic reference to “this enlightened age” in which “the art has been reduced to principles” by an “education in one of the modern academies”: “modern” as opposed to the venerable French model. Hogarth had exposed himself to ridicule, when he put pen to paper, by reducing his pragmatic modernism to a “principle.” In the light of all the talk in the Analysis about the “precise” Line it was easy to forget that Hogarth's “principle,” taken from experience, distilled from observation of life, was far less authoritarian than Reynolds's model of “the blaze of expanded genius” of an old master, which (in Hogarth's opinion) came down to mere copying. The first involved utilization; the second emulation; the first a principle deduced from nature and the second from art. This opposition was at the heart of the controversy over academies.

Reynolds wrote two more Idler essays: No. 79, of 20 October 1759, was on “The Grand Style of Painting,” and No. 82, of 10 November, on “The True Idea of Beauty.” (The three essays were reprinted in 1761 as Three Letters to the Idler and also, with some omissions, in the London Chronicle, 14 May 1761, during the Society of Artists' exhibition when Hogarth's Sigismunda was being shown.) The last, No. 82, returns to Hogarth's “invariable” rule by arguing that beauty is only based on custom: a horse is beautiful to a horse, a Hottentot to a Hottentot, and an English woman to an English man.

No. 79, however, must have particularly irritated (and stimulated) Hogarth. This essay begins with a statement that the nature of great painting involves not mechanical imitation in the manner of the Dutch genre painters but the transformation of nature by the imagination in the Italian manner. Again Hogarth is Reynolds's quarry, and he pointedly excludes from consideration the Hogarthian experiment of the “modern moral subject.” First, he contrasts (as he does also in No. 82) the Italian attention to “the invariable, the great and general ideas which are fixed and inherent in universal nature” with the Dutch attention “to literal truth and a minute exactness in the detail, as I may say, of nature modified by accident” (italics added): precisely the “nature” of Hogarth's art, whether comic or “sublime.” Second, he criticizes the Hogarthian mixed mode: “To desire to see the excellencies of each style united, to mingle the Dutch with the Italian school, is to join contrarieties which cannot subsist together, and which destroy the efficacy of each other.” These words describe Hogarth's comic history painting, but they can also be taken more specifically as an unsympathetic view of his experiments in Paul and Felix and Moses brought to Pharaoh's Daughter, echoing the criticism of Warton. Reynolds, like Warton, calls for sublimity and in this Idler he connects the Sublime with “enthusiasm.”

For, praising the “genius and soul” of Michelangelo's painting (aside from what he considers faults in technique), Reynolds writes:

If this opinion should be thought one of the wild extravagancies of enthusiasm, I should only say, that those who censure it are not conversant in the works of the great masters. It is very difficult to determine the exact degree of enthusiasm that the arts of painting and poetry may admit.

He admits that too much as well as too little enthusiasm may be employed, and that even Michelangelo sometimes produced figures “of which it was very difficult to determine whether they were in the highest degree sublime or extremely ridiculous.” Nevertheless, “one may very safely recommend a little more enthusiasm to the modern painters; too much is certainly not the vice of the present age” (247-48).

If one of Hogarth's responses to Reynolds's Idler essays was to add the inscriptions to Paul and Moses to prove that Warton was wrong about the “Dutch part” of these paintings, a much more important response was his launching into the engraving of Enthusiasm Delineated, in which he replied to Reynolds's taunt. (Warton's dog, though removed from the published version, Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, also makes his appearance: his howling is parallel to the clergyman's preaching; his collar, labeled “Whitefield,” suggests that he epitomizes the sound of Methodist oratory.) Enthusiasm Delineated shows that, Reynolds to the contrary, it is not “very difficult to determine the exact degree of enthusiasm that the arts of painting and poetry may admit,” and a thermometer is included for this purpose. What Hogarth does is to conflate with Reynolds's “sublime” enthusiasm the religio-sexual sense satirized by Shaftesbury in A Letter concerning Enthusiasm and by Swift in A Tale of a Tub.25

Two impressions of the complete engraving with the inscriptions in ink have survived. The handwriting is very shaky, perhaps suggesting the sickness that seems to have overtaken Hogarth around this time. The conception is nevertheless vigorous, transforming the “enthusiasm” of the old masters into religious images that mingle with the sexual “enthusiasm” of religious fanatics. “The Intention of this print,” he wrote under the design, “is to give a lineal representation of the strange Effects of literal and low conceptions of Sacred Beings as also of the Idolatrous Tendency of Pictures in Churches and prints in Religious books &c.” His examples, clear enough in the design but enumerated beneath, are those Reynolds listed at the end of Idler No. 79 as the highest examples of “the majesty of heroic Poetry”: Raphael's ancient God supported by two angels, Rubens's muscular Devil holding a gridiron, and Rembrandt's roly-poly St. Peter. (He identifies only these three, but the puppet-like Adam and Eve probably allude to Durer.)26

For an example we can focus on the figure of the woman in the foreground of Enthusiasm Delineated, cradling a Christ image in her left arm, her teeth and hands clenched, in a state of convulsion. John Ireland identified her as a likeness of Jenny Douglas, the most famous bawd of the 1750s, and the patch on her cheek may recall the face of Mother Needham in Harlot Plate 1. Mother Douglas appeared as Mrs. Cole in Samuel Foote's The Minor (July 1760), where she is portrayed as a fanatical follower of Whitefield. Her death in June 1761 may explain why Hogarth changed her face into that of Mary Toft, the “Rabbit Woman,” in the 1762 revision, but Mrs. Toft may also recall Mrs. Cole's “comforts of the new birth,” that is, the spiritual rebirth she has learned from Dr. Squintum:

So, in my last illness, I was wished to Mr. Squintum, who stepped in with his saving grace, got me with the new birth, and I became, as you see, regenerate, and another creature.

After these words, she is offered “another thimbleful” of gin—which a hand is offering the woman in Hogarth's print in both states.

The figure is based on Lanfranco's painting of St. Margaret of Cortona in ecstasy (Pitti Palace). History painting, as well as the equation of sexuality and religious enthusiasm, is the subject of Hogarth's print. On 2 December 1758 Robert Dodsley's Cleone had been produced at Covent Garden, supported by Johnson and condemned by Hogarth's friend Garrick, who refused to produce Cleone at Drury Lane, calling it “a cruel, bloody, and unnatural play.” The facts are that the heroine Cleone was played in contemporary dress, despite the protestations of Dodsley, and that in the climactic mad scene (“sitting by her dead child”) she cradles the body of her murdered son while uttering an Ophelia-like rant. Then she goes into convulsions and, after a final moment of lucidity, expires. It is possible that the woman's contemporary attire and the cradled Christ image, together with the memory of an ecstatic Roman Catholic saint by Lanfranco, may have overlaid the pious London bawd with another aspect of enthusiasm in art.

But St. Margaret is in ecstasy. The emphasis in terms of graphic art is on the Roman Catholics, whom Hogarth had recently shown carrying torture instruments of the Inquisition in the first Invasion print, 1756.27 By “Roman Catholic” Hogarth now meant, in the context of the Idler papers, the ideas of art and academies associated with Paris and Rome. The Anglican clergyman's close sympathy with the Roman church (evident in his tonsure) is revealed in his assumptions about the religious art of Raphael, Rubens, and Rembrandt. The congregation as a whole is atavistic, reverting to the literal devouring of Christ's “body”—eucharistic figures whose phallic shape recalls the obscene pun of “Supper below” in Masquerade Ticket (1727). But many other sects, all enthusiast, are crowded into the church, itself a meeting house closely resembling Whitefield's in Tottenham Court Road. At the reader's desk, the Methodist (who eschews images) exhibits his enthusiasm by preaching, singing, and weeping, and his fervor is reflected in the antics of his audience. The howling dog labeled “Whitfield” may permit us to recall Pope's note in Dunciad, book 2 (1743 ed., line 258), that Whitefield “thought the only means of advancing Christianity was by the New-birth of religious madness.”28 (In the revision the reader's face is changed to Whitefield's cross-eyed likeness.) A rabbi goes into ecstasy over a picture of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Only the Moslem, outside the window, is quietly watching, like one of those foreign observers popular in satires of the time.

Although Enthusiasm Delineated is about art, readers could be excused for seeing it as part of a continuum with the hostile references to clergymen in the Harlot,Rake, and the eleventh plate of Industry and Idleness. It is likely, judging by the general composition, the arrangement and facing of pulpit and reader's desk (though not the scale: 14 × 13 vs. 10 × 8 in.), that Hogarth intended an ironic contrast with the unenthusiastic Sleeping Congregation of 1736, already present on an earlier page of the Hogarth folio. But as if to underline the parallel, Hogarth reissued a “Retouched & Improved” state of The Sleeping Congregation in 1762, two weeks after Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (the published version of Enthusiasm Delineated), thus forcing the Hogarth collector to place the two prints on adjacent pages of the folio.

If Continental Roman Catholic art is the subject, the enabling (or activating) phenomenon—and the model in Hogarth's mind for the Pitt oration, carrying out the parallel between politics and religion—was the Methodist sermon, as delivered by George Whitefield and John Wesley. Their preaching, which began in 1739, was characterized by the violent response it elicited. Members of the audience would appear to be possessed, first by a spirit of terror and pain identified by Wesley with the Devil's last efforts to retain his hold: they would “roar for the disquietness of their heart,” would be “seized with a violent trembling all over,” and drop to the ground “as thunderstruck,” sometimes in convulsions. The phase of affliction was followed by relief, peace, and joy: they would “burst forth into praise to God their Saviour” and were “raised … up full of ‘peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,’” or had their “heaviness [turned] into joy.”29 Although Wesley denied it, he and Whitefield were accused of having preached hell fire in order to elicit this violent response (thus the devil which the preacher holds in one hand).

The fear of the Methodists was based on fear of the vast crowds, subject to outbursts of religious fervor, that they attracted; the preaching itself, which insisted that master and man were equal in the eyes of God; the belief in faith over good works; and the organization of Methodism into “societies” that were presented as alternatives within the Church of England. It was easy to see Methodism as a reflection of political factionalism, the chaos of the election crowd, and the politics of a rabble-rousing Pitt. All of this is evident in Hogarth's print, but the basic equation is between politician and clergyman.

The puzzled Turk at the window is of course the virtuous pagan of deist mythology, who represented the true, non-Christian religion of nature—the love of God versus the sham intervention being perpetrated in various ways by the clergy—and who was invoked in more than one sermon by Bishop Hoadly. With the safe case of Methodism to hand, freethinkers of the 1750s carried Thomas Woolston's hermeneutical demystifying of the New Testament miracles (in his Discourses of the 1720s) into a historical, more scholarly exploration of the post-New Testament miracles reported by the clergy themselves (who had been such staunch upholders of Christ's miracles).30 For Woolston the object of analysis had been the miracles of Christ, in effect the story of his life (the Conception, Birth, Marriage of Cana, Pool of Bethesda, Raising of Lazarus, and Resurrection). His method had been to discredit these miracles by testing the stories against contemporary empirical reality, reason, and sense, showing that by reasonable critics they could be interpreted only as allegory—an allegory of the clergy's self-serving hermeneutics which forced Christians to believe in the miracles. Hogarth had reflected the Woolstonian hermeneutics in his Harlot's Progress and in the history paintings from the New Testament he installed in St. Bartholomew's Hospital in the 1730s.31

The influential work for the 1750s, by contrast, was Conyers Middleton's Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers, which are supposed to have subsisted in the Christian Church (1749), which quoted at great length the reports of miracles by the Ante-Nicene Fathers, a hundred or so years after the New Testament stories. With the evidence of innumerable quotations Middleton belabored the fact that Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, and the rest were “constantly appealing to the testimony of heavenly visions and divine revelations,” and that “all things of great moment, which related to the public state of the Church, were foretold to him in visions” (101). Middleton's focus was therefore even more directly than Woolston's on the clergy itself and his argument was that they used these “miracles” to maintain their power over their congregations. (The examples of Wesley and Whitefield were implicit.) Although he hardly mentions the miracles of Christ, the implications are at least as damaging as Woolston's more direct attack.

Thus the Gadarene swine Hogarth introduced leading the election crowd in Election 4 can be seen in a different light if we suppose he had read Middleton, who focuses on possession and prophetic visions (the casting out of devils, the curing of daemonics) and on ecstatic trances (men filled with the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues), all authenticated by the clergy for “political” purposes. Many examples are given by Middleton of seizures that were the result of taking the sacrament under false circumstances (113-15): Hogarth shows women devouring Eucharist Christs. In Enthusiasm Delineated and Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism he places the demystification of miracles in the Middletonian context, “that spirit of enthusiasm in the church,” the “feigned distortions and convulsive agitations of the body” (99); and by linking Catholics, Anglicans, and Methodists he makes the connection with “enthusiastic” art of the sort Reynolds (out of Burke) advocates. This is surely the context in which Hogarth would have seen his print—celebrating election crowds, wild Methodist congregations, and the Burkean Sublime.

It was at about the same time that Hogarth wrote in the manuscript “Apology for Painters” that religious art was out of the question for an English artist: “our religion forbids, nay doth not require, images for worship or pictures to work up enthusiasm.”32Enthusiasm Delineated is dedicated to the archbishop of Canterbury, the patron of ecclesiastical art in England—reminiscent of the ironic dedication of The March to Finchley to “His Majesty the King of Prussia and Encourager of Arts and Sciences!” The archbishop at this time was Thomas Secker, who reappears in The Times Plate 2 labeled “Dr Cants ye Man Midwife.” Secker's connections were with Lord Hardwicke, who of course was a prime supporter of Pitt. Hardwicke had secured Secker the deanship of St. Paul's and, at Hutton's death in March 1758, the archbishopric of Canterbury. This made him, for Hogarth's purposes at least, a Pitt appointee and representative (an updating of Bishop Gibson, who filled a similar role in A Harlot's Progress).

But another event may still have been in Hogarth's mind. In the beginning of the earthquake scare of March 1749/50, Secker, at the parish church of St. James's, Westminster, preached a sermon declaring that the earthquake might portend apocalyptic disasters to punish the citizenry of London for immoral and licentious behavior. According to Horace Walpole, Secker, the “Jesuistical Bishop of Oxford,” had “heard the women were all going out of town to avoid the next shock; and so fear of losing his Easter offerings, he set himself to advise them to await God's good pleasure in fear and trembling” (20:133). There followed a flood of homilies and exhortations from other clergymen along the same line.33

In the examples we have seen, the newly formulated Hogarthian aesthetic of the Beautiful came into conflict with Burke's aesthetic of the Sublime at just the moment when Pitt's kind of power seemed to be wiping clean the old board of comfortable political relationships. From Hogarth's point of view, the publication of Burke's Philosophical Enquiry seemed synchronized with the advent of the “great” Pitt ministry and the successful phase of the expansionist war. Together these epitomized an excess in theory, oratory, actions, and power, not to mention actual monetary expenditure. And so in Enthusiasm Delineated he is reacting to both the “Sublime” of Burke and the “enthusiasm” of Reynolds, the oratory of Pitt and the preaching of Whitefield. He shows ethics and theology, the traditional subject of the Sublime (as in the writings of Dennis, Addison, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson), replaced by sheer excess of feeling; the variety-in-unity of “Beauty” as presented in the Analysis replaced by variety out of control in divisive sects, every man his own church. He would have seen this evidenced in the strong moral context of his illustrative plates for the Analysis, where he problematized the simple equation made by Shaftesbury and Hutcheson of beauty-harmony-unity-virtue. So the shock he registers is at the shift from the norm of the Beautiful to the norm of the Sublime, and from the Sublime as an ethical or theological to a psychological phenomenon.

We have traced the aesthetic and the political contexts—in fact the intertwining lines of origin, the causal chain of events—of The Cockpit and Enthusiasm Delineated. At issue are the possible relations of these two areas of experience for one artist at the end of the 1750s, a decade of radical change in British politics and aesthetics: the way, as some might think, the political usurped the aesthetic. Certainly the evidence of 1762-64 would suggest that Hogarth had subsumed his aesthetics under politics.

But what this means is that he formulated a narrative, which was to sustain him until his death, in which Burke's Sublime tries to destroy his Beautiful, to which he assimilated the sense in which the “statesman's” politics of Pitt, associated with war, oratory, excess, unlimitedness, and other aspects of the Burkean Sublime, destroys the “beautiful” system of intricate variety known as Walpolian (or Namierite) politics. In his narrative there was only one hope—and this one hope bound the politics of the nation with that of the artists' academy: the new monarch, George III, and his unpolitical, nonpartisan minister, the Earl of Bute. To these two figures Hogarth attached himself in the crucial period of 1762-63, and they—and their solution—seem to have failed him too. That left nothing but the melodramatic withdrawal represented by his final revisions of his prints and his self-portraits and the ruins and funerary imagery in his final plate, Tailpiece: or The Bathos, which once again utilized the terms of Pope and Swift to label Burke's Sublime—not hupsous but bathous.34


  1. Philosophical Enquiry, ed. James T. Boulton (London, 1958), 31, 39. In the second edition Burke added a gracious reference to “the very ingenious Mr. Hogarth; whose idea of the line of beauty I take in general to be extremely just,” followed by a caveat on his discussion of variety (115).

  2. By the 1750s the painting seems to have been in Garrick's collection, but we do not know that Burke and Garrick were acquainted before 1758. I first proposed this connection between Hogarth and Burke in Book and Painting (Knoxville, 1982), 104-15.

  3. See Samuel Holt Monk, The Sublime: A Study of Critical Theories in Eighteenth-Century England (New York, 1935), 164-202. Jonathan Richardson's sense of the great or sublime was simply “the most excellent of what is excellent, as the excellent is the best of what is good” (Theory of Painting, in The Works of … Jonathan Richardson [London, 1773], 124-25).

  4. Quoted in W. Moelwyn Merchant, Shakespeare and the Artist (Oxford, 1959), 67.

  5. Hogarth's monist conception of Beauty covers all of art, regarding the Sublime as outré when no longer subsumed under the Beautiful. Burke, following Addison, dichotomized the aesthetic experience into beautiful and sublime, neither signifying without the other, its opposite: by opposition, by agon.

  6. Diary of John Baker, ed. Philip C. Yorke (London, 1931), 130. Baker went with John Wilson, Ralph Payne, and John Bannister “in hack to ‘Beggar's Opera’ and ‘Cheats of Scapin,’ Mr. Banister and I sat and chatted Hogarth.”

  7. It may also have recalled Burke's words on the sublimity of circularity (the “rotond”). See Philosophical Enquiry, II.ix.75.

  8. See Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, 3d ed. (London, 1989), cat. no. 206. For cockfighting, see Besant, London in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1902), 348.

  9. John Nichols and George Steevens, The Genuine Works of William Hogarth, 3 vols. (London, 1808-17), 2:241.

  10. Cf. Analysis Plate 2.

  11. John Campbell to his wife, 30 April 1757; quoted in Jonathan Clark, Dynamics of Change (Cambridge, 1982), 379.

  12. Waldegrave, Memoirs, 129-32; quoted in Clark, Dynamics of Change, 424-25.

  13. Marie Peters, Pitt and Popularity: The Patriot Minister and London Opinion during the Seven Years' War (Oxford, 1980), 16.

  14. Ibid., 27, 30.

  15. London Chronicle, 29-31 May 1759.

  16. Especially A Defence of the Letter [from the Duchess of M—r—gh] of July 1759.

  17. Peters, Pitt and Popularity, 164.

  18. I suppose we must add, in apparently total control. In a sense, as Jonathan Clark has shown in The Dynamics of Change, Newcastle and George II were still very much in control, and to some extent Pitt's control was illusory. Nevertheless, this was the public image of Pitt, almost universally accepted.

  19. A war, de Bolla remarks, fought “less over specific land … than over the right to exploit various territories for reasons of trade” (Discourse of the Sublime [London, 1990], 106).

  20. For an example of 1756, see [Anon.], A New System of Patriot Policy containing the Genuine Recantations of the British Cicero. Smollett's growing opposition to Pitt began with Pitt's about-face on the issue of foreign subsidies, but also included his fear of the growing national debt. See Robin Fabel, “The Patriotic Briton: Tobias Smollett and English Politics, 1756-1771,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 8 (1974): 100-114.

  21. Arthur Murphy, Life of David Garrick, 2 vols. (London, 1801), 1:31.

  22. Joseph Warton, Essay upon the Genius and Writings of Pope, vol. 1 (1756); 122, 123.

  23. He was writing with the authority of Jonathan Richardson (Theory of Painting, in Works, 35).

  24. My text is Samuel Johnson, Idler and Adventurer, ed. W. J. Bate, John M. Bullitt, and L. F. Powell (New Haven, 1963), 255.

  25. For the reference to Whitefield in this context, Hogarth could have drawn upon such recent works as William Mason's Methodism Displayed, and Enthusiasm Detected (1756) and Theophilus Evans's The History of Modern Enthusiasm (2d ed., 1757).

  26. See Analysis, ed. Joseph Burke (Oxford, 1955), 9.

  27. Antal, Hogarth and His Place in European Art (London, 1962), 21.

  28. Cited in Rupert E. Davis, Methodism (Harmondsworth, 1963), 69-70.

  29. Ibid.

  30. For an account of Woolston's role in Hogarth's Harlot's Progress, see Paulson, Hogarth I: TheModern Moral Subject” (New Brunswick, 1991), 288-300.

  31. See n. 30 and Paulson, Hogarth II: High Art and Low (New Brunswick, 1992), chap. 3.

  32. Hogarth'sApology for Painters,” ed. Michael Kitson, Walpole Society, 41 (Oxford, 1968): 89.

  33. Gentleman's Magazine, 20:123-25, 169; London Magazine, 19:139, 177-78. The other thing contemporaries—or at least hostile ones like Horace Walpole—noted about Secker was his dissenter origins and tendencies.

  34. The Tailpiece served as a mock illustration of Burke's words immediately following his juxtaposition of Death and Satan, describing the sublime effect as consisting “in images of a tower, an archangel, the sun rising through mists, or in an eclipse, the ruin of monarchs, and the revolutions of kingdoms, … a croud of great and confused images; which affect because they are crouded and confused” (Philosophical Enquiry, 62). The “dark, confused, uncertain images” Burke refers to, on the same page, may have served as part of the context of Hogarth's direct attack on the “dark pictures” of the Old Masters in Time Smoking a Picture of 1761.

Ronald Paulson (essay date 1993)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Paulson, Ronald. “Hogarth's Self-Representations.” In The Culture of Autobiography: Constructions of Self-Representation, edited by Robert Folkenflik, pp. 188-214. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1993.

[In the following essay, Paulson discusses the autobiographical elements of Hogarth's work, manifested in various self-representations, as well as representations of his father, his wife, and his father-in-law, within his paintings.]

William Hogarth wrote an autobiography (or at least notes and drafts toward one) and he produced in his graphic works self-representations, including self-portraits. He wrote the autobiography in the early 1760's as an old man; he included self-representations in his paintings and prints from the 1720's onward.

The autobiographical notes were both public and private: they gave an official public account but they were never finished or published in Hogarth's lifetime. The notes fall into three stages of a narrative: youth, overcoming obstacles and exploiters; success, creating a new graphic form, the “modern moral subject,” and launching into sublime history painting; and in the 1750's-60's, jealousy, misunderstanding, and persecution, a return to the paranoid first stage of the narrative. The passages most rewritten—perhaps only because they came first—were those of his childhood, apprenticeship, and early manhood, running up to the success of his conversation pictures (1728-30) and of A Harlot's Progress (1732), his “modern moral subject,” something “not struck out before in any kingdom.”

In these notes there are three highlights: the first is the emphasis on his father, his shabby treatment at the hands of the booksellers, and his subsequent death (Hogarth implies it was the result of their treatment). Parallel with the fate of his father, Hogarth presents his own early experience with the printsellers who pirated his prints and stole his livelihood (until he succeeded in getting an engravers' copyright act passed in 1735); and his later experience in the 1750's-60's with patrons, politicians, and other artists that prompted him to write the autobiographical notes. The second emphasis falls on his problems as a young engraver: his late-coming to the art, his hatred of the “drudgery” of reproducing “the monsters of heraldry” on silverplate, and his escape from this profession into independent engraving and then painting—but also his steep and remarkable ascent from engraving to painting and the priority of the mode he invented. The third emphasis, a correlative of the second, is the stress he put on the need for both his “pleasures” and his “studies,” words he repeats over and over. “Pleasures” takes on quite a burden of meaning for Hogarth, all the way from dulce (as opposed to utile) to play (the “love of pursuit” he advocated as the basis of a reading of his prints and an important aspect of the Beautiful) and “idleness,” but in the polarities with “studies” it sums up the private aspect of his life in tension with the public, moral, didactic, and professional.

All three of these situations were embodied indirectly in his art. For example, the “monsters of heraldry” is only another term for the decorative high art that he constantly played off against forms of low or empirical reality. The dichotomy of “pleasures” and “studies” appears in his obsessive use of the Choice of Hercules (which is between Virtue and Pleasure) and comes to a focus in his series of 1748 called Industry and Idleness.

What we notice when we turn from Hogarth's written autobiography to his graphic self-representations is that while the first presents a self, William Hogarth, the second begins by presenting this self as other, and specifically as marginalized other—a figure that may recall the story of his father and of his own early years. As soon as he started to paint, in his conversation pictures of 1729-32, Hogarth introduced a dog—the pug who stands with his paws up on a chair, mimicking the dignified pose of the host, while creating a wrinkle in the carpet. The innocent questioning of a dog confronts a world of imposed human order: society, or (in conversation picture terms) the family. The dog's continued presence in Hogarth's conversations strongly suggests that this was intended as his signature—permitted, even perhaps encouraged by his sitters, who commissioned him expecting some touch of puggish liveliness. But one also wonders why, so early in his career, Hogarth includes himself, or an aspect of himself, however conventionalized, insistent though self-deprecating, in almost every picture.

In some conversations the pug is contrasted with the dog of the family Hogarth is painting. In one the pug worries a small wicker hamper, while the well-behaved spaniel of the household by contrast sits upright to join his master in admiring a work of art instead of nature. In another the pug growls opposite the family dog who has a bone on his prosperous plate. Finally, precisely this same pug appears in Hogarth's self-portrait of 1740 alongside his own face, which the dog's face clearly resembles.

There is of course a conventional aspect to this dog: I refer to the Dutch “Dissolute Family” scenes on the one hand and—closer to Hogarth's intention—Watteau's fêtes galantes on the other, for example, The Shepherds (Berlin), where the dog's “natural” pose clarifies the artist's attitude toward the idealized love of the human couple. The dog also, especially in the self-portrait, relates mockingly to the tradition of the art treatises that connected animals with the old masters: Michelangelo with a dragon, Leonardo with a lion, Titian with an ox—in Hogarth's case with connotations of down-to-earth common sense and an awareness of the resemblance to his own profile.

After a series of self-representations as other, at the peak of his career in the 1740's, Hogarth joins the dog with his own face in a “self-portrait”: and he accompanies the two doggish faces with an artist's palette inscribed with his contribution to aesthetic theory, the “Line of Beauty,” and with volumes labeled Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift. Like his ancestors the Puritan spiritual autobiographers, he defines himself in terms of others—not Christ or St. Paul, but Shakespeare and the pug. He is defining himself as he had Tom Rakewell define himself in Rake's Progress 3 where, in a brothel, Tom breaks the mirror, destroying his present self, and replaces it by cutting out the faces of all the Roman emperors hanging on the brothel wall except Nero. The juxtaposition of the English writers and the pug draws attention to Hogarth's need in these images to make himself both singular and exemplary; to emphasize both the spiritual and the animal in him and—what he regards as the same thing—in his art.

In other works, in particular Boys Peeping at Nature, the subscription ticket for his first “modern moral subject,” A Harlot's Progress, the dog's function is taken by a young satyr with the same connotations of satiric disrespect and animal hunger, or sexuality, and the same association with the artist, although these are here complemented—domesticated—into a kind of concordia discors by a more respectable putto who restrains his attempt to lift Nature's veil. This plate reminds us that in his conversation pictures Hogarth had also employed children to comment on the over-ordered society of their parents. Like the dog, they are the commentary of nature on culture.

In the huge history paintings Hogarth made for St. Bartholomew's Hospital in the late 1730's, the Christ at the Pool of Bethesda and the Good Samaritan are accompanied—down below, as the Samaritan's wounded man is accompanied by his wounded alter-ego, his dog—by three small reddish monochrome panels telling the story of the jongleur Rahere, the founder of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, in this way connecting divine charity with an even more human and outcast Samaritan. Rahere was a public entertainer who recounted tales of comic heroes, sang, tumbled, and led dancing bears, but he rose by way of his comic gift from humble origins and little education to be the favorite entertainer of King Henry II, and with his wealth he endowed the church and hospital.

Hogarth, whose childhood had been spent in the shadow of St. Bartholomew's, and who by this time was a successful artist and a governor of the hospital, suggests the parallel to his own career of painting comic histories, which had now ascended to this large gift of charity in the form of the most exalted painterly genre. And while he painted the public message of Charity, his own and his age's primary virtue, depicted larger than life above, he adds his personal message, in monochrome, self-deprecating but at the same time self-assertive, below: the human version of the divine Charity in The Pool of Bethesda. And the two stories are connected by the figure of a dog leaning over from the upper to peer down at the lower.

But there is a further subtext in these sublime histories. The positive subject of Charity (human and divine, the Good Samaritan and Christ) evokes the negative subject of the Pharisees' pursuance of the letter rather than the spirit of the Old Testament law. Characteristically, Hogarth connects the subject of religion with another, for him cognate, subject of the English artist (“William Hogarth Anglus pinxit,” as he signed one painting), in which the biblical law equals the rules imposed on him by academic and usually foreign art critics. The references to Pharisaic law in both of the stories he illustrates make a comment on the rules of high art as well as on those of religion and society, emphasized by the commentary of the Rahere panels. The paintings say something in favor of the artist-Samaritan, the painter as well as his subject, who refuses to follow blindly the rules of the art treatises or of patrons—and is an outcast, always an outcast. One such rule is that a painter of drolls, the Rahere of painters, does not attempt the highest genre, history painting, as Hogarth is doing in these paintings. The singular and the exemplary are conjoined: this is only Hogarth, while at the same time Hogarth wants the figure to be exemplary for other English artists. These paintings are supposed to show them how to paint in England in the 1730's; the story of the Samaritan and the priests is to show them how to avoid the rules-bound theorists of academic art.

The exemplary self-image continues from the self-portrait with Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift: Hogarth also links himself with contemporaries with whom he wishes to associate himself—primarily Fielding, but also Garrick, Sterne, and others. For example, near the bottom (or source?) of the cloud of character-heads in Characters and Caricaturas he places his own face grinning at Fielding's—and below this, in words, a reference to Fielding's preface to Joseph Andrews, where the novelist associated his “comic epic in prose” with Hogarth's “comic history-painting.”

But there is also a paranoid fiction, the equivalent of his father's story, that runs through Hogarth's works. It becomes specifically autobiographical in The Gate of Calais, a nevertheless humorous scene based on an experience during a trip Hogarth made to the continent in 1748. The animus is against the French, who had arrested him for sketching (as they suspected) the fortifications of Calais: But the scenario and the composition establish the form of his less humorous paranoia in the 1750's-60's. There is the misunderstanding of his intentions; there is the tiny, almost obliterated, figure of the artist in the background at the left, marginal to the scene of folly but about to be unjustly imprisoned, however momentarily, for this misunderstanding. This was, of course, again the story of his father, the unjustly imprisoned.

The cause of his paranoid fictions was the attacks on him by his fellow artists that began when he opposed the plan for a national academy of art. It was important for them to discredit him, the most famous living English artist, if the plan was to succeed. And some of the attacks were grossly personal as well as professional. The basis of the latter—intensified after he wrote his aesthetic treatise—was the folly of the Rahere figure who aspires to history painting, the engraver who tries to paint becoming the painter who thinks he can write.

In his last years, when Hogarth had taken an equally unpopular position in politics, the paranoid fiction took the form of actually erasing his face from the self-portrait with his pug, replacing it with Charles Churchill's bearish physiognomy to indicate that in this world of the 1760's Hogarth and all he stood for had been replaced by this. Only the pug remains, showing the same puggish disrespect we saw in the conversation pictures. In his final print, The Tailpiece of 1764, his anticipated death (and the closing of the volume of his prints) coincided with the breaking of all serpentine continuities, all Lines of Beauty, all signs of his art, by the new fashion for the Sublime in theory (Burke), painting (Reynolds), and politics (Pitt).

But the paranoid fiction, masked or inverted, concealed or displaced, had begun to appear in Hogarth's first series, his first great success, A Harlot's Progress of 1732. Here is the ostensible pattern of an innocent girl from the country drawn into the ambience of the “great,” the fashionable, the respectable, in London; turning against her own nature she imitates this “greatness,” and comes to grief while the “great” themselves go their merry way. Her initials in Plate 3 are fleshed into “Moll [or Mary] Hackabout.” The Dictionary of Cant defines “Hacks or Hackneys” as “hirelings.” “Hackney-whores, Common Prostitutes. Hackney-Horses, to be let to any body,” but also “Hackney-Scriblers, Poor Hirelings, Mercenary Writers.” “Hack” links prostitute and bookseller and thus may contain a submerged memory of Richard Hogarth, or an inscription of Hogarth's own case with the printsellers.

The personal pattern is unmistakable. Besides the public facts found in newspapers about Col. Charteris, his rape of Anne Bond, and the rest, there was also Hogarth's father, who had come down to London and tried to live by London standards as a scholar and man of letters. The lad from the north country, attempting to be a Latin scholar and schoolmaster, ends as a literary hack, an inmate of debtors' prison, and dies, driven to his death by the exploitive London booksellers, as Hogarth recalled bitterly half a century later.

Equally relevant are Hogarth's own refusal to accept his status as a silver engraver's apprentice, his rejection of his indentures, his struggle to survive against the printsellers who pirated his early plates. Subscription, the method of distribution he inaugurated with the Harlot, was aimed against the mediation of the printseller (the equivalent of the harlot's bawd), a constant threat to his livelihood.

One wonders whether Hogarth read (though one can hardly doubt that he did) Defoe's preface to Serious Reflections During the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1720), where Defoe/Crusoe affirms of Robinson Crusoe “that the story, though allegorical, is also historical,” that is a “real history”: “All these reflections are just history of a state of forced confinement, which in my real history is represented by a confined retreat on an island; and it is as reasonable to represent one kind of imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that really exists by that which exists not.” One wonders if this aim—essentially the goal of self-discovery as the finding of the self by losing the self—explains the way Hogarth felt about the Harlot's Progress, the extent to which he rationalized the “allegory” of that history as his own. The story of the closed rooms he represented in these early “progresses” that are regresses suggests the representation of “one kind of imprisonment by another.”

No English artist painted more prison interiors than Hogarth. His first major painting was of Newgate and his second of the Fleet Prison. The first was The Beggar's Opera, where the prison was not a real one but a painted set on the stage of a theater; the second was of a real prison and the House of Commons committee that was investigating its cruelty and corruption. But with his first series of invented pictures, A Harlot's Progress, he abandons all sense of play. These show a room, which appears to be a drawing room or a boudoir, that is in reality a prison. The Harlot is literally imprisoned in Bridewell, but from the second to the final plate she is in spaces that are ever more closed and confining, and these are metaphorical equivalents for the confining choice she made in Plate 1.

In 1747, Hogarth published Industry and Idleness. Contemporaries who knew Hogarth or even his London-wide reputation would have perceived an obvious parallel between the industrious apprentice and Hogarth himself, who married his own “master's” daughter—Jane Thornhill, daughter of Sir James Thornhill, Serjeant Painter to the King—and succeeded to his business, carrying on history painting, reestablishing Thornhill's academy, and defending Thornhill's reputation as a painter. The question was the degree of the Hogarthian irony. Goodchild's face, with its handsome, bland, almost sheeplike features, is idealized almost to the point of caricature. One recalls the look of self-satisfaction on his face, the heartlessly academic poses he assumes, the affected manner in which he holds his teacup (perhaps trying to emulate the manners of the West End) in Plate 6. It may be significant that Hogarth originally called him William Goodchild but, thinking better of it, changed his name to Francis.

It is, however, Tom Idle's face that resembles Hogarth's own puggish, plebeian profile, which can be seen in The Gate of Calais, in his self-portrait of a few years later, or in Hogarth Painting the Comic Muse. If only to inject enough self-irony to make the portrayal palatable in his own mind, Hogarth must have introduced some sense of himself into his opposite: he was so unlike Idle, so like the industrious one. Yet one side of him clearly sought, as he put it, his “pleasure” as well as his “studies.” “Idleness” is one of the key words of his autobiographical notes. Looking back on his time as an apprentice, both in silver engraving and in painting at Vanderbank's academy, he emphasized his idleness, saying that he required a mnemonic technique “most suitable to my situation and idle disposition”; the system he developed and wrote about (a few lines on his thumbnail expanded, back in his studio, into full figures) allowed him “to make use of whatever my Idleness would suffer me to become possest of.”

It sounds very much as if there is a humorous self-portrait included in the portrait of the other, Tom Idle, hinting at that aspect of Hogarth that kept him from finishing his apprenticeship, liked to go wenching, was deluded by illusions of ease and grandeur, and, perhaps, unconsciously associated the creative act (as opposed to the successful businessman's practice) with guilt and public execution. Perhaps it was the Harlot (and also the Rake) in him that needed to be exorcised or at least accommodated.

The ballad “Jesse or the Happy Pair” being sung by a beggar at the lower left in Plate 6 leads the spectator, in a characteristically Hogarthian reading, to the memory of earlier apprentice-master relationships that also involved the master's daughter. The “Happy Pair” refers to Goodchild and his master (“West and Goodchild” on the shop sign) as well as to Goodchild and his bride, the master's daughter. There appears to have been no such ballad, but what one remembers of the biblical Jesse is his genealogy (given twice in the Old Testament) and his son David, who married Michal, his master's daughter. Out of this marriage a distinguished tree was to grow—the Tree of Jesse, the outcome of which was Jesus himself (Isaiah 11.1-4).

But Goodchild and David were both “apprentices”: David, originally engaged in a lowly capacity as harper to King Saul, becomes his master's close companion, best friend to his son Jonathan, and lover of his daughter (in each case a “happy pair”), and finally “takes over the business” as king of Israel. Saul's anxiety over the fact that David is destined to replace him as king led to attempts on David's life and to his own eventual ruin. To secure Michal's hand David was required to slaughter a hundred Philistines for Saul, to impress whom he doubled the number. Shortly thereafter, Michal saved him from the assassins her father had sent to kill him (1 Samuel 19.11-27). Saul in fact forced her to marry another, and David only reclaimed her after Saul's death (1 Samuel 25.44; 2 Samuel 3.13-16).

If the story of his childhood in debtors' prison was one plot or myth Hogarth could not help retelling, another was the story of the boy who is adopted by a second father, presented with his dazzling daughter, and then denied her because he has not lived up to expectations (or, in Industry and Idleness not denied her—but then he has split himself into the apprentice who gets her and the other who does not). He does not write in his autobiographical notes about his marriage to the daughter of Sir James Thornhill, but this private life is precisely what he takes up in his paintings: his relationship to his wife Jane and to his father-in-law, and perhaps (by implication) to other women as well. This becomes the self-representation of his “modern moral subject” following the Harlot's Progress.

George Vertue, the contemporary engraver whose diary records much of Hogarth's career, remarked that Hogarth had married Sir James Thornhill's daughter (this was in the spring of 1729) “without his consent,” and John Nichols, fifty years later, possibly from an independent account, envisaged an elopement. Thornhill may have been disturbed by the difference in their stations, but the age difference—he was 32, she at most 20—and Hogarth's probably too convivial years on the town may also have given Thornhill pause.

There is a reconciliation story (recounted by John Nichols) in which Lady Thornhill is supposed to have restored good feeling between the generations by advising Hogarth to place some of his Harlot's Progress paintings in his father-in-law's way. In this story it is the enterprising Jane, rather than Hogarth himself, who conveys his canvases to the Thornhill dining room, acting as a sort of mediator, and persuading her father to be reconciled.

Thornhill's disapproval of the marriage had to be reconciled with his obvious fondness for his young protégé. As to Jane Hogarth, we know little about her except that she was accustomed in later years to sail into the local parish church, very much the grande dame, and that she fiercely defended Hogarth's reputation long after his death. And there is one surviving letter from Hogarth to “Jenny,” from 1749, that demonstrates both his fondness (in writing at least) and the fact that she spent much time in their country house in Chiswick while he worked in the Leicester Square house in London. The fact is that whenever Hogarth turned to history painting based on a literary text he chose a story that dealt with a trio resembling Thornhill, Jane, and himself.

A decade after his wedding, and shortly after Thornhill's death, Hogarth painted A Scene from Shakespeare's “The Tempest”: He chose Act I, scene ii, the first meeting of Ferdinand and Miranda, which also includes Prospero, who serves to introduce the two parties and to hover over the scene as playwright-magician. Ferdinand, saved from shipwreck, recalls “Sitting on a bank, / Weeping again the king my father's wreck,” and he repeats more than once the paramount fact that his father has drowned (“my drown'd father,” “the king my father wreck'd”). Prospero has befriended him and now, in the scene Hogarth illustrates, introduces him to his daughter, with whom he immediately falls in love. The parallel is obvious. Hogarth's father had spent some years in prison and emerged a ruined man to die a few years later. Then Hogarth had met Thornhill and fallen under his spell—a spell we can recognize in the influence the older painter had on his assumptions about history painting of the sort being attempted in A Scene from “The Tempest.”

But having introduced the young couple, Prospero says, aside,

They are both in either's powers; but this swift business
I must uneasy make, lest too light winning
Make the prize light.

He therefore tests Ferdinand, accusing him of treason and attempting to turn him into another wood-toting Caliban. Ferdinand, outraged, draws his sword, which Prospero's magic prevents him from raising.

                                                            O dear father,
Make not too rash a trial of him, for
He's gentle and not fearful.


                                                            Silence! one word more
Shall make me chide thee, if not hate thee. What!
An advocate for an imposter! hush!
Thou think'st there is no more such shapes as he,
Having seen but him and Caliban: foolish wench!
To the most of men this is a Caliban
And they to him are angels.
                                                            My affections
Are then most humble; I have no ambition
To see a goodlier man.

“Come on,” says Prospero; “Obey,” and of course Ferdinand does carry out such menial tasks for Prospero as gathering wood.

Miranda is the woman who has never seen a man, shown by Hogarth with her aged father Prospero behind her and a lamb nearby; and Hogarth gives her the colors of the Virgin Mary and a pose roughly like that of Mary at the Annunciation—crossed with Mary in a Nativity scene, thus relating Prospero to Joseph: a scene very like the parodic Annunciation used in the Harlot's Progress, 3 a few years earlier, applied to the Harlot as a failed Miranda.

This sounds like a witty private joke between Hogarth and his wife—though the fact that Thornhill had recently died might give one pause. Some of it sounds like a joke only Hogarth himself would have enjoyed. But the story was already present in his earliest finished painting, The Beggar's Opera (and a few years later in A Scene from “The Indian Emperor”). The plot convention parodied by Gay in The Beggar's Opera has the father-king imprisoning the hero because he is in love with the king's daughter. Captain Macheath's relationship to old Peachum is essentially the same, on a low level, as Montezuma's with the Inca or any of Dryden's rebellious tragic heroes with his king. Aspects of this fiction must have appealed to Hogarth in the years following 1728, when he had his own Polly and Mr. Peachum to contend with and was constructing his own “modern moral subject.” And he returned to it from time to time in the years to come. The question of course is: Did his interest in the story lead him to Jane or Jane (whom he would have known before January 1728 when The Beggar's Opera premiered) to the story?

The plot reappears in its most sinister form in the painting Satan, Sin, and Death, made around the same time as The Tempest, though it's safe to assume a bit later. As in the Tempest painting, Hogarth chooses the aspect of the Beggar's Opera painting that makes Polly a mediator (rather than the other aspect, or gestalt, of Macheath as Hercules at the Crossroads choosing between his two wives, Polly and Lucy), but in Satan, Sin, and Death Sin's face is turned toward her father-lover and away from her son-lover, and—subsidiary figures eliminated—the woman is now unambiguously the central figure. The context makes it clear that the father and the lover/son are fighting for the daughter. They are not only held apart by her but are contending for her favors. By emphasizing the triangular psychological relationship Hogarth has not only lifted the trapdoor on the conflicting instincts at work in Milton's scene, hitherto unnoticed by illustrators, but he has also exposed the deepest level of conflict in his Beggar's Opera and Tempest paintings, and in many of his other compositions.

The painting Sigismunda of 1759, the immediate cause of Hogarth's self-justification in his autobiographical notes, was an embarrassment from the start. There were stories about the posing of Jane Hogarth for Sigismunda and the bloodiness of Guiscardo's heart in the goblet, the object of her mourning or meditation. John Wilkes noted unkindly (after he and Hogarth had broken off their friendship) that it was Jane “in an agony of passion, but of what passion no connoisseur could guess,” and a housemaid of the Hogarths at Chiswick recalled that it was Jane grieving for her dead mother.

Hogarth cites Dryden's version of the story in his Fables. In this version, though not in any earlier one, Sigismunda and Guiscardo have not merely become lovers despite her father's disapproval, but have gotten married. That is, her crime is only marrying without her father's consent—marrying beneath her. It is a very hasty and perfunctory marriage ceremony followed immediately by their falling into bed. Secondly, Sigismunda stands up to Tancred; she is not frail, as she is in Boccaccio's version, but active. The parallel to Hogarth's own experience with Jane and Sir James Thornhill is all too precise.

Sigismunda's father Tancred selfishly sequesters her, but she falls in love with a young man

Of gentle blood, but one whose niggard fate
Had set him far below her high estate:
Guiscard his name was called, of blooming age,
Now squire to Tancred, and before his page.

Guiscardo is a young plebeian, raised up by Tancred to be his protégé, but when he discovers the youth has fallen in love with his daughter he forbids the match. Dryden recounts the story of their secret courtship under Tancred's eyes, how they steal away and are married, and how, after their marriage, they are discovered by the angry father, who kills Guiscardo and sends his heart in a goblet to Sigismunda; she fills the goblet with poison and drinks. Hogarth's persistent efforts to have the painting engraved, to show it to the public, and to sell it for an exorbitant price all suggest something of the deep personal feeling that accompanied it—exacerbated, of course, by Sir Richard Grosvenor's rejection of it (perhaps a memory of Sir James Thornhill's rejection of 1729) and by the adverse criticisms overheard at the Society of Artists exhibition of 1761, which caused him to withdraw the painting.

It may be significant that by this time Hogarth paints only the face and upper body of the woman, focusing on her face—her expression—and her hands. As he explained the painting in his autobiographical notes, he was responding to a head-and-shoulders painting attributed to Correggio, but in fact (as Hogarth sensed) by a minor follower. And here we have to ask once again: Did the “Correggio” lead him to choose the opportunity to challenge the old master, or was it the story of Sigismunda that caught his attention? The simple composition, dictated by the challenging of “Correggio,” is augmented, however, by a few symbolic objects. The heart of the lover in the goblet is balanced against Sigismunda's bracelet that bears the head of a king, apparently her father. (In his portrait of Jane he shows her holding an oval portrait of Sir James.)

There is a kind of transformational grammar in effect in Hogarth's imaginative works. Richard Hogarth is reconceived as a naive young woman trying to succeed in London. She in turn is transformed, in the Rake's Progress (1735), into a male figure, one who destroys his loved one as well as himself. But in the Rake a new figure appears, a good woman named Sarah Young, who attempts (albeit unsuccessfully) to redeem the Rake. She derives from the Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera paintings who tries (unsuccessfully, it should be noted) to mediate between her father and lover/husband. Sarah Young tries to mediate between Tom Rakewell and the outside world, paying his debts at one point and accompanying him to debtors' prison and Bedlam, in the last posing as a Mary-the-Mother of a Pietà in the Rake's final agonies.

This figure, we have to conclude, is either Jane Hogarth or simply “the wife,” as opposed to the Harlot, Hogarth himself, and all the rest. This version of the other is good, though undeniably oppressive, the Samaritan as opposed to the wounded man or his wounded dog, and she moves to the center of the picture. In his St. Bartholomew's Hospital paintings (which immediately followed the Rake in 1736) she is carried directly over into the figure of Christ (Christian Charity-Love mediating between God the Father and his fallen creation), ministering to a figure who distinctly resembles the unclothed Rakewell in Bedlam. Love as Charity is contrasted with the Eros of the nude courtesan who (presumably suffering from a venereal disease) is being thrust by her wealthy keeper ahead of the poor so she will be first into the pool.

I must pause to mention the fact that in Jonathan Richardson's book on Milton, published in 1734 and read to Hogarth's club of artists at Slaughter's Coffeehouse, Christ is presented as the “Mediator” between God and man. Also I must recall that Hogarth affixes the name of Athanasius to the wall of a madman's cell in Bedlam in Rake's Progress 8. William Whiston, also inscribed on the Bedlam wall, was notorious for his anti-Athanasian pamphlets. Given the presence of Rakewell and Sarah in the pose of Christ and Mary, Hogarth may be making an ironic reference back to Rakewell Senior (a heavy presence, though recently deceased, in Plate 1), suggesting a parodic Trinity of these three.

The argument concerning the Trinity was the most vexed of the religious controversies surrounding deism. The heretical views filled a complicated spectrum labeled Arian, Socianian, anti-Trinitarian, semi-Arian, Tritheist, and so on. Pantheism formulated three distinct gods; deism one God, with Christ a much lesser and relatively unimportant figure (though still a god), and so on. Arianism was attributed even to high-ranking churchmen like Archbishop Tillotson and John Sherlock. Milton, believing in the son as Mediator, was regarded by many as an Arian: In his own writings on the subject he pointed out that Christ himself had said there is only one God; and that if he were a mediator, “it cannot be explained how anyone can be a mediator to himself on his own behalf.”

In general all these unorthodox views held that the Holy Spirit and the Son were to be distinguished from the Supreme God and could not therefore be regarded as part of him and his omnipotence—three distinct spirits or independent minds, three different essences. Thus it is possible to see Hogarth, with his own private concerns, as he moved from the Rake's Progress into sublime history, developing a story of an omnipotent father, a son who maintains his separateness, and a spirit (female) that tries to join them; or, to take Richardson's thesis of Christ as mediator, a father, his mediating daughter, and a fallen, “low” (Rahere, pug, apprentice) son: in other words, a story about both separateness and undifferentiation; about the power and threat of the father; or about a second father who replaces, obliterates in some guilty sense, the first and real father; or about a “trinity” of separate elements, two opposed and the third attempting to mediate between them, all variants of the tension between division and union.

The figure of the woman, as mediator as well as sexual object, continues to appear in the prints about art that Hogarth published between 1736 and 1741 in which a pretty young woman (again in the pose of Polly, Miranda, or Sin) mediates between an artist and the threat of external disorder directly aimed at him by the chaotic external world. On the surface the pictures are about the beautiful woman as one form of nature (la belle nature). In The Distressed Poet and The Enraged Musician she is bridging the gap between the artist and intractable things-as-they-are: between an over-formalized artist, a poet or musician, and the subculture, underclass world of street noises, bill collectors, and hungry dogs. In the former she still carries New Testament associations, especially in the painting, in which she is in the color as well as pose of a Virgin Mary in a Nativity.

Parenthetically, we might note how the Christ child is projected in the story of “Jesse or the Happy Pair” as well as in the Nativity Scenes (Harlot 3, the Scene from “The Tempest,” as well as the Distressed Poet), and then recall the Hogarths' childlessness. In fact, the children who bore the name William and Jane Hogarth were in a sense miraculous children: they were foundlings. The orphans who were placed in London's Foundling Hospital were named after the governors, of which Hogarth was one, and there was always a William and Jane Hogarth in residence—and also, when the governors' and their wives' names were used up, a Tom Jones and Sophia Western, and so on into current fiction.

In any case, Hogarth presents a story—at least in his experiments in high art (his history paintings) and his prints about art and the artist—in which his wife Jane is the center of his world, the mediator between a poor foolish artist trying to find and impose order (trying to equal the old masters, and so on) and the threats of intractable experience, or perhaps between the father or the superego who imposes the ideal and the idle apprentice who violates it, or some such dichotomy. Either Jane has become the center of his imaginative world, or he has found a substitute for her (what he would have wanted her to be) in this figure: a Jane or a Jane-substitute.

There is another detail that has not been explained in Characters and Caricaturas: Fielding and Hogarth are grinning at each other, as if sharing a good joke. But Hogarth's head is attached to another, growing out of the back of his head, clearly indicated by the shading of his neck that joins the two faces into a Janus. No other face in the print is attached to another. This gently smiling face, the only female face shown, I take to be Jane's, and I do not doubt that Hogarth was playing on the words Jane-Janus. He is showing the other, gentler aspect of himself. For corroboration I have only the two surviving portraits of Jane, one certainly by Hogarth, the other—with the mouth of the face in Characters and Caricaturas—possibly by Sir James Thornhill.

The Janus-reference—seeing himself divided—returns us to the question of his self-representation: What does Hogarth, as a person of his time, see as the shape of a life? To judge by his “biographies” of a Harlot, Rake, and so on, he sees a life in terms of the Puritan model of conversion. But these “conversions” are parodies, not the replacement of our face by Christ's but its replacement by some fashionable model. And Hogarth did not see his own life in terms of a conversion. Rather, both his father's and his own life adapt the form, in the recounting, of a satire (or a sentimental satire), something between Juvenal's Third Satire and Mackenzie's Man of Feeling. The man of sensibility and originality is misunderstood, persecuted, and destroyed.

But then there is the other story of his split identities and the woman who tries to heal them. He seems to see himself, insofar as he allegorizes himself as the artist, with a profound ambivalence—as both Harlot-victim and Rake-destroyer/self-destroyer, as well as both industrious and idle apprentice. This is where the young woman fits in, trying to bridge in some way this antinomy. But when, as in Industry and Idleness, Hogarth has the courage to follow through, from the single plate showing mediation to the narrative account, his self-representation, beginning as bifurcation (into pleasures versus studies, industry versus idleness, order versus chaos) is then leveled out, undifferentiated until either pleasures join studies or industry is no longer distinguishable from idleness in terms of intentions, actions, or consequences.

A final example, from 1745, just after Characters and Caricaturas: The small etching called The Battle of the Pictures, which Hogarth used as a ticket for his sale of the paintings for his engravings, was an attempt to prove that his paintings were not merely modelli for his enormously popular engravings but art objects in themselves, fit to stand up against the old masters. For his ticket he adapts to art history Swift's Battle of the Books in which the moderns, materialized as their books, attack and are repulsed by the old folios of the ancients.

The question I want to ask about this print is why Hogarth chose to show two almost identical paintings, one above the other, in the lower center of the design. One is a Penitent Magdalen slashing into Harlot 3, and the other is a saint cutting into the pious old woman of Morning (the first of the Four Times of the Day). The saint is in a very similar pose, with similar altar, skull, and crucifix, perhaps merely at his devotions but parallel to the Magdalen, seemingly penitential. The first refers to the Harlot, a Magdalen who does not repent, and the second to the cold exclusive piety of the old woman, a contemporary version of a holy hermit.

The horizontal relationship between the contending ancient and modern paintings is clear enough, but the relationship is less clear between the vertical series of subjects and compositions. Hogarth never made such juxtapositions without a reason. These two canvases are placed below two scenes of revelry: a Feast of the Gods versus a brothel scene, and a bacchanal versus a drinking scene. They are scenes of revelry and penance, two and two, with the exception of the one pair of paintings that appear within the cutaway of Hogarth's house, where the painting of Marriage A-la-mode 2 is shown still on his easel (this series was not included in the sale). The opponent in this case is the Aldobrandini Marriage, sharing the subject of matrimony—the one not only antique but ideal; the other modern and a degeneration of that ideal. I suppose the other paintings could be said to represent a decline, as well as candid realism, in the modern as opposed to the ancient—if, that is, we take the classical gods and the Christian, in fact, Roman Catholic, saints to be ideals. There is the sense that these old paintings are no longer appropriate to be copied, though they remain—as they do in The Battle of the Pictures—models in terms of which the world of eighteenth-century London can be understood.

Off to the left, out of the contest between ancient and modern, are series of copies of other old master paintings: a Flaying of Marsyas (with, behind it, a row of St. Andrews and crosses) and a Rape of Europa. These must be regarded, in the context of other Hogarth prints, as emblems that inform the central action, the scene of combat. One Marsyas and one Rape of Europa are shown flying toward the fray. First there is the story of Marsyas, the underclass modern Hogarth, who challenges Apollo and is flayed for his impertinence (the opposite, by the way, of the emphasis in Pope's allusion to the story in his “Epistle to Arbuthnot” of 1735). The crucified St. Andrew offers a Christian version of the classical martyrdom. But why the Rape of Europa? Does Europa represent the continental tradition of art, the old masters, being carried away by Hogarth the bull, who is “raping” the ancients? That is the way he was seen by unsympathetic connoisseurs. Is the bull a larger version of the aggressive pug? Or is Hogarth perhaps also pairing himself and Jane in this print of 1745 as in the Characters and Caricaturas of 1743? If Europa is Jane, then the bull is once again the impatient William carrying her away from her father King Agenor—in this case by force and pursued by Agenor's son. There has been a strange sense in which Hogarth has seen his story in terms of—against the antique model of—the New Testament story of Christ, so why not set it against the story of the classical gods?

About all we can conclude is that something is being said, on some level, about Hogarth's painting and his marriage, both art and Jane, as well as about revelry and guilt accompanied by penance. And it is being said in a representation that is ostensibly only about art. The movement of Hogarth's imagination from this point on into the 1750's is relentlessly toward aesthetic theory, and the personal (“pleasures”) serves as the basis of his metaphor for his theory. But it is notable that the S-curve does not stand for self; Hogarth places his aesthetic theory, and its figure, in the other, in “Jane”; he projects his thoughts onto a woman. The ultimate end of his Beggar's Opera triangle of Macheath-Polly-Peachum is the diagram of the triangle on which is inscribed the serpentine line, Hogarth's “Line of Beauty,” on the title page of The Analysis of Beauty (1753). This figure schematizes the curves of the female body, has the head of a serpent, and is accompanied by an epitaph from Eve's fall in Paradise Lost. It “mediates” the three points of the triangle as it connects the opposing elements of architecture, decoration, pieces of furniture, and the successive positions of a dance. Within the illustrations accompanying The Analysis it is embodied in the figure of Venus or a beautiful contemporary woman, both involved in an adulterous triangle with a husband and lover.

I am not contending that Hogarth's subconscious drove him to produce these distinctive fictions, images, and finally this theory; or that they are predicated on the limitations of the discourses provided him by his society; but rather that Hogarth mythologized himself, his story, and in particular his marriage. First the story of his childhood, his father's failure and imprisonment, and then the story of his substitute father, that father's daughter, and their marriage, allowed him to chart the successful slide from the father down to the son through the mother-daughter, with his ambivalences expressed in the story of paternal opposition, rivalry, denial, and threat. It is quite possible to imagine him seeking out and selecting stories that in some sense validated or made public and respectable these elements of his personal life. He found public, accessible, ennobling (and enabling) equivalents in literature and history, and his paintings of them both drew upon and authorized his own experience.

Peter Wagner (essay date 1993)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Wagner, Peter. “The Satire on Doctors in Hogarth's Graphic Works.” In Literature and Medicine during the Eighteenth Century, edited by Marie Mulvey Roberts and Roy Porter, pp. 200-25. London: Routledge, 1993.

[In the following essay, Wagner studies popular attitudes toward the medical profession using the various representations of doctors in Hogarth's graphic texts.]


My interest in this chapter is in the ways Hogarth appropriates and handles various forms of popular texts and codes while creating his own ‘texts’. By analyzing the intertextual and intermedial nature of what are essentially palimpsests made up of visual and verbal crossings, I hope to shed some light on an aspect of popular attitudes towards doctors and, more specifically, of the mentalité behind the relations between patients and medical men and women.

In their recent study of doctors and doctoring in eighteenth-century England, Roy and Dorothy Porter dedicate an entire chapter to the analysis of ‘attitudes towards doctors’ (pp. 53-70). They concede that ‘scepticism—cynicism even—towards doctors was as old as the profession itself’ and that ‘ancestral stereotypes flourished about the ineptitude of old-style physicians and the blood-thirstiness of the traditional surgeon’, providing many examples from various discursive traditions (such as proverbs, diaries and epitaphs).1 However, as social historians, they tend to explain this phenomenon not as ‘limp cliché’ but rather as an ‘understandable response to inevitable tensions between customers and clients’.2 It is the contention of this chapter that in our necessarily slanted reconstructions of past historical periods we have overlooked the self-propelling power of discursive traditions, of ‘architexts’ in the true Genettian sense.3 Authors and artists have drawn on these traditions time and again, urging their audience to identify—and identify with—texts whose assumptions and prejudices finally constitute ways of perceiving and reacting to the world, something the historians of the Annales school have termed ‘mentalité’. I believe that this body of discursive and rhetorical forms intervened between patients and doctors in a decisive manner. If it is true that professions tend to create a ‘collective ideological carapace’, a sort of halo which is vital for conferring dignity and authority,4 it might be argued that patients, inspired and faced with a relentlessly derogatory discourse about doctors, had a very clear (if ‘wrong’) idea of physicians and quacks as a social group.5 The present chapter will try to show how this conception functions in the works of Hogarth.


Doctors6 appear frequently, if marginally, in Hogarth's graphic art. Given the realistic aspect of the Hogarthian prints, one is tempted to use them as historical evidence, to ‘read’ them, as it were, as representations of reality. It is only with the recent emergence of ‘New Historicism’, and especially in the context of re-evaluating the French Revolution, that we have begun to realize that visual representations are above all interpretations and that historians in particular have made little use of the potential evidence contained in paintings and prints.7

The ‘picture’—in a manner of speaking—gets even more complicated when one considers the fact that ‘all seeing [of works of art] is inflected by social and cultural processes’8 and that ekphrasis—that is, the verbal representation of a visual representation—continues to bother art historians.9 This is not the place to discuss the problems involved in ‘reading’ pictures, be it Diderot's seminal discussions of the Salons and Lessing's equally influential Laokoon or the explication of Hogarth's prints over the ages, from Lichtenberg, Trusler and Rouquet to Ronald Paulson.10 What we must keep in mind when looking at Hogarth's eighteenth-century scenes is, on the one hand, that they contain encoded messages in the form of interpretations of eighteenth-century reality,11 and, on the other hand, that our own mentalité interferes in any reading of his graphic art.

What makes the Hogarthian engravings fascinating is thus not so much their realistic dimension but rather the artist's ideology and hermeneutics, his satirical strategy that was both ‘true to life’ and symbolical. When Hogarth shows us doctors, they are always embedded in verbal and iconic frameworks generating meanings within a larger satirical matrix. Like Swift, Hogarth was an iconoclast, driven by the Puritan and bourgeois wish to expose vice and to reform. But unlike the more radical Dean, Hogarth remade the images he broke, the central figure of the beautiful young woman being a prime example.12 The primary themes of his graphic art are idolatry, the falsity of images, and—a consequence of the belief in idols—delusion which is apt to lead to madness. Most of his prints are dominated by these ideas. Before entering into a more detailed discussion of the texts and codes that undergird The Company of Undertakers (1737), one of his most aggressive satires on eighteenth-century doctors, I shall have a brief look at Hogarth's portrayals of and attacks on quacks and physicians as part and manipulators of the Georgian crowd, as intruders into the private sphere, and in their corporate capacity as surgeons and ‘accoucheurs’.

In one of Hogarth's early crowd scenes, Southwark Fair (1734), a quack appears almost in the middle of the picture, below the central booth covering the church tower.13 Offering a pamphlet probably praising his nostrums, the doctor is pretending to swallow fire in order to attract attention. Dressed like a clown, his zany assistant is selling the quack's medicines. I have discussed this print elsewhere in the context of public entertainments and popular plays, which provides one way of reading it.14 In fact, Hogarth had in mind a generalized satirical comment on the coarse, disorderly character of English fairs in general and of Southwark Fair in particular. It can also be seen as a coda to the madhouse scene in plate 8 of The Rake's Progress (1735), as one of the first commentators, Lichtenberg, recognized when he underlined the ‘mystical triple alliance’ in this picture of acting or pretension, quackery and love.15 For all its lively description of popular theatricals, Hogarth's scene contains an implicit criticism of the crazy atmosphere of delusion and magic, thus endorsing a view of popular fairs that was shared by major Augustan writers who expressed a moral panic about the mingling of the high and the low at the site of such annual festivities.16

As far as the quack doctor and his harlequin are concerned, what is important here is first of all the fact that they are compared to the actors on the various stages and to the criminals around them, the ultimate intention being, of course, to suggest likeness. If the puppeteers, harlequins and actors vie for public attention with their playing—that is, pretence—so do the medical men below the central stage. Hence, the print tells us, they are mountebanks or impostors. A similar message (moral corruption) emerges when one looks at the other characters they are associated with. The quack is framed, as it were, by two criminal figures. On his right, in the foreground, an actor dressed as a Roman soldier is being arrested by a bailiff, one of Hogarth's ironic hints at the major theme of pretence, appearance and reality; and on his left, also in the foreground, a pickpocket diverts a couple's attention while stealing the man's wallet. To the right of this couple, two innocent country girls, one of them resembling Moll Hackabout in The Harlot's Progress, are being taxed by a man, probably a pimp.

The context (pretending to be someone else), the situation (the public fair and its delusions), and the similarities suggested by the iconographic comparisons with actors and criminals thus characterize the medical men in this instance. Hogarth has included another visual hint, a plebeian sub-text that allows the observer to recognize the true nature of the would-be doctors. The assistant's clownish garb recalls the popular Continental stories about the medieval figure of Til Eulenspiegel, the wise jester and charlatan who enjoyed playing pranks on the good, trustful burghers.17 The other ‘architext’ that comes into play with the clown's clothes is the literature and theatrical repertoire about Harlequin. Like Punch, he was one of the most popular figures in eighteenth-century theatricals, such as ballad operas and drolls. Significantly, the harlequin played any kind of role or character to please the audience.18 Hogarth uses the harlequin's chequered dress several times in his graphic works, and especially in connection with doctors and clergymen; in each case the implication is that the person thus associated with Scaramouche or Harlequin is a manipulator who will make his audience believe in dangerous illusions.19

Although this print does not tell us the names of the quacks, we see, however, that the doctor is actively puffing his powers in the pamphlet he offers for sale. Social history has shown that in the eighteenth century medicine was literally ‘in the market-place’.20 Hogarth's graphic works repeatedly attest to this fact, although implicitly warning against both the quacks and their nostrums. Thus in the first plate, Morning … of Hogarth's series The Four Times of the Day (1738), another scene depicting a London crowd, the therapeutic power of Dr Rock's medicine is put into question by several iconic signs and details.21 On the left, two boys on their way to school are watching a peasant woman with a basket of vegetables on her head. Like two other women in front of her, she has been attracted by a quack, possibly Dr Rock himself, whose board advertises ‘Dr Rock's panacea’.22 Paulson notes that the royal arms on the quack's board indicate that his practice is sanctioned by a patent and that the panacea promises another way of escaping from the wintry cold.23 To convey the idea to the observer that this is an illusion, in fact a dangerous lie, Hogarth first situates the quack and his wares in the seamy location of Covent Garden and then aligns him with particular characters. We are watching a scene outside ‘Tom King's Coffee House’, a notorious tavern frequented by criminals, whores and rakes, and conveniently close to Mother Douglas's brothel. The doctor is thus likened to criminals and prostitutes. The lady walking to church finds herself between the quack, on the left, and the group of people, at the right, whom she regards disapprovingly. Visually, the engraving seems to equate the two groups. Hogarth urges us indeed to compare the quack and his ‘panacea’ to the love-making in front of the coffee-house. The two males (rakes or criminals) fondling the girls are trying to get warm, so to speak, Hogarth's point being that for the young women to give in to this temptation is as dangerous as to buy the nostrum of the medical seducer. As the market girls will suffer if they yield to the rakes (venereal disease or, worse, prostitution), so the buyer of Dr Rock's medicine will be dissatisfied with his purchase.

Another implication of the print is that Covent Garden is indeed the ideal location for the nostrum of Dr Richard Rock (1690-1777) to be offered for sale, for his ‘famous Anti-Venereal, Grand, Specifick Pill’, thus advertised in The Craftsman (24 February 1733),24 was supposed not only to help against the cold but also to cure venereal disease. In the final crowd scene I want to discuss here, The March to Finchley (1750, revised in 1761), Hogarth refers again to Dr Rock's pill while demonstrating the presence and importance of medical advertising in eighteenth-century London.25 Behind the drummer, at far left, a soldier is looking at an advertisement that is fixed to the wall and probably praises the usefulness of Dr Rock's medicine. The soldier is obviously trying to urinate. There is a typical ironic Hogarthian touch in this marginal scene in that the gesture of the woman in the window, above the soldier, is ambiguous: she either waves to someone or, more likely, shields her right eye from a possibly obscene view—but her fingers are not closed and do allow a peek. The soldier's grimace suggests that he is in pain, possibly caused by syphilis, and in dire need of a useful ‘pill’. The soldier may eventually purchase the nostrum to relieve his pain, but Hogarth wants the observer to know again that trusting in Dr Rock's cure is unwise and might even be dangerous. For the small marginal scene is surrounded by and thus related to criminal or immoral behaviour: thus behind the soldier we see two political schemers, a Frenchman and a Scots Highlander (the political context is the recent invasion of Scotland by Bonnie Prince Charlie); the old newspaper vendor in the centre foreground is a Papist selling seditious papers; and there are also pickpockets, thieves and an immoral gin seller. The atmosphere is dominated by promiscuity, disorder and make-belief, which all affect our ‘reading’ of Dr Rock's advertisement.

This piece of writing refers to the sub-text of a large body of paramedical literature which, as far as venereal disease and gynaecology were concerned, played upon and exploited the prurient interest of readers.26 A similar sign looms up at the right: the brothel (note the emblematical cats on the roof), where the suffering soldier in front of Dr Rock's advertisement probably caught his disease, is another Hogarthian hint at the popular satirical discourse about bawds, whores and their customers.27 One of them, Mother Douglas,28 a pious Methodist bawd from Covent Garden, appears in the lower window, clasping her hands and praying for the speedy return of her soldiers. Her prayer, Hogarth seems to imply, is as ‘moral’, trustworthy and useful as Dr Rock's notice facing her on the other wall.

As we move, with Hogarth, from the depiction of the London doctor in the crowd to that of the medical men in the private sphere of the home, we notice a change in the ‘codes’ that inform the prints. The pictorial characterization of the quack in the mob as demagogue and manipulator draws on age-old popular satires and related discourse casting physicians as useless charlatans. Hogarth's interior scenes, however, while never abandoning the appeal to the popular (satirical) notion of a ‘doctor’, seem to rely more on the traditional role of medical men in drama. It is here that Hogarth comes closest to Fielding. An early example is Plate 5 of The Harlot's Progress (1732). The poses struck by the two doctors at the left are indeed so histrionic as to remind one immediately of similar ‘doctors’ in plays by Fielding and Molière—which is exactly one of the points Hogarth wants to make.29 The two medical men shown in consultation were well known in their time for their ‘pills’ against venereal disease. The fat one has been identified as the inventor of the nostrum we saw advertised in the scenes discussed above: in the third state of this plate, the paper holding Moll Hackabout's teeth (at the right) bears the inscription ‘Dr Rock’. Richard Rock is having an argument with his no less famous French confrère, Dr Jean Misaubin (d. 1734). The inventor of a drop for prophylaxis and all kinds of VD, Misaubin was the butt of several pictorial and verbal satires, including Fielding's The Mock Doctor (1732).30

The texts Hogarth introduces here, both those that can be seen and the invisible ‘codes’ that appeal to the popular mentalité, constitute a radical if traditional condemnation of doctors and their cures. The two physicians care more about their reputation (their argument is about the therapeutic value of their pills) than about the dying patient near the fireplace. This comical point would have been familiar to contemporary observers from similar scenes in the fictional and dramatic discourse concerned with doctors. Hogarth thus merely confirms a stereotype. The iconography of the print, with two papers in the foreground and two groups of people in the background and at the left, suggests that the ‘real’ texts—Dr Rock's prescription and the medical advertisement on the floor—should be related semantically to any process of signification. Since the texts refer to or have been written by the selfish charlatans at the left, they undermine any belief in the power of medicine offered by these men: Moll's teeth on Dr Rock's paper indicate that she has taken mercury upon his advice. It was the customary ‘salivation’ cure for syphilis—the result in Moll's case is that she has lost her teeth and is about to lose her life in a painful syphilitic death. The other text in the centre foreground establishes a visual and semantic triangle with the dying Moll and her son (the maid's gesture mirrors and represents the plebeian attitude towards doctors), and the doctors, the generators of the text and its lethal consequences. The paper reads ‘PRACTICAL SCHEME’ and, with reversed ‘Ns’, ‘ANODYNE’ (that is, necklace), picturing a necklace. This refers to a widely praised panacea of the time, such anodyne necklaces being sold as cures for the pains of teething and venereal disease. The Craftsman, for instance, ran an advertisement claiming therapeutic power for ‘Children's Teeth, Fits, Fevers, Convulsions, &c. and the great Specifick Remedy for the Secret Disease’ (2 December 1732).31 Both Misaubin and Rock had such advertisements published. Hogarth generates ironic meaning here by suggesting a relation between the text of the boastful and mendacious medical advertisement and the equally deceitful medical men on the one hand, and the gullible, suffering patients on the other hand. An additional level of irony emerges when one considers that the dying harlot, trusting the medical advice given in the paper, has bought the medicine for her son too. Hogarth implies that the boy might suffer the same fate as his mother.32

In the similar death scene depicted in the final plate of Marriage à-la-Mode (1745), Hogarth creates yet another visual and semantic triangle between the signifiers on the floor (a text and an empty bottle) and the human characters arranged almost in one line, the doctor (at the right) leaving through the door and the apothecary berating an imbecile servant (at the left) because he fetched the laudanum bottle. The plate has been explained in detail by a number of commentators.33 What is important for the present context is the way Hogarth appeals to popular conceptions of doctors and thus manoeuvres the medical men into the position of culprits and selfish, heartless charlatans. As in the scene showing the harlot's death, we are reminded here of the professional rivalries (between physicians and apothecaries) with which contemporaries were familiar from newspapers and social satires. In tune with this satirical spirit, Hogarth implies that such quarrelling is always to the detriment of the patient. The gentleman physician from Westminster (his wig and sword mark his social position), who could well be imagined in a contemporary comedy, leaves a sordid form of death to be dealt with by the socially inferior apothecary. We shall encounter his typical gesture (holding the end of his cane to his nose) again in Hogarth's general satire on quacks—in this instance, the gesture is a signifier of the man's profession and affectation.

Like this fashionable and expensive doctor whom the miserly alderman may have called too late, the apothecary should be seen in relation to the physician and Lady Squanderfield's callous father. Identified by the nosegay in his buttonhole and the clyster syringe and julep in his pocket, the apothecary is a caricature and emblematically represents his trade: he is an achondroplastic dwarf. Cowley remarks that such a malformed quack would have been unlikely to charge high prices—which reflects on the selfish frugality of the alderman (he also depends upon a cheap, idiotic servant)34 who is, ultimately, as responsible for the untimely death by suicide of his daughter as the useless medical men he has called. Hogarth both underlines and deconstructs the pretension of the medical profession, upheld by social satire, by showing such signs of affectation even in the lowly apothecary. Cowley's commentary is useful here:

The sayings ‘to talk like an apothecary’, meaning to prattle, and ‘as proud as an apothecary’ indicate a proverbial self-esteem. This apothecary's little finger is crooked like those of the other affected characters in the series. His feet are arranged in imitation of the supposedly elegant attitude with one heel turned towards the inner ankle of the other foot. The attempt at gracefulness is ridiculed in the heaviness of his legs and his rough behaviour. … To have been fooled by an imbecile servant can be taken as a blow to the apothecary's characteristic pride and as a goad to his officiousness.35

As in the case of the harlot's boy, the Countess's child36 also becomes a sign in the more general sub-text condemning parents (the alderman, his daughter and her dead husband) for the sins, including diseases, they pass on to their helpless children: the brace showing under the child's dress (indicating rickets) and the ‘beauty spot’ on the cheek, which is really a venereal sore,37 tell the observer not only that Hogarth had more than a layman's familiarity with contemporary medical lore (such as treatises on children's diseases and VD).38 The child, definitely the last in this physically and morally corrupt family, suffers for the profligacy of her or his parents and grandparents. This line of disease and sinning stretches all the way back to the Earl, in the first picture, who is afflicted with gout (implying a life of excessive drinking, eating and fornicating).

Apart from the old servant woman, the imbecile servant, at the left, although formally responsible for the death of the Countess, is the only one who seems to be horrified at the selfishness of the people, including the doctors, assembled in this room. The servant's stare recalls, and finally confirms, the ominous stare of the Medusa in the first plate, a scene also dominated by greed and narcissism.39

Hogarth has also created satirical glimpses of the private sphere of a quack's office and of the dissecting-room of surgeons. As can be expected, both views contain a multitude of visual and verbal crossings that, when seen together, characterize doctors as a selfish, ignorant and cruel lot. In Plate 3 of Marriage à-la-Mode (1745) Hogarth takes us inside the house of a doctor we have already met in Plate 5 of The Harlot's Progress: it is Dr Misaubin (this time a little less emaciated than in the other satirical portrait) we see surrounded by his medical paraphernalia40 and a customer dissatisfied with the ‘anti-venereal’ pill he has received from the French quack. If the commentators on this picture agree that, although the meaning is in general clear, particulars remain open to disagreement,41 it is because Hogarth makes great demands on the observer of a truly dramatic scene.42 To decipher this palimpsest one is supposed to have not only a working knowledge of medical practice and to be familiar with the inside of an eighteenth-century doctor's laboratory, but we are also urged to consider and bring into the picture, as it were, texts about and from doctors, such as Samuel Garth's Dispensary (1706), a description of a doctor's surgery which Hogarth drew upon, earlier pictorial representations and even emblems.

Because I can refer the reader to Cowley's detailed discussion of the plate, I shall limit myself to a few remarks about the signifiers and codes establishing the pejorative meaning of the quack and his nostrums. To begin with, ‘Monsieur de la Pilule [sic]’, Misaubin's nickname, is depicted as a physically ugly character (cf. the viscount's face), a social upstart who used to practise as a barber-surgeon. Above the showcase in the back we see a glass urinal, a brass shaving-dish, and, near it, a narwhal tusk that resembles a barber's pole. A quack who was widely known (and satirized) for his conceit and pride,43 Misaubin has risen in the world as the elaborate machines and books at the left indicate. The title page of the book explains that the machines, invented by ‘Mr de la Pillule’ and approved by the ‘Académie Royal [sic]’ in Paris, are for straightening dislocated limbs and drawing corks from bottles.44 Misaubin, then, is a projector of the kind ridiculed in Swift's Gulliver's Travels. All iconographic signs suggest, indeed, that to deal with him is tantamount to a death sentence. Thus the skeletons in the cupboard, depicted in mock-amorous advances, foretell the future of the couple in front of them. Lord Squanderfield's cane, which mockingly threatens the doctor, ironically touches Misaubin's periwig, accidentally pointing at the cause of death and establishing a visual line between the skeletons, himself and the physician. The link between the doctor and death is further made by the tripod on the cupboard that resembles the triple gallows at Tyburn, and by the skull beside Misaubin, an emblem of vanitas in earlier seventeenth-century paintings, which is quite obviously marked by symptoms of ‘pox’, the nobleman's present disease. Dead crocodiles, monsters, bones and cadavers (some of them emblems of death) give the scene a flavour of pagan ritual, equating medicine with black magic and introducing the ‘dance of death’ motif (notice the seduction scene in the cupboard and the visual linking in a semi-circle of the characters), which is one of the codes Hogarth has tapped for this seemingly humorous scene.45 In fact, all forms of verbal and pictorial discourse recalled in the print (for example, paramedical works about monsters and syphilis, satires about quacks, and even Cervantes's Don Quixote46) contribute to the ultimate deprecatory view of the doctor.

To a certain extent this characterization is of course conditioned by the plebeian opinion of physicians to which Hogarth caters in several instances, and perhaps most obviously in The Reward of Cruelty (1751), an attack on the callousness of surgeons that constitutes the final plate of the series The Four Stages of Cruelty. The realistic interior shows a number of details that have been identified. In fact, what we are allowed to see is a composite made up of the Cutlerian theatre of the Royal College of Physicians in Warwick Lane and the old Barber-Surgeons' Hall in Monkwell Street.47 Among the forms of discourse generating meaning in this print, two important genres are crime literature48 and the popular satire on surgeons as a corporate group.49 Hogarth's bitter satirical point is that Tom Nero, the cruel hero of the series whose body is being dissected, has finally fallen into the hands of surgeons. Together with the barristers, surgeons belonged to the professional groups to whom satiric tradition attributes the most callous self-interest.50 If, in this instance, Hogarth depicts the sadistic pleasures of dissecting, the assembled surgeons enjoying their work as much as Tom Nero enjoyed his brutal deeds, it is because his stance is in tune with a popular mentalité shared by elite writers and the common people. Swift, we must remember, begins to undermine the reliability of his narrator on the very title page of Gulliver's Travels, where the paratext links the hero, ‘first a Surgeon and then a Captain of several Ships’, with traditional liars in travel literature and paramedical discourse.51 The plebeian attitude towards surgeons was partly conditioned by the fact that they habitually made off with the bodies of criminals hanged at Tyburn: the two skeletons in the picture, at left and at right, are those of former highwaymen. There were riots against this custom, resented by the public, and it was not until March 1752 that the law, responding to the Penlez riots of 1749, made dissection part of the official penalty the judge could impose upon certain criminals.52

Despite the overtly moral caption and the condemnation expressed in the ‘explanatory’ verses, Hogarth's print expresses some of the popular sympathy for low-life rogues while equating the academic physicians (wearing birettas and mortar board) with criminals.

It is in Hogarth's The Company of Undertakers (1737) that one can detect the conflation of various forms of predominantly pejorative discourse about doctors. A sophisticated palimpsest, this engraving demonstrates that in the Hogarthian, iconographic text can be read ‘numerous other discourses’ which ‘impose a universe’ upon it.53 The artist constantly urges the observer to activate the ‘déjà lu’,54 appealing to presuppositions of an intersubjective prior body of discourse that contains codes which contribute to the signifying practice of the engraving.55

The frame of the satire parodies the iconic and textual conventions of heraldry, subverting a number of traditional signifiers. Emblems of death surround the print.56 This coat of arms for physicians57 is contained within a black (‘sable’) border, indicative of death, and supported, as it were, on either side by two cross-bones borrowed from pirate flags and poison bottles and replacing the St Andrew's crosses. The motto is part of the frequently neglected ‘paratext’ of a work of art which comments on the meaning;58 here it is both an emblem and a text, linking the practising of doctors with Virgil's description of the killing of Trojans: ‘Et plurima mortis imago’ (and everywhere the image of death) is taken from a passage in Book II of the Aeneid (ll. 360-70) where ‘countless bodies, helpless and murdered, litter the streets, lying in houses and even in the entrances to the temples’, where ‘the victorious Danaean falls, surrounded by wailing, terror, and death in a thousand shapes’. The title, The Company of Undertakers, would seem to deal the final blow to these Quacks in Consultation (one of the titles Hogarth originally considered for the print), confirming as it does the popular notion of ‘the Georgian medical profession as playing Jack Ketch to Death’.59

As our glance moves from the frame to the inside, we notice that we need help to identify the objects and persons. This help is provided, tongue in cheek, by the explanatory text below the coat of arms. The text is itself accompanied by two footnotes, and apes the style of two famous English books of heraldry (mentioned in the notes), John Guillim's A Display of Heraldrie (1610) and Nicholas Upton's Libellus de officio militari (before 1446). The notes read:

∗ A Chief betokeneth a Senatour or Honourable Personage, borrowed from the Greeks, & is a Word signifying a Head; & as the Head is the Chief Part in a Man, so the Chief in the Escocheon should be a Reward of such only, whose High Merites have procured them Chief Place, Esteem, or Love amongst Men. Guillim. ∗∗ The bearing of Clouds in Armes (saith Upton) doth import some Excellencie.

Understanding this textual information requires a knowledge of the laws of heraldry (for example, that no colour-name be repeated). The syntax of the first sentence equates the urinal (as the first object described it is the most important part of the arms) with twelve quack heads and twelve cane heads or (that is, gold or golden) which/who are consultant.

‘Of the second’ refers to the second colour (white). Hogarth has deliberately turned the professional pyramid of physicians upside down, for the twelve respectable doctors (two were identified by J. Nichols), probably university-trained, in the centre are dominated or ruled by three well-known contemporary quacks. The twelve doctors are depicted with a typical professional gesture. They hold their gold-headed canes to their chins and noses, which suggests deep thought (ridiculed by the scatological detail of the urinal) as well as the original purpose of the cane head that contained pomander or disinfectant (for example, vinaigrette).

The background of the upper part of the escutcheon (‘ermine’) introduces what may be called ‘the French connection’.60 The word ‘ermine’ and the lilies immediately suggest the splendid coat (and the royal arms) of the French kings, the best example in painting being Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait of Louis XIV (1702). The French background is a sub-text of sorts, implying that these pompous doctors, like the French as a nation in the eighteenth century, are not to be trusted.61 Another connotation that should be considered is the waste of money and the idea of corruption traditionally associated with Versailles.

The quacks ruling the field here are a ‘compleat Doctor’; namely, the bone-setter Sarah Mapp (her cane is a huge bone), known as Crazy Sally. Hogarth refers to her with masculine pronouns, presumably because of her enormous physical strength. Equally interesting for the meaning of the print is her ‘checkie’ suit. Like the doctor's zany in Southwark Fair, discussed above, she is a harlequin, an ‘Eulenspiegel’ and mountebank, with whom people who want to remain sane and healthy ought to have no truck. The ‘demi-doctors’ at her left and right are the quack oculist John Taylor (1703), with one eye ‘conchant’ (that is, couchant) that seems to have escaped to his cane head; and Joshua Ward (1685-1761) who, after a disreputable career, began to practise medicine in 1733 and was called ‘Spot’ Ward for a port-wine birth-mark on his face (in the text below the escutcheon, ‘Faced per pale proper & Gules’ refers to this: ‘per pale’ is a vertical division into half, and ‘gules’ indicates the colour of the mark). Ward performed several ‘marvellous cures’, became fashionable in aristocratic circles, and, like ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, Mrs Mapp and James Graham, was one of the quacks and medical showmen who swaggered around in carriages and commanded public acclaim and ample fortunes.62

These three quacks were so well known that Hogarth could expect his audience to be familiar with the numerous references to them in the newspapers, in countless epigrams, songs and satires. The iconographic details of the print, suggesting the ideas of pretence, danger, deceit and—above all else—death, also allude to the fact that Ward's famous ‘Drop and Pill’, which contained antimony and arsenic, led to death in about 50 per cent of the cases.63


The Hogarthian portrayal of medical men and women was thus exclusively derogatory and pejorative. But how could it have been different in an age when almost all forms of verbal and pictorial discourse64 condemned doctors as dangerous charlatans, and when the popular mentalité, in a most telling fashion, suggested to keep the doctor away by eating an apple a day? It could be shown that in literature and art (especially in the more popular and satiric forms) ‘the doctor is an ancient cock-shy’.65 The physician as the butt of gibes and the object of derision is, in fact, an age-old ‘type’, a stereotype even, we encounter, as we move back in time, in the works of Molière and Montaigne, Cervantes and Rabelais, in the medieval fabliaux and comedies, and, ultimately, in Roman and Greek literature (the comedies of Plautus and Aristophanes), Martial's famous epigrammatic snipes being at the beginning of the recorded discourse about doctors.66 And the classics were, of course, read and revived in the ‘Augustan’ eighteenth century.

Similarly, the medical and paramedical discourse of the time was hardly likely to make patients change their attitudes towards doctors. Feuds, jealousies, demarcation disputes and downright slandering raged in the press. From the public's point of view, virtual battles were fought over drops and pills. All kinds of people suddenly decided to voice their opinions on medical issues. This created a highly competitive market, shared by learned doctors and professors, steeped in the medical lore of their day, and by tinkers and quacks who became self-styled experts overnight.67 We get a good impression of the ‘low’ origins of medicine and of the bad reputation of its practitioners in Hogarth's Night (1738), where the barber (in the window at the left) shaving a client announces his skills on a sign board: ‘Shaving Bleeding & Teeth Drawn with a Touch Ecce Signum’. In the context of eighteenth-century satire, it is typical again that Hogarth characterizes this barber-surgeon by associating him with yet another shady London location, and by juxtaposing his sign and barber's pole with the signs of houses of ill repute (‘Bagnio’ and ‘The New Bagnio’).68 When such scandals as the Mary Tofts affair broke, they merely confirmed prejudiced opinions about the charlatanerie involved in medicine, opinions that were part of the age-old plebeian suspicion of intellectuals.69 In Cunicularii, or the Wise Men of Godliman in Consultation (December 1726), Hogarth mocked not merely the credulity and attacked the connivance of those doctors and accoucheurs who had really believed in (or thought to profit from) Mrs Toft's birth of rabbits, he also condemned the gullibility of the public.70 He was later to include Mary Tofts in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (1762), his final attack on the idolatrous belief in illusions and magic.

It was partly because of such scandals, of which many ended with the patient's death, and partly because of the perennial pejorative writing about medical men, that the bad reputation of doctors continued in verbal and visual satire, informing even the smallest details of artistic representation. My last example in this context is a marginal figure in Plate 2 of Hogarth's The Times (1763).71 Behind the offenders in the pillory, Miss Fanny (the Cock Lane Ghost) and Wilkes, who are being punished for deluding or manipulating the populace, Hogarth shows us another manipulator in a low window. This is Thomas Secker, the Archbishop of Canterbury. As a favourite of George III (the King, as the figurehead of the Bute ministry, is here implicitly criticized), he had crowned and married the King. Hogarth expresses disapproval of the Archbishop's role both through the behaviour of the divine and the sign above the window. Instead of giving the cripples in front of him what they really need—water and bread—the Archbishop bestows only a blessing (through the window) on them. The inscription above him reads ‘Dr Cants ye Man Midwife’. It clearly appeals to the observer of the picture to ‘read’ this selfish and sanctimonious person within the mentalité fostered by two forms of popular discourse: the satires on clergymen (‘cant’; that is, insincere talk, stretching back in time to the Puritans); and the satirical writing about doctors in general, and man-midwives (including prurient aspects) in particular. It is such seemingly marginal details that demonstrate to what extent Hogarth drew on and played with the clichés and stereotypes of a mentalité that seems to have encompassed the plebeians as well as the elite in eighteenth-century England.72

In this he resembled Fielding.73 Although the author of Tom Jones had no reason to complain about the physicians who treated him and his wife,74 his acerbic attacks on doctors, in his farces and novels, are far more stereotyped than Hogarth's graphic satires. Exploiting the obvious advantages of images over writing and drawing on both verbal and pictorial discourse, Hogarth had at his disposition the visual power and semantic ambiguity of intermedial icons. In comparison, Fielding was much more hemmed by the conventions of those parts of discursive satire which he made his province—the farce and the satirical novel, his ‘comic epic poem in prose’. Inherited mainly from Molière, Cervantes and Roman satirists, the traditions of satirical discourse called for representative caricatures that could be immediately recognized by the audience. Fielding's doctors, incorporating all the evils of their profession, may hardly ever rise above the prejudiced view of burlesque satire, but they offer more than meets the eye at first glance.75

Upon closer analysis, the stock characters and stereotypes we meet in the works of Hogarth and Fielding prove to be neither primitive nor useless. Stereotyping has always been and continues to be an essential part of social communication, whether in literature or in everyday life.76 Stereotypes provide the ‘metaphors we live by’, reducing the anxieties and complexities of living and understanding to cognitive models and ‘new realities’ we can handle.77 From an objective point of view they may not be accurate, yet they allow us to communicate. Outstanding artists and writers like Hogarth and Fielding make us aware of the functions of stylization by playing with clichés and prejudices and by drawing our attention to the texts and sub-texts that finally constitute the images they create for us.


  1. Dorothy and Roy Porter, Patient's Progress: Doctors and Doctoring in Eighteenth-century England, Cambridge: Polity Press (1989), pp. 54, 65; see also p. 66.

  2. Ibid., pp. 55 and 57.

  3. Gérard Genette discusses this term (that is, basic literary or discursive forms used throughout the ages) within the larger context of his analysis of intertextuality or ‘hypertextuality’ in Introduction à l'architexte, Paris: Seuil (1979), pp. 86-90; and Palimpsestes: la littérature au second degré, Paris: Seuil (1982), pp. 7-14. See also his recent Seuils, Paris: Seuil (1987), pp. 7-19.

  4. Porter and Porter, Patient's Progress, p. 69, refer to ‘professionalization’ theorists who have perceived such a process.

  5. Porter and Porter believe the contrary, arguing that ‘Georgian patients had little conception of the medical profession as a comprehensive entity’; see ibid., p. 69.

  6. By ‘doctor’, a rather anachronistical term in this context, I mean any kind of professional healer. Although medical propaganda saw a tripartite professional hierarchy in the eighteenth century—from the university-educated physicians, to the manually trained surgeons, and the apothecaries down at the bottom—this hardly corresponds to reality. In fact, Dorothy and Roy Porter have shown that there was a large group of irregular practitioners, including quacks, and that ‘for the great mass of Georgian doctors, corporate affiliation was relatively irrelevant’, while ‘the divide between reputable … practitioners … and … quacks, might seem fluid and elusive’. See their Patient's Progress, pp. 18-19, 23.

  7. For a discussion of this problem, with some helpful suggestions towards a better use of ‘pictures’, see Rolf Reichardt, ‘Mehr geschichtliches Verstehen durch Bildillustration? Kritische Überlegungen am Beispiel der Französischen Revolution’, Francia 13 (1985): 511-23. Reichardt has demonstrated the usefulness of the new ways of reading pictures he suggests here in Klaus Herding and Rolf Reichardt, Die Bildpublizistik der Französischen Revolution, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp (1989).

    See also my discussion of allegedly pornographic prints in revolutionary French pamphlets and books in ‘Antiaristocratic Erotica before and during the French Revolution: Problems and Perspectives’, in Evolutions et révolutions, Suzy Halimi and Paul-Gabriel Boucé (eds), Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne (1992).

    A brief summary of the assumptions of ‘New Historicism’ (for example, that social and cultural events commingle messily and that literary and non-literary ‘texts’ circulate inseparately) can be found in the introduction (by H. Aram Veeser) to The New Historicism, H. Aram Veeser (ed.), London: Routledge (1989), pp. ix-xvi.

  8. Grant F. Scott, ‘The rhetoric of dilation: ekphrasis and ideology’, Word and Image 7(4) (1991): 310.

  9. A major subject of contention is the question whether or not there are distinctions between the codes or ‘texts’ of language and art. Are there great differences between the temporal nature of language and the spatial character of art, as Lessing maintained in his Laokoon, or do writing and the visual arts ‘cohabit’ the same representational space, as Bryan Wolf argues in his recent ‘Confessions of a closet ekphrastic’, Yale Journal of Criticism 3 (1990): 181-204? Semioticians, who eliminate the view that aesthetic value is an immanent characteristic of works of art and who thus decentre the role of the historian and of interpretation, have little difficulty in answering the question. See, for instance, Keith P. F. Moxey, ‘Semiotics and the social history of art’, New Literary History 22(4) (1991): 985-1001. But among more traditional art historians the issue remains controversial. For a discussion of the development of art criticism, ekphrasis, and the issues of signifaction, from Diderot and Lessing down to our days, see Grant F. Scott's ‘The rhetoric of dilation’, quoted above, Bernard Dieterle's study, Erzählte Bilder: zum narrativen Umgang mit Gemälden, Marburg: Hitzeroth (1988); James A. W. Heffernan, ‘Ekphrasis and representation’, New Literary History 22(3) (1991): 297-317; and David Carrier, Principles of Art History Writing, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press (1991), pp. 101-21.

  10. In addition to Dieterle's study mentioned above, see Frederick Burwick, ‘The hermeneutics of Lichtenberg's interpretation of Hogarth’, Lessing Yearbook 19 (1987): 165-89; and Klaus Herding's essay on Lichtenberg in his Im Zeichen der Aufklärung, Frankfurt: Fischer (1989): pp. 127-63. Significantly, there is no ‘Critical Heritage’ volume on Hogarth and his commentators. Given the long line of explicators, it seems high time to publish a book providing a survey of the ways Hogarth's prints have been seen over the ages.

  11. See, for instance, Uwe Böker's detailed and thoughtful study of the social background that gave rise to Hogarth's picture of the Grub Street poet, ‘“The distressed writer”: Sozialhistorische Bedingungen eines berufsspezifischen Stereotyps in der Literatur und Kritik des frühen 18. Jahrhunderts’, in Erstarrtes Denken: Studien zu Klischee, Stereotyp und Vorurteil in englischsprachiger Literatur, Günther Blaicher (ed.), Tübingen: Narr (1987), pp. 140-54.

  12. For a discussion of the Hogarthian iconoclastic aesthetics in this context, see Ronald Paulson, Breaking and Remaking. Aesthetic Practice in England, 1700-1820, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press (1989), pp. 149-203. See also my article on Swift's iconoclastic satires set in women's dressing rooms: ‘Breaking the idol woman: the Dean as iconoclast’, Anglia 110 (Sept. 1992), where in the final section I compare Swift and Hogarth.

  13. See Ronald Paulson's third revised edition of Hogarth's Graphic Works, London: The Print Room (1989), no. 131, commentary pp. 86-9. Unless indicated otherwise, all references in this article to Hogarth's engravings are to this edition.

  14. See my ‘Hogarth's graphic palimpsests: intermedial adaption of popular literature’, Word and Image 7(4) (1991), especially pp. 331-5.

  15. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche. 10. Lieferung, Göttingen: Dieterich (1808), p. 19.

  16. For an analysis of the growing importance of bourgeois repressive discourse on popular culture, see the chapter on ‘The grotesque body and the Smithfield muse’ in Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, London: Methuen (1986), pp. 80-125.

  17. It is curious that Till (or Til) Eulenspiegel never seems to have become as well known in England as he was and is on the Continent. A witty jester, he was the hero of the common people and he often made the rich burghers the victims of his practical jokes. His pranks were first recorded in Dutch around 1450 and then translated into German (Strasbourg, 1515). The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. ‘Owlglass’, notes that a ‘German jest-book [was] translated into English c. 1560’. Hogarth probably knew ‘Owlglass’, either from such an English translation or from the works of the Dutch painters and engravers. On the Continent, Eulenspiegel was revived and again popularized by Charles de Coster's French (Belgian) rendering published in 1868.

  18. On the importance of the harlequin in eighteenth-century popular plays and operas, see my article, ‘Hogarth's graphic palimpsests’; Edmond M. Gagey, Ballad Opera, New York: Columbia University Press (1937; repr. New York: Blom, 1965); Sybil Rosenfeld, The Theatre of the London Fairs in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1960); Richard Altick, The Shows of London, Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press (1978); Pat Rogers, Literature and Popular Culture in Eighteenth-century England, Brighton: Harvester Press (1985), pp. 40-71; and Roger Fiske, English Theatre Music in the Eighteenth Century, 2nd edn, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1986), pp. 67-90.

  19. See, for instance, the preacher in the pulpit of the Methodist meeting house in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (1762). Hogarth characterizes him as a deceiving and possibly satanic manipulator of a malleable audience. I have discussed this print and the figure of the preacher in ‘Hogarth's graphic palimpsests’, pp. 341-2. In addition, see ‘Crazy Sally’ in The Company of Undertakers (1737), discussed below.

  20. See Dorothy and Roy Porter, Patient's Progress, pp. 18-30.

  21. For a detailed description, see Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 104-5. The art-historical background of the series is the subject of Sean Shesgreen's detailed study Hogarth and the Times-of-the-Day Tradition, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (1983), pp. 89-155.

  22. See also the graphic satire in the British Museum, Dr Rock in Covent Garden, BM Sat. 2475; and Hogarth's The March to Finchley and Plate 4 of The Harlot's Progress, discussed below.

  23. Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 105.

  24. Quoted in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 82.

  25. For a detailed commentary, see Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 141-5.

  26. I have discussed the erotic and partly pornographic dimension of this discourse in my Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America, London: Secker & Warburg (1988; repr. Grafton, 1990), pp. 8-47.

  27. See my Eros Revived, pp. 133-45.

  28. She also appears in Hogarth's Industry and Idleness (Plate 11) and Enthusiasm Delineated (1761), the first state of Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (1762).

  29. My discussion relies in part on Paulson's commentary in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 82.

  30. See also A. Pond's etching, Prenez des pilules (1739), which is based on a portrait-sketch by Watteau: British Museum Sat. 1987.

  31. Quoted in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 82. On the necklace, yet another example of those Hogarthian signifiers that refer to lost discursive traditions, see Francis Doherty, ‘The anodyne necklace: a quack remedy and its promotion’, Medical History 34(3) (1990): 268-93.

  32. Paulson, in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 82, suggests that Moll might also be trying to treat her own disease in the child, parents passing their ‘sins’ on to their children in the form of such diseases being one of Hogarth's themes (cf. Plate 6 of Marriage à-la-Mode).

  33. See Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 122-4; Robert L. S. Cowley, ‘Marriage à-la-Mode:’ A Re-view of Hogarth's Narrative Art, Manchester: Manchester University Press (1983), pp. 146-60; William Hogarth: Der Kupferstich als moralische Schaubühne, Herwig Guratzsch and Karl Arndt (eds), Stuttgart: Hatje (1987), pp. 132-3; and William Hogarth. Das vollständige graphische Werk, Berthold Hinz and Hartmut Krug (eds), 3rd edn, Giessen: Anabas (1988) pp. 134-5.

    See also my discussion of the ‘last dying speech’, on the floor, in the context of Hogarth's treatment of crime literature in ‘Hogarth, eighteenth-century literature, and the modern canon’, Proceedings of the Anglistentag 1990 Marburg, Claus Uhlig and Rüdiger Zimmermann (eds), Tübingen: Niemeyer (1991), pp. 456-80.

  34. Marriage à-la-Mode, p. 149.

  35. Ibid.

  36. Some doubt exists over the sex of the child. Paulson (p. 123) and Sean Shesgreen, Engravings by Hogarth, New York: Dover (1973), commentary on Plate 56, think she is a girl; Cowley (p. 150) argues the child is a boy.

  37. For a detailed analysis of these ‘signs’, see Fred Lowe's recent article ‘Hogarth, beauty spots and sexually transmitted disease’, British Journal for Eighteenth-century Studies (1991).

  38. Lowe notes that at the time Hogarth was producing his prints, the influential works of Jean Astruc, Regius Professor of Medicine in Paris and physician to the King of France, were translated into English. See, for instance, Astruc's A General and Compleat Treatise on all the Diseases Incident to Children, London (1746); and the later Treatise of Venereal Disease (1754).

    See also the more sensational treatises on VD, which catered to prurient interests, discussed in my Eros Revived, pp. 16-46, 326-32.

  39. On the role of the Medusa in Western culture, see the useful study by Jean Clair, Méduse. Contribution à une anthropologie des arts du visuel, Paris: Gallimard (1989), especially ch. ix, ‘L'évidence de Narcisse’.

  40. For an identification and discussion, see Cowley, Marriage à-la-Mode, pp. 88-99.

  41. See Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 119-20; and Cowley, Marriage à-la-Mode, pp. 82-99.

  42. For an analysis of the dramatic aspect of the series that stresses the resonances between the plates, see Lance Bertelsen, ‘The interior structures of Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode’, Art History 6(2) (1983): 131-42.

  43. Paulson, in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 119, notes that Fielding mocked him in Tom Jones, Book xiii, ch. 2, when he wrote that Misaubin ‘used to say, that the proper direction to him was, “To Dr Misaubin, in the World”’.

  44. The grammatical mistakes in the text (it should be ‘l'une’, ‘les épaules’, ‘inventées’ and ‘Royale’) suggest either that Hogarth wanted to ridicule Misaubin's bad spelling and thus expose his pretence or, more likely, that Hogarth's French was as poor as that of some modern commentators (cf. the mistakes in Paulson and Cowley).

  45. See Lance Bertelsen, ‘The interior structures’, p. 137. On the eighteenth-century view of the doctor and death within the long Western history of ‘the culture of the Dance of Death’, see Roy Porter, ‘Death and the doctors in Georgian England’, in Death, Ritual, and Bereavement, Ralph Houlbrooke (ed.), London: Routledge (1989), pp. 77-94.

  46. Paulson, in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 120, connects some of the utensils on the cupboard—the barber's basin, the sword/lance, buckler and spur—which apparently refer to Don Quixote's ‘chivalric’ fight.

  47. See W. Brockbank and J. Dobson, ‘Hogarth's anatomical theatre’, Journal of the History of Medicine 14 (1959): 351-53; and Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 151.

  48. For a discussion of the engraving in this context, see my article ‘Hogarth, eighteenth-century literature, and the modern canon’.

  49. Another sub-text is Hogarth's satire on the tradition of dissecting scenes in high art: see Paulson's commentary, including critical literature, in Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 152.

  50. Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 152.

  51. See my discussion of the highly intertextual and intermedial paratext (the title, the letters of the ‘editor’ and ‘author’, and the title page) of Gulliver's Travels in ‘Swift's great palimpsest: intertextuality and travel literature in Gulliver's Travels’, Dispositio. American Journal of Semiotics and Cultural Studies, special number: Crossing the Atlantic: Travel Literature and the Perception of the Other, Ottmar Ette and Andrea Pagni (eds) (1992).

  52. See Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 151. Paulson notes that Field was also a pugilist. In addition, see Peter Linebaugh, ‘The Tyburn riots against the surgeons’ in Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England, Douglas Hay and P. Linebaugh (eds), Harmondsworth: Penguin (1977), pp. 65-119; and his recent The London Hanged: Crime and Society in the Eighteenth Century, London: Allen Lane (1991).

  53. See Julia Kristeva, Sémeiotiké, Paris: Seuil (1969), p. 225; and La Révolution du langage poétique, Paris: Seuil (1974), pp. 388-9. Although Kristeva is concerned with ‘poetic utterances’, her statement is equally applicable to Hogarth's images, which can be considered as ‘pictorial utterances’.

  54. See Roland Barthes, S/Z, Paris: Seuil (1970), p. 16.

  55. On this appeal of authors/artists to the reader/observer, see Jonathan Culler, ‘Presupposition and intertextuality’, in his The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, and Deconstruction, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (1981), pp. 100-18, especially pp. 101-3.

  56. M. Dorothy George, Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphic Satire, London: Allen Lane (1967), p. 36.

  57. For discussions of the details see Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 100-1; N. B. Gwyn, ‘Interpretation of the Hogarth print “The arms of the Company of Undertakers”’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 8 (1940): 115-27; and the catalogue, William Hogarth, Hinz and Krug (eds), pp. 167-8.

  58. For a detailed discussion of the functions of this ‘paratext’, including the motto, see Gérard Genette, Seuils, Paris: Seuil (1987), pp. 134-50.

  59. See Roy Porter, ‘Death and the doctors in Georgian England’, p. 78.

  60. See E. Ch. Barschall, Die Werke von William Hogarth, Brünn and Vienna (1878), p. 13, quoted in the catalogue William Hogarth, Krug and Hinz (eds), pp. 167-8.

  61. On the general dislike and caricaturing of Frenchmen in eighteenth-century England, see Michael Duffy, The Englishman and the Foreigner, Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey (1986), especially pp. 31-9, ‘The supreme bugaboo: the French’, and Plate 61 in this collection of graphic satires: ‘Mour le médecin’.

  62. See Roy Porter, ‘William Hunter: a surgeon and a gentleman’, in William Hunter and the Eighteenth-century Medical World, W. F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1985), p. 20. On the sexologist James Graham, see Porter's articles, ‘The sexual politics of James Graham’, British Journal for Eighteenth-century Studies 5 (1982): 201-6; and ‘Sex and the singular man: the seminal ideas of James Graham’, in my collection of essays published in Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 228 (1984): 1-24.

  63. See Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 101, where Paulson quotes additional critical works about Ward.

  64. See, for instance, the anonymous print The Quacks (17 March 1783) showing the famous quack doctors, James Graham and Gustavus Katterfelto. In addition, see Kate Arnold-Forster and Nigel Tallis (comp.), The Bruising Apothecary: Images of Pharmacy and Medicine in Caricature, London: Pharmaceutical Press (1989); and the caricatures of doctors in John Brewer, The Common People and Politics 1750-1790s, Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey (1986), no. 101 (BM catalogue 3909, Sept. 1762): ‘The state quack’; and no. 10 (BM catalogue 2598, 1743): ‘Doctor Rock's political speech to the mob in Covent Garden’; Paul Langford, Walpole and the Robinocracy, Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey (1986), no. 41 (BM catalogue 2268, c. 1735); and the caricature of a French doctor in Michael Duffy, The Englishman and the Foreigner, no. 61.

  65. M. Dorothy George, Hogarth to Cruikshank, p. 36.

  66. See ibid., where M. D. George provides some quotations from a first-century Greek epigram down to Wellington's remark, ‘all doctors are more or less quacks’.

  67. There is a voluminous body of critical literature on the development of medicine, including quackery, in eighteenth-century England. Porter and Porter, in their Patient's Progress, provide useful surveys: see pp. 208-15; and especially the bibliography, pp. 250-84. In addition, see Antonie Luyendijk-Elshout, ‘Of masks and mills: the enlightened doctor and his frightened patient’, in The Languages of Psyche: Mind and Body in Enlightenment Thought, G. S. Rousseau (ed.), Los Angeles: University of California Press (1990), pp. 186-233; and, aiming at a wider readership, Guy Williams, The Age of Agony: The Art of Healing c. 1700-1800, London: Constable (1975).

    Also useful are G. S. Rousseau's collections of essays (published in various journals over the last twenty years) in Enlightenment Borders: Pre- and Post-modern Discourses: Scientific and Medical, Manchester: Manchester University Press (1991); and Perilous Enlightenment: Pre- and Post-modern Discourses: Sexual, Historical, Manchester: Manchester University Press (1991).

    On the erotic dimension of medical and paramedical publications of the time, see my Eros Revived, 8-17, and the notes 323-32; and Roy Porter's ‘Love, sex and medicine’, in my Erotica and the Enlightenment, Frankfurt: Lang (1991), pp. 90-123.

  68. For details of the print, see Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 106-8.

  69. In this context, see Menken's De la charlatanerie des savans [sic], The Hague (1721), which has a telling frontispiece and vignette.

  70. The case of the ‘Rabbit Woman’ from Godalming attracted considerable attention in the autumn of 1726, with newspapers, pamphlets, satires, cartoons, and even a theatrical scene (in Harlequin the Sorcerer), commenting on the illiterate woman who claimed she had been delivered of several rabbits. The ‘doctors’ involved naturally published their own accounts too. Sir Richard Manningham, the best known man-midwife of the day, finally discovered the imposture.

    For a discussion of the partly prurient and obscene literature about Mary Tofts, see my Eros Revived, pp. 42-6.

  71. For a commentary, see Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 181-2.

  72. For a discussion of the range of the popular mentalité vis-à-vis E. P. Thompson's thesis of the people's authentic popular culture, see my article ‘Hogarth's graphic palimpsests’, Word and Image 7(4) (1991): 341-3.

  73. See the comparative study by Peter Jan de Voogd, Henry Fielding and William Hogarth: The Correspondences of the Arts, Amsterdam: Rodopi (1981).

  74. For details, see Porter and Porter, Patient's Progress, pp. 104, 110-12, 177.

  75. For examples of descriptions of doctors in Fielding's works, see The Mock Doctor or The Dumb Lady Cured (1732), derived from Molière's Le médecin malgré lui and dedicated to ‘Dr John Misaubin’; and the satirical attacks on doctors in Joseph Andrews (1742): Book I, chs 12, 15; Tom Jones (1749): Book IV, ch. 14; Book V, chs 7-9; and Book VIII, ch. 3; and Amelia (1751): Book V, ch. 2, of the first edition.

  76. For discussions of the importance of clichés and stereotypes in literature, see Manfred S. Fischer, ‘Komparatistische Imagologie. Für eine interdisziplinäre Erforschung national-imagotyper Systeme’, Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie 10 (1979): 30-44; the special number of Komparatistische Hefte 2 (1980) on ‘literarische Imagologie’; and the volume of essays edited by Günther Blaicher, Erstarrtes Denken: Studien zu Klischee, Stereotyp and Vorurteil in englischsprachiger Literatur, Tübingen: Narr (1987).

  77. See Anton C. Zijderveld, ‘On the nature and functions of clichés’, in G. Blaicher (ed.), Erstarrtes Denken, pp. 26-41; George Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago and London: Chicago University Press (1980); and Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind, Chicago and London: Chicago University Press (1987). See also Ruth Amossy, Les Idées reçues. Sémiologie du stéréotype, Paris: Nathan (1991).

Mary Klinger Lindberg (essay date 1995)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Lindberg, Mary Klinger. “Stylistic Strategies in William Hogarth's Theatrical Satires.” In The Question of Style in Philosophy and the Arts, edited by Caroline Van Eck, James McAllister, and Renée Van de Vall, pp. 50-69. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Lindberg examines Hogarth's technique of borrowing narrative and satiric strategies from eighteenth-century theater in his paintings and engravings.]

The study of rhetorical or persuasive strategies in literary works is now well established. Less known are the stylistic strategies at work in the domain of graphic art. What is the relation between stylistic strategies in these different domains? Are they specific to graphic art, or are they common to modes of expression in general? And what is meant by ‘stylistic strategy’?

One approach to answering these questions is to focus on the use of theatre in the arts. It is well known, for instance, that novelists like Henry Fielding in the eighteenth century, and Charles Dickens in the nineteenth century, used theatrical conventions in their work, incorporating experiences at the theatres, critiques of actors and acting, and elaborate use of gesture and expression.

Turning to representational art, there is a similar generalised use of theatre as subtext on at least two levels, one as subject and the other as visual persuasion. One thinks of Daumier, for stage moments and portrayals of actors and audiences, for example, and Watteau, for a deeper sense of rhetorical theatricality in outdoor scenes.

Not much work has been done to explore the nature of such interconnections in art and the theatre, links which in the case of the English artist William Hogarth (1697-1764), reflect both his artistic and theoretical roots in the eighteenth-century rococo style, as well as his manipulation of conventions to postulate his own theory of beauty. Richard Wendorf, who considers Hogarth ‘the century's most literary artist’, coins the term ‘iconicism’, which covers verbal or literary motifs in visual portraits. However, his focus is on portraiture in art and literature.1 Hogarth's stylistic strategy is to borrow extensively from accepted devices of the eighteenth-century theatre—its dynamic stage and acting commonplaces, and a storyline of satirical fictions, for example—and incorporate them into a static, pictorial form.

To some the word strategy implies a temporal sequence of intentions and actions and therefore might not seem applicable to print or text, although this is arguable for Hogarth's work, since he created ‘progresses’ or series of prints to show temporal sequence. Some might consider Hogarth's setting out to convince the public of his opinions by creating a series of prints to be stylistic strategy. These are indeed all valid uses of the term with regard to Hogarth. However, what I define as stylistic strategy in this chapter is (1) a visible feature of the graphic works themselves, the choice of motives and devices Hogarth's prints display, and (2) his particular way of converting ideas into graphical forms. Moreover, I consider it ‘stylistic’ rather than rhetorical because of the pervasiveness of the use of the theatre in Hogarth's work and writings.

He is not simply creating a group of prints that deal with the theatre as a theme and incorporate conventions of gesture or signs shared between the arts of stage and print. Rather, Hogarth consciously makes the effort to have his scenes considered as stage works. He declares this in his autobiographical notes and in other places. For example, to proclaim his new strategy of representation, a variation of the accepted modes of history painting, Hogarth in his writings repeatedly utilises stage comparisons and posits dramatic analogies.

His stylistic strategy in the theatrical satires is to create a picture using theatrical constructs or parts thereof to express his convictions about taste in graphical form. In one case, indeed, he uses a verbal structure from the stage world to frame his picture—a playbill.

I have found a proactive reliance on stage topics, themes and devices in over 50 per cent of Hogarth's lifetime graphical output. His persistent use of theatre in pictures is supported in his commentary by pointed verbal references to London staged events. It is a primary source. When Hogarth might turn to earlier painters, sculptors or others, social or historical, in his writings, he emphasises the English theatre, closely observing and commenting on practical details of costuming, dance, and acting practice as well as Shakespearean scenes.

It could be argued that Hogarth's concerns with social customs, religion, mores and morals were, at the least, as ubiquitous in his work. However, enough specific evidence exists of theatrical themes and forms in over half his graphic works, I believe, to use the word style in this context.

It is Hogarth's unique contribution to eighteenth-century art to employ theatrical subtexts so pervasively. Other artists did not integrate the theatre in this closely woven manner; they were more interested in the use of theatrical trappings for embellishing portraiture, for instance. However, in the nineteenth century, linkages between theatre and art experienced a more aesthetic focus.

Marvin Meisel has looked at conjunctions of narrative, pictorial and theatrical arts in nineteenth-century England in his book Realizations—Narrative, Pictorial and Theatre Arts in 19th Century England.2 He points to a special use of pictorial allusion onstage called ‘realizations’. He takes the word from stage scripts, where actors and actresses were directed pointedly to arrange themselves in a way that would ‘realize’ a specific painting. ‘Realizations’ were aimed at spectacular not ‘thematic’ enrichment. Further, he observes that these ‘shared structures in the representational arts’, i.e. painting and acting, helped constitute ‘not just a common style, but a popular style’ in the nineteenth century (p. 93). They also represent a more aesthetic approach.

Looking back to the eighteenth century, Meisel observes that Hogarth's pictures on the walls in his series ‘Marriage à la Mode’ (1745) were not ‘realizations’, but rather ‘visual emblems’. More than emblems, I would argue, these paintings, consciously chosen and depicted by Hogarth, amount to a literary and theatrical device analogous to the play-within-the-play (here paintings-within-a-painting), where they provide thematic point and counterpoint to the action in the rooms they decorate. Hogarth was extremely adept at integrating myriad aspects of the theatre in his art for rhetorical and persuasive purposes to a greater extent than Meisel credits him.

Indeed, I contend that the strong interplay of theatre and art in a majority of Hogarth's graphic works constitutes a stylistic strategy, one that visual artists such as Watteau and Daumier or Picasso may partake of at times, but in Hogarth's case, it is formidable enough to command special notice. His extensive writings on the London stage and theatrical world, especially in his only book, The Analysis of Beauty (1753), underscore the significance of this stylistic mode in his work.3 In a major number of graphic works he uses theatre as a subject, but also weaves many signs of theatrical presentation in his scenes.4 Rooted in the eighteenth-century theatre and its world, these techniques are particularly useful in the domain of pictorial satire as he critiques theatrical taste and contemporary London entertainments in the early eighteenth century.5 This chapter will explore how these strategies work in four of his satires.


Grant Sampson has shown that shifts in Hogarth's iconography of Nature and Time over his lifetime reveal an awareness of ambiguities in the eighteenth-century tradition of satire. The vision becomes complex and even ‘dark’.6 Ambiguities in Hogarth's moral vision and satire have also been noted by Joel Blair and Ronald Paulson.7 However, in three early prints of the 1720s and a drawing from the 1740s, Hogarth is unambiguous in attacking the ‘follies’ of public taste.

In these works, he argues with theatrical taste, decrying inattention to traditional English dramatic literature. I call these scenes ‘theatrical satires’. The term has been defined by Samuel Macey in a literary mode as ‘all plays which ridicule their own medium’ from Buckingham's Rehearsal (1671) to Sheridan's The Critic; or, A Tragedy Rehearsed (1779).8 Into this genre fit Fielding's The Author's Farce (1730) and Eurydice Hissed (1737), among others.9 Hogarth's pictorial theatrical satires offer similar strategies of commentary, as he targets taste and judgement of authors, managers, and the public. Moreover, his four satires go beyond criticism of staged plays to attack operas, pantomimes, and masquerades—all part of the whole show from the ‘First Music’ to the afterpiece that theatregoing Londoners enjoyed and grew to expect in the eighteenth century.

Specifically, in Masquerades and Operas (1723/4) and Masquerade Ticket (1727), Hogarth criticises the public's attraction to evenings of disguise and entertainments emphasising purely spectacular effects; in A Just View of the British Stage (1724), he unsympathetically portrays theatre managers catering to the pantomime rage in the guise of staging a show himself. In Charmers of the Age (1740/1), he makes ludicrous the London popularity of European ballet dancers.10 The three prints and drawing fall into a satiric mode defined by Blair as ‘direct didactic statement’, whereby rhetorical pressures force a rejection of the objects under attack.11

In these scenes, Hogarth expresses concerns similar to those of such literary and social satirists as Pope, Addison and Steele, and dramatic satirists Buckingham, Gay, and Fielding. Their targets, like Hogarth's, were attitudes of playgoers who treated theatres ‘merely as places of fashionable entertainment’, as well as theatre managers and playwrights whose goal was to satisfy the taste of the town regardless of standards.12 Hogarth is no different in his theatrical satires.

Hogarth's satiric style is also highly literary and dramatic. To clarify a point or enhance irony, he adds verbal/textual elements to his portrayals—verses, tags, subtitles, playbills, book titles. Through this satiric subtext, he extends his own medium as versifier, playwright-manager, and critic of dramas, theatre management, and continental choreography. His own newspaper advertisements are part of this subtext as well. His primary strategies in these prints consist of (1) the visual use of theatrical conventions and stage forms as fictions (2) drawing illustrative examples of his own theory of humorous effects, and (3) calling upon the shared base of cultural knowledge within his audiences. The satiric contrasts are enhanced since his patrons, i.e. spectators and consumers, shared an awareness of the theatrical values and conventions depicted in these graphic scenes. As Shirley Strum Kenny has shown, the lively interplay of theatre and visual arts in this period was a cultural commonplace.13

We will look at the prints in detail to see how these strategies operate.


Announced as ‘The Bad Taste of the Town’ in periodical advertisements by Hogarth, Masquerades and Operas appeared in early February 1723/4 (HGW [Hogarth's Graphic Works], 47). In the 1760s, Hogarth described this ‘first plate’ as one wherein he ‘lashed’ the ‘then reigning’ follies.14 By choosing a theatrical subject for the first engraving he published, Hogarth shows himself an enterprising artist and an alert playgoer fighting for literary and theatrical standards. He must have been confident that his print buyers would be interested too, since they shared the same entertainment experiences.

With Masquerades and Operas in particular, Hogarth adds his views to the many printed attacks on the pantomime craze, peaking from 1723 to 1725. As G. Winchester Stone, Jr points out, this ‘rage for opera, pantomime, masquerade and raree show’ gave both authors and artists opportunity to ‘bewail decay in taste’ and to look for a return of the ‘dramatic giants of the past’.15 All these elements appear in Hogarth's print.

He depicts crowds of Londoners as they rush or are drawn to operas and the midnight masquerades organised by Heidegger, who leans out of a building. This Swiss impresario was famous not only for his ugly features, but for the masquerades and late night shows he produced. In 1728 Fielding ironically dedicated his first published poem, ‘The Masquerade’, to him, and like Hogarth earlier, he critiques public taste, especially that of the women.16

The first state of Hogarth's print was accompanied by the following verses, presumably Hogarth's own, where he asks

Could new dumb Faustus, to reform the Age,
Conjure up Shakespeare's or Ben Johnson's Ghost,
They'd blush for shame, to see the English Stage
Debauch'd by fool'ries, at so great a cost.
What would their Manes say? should they behold
Monsters and Masquerades, where usefull Plays
Adorn'd the fruitfull Theatre of old,
And Rival Wits contended for the Bays.

(HGW, 47)

His graphic scene expands on this commentary, illustrating a rampant enthusiasm for pantomimes and masquerades as crowds strain to see John Rich's Harlequin Doctor Faustus on one side of the street. On the other, a masked, costumed queue is literally (but not unwillingly) roped in by a satyr and fool. The bulging queues profile the potency of the public's addiction to Heidegger's masked balls, conjurer shows, and pantomimes.

Above the maskers hangs a showcloth. In it Hogarth lashes at the current rage for opera by depicting Francesca Cuzzoni, the famous soprano of the day, literally raking in money offered her by three noblemen (HGW, 47). The abandonment of ‘usefull Plays’ is explicit, as the works of Congreve, Dryden, Otway, Addison, and Shakespeare are carted away in a wheelbarrow with their destination: ‘Waste paper for Shops’. The theme of Hogarth's satire concurs with contemporary criticism. As Emmett Avery noted, the success of pantomime entertainments was unquestionably great; they set new records and dominated legitimate plays.17 Satirical attacks attempted to diminish the value of such shows, and Hogarth's role in this pattern is unequivocal. As M. D. George observes, the first print Hogarth published on his own account illuminates two standard themes which long prevailed: the ‘neglect’ of drama for spectacle, and ‘resentment at large sums paid to foreigners’.18


He targets the sexual motivations of masquerades in Masquerade Ticket (see HGW, 70-1).19 Specifically the print marks the accession of George II, and criticises his royal endorsement of masked balls (HGW, 70).20

George II, Heidegger's patron as Prince of Wales, now as King, made him Master of Revels. Public opposition to masquerades was quite widespread in 1726, but no parliamentary legislation was passed to suppress them; only lip service was paid to their deleterious effects. Heidegger himself was indicted in 1729 as arch promoter of vice and immorality, but the masked evenings continued. The only concession to the popular outcry was to change the name to ‘Ridotto’.21 Thus James Bramston in 1733 wrote: ‘if Masquerades displease the Town, / Call'em Ridottos, and they still go down’.22 Wheatley notes that Hogarth's Ticket shows the ‘interior of a large room which serves as a vestibule’ to the chamber where the masquerade is held.23 It may be intended as Heidegger's ‘Long Room’, the destination of maskers in Masquerades and Operas.

Like Hogarth, contemporary poets and playwrights focus on the lascivious opportunities and, particularly, adulterous assignations offered by such occasions. Indeed, one poet describes an ironically happy flirtatious meeting of a man and wife in disguise.24 Playwrights were fond of staging a scene, as Charles Johnson does, in ‘a Masquerade-Room in Imitation of that in the Hay-Market’ with ‘several People in Masquerade’ (The Masquerade, 1719).25

Hogarth employs pictorial devices and emblems, some rather original, in his Masquerade Ticket. The lion and unicorn lying on their backs (on either side of a clock with the face of Heidegger on its dial) allude to George II's patronage of masquerades.26 The large room is flanked by the signs ‘Supper below’ on either side, the ‘pair of Lecherometers’, and the altars and distorted statues of Priapus and Venus/Cupid. The emblematic furniture emphasises the mechanical nature of lechery at these affairs, which in turn discloses the dubious pleasure of the masquerade itself. For instance, the left ‘Lecherometer’ indicates degrees of potential ‘Expectation Hope Hot desire Extreem Hot Moist Sudden Cold [sic]’, while the one on the right indexes ‘Cool Warm Dry Changable Hot moist Fixt [sic]’.

Stage treatments speak frankly of the enterprising sexual intrigues made possible by these events. The opening dialogue of Johnson's The Masquerade attributes the origin of the custom to the refined class. In Benjamin Griffin's two-act comedy of 1717, The Masquerade; Or, an Evening's Intrigue, onstage in a ‘large Room for the Masquerade’, a ‘Reveller’ comments:27

Well, to carry on an Intrigue with an Air of Secresy, to debauch a Citizen's Wife, or steal an Heiress, what Contrivance in the World so proper as a Masquerade? We are allow'd to be satyrically rude to our Superiors, free with our Neighbours Wives, and talk lasciviously to the Sex in general, delighting their Fancies without the Expence of a Blush [sic].

Hogarth's satiric strategy in these prints of the 1720s uses stagelike settings, indoors in the Ticket, and outdoors in Masquerades and Operas, to expose the pernicious aspects of vizard evenings. He underscores what are to him negative aspects of such public entertainments by adding visual emblems and verbal subtexts. Not long after, he calls upon all of these strategies in his satire of theatre management, A Just View of the British Stage.


In this print Hogarth devises an original mock playbill that advertises a rehearsal of his own ‘new Farce’ titled ‘Scaramouch Jack Hall’. He thus adds to pantomime criticism a visual satire on theatre management. Both visual and verbal elements in the playbill itself attack the Drury Lane managers and the London populace for catering solely to pantomime extravaganzas without regard to more serious and ‘usefull Plays’.

The playbill exemplifies Hogarth's strategy of using a particular theatrical form which becomes a fiction of his satire to convey criticism. In this case layers of theatrical values are embedded in the two-part form he gives to the playbill, a picture with an accompanying inscription beneath. His title, visible above the print, taps the contemporary pulse of theatre productions, stating: ‘A Just View of the British Stage, or three Heads are better than one, Scene Newgate, by: M D-V-to.’28 The ‘three Heads’ refer to managers Colley Cibber, Barton Booth, and John Wilks; DeVoto was a known scene painter; and the Newgate prison ‘Scene’ refers to a contemporary Drury Lane pantomime production.

Most spectators would recall John Thurmond's Harlequin Sheppard (performed 28 November 1724), when Cibber and his colleagues created a harlequin story based on a criminal executed that year. In spite of the notorious topical exploitation, their pantomime failed, closing after seven performances.29 Hogarth here contributes to the lively discussion excited by the rivalry between drama and pantomime that accelerated in the early 1720s when playwrights denounced the spectacles, and dramatic satirists ‘ridiculed the follies of the stage’, often attacking theatre managers.30 Paulson observes that one barb of Hogarth's Just View is the managers' attempt to outdo Rich in folly, and that the artist comically contrasts ‘their high-flown pretensions’ with their own ‘real pandering’ (HGW, 55). But I think Hogarth's target may be broader, extending to the palace walls, an idea that close scrutiny of his own playbill suggests. To see this at work, we need to look closely at Hogarth's substantial bill of fare, which includes his own favourite dance, the hay. Here is the text of his playbill in full:

This Print Represents the Rehearsing a new Farce that will Include ye two famous Entertainments Dr. Faustus & Harlequin Shepherd to wch will be added Scaramouch Jack Hall the Chimney-Sweeper's Escape from Newgate through ye Privy, with ye Comical Humours of Ben Johnsons Ghost. Concluding wth the Hay-Dance Perform'd in ye Air by ye Figures A, B, C, Assisted by Ropes from ye Muses. Note, there are no Conjurors concern'd in it as ye ignorant imagine. The Bricks, Rubbish &c. will be real, but the Excrements upon Jack Hall will be made of Chew'd Gingerbread to prevent Offence. Vivat Rex. Price six pence.

(HGW, 55)

This mock playbill may be a piece of Hogarth's subtlest politico-cultural satire. ‘Vivat Rex’ was customary for playbills at Theatres Royal (‘Rex and Regina’ for double monarchs), but on this occasion, the phrase implies that the taste derives not only from the diverse views of the hoi polloi, or even management, but from royalty itself. And it did. Both George I and George II commanded and were present at many pantomimes, equilibrist shows, and freak acts, as the London Stage calendar enumerates.

Hogarth manipulates stage format and content here, creating a conglomerate form that simultaneously documents taste in the period and hawks a new production. There are elements in the scene Hogarth does not mention in the inscription, such as the flying dragon and fiddler playing ‘Music for ye What Entertainment’, a likely reference to John Gay's The What D'Ye Call It, a dramatic satire (also in rehearsal form) with assorted ghosts. Crudely nailed on the headless proscenium statues, doubtless representing the demise of comedy and tragedy, are the titles ‘Harlequin D. Faustus’ (left) and ‘Harlequin Shepherd’ (right). He thus attacks the stress on machines, extravagant transformation, risings and sinkings of characters and objects, engineered to hold the eyes only.

Puppet shows are one wooden amusement Hogarth targets as he depicts each manager with a puppet in hand. Everything, indeed, is now mechanical, including inspiration. The caption in Cibber's mouth, ‘Assist ye Sacred Nine’, acknowledges ironically the traditional invocation to the muses who are dimly outlined in a mural above the managers' heads. But the hanging ropes suggest that the theatremen need to be pulled up to the muses, and that they themselves are puppets.31 Hogarth's main point, of course, is that the Drury Lane managers must look to increasingly gross props instead of ideas for inspiration, and their abundance on the stage underscores this point.

Hogarth here aligns himself with stage and page critics of the day. A similar protest appears in an anonymous farce of 1724, The British Stage: or, The Exploits of Harlequin, an ‘After-Entertainment for the Audiences of HARLEQUIN Doctor Faustus, and the NECROMANCER’.32 A set of verses on the title page lists the same paraphernalia Hogarth criticises in Just View and Masquerades and Operas:

Here you've a Dragon, Windmill, and a Devil,
A Doctor, Conjurer, all wond'rous civil;
A Harlequin, and Puppets, Ghosts, and Friends,
And Raree-Show to gain some Actors Ends:
So perfectly polite is grown this Town,
No play, without a Windmill, will go down.

The author explains in his preface that he had not expected to see puppets, dragons or windmills, but found them meeting with ‘far greater Applause than the most elegant Play that ever appear'd upon the British Theatre’ (p. vi). Like Hogarth, the critic writes his own ‘Dramatick Piece’ to expose the senselessness of public approval of risings and sinkings of windmills, dragons, and the like. The stage characters and critical dialogues correspond remarkably to Hogarth's visual satire in matter and manner. At one point, ‘Windmill’ says to ‘Dragon’: ‘Then the Harlequin Conjurer jump'd over the Moon, without breaking his Shins—We had Shades that could sing, and Ghosts which could dance; Puppets that were Men, and Men who were Puppets’ (p. 3).

Regardless of contemporary dramatic and stage parallels that can be drawn, Hogarth creates a new work. His Just View, which simultaneously puffs and presents his own stage satire, comes much closer to the text of John Thurmond's Faustus pantomime33 than to Rich's version (the Necromancer) at Lincoln's Inn Fields. The Rich entertainment relies less on mechanics and harlequinade, but contains more dialogue. The other pantomime mentioned by Hogarth on his playbill—Thurmond's Harlequin Shepherd—lacks textual parallels, though a frontispiece to the first edition shows a privy, a barred window and a broken wall.34 Moreover, Hogarth's theatrical satire is much closer in words and picture to the anonymous British Stage of the same year than to those shows more often associated with it.

The artist manipulates traditional and novel props on his boards: statuary, trap doors, curtains and drops. He shows how they are being pressed to grotesquerie as one manager lowers a puppet of Jack Hall into the ‘Privy’. The strategic ploy of a stage setting (either imagined or real) was applied again and again by Hogarth. In the 1740s, he devises a crowded stage to attack the popularity of continental dancers.


A number of years later he thus lashes at another ‘reigning folly’—London's vogue for imported dancers—in his sketch of the Frenchman Desnoyer and the Italian Signora Barberini, dancers he calls Charmers of the Age (1741/2). Stylistic strategies of satire in this work show continued use of a stage setting (more generic in this case), and examples of his own aesthetic theory of linear humorous effects. In expounding this theory, and in his lively commentary on the art of dancing in the Analysis, Hogarth refers frequently to London stage dancers.35

English criticism of continental performers goes back at least to Jeremy Collier, but was kept alive into the early decades of the century. For one, The Occasional Paper in 1719 discusses Collier's views, with the observation that many ‘Musicians and Players of late’ have ‘found their way hither from foreign Parts’.36

Theatrical dance was the London craze by the early 1740s, to the extent that the houses required resident ballet-masters. M. G. Desnoyer worked at Drury Lane from 1735 to 1740 (LS [The London Stage, 1660-1800,], 3, clxxix). He has been identified as the ballet master Hogarth caricatures here, along with Barberini, whom Desnoyer had introduced to audiences at Covent Garden in October 1740 (LS, 3, II, 857 and HGW, 111).

Linear angular effects produced by the body were by Hogarth's own theory comic, not aesthetically pleasing. Specifically, he claims that when the body's form is divested of serpentine lines, it becomes ‘ridiculous as a human figure’ (Analysis, 158). Hogarth draws Barberini leaping off the stage in an exaggerated manner, her legs spread out horizontally, the linear effects of which he considers ‘ridiculous’. The male dancer, possibly performing a ‘Pirouette’, drawn to emphasise the perpendiculars of legs and arms, creates an effect of straight lines, similarly ‘ridiculous’.

Whether or not Hogarth intended an obscene pun in this drawing, his allegiance is to the serpentine line and its related pictorial theory of humour outlined in the Analysis.37 The more that serpentine lines are excluded in a dance, he claims, the more ‘low, grotesque and comical’ it becomes (Analysis, 158). Thus, ironically called ‘Charmers’, his inelegantly exaggerated figures become grotesque caricatures.

Hogarth strategically creates, moreover, a stage space large enough only for two, a visual sign that the overriding popularity of continental dancers was literally crowding English drama off the stage. In the 1730s and 1740s dancing was so popular that formal ballets were included in pantomimes and offered separately between acts. By mid-century, each patent theatre employed a ‘ballet master’, a ‘premiere danseuse, and a company of from ten to twenty dancers’ (LS, 4, cxxv).

Barberini's initial success may be judged by an increase in house receipts that more than tripled (LS, 3, II, 857). The Covent Garden playbill for her English debut indicates that the managers expected large audiences at this command performance: ‘Tis humbly hop'd no Person will take it ill their being refused Admittance to the Music Room; the Dances depending greatly on the same being kept entirely clear’ (LS, 3, II, 857). Five nights later, on 30 October 1740, at another command performance, management was even more specific about ensuring room for Barbarini and Desnoyer: ‘The Performance of the … Entertainment depending greatly on the Orchestra and the Stage being kept entirely clear’. No spectators were to be admitted behind the stage scenes (LS, 3, II, 859).

It is entirely possible that Hogarth had these popular premiere performances in mind when he depicted the applauding spectators onstage, standing very close to the dancers, clearly behind the scenes. The irony increases with knowledge of the managers' requests to clear the stages for these dancers.

In each of the theatrical satires, Hogarth becomes the imaginative critic of a multi-faceted theatrical world. His style in these works utilises the eighteenth-century theatre and its values as he attacks contemporary taste in entertainment. He specifically uses its forms and milieu as stylistic signs.

Masquerade Ticket underlines the lecherous motivation of masquerades. But operas and masquerades are pernicious in their effect on stage production, driving serious plays off the boards and into wheelbarrows for waste paper or toilets in Masquerades and Operas. And though Hogarth praises dancing from the minuet to the country ‘hay’ in the Analysis, he indicts the dancing of French ballet masters and dancers as awkward and absurd, along with public taste, shown as an overcrowded stage audience applauding dancers' acrobatic feats in Charmers of the Age.

In A Just View, Hogarth ‘draws the scene’, opening for us a stage darkened with bad taste, the only light coming from a feeble ghost. Everything depends on false appearances, or ‘gingerbread’. For one thing, the men rehearsing are managers, not actors. Hogarth engineers stage and green room conventions, along with thematic elements such as the rehearsal and masquerades. Thus he attacks the empty sensationalism prevalent on the London stages that he felt was driving legitimate drama into waste-paper bins. This trend his patrons would readily acknowledge; whether or not they would alter their ‘reigning folly’ is less easy to know.

This approach to Hogarth's satiric strategies is not meant to ignore the graphic conventions he employs as well, but rather focuses on the theatrical values in form and content he so explicitly enumerated in his own writings about his art. He was always alert to the nature of theatre and the causes of its effects.

In explicit efforts to alter cultural focus and restore what he calls ‘the fruitfull Theatre of old’ in these four works, Hogarth creates visual statements of satiric intent, dressed in fictions familiar to his audiences from their evenings at operas, masquerades, pantomime performances, and other entertainments. Without this common and settled base, his satire would lack potency.

In his ‘lashing’ of contemporary taste, Hogarth takes his place among the Augustan satirists of his day, employing with originality the traditions of theatre and literature as stylistic strategies of satire in a pictorial form. To this he adds his own linear theory of humour. For optimal effect, he relies upon a shared body of cultural tastes, and sharp awareness in his viewers of theatre and drama conventions. By exaggeration, he points out the failings of a culture falling into the quicksand of mindless and escapist spectacle, blindly following the lead of profit-oriented managers who lure them to ambiguous pleasures. Thus he attempts to disturb (and hence correct) the age's self-images in dramatic art and theatrical taste.

Hogarth's extensive use of theatre in the visual domain demonstrates that these stylistic strategies are more rather than less common to modes of expression in general. The use of theatre as a subject, the satirical fiction of its foibles, and specific stage conventions, all elements in Hogarth's style, appear in contemporary literature and criticism as well. The four works examined reveal Hogarth's heightened use of shared structures in the arts for rhetorical and persuasive purposes. His theatrical satires in particular illuminate this, since he employs the form of theatre in an attempt to alter its content.


  1. The Elements of Life: Biography and Portrait Painting in Stuart and Georgian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 4 and 179.

  2. Princeton University Press, 1983. Citations in my text are drawn from this edition.

  3. See Klinger Lindberg, ‘William Hogarth's Theatrical Writings: The Interplay Between Theatre, His Theories, and His Art’, Theatre Notebook 47:1 (1993), pp. 29-41.

  4. This is not to ignore other aspects of Hogarth's style, such as his infusing standards such as history painting with vitality by creating new subjects for art, depicting occurrences of everyday life, employing art to illustrate his own theories of beauty and humour, and focusing on social topics and themes depicted in ways that support his own views of society.

  5. For links between the London stage and Hogarth, see Mary Klinger, ‘William Hogarth and London Theatrical Life’, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, 24 vols. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975), vol. V, pp. 11-27, and ‘Dramatic Analogues in William Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode’, in Joachim Möller, ed., Hogarth in Context: Ten Essays and a Bibliography (Berlin: forthcoming).

  6. ‘Hogarth and the Traditions of Satire’, Humanities Association Review 31 (1980), pp. 67-85.

  7. See Blair's ‘Hogarth's Comic History-Paintings and the Satiric Spectrum’, Genre 9 (1976), p. 10. Ronald Paulson, Breaking and Remaking: Aesthetic Practice in England, 1700-1820 (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1989), notes ‘idolatry is quite literally the theme of Hogarth's satires’, p. 167.

  8. ‘Theatrical Satire: A Protest from the Stage Against Poor Taste in Theatrical Entertainment’, in Peter Hughes and David Williams, eds., The Varied Pattern: Studies in the 18th Century, I. Publications of the McMaster University Association for 18th-Century Studies (Toronto: A. M. Hakkert, Ltd., 1971), p. 121.

  9. Robert Hume considers Eurydice Hissed a ‘topical satire’, and The Author's Farce between ‘Burlesque and Topical Satire’, Henry Fielding and The London Theatre 1728-1737 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 257.

  10. I use Paulson's dates for these works in his ‘Catalog’, Hogarth's Graphic Works (London: The Print Room, 1989). Future references in my text are abbreviated as HGW followed by page number.

  11. Blair, ‘Hogarth's Comic History-Paintings’, p. 10.

  12. Peter Lewis, Fielding's Burlesque Drama: Its Place in the Tradition, University of Durham Series (Edinburgh University Press, 1987), p. 206.

  13. ‘Theatre, Related Arts, and the Profit Motive’, British Theatre and the Other Arts, 1660-1800 (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1984), pp. 33-6 and passim.

  14. Autobiographical Notes, in Joseph T. A. Burke, ed., The Analysis of Beauty with the Rejected Passages from the Manuscript Drafts and Autobiographical Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), p. 205.

  15. ‘Shakespeare in the Periodicals’, Shakespeare Quarterly 3:4 (October 1952), p. 315.

  16. Fielding attributes to ‘Curiosity’ that which ‘sends the British fair’:

    To see Italians dance in air,
    This crowds alike the repr'sentation
    Of Lun's and Bullen's coronation.
    By this embolden'd, tim'rous maids
    Adventure to the masquerades.

    See The Grub Street Opera … To which is added, THE MASQUERADE, A POEM Printed in MDCCXXVIII. LONDON, Printed, and sold by J. Roberts, MDCCXXXI. Also see Terry Castle, ‘Eros and Liberty at the English Masquerade, 1710-90’, ECS [Eighteenth-Century Studies] 17:2 (1983/4), pp. 156-176, and Masquerade and Civilization (Stanford University Press, 1986), passim.

  17. ‘Dancing and Pantomime on the English Stage, 1700-1737’, Studies in Philology 31 (1934), pp. 451-2.

  18. Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphic Satire (New York: Walter, 1967), p. 21.

  19. Also see Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: ‘The Modern Moral Subject’ 1697-1732, 3 vols. (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1991), vol. I, pp. 168-9. References are abbreviated Hogarth followed by volume and page.

  20. Frederick Antal, Hogarth and His Place in European Art (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1962), p. 74, comments that the ‘playful Lion and Unicorn placed over the clock are a further reminder of the future King's predilection for masquerades’. Fielding observed of Heidegger in ‘The Masquerade’ (lines 155-8): ‘So, for his ugliness more fell, / Was H—d—g—r toss'd out of hell, / And, in return, by Satan made / First minister of's masquerade [sic]’ (see note 16 above, The Grub Street Opera).

  21. H. B. Wheatley, Hogarth's London (London: Constable & Co., Ltd., 1909), p. 354.

  22. ‘The Man of Taste’, ed. F. P. Lock (Los Angeles: William A. Clark Memorial Library, Augustan Reprint Society Publication No. 171 (1975), p. 13.

  23. Wheatley, Hogarth's London, p. 352.

  24. Anonymous, The Masquerade (London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1724). Stanzas 20-4 describe the adventures of ‘A loving Pair, that long were wed, / But seldom lay in the same Bed’ (lines 9-10).

  25. London, Printed for Bernard Lintot, 1719, act III, scene i.

  26. Wheatley, Hogarth's London, p. 353.

  27. ‘SCENE’, act II (London: Printed for J. Sackfield, 1717), p. 22. Castle also comments on this play in ‘Eros and Liberty’, p. 156.

  28. Paulson notes this print was announced as published on 10 December 1724 in the Daily Post (HGW, 55).

  29. The London Stage, 1660-1800, parts 1-4 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962-8), 2, II, 797. References to the calendar are cited in my text as LS followed by part, volume, and page number.

  30. ‘The Defense and Criticism of the Pantomimic Entertainment in the Early Eighteenth Century’, English Literary History, 5 (1938), p. 127.

  31. Sean Shesgreen also makes this point in Engravings by Hogarth (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973), pl. 4.

  32. London, printed for T. Warner, 1724. References in my text are drawn from this edition.

  33. The title of Thurmond's piece is Harlequin Doctor Faustus: With the Masque of the Deities (London: Printed for W. Chetwood, 1724). Rich's Faustus is entitled A Dramatick Entertainment call'd the Necromancer: or, Harlequin Doctor Faustus. For a comparison of the two pantomimes which emphasises Rich's use of music and dance, see John McVeagh, ‘“The Subject of Almost All Companies”: A New Look at the Necromancer’, Theatre Notebook 45:2 (1991), pp. 55-70.

  34. See Harlequin Sheppard. A Night Scene in Grotesque Characters … (London: 1724) [Huntington K-D 196]. The frontispiece is supposed to depict a cell in Newgate; it shows a barred window, cracked brick wall, and a privy. Harlequin Sheppard failed, giving only three performances at Drury Lane in November 1724.

  35. See Klinger Lindberg, ‘“A Delightful Play upon the Eye”: William Hogarth and Theatrical Dance’, Dance Chronicle 4:1 (1981), pp. 19-45. Also see above, note 14, The Analysis and the Rejected Passages.

  36. ‘Of Plays and Masquerades’ (London: printed for E. Matthews, 1719), act III, p. 15.

  37. Obscenity may also be an effect of the intensified angularity to make the performers ludicrous. See HGW, 111.

Peter Wagner (essay date 1995)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Wagner, Peter. “‘Official Discourse’ in Hogarth's Prints.” In Reading Iconotexts: From Swift to the French Revolution, pp. 101-37. London: Reaktion Books, 1995.

[In the following essay, Wagner discusses Hogarth's work within the context of various contemporary discourses, maintaining that the artist's participation in such discourses was not necessarily something he could completely control.]

It is even probable that there exists one single rhetorical form shared by the dream, literature, and the image.

Barthes, ‘Rhétorique de l'image’

Let us go back to the fundamentals of image-making and this time examine it from the other side—from the viewer's gaze. … And from the inside—the social formation is inherently and immanently present in the image and not a fate or an external which clamps down on an image …

Bryson, ‘Semiology and Visual Interpretation’, in Visual Theory

What does it matter if I have added thoughts to the work of a great artist—so long as I have not subtracted or explained away such as are patently present?

Lichtenberg, Hogarth on High Life

After the excursions in the preceding chapters into the framing areas of texts and pictures, where we found that meaning is already being shaped, I want to move into the work of art itself, turning from the parergon to the ergon. The subject for my investigation will be select examples of Hogarth's graphic art. As I indicated earlier, a Hogarthian engraving is not, for me, a closed system or a repository that contains ultimate (and aesthetically appealing) truths we have merely to discover. Nor do I believe in the great master encoder, the genial artist, whose ideas and intention we must re-establish. In fact, I will argue that, more often than not, Hogarth's works contain traces of powerful lines of discourse and mentalités that were probably beyond his control. My aim, however, is not to find out what Hogarth thought about or intended regarding his prints. Rather, I wish to provide an exercise in what the French would call interprétation d'iconotexte. Given the intertextual and intermedial nature of Hogarth's graphic art, I shall be working with the assumption that his prints contain marked (and probably even more unmarked) allusions to various forms of contemporary discourse.

What follows is an example of an intertextual critical reading of some engravings in the light of ideas and theories developed by Foucault and Althusser. Better known as discourse analysis, this theory is interested in the power relations expressed in the discourse that is generated by the ‘state apparatuses’ (e.g., Government, School, Church, Mass Media, etc.) in their attempts to address and interest the individual in society, with the ultimate aim of making people conform to pre-established patterns of behaviour and thinking. If Hogarth's prints may be studied as fabrics in which the lines of past and present verbal and visual discourse establish fascinating knots and nodes, they should also contain traces of those power lines that lie at the heart of each society and mingle with mentalités—so much so that we find it extremely difficult to separate one from the other.

In February 1724, Hogarth, then a young engraver, published his first independent graphic satire. Uncommissioned, it bears the title Masquerades and Operas and, together with A Just View of the British Stage produced in the same year, constitutes Hogarth's conservative attack on ‘the bad taste of the town’, which is the sub-title of Masquerades and Operas. According to the artist's own words (always an interesting, though unreliable, commentary), ‘the then reigning follies were lashd [sic]’ in this picture.1 The print shows, in the foreground, a man who calls for ‘waste paper for shops’ while carting away master-works of English drama. Carelessly heaped together in the wheelbarrow of this pedlar, book editions of Shakespeare, Otway, Congreve, Dryden, Addison and (in the second state of the engraving) ‘Ben John[son]’ are on their way to ‘Pastem’, a trunkmaker. The sheet bearing the title Pasquin No. XCV refers to a journal dedicated to art and literature. The potential readers for these works seem to be interested in the other attractions surrounding the books on all sides. These popular forms of drama and opera (including hybrid versions such as ballad operas, pantomimes and harlequinades) and the puppet theatres and masquerades were then flourishing; but they were soon to be displaced by more ‘polite genres’.2

In the left part of Masquerades and Operas a satyr and a fool lead the crowd into the Haymarket opera house, where they are already expected by the famous impresario John James Heidegger (shown looking down from a window). A well-known magician by the name of Faux is also giving performances in this building, and his name serves as a polysemous sign (a sign-board, a name, a warning in French), as a form of the visual and verbal punning that Hogarth almost always integrates in his graphic satires. Similarly, the showcloth above the entrance arcade is yet another ambiguous sign: although implicitly mocking the way aristocrats waste their money on Italian stars, it advertises operas.

On the other side of the street additional signs and figures vie for the attention of the audience. Here, in the theatre of John Rich, the trailblazer in the highly successful new genre of pantomime, a harlequinade entitled ‘Dr Faustus’ is to be performed. The whole iconography of Hogarth's print suggests that some people must be held responsible for the evidently bad, perhaps even dangerous, taste of the general public. The culprits can be found in the background where, in front of Burlington Gate, three aristocrats adore the figure-topped structure. The rhetoric of the print argues that it is the aristocrats, with their preference for Italian and French art and ideas, who have brought about the deplorable state of English culture depicted in this scene.3

The rhetorical means employed in this engraving urge us to believe its message. There is, to begin with, a sophisticated mixture of visual and verbal signs with multiple meanings, including those providing a realistic effect (a ‘real’ scene in London, ‘genuine’ people such as Fawkes/Faux, Heidegger etc.), which create what Genette terms ‘vraisemblance’.4 The paratext (i.e., the verses accompanying the first and second states of the image) supports this reading. Like the visual rhetoric, the verses of the second state argue that the precious and useful classics are no longer read, having been replaced by the superficial entertainments of commercialized culture:

O how refin'd how elegant we've grown!
What noble Entertainments Charm the Town!
Whether to hear the Dragon's roar we go,
Or gaze surpriz'd on Fawke's matchless Show,
Or to the Opera's or to the Masques,
To eat up Ortelans and empty Flasques
And rifle Pies from Shakespeare's clinging Page,
Good Gods! how great's the gusto of the Age.

But the conservative, if not reactionary, argument of Hogarth's print is not new. And if we look more closely at the satire of the time, we notice that the artist merely repeats a stereotype (classical works now only serve as waste-paper) that had already been in vogue around 1710 and was used a few years after that for similar purposes (a critique of popular culture) by Swift and Fielding. Hogarth's Masquerades and Operas is thus part of the bourgeois discourse in early eighteenth-century England that first conquered the organs policing public taste (for instance, periodicals such as the Tatler and Spectator) and then launched an attack on particular forms of entertainment in modern mass culture.5 The guardians of the rising bourgeois aesthetics were especially concerned with what Pierre Bourdieu terms ‘la distinction’, that is, the attempt of social groups to create distinctions by trying to prove the superiority of (their own) specific tastes over other, and especially neighbouring, ones. This usually works through the establishment of highly exclusive canons. As the fair and the theatre became interfused, the moral fear of contamination grew among the new journalistic arbiters of taste, such as Addison, Steele and, a little later, Dr Johnson. Looking for ‘distinction’, the speakers for the rising middle class tried to define what separated high from low culture. Canons of literature was one means. Putting down popular entertainments was another. Beginning in the later part of the century, the grotesque related to the culture of folk humour as well as carnivalesque forms were denied the status of polite entertainment. Gottsched's demand in Germany that the character of Harlequin be expelled from what he termed the ‘serious and respectable stage’ found open ears in England; it was merely a symptom of the gradual exclusion of popular forms of entertainment, including reading-matter for plebeians, from public life. The term culture was redefined by the middle class; this meant that popular culture became branded as merely the occupation of the vulgar in contrast to the more purely intellectual pleasures that characterized the refined and educated.6

It seems to me that during the celebration of the rise of the novel, literary criticism has been ominously silent about the dark sides that accompanied that act of liberation of the middle class within the larger matrix of cultural consumption. A suppression and then a loss of cultural forms of entertainment occurred in the so-called Age of Enlightenment; it is in the early part of the century especially that we can find these forms. Hogarth was initially on the side of the conservative guardians of bourgeois taste and morality. Like many other artists he looked for a camp to join, starting out as an emulator and imitator. But his graphic work displays a growing awareness of the negative, repressive, development in the discursive policing of cultural consumption. If in 1724 he still voiced the arguments of bourgeois elite culture, the engraving The Enraged Musician (1741) provides a radically different evaluation of popular culture: ballads and Gay's The Beggar's Opera appear together with a representative of high culture (the musician in the window), and the rhetoric of the picture now scrutinizes and criticizes both forms of entertainment, giving preference to neither one of them.7

The commercialization in the eighteenth century of art and literature as part of cultural consumption is undeniable, but it is also the case that people continued to read Shakespeare and other high cultural works.8 If Hogarth's prints from the 1720s and early 1730s take a stand both ideologically and rhetorically on the issue of what is acceptable in cultural consumption, we must resist the temptation to believe the visual rhetoric of the pictures. They are not illustrations of socio-cultural phenomena that can be used as ‘objective’ historical evidence; they are tendentious palimpsests or visual re-presentations of pictures and texts that must be analysed as interpretations.

Therefore, when I read Hogarth's prints it is not their socio-cultural background that I find most interesting, but rather their partisan encoding in a new satirical form of other verbal and visual discourse. What makes Hogarth's graphic art fascinating for me is not its ironical commentary on eighteenth-century life, fascinating though that may be. I am intrigued by the sense-making arrangement of signifiers, the incorporation of texts, and the seductive appeal to mentalités harbouring stereotypes, fixed ideas and prejudices from popular thought and art. Conflating verbal and visual signs, low and high forms of art and literature, and allegorical elements from what is beyond doubt an iconoclastic (if occasionally conservative) viewpoint, Hogarth's graphic satires can be a paradise for the semiotician. Unfortunately, this paradise also contains mazes in which one can easily get lost. Exploring the allusive signs and complex sign-systems in Hogarth's prints, I am also interested in an archaeology of mentalités as suggested by Foucault,9 in the exploration of what is never said (and perhaps cannot be expressed) but is always present.10 I want to uncover not merely the hidden texts in the pictures but especially their semantic (progressive and/or repressive) functions, for it is precisely in the thorough exploitation of the semantic potential of ambiguous signs, and not in authorial intention, that I perceive the value of Hogarth's art.

Complementing what I have written elsewhere on the function of reading-matter in Hogarth's prints (e.g., the Bible, crime literature, ballads, conduct books, and erotica),11 I now want to focus on Hogarth's depiction of what I call ‘official’ discourse. This is a generic term for publications intended for a large audience: the Pastoral Letters and the Acts of Parliament, including the organs in which they were sometimes advertised (the newspapers). These publications can be understood as attempts by the Church and the State to exercise control with the help of texts.

As a distinct and widely known form of discourse, the Anglican Pastoral Letter assumes a semantic function that, particularly in A Harlot's Progress of 1732, must not be underestimated. There is sufficient historical evidence to prove the importance of the Pastoral Letter for the eighteenth century. Thus the Letters of the then Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson, who turns out to be one of the victims of the satire in the Harlot's Progress series, were boosted to reach a wide public. Frequently announced in newspapers, they appeared in large editions, they were reprinted and, more often than not, reappeared in ‘neat Pocket Volumes’ that were again heavily hyped in contemporary periodicals. The fact that the Pastoral Letter, being an extremely well known if not necessarily ‘popular’ form of ‘official’ discourse, also became the butt of satire, only contributed to its publicity.12 Alluding to it in his graphic art, Hogarth could be sure that everybody knew this particular form of writing.

In plate 3 of A Harlot's Progress a Pastoral Letter lies on the stool, between the servant and the heroine who is to be arrested. The addressee(s) of the Letter cannot be identified (the text ends after ‘to’). We might read this as an empty sign that has something to tell about the effect of the Bishop's Letter on two of his flock. In the open drawer, on the right, appears another letter that may serve as a continuation or even as a key to the ‘unfinished’ Pastoral Letter, for in this second epistle the addressee's name is mentioned: M[ary or Moll?] Hackabout is of course a telling name that denotes a person and connotes a profession. Hogarth's image does not make clear what the Pastoral Letter is actually concerned with. We are told, however, that it is very useful—it serves the Harlot as a wrapper for her butter. Since Moll could have availed herself of the letter (from a lover or client?) in the drawer for this purpose, the misuse of the Pastoral Letter constitutes an important semantic message. However, it is again typical of Hogarth's subversive art that the signifier (the Letter from the Bishop) creates indeterminacy rather than clarity when we explore its relations. We cannot doubt that Moll Hackabout could read the Letter if she wanted to, for the series makes clear repeatedly that the Harlot has achieved at the least a rudimentary level of literacy (in this scene, for instance, a paramour has written her a letter; and in plate 1 she (or someone in her family) has addressed a note, now attached to the neck of a goose, to her ‘Lofing Cosen in Tems Stret in London’). Perhaps she has even read the Pastoral Letter. But her misuse of the paper, and the discourse the sign stands for, surely indicates that the contents of the Letter are of no interest to her.

As far as the subject of the Letter is concerned, it is relevant to know that the Bishop used Pastoral Letters as a polemical and ideological weapon against the writings of Thomas Woolston, a Deist he pursued and sued.13 Armed with this information we can recognize that the Pastoral Letter on the harlot's stool has not one but several functions. As a visual sign it refers to the attempt of the Anglican Church, or rather the Bishop, to exert discursive influence; as a sign representing a text (and the contents of that text), it also indicates the uselessness of the Letter for the addressees in the image (Moll and her servant). The disdainful use of the Pastoral Letter can therefore be interpreted as a reaction of the poor, as an indication of the irrelevance to the underclass of the theological controversy between the established Church and Deists such as Woolston.14 Finally, the Bishop's Letter is also a signifier designating a genre or corpus of texts produced by Anglican churchmen.

What this scene shows, then, is an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the Church to influence a (lower) part of society with the help of an established form of discourse. There is an implicit criticism here of the absence of the writer/author of the Letter, who should be looking after his sheep (‘pastoral’ recalls the role of the shepherd). But Bishop Gibson, who supported Walpole, engages in theological disputes that serve not his sheep but his own career. As an inactive writer of useless letters the Bishop is, ultimately, also responsible for Moll's tragic failure: from this scene, we can look backwards and forwards in the series, and in each case we discover clergymen, especially Anglicans, who fail in their capacity as shepherds because, like the Bishop, they are driven by self-interest. Like the doctors, lawyers and judges, clergymen constitute merely one of the many social groups that are branded as parasites in Hogarth's art. Thus, in plate 3 of A Harlot's Progress we also find a portrait of another theologian (at the left) on the wall. This is Henry Sacheverell (1674-1724) who, despite his inflammatory anti-Government sermons given in 1709, managed a lucrative career. In his usual ‘accidental’ manner, Hogarth shows Sacheverell beside the portrait of another ‘great’ man, the highwayman Macheath from The Beggar's Opera. The position—one might even say constellation—of the pictures on the wall invites a comparison between the highwayman and the theologian and also between the clergymen to whom the visual and verbal signifiers allude (the portrait and the Pastoral Letter). Selfishness and cruelty is the hallmark of the clergymen in Hogarth's satires. In the final plate of the series on the Harlot, for instance, a representative of the Church of England marks the dramatic high-point of egoism around the dead Harlot. Entirely ruled by sexuality, he masturbates another harlot near the coffin.

Looking back through the series we recognize that the Bishop of London's Letter and person also contribute to the meaning of plates 1 and 2. Moll's arrival in London is depicted as the exploitation of an innocent girl by a corrupt society, which is one of the series' major themes. In terms of signifiers or emblems in the picture, one could also read her fate as that of a silly goose (in the foreground at right) trying to find her ‘Lofing Cosen’. Behind Moll Hackabout, another selfish parson neglects his office because he is more interested in deciphering the address on a letter of recommendation to the Bishop than in the life of the girl next to him. The address of the letter promises a career. With his eyes fixed only on his letter, the clergyman does not notice the impending catastrophes nearby: the symbolic tumbling of the buckets and (to come) the more tragic fall and death of the innocent country girl who is already surrounded by human vultures. The parson will prevent neither fall. Again, the implication is that the discourse and the person of the Bishop of London, marginal though they may seem in this and other cases, generate fatal consequences.

One might of course also construct an author-oriented theory in the case of the Pastoral Letter. Always concerned with Hogarth's intention, Paulson, for instance, is of the opinion that the artist's satirical allusions to the misbehaviour of the Anglican clergy are an indication of ‘something obsessive’ provoked by personal motives. It is indeed tempting to read A Harlot's Progress in view of the fact that, shortly before 1690, Hogarth's father probably came to London in the company of Edmund Gibson. Whereas Gibson rose to the most powerful position in the Anglican Church, Richard Hogarth, an educated but poor man, attained the less attractive position of inmate in the debtors' prison.15 But reading Hogarth's graphic art primarily under such biographical aspects (trying to explain authorial intention, motives and themes with recourse to allegedly important events in the artist's life) seems to me to be both speculative and reductionist. As I indicated in chapter One, I want to stick to what is expressed in the engravings, to an analysis of the signifiers and their arrangement. As far as the Pastoral Letter is concerned, it can be stated that the series on the Harlot plays with the meaning and importance of the Letter as a form of ‘official’ (Anglican) discourse.

Sometimes the allusions to this reading-matter and those that produced it are less obvious than in plates 1 and 3 of the Harlot's Progress. The Bishop of London, for instance, also makes an appearance in the second plate, although it is rather difficult to identify him in the paintings of Moll's keeper. To a large degree, meaning in this scene depends on the relations we establish between the pictures on the wall and between the pictures and the people. It is not quite clear whether these are real paintings or part of the tapestry: the door cuts into a ‘painting’, suggesting that the pictures are merely a trompe-l'œil, which opens another fascinating dimension for the understanding of the entire scene. The painting on the right, if painting it is, represents a biblical scene from 2 Samuel 6. In the Bible, which Hogarth frequently introduces with such pictorial allusions, it is Jehovah who kills the impious Uzzah (who is not a Levite) when the latter reaches out to steady the Ark. But in Hogarth's scene a mitred Anglican bishop has been substituted for Jehovah's vengeance. In the painting on the wall, the bishop stabs Uzzah in the back. Beneath and beside the biblical scene, two small portraits are attached to the wall. These have been identified as the portraits of two Deists, Thomas Woolston and Samuel Clarke. I have already mentioned that Gibson attacked Woolston in his Pastoral Letters. As a result of these diatribes, Woolston was found guilty and went to prison where, lacking the money to buy his way out, he eventually died. This contemporary background allows us to make the relation between the ‘killing bishop’ (a Levite in the original text) and the impure (Deist) Uzzah-Woolston.16

In this second picture of the series, the Pastoral Letter and its author play a marginal, though not unimportant, part in the relations between objects and people, relations that we must recognize and pursue to make sense of the details. Moll is surrounded by works of art. They are the property of her Jewish lover. But neither she nor he are alert to the iconotexts on the wall—to them both they are decorative, like furniture,17 i.e., signs that count not for their content or meaning but rather for the social status they indicate. If Moll or her lover could understand the meaning suggested by the signifiers in the paintings, the scene tells us, they might escape their individual destinies. Moll's life ends in disaster (suggested in the next plate), and the fate of the Jewish merchant is indicated by the cuckold's horns which the tapestry (or rather the perspective we are given in the image) places above his head.

Summarizing the functions of Hogarth's graphic treatment of the attempt by the Church to influence members of the lower class with the help of the Pastoral Letter, one notices several ironic levels. We witness how a powerful ecclesiastic tries to propagate his opinion with what is surely a repressive form of writing, for Gibson uses the Letter to warn against Deist ideas. At the same time, however, the relevant pictures in A Harlot's Progress also show that the attempt fails miserably. It fails because the potential readers of the Letter are not interested in its discourse or ignore it (perhaps because they feel that these texts ultimately serve the purposes of those who write them), and because the readers are instinctively opposed to the aims of the text: they do not want to be conditioned and socialized in the prescriptive ways outlined in the Letter. Hogarth's prints discussed above thus dramatize and comment on a ticklish political problem in the society of his day and age—the relation between power and its exercise or upholding through specific discursive forms. The prints probe the question whether such writing can at all address specific social strata or groups in order to keep them within predetermined limits. The rhetoric of the prints seems to suggest they could not, at least as far as the lower echelons of society were concerned.

The contemptuous attitude of lower-class readers towards the ‘official’ printed word is also a typical feature in Hogarth's depiction of other discursive forms produced by the state apparatuses. Conduct books, for instance, as well as laws and proclamations (in the form of broadsheets) share similar aims with the Pastoral Letter; newspapers, however, are a special case. Before turning to Hogarth's graphic commentary on the treatment of printed Acts of Parliament by the common people, I must at least mention the artist's most persuasive depiction of the conflict between the individual and the repressive discourse of society. It is in Industry and Idleness that success and failure in English society are closely associated with the behaviour of the reader. Throughout the series the Industrious Apprentice appears in the role of the diligent and pious (but also hypocritical) reader, whereas Tom Idle's tragedy is a partial consequence of his rejection of society's prescriptive discourse. To the very hour of his death he refuses to read and honour the written word in conduct books, indentures and the Bible. As with the Harlot, it is not a question of Tom Idle's ability to read: what Hogarth (who gave Idle his own facial features) stresses is the apprentice's refusal to obey commands and to agree to the (written) demands of society as expressed in what I term ‘official’ discourse. In the first plate of the series Tom neglects The Prentice's Guide (by comparison his colleague's copy is in mint condition); later on, he defiantly throws his indenture into the water. Finally, when he becomes a reader (of the Bible) on his way to the gallows, we see how society subjects and takes possession of the penitent victim by delivering him into the hands of a fanatic Methodist and by exploiting the story of his life: the ballad sold in the foreground indicates that the tragic life and death of the rebel from the lower class will now serve as a moral warning. Ballads and similar texts will mythologize him for didactic reasons. He has finally returned to the fold of society, but at the cost of his freedom and life.

One tends to forget sometimes that Industry and Idleness dramatizes two kinds of tragedy. To be sure, there is the fate of the one who tries to preserve his personal liberty by rejecting all forms of writing and the obeisance it implies. But the success of the Industrious Apprentice, Francis Goodchild, a keen reader of Bibles and 'prentice's guides and laws, is a success only at first glance. It speaks for the artistic quality of Hogarth's series that the series also suggests a kind of tragedy for Goodchild, for it is precisely because of his reading and the concomitant acceptance of hierarchic social order that Goodchild becomes a prisoner of conventions. He is, finally, also a victim, caught in his seemingly powerful position: the last plate presents the prisoner in the Lord Mayor's coach while the ghost of his 'prentice friend hovers in the corner—represented by a broadsheet, i.e., writing/discourse.18

Members of the lower class in Hogarth's graphic art show extreme disrespect for any kind of written law. This rejection of repressive discourse is perhaps best depicted in Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn. With the Licencing Act of 1737 Walpole had finally succeeded in silencing the theatre as a forum and medium of political criticism, in which Fielding had been poised to reach the summit of his career as a dramatist. Excepting Drury Lane and Lincoln's Inn Fields, all theatres were closed down. (This action proved to be the spring for Fielding's new career as a novelist.19) Henceforth, theatre companies had to meet in private houses or they had to invent ‘social’ pretexts (‘tea and coffee’) to perform plays. In Strolling Actresses, a copy of the Licencing Act—the ‘Act against Strolling Players’—lies on a crown in the left foreground. The fact that it is shown with a crown may suggest regal approval of the Act.20 The manner in which it is treated, however, establishes a semantic parallel with the ‘useful’ function of the Pastoral Letter in plate 3 of A Harlot's Progress. In this barn, the Act has been entirely deprived of its intended function as a repressive text. Like the Pastoral Letter, it serves a new, practical purpose. Those for whom the actual text of the ‘Act against Strolling Players’ was written thus resist in their own way, accepting the paper but not the text it bears: the mother feeding her child uses a sheet as a bib. Additional signifiers support this satirical message. The visual arrangement in the engraving of the Act and the crown, and of the crown beside a chamber-pot, invites a comparison between these details. For instance, we can see that structural similarity (two receptacles beside each other suggest likeness) identifies the fecal contents of the chamber-pot with the legal-‘royal’ contents of the crown. At the same time, this seemingly accidental and (in political terms) rather daring constellation expresses the opinion of the actors vis-à-vis the ‘official’ discourse of the state and Crown.

In Hogarth's An Election Entertainment, published in 1755, irony becomes more intricate in the playing with signifiers, indicating both the uselessness and ineffectiveness of another legal text. In the right foreground, one visually marked text lies on a platter with pipes and a tobacco bag marked ‘Kirton's Best’. Significantly, the title of the ‘Act against Bribery and Cor[ruption]’ is ‘corrupted’ in itself. The iconography of the picture indicates that at this election meeting the Act is supposed to be hidden or ignored. But like the Pastoral Letter and the Act against the players, it is put to a rather useful purpose that again comments on the refusal of potential readers to honour the textual injunctions on the paper. The paper of the Act, not its contents, is accepted, here serving as a pipe-lighter.

In each of the prints discussed above Hogarth presents his satirical view of merely one legal text, and especially of its effect upon the common people, who prefer the paper to the text. In the different states of Beer Street (1751, third state in 1759), Hogarth juxtaposes ‘official’ discourse in several forms and in various texts; they all vie for the attention of the reading public.21 At the right, we see some books. Destined ‘For Mr Pastem the Trunk maker in Pauls Ch[urch] Y[ar]d’, they remind us of the classics in the wheelbarrow of the pedlar in Masquerades and Operas. There is a difference, however, in that the iconography of Beer Street implies the opposite of the earlier print; Beer Street argues that the literary and critical works depicted in this scene are really of no value, pleading for their use as wastepaper. The books—in a pun on their use and destination, Lichtenberg calls them ‘corpses’, or remains of brilliant ideas22—are labelled ‘Modern Tragedys Vo. 12’; ‘Hill on Royal Societies’; ‘Turnbul[l] on Ant[ient] Painting’; ‘Politicks Vol: 9999’; and ‘Lauder on Milton’. For Hogarth's contemporaries, these titles were self-explanatory. ‘Dr’, or Sir, John Hill (?1716-75) wrote pseudo-scientific treatises; his A Dissertation on Royal Societies (1750) was the result of the Royal Society's refusal to make the illustrious would-be doctor a member. George Turnbull's A Treatise upon Ancient Painting (1740) praised the Old Masters of painting, based almost entirely on surviving descriptions of lost works. And William Lauder (d. 1771) wrote An Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his ‘Paradise Lost’ (1750) to prove that the great English author had plagiarized Paradise Lost from seventeenth-century Latin poets. Lauder's fraud was exposed by John Douglas, who was to become Bishop of Salisbury.

The decoding of the other texts in the picture poses greater difficulties that reflect the hermeneutic problems critics still have with the explication of the print.23 Meaning depends on the structural relations the reader establishes between the texts (and the persons). One general ‘message’ or point may of course be found in the very juxtaposition of these publications. It is the simultaneous presentation of the King's Speech, visually ‘supported’ as it were by The Daily Advertiser beside the fat craftsmen, and the ballad that fascinates the fishmongers, which suggests comparison and, ultimately perhaps, similarity. The easily readable excerpt from the speech of the monarch urges his British subjects to boost trade and commerce: ‘Let me earnestly recom[m]end to you the Advancement of Our Commerce and cultivating the Arts of Peace, in which you may depend on My hearty Concurrence and Encouragement’. Those depicted at the left will certainly profit from this positive speech. Therefore, they do not have to read the text, nor will they (mis)use it.

In contrast to this treatment of a (semi-) legal text, the ballad finds eager readers. It is from the pen of one of Hogarth's friends, John Lockman. In his famous and popular ‘Herring’ poems Lockman (as secretary of the Free British Fishery) compared the honest profits of the fishing industry with the illusory and empty promises of investors and swindlers advertising for South American gold-mines (see, for instance, Lockman's The Shetland Herring and Peruvian Gold Mine of 1751). In this respect there is a difference between the Kings's Speech and the ballad, although both can be considered as forms of advertising, that is, economic discourse.24 Nevertheless, they do constitute a form of discourse that addresses the common people and intends to allot them a role in the commercial sphere.

If one reads the texts from this point of view, one immediately discovers a series of details that form a sort of counter-argument in the picture, disturbing the superficial expression of satisfaction and pride. What disturbs the impression, visually and ideologically, is, for instance, the pawnbroker's house at the right. A decoding of this dilapidated building in dualistic terms of the good (beer drinking) and bad (gin consumption) dichotomy, or in terms of cause and effect, would of course contrast the house of ‘N. Pinch, Pawn Broker’ (in Beer Street) with that of ‘S. Gripe, Pawn Broker’ in Gin Lane. But it is precisely such thinking in dualistic terms which the print of Beer Street foregrounds and finally explodes. In fact, one could argue that, especially in conjunction with Gin Lane, it ‘turns on the tension created by the presence or the operation of opposites’.25

Take the pawnbroker's house in Gin Lane. How are we to associate it with the other signifiers in the print, and with those in Beer Street? Is it merely accidental that the perspective of the image, in a kind of trompe-l'œil effect, appears to force us to associate the pawnbroker's sign with the statue of George I whose head it seems to ‘crown’? And what is the relation? The ways critics have answered these questions demonstrate both the semantic richness of Hogarth's work and the fallacies of readings based on author intention. Barry Wind, at one extreme, believes in the ‘establishment tenor’ of the print and maintains that the statue of George I ‘emphasizes Hogarth's sympathies with Hanoverian ideas and brewer interests’, but then concedes that the ‘motif may be only an allusion to well-known Hanoverian greed and tightfistedness’. He reads the distance of Church and state in this image as a positive contrast to the dissipation of the gin drinkers. At the other extreme, Paulson believes that the pawnbroker's sign above the monarch's head is an ironic halo commenting on the collusion of Church and state. Paulson tells us that the prohibitive Tippling Act that increased the price of gin was modified in 1747, when the distillers petitioned for the right to retail. As a consequence, gin consumption rose substantially, and in 1750, in some parts of London, one in every five houses was a gin shop. But Paulson does not want to support his reading with social evidence; rather, he trusts in authorial intention, arguing that ‘whether or not Hogarth had this information, he assumes some such situation when he includes the spire of St George's in Gin Lane and juxtaposes with this print of the emaciated gin drinkers the prosperity of the fat merchants and the royal urge to greater commerce in Beer Street’.26

But why obstruct one's reading of the print with Hogarth's intention, even though Hogarth's own commentary on the series, in Autobiographical Notes, seems to confirm a dualistic reading?27 Listening to the voices in the picture, qua signifiers, we must admit that the visual arrangement of the pawnbroker's sign above the monarch's head is not accidental. It is a consequence of perspective. Perspective in art is what rhetoric is in writing (as recent art historians, in particular Mieke Bal and Hubert Damisch,28 have shown). Perspective urges, even forces us, to take a particular viewpoint. The problem with perspective is that in images with realistic details, such as Hogarth's prints, one tends to take it for granted, when as a matter of fact it is the most powerful sign for the real in modern art, a sign we frequently overlook precisely because it is so obvious. Hence, on the basis of the perspective in Gin Lane one can argue that we may indeed connect the (sign of the) pawnbroker's shop with (the architectural sign representing) George I, and, by implication, the left side and its semiotic ‘connection’ with the left side in Beer Street and its verbal connection with the monarch. Such a decoding will indeed come close to Paulson's reading—but sans authorial intention.

Similarly, the ostensibly happy man painting the signboard represents not one but several messages, depending on how we relate him to the signs (including the human beings) of which he is a part. He has been employed by the fat merchants and artists as a gesture of generosity on their part; but the emaciated painter, apparently even content with his new role, is not an artist anymore, he has become a simple painter of signs. This society has no need for real art.

‘Official discourse’, which appears here in conjunction and collaboration with the self-satisfied burghers, is further subverted when one considers that Beer Street is not a single picture. Together with Gin Lane it forms a set. More often than not, meaning in Hogarth's graphic art is created by the serial aspect, by what Frédéric Ogée has aptly termed ‘les parcours sériels’ that invite the eye to wander, to compare and to err (Ogée plays on the meanings of the French term erre, which like the English equivalent implies going astray, to be wrong, and, in its obsolete sense, to ambulate).29 The serial aspect brings to the fore parallels (e.g., the church that stands far away in both of the prints) that undermine the meaning suggested by the titles and the verses accompanying the pictures. These parallels point out to us that the engravings do not merely comment on the consumption of good and bad kinds of alcohol; they also treat of the presence and absence of the state apparatuses (the Church, the Crown, the Government) represented by texts and architectural signs (the church spire, the statue of the monarch). In this respect one can agree with Paulson's reading of the series, when he argues that ‘the basic cause and effect relationship would be understood by the poor: not that beer drinking leads to prosperity and gin drinking to want, but the reverse. Rather, beer drinking is a product of prosperity and gin drinking of want’.30 Therefore, what at first glance looks like a praise of commerce and the acceptance of the discourse supporting it proves to be highly ambiguous in the serial context.

As a set, Beer Street and Gin Lane comprise an iconotext that can be read as an ironical comment on the paratext. This paratext is made up of the caption and the titles. In fact, the moral verses on the plates were written by Hogarth's good friend the Revd James Townley. Together with the seemingly obvious titles they do not complement the prints, as even recent critics still maintain;31 rather, they should be seen as a first attempt to provide a comprehensive verbal explanation, an explanation that works with its own stereotypes derived from popular writings and mythology. The texts also appeal to dominating mentalités—the prejudiced view of France and French customs, the association of England with beer and liberty, and the glorification of things English:

Beer, happy Produce of our Isle
          Can sinewy Strength impart,
And wearied with Fatigue and Toil
          Can chear each manly Heart.
Labour and Art upheld by Thee
          Successfully advance,
We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee
          And Water leave to France.
Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste
          Rivals the Cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous Breast
          With Liberty and Love.

The caption to Gin Lane runs:

Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
          Makes human Race a Prey;
It enters by a deadly Draught,
          And steals our Life away.
Virtue and Truth, driv'n to Despair,
          It's Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes, with hellish Care,
          Theft, Murder, Perjury.
Damn'd Cup! that on the Vitals preys,
          That liquid Fire contains
Which Madness to the Heart conveys,
          And rolls it thro' the Veins.

The imagery here is also interesting in that it establishes relations less with misery and death (as in the print) but rather with Christian ideas of Satan, sin, and Hell.

These ekphrases of the two prints ignore indeterminacy while promising us clear meanings and messages. The polysemous signs as well as their syntax in the pictures militate against the simple meaning of the verbal text beneath the prints, a text that tries to impose dichotomy, based on dualism and hierachies of meaning, upon constructs that are far more complex than the Revd Townley and contemporary explicators such as Barry Wind would have it.

Indeed, if the Hogarthian visual forms harbour ‘a greater potential for doubleness—or openness—of interpretation’32 than, say, eighteenth-century fictional texts, we should preserve that openness in our reading by focusing on the semiotics of the prints and their reception.33 Such an approach would allow at least two possibilities even for the eighteenth-century audience. As Paulson writes: ‘the poor as well as their betters … can go to the visual image and take away the aspects they see through their particular preconceptions. But what the rich will see as peripheral irony, the poor will see as central’.34 It is the complex referentiality of the iconography of the Hogarthian image that works directly against the conditioned expectation of simple dualistic interpretations. This ‘shading’ of meaning by introducing signs and constellations of uncertainty makes the viewer's task a difficult one.35

For those who still care about this issue, the differences between the first and subsequent states of Beer Street may tell us something about Hogarth's changing satirical intentions. More important, however, they also throw some light on the interchangeability of specific signifiers. Take the stout blacksmith at the left, for instance. In the first and second states he is lifting a Frenchman into the air while brandishing a jug of ale. In the third state of the print, the Frenchman has been replaced with a huge loin of meat (and a pavior making advances to a girl next to a basket of vegetables). One can assume, therefore, that in terms of signifying, the stereotypal, spindly Frenchman serves a satirical function that is similar to that of the meat: the aim is to invite the observer to identify with English patriotism (as a potential spy is being caught) or with Englishness (eating beef or mutton) as such.

But what kind of meat does the blacksmith hold up? In tune with earlier commentators such as Lichtenberg, Paulson believes that it is ‘a shoulder of mutton’—and the lower part of the rather small leg would seem to confirm such a reading. Barry Wind, however, has recently argued that the metamorphosis is from a Frenchman into a loin of roast beef, since popular attitudes linked roast beef—and especially roast beef and beer—to ‘Englishness’. I think that in this case Wind has a point, for if Englishness is to be expressed here, what better image than a huge chunk of beef.36 After all, it is roast beef which serves as an ersatz for England in Hogarth's The Gate of Calais. In any case, both mutton and beef indicate the richness of the country (as opposed to France's soupe meagre). In the semantic and structural context in the left-hand corner of Beer Street, it seems that roast beef is the more persuasive ‘reading’. For the loin of roast beef (assuming that it is beef and not mutton) and the jug of ale are sign types which, in terms of Peircean semiotics, are multifunctional, serving as they do as icons, indices and symbols.37 I would argue that it is impossible to maintain that one of these categories dominates in the print, and it is precisely this fickle nature of the sign (type) in Hogarth's art that makes it simultaneously realistic, parodic, rich in meaning and deeply fascinating.

The same principle governs the altering of the reading-matter on the table that seems to be wedged between the butcher and the blacksmith. As far as the various genres of ‘official’ discourse are concerned, it is important that the first state presents two newspapers, The Gazette and The Daily Advertiser, whereas in the second and later states the King's Speech has been substituted for The Gazette. This is, I think, telling: it suggests a connection between these two types of reading-matter. Since they are interchangeable, the satirical and rhetorical function of the newspaper seems to be rather close to, if not identical with, the royal Speech. Although the Speech of the monarch introduces a new, more obviously political, aspect, the fact that his words can and do replace a newspaper should alert us to the common denominator of these forms of discourse. This common ground is their status as rhetoric aiming at the dispersion and sedimentation of an ideology that serves the Government as well as the obese burghers represented in the picture. On the textual level, then, these ‘papers’ (the Speech and the newspapers) are nothing else but organs of those state apparatuses (as Althusser terms the influential, discourse-producing social institutions) that seem to appeal to, and thus create (the illusion of), the relevant subject. Ultimately, however, their aim is the subjection of the subject through an ‘appealing’ discourse that is coercive rather than liberating or enlightening.38

Time and again, Hogarth's graphic works dramatize the ambivalent role of journalistic writing. In fact, for A Harlot's Progress and other series, the artist himself was inspired by scandals and sensations reported in the newspapers, and many of his prints cannot be adequately understood without a thorough knowledge of the personal and political feuds fought in the contemporary press.39 A particularly influential medium of writing, the papers were thus a tool for the ‘official’ discourse to shape attitudes and mentalités in the world of eighteenth-century social consumption. It speaks for the artistic value of Hogarth's œuvre that this journalistic discourse is presented for us to ponder, in view of its social and ideological impact. Whenever we see people carrying or reading a newspaper in Hogarth's prints, the papers are more than decorative details or signs creating (the illusion of) quotidian reality: they are essentially signifiers of powerful forces. As with the other forms of potentially coercive discourse discussed above, it is the consequences of its consumption that matter. More often than not Hogarthian prints demonstrate the noxious consequences of this form of consumption. I shall restrict my discussion of the phenomenon to three examples.

In A Midnight Modern Conversation, which parodies the two denotative meanings of ‘conversation’ (a ‘conversation piece’, a genre of group portraiture, as well as an exchange of words or ideas) in a satire on the different stages of inebration, the man at the far right is characterized by his reading-matter.40 One conclusion that can be drawn from the minor catastrophe about to occur in this corner is of course that it is precisely the preoccupation with political papers that literally sets the reader on fire. Perhaps he is a politician: the London Journall and The Craftsman sticking out from his coat-pocket support this interpretation, for they were propaganda organs of, respectively, Walpole and the Opposition. Politicians, the visual rhetoric argues, are not only impractical and unreliable, they are downright dangerous because their ‘deep’ thinking leads to fatal consequences. These are indicated by the candle put to unintended use by the absent-minded ‘politician’, and by the sword that menacingly protrudes directly from the papers. Always attentive to such seemingly marginal details, Lichtenberg pointed out that the papers ‘rest meaningfully’ on the sword while the open mouth of the man beside the ‘politician’ resembles a crater that is about to erupt in a ‘revolution’.41

The visual rhetoric of the picture likens the effect of reading political papers to the intoxication produced by the consumption of tobacco, wine and spirits. The ‘politician’ setting fire to his shirt-cuff instead of the tobacco in his pipe is a signifier referring to pictures and texts that readers of the time would have recognized. Hogarth's earlier painting, The Politician (c. 1730), for instance, employs the same device in that an absorbed reader's hat is catching fire. Later on, in plate 2 of The Times, Wilkes's anti-Government North Briton is nearly ignited by the candle of ‘Ms Fanny’, the Cock Lane Ghost, suggesting the danger of journalistic defamation and political journals. The inattentive ‘politician’ in A Midnight Modern Conversation whose sense and senses have been numbed by the papers also constitutes an allusion to Fielding's ‘Mr Politic’ in The Coffee-House Politician of 1730, for this gentleman's dedication to the political press leads to the loss of his daughter. Becoming absorbed in partisan newspapers, Hogarth's print argues, is tantamount to drunkenness. Newspapers of this kind are like alcohol or poison.

The individual as a potential victim of journalism emerges most forcefully in Hogarth's The March to Finchley of 1750, retouched in 1761. One could argue that the young soldier—here an emblem of England in trouble—in the centre is importuned both by two women (a pregnant girl and an old hag) and the texts each carries. In tune with the pictorial ‘architext’ of this detail of the picture (Rubens's painting of Hercules between Vice and Virtue), Virtue, here a sutler (a servant or victualler) and ballad singer, carries a portrait of the Duke of Cumberland and the ballad ‘God Save our Noble King’. In an equally telling manner, Vice is associated with newspapers. The old woman is a newspaper vendor and a papist (indicated by the cross on her shawl). She is selling three opposition papers: The Jacobite Journal, the London Evening Post and The Remembrancer. The first was actually a satire on Jacobite propaganda (Hogarth's engraving implies that it was read by Jacobites, but it did not appear until 1747) and The Remembrancer is both a paper and pun.42 It is obvious that Hogarth's satire is based on the juxtaposition and association of newspapers and political journalism with vice, danger (Catholicism) and corruption.

A Midnight Modern Conversation and The March to Finchley thematize the dispersion of political rhetoric. They depict the individual, the reader, as a highly contested target of noxious journalism that, in turn, is the product and vehicle of social groups and institutions: the Government, the Church, political parties. Both prints incorporate this contest (by way of discourse) for the reader and the attempt to subject him/her to socio-political norms, albeit in terms of satire. Yet journalistic discourse has another function that is perhaps even more important than its role in the contemporary arena of politics. Hogarth highlights this function in his typical ‘marginal’ manner, almost en passant as it were, in the second state of plate 4 of A Rake's Progress. As with the different states of Beer Street, it is again interesting to note that which has been changed, or rather exchanged: in the second state the group of seven boys on the pavement, in the lower-right corner, occupy the place of the single boy in the first who had his hand on the Rake's cane. There is, then, a semantic relation between the Rake and the boys. One could read this (in the first state) as the taking away of support or, in the revision of the picture, as a comparison of the ways in which the Rake and the boys support themselves. Like the man getting out of his sedan chair, the boys are gamblers, cheats and drinkers.

In a series of astute comparisons between the ‘black’ boys and the ‘white’ gentleman (a contrast also suggested by White's gaming-house, at the left, and the sign ‘black’ at the right), Lichtenberg throws light on the satirical relations in this scene. The chimney-sweep at far right, he points out, does not seem to refer to the Rake, but the latter—like many another gentleman with a white wig—also works his way up by ‘creeping through dirty channels’.43

Within the small scene in the corner at right, a newspaper adds additional, ambiguous, meaning to the engraving: the left-most boy, probably a bootblack, like his comrade beside him, is smoking a pipe and reading The Farthing Post, a cheap, piratical paper. Vending gossip, news and politics, this was the eighteenth-century equivalent of today's The Sun newspaper. Whatever conclusions may be drawn from its depiction here (including the allusions to the issue of piracy and to contemporary politics and the Excise Bill of 1733),44 one cannot ignore the embedding of the sensational paper in the larger matrix of corruption, intoxication and immorality, which is foregrounded in this section of the print. The little reader is also a little politician;45 like his colleague in A Midnight Modern Conversation he is characterized by the fact that he does not notice what is going on. Instead of alerting him to the problems, politics (in writing) absorbs his attention. Although only a minor visual detail, the newspaper nevertheless establishes semantic relations between the boys, the Rake and newspaper consumption.

In terms of journalistic discourse vis-à-vis society, however, there is more at stake here. The poor bootblack, we must remember, has nothing else but his paper to read. Indeed, The Farthing Post is to him what the cheap, didactic London Almanack is to the frugal merchant, Mr West, in plate 4 of Industry and Idleness: in each case, the particular reading-matter replaces literature and art. From the bourgeois, educated, point of view, it is ersatz reading (both in the German and more derogatory English meanings of the word)—the ‘literature’ of the common people. If one message that emerges from Industry and Idleness is that the diligent reader, Francis Goodchild, is always easy prey for coercive ‘official’ discourse, one may argue that in plate 4 of A Rake's Progress, the bootblack, visually and literally at the bottom of society, will stay there as a result of the thoughtless consumption of tobacco, spirits and an equally noxious journalistic discourse promising information while providing useless entertainment and sensational slander. The poor boy will remain at his lowly social position (a level the Rake has yet to reach) because his reading-matter contributes to the sedimentation of a state of mind, a mentalité even, that makes him yearn for gossip while preventing enlightenment.

It would of course be convenient at this point to summarize the functions of ‘official’ discourse that I have merely touched on here. This is impossible, for the simple reason that such an attempt would crudely simplify the concepts that create sense in Hogarth's graphic art (intertextuality and intermediality) in order to make them applicable to my critical concern. Intermedial readings as I have practiced them imply an undeniable paradox: they arise out of the fact that intertextuality provides meaningful insights into the variety and contradictory nature of discursive systems but also leaves open spaces and unexplored terrain. Jonathan Culler has suggested that ‘theories of intertexuality set before us perspectives of unmasterable series, lost origins, endless horizons … and … in order to work with the concept we focus it—but that focusing may always, to some degree, undermine the general concept of intertextuality in whose name we are working’.46 Even if, in the case of Hogarth's graphic art, one concentrates exclusively on the iconographic exploration of any single print, one will soon have to recognize that which could be termed a semantic Heissenberg-effect, i.e., the ultimate indeterminacy of such an enterprise,47 for Hogarth's engravings are complicated constructs in which visual and verbal signifiers (with several levels of meaning), entire sign systems as well as discursive forms, produce iconotexts whose meaning unfolds within the structural and semantic relations of the elements. In this respect, it is important to recall what Derrida has said about indeterminacy. ‘Every sign’, Derrida argues:

linguistic or non-linguistic, spoken or written, in a small or large unit, can be cited, put between quotation marks; in so doing it can break with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable. This does not imply that the mark is valid outside a context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any centre of absolute anchoring.48

Indeterminacy in Hogarth's engravings arises because his works engage in playing at the level of signs as well as at that of semiotic systems (e.g., the discursive forms discussed in this chapter) by quoting and questioning texts and contexts while creating new possibilities of understanding.

Still, what can be said about the discursive forms within Hogarth's iconotexts without reducing the complexity of the issue is that the prints dramatize the socio-political use and, even more, the misuse of language and writing. Behind this dramatization lurks a satirical-iconoclastic method Hogarth shared with Swift, who also mocked and attacked the exclusive, noxious jargon developed by social groups to the detriment of other groups.49 What Hogarth's engravings foreground in their use of such discourse is the attempt of groups and institutions to use writing as a means of gaining influence and dominance.

In this respect Althusser has suggested the analysis of such discursive forms as an expression of the ideology produced by the state apparatuses. Althusser maintains that the traditional Marxist notion of ideology is erroneous in its distinction between ‘superstructure’ and ‘base’. He has argued that ideology is not ‘false consciousness’ as a result of a system of representation disseminated by the dominant classes in order to mask the capitalist control of the means of production. Rather, he has equated ideology with all systems of representation (political, religious, artistic, juridical etc.), regardless of the social class or interest group that manufactures them. Suggesting an analysis not of the manufacturers but of the systems themselves, which create the illusion of the relevant subject while trying to dominate that subject in his/her very ‘interpellation’, his position is thus a semiotic one. According to Althusser, who yokes ideology to representation, all sign systems are ideologically freighted. One can thus search for the structures of power within those systems rather than in the relations between ‘superstructure’ and ‘base’.50

It seems that Hogarth's prints, even more than literary texts, draw our attention to the reception and the potentially repressive function of discourse. Both Althusser and Foucault perceive the origin of discourse in social institutions (the state, the Church, the school) that constitute and control the nature and knowledge of individuals.51 Hogarth's graphic art both shows and participates in the dissemination and sedimentation of these processes in eighteenth-century society—including the reactions of the addressees and potential targets of discourse. However, ‘official’ discourse as it found expression in the Pastoral Letter, in Acts of Parliament and Royal Speeches and in newspapers, is merely one thread in the intertextual fabric of the engravings. Fabric, a textile term Barthes and Kristeva have applied with much profit to literary texts,52 is an expression that is more than apposite for Hogarth's weaving of visual and verbal texts in graphic works whose intermedial relations can still fascinate us today.

The Hogarthian image, then, can be studied as a site (with all the architectural and archaeological connotations of that word) where the partisan discourse of the eighteenth century has been encoded in the form of equally partisan artistic comments on cultural and ideological phenomena. I have argued that Hogarth's engravings hold a lot of information in store for us if we abandon the chimerical and speculative aim to reconstruct the artist's intention and focus on a goal that, to my mind, is both more rewarding and more persuasive. That goal is—to return to my archaeological metaphor—the uncovering of discursive strata or, in terms of the Barthian/Kristevan ‘network’, the unravelling of the woven tissue. One advantage of this approach is that it also promises insights into the schemes (pun intended) of the artist, unveiling not his intention but rather the extent to which his rhetoric depended on pre-established discursive traditions and the concomitant mentalités. This means, for example, that Hogarth may have been working within mentalités that were too powerful to be resisted. In terms of Lacan's model, one might say that he was working sous le regard (under the gaze), that is, in a discursive space he could neither formulate nor change. Scholars interested in the reconstruction of artistic intention will of course find such a view of Hogarth and his work wholly untenable, precisely because it challenges the idea of the genial author in command of his artistic machinery.53


  1. See Hogarth's Autobiographical Notes, in his The Analysis of Beauty, p. 205. For detailed discussions of the engravings see Paulson's catalogue, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 47-9, 55-7; and the more biographically orientated Hogarth, vol. I: The ‘Modern Moral Subject’, 1697-1732, pp. 76-90, 119-22.

  2. On the importance of these popular forms of entertainment and their treatment by Hogarth see my ‘Hogarth's Graphic Palimpsests’.

  3. See U. Böker, ‘John Gay's The Beggar's Opera und die Kommerzialisierung der Kunst’, p. 136.

  4. See R. Barthes, ‘L'Effet de réel’, and G. Genette, ‘Vraisemblance et motivation’ in Figures II, pp. 71-100.

  5. On this process in which periodicals played an important role by establishing aesthetic (exclusive) norms, see U. Böker, ‘Die Institutionalisierung literarischer Produktions- und Rezeptionsnormen’.

  6. See P. Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Although Bourdieu is mainly concerned with the attempts of the Parisian upper middle class to cordon themselves off with the help of aesthetic canons that serve to achieve difference from neighbouring social groups, his study can be usefully applied (cum grano salis) to other countries and periods.

    Persuasive studies of the process of suppression of popular entertainments during the establishment of new aesthetic norms can be found in P. Stallybrass and A. White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, pp. 80-175; I. Pears, The Discovery of Painting, and in the two essays by U. Böker cited above.

  7. For an evaluation of the print see Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 110-11; and his Hogarth, vol. II, pp. 113-6.

  8. On the phenomenon of commercialization within eighteen-century cultural consumption, see J. H. Plumb, The Commercialization of Leisure in Eighteenth-century England, N. McKendrick, J. Brewer and J. H. Plumb, eds, The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England (Bloomington, 1982), U. Böker, ‘John Gay's The Beggar's Opera’, pp. 140-5, and J. Brewer and R. Porter, eds, Consumption and the World of Goods.

  9. See especially Foucault's The Order of Things, and The History of Sexuality, 3 vols.

  10. This is the view of mentality that governs the insightful study of N. Simms, The Humming Tree: A Study in the History of Mentalities. Simms argues that mentalities ‘are only partly textualizable’ and that their textual form ‘includes both the things that are unspeakable, unimaginable, and inconceivable and the tension that exists between them’ and what can be expressed (p. 14).

  11. See my articles listed in the Bibliography.

  12. On the publicity of Pastoral Letters see Paulson, Hogarth, vol. I, p. 283 n. 49; and p. 376 n. 48; and N. Sykes, Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London, 1669-1748: A Study in Politics and Religion in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1926).

  13. My account here is indebted to Paulson, Hogarth, vol. I, pp. 288-92; and II, pp. 88-9.

  14. This is David Dabydeen's persuasive argument in Hogarth, Walpole and Commercial Britain, pp. 104-5. Lichtenberg also stresses the general unpopularity of the Letter, arguing that it began to sell well when the merchants supported the ‘sender’ by distributing it at their expense. But given his dislike of clergymen (which he shared with Hogarth), he may be confirming a stereotype, for the high sales of the Letter tell a different story—but then again very little about the actual reception. See G. C. Lichtenberg, Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthschen Kupferstiche, p. 117.

  15. See Paulson, Hogarth, vol. I, pp. 1-2, 290.

  16. My reading is indebted to the information provided by Paulson, Hogarth, vol. I, pp. 288-90; II, pp. 88-9, and Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 79-80. Paulson, again following his interest in author-intention, also develops a reading that relates this scene to the fact that Hogarth was a Deist and probably also a freemason.

  17. On the role of paintings as part of the furniture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, see the articles by C. Grimm and P. J. J. van Thiel cited above.

  18. I discuss the series in the context of Hogarth's treatment of conduct books, and prescribed behaviour, in an article in a forthcoming collection of essays edited by Jacques Carré (Université de Clermont-Ferrand).

    For detailed discussions of Industry and Idleness see Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 129-39, and Hogarth, vol. II, pp. 289-322.

  19. See R. Hume, Henry Fielding and the London Theatre, 1728-1737, and L. W. Conolly, The Censorship of English Drama, 1737-1824.

  20. For details of the print see Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 108-9.

  21. My discussion is indebted to the information provided by Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 146-7, and B. Hinz, William Hogarth: Beer Street and Gin Lane. Also see the recent evaluation of Beer Street and Gin Lane in the art-historical context of the ‘Last Judgment’, by Werner Busch, Das sentimentalische Bild, pp. 264-94, where Busch provides useful information about the sociological and iconographic background for his new, interesting, reading of the series.

  22. See G. C. Lichtenberg's [sic] Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, 10. Lieferung (Göttingen, 1808), p. 51.

  23. Cf., for instance, the views advanced by Barry Wind and Ronald Paulson. Wind, in an author-oriented reading, sees Hogarth and his print as part of the establishment, sympathizing with Hanoverian ideas and brewer interests. Paulson believes that the print (in conjunction with Gin Lane) offers two possibilities of reading: one for the prosperous middle class (good versus evil) and one for the poor (prosperity causes evil). See Wind's essay, ‘Gin Lane and Beer Street: A Fresh Draught’, and Paulson's latest discussion of Beer Street in Hogarth, vol. III, pp. 23-6. Unfortunately, Wind's ‘fresh draught’ produces some rather stale ale, for it is basically a study of visual and verbal sources that served Hogarth as pretexts; Wind never questions the dualistic frame(work), including the relation between the accompanying verses and the image, and rejects the possibility that there might be irony (either intended by the author or produced by the reader) at work in Hogarth's iconotext.

  24. Perhaps Paulson has this common feature in mind when he argues in Hogarth, vol. III, p. 23, that the fishwives are ‘reading the king's speech’. They have come all the way from Billingsgate to Westminster in order to sell their fish—but they are clearly reading the ballad, not the speech.

  25. This is the persuasive argument of Stephen Behrendt's essay, in which he maintains that in Beer Street and Gin Lane ‘an implied dualism is in fact not supported but instead exploded’. See Behrendt, ‘Hogarth, Dualistic Thinking and the Open Culture’.

  26. See Wind, ‘Gin Lane and Beer Street: A Fresh Draught’, and Paulson, Hogarth, vol. III, pp. 23-4. Also see Paulson's Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 145-8.

  27. See Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, p. 226.

  28. See Bal's Reading ‘Rembrandt’, pp. 235-6 and passim; and Damisch, Théorie du nuage, pp. 106-59, idem, L'Origine de la perspective.

  29. See F. Ogée, ‘Lœil erre: les parcours sériels de Hogarth’. On the meaning of Beer Street that emerges from its serial aspect (Gin Lane being both its counterpart and its complement), see also D. Kunzle, The Early Comic Strip: Narrative Strips and Picture Stories in the European Broadsheet from c. 1450 to 1825 (Berkeley, 1973), pp. 298-340, and H. J. Schnackertz, Form und Funktion medialen Erzählens. Narrativität in Bildsequenz und Comicstrip (Munich, 1980), pp. 35-86. See also Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 148.

  30. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 148.

  31. See, for instance, Barry Wind, ‘Gin Lane and Beer Street’, who believes that the verses ‘make the message patent’ and that Hogarth's personal commentary ‘reenforced the admonitory message’.

  32. Paulson, Hogarth, vol. III, pp. 25-6.

  33. Paulson's argument echoes the theories of Wittgenstein and Nelson Goodman, who both assert that the codes in images are essentially richer and denser than those of verbal texts. See Wittgenstein's suggestion that density is by definition visual in Tractatus Logicus-Philosophicus (1921; New York, 1961). However, in his later writings he changed his mind, maintaining that language is no less dense than are pictures: see Philosophical Investigations (1953; New York, 1958). Also see Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art. But the issue is far from resolved—witness Mieke Bal's statement, in Reading ‘Rembrandt’ (p. 401) that the density of codes is not a hallmark of the visual, which contradicts Paulson's underlying belief.

  34. Paulson, Hogarth, vol. III, p. 26.

  35. This point, which I entirely endorse, is made by Behrendt in ‘Hogarth, Dualistic Thinking, and the Open Culture’.

  36. See Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 146-7; and Wind, ‘Gin Lane and Beer Street’. Berthold Hinz, in his detailed study of the series, follows Paulson and takes the meat to be a loin of mutton: William Hogarth: Beer Street and Gin Lane, p. 18. Werner Busch thinks the blacksmith is holding up pork: see Das sentimentalische Bild, p. 280.

  37. See the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. C. Hartshorne et al., vol. II.

  38. In his commentary to this scene, Lichtenberg, always perspicacious, finds a telling term—politics—for the speech and the papers, while stressing the relations between the beer, the mutton, and the interests of the King and the burghers. (G. C. Lichtenberg's Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, p. 50).

  39. On the newspaper background of the Harlot series, see Paulson, Hogarth, vol. I, pp. 241-56; see also Paulson's Emblem and Expression, p. 37; and the commentary to The Stage-Coach, or the Country Inn Yard (1747), in Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 126-7.

  40. For a recent perceptive discussion of the print see F. Ogée, ‘L'Onction extrême: une lecture de A Midnight Modern Conversation (1733) de William Hogarth’.

  41. Lichtenberg, Ausführliche Erklärung, pp. 47-8.

  42. Lichtenberg bases his own punning ekphrasis of the central scene (he uses the German term Denkzettel, signifying memorandum, reminder and a lesson taught by physical means such as beating or thrashing) on the full title of the journal: The Remembrancer or Weekly Slab [Lichtenberg writes, ‘Stab’] on the Face for the Ministry, which obviously inspired Hogarth for his pictoral playing. See G. C. Lichtenberg's Erklärung, pp. 19-20. On the contemporary background see Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 142-5.

  43. Lichtenberg, Ausführliche Erklärung, pp. 236-8.

  44. For a discussion of the possible allusions see Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, pp. 94-5, and the critical works by Dabydeen and others cited there.

  45. The term is Lichtenberg's, in Ausführliche Erklärung, p. 239.

  46. Culler, The Pursuit of Signs, p. 111.

  47. Bernd Krysmanski, in his attempt (dissertation, 1994) to provide a comprehensive reading of Hogarth's Enthusiasm Delineated, has written more than 1000 pages—and there are still many open questions.

  48. ‘Signature, Event, Context’, pp. 185-6, reprd in A Derrida Reader, p. 97.

  49. See D. Eilon, Factions' Fiction: Ideological Closure in Swift's Satire, pp. 65-94, and my ‘Swift and the Female Idol’.

  50. See Althusser's essay ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’ in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, and the critical discussion of Althusser's thesis in Visual Theory, ed. N. Bryson, pp. 3-4. Among the ‘Ideological State Apparatuses’ identified by Althusser (and to be distinguished from the repressive apparatuses, such as the Government, the Administration, the Police, the Army, the Courts, and the Prisons) and applicable to Hogarth's day and age one could name: the religious ISA; the educational ISA; the family ISA; the legal ISA; the political ISA; the communications ISA; and the cultural ISA (Literature, the Arts). See the reprint of the major sections of Althusser's seminal essay in Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. C. Harrison and P. Wood, pp. 928-36. For a critique of Althusser's view of the individual, which is partly based on Lacan's ‘imaginary consciousness’ and would seem to leave little room for personal ideological rebellion, see T. Eagleton, Literary Theory, pp. 171-3.

  51. See especially Foucault's Surveiller et punir. Naissance de la prison, and the three volumes of his Histoire de la sexualité. For a discussion of the role of discourse as seen by Althusser and Foucault, and of their influence on ‘New Historicism’, see M. Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-structuralism and Postmodernism (London, 1988), pp. 63-95; and R. Selden and P. Widdowson, A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory, 3rd edn (London, 1993), ch. 4 and 6.

  52. See R. Barthes, ‘De l'oeuvre au texte’, p. 229, Le Plaisir du texte, pp. 100-01, and J. Kristeva, Sémeiotiké, pp. 145-6.

  53. For a discussion, and application to art-historical studies, of Lacan's theory of the gaze, see Bryson's Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze, the essays collected in his Visual Theory: Painting and Interpretation, and David Clarke's ‘The Gaze and the Glance: Competing Understandings of Visuality in the Theory and Practice of Late Modernist Art’, Art History, XV/II (1992), pp. 80-99. Also my ‘Learning to Read the Female Body’.

    Reacting to my article on eroticism in Hogarth's prints, in which I outline the discursive effects of Puritan moralism, Paulson finds such a view ‘wholly untenable’; see his comments to my discussion of Before and After in Hogarth, vol. III, p. 461 n. 66. Also see his negative response to my reading of The Sleeping Congregation, in Hogarth, vol. II, p. 407 n. 28.

    As my chapter above shows, it may be vastly more interesting to consider Hogarth not as a genial artist, but as a Derridean blind artist who masters neither space nor discourse. Hogarth, I have tried to show, was also written by the discursive fields and the mentalités of his age: some of them he manipulated, others, however, overpowered him. Paulson does not like the idea of a powerless Hogarth; I am not afraid of such a common sight (in art and literature), since we are all to some extent victims of the power lines of writing that have been the subject of Foucault's analyses.


Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London, 1971).

Mieke Bal, Reading ‘Rembrandt’: Beyond the Word-Image Opposition (Cambridge, 1991).

Roland Barthes, ‘L'Effet de réel’, Communications, IV (1968), pp. 84-9.

———, Le Plaisir du texte (Paris, 1973).

Stephen C. Behrendt, ‘Hogarth, Dualistic Thinking and the Open Culture’ in Hogarth in Context: Ten Essays and a Bibliography, ed. J. Möller (Marburg, forthcoming).

Uwe Böker, ‘Die Institutionalisierung literarischer Produktions- und Rezeptionsnormen: Überlegungen zur Erforschung der Unterhaltungsliteratur um 1800’, in Unterhaltungsliteratur: Ziele und Methoden ihrer Erforschung, ed. D. Petzold and E. Späth (Erlangen, 1990), pp. 139-61.

———, ‘John Gay's The Beggar's Opera und die Kommerzialisierung der Kunst zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts’, Schriftenreihe der Universität Regensburg, XVII (1990), pp. 121-46.

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. R. Nice (Cambridge, MA, 1987).

John Brewer, and Roy Porter, eds, Consumption and the World of Goods (London, 1993).

Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze (London, 1983).

———, Michael A. Holly and Keith Moxey, eds, Visual Theory: Painting and Interpretation (Cambridge, 1991).

Werner Busch, Das sentimentalische Bild. Die Krise der Kunst im 18. Jahrhundert und die Geburt der Moderne (Munich, 1993).

L. W. Conolly, The Censorship of English Drama 1737-1824 (San Marino, CA, 1976).

Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (London, 1981).

David Dabydeen, Hogarth, Walpole and Commercial Britain (London, 1987).

Hubert Damisch, L'Origine de la perspective (Paris, 1987).

———, Théorie du nuage. Pour une histoire de la peinture (Paris, 1972).

Jacques Derrida, A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, ed. P. Kamuf (New York, 1991).

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory (Oxford, 1983).

David Eilon, Factions' Fiction: Ideological Closure in Swift's Satire (Newark, 1991).

Michel Foucault, Surveiller et punir. Naissance de la prison (Paris, 1975); trans. as Discipline and Punish (New York, 1977).

———, The History of Sexuality, 3 vols, trans. R. Hurley (New York, 1978-87).

———, Les Mots et les choses (Paris, 1966), trans. A. Sheridan as The Order of Things (New York, 1973).

Gérard Genette, Figures II (Paris, 1969).

Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols (Indianapolis, 1976).

Claus Grimm, ‘Histoire du cadre: un panorama’, Revue de l'art, LXXVI (1987), pp. 15-20.

Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, eds, Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas (Oxford, 1992).

Berthold Hinz, William Hogarth: Beer Street and Gin Lane. Lehrtafeln zur britischen Volkswohlfahrt (Frankfurt, 1984).

William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty: With the Rejected Passages from the Manuscript Drafts and Autobiographical Notes, ed. J. Burke (Oxford, 1955).

Robert Hume, Henry Fielding and the London Theatre, 1728-1737 (Oxford, 1988).

Julia Kristeva, Sémeiotiké. Recherches pour une sémanalyse (Paris, 1969, reprd 1978).

Bernd Krysmanski, ‘Hogarth's “Enthusiasm Delineated”. Nachahmung als Kritik am Kennertum’, PhD diss., 2 vols (Ruhr Universität Bochum, 1994).

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthschen Kupferstiche, ed. F. H. Mautner (Frankfurt, 1991).

———, G. C. Lichtenberg's [sic] Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, mit verkleinerten aber vollständigen Copien derselben von E. Riepenhausen, 13 issues (Göttingen, 1794-1835).

Frédéric Ogée, ‘L'œil erre: les parcours sériels de Hogarth’, Tropismes, V (1991), pp. 39-106.

———, ‘L'Onction extrême: une lecture de A Midnight Modern Conversation (1733) de William Hogarth’, Etudes anglaises, XLV/1 (1992), pp. 56-65.

Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, in 3 vols: I TheModern Moral Subject’, 1697-1732; II High Art and Low, 1732-1750; III Art and Politics, 1750-1764 (New Brunswick, NJ, and Cambridge, 1991-3).

———ed. and comp., Hogarth's Graphic Works, 3rd revd edn (London, 1989).

Iain Pears, The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England, 1680-1768 (London, 1988).

Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers, ed. C. Hartshorne et al., 8 vols. (Cambridge, MA, 1931-60).

John H. Plumb, The Commercialization of Leisure in Eighteenth-century England (Reading, 1974).

Norman Simms, The Humming Tree: A Study in the History of Mentalities (Chicago, 1992).

Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (London, 1986).

P. J. J. Van Thiel, ‘Eloge du cadre: la pratique hollandaise’, Revue de l'art, LXXVI (1987), pp. 32-6.

Peter Wagner, Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America (London, 1990).

———, ed., Erotica and the Enlightenment (Frankfurt and New York, 1991).

———, ‘Eroticism in Graphic Art: The Case of William Hogarth’, Studies in Eighteenth-century Culture, XXI (1991), pp. 53-75.

———, ‘Hogarth, Eighteenth-century Literature and the Modern Canon’, in Anglistentag Marburg 1990: Proceedings, ed. C. Uhlig and R. Zimmermann (Tübingen, 1991), pp. 456-81.

———, ‘Hogarth's Graphic Palimpsests’: Intermedial Adaptation of Popular Literature’, Word & Image, VII (1991), pp. 329-47.

———, ‘How to (Mis)Read Hogarth or Ekphrasis Galore’, 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, II (1994), pp. 99-135.

———, ed., Icons—Texts—Iconotexts: Essays on Ekphrasis and Intermediality (Berlin and New York, 1995).

———, ‘Learning to Read the Female Body: On the Function of Manet's Olympia in John Braine's Room at the Top’, Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, XLII/1 (1994), pp. 38-54.

———, Lust und Liebe im Rokoko/Lust and Love in the Rococo Period (Nördlingen, 1986).

———, ‘Satirical Functions of the Bible in Hogarth's Graphic Art’, Etudes Anglaises, XLVI/2 (1993), pp. 141-67.

———, ‘Swift and the Female Idol: The Dean as Iconoclast’, Anglia, CX/3-4 (1992), pp. 347-67.

———, ‘The Discourse on Crime in Hogarth's Graphic Works’, in Image et société dans l’œuvre graphique de William Hogarth, ed. F. Ogée (Paris, 1992), pp. 29-45.

———, ‘The Pornographer in the Court Room: Trial Reports About Cases of Sexual Crimes and Delinquencies as a Genre of Eighteenth-century Erotica’, in Sexuality in Eighteenth-century England, ed. P.-G. Boucé (Manchester, 1982), pp. 120-41.

Barry Wind, ‘Gin Lane and Beer Street: A Fresh Draught’, in Hogarth in Context: Ten Essays and a Bibliography, ed. J. Möller (Marburg, forthcoming).

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations [1953], trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York, 1958).

———, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus ([1921] Frankfurt, 1984), trans. B. F. McGuinness (New York, 1961).

N. F. Lowe (essay date 1996)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Lowe, N. F. “The Meaning of Venereal Disease in Hogarth's Graphic Art.” In The Secret Malady: Venereal Disease in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France, edited by Linda E. Merians, pp. 168-82. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996.

[In the following essay, Lowe explains Hogarth's many allusions to venereal disease as symbols for immorality and corruption at the highest levels of British society.]

The paintings and engravings that William Hogarth called his “modern moral subjects” were not intended to be pictorial sermons preaching simple messages about right and wrong. Ronald Paulson has argued convincingly that Hogarth's intention was to illustrate a conventional moral theme, beneath which he would then hide a deeper, more subversive reading. In this reading certain themes usually emerge, such as “the forces of society and fashion … against the natural impulses of the individual,” a struggle in which Hogarth usually took the side of the natural.1 For the same reason, Norman Bryson has called Hogarth “the great master of shifting textual levels.” Bryson asserts that Hogarth achieved depth of meaning by moving between the moral message in the “official text” and the inversion of that message in the “unofficial text.”2 In this scheme of things, heroes can become villains, and villains victims, depending on which interpretation the onlooker has chosen to read.

In this essay, I will argue that Hogarth's depiction of venereal disease involves just such a complexity of moral meaning. In the official text, venereal disease is seen as one of the wages of sin. The individual chooses an immoral way of life, and the ravages of the disease follow from that choice. In the unofficial text, venereal disease is used as a symbol of a greater social corruption, and those inflicted with it are to be seen as pitiful victims of a cruel and exploitative element in society.

Hogarth's first pictorial series, A Harlot's Progress, uses the theme of venereal disease in both of these ways. George Vertue claimed the series, begun in 1731, developed from a single picture, the satirical study of a Drury Lane prostitute, awakening at about noon after a night's work.3 This picture became the third in the series of six illustrations that make up the Progress. If the picture is studied as a single satirical portrait, it well serves to illustrate the complexities of Hogarth's thinking …. The conventional moral message is clearly illustrated. The seductive harlot may look contented, but she is about to reap the dreadful consequences of her immoral lifestyle. This moral message was an important one for Hogarth, rooted as it was in the Puritan ethic of the English middle class from which he proudly came. English artists in general and Hogarth in particular could not paint erotic scenes without inserting moral warnings about the consequences of uncontrolled sexual behavior. In this picture, retribution for the harlot's sins appears most obviously in the figure of Sir John Gonson, the magistrate, who is leading in his constables to arrest her for prostitution. It also lurks, less obviously, in the allusions to venereal disease hidden within the picture. Above the picture of Dr. Henry Sacheverell are two vials, suggesting she is trying to cure herself of venereal disease. In addition, the maid who is pouring her tea is in an advanced stage of syphilis. Her nose is eaten away, and the outsize beauty spot suggests a complexion blemished by the disease. These are clues to the ultimate fate of the harlot, who is facing degradation and early death because of her uncontrolled sexual conduct.

Hogarth used this simple moral message to satirize the fashionable French craze for paintings filled with hidden sexual allusions. These erotic paintings often depicted a woman in her bedroom, captured while at some highly personal activity. At a superficial level, the paintings were voyeuristic intrusions into the female boudoir, titillating but innocent. At another level, however, the paintings were filled with erotic intent. The bedrooms would have a beau désordre, where the apparently untidy contents would contribute to the artistic meaning of the painting, and in this disorder, the astute observer could read erotic themes that denied the apparent innocence of the scene. In this way, the artist could lead the spectator to imagine scenarios that could not be depicted with decorum.

A good example of what Hogarth was satirizing is Watteau's La Toilette du Matin, painted in about 1717. During the thirties and forties, the craze for Watteau and his style of French painting was increasing in England. Hogarth had admired this style fifteen years before the fashion reached its height in 1745. Watteau here captures a woman at the moment of rising. She is virtually naked and, with the help of her maid, is beginning her morning ablution in a totally unselfconscious way. Watteau, however, has provided clues to stimulate the erotic imagination of the observer. The disorder of the bed and the cupid's bow motif on the headboard leave no doubt that her washing follows a night of lovemaking. Watteau, however, makes no moral comment: the painting is simply a moment of intrusion into the personal life of the young woman that the onlooker, as voyeur, is allowed to enjoy. Hogarth ostensibly does the same thing in the bedroom scene of A Harlot's Progress, but the beau désordre conceals a message not of erotic intent but of moral and physical decay.

Another painting of the sort that Hogarth was satirizing is François Boucher's La Toilette, painted in 1742. In this boudoir scene, Boucher depicts a woman tying a garter onto her leg as she prepares for her evening out on the town. Her fresh face and pure expression dominate the initial impression made by the painting: the artist has apparently captured an innocent young woman at a moment of personal intimacy. In the beau désordre around her, however, there are numerous allusions to her real intent. The cat between her legs was a traditional symbol of sexual receptivity.4 The word chat in French has the same double meaning as the word pussy in English. In the hearth we see a pair of tongs with an oddly phallic protuberance where the two “legs” of the tongs meet. Birds fill the picture: several on a screen behind her, one on the mantelpiece, and one on the fire brush in front of her. Birds signified male genitals, so this ornithological theme in her room instantly lends itself to a prurient interpretation of what is going on. Behind the screen hangs a portrait of a woman with a flower in her hair. She seems to be peeping over the screen, an innocent pastoral shepherdess observing the preparations of an urban temptress. When these clues are read, her posture, with her legs apart and a thigh exposed, takes on a different meaning. She is not an innocent caught in a moment of innocent déshabillé: she is a worldly woman planning a night of lovemaking. Like Watteau, Boucher makes no moral statement about the woman. The main purpose of these French paintings was simply to delight the onlooker by exciting his erotic imagination through a superficially innocent picture. The moment of unintentional déshabillé combines with the portents of sexual gratification to provide a picture charged with eroticism, a scene to be viewed, interpreted, and enjoyed by those clever and worldly enough to read the clues.

In the third picture of A Harlot's Progress, Hogarth adopts these conventions in order to undermine the hidden eroticism by combining it with allusions to the dangers of uncontrolled sexuality. Hogarth, in the French manner, captures the harlot, Moll Hackabout, at a moment of déshabillé, with her breast exposed, but the effect is not unintentional and innocent. She is portrayed looking cheekily at the onlooker, careless of her state of undress. The stolen watch she is gloating over reveals her amoral attitude toward life. Like the woman in Boucher's La Toilette, she also has a cat at her feet. However, her cat adopts a blatantly sexually receptive pose, suggesting nothing innocent about the sexuality of its owner. The more the disorder of the bedroom is examined, the more the theme of moral condemnation and punishment emerges. There is a birch cane above her bed. Next to the picture of Macheath is a portrait of Henry Sacheverell, who was put on trial for attacking the Revolution Settlement. The title of the sermon that led to his impeachment was “In perils among false brethren,” a text highly pertinent to Moll's life in London and which is easily adapted to the deeper underlying reading of this series. In this context, the two vials to cure her venereal disease are ominous tokens of the horrible fate ahead of her.

In the fourth engraving, the Bridewell scene, Hogarth cleverly reverses all the conventions of these French erotic paintings. Instead of the convention of showing a pretty courtesan dressing while her maid works or attends her, Hogarth depicts Moll Hackabout at work beating hemp while her maid is dressing. As in Boucher's picture, the woman is putting on a garter. However, the maid's ragged clothes, the hole in her stocking, and her ravaged syphilitic appearance make her anything but seductive. The glimpse of thigh is not erotic but grossly physical, especially as she is portrayed next to a woman crushing a flea between her thumb and forefinger.

This official text condemns the harlot's sexual immorality. The unofficial text, however, allows the onlooker to see her with some sympathy. This reading, which depicts the harlot as a victim, is explicit in the first picture of the series. Moll Hackabout is portrayed as an innocent and naive young woman. Hogarth cleverly makes her resemble the dead goose she has brought down to London for her “Lofing Cosin.” She is about to become an offering to the predators who are laying a trap for her. The disorder around this innocent, whose virgin state is symbolized by the hat firmly fixed to her head, is filled with allusions to the moral corruption and depraved sexuality of the society she has entered. Here, Hogarth is playing most mischievously with the conventions of French erotic painting. He surrounds the innocent young woman with clues to her impending loss of virginity, but the intention is not erotic titillation. Hogarth pointedly condemns the society that preys on young women. In the official text, Moll is turning her back on religion. In the unofficial text, religion is ignoring the plight of Moll and the other women like her. The clergyman is totally preoccupied with the address of the Right Reverend Father in London who will help to advance his career. He ignores the women newly arrived from York, even though they are innocents in need of protection. Their fate is symbolized by the pile of pots falling over nearby, which the clergyman also ignores. Pots, baskets, and hats were allusions to female genitalia, and falling or broken pots symbolized lost virginity, so Hogarth is depicting the clergy as indifferent to the way people are exploited all around them by a corrupt society.

Venereal disease emerges as a theme in the face of the bawd, recognizable as the notorious Elizabeth Needham, who ran a brothel for the aristocracy. The beauty spots on her face are pockmarks rather than a cosmetic affectation. While Mother Needham is seducing Moll into her brothel, Colonel Charteris, the infamous rapist, lurks in the background. He stands with his servant, Jack Gourly, in the doorway, fondling himself in anticipation of another victim. Charteris was wealthy and had escaped punishment for his crimes by using his social power. For Hogarth, he represents the evil that corrupts the innocent, and it is this evil, symbolized by venereal disease, which eventually infects and kills Moll.

In the fifth picture, Hogarth depicts her death at the age of twenty-three. She again resembles the dead goose in the first picture. The venereal disease that killed her may be retribution for her sin, but Hogarth, on the second level, again portrays her as a pathetic victim. She is being robbed of her few last possessions by an unknown woman, but the real villains are the two doctors, Dr Richard Rock and Dr Jean Misaubin, who have taken all her money in return for their useless quack remedies.

The Marriage à la Mode series is an extended illustration of venereal disease as a direct consequence of the social corruption created by the idle and extravagant aristocracy. Hogarth could be illustrating the following quotation from Jonathan Swift: “That, our young Noblemen are bred from their Childhood in Idleness and Luxury, that, as soon as Years will permit, they consume their Vigour, and contract odious Diseases among lewd females; and when their Fortunes are almost ruined, they marry some Woman of mean Birth, disagreeable Person, and unsound Constitution, merely for the sake of Money, whom they hate and despise. That, the Productions of such Marriages are generally scrophulous, rickety, or deformed Children; by which means the family seldom continues above three Generations.”5

In the eighteenth century, venereal disorders were popularly known as the “alamode disease.” In 1732, Daniel Turner wrote in his book on syphilis, “As to what relates to the Cure of this first Injection [sic] or French Disease, (which whether theirs or not, has one of its Epithets, Alamode, thence borrowed).”6 A German treatise on venereal disease by Lewis Wilhelm de Knorr, published in 1717, was called Venus à la mode. The term alamode disease was common enough to appear in advertisements for cures of venereal disease,7 so the very title Marriage à la Mode would have led the eighteenth-century observer to look for venereal disease as a theme. With this secret disease as his topic, it is not surprising that Hogarth should assert, in the advertisement he placed on 2 April 1743 in the London Daily Post and General Advertiser, “Particular Care will be taken that there may not be the least objection to the Decency or Elegancy of the whole work.” Given the indelicate subject to be illustrated, he needed to point out that it would be handled with extreme delicacy and refinement. The observer was being alerted, however, to an encoded theme that would be hidden from innocent eyes.

The first picture in the series contains numerous clues to the fact that the earl and his issue are being ravaged by the disease. Lord Squanderfield is obviously crippled by gout. One cause of gout was held to be syphilis, which was known in England as French gout. Jean Astruc explains, “The three Humours which are prepared by Nature to facilitate the Motion of the Joints, give easy Admittance to the Venereal Infection.”8 He goes on to explain that the “mucilaginous Glands” become enlarged, and the circulation of the blood obstructed, so that “an arthritic Pain is produced, attended with Tension, and Pulsation, Heat, Redness and Inflammation of the Joint” [2:16]. Squanderfield's bandaged foot, therefore, signals more than excess of certain foods and drink. It indicates advanced venereal disease, and his very prominent crutches, which carry his crest to show they are part of his regular way of life, signal the extent to which his health is crippled.

To make his point even more explicit, Hogarth surrounds the earl with numerous symbols and indicators of the venereal infection. The earl is pointing to the top of his family tree, which is less vigorous near the top, and which oddly grows from the stomach of his ancestor, the duke of Normandy, suggesting the entire family line is rooted in greed and excess and is dying off, like the branch that is dead and falling from the tree.

The large painting by the window is a portrait of the earl as a young man. He is depicted as Jupiter, but he holds a ridiculously small thunderbolt in his hand. From the region of his groin, a cannon emerges, firing a peculiarly small cannonball, significantly about the same size as the round mark on his son's neck. If there is doubt that this cannon is meant to be a phallic symbol, firing inadequate ammunition, another clue reiterates the message. The earl is staring at a portrait of Medusa. Athena changed Medusa's hair into serpents, and as a result all who looked on her turned to stone. After Perseus beheaded Medusa, Athena placed her likeness in the center of her shield or breastplate. She was a virgin divinity whose heart was inaccessible to the passion of love. The fact that Medusa now stares out from the center of the earl's wall, not from the breastplate of Athena, suggests the family is also impervious to love.

Athena was the daughter of Jupiter, who symbolized power, and Metis, who symbolized wisdom, and so she was the harmonious blend of both qualities. It was Athena who gave the state strength and prosperity. The lonely earl, the Jupiter figure in the portrait, has lost his wife. He is Jupiter without Metis, power without wisdom. He is, however, a sickly figure whose power is in rapid decline because of excess and sickness. Hogarth leads the observer to conclude that the earl has lived a life without love and that his excesses have left him and his sperm (the puny cannonball) enfeebled. His gout shows the debilitation caused by sexual dissipation, and his scrawny son reveals a further decline in the strength of the line.

The prominent mark on the viscount's neck also indicates the taint of venereal disease. Robert Cowley, in his book on the Marriage à la Mode series, describes the beauty spot as “a large plaster on his neck.” He goes on to explain:

Scrofula attacks the lymphatic glands of the neck as a consequence of the malnutrition of the tissues which then become vulnerable to the spread of tuberculosis carried in the infected milk. The disease also attacks the nerves of the eyes (as Dr. Johnson knew to his cost), a weakness which could conceivably lie behind the Viscount's fatal lack of perception. Scrofula was a baffling evil in the eighteenth century. Subscribers would have seen the son's sore as an inheritance of the father's excesses and many would have interpreted it as a sign of congenital venereal disease.9

Of the viscount's child in the sixth picture Cowley comments:

The boy has a sore on his cheek, a depressed forehead, blubber lips, an enlarged head, a weak leg and a stunted body. The weakness would be a sign of rickets or, more probably, tubercular osteitis caused, like his father's scrofula, by infected milk. The patch is not directly over the child's lymphatic glands so that it may have been meant as a symptom of a congenital disease rather than a scrofula. A depressed forehead can also be a symptom of either rickets or a congenital defect. … The symptoms are consistent with each other and a range of common disabilities which contemporaries were likely to regard as inherited “sins” and this must be Hogarth's essential point.


Cowley could have been more explicit. Two works by Jean Astruc, whose influential work on venereal disease was first translated into English in 1737, make it quite clear that Hogarth was portraying venereal disease in both Viscount Squanderfield and his child. In his discussion of the “pocky degenerative virus,” Astruc notes that some authors claim that the “lues venera,” or French pox, “ill cured in the father may degenerate into the rickets in the son.”10

The viscount's beauty spot is a “Venereal bubo, or tumour” of the lymphatic gland. Astruc points out that “Venereal Buboes” are caused by an “old Venereal Taint,” or a “Venereal Infection just admitted.” The gland affected is determined by the laws of circulation. Apart from the neck, armpits, and groin, he specifically cites “the side of the lower jaw,” the location of the black spot on the child (1:338).

The location of the black spot on the child's cheek in Hogarth's picture is not random but exactly placed over the salivary gland. Astruc's reasoning would lead to a diagnosis of a venereal bubo developed from sucking. The advanced age of his nurse would suggest that the infected milk would have come from the mother. As Steele's essay [Spectator, no. 246] implies, the practice of the mother breast-feeding her own child was being recommended to protect the child from the Evil, scurvy, and other infections, so the irony of this child being doubly infected by the parents may well be Hogarth's intention, for it is also clear that the child was born with syphilis.

The rickets, which Cowley suggests might be tubercular osteitis, was also strongly linked to congenital syphilis in the eighteenth century and long after. Astruc asserts that syphilitic mothers bring “puny, broken-backed, large headed, crooked, bandy-legged, variously distorted, and thick jointed” children into the world [2:37].

The argument whether rickets and syphilis were linked continued throughout the nineteenth century and has even surfaced recently. For example, J. Parrot, a pioneer radiologist, argued in 1886 that syphilis affects every bone of the infant skeleton and that rickets was a later lesion of congenital syphilis.11 As recently as 1969, Robinson revived the argument by suggesting that the absence of bossing in the cranium was due to unrecognized rickets.12

There is good reason for this controversy. Congenital syphilis, like rickets, leads to craniofacial malformations that include a high cranium or “tower skull,” sloping skulls, beetled brows, and collapsed saddle nose deformities. Involvement of adjacent structures can also lead to a short maxilla and a high palatal arch. The result is a face with a “dished out look.” The tibia suffers anterior bowing because of periostitis of the long bones, and the teeth are affected in terms of structure, size, and enamelization, which Murphy and Patamasucon conclude “undoubtedly contributed to the historical confusion of the disease with rickets.”13

It is quite clear, then, that Hogarth was depicting in the child an accurate picture of congenital syphilis. The child is the center point of the final picture, clinging pitifully to its dead mother. It is a moving illustration of Swift's remark that “the Productions of such Marriages are generally scrophulous, rickety, or deformed Children; by which means the family seldom continues above three Generations.”

There are two other children blighted by congenital disease in Hogarth. The first of these is Moll Hackabout's son, who appears in the fifth and sixth pictures of A Harlot's Progress. Though he is sturdy in comparison to Viscount Squanderfield's son, his domed forehead and uncomprehending manner suggest he has not escaped the consequences of his mother's way of life. The second is the young boy in the illustration for Evening in the Four Times of the Day. In his book Hogarth and the Times-of-the-Day Tradition, Shesgreen notes that “he carries empty symbols of male supremacy in the ironically phallic cane and the gingerbread king, changed from a cookie in the painting to underline the picture's theme of male impotence.”14 However, his weak little legs and domed head suggest that the cause of his impotence is venereal disease, the result of his mother's adultery.

The second picture of the Marriage à la Mode portrays Viscount Squanderfield as a handsome and bored young man, and his wife is depicted at her nubile best. Hogarth, however, provides several clues to the venereal disease attacking them both within.

The Viscount's pose, as Cowley points out, “was a well known metaphor of sexual intercourse in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” [58]. The pose implies sexual exhaustion, but the broken sword gives a different message. It has been broken without being drawn, a symbol of the owner's impotence. Again the black mark on his neck links his state to venereal disease. A further clue is above him on the mantelpiece. In the center is a Roman bust with a broken nose. Astruc wrote in his book on venereal disease, “The Mucus of the Nose is affected in the same way … from hence the whole Arch of the Nose being destroyed, and the Bridge of it falling in, those who before had an aquiline Nose become flatfaced like an ape” (2:14). The statue looks like the bust of a syphilitic and hints at the syphilis eating away at the couple below. Behind this statue is a painting of a cherub playing the bagpipes, a traditional symbol of discord and again intended to comment on the atmosphere in the Squanderfield household.

In his pocket, Squanderfield has stuffed his mistress's bonnet, and the family dog is sniffing at it. This is a delightful use by Hogarth of one of the conventions of French erotic paintings. Dogs were the traditional symbol of fidelity, but dogs were also used to suggest sexual excitement. A frisky dog alongside languid lovers was frequently used to suggest the hidden sexual arousal and tension. Here, Hogarth depicts such an excitable little dog, but its excitement comes from its discovery of the illicit mistress's bonnet, itself a symbol of female genitalia. It is a tableau depicting fidelity gone wrong. It is a fine example of how Hogarth can gain additional effect by playing around with standard images.

Lady Squanderfield's pose, with her knees apart and her stays revealed, conveys her increasing sensuality and immodesty. The pocket mirror she holds above her head looks like a halo which has slipped and which she is removing. A red mark on her lip is possibly the first hint of a venereal sore.

This scene is Hogarth at his artistic and satirical best. The profligate ways of the aristocracy, their poor taste, and their sexual indulgence are all satirized. In the disorder of the room, we witness the debt, disease, and confusion that this way of life has brought about. In Lady Squanderfield, we see the portrait of a fallen woman, reveling in all the vices that come with the aristocratic way of life, and we also see the first hint of venereal disease, which she has acquired from the same source.

The third picture in the series reiterates how the aristocracy are a source of degeneracy and disease. In a room full of the images of illness and death, Viscount Squanderfield is set apart. He alone is seated, and he alone has a carefree and grinning face. The pill box he is holding out to the quack, with the lid significantly near his groin, are clearly useless remedies for venereal disease. Given his long history of infection, with the disease being passed to him at conception by his father, it is not unlikely that the pills were a quack remedy to prevent reinfection and transmission. Astruc attacked all such methods of prevention, as they not only did not work but also led people to risk the dangerous effects of promiscuous sex. “Once,” he wrote, “the Fear of Infection by which Men are restrained from Intemperance, is removed, then the Reins of Lust will be let loose” [1:283].

In this case the aristocrat has infected the whore. The young girl, possibly procured for him because she was a virgin, is dabbing at a syphilitic sore on her lip. The implication is that the viscount has infected her in the same way he has infected his wife.

The viscount is threatening the quack, though not very seriously. He would seem to be blaming the inefficacy of the medication for causing the infection of the young girl, rather than his own degeneracy. Cowley points out that the tall woman is holding “a folding scalpel or bistoury,” but suggests there is no evidence it was intended for surgery. In fact, textbooks abound with references to surgery for venereal disease. Turner, an English doctor, in his book on syphilis, wrote, “These accidents being likewise attended at some times with great Fluxion and Inflammation, as appears by the feverish Disorder with which they are affected, it is requisite at such times … to empty their veins by bleeding” [256]. There is a brass shaving and bleeding dish available on the top of the glass cabinet, so such a procedure is part of Dr Misaubin's repertoire. Given that both the doctor and the tall lady are annoyed by the attitude and antics of the viscount, and the young girl is clearly ill and distressed, it is likely that they realize how severely she has been infected, and the scalpel may suggest drastic procedures are envisaged. The tall woman may be annoyed because the viscount seems to see it all as a joke.

Cowley concludes that the tall woman is angry because of the “insinuation that the common miss, presumably sold to her patron as a virgin, gave the viscount the disease which the doctor's pills fail to cure” [87]. It makes better sense, given what we know of Viscount Squanderfield, to see him as the source of contagion. He is the cause of the corruption of the young woman's health and morals, just as his aristocratic taste for luxury and indolence have corrupted his wife and left her infected with the same disease.

Luke Sullivan explained the mark on the tall woman's chest as a brand marking her as a convicted prostitute. Cowley reads them as “FC” for female convict or criminal, and he compares her to Mrs Needham in the first picture of A Harlot's Progress. I have suggested in an earlier article that Hogarth frequently used beauty spots as an emblem of venereal infection.15 Beauty spots were, of course, a fashion in the eighteenth century. In Spectator, no. 50, Addison poked fun at the way women changed their spots: “The women look like Angels, and would be more beautiful than the Sun, were it not for little black Spots that are apt to break out on their Faces, and sometimes rise in very odd Figures. I have observed that these little Blemishes wear off very soon; but when they disappear in one Part of the Face, they are very apt to break out in another, insomuch that I have seen a Spot upon the forehead in the Afternoon, which was upon the Chin in the Morning.”

Now these “little blemishes” are nothing to do with the loosely disguised sores that Hogarth sometimes depicts. Again, contemporary medical texts give clues as to what Hogarth is doing. Turner describes the face of one young woman suffering from venereal disease as follows: “A Gentlewoman six Months gone with Child, most part of that time incommoded with Tubercles on several parts of her face, a Serpigo on the chin, with two or three others upon the Cheek and side of her Nose, giving her great Uneasiness by the Trouble, as also disfiguring her countenance, sent for me to give Directions to her Surgeon” [256]. A few pages later, he describes “a Gentleman having a small Pustule broke out above his Eyebrow, and in Company with the Surgeon belonging to his Family, desir'd a Patch, who accordingly applied a Bit of Common Plaister upon black Silk” [271]. The pustule turned out to be a venereal sore.

Several Hogarth characters acquire beauty spots that may signal the secret disease. The most obvious ones are the prostitutes in the third painting, the Tavern scene, in A Rake's Progress. Six women have large black spots. The one stealing Tom's watch has two large spots on her cheek and a large spot and a small spot on her forehead above her nose. The woman behind Tom has four large spots, which tend to dominate her face rather than draw attention to her better features, and the three women at the table also have prominent facial marks. In the front left of the picture, Hogarth again uses the style of French erotic painting for satirical purposes in portraying “the posture woman,” who is preparing for her performance. She is in the pose of the women in French boudoir paintings, like the one by Boucher discussed above. She is putting on her shoe and seems unaware of her exposed breast. Unlike the woman in Boucher's painting, however, she looks the reverse of innocently erotic. Her tired and bored expression suggests fatigue rather than sexual excitement, and the large beauty spot on her forehead is unsightly enough to have a venereal connotation. At her feet is a chicken, the remains of their late night feast. A dead bird was a conventional symbol for lost virginity, just as a living bird was a symbol of male sexuality. This bird, however, is anything but a virile and fertile emblem of male sexuality. It is a dead carcass stabbed through the abdomen with a fork. The pregnant woman in rags behind her, singing bawdy songs, is another portent of the fate that lies ahead of the prostitute who has lost her marketable value.

Similarly, the woman lying in a faint in the engraving called Enthusiasm Delineated has two huge black marks on her cheek. This woman has been identified as Mother Douglas, a notorious bawd from Covent Garden, so both these women of ill repute are marked out in the same way. It is possible that Hogarth is simply illustrating the tasteless makeup of lewd women, but a comparison between these outsize spots and the cosmetic beauty spots discreetly decorating the actresses in the print Strolling Actresses in a Barn suggests Hogarth intends a deliberate ambiguity.

At least two kinds of plaster could be taken for beauty spots. One kind was a patch of material with an adhesive substance that was placed over a sore to hold a curative unction in place. Turner described one such plaster using black silk. Hogarth sometimes draws these as rectangular to denote that they are plasters. There is one below Tom's right nipple in the final scene of A Rake's Progress, and the man sprawling in the foreground of A Midnight Modern Conversation wears two geometric plasters on his head. The other plaster was formed by adding wax to the unction to give it “a due consistence,” and this wax patch would hold the curing agent, normally mercury for the pox, over the sore. Mercury was mixed with turpentine in a mortar until a brown or black powder was obtained, which was then mixed with hog's lard until the ointment was of the right consistency. Wax replaced some of the lard for a plaster, and when applied to the sore it could resemble a beauty spot.

The woman walking through Covent Garden in Morning, the first of the Four Times of Day series, is an interesting example of this ambiguity. She has two spots above and two below her left eye. Shesgreen suggests that her prudish exterior masks her real intent, which is a clandestine sexual assignation in the church.16 There are other clues to suggest she is not as respectable as she seems. Just behind her is an advertisement for a cure by Dr Rock, who made his money by selling useless cures for venereal disease. He appeared in Plate V of A Harlot's Progress. In a literal sense, the woman has a venereal cure behind her, so Hogarth may wish the observer to draw the obvious conclusion. The beauty spots on her face might hide a darker secret. The woman begging in front of her is also enigmatic. David Dabydeen thinks she represents a crouching black beggarwoman. “Shivering in the cold,” he writes, “and wrapped from head to toe in an old blanket, she is far removed from her reputed nakedness in the tropical climate of Africa.” Dabydeen points out that this black woman is paired off from her white social superior for satirical purposes. One eighteenth-century convention used blacks to illustrate the two extremes of existence, “the black representing obscenity and paganism, the middle-class white representing civilized religion, moral rectitude and so forth.”17 The black woman's nose, however, is markedly collapsed, so she might be a prostitute reduced to begging and ravaged by venereal disease. The white woman, as Dabydeen asserts, is a portrait of fraudulent piety because of her indifference to the cry for charity. Everything about her is fraudulent. She represents Aurora, the personification of the birth of the day, who had come to be associated with youth and fertility. Hogarth's Aurora is an aging figure pretending to be young, whose bony flat chest suggests anything but fertility. She is going to the church, but her lack of concern for the freezing page carrying her prayerbook and her lack of charity for the beggar suggest she is not a real Christian. If she has been treated for venereal disease and is off to a sexual tryst in the church, then her apparent respectability hides a profounder obscenity than is to be seen in the pitiful black. The only real difference between these two women may well be the poverty of the black woman, who cannot mask her state behind a hypocritical exterior.

Hogarth, then, can use beauty spots as a sexual allusion. At times they signal prurience, and at other times they are an emblem of venereal disease. The tall woman in the third scene of the Marriage à la Mode series may be such a character. Most commentators take her to be a procuress, an ex-prostitute tainted and branded by the profession.

In the glass case, a skeleton is propped against an anatomical model so that it appears to be sexually groping the model while whispering in its ear. Cowley points out that this tableau offers “a precise and extensive comment on the central situation,” but he reads it as a symbol of the viscount's experiencing “the first caress of contagious death” [93]. Death, in the form of venereal disease, has kissed three of the main characters, and the skull of a victim of the contagion on Dr Misaubin's table signifies how he lives off these deaths. The skull, incidentally, is marked with black spots. Cowley takes these to be holes in the skull, which has been eroded by syphilis [91].

As it happens, Viscount Squanderfield is killed by his wife's lover before syphilis can complete the task. The lover is executed, and his wife commits suicide, but the dance of death continues as his sickly child will be the last of the line. A skeletonlike dog apparently whispering into a dead pig's ear is a clever reworking of the skeleton in the closet in the third scene. The pig's head, with its gaping mouth, also resembles the expression on the face of the dead Lady Squanderfield, who is being embraced by the pitiful child, who is also kissed by death. As Swift wrote in the passage quoted above, “the family seldom continues above three Generations.”

Ronald Paulson believes that Hogarth's sympathies are always on the side of the common people. He attacked the luxury of the aristocracy and the decadence of the social institutions that maintained them. While he attacked the middle classes for aspiring to emulate and enter into the aristocracy, he admired the tradition of hard work and clean living that existed in the trading classes of Protestant England. Moll Hackabout, the innocent young girl who comes to London as a dressmaker, fell because she tried to acquire wealth without work. The same is true of Lady Squanderfield, who is made wealthy by the hard work of her alderman father but who becomes corrupted by the aristocratic way of life. They both acquire venereal disease from the higher classes, whose idle decadence is the source of their downfall.

Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress also uses his father's accumulated wealth in dissipation, but in the eighth picture, the Bedlam scene, it is not venereal disease that has destroyed his mind. The connection between syphilis and mental illness was not discovered until the nineteenth century. In the eighteenth century, madness and sex were linked because of excessive stimulation of the brain. In his 1758 Treatise on Madness, William Battie proposed that the nervous system and its connection to the brain at the medulla caused “laxity in the overloaded vessels.” He cites “many instances of madness occasioned by praemature, excessive or unnatural venery, by Gonorhoeas ill cured with loads of mercury and irritating salts, by fevers and such like convulsive tumults.”18 Overloading the nerves and medullary substances could also be caused by the endless thinking of “infirm and shattered philosophers” and by gluttony and idleness. The latter causes madness by failing to give “due propulsion of the fluids” and adequate stimulation to the nervous system. Tom, then, goes mad because of overindulgence and consequential overstimulation of the brain and its nervous system. His fine physique in the picture contrasts with his diseased and disordered mind. His head has been shaved to cool the brain and relieve the pressure caused by this overstimulation, but he remains raving mad.

In conclusion, Hogarth, in his representations of the manners and morals of English society, used allusions to venereal disease to make a satirical attack on various forms of decadence and immorality. At the simplest level, he used it as a warning against unrestrained sexual behaviour. He vividly depicted the disease as the terrible consequence of promiscuity. At a deeper level, Hogarth used venereal disease as a symbol of a wider social corruption in society, presided over by an idle and profligate aristocracy who, in satisfying their excesses, exploited and corrupted poor and innocent people in the process. Finally, Hogarth used venereal disease to satirize the French fashion for erotic paintings, which used partially clad females and suggestive nudes to advocate the delights of uncontrolled sexual indulgence. In Hogarth's system of morality, fashionable trends of questionable taste received as much censure as immoral conduct. Both offend against decency, and Hogarth attacked them relentlessly throughout his life.


  1. Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art and Times, 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1971). See esp. 1:474-75.

  2. Norman Bryson, Word and Image: French Painting of the Ancien Régime (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), 148-49.

  3. George Vertue, Notebooks, 6 vols. (Oxford: Walpole Society, 1934-55), 3:58.

  4. For a full discussion of these sexual allusions see Mary D. Sheriff, Fragonard: Art and Eroticism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990).

  5. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 2d ed., ed. Paul Turner (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), 261.

  6. Daniel Turner, Syphilis: A Practical Dissertation on Venereal Disease, 4th ed. (London, 1732), 68.

  7. British Library, Collection of 185 Advertisements, C112. f.9, 41. See also Roy Porter, Health for Sale: Quackery in England, 1660-1850 (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1989), 150.

  8. Jean Astruc, A Treatise of Venereal Diseases, rev. ed., 2 vols. (London, 1754), 2:15.

  9. Robert L. S. Cowley, Marriage à la Mode: A re-view of Hogarth's narrative art (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1983), 39-40.

  10. Jean Astruc, A general and compleat Treatise on all the Diseases Incident to Children (London, 1746), 216.

  11. J. Parrot, La syphilis herreditaire et la rachitis (Paris, 1886).

  12. R. C. V. Robinson, “Congenital Syphilis,” Archives of Dermatology 99 (1969): 599.

  13. F. K. Murphy and P. Patamasucon, “Congenital Syphilis,” in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, ed. King K. Holmes, Mardh Per Anders, P. F. Sparling, and M. D. Wiesner (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984), 352-74.

  14. Sean Shesgreen, Hogarth and the Times-of-the-Day Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1983), 113.

  15. N. F. Lowe, “Hogarth, Beauty Spots, and Venereal Diseases,” British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 15 (Spring 1992): 71-79.

  16. Shesgreen, Hogarth, 116.

  17. David Dabydeen, Hogarth's Blacks (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1987), 121.

  18. William Battie, A Treatise on Madness (London, 1758), 56.

Bernd Krysmanski (essay date June 1998)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Krysmanski, Bernd. “We See a Ghost: Hogarth's Satire on Methodists and Connoisseurs.” Art Bulletin 80, no. 2 (June 1998): 292-310.

[In the following essay, Krysmanski examines Hogarth's Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, the published version of the earlier Enthusiasm Delineated, which was not only a sharper satire than the reworked version, but a more mature and coherent work as well.]

I have seen Hogarth's print of the Ghost. It is a horrid composition of lewd Obscenity & blasphemous prophaneness for which I detest the artist & and have lost all esteem for the man. The best is, that the worst parts of it have a good chance of not being understood by the people.

—Bishop William Warburton, 17621

William Hogarth's “print of the Ghost” is his engraving Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism: A Medley (1762),2 which, as a satire on Methodist “enthusiasts,” is indeed “horrid” in its vicious attack on a fanatic preacher and swooning congregation. Bishop Warburton, the well-known eighteenth-century advocate of the established church and keen antagonist of deism, atheism, and Methodism, was equally right in his supposition that parts of Hogarth's print “have a good chance of not being understood,” since the work has several levels of interpretation. When published, it was a total reworking of a first state, entitled on the proofs Enthusiasm Delineated.3 Figuratively and literally, the one obscures the other, and it is the purpose of this paper to look at the published print to unveil the hidden meaning of its unpublished proof.

Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism depicts the inside of a Methodist meeting place in which a congregation has gone mad over an enthusiastic sermon. The name of the most prominent Methodist preacher at that time, George Whitefield, and two lines from his Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (1753)4 are inscribed on a slip of paper attached to the clerk's lectern. Near the pulpit, banderole-like, is a sonometer called “W[hitefiel]d's Scale of Vociferation.” It ranges from “Nat[ura]l Tone” to “Bull Roar,” another clear allusion to Whitefield, who was known for his powerful voice. The instrument hangs grotesquely from a nose and screaming mouth inscribed “Blood, Blood, Blood, Blood,” a reference to Whitefield's use of repetition to dramatize his words.5 Describing Methodist preaching, a certain “Eusebius” wrote in A Fine Picture of Enthusiasm (1744) that

the frequent mention of the Name of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Blood of Jesus, filling up great Part of their public Discourses, and very often only used to supply the Want of Ideas or sense; so that these Expressions our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, and the Blood, the precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are used as the Music of their Discourses.6

The preacher's arms are raised, a handkerchief held theatrically in his left hand to suggest grief, a pose typical of George Whitefield.7 In order to leave no doubt about whom he was attacking, Hogarth has made the clerk at the lectern an obvious caricature of the man. He is even portrayed cross-eyed, as he is in the portrait of him painted by John Wollaston in 1742.8 Whitefield in 1762 was rather corpulent, but Hogarth presents him here emaciated and depressed, a shadow of his former self. His wings may refer to a canard that appeared in the Lloyd's Evening Post in 1761 reporting that the Methodist leader had died.9 The cherubim on either side of the clerk also allude to the world beyond.

A postboy from heaven, echoing the clerk's putti, appears in the upper center of the print. The fact that he is delivering a letter addressed to “St. Money-trap” underlines the preacher's greed, as does the “Poors Box,” which is a mousetrap. Whitefield was brilliant at collecting money from the ignorant. In Israel Pottinger's The Methodist, a Comedy (1760) he is called “an Enthusiastic Rascal!—That frightens the Ignorant out of their Wits, and afterwards picks their Pockets.”10

Hogarth's pulpiteer cannot be preaching the word of God. With a harlequin's suit under his gown, he speaks, as indicated on the open page of his Bible, “as a fool” (2 Cor. 2:23). All the members of the equally foolish congregation have lost their senses. The atmosphere is hellish, the preacher's puppets a devil and a witch. The “Globe of Hell” hanging from the ceiling has a face and is inscribed with strange topographical expressions such as “Molten Lead Lake,” “Pitch & Tar Rivers,” “Horrid Zone,” “The Brimstone Ocean,” and “Eternal Damnation Gulf.” This is probably a sideswipe at the attitudes of a “hellfire Methodist preacher” who sees hell's flames flashing in the faces of the congregation and believes “that they are now! now! now! dropping into Hell! into the Bottom of Hell! the Bottom of Hell!11

These inscriptions may also insinuate Roman Catholic fantasies of hell.12 The preacher's wig falls away and reveals the shaven crown of a Jesuit, an allusion to the then widely held opinion that Methodists were in fact secret papists. Bishop Lavington, for instance, compared the “modern Enthusiasts” to the “most ridiculous, strolling, fanatical, frantic, delirious, and mischievous of all the saints in the Romish Communion.” And Theophilus Evans wrote that “the Sects of all Denominations … were made Tools in the Hands of Romish Priests, to carry on their Interest, that they are all the Spawn of the Jesuits, however diversified in Tenets and Principles.”13

As the “Globe of Hell,” which hangs level with the pulpiteer, is inscribed “A New and Correct Globe of Hell by Romaine,” it must refer to another notorious London Calvinist Methodist preacher, William Romaine, who was, in 1752, appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College. In a lecture read at the college Romaine had once asked: “was dying sinner ever comforted by the spots in the Moon? Was ever miser reclaimed from avarice by Jupiter's Belts? or did Saturn's Ring ever make a lascivious female chaste?”14 Contrary to the opinion that celestial bodies had “no tendency to mend the heart,” Hogarth's print indicates the effect Romaine's “Globe” had on churchgoers. We need only look at the man at the back left, his hair on end, the expression on his face one of horror as the preacher by his side points out the globe to him. This preacher is, no doubt, John Wesley, as one lifted arm was characteristic of his manner of preaching, as his portrait indicates.15

The Methodists were regularly accused of being distracted,16 and, indeed, in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism the room, with its windowpanes resembling prison bars, looks more like a madhouse than a Methodist meeting place.17 Religious fanaticism was likened to not only madness during this period but also to carnal desire. Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) associates religious melancholy with “Love-Madness,” which he describes as “a Disease, Phrensy, Madness, Hell.” Henry More states that “it is plain in sundry Examples of Enthusiasm, that the more hidden and lurking Fumes of Lust had tainted the Fancies of those Pretenders to Prophecy and Inspiration.18 Bishop Lavington was of the opinion that “these excesses of the spiritual and carnal affections are nearer allied than is generally thought,” and, interestingly, an anonymous pamphlet even reports The Amorous Humours of One Whitefield.19 How appropriate to find that, in the right-hand corner of his print, Hogarth has provided a mental thermometer that rises out of a “Methodist's Brain.” The mercury here measures states of enthusiasm and insanity, ranging from cold, melancholic conditions such as “Low Spirits,” “Settled Grief,” and even “Suicide” to hot states of sexual excitement, first “Love Heat,” “Lust,” and “Extacy,” and then “Convulsion Fits” and “Raving.” Correspondingly, the preacher's enthusiasm has turned into sexual arousal, for the edging of the pulpit cushion, converging in a tassel at the corner, looks like an erect penis as it seems to protrude from a significant part of his harlequin's suit.

Thermometer scales were frequently used by eighteenth-century satirists to describe human passions. The Connoisseur 85 (September 11, 1754) gives an account of a “Female Thermometer” that indicates “the exact temperature of a lady's passions” and includes “Inviolable Modesty,” “Indiscretions,” “Innocent Freedoms,” “Loose Behaviour,” “Gallantry,” and “Abandoned Impudence.” Henry Fielding's True Patriot 22 (March 25-April 1, 1746) describes a “Weather-Glass of Wit” that could indicate the “Degree of Heat or Coldness in the Understanding.” It runs from “Vivacity” to “True Wit, or Fire” and “Wildness” up to “Madness,” the “raving point.”20 Later in the century even the Methodists knew “Spiritual Barometers” or “Scales of the progress of Sin and of Grace,” which accompanied the faithful on their way through life, indicating whether they were on the path of righteousness.

Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism ironically connects the satirical uses of thermometry with the strange contemporary views of mental barometry. We recognize most of the thermometer's different degrees of mood in the behavior and faces of the congregation. Thus, on the left, a woman has fallen to the ground, “all over convulsed”21 and is giving birth to rabbits. In 1726 a certain Mary Toft had caused considerable uproar when she claimed she could actually give birth to rabbits. She had fooled several physicians and obstetricians and the outrage had prompted Hogarth to make an earlier print of the subject, Cunicularii; or, The Wise Men of Godliman in Consultation.22 In this print the sexual connotations are unambiguous. The curtains of the four-poster bed on which Mary Toft lies resemble the female vulva. The title of the print, which is the Latin word for tunnelers, likewise plays on the pun of cuniculus (the Latin word for rabbit) and cunnus (the pudenda),23 and an “Occult Philosopher” reaches under Mary Toft's dress, shouting: “It Pouts it swells, it spreads it comes.”

Below Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, there is a warning caption quoted from 1 John 4:1: “Believe not every Spirit; but try the Spirits whether they are of God: because many false Prophets are gone out into the World.” As we have seen, the “false prophet” here is Whitefield: “Believe not every spirit,” however, may well be a pun referring to the Methodist belief in ghosts. The lay preacher beneath the pulpit uses a little white figure holding a candle as a sexual stimulant as he slips it into the bodice of an enraptured girl. We find the same figure in the hands of several members of the congregation. These little figures represent the Cock Lane Ghost, which made headlines early in 1762.

The Cock Lane Ghost story was started by the Methodist Richard Parsons, who claimed to hear strange noises in his house at night, “like knuckles knocking against the wainscot,” particularly in the bedchamber of his eleven-year-old daughter. The story was later proved to be a hoax.24 In Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, the register plates of the barometer have been replaced by a mock weather house in which the Cock Lane Ghost can be seen knocking a mallet against a wall with a bed and child on the other side. The barometer is accurate in forecasting ghost weather in 1762. The Cock Lane hoax sparked off a period of ghost story revival in which numerous older ghost stories were printed—and often satirized—in contemporary pamphlets and periodicals. One is the story of the Drummer of Tedworth, which is found in Joseph Glanvil's Saducismus Triumphatus (1681).25

In March 1662 John Mompesson of Tedworth, who held a legal post in the county of Wiltshire, heard the beat of a drum. He sent for the drummer, a certain William Drury, and asked him by what authority he drummed up and down the country. Drury produced a pass and warrant, both of which were counterfeit. The drum was confiscated and kept in Mompesson's house. From then on Mompesson was disturbed by “a very great knocking at his Doors, and the outsides of his House” and frequently by “a Thumping and Drumming.” It usually came as the Mompessons “were going to sleep, whether early or late,” and it also “came into the Room where the Drum lay.” It beat out “Round-heads and Cuckolds, the Tat-too, and several other points of War, as well as any Drummer,” and was occasionally “so boisterous and rude, that it hath been heard at a considerable distance in the Fields, and awakened the Neighbours in the Village.” According to Glanvil, who examined the case, there was not the slightest doubt about the preternatural cause of the extraordinary events in Mompesson's house. To a friend, however, Drury confessed to having plagued the gentleman at Tedworth, adding that Mompesson “shall never be at quiet, till he hath made me satisfaction for taking away my Drum.” This statement brought him to trial for witchcraft. He was condemned to transportation, but

(‘tis said by raising storms, and affrighting the Seaman) he made a shift to come back again. And ‘tis observable, that during all the time of his restraint and absence the house was quiet, but as soon as ever he came back at liberty, the disturbance returned. He had been a Souldier under Cromwel, and used to talk much of Gallant Books he had of an old fellow, who was counted a Wizzard.26

Hogarth research has ignored the fact that the Drummer story is found in Glanvil's book. Hogarth knew the book well. He uses the inscription “Glanvil on Witches” on one of the books placed under the Methodist's brain in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, and has depicted the Drummer at the top of the mental thermometer.

“Glanvil on Witches” is placed beneath “Westley's Sermons.”27 In his diaries, Wesley writes about ghosts and miracles as experienced by his followers, and even claims that not to believe in ghosts was tantamount to denying the truth of the Bible. In one of his letters we read that he had no doubt about the truth of Glanvil's accounts.28 In fact, Wesley and Glanvil agreed on many points. In Saducismus Triumphatus, Glanvil points out the close relationship between the mainstays of Christian religion (angels, the Holy Ghost, the resurrection of the body and immortality of the soul) and the supernatural (sorcery, witchcraft, spirits).

The three puppets dangling around the pulpit also represent well-known ghosts. On the left, the bespectacled female puppet holding a candle and looking into a book with the name “Mrs. Veal” printed in it refers to Margaret Veal, who died in Dover on September 7, 1705, and is said to have appeared to her friend Mrs. Bargrave in Canterbury on the following day. This popular ghost story was first published in the Loyal Post 14 (December 24, 1705). Daniel Defoe, who believed in ghosts, embellished the account and published it in July 1706 as A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal.29 This was still popular in 1762.

The central puppet is Julius Caesar, in Roman toga and crown of laurel, a candle in one hand. He has just been stabbed and is now looking at himself in the mirror. This puppet surely alludes to Caesar's ghost appearing to Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (4.3.275 ff., and 5.5.17 ff.), as the three daggers in the puppet's breast remind us of Caesar's murder (3.1). It is interesting to remember here that for their own amusement, Hogarth, the actor David Garrick, and their friend Dr. John Hoadly had once, in a bawdy private play called Ragandjaw, parodied the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius in Julius Caesar. Hogarth himself played Grilliardo, the Devil's Cook, replacing Caesar's ghost.30 In the Spectator 44 (April 20, 1711) Joseph Addison wrote: “there is nothing which delights and terrifies our English Theatre so much as a Ghost, especially when he appears in a bloody Shirt.”31 Hogarth may well have been thinking of such common stage tricks, ironically relating them to the methods used by Methodist preachers to frighten their followers.

The name of the third puppet ghost appears in the open book held in his left hand, “Sr. Geoe. Villers.” Here Hogarth refers to Sir George Villiers of Brookesby, who is said to have returned as a ghost after his death and prophesied the murder of his son, the famous first duke of Buckingham.32 The ghost depicted in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism is wearing typical early-seventeenth-century dress. What is more, Hogarth's George Villiers resembles contemporary portraits of the duke of Buckingham painted by Daniel Mytens the Elder or Michiel Jansz. van Miereveld,33 no doubt in order to stress the identity of this puppet through family resemblance.

According to several contemporaries, Whitefield's followers were largely illiterate proletarians,34 the class thought particularly susceptible to superstitious belief in spirits and witchcraft. Significantly, below the lectern in Hogarth's print a poorly clad figure in rags clasps a gin bottle. Instead of liquid spirits a Cock Lane Ghost is rising from the bottle. The crouching figure is spitting out nails, which made John Ireland think it was the Boy of Bilson, a twelve-year-old named William Perry who in 1620 claimed to have been bewitched by an old woman and “brought up Pins, Wool, knotted-Leaves, Feathers, &c.” or even “a knitting Needle folded up in divers Folds.”35 In my opinion, the figure looks more like a stout adult than a little boy of twelve, and the shoeblack's tools and a copy of “Whitfield's Journal”36 in the basket at his side indicate him to be a Methodist shoeblack, which William Perry was not. The shoeblack's basket is placed on King James's Daemonologie (1597). James I was known to be a fierce witch hunter.37 John Trusler, the first to describe Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, spoke of a bewitched female nail-spitting shoeblack.38 This would fit perfectly, as a shoeblack could certainly be seen as lower-class.

The World 34 (August 23, 1753) ironically reported, “If a woman, turned of eighty, with … a high-crowned hat on, should be seen riding upon a broomstick through the air … you may almost swear that she is a Witch.” In addition, English witches were accompanied by so-called “imps,” small creatures often in the form of animals, such as cats, which the witches fed with their own blood.39 It is a witch that the preacher holds high above the congregation in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism. Hogarth places the Methodist's new belief that the Holy Ghost influences the soul directly on the same level as the superstitious belief in ghosts and witches. The print is an attack on both. We note that a little demon standing on the edge of the front pew is whispering the new truths into the ear of a man who has fallen asleep.

At the left a Turk peering through the window looks rather astonished at the strange scene. Foreign observers were frequently used by contemporary satirists to denounce the “alien” customs of the realm.40 In 1761, the London Magazine reproached John Wesley for being “a very great enthusiast, with no more knowledge of and esteem for the holy Scriptures than a Mahommedan.”41 In Hogarth's print, the Mohammedan represents not the “primitive barbarity,” unbelief, ignorance, and lasciviousness of the Turks so often described in contemporary literature42 but, ironically, the rational, enlightened part of mankind looking down on Christian fanatics with surprise and disgust.

The bottom of the mental thermometer registers “Suicide.” This is obviously a dig at the tendency among Methodists to commit suicide in order to be united with Christ in heaven. On August 20, 1740, Whitefield, recovering from a collapse he had suffered after preaching, wrote a letter to his mother from Charleston, South Carolina, in which he mentioned that he had “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.” The Lloyd's Evening Post, August 20, 1742, attributed the suicide of a wealthy shoemaker shortly after hearing a sermon at the Foundery (the London meeting place of the Wesleyans) to the Methodists working on his soul.43

Proneness to suicide was not limited to Methodists; widespread in England, it was known as the “English desease.”44 Innumerable articles dealt with the subject, trying to establish the cause of the deadly tendency. An analysis appeared in the Connoisseur 50 (January 9, 1755):

… it must be confessed that Suicide begins to prevail so generally, that it is the most gallant exploit, by which our modern heroes chuse to signalize themselves. …

The cause of these frequent Self-murders among us has been generally imputed to the peculiar temperature of our climate. Thus a dull day is looked upon as a natural order of execution, and Englishmen must necessarily shoot, hang, and drown themselves in November. That our spirits are in some measure influenced by the air cannot be denied, but we are not such mere Barometers as to be driven to despair and death by the small degree of gloom that our winter brings with it. … I can never be persuaded that being born near the North-pole is a physical cause for Self-Murder.

Hogarth has put “Suicide” at the lowest, coldest point on the mental thermometer's scale. But at this Methodist meeting the mood will no doubt rise, and at “Luke Warm” the danger of suicide is slight. The word “Lust” appears on the scale in capital letters and surrounded by a halo. Hogarth seems to indicate this was a mood particularly appreciated by the Methodists. The word “Love” in Whitefield's “Hymn” on the lectern also has a halo. Sensuality and sexuality appear in direct analogy with enthusiastic religious zeal throughout the print. In the end this carnal fervor will drive people raving mad, as the top of the scale on Hogarth's thermometer indicates.

The layers of meaning behind Hogarth's print become clearer still if we consider its first state: Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism is a reworking of Enthusiasm Delineated, which was engraved on the same copperplate a year earlier. Only two proofs of this print exist, one in the British Museum, the other in the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in San Francisco.45 To explain why Hogarth decided to rework the plate, John Ireland says that “some friends suggested” that the satire “would be mistaken, and that there might be those who would suppose his arrows were aimed at religion [in general]. …” John Thomas Smith, whose father knew Hogarth well, states that Hogarth's friend Dr. John Hoadly did not approve of “the first state of Enthusiasm Displayed, which had Mr. Garrick or Dr. Johnson seen, they could never for a moment have entertained their high esteem of so irreligious a character [i.e., Hogarth].”46 These two statements indicate that there must be irreligious, atheistic, or blasphemous motifs in Enthusiasm Delineated that are more far-reaching than the mere attacks on Methodist belief in the second state, and that they would have upset the general religious sensibilities of Hogarth's contemporaries and disturbed even his friends. These motifs, which do not appear in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, no doubt point to the different content of the first state of the print.

Although Enthusiasm Delineated, like Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, appears to be a biting satire of Methodist enthusiasm, the real target of the attack is, in my opinion, not religious fanaticism but enthusiasm in general and, in particular, the zealous predilection of misguided connoisseurs for traditional, “sublime” religious art. At first the scenes appear similar: the spartan interior of a Methodist meeting place, a raving congregation, a fanatic preacher. At closer view, however, it becomes clear that Hogarth altered almost every detail of Enthusiasm Delineated to produce Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism. The Turk at the window, one or two members of the congregation in the back pews, the preacher, and the devil dangling from his left hand are the only figures to remain untouched. The witch hanging from the preacher's right hand is a reworking of an image of God the Father supported by two angels. Mrs. Veal, Julius Caesar, and Sir George Villiers replace six biblical figures, namely, Adam and Eve, Peter and Paul, and Moses and Aaron. The Cock Lane Ghost images of the second state are figures of Christ in the first. In Enthusiasm Delineated the clerk is not a portrait of George Whitefield, and the shoeblack is a ragged woman hugging an image of Christ, the basket replaced by a howling dog with “Whitfield” on its collar (perhaps a pun on the white collar of a minister, since this is also called a dog collar). The fluttering cherub beside the clerk originally had the legs of a duck. In the pew under the pulpit a lecherous nobleman and his innocent prey, who lets an image of Christ drop, take the place of the lay preacher and the pious young maiden with a Cock Lane Ghost in her bosom. A weeping handcuffed criminal sits in the same pew, his tears collected in a gin bottle by a figure of Christ. Mary Toft has not yet produced her rabbits. Here she is a swooning woman John Ireland believes to be the notorious bawd “Mother” Douglas.47 The blind man behind her, identified by his long beard as a Jew, stands before an open book (presumably the Old Testament) that shows not a knife inscribed “Bloody” lying on an altar but the Sacrifice of Isaac. In Hogarth's handwritten notes under the British Museum proof, the Methodist's brain is described as a murderer's brain of which the Holy Ghost has taken possession.48 Accordingly, we find the dove of the Holy Spirit at the top of the mental barometer rather than the Drummer of Tedworth.

The key to understanding the meaning behind Enthusiasm Delineated lies in the biblical puppets held in the preacher's hands and dangling around the pulpit. They do not make reference to traditional religious puppet shows, as one might assume.49 Whitefield and his followers, like the Puritans a century before, regarded the stage as an immoral institution and condemned both “profane” dramatic performances and puppet shows. In that respect, Hogarth's puppet-playing preacher is here as insincere as he is later in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism. A closer look at the puppets in Enthusiasm Delineated reveal that they not only represent biblical figures but also allude to well-known works by old masters. God the Father in the preacher's right hand has been taken directly from Raphael's ceiling frescoes of the Vatican Stanza d'Eliodoro, while the devil in his left hand appears to have been borrowed from Peter Paul Rubens. Both proofs of the first state carry a handwritten key to these puppets. Under the British Museum print we read: “Figure A was taken from directly Raphel Urbin, B from Rubens, C from Rembrant, D E F G are imitations.”50 Thus, the puppets on the pulpit also imitate old master works. The two on the left allude to Albrecht Dürer's famous print Adam and Eve (1504). At the same time their jointed limbs hint at the “impracticable rules of proportion” that Hogarth found in Dürer's posthumous treatise on human proportion, the Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion (1528).51 The next two represent Peter pulling poor Paul's periwig, Peter a satiric quotation from Rembrandt's etching Peter and John Healing the Cripple at the Gate of the Temple (1659).52 On the right, the horned Moses with his long waving beard may faintly echo the horns and beard of Michelangelo's famous sculpture Moses.

Through these puppets the secondary meaning of the scene, hidden behind a veil of anti-Methodist satire, becomes clear. We are looking at an auction of pictures in which a fashionable auctioneer, disguised as a fanatic preacher, extols to art enthusiasts old master works in the ridiculous, disparaging form of puppets. It must be remembered here that eighteenth-century auctioneers were also art dealers. Famous for their eloquence, they often stood on raised, pulpitlike podiums in order to make themselves heard. Satirical plays of the period, such as Samuel Foote's Taste (1752), which was performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in April 1761, and contemporary prints, such as The Auction; or, Modern Conoisseurs testify to this.53 Referring to London picture auctions, Hogarth's French friend Jean André Rouquet wrote: “The auctioneer mounts with a great deal of gravity, salutes the assembly, and prepares himself a little, like an orator, to perform his office with all the gracefulness and eloquence of which he is master.”54 Hogarth, wishing to ridicule such auctions, could not have done better than to choose a glib Methodist preacher to stand for his art dealer.

To underline Hogarth's critical stance toward misplaced devotion to the works of old masters, the fanatic congregation represents not only Methodist fanaticism but all forms of negative “enthusiasm.” The blind Jew in awe of the Sacrifice of Isaac stands for blind obedience. The deist Thomas Morgan described Abraham's action as a perfect example of “irrational enthusiastic persuasion.”55 It has escaped scholars' attention, however, that Hogarth's Jew is a perfect example of another kind of irrational persuasion: he is a bigot of religious art. With blind eyes he adores two pictures borrowed from Raphael's ceiling frescoes in the Vatican Stanza d'Eliodoro. The puppet he looks up at alludes to Raphael's God Appears to Noah, the small picture in his bible to Raphael's Sacrifice of Isaac.56

Attached to the clerk's lectern in both states are words from Whitefield's Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (1753):

Mutual Love the Token be,
Lord, that we belong to thee!
Love thy Image, Love impart,
Stamp it fully on each Heart:
Only Love to us be giv'n,
Lord, we ask no other Heav'n.(57)

The writers of such hymns were accused of polluting “the Soul with luscious Images … and laying open the Heart to the wild extravagances of frantic Enthusiasm.”58 The women hugging Jesus figures stress the Methodist quasi-erotic “mutual union” with Christ.59

Love of images, such as these figures of Christ, however, was not typically Methodist and seems to point more to Roman Catholic idolatry. Indeed, Bishop Lavington compared Methodist “irregular and unjustifiable Behaviour” at Holy Communion to the popish enthusiasts' “Rapture and Ecstacy at the Sacrament.”60 Henry Wharton included Transubstantiation among the “Enthusiastick Visions and Revelations of the Church of Rome.”61 In Enthusiasm Delineated the “real barbarousness” of literally eating the actual “flesh of the Son of man,” already criticized by Bishop Tillotson,62 is gruesomely represented by three women devouring figures of Christ. As the Christ figures are borrowed from Rembrandt's famous Hundred Guilder Print, highly esteemed by English art collectors after 1750,63 the fanatic behavior of the communicants is here surely meant to ridicule the appetite of art lovers for old master pictures.

A proneness to murder was also thought to be “enthusiastic.”64 The melancholic handcuffed wretch weeping in the pew on the right is, to my mind, not a mere repentant thief, as scholars hitherto have believed, but a portrait of the Swiss enameler Theodore Gardelle, an “overenthusiastic” artist who brutally murdered his landlady on February 19, 1761, quite near to where Hogarth lived. If this is correct, it would help to pinpoint the date of Enthusiasm Delineated.65

The dove of the Holy Ghost is found at the top of the spiritual barometer and again in the brain at the lower right of the print. According to Hogarth's handwritten notes on the British Museum proof, the silhouette of the dove in the human brain “shews the true in Dwelling place of the Holy Spirit from the Imaginary.” Hogarth emphasizes that “this mark of Salvation appear[s] but faintly in the Brain unless the person has commit[ted] a murder in his lif[e] time.” As the dove here is clear, it must be the brain of a murderer, presumably Gardelle's, showing how very bewildered this artist has been by divine inspiration, the traditional origin of artistic enthusiasm. The mental thermometer seems to indicate the stages of Gardelle's enthusiasm, from the “hot” state of sexual excitement during the sex murder to “cold” melancholy conditions while awaiting execution. The weather scale, which includes “joyful,” “pleased,” “changeable,” “angry,” and “wrathful,” indicates the mood of the Holy Ghost. Here it reads “angry,” meaning that God does not approve of the artistic enthusiasm shown in the print.

“The Painter, as well as the Poet,” says Hildebrand Jacob, “must be an Enthusiast in his Art, to succeed in it as he ought.”66 According to Roger de Piles, “enthusiasm is a rapture that carries the soul above the sublime, of which it is the source.” This transport of the mind, however, costs “the painter a course of labour, and repeated efforts, to heat his imagination, and bring his work to the perfection of enthusiasm.” The author even recommends that such artists “as burn with gentle fire, and have but a moderate vivacity … may slide into enthusiasm by degrees,” as there are “many ways of attaining it.”67 Friedrich Melchior von Grimm wrote in 1755 that “the passions inspired by fanaticism and accompanied by enthusiasm are eminently suited to a sublime brush, and our religion offers countless subjects of this kind.”68 In 1759, Joshua Reynolds, in his three essays for Samuel Johnson's weekly paper the Idler, argued against artists who mechanically imitate common nature and recommends “a little more Enthusiasm to the modern Painters.”69 In his “Letter to the Reverend Author of ‘Remarks, Critical and Christian, on The Minor’” (1760) Samuel Foote, the Hogarth supporter and actor, offers a definition:

Enthusiasm in arts, is that effort of genius, that glow of fancy, that ethereal fire, which, at particular times, transports the artist beyond the limits of his usual execution, and produces a height of perfection which, in his cooler hour, is astonishing even to himself. Nor is this Promethean heat, this divine fervour, confined to any particular subject; but is as discernible in a Hudibras as a Milton; in the comic pencil of a Hogarth as the serious designs of a Raphael. With this last kind of enthusiasm the Methodists have little to do: and indeed it very rarely falls out, that they who are possessed by the one are happy in the enjoyment of the other.70

Foote makes a clear distinction between (negative) religious enthusiasm and the ingenious (positive) enthusiasm of the true artist. John Byrom, in his poetical essay Enthusiasm, adds “critics,” “virtuosos,” and “connoisseurs” to the widespread enthusiasts of his time.71 Hogarth, the hardworking self-made artist, opposed all such ideas of artistic enthusiasm.72 In Enthusiasm Delineated he takes his skepticism to an extreme and puts all forms of enthusiasm, be it of a Methodist, an artist, or a connoisseur, on the same base level. Everybody in the print is indulging in sexual excesses in one form or another or is caught up in raving or melancholy madness.

To steer the viewer's attention toward art enthusiasts, the main target of Enthusiasm Delineated, Hogarth pokes fun at high art throughout the print. The distorted faces of the congregation allude to the French academy, which placed great emphasis on the correct representation of the human passions.73 They remind one of the extreme passions recommended for history painting by Charles Le Brun in his Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (1698):74 “Horrour,” “Fright,” or “Extream bodily Pain.” The face of the “Globe of Hell,” surprised at the activity below, is remarkably like Le Brun's passion of “Astonishment.” The young woman beneath the pulpit aroused by the caress of the lecherous aristocrat resembles Le Brun's passion of “Pure Love.” In this connection one might also mention the suggestive shape of the “Poors Box” placed close to the area of her genitals. In 1760, Daniel Webb, in his Enquiry into the Beauties of Painting, had criticized religious art for its inability to represent passions. Hogarth, with typical irony, demonstrates that he was able to place almost every passion recommended by Charles Le Brun for historical paintings in a single, “religious” print.

There are many satirical references to religious art in the print. The composition itself picks up on the traditional figura piramidale. God the Father, with his mock symbol of the Trinity, is at the top, but the two Christ figures that form the base (the one swinging up, the other falling down) create anything but a stable composition. I believe the “fallen” woman on the left to be a parody of a fainted Mater Dolorosa in a Lamentation or Pietà, as found, for example, in Correggio's Compianto su Cristo Morto, rather than an allusion to Giovanni Lanfranco's painting of Saint Margaret of Cortona in Ecstasy (1618-20, Pitti Palace, Florence), as Ronald Paulson sees it.75 The motif of the Christ figure rising from between the legs of this woman may, apart from its sexual connotations, even suggest the Resurrection. The dark-skinned melancholic woman mendicant (until recently considered to be a chimney sweep) sitting in front of the clerk's lectern fondling a figure of Christ seems to parody a Madonna of Humility or a Baroque “Black Virgin” holding her child. Another sideswipe at Christian iconography is the howling dog sitting on its cushion beneath the top of the clerk's lectern in much the same way as the bellowing pulpiteer is standing in his pulpit below the sounding board: this dog, in line with the Doctors of the Church, ironically symbolizes a preacher, as it did in traditional religious motifs, where it is a specific attribute of Saints Dominic and Augustine.76 The duck feet of one of the putti on either side of the clerk parody the overblown cherubim in Renaissance and Baroque art.

The pulpiteer or auctioneer holds “sublime” art (Raphael's God and Rubens's Devil) aloft. Unused puppets dangle from the pulpit. All are distorted versions of old master figures and ridicule “high” religious art. Peter and Paul, for instance, are represented in the “low,” “burlesque” Dutch manner, which, according to Horace Walpole, could only mimic “Nature's most uncomely coarsenesses.”77 Peter is corpulent and has his feet turned out; Paul, with periwig and “a beard of Hudibrastic cut and dye,78 has his right arm attached clumsily to his shoulder. To a connoisseur with high ideals of proportion and anatomy all this would seem dreadfully inappropriate. Ten years earlier Hogarth had ridiculed the “true Dutch taste” in his print Paul before Felix Burlesqued (1751), which contains similar deliberate mistakes and anachronisms.79

What has gone unnoticed, however, is that in Enthusiasm Delineated the preacher's two arms form the beam of a scales on which the puppets, representing not only heaven and hell but classic and Baroque art as well, are being “weighed” against each other. What could Hogarth's reason have been for echoing the traditional symbol for weighing right against wrong? To my mind, he intended to satirize Roger de Piles's notorious Balance des peintres, the bible for eighteenth-century connoisseurs of painting. This Balance, which had been published as an appendix to de Piles's Cours de peinture par principes (1708), rated the strengths and weaknesses of the great Renaissance and Baroque painters according to a point system based on four academic classifications: “composition,” “drawing,” “color,” and “expression.”80 The champions of this Balance are Raphael and Rubens. Although neither reaches the highest possible degree of perfection in any category, both attain a total of sixty-five points. Compared with these two, all other artists must invariably pale into insignificance.81 Seen in this light, it is certainly no coincidence that the preacher in Enthusiasm Delineated is weighing visual references to works by the de Piles favorites.

The unused puppets also represent painters named in the Balance des peintres. With a total of fifty points, Rembrandt lags far behind Raphael and Rubens; thus, his Peter is rightly placed not in the preacher's hand but one level lower. Dürer's Adam and Eve and, perhaps, Michelangelo's Moses, of which numerous engravings circulated all over Europe, suffer an equal fate on Hogarth's pulpit. De Piles gave Dürer a total of only thirty-six points and Michelangelo thirty-seven. Admittedly, Hogarth's source in Enthusiasm Delineated is not Michelangelo the painter, as in de Piles's Balance. The horns and beard of the marionette Moses may allude to the famous statue for the tomb of Pope Julius II, since it had been attacked by Jonathan Richardson, in An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy (1722), the English Grand Tourists' bible, for having “the air of a goat.”82 Making it evident that the preacher in Enthusiasm Delineated is judging works of “high” art in the way recommended by de Piles's Balance, the handwritten notes of the British Museum proof include, bottom left, a sketch labeled “the Scales.”

Hogarth was no friend of the French or of any traditional academy. In his manuscript “Apology for Painters” (ca. 1761), he wrote of the French academy: “Voltaire observes after that establishment no work of genious appeard for says he they all became imitators and mannerists.”83 In his Analysis of Beauty, he likewise denigrated the French school: “indeed France hath not produced one remarkable good colourist.”84 No wonder, then, that Hogarth in Enthusiasm Delineated derides the Paris academicians' shopworn idea of using a point system to judge the old master paintings and likens de Piles's Balance to a zany preacher's puppet show. In this period, fanatic Methodists and puppet players were accepted objects of ridicule.85

Measuring is an important theme throughout Hogarth's print. The mental thermometer on the right, which in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism measures only the congregation's state of religious enthusiasm or insanity, in Enthusiasm Delineated is also (if not primarily) a gauge of an art lover's mad craving to possess an old master painting. Near the pulpit we find the preacher's “Scale of Vociferation,” which, in Enthusiasm Delineated, culminates in the cry “Chroist Blood Blood Blood.” This alludes not only to George Whitefield's powerful sermons and his pronunciation of certain words, such as Lurd instead of Lord, or Gud instead of God,86 but also to the eloquence of an auctioneer who was able to use his voice to entice uncritical connoisseurs into buying poor copies of “high” art, particularly Baroque representations of Christ dripping with blood as he is crowned with thorns or nailed to the Cross. Not incidentally, such motifs were judged “sublime” by contemporary critics like Edmund Burke.87

Eighteenth-century critics repeatedly refer to the Balance des peintres. In Paul Sandby's anti-Hogarth caricature The Burlesquer Burlesqued (1754)88 a benevolent art critic watching Hogarth painting has a pair of scales suspended by a cord over his shoulder. This motif must surely be a reference to de Piles's Balance, which was, apparently, the constant companion of any self-respecting self-styled connoisseur during this period. In France, Jean Baptiste DuBos, in his Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture (1719), commends de Piles's Balance, though he regrets that there is no distinction made between a “picturesque composition” and a “poetic composition.”89 In England, Jonathan Richardson, in his Essay on the Theory of Painting (1715), picked up on de Piles's method and enlarged the basis of assessment by introducing three further categories: “Invention,” “Handling,” and “Grace and Greatness.”90 In his Essay On the Whole Art of Criticism as It Relates to Painting (1719) he likewise praises de Piles's “pretty Invention of a Scale” as being “with a little Alteration and Improvement … of great use to Lovers of Art, and Connoisseurs.91

De Piles's method also influenced some passages in Joseph Spence's Crito; or, A Dialogue on Beauty (1752), published under the pseudonym of Sir Harry Beaumont. Crito endeavors to set down a count system of the factors that give rise to beauty.92 What deserves our attention in this connection is that Spence's system was criticized by Hogarth's friend Allan Ramsay. In his Dialogue on Taste, published anonymously in the Investigator (1755), Ramsay wrote that

any attempt to discover the universal principle of pleasure by analysis must be fruitless; and the philosopher who engages in such business, after finding that he has been gravely measuring a dream with a pair of compasses, will probably return at last to the je ne scay quoy, upon which he had at first disdainfully turned his back.93

Ramsay dismisses Sir Harry Beaumont's tables of beauty as “very unscholarlike” and a method that “would hardly pass muster at the Royal Society.” He added that the “rule of three or rule of proportion,” as “a golden rule in comparing beauties …”

is performed … by multiplying the first by the second, and dividing by the third; and being curious this morning to know with exactness how much Mrs. D—excelled in beauty Mrs. C—, I thus stated the question, as a cat is to a wheel-barrow so is Mrs. C—to Mrs. D—; but tho' I try'd till my brain was ready to crack, I never could contrive how to multiply a cat by a wheel-barrow; so I could go no farther in my calculations. Now if you or any other virtuoso could fall upon the method of multiplying and dividing such matters; I am persuaded you would find out a certain method of gauging every woman's beauty, and prevent it from being any longer left to the particular whim of ignorant people. … such comparisons will always be odious, and it is no wonder, for they will always be absurd.

Thus, it would be better to “leave the beauties of nature where every thing is perfect in itself, to every one's particular taste, without attempting to dispute or compare them.”94

To Ramsay's friend Hogarth, who likewise praised the beauties of nature as they were, de Piles's artificial point system can only have seemed ludicrous. In ridiculing it, he followed the example set by contemporary English satirists, who attacked de Piles's (and Richardson's revised) Balance in fighting against the all-too-strict rules of art. In Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759), for instance, Shandy goes so far as to assess the stylistic qualities of the dedication in a book according to criteria normally applicable only to painters:

The design, your Lordship sees, is good, the colouring transparent,—the drawing not amiss;—or to speak more like a man of science,—and measure my piece in the painter's scale, divided into 20,—I believe, my Lord, the outlines will turn out at 12,—the composition as 9,—the colouring as 6,—the expression 13 and a half,—and the design,—if I may be allowed, my Lord, to understand my own design, and supposing absolute perfection in designing, to be as 20,—I think it cannot well fall short of 19.95

Enthusiasm Delineated picks up on the scales motif and relates it ironically to the “high” art so idolized in England by foolish “Connoisseurs.” It turns their own nonsensical scale of values against them in satire. In the first half of 1761, the time was ripe for Hogarth to join the ranks against the followers of de Piles. About this time he began writing his Apology for Painters, which, like Enthusiasm Delineated, criticized the theory of art favored by contemporary connoisseurs. John Oakly, a Hogarth supporter, attacked the connoisseurs in two articles in the St. James's Chronicle in April and May 1761.96 Also in May, the author of A Call to the Connoisseurs, a certain “T. B.” who was in all probability the young James Barry with his publisher Thomas Becket,97 complained of how connoisseurs were suppressing local artists. Enthusiasm Delineated, however, is probably the first criticism of de Piles's Balance des peintres to come from a painter, who, as a painter, felt the need to preserve his own integrity as a visual artist. It is certainly the first, if not the only, criticism to be expressed entirely on a painter's terms.

As Hogarth never published his attack on academic connoisseurship, the original intention of his print was lost. Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, the version that came out a year later, is aimed solely at Methodist fanaticism and contains nothing of the ridicule of shopworn views on art he initially intended. Certainly Enthusiasm Delineated, with its clear formal structure, is a more coherent composition. Cluttered with details, such as the many additional people in the background or the cloud with the heavenly postboy's head, Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism is less mature. The proportions of the print have been slightly altered to accommodate such things as the books under the brain or the rabbits hopping out from under Mary Toft's dress. In Enthusiasm Delineated the clerk, placed in the center of the composition, is no doubt the principal figure and might well be a caricature of Samuel Johnson,98 the editor of the Idler. In Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, where the figure is turned into a portrait of Whitefield, the common target of anti-Methodist satire, he has lost most of his prominence. No doubt Hogarth compromised on clarity of composition to obliterate his original intent.

Probably John Ireland is right in guessing that Hogarth's near scatological treatment of Christian iconography in the first state might have caused a scandal. As even his closest friends, when shown Enthusiasm Delineated, reproached Hogarth for his irreligion, he may well have refrained from publishing the first design because he feared persecution. In his manuscript notes for an autobiography of about 1763, he retrospectively confessed that he “sometimes objected to the Devinity of even Raphael Urbin Corregio and Michael Angelo for which I have been severly treated,” and as in his pictures “the life so far surpassed the utmost efforts of imitation,” he admitted that by drawing “the comparison in my mind I could not help uttering Blasphemous expression that I fear I fear persecution.”99 For a few months the original plate must have remained untouched in Hogarth's drawer until either January or February 1762, when the Cock Lane Ghost story in the newspaper headlines prompted him to dig out the old plate and use it for a revised print. Focusing on the Methodists and their belief in ghosts meant that he had to eliminate almost every motif of his complex parodic reference to art and aesthetic theory, since George Whitefield, John Wesley, and William Romaine, like the iconoclastic Puritans a century before, regarded (or rather disregarded) painting and sculpture as a distraction to their followers. Certainly it would not have been an easy decision for Hogarth to sacrifice a great deal of clarity of composition by dotting new imagery all over his print, but he must have felt much safer from persecution with his blasphemous art lovers hidden forever behind the “print of the Ghost.”


  1. Warburton to Bishop Thomas Newton, letter of April 17, 1762, quoted in Donald W. Nichol, ed., Pope's Literary Legacy: The Book-Trade Correspondence of William Warburton and John Knapton, with Other Letters and Documents, 1744-1780 (Oxford: Oxford Biographical Society, 1992), 147-48. See also Paulson, 1993, 366. On Bishop Warburton, see Arthur William Evans, Warburton and the Warburtonians: A Study in Some Eighteenth-Century Controversies (London: Oxford University Press, 1932).

  2. See Paulson, 1989, no. 210a [210]. For a full bibliography of this print and all other Hogarth works, the reader may consult my forthcoming annotated two-volume Hogarth Bibliography, 1697-1997.

  3. See Paulson, 1989, no. 210 [209].

  4. George Whitefield, A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship, More Particularly Design'd for the Use of the Tabernacle Congregation, in London, 8th ed. (London: William Strahan, 1759), 131.

  5. See James Downey, The Eighteenth-Century Pulpit: A Study of the Sermons of Butler, Berkeley, Secker, Sterne, Whitefield and Wesley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 175-76.

  6. Eusebius, A Fine Picture of Enthusiasm … Wherein the Danger of the Passions Leading in Religion is Strongly Described … (London, 1744), quoted in Albert M. Lyles, Methodism Mocked: The Satiric Reaction to Methodism in the Eighteenth Century (London: Epworth Press, 1960), 78-79.

  7. One of Whitefield's assistants, Cornelius Winter, remarks that “professed orators might object to his hands being lifted up too high, and it is to be lamented that in that attitude, rather than in any other, he is represented in print”: quoted in Dallimore, vol. 2, 482. See Nathaniel Hone's portrait George Whitefield (ca. 1768, formerly Whitefield Memorial Church, Tottenham Court Road, London) in Dallimore, vol. 2, ills. between pp. 304 and 305, and the many engraved versions after this painting. For the white handkerchief in Whitefield's hand, see the contemporary print The Revd. Mr. Whitefield Preaching on Kennington Common, London, Brit. Mus. Sat. 2430; in Dallimore, vol. 1, ills. between pp. 114 and 115.

  8. See John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits (London: National Portrait Gallery, 1977), vol. 1, 305-7, vol. 2, pl. 872.

  9. The Public Advertiser, no. 8237, contained the following message on Mar. 6, 1761: “The Rev. Mr. Whitefield is dangerously ill, but not dead, as mentioned by Mistake in one of Saturday's Evening Papers.”

  10. Pottinger, quoted in Lyles (as in n. 6), 69. On Whitefield's sizable collections, see also Dallimore, vol. 1, 257-58, 267, 290-92, 481-82, vol. 2, 406.

  11. See Theophilus Evans, The History of Modern Enthusiasm, From the Reformation to the Present Times, 2d ed. (London: Printed for the Author, 1757), 119.

  12. Henry Wharton includes “Purgatory” among the “peculiar doctrines of the Church of Rome” that “derive their original from Enthusiastick Visions and Revelations”; Wharton, The Enthusiasm of the Church of Rome Demonstrated in Some Observations Upon the Life of Ignatius Loyola (London: R. Chiswell, 1688), 17. It is certainly no coincidence that the inscription on the small globe in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism reads “Deserts of New Purgatory.”

  13. George Lavington, The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared, 3 vols. (London: J. and P. Knapton, 1749), vol. 1, 9 ff.; Evans (as in n. 11), 24.

  14. Romaine, quoted in Gentleman's Magazine 22 (1752): 101. On Romaine's contested professorship, see John Charles Ryle, The Christian Leaders of the Last Century; or, England a Hundred Years Ago (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1869), 160.

  15. In this engraving, the frontispiece to his Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament (Bristol: W. Pine, 1765), we can see Wesley speaking in the open with one arm lifted high in the air. The cleric's face in Hogarth's print also resembles several portraits of Wesley, a point that has been overlooked by Hogarth scholars so far but was noticed by Dallimore, vol. 1, the commentary on Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism accompanying the ills. between pp. 370 and 371. For portraits of Wesley, see Kerslake (as in n. 8), vol. 1, 297-304, and vol. 2, pls. 856 ff.

  16. Theophilus Evans wrote of the Methodist preachers that it was “the natural Tendency of their Behaviour, in Voice and gesture and horrid Expressions, to make People mad, which very frequently has indeed been the case with a great many of their Followers”; Evans (as in n. 11), 119.

  17. In my opinion, it is not, as Ronald Paulson believes, an interior view of Whitefield's Chapel in Tottenham Court Road, as illustrations of this chapel prove that it had round-arched windows and a vaulted ceiling. See Paulson, 1989, 176; Walter H. Godfrey and W. McB. Marcham, eds., London County Council Survey of London, vol. 21, Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood [The Parish of St. Pancras, III] (London: County Council, 1949), 67 ff., pls. 24-26: Dallimore, vol. 2, ills. facing pp. 145 and 304.

  18. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. Floyd Dell and Paul Jordan-Smith (New York: Tudor, 1955), 651; Enthusiasm Explained; or, A Discourse on the Nature, Kind, and Cause of Enthusiasm (London: T. Gardner, 1739), 17, which is an abridged 18th-century edition of Henry More's Enthusiasmus Triumphatus (London: J. Flesher, 1656).

  19. Lavington (as in n. 13), vol. 1, 59; and Dallimore, vol. 1, 341, who also mentions further anti-Whitefield pamphlets.

  20. The Connoisseur, vol. 3, 4th ed. (London: R. Baldwin, 1761), 102-9: Miriam Austin Locke, ed., The True Patriot and the History of Our Own Times (Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1964), 185-86. The Tatler 220 (Sept. 2-5, 1710) reports on an “Ecclesiastical Thermometer.” For further examples, see Terry Castle, The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 21-43, who states (33) that the thermometer in Hogarth's print is “as phallic in design as it is in sensibility.”

  21. Josiah Tucker reports that during the sermons delivered by John Wesley at his societies in Bristol, “there were Persons that screamed out, and put their Bodies into violent Agitations and Distortions, seeming all over convulsed”: Tucker, Gentleman's Magazine 9 (1739): 295 n.

  22. See Paulson, 1989, no. 106 [107]: Dennis Todd, “Three Characters in Hogarth's Cunicularii—and Some Implications,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 16 (1982-83): 26-46; Fiona Haslam, From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996), 28-51. For the background, see also S. A. Seligman, “Mary Toft—the Rabbit Breeder,” Medical History 5 (1961): 349-60; and Dennis Todd, Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), the first half of which extensively deals with the case of Mary Toft.

  23. See Wolfgang Kelsch, “William Hogarth: Freimaurer in Porträts und Kupferstichen,” Quatuor Coronati Jahrbuch 25 (1988): 43; Ronald Paulson, “Putting Out the Fire in Her Imperial Majesty's Apartment: Opposition Politics, Anticlericalism, and Aesthetics,” English Literary History 63 (1996): 93.

  24. For full accounts of the story, see Oliver Goldsmith, The Mystery Revealed, Containing a Series of Transactions and Authentic Testimonials, Respecting the Supposed Cock Lane Ghost (London: W. Bristow and C. Ethrington, 1762), repr. in Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith, vol. 4, ed. Arthur Friedman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 419-41; Douglas Grant, The Cock Lane Ghost (London: Macmillan, 1965); Emma Clery, The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), chap. 1.

  25. Joseph Glanvil, Saducismus Triumphatus; or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions (London: J. Collins and S. Lownds, 1681), repr. in Collected Works of Joseph Glanvil, vol. 9 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1978), 89-117.

  26. Ibid., 108-9.

  27. John Wesley's ancestors spelled their name Westley. His most important sermons are reprinted in Edward H. Sugden, ed., Wesley's Standard Sermons, 2 vols. (London: Epworth Press, 1921).

  28. See W. E. H. Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. 3 (London: Longmans, Green, 1892), 92 n. 1. On Wesley's belief in ghosts, see also Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, vol. 1 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1870-71), 22-24. In his Journal (May 25, 1768), Wesley wrote, “The English in general, and indeed most of the men of learning in Europe, have given up all accounts of witches and apparitions, as mere old wives' fables. I am sorry for it. … They well know … that the giving up witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible”; quoted in Lecky, vol. 3, 91-92.

  29. Daniel Defoe, Selected Writings of Daniel Defoe, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 132-41.

  30. See John Nichols, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth (London: J. Nichols, 1782), 51; Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, vol. 2, High Art and Low, 1732-1750 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1992), 258-59.

  31. Joseph Addison, quoted in The Spectator, vol. 1, ed. Donald F. Bond (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), 186.

  32. The story again was first published in Glanvil's Saducismus Triumphatus as “Relation XI,” another fact that has escaped Hogarth scholars' attention so far. See Glanvil (as in n. 25), 225-27. The spelling “Villers” seems to have been current at that time. See the writing on Peter Lely's portrait of the second duke of Buckingham, reproduced in William Gaunt, Court Painting in England from Tudor to Victorian Times (London: Constable, 1980), 153.

  33. See Gaunt (as in n. 32), 69 and ill. facing p. 67; Oliver Millar, The Age of Charles I: Painting in England 1620-1649, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1972, no. 22.

  34. The Critical Review 7 (Mar. 1759): 277, stated that the Methodists “began their operations upon the most ignorant, and consequently the most easy to be misled, part of mankind, common laborers, mechanics, and especially upon the female part of the lower classes of life, upon whose fears they could the easiest work.”

  35. John Ireland, Hogarth Illustrated, 2d ed., vol. 2 (London: J. and J. Boydell, 1793), 186-87 n. For the whole story, see The Boy of Bilson; or, A True Discovery of the Late Notorious Impostures of Certaine Romish Priests in Their Pretended Exorcisme, or Expulsion of the Diuell out of a Young Boy, Named William Perry (London: F. K[ingston], 1622); Francis Hutchinson, An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft, 2d ed. (London: R. Knaplock, 1720), 271 ff. Indeed, in 1762 a clergyman had compared the Cock Lane Ghost affair in the London Chronicle with the swindles of the Boy of Bilson (see Grant [as in n. 24], 82). Paulson, referring to Oliver Goldsmith's The Mystery Revealed (Feb. 23, 1762; see Goldsmith, 1966 [as in n. 24], vol. 4, 438), speaks of a certain Richard Hathaway as the “Boy of Bilston [sic].” Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times, vol. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), 357; idem, 1993, 363. But the names have got mixed up: the case of the nail spouter Richard Hathaway, who maintained he had been bewitched by a Sarah Murdock (Morduck or Moredike) since 1690, was not in court until 1702. See “The Tryal of Richard Hathaway, upon an Information of being a Cheat and Impostor, at Surry Assizes, March 24, 1702,” in A Compleat Collection of State-Tryals, and Proceedings Upon Impeachments for High Treason, and Other Crimes and Misdemeanours, From the Reign of King Henry the Fourth, to the End of the Reign of Queen Anne, vol. 4 (London: T. Goodwin, 1719), 613-34; Hutchinson, 280 ff.

  36. George Whitefield, Journal of a Voyage from London to Savannah in Georgia (London: James Hutton, 1738).

  37. See James I. Daemonologie, in Forme of a Dialogue, Diuided into Three Bookes (Edinburgh: Robert Walde-graue, 1597; London: Arnold Hatfield for Robert Walde-graue, 1603): Stuart Clark, “King James's Daemonologie: Witchcraft and Kingship,” in The Damned Art: Essays in the Literature of Witchcraft, ed. Sydney Anglo (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977), 156-81.

  38. John Trusler, Hogarth Moralized: Being a Complete Edition of Hogarth's Works (London: S. Hooper and Mrs. Hogarth, 1768), 157-58. After mentioning the Cock Lane Ghost and the Drummer of Tedworth, Trusler deals with the shoeblack in Hogarth's print: “The power of a spell was once universally believed, and is generally so, in country places to this day. This is excellently set forth by the poor bewitched shoe-black, vomiting up hob-nails, crooked pins, and other things. In this poor woman's hands is put a bottle, in which she is represented as having attempted to confine the spirit, which being of an aerial nature has found its way out, by forcing the cork.” Indeed, Hogarth's cowering figure seems to be female, not male.

  39. See Hannsferdinand Dōbler, Hexenwahn: Die Geschichte einer Verfolgung (Munich: Bertelsmann, 1977), 198 and ill. on p. 189. In the Middle Ages the cat was considered an attribute of witches.

  40. Examples of this genre of pseudo-foreign letters are Giovanni Paolo Marana's Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, Who Lived Five and Forty Years Undiscovered, at Paris, 8 vols. (London: Henry Rhodes, 1691-94), continued, probably by Daniel Defoe, in 1718, and Montesquieu's Lettres persanes (Paris: Pierre Brunel, 1721), which were soon translated into English by John Ozell (London: J. Tonson, 1722).

  41. London Magazine, quoted in Richard Green, Anti-Methodist Publications Issued During the Eighteenth Century (London: C. H. Kelly, 1902), 88.

  42. See, for instance, the Critical Review 9 (Jan. 1760): 20.

  43. See Martin Schmidt, John Wesley, vol. 2 (Zurich: Gotthelf-Verlag, 1966), 158. For further examples, see Derek Jarrett, England in the Age of Hogarth (London: Hart-Davis, 1974), 219 ff.

  44. See Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy, Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

  45. See Paulson, 1989, no. 210 [209].

  46. John Ireland, A Supplement to Hogarth Illustrated (London: J. and J. Boydell, 1798), 248; John Thomas Smith. Nollekens and His Times, ed. G. W. Stonier (London: Turnstile Press, 1949), 131.

  47. Ireland (as in n. 46), 240.

  48. “When this figure [of a dove] is found impressed on the Human Brain it Shews the true in Dwelling place of the Holy Spirit from the Imaginary. See Dissections at Surgeons Hall and Bedlam. NB this mark of Salvation appear[s] but faintly in the Brain unless the person has commit[ted] a murder in his lif[e]time.”

  49. For the traditional religious puppet show, see Max von Boehn, Puppen und Puppenspiele, vol. 2 (Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1929), 98 ff. If anything, it is more likely that, as Peter Wagner asserts, the puppets allude to “the false illusion and surprising stage effects contemporary observers knew from the popular harlequinades and puppet theatres”: Wagner, “Hogarth's Graphic Palimpsests: Intermedial Adaptation of Popular Literature,” Word and Image 7 (1991): 342.

  50. Or, as in the notes under the San Francisco proof, “imitationtions [sic] of Several other Painters” who are not named. See Paulson, 1989, 175. In spite of the very clear reference to Rubens, I have not been able to discover the actual model for the devil Hogarth claims to have borrowed from him.

  51. Hogarth, 1955, 9; 1997, 5. See also Hogarth's rejected passages to his book, Hogarth, 1955, 169.

  52. See Ludwig Münz, A Critical Catalogue of Rembrandt's Etchings. 2 vols. (London: Phaidon, 1952), no. 239.

  53. London, Brit. Mus. Sat. 4770. The satirical print was published in the Oxford Magazine, November 1771. See also Christopher Wood, “Taste: An Eighteenth-Century Satire on the Art Market by Samuel Foote,” Connoisseur 163 (1966): 240-42 and ill. 6, who emphasizes that the better-known auctioneers (or art dealers), such as Christopher Cock and Abraham Langford, were celebrated public figures.

  54. Jean André Rouquet, The Present State of the Arts in England (London: J. Nourse, 1755), 124.

  55. Thomas Morgan wrote on this Old Testament sacrifice: “Abrahams's faith here, however strong and overbearing, was yet … an irrational enthusiastic persuasion, which God himself could never have been the author of”; Morgan, The Moral Philosopher: In a Dialogue Between Philalethes a Christian Deist and Theophanes a Christian Jew, 2d ed., 3 vols. (London: Printed for the author, 1738-40), vol. 2, 129.

  56. For these frescoes, see Michael Rohlmann, “‘Dominus mihi adiutor’: Zu Raffaels Ausmalung der Stanza d'Eliodoro unter den Pāpsten Julius II, und Leo X.,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 59 (1996): figs. 15, 16.

  57. Whitefield (as in n. 4), 131.

  58. Henry Coventry, Philemon to Hydaspes: Relating a Conversation with Hortensius, Upon the Subject of False Religion, 2d ed. (London: M. Steen, 1738), 55. Based on new material he found in the Methodist archives. Henry Abelove has recently argued that Wesley's success rested on his establishing a (metaphorically) erotic relationship with his followers: Abelove, The Evangelist of Desire: John Wesley and the Methodists (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991).

  59. In his sermon on Psalm 45:10-11, Whitefield told the young women in Fetter-Lane, “Christ obligeth himself to love you here: … he never will leave you … ; he will live with you here, and at last he will take you to himself, to live with him forever. And you are engaged to him to be loving, loyal, faithful, obedient; and you are to stick close to him as long as you live; and then you will find yourselves to be married to the best Advantage, both for Soul and Body, for Time and for Eternity”; George Whitefield, Christ the Best Husband (London, 1740), 7-8.

  60. Lavington, vol. 2 (as in n. 13), 127, 132.

  61. Wharton (as in n. 12), 17.

  62. See John Tilloston, A Discourse Against Transubstantiation (London: M. Flesher, 1684), 35.

  63. On 18th-century English appreciation of Rembrandt's Hundred Guilder Print, see Ellen G. D'Oench, “A Madness to Have His Prints: Rembrandt and Georgian Taste, 1720-1800,” in Rembrandt in Eighteenth Century England, ed. Christopher White, David Alexander, and Ellen D'Oench, exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1983, 71 and commentary to no. 163.

  64. The second edition of Theophilus Evans's History of Modern Enthusiasm contains a new chapter “concerning the King's Murder, the Behaviour of the Regicides, and of the seditious Teachers that set them at Work; wherein is shewn … that they acted by a deluding Spirit of Enthusiasm.” The author added that “there want not several Instances in History of Persons … that pretended a Divine Impulse to commit the most horrid and unnatural Murder of their nearest Relations”; Evans (as in n. 11), ix, xi.

  65. A portrait of Gardelle after a drawing by John Inigo Richards, which was retouched by Hogarth, is reproduced in Samuel Ireland, Graphic Illustrations of Hogarth, vol. 1 (London: R. Faulder, T. Egerton, and S. White, 1794), 172. Although the T on the criminal's cheek in the two proofs of Enthusiasm Delineated may stand, as a brand, for “Thief,” it could also mark the Christian name of Gardelle and be meant as an abbreviation for “Theodore,” like the initials T.N. on Tom Nero's arm in Hogarth's The Reward of Cruelty (1751) or the I.T. on Thomas Idle's coffin in Industry and Idleness, pl. 11 (1747). A close neighbor of Hogarth's, Gardelle resided in Leicester Fields. As he was hanged on April 4, 1761, the print must be dated between April and June 1761, if John Ireland is right that the fallen lady on the left is a portrait of the London bawd Jenny (“Mother”) Douglas who died on June 9, 1761. For details on Gardelle, see Gentleman's Magazine 31 (1761): 137, 171-78; The Life of Theodore Gardelle, Limner and Enameller (London, 1761).

  66. Hildebrand Jacob, Of the Sister Arts, an Essay (London: William Lewis, 1734), 9.

  67. Roger de Piles, “De l'enthousiasme,” in Cours de peinture par principes (Paris: J. Estienne, 1708), 114 ff.; in English as The Principles of Painting (London: J. Osborn, 1743), 70 ff.

  68. Friedrich Melchior von Grimm, “Correspondance Littéraire,” Paris, Bibl. Nat., NAF 12961, fol. 54, quoted in Jean Seznec, “Diderot and Le Génie du Christianisme,Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 15 (1952): 231.

  69. Joshua Reynolds, in The Idler, ed. Samuel Johnson, vol. 2 (London: J. Newbery, 1761), 152. See Paulson, 1971 (as in n. 35), 298; and idem, 1993, 257, who thinks that Reynolds's Idler essays nos. 76, 79, and 82 deeply influenced Enthusiasm Delineated.

  70. Samuel Foote, The Works with Remarks and an Essay by Jon Bee, two vols. in one (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1974), vol. 2, ciii n.

  71. John Byrom, Enthusiasm: A Poetical Essay, in a Letter to a Friend in Town (London: W. Owen, 1752). Byrom wrote; “Critics, with all their learning recondite, / Poets, that sev'rally be-mused write; / The virtuosos, whether great or small; / The connoisseurs, that know the worth of all; / Philosophers, that dictate sentiments, / And politicians, wiser than events; / Such, and such-like, come under the same law, / Altho' their heat be from a flame of straw. …”; Byrom, in The Works of the English Poets, ed. Alexander Chalmers, vol. 15 (London: J. Johnson, 1810), 251.

  72. Significantly, in his Analysis of Beauty, Hogarth disagrees with Charles Alphonse Dufresnoy, who, in his Art of Painting, stated that grace is “a rare present, which the artist rather receives from the hand of heaven than from his own industry and studies”; Hogarth, 1955, 6; 1997, 3. At a meeting of the London Society of Arts, Hogarth emphasized “that Genius was Diligence and Attention”; quoted in Paulson, 1993, 200. In his manuscript “Apology for Painters” (ca. 1761), he wrote that in England “Enthusiasm hath not the weight it has abroad,” and that, instead, the English artists would create “something more substantial”; William Hogarth, quoted in Michael Kitson, “Hogarth's ‘Apology for Painters,’ “Walpole Society 41 (1966-68): 97-98.

  73. For the problem of depicting the passions, see Brewster Rogerson, “The Art of Painting the Passions,” Journal of the History of Ideas 14 (1953): 68-94; Thomas Kirchner, L'expression des passions: Ausdruck als Darstellungsproblem in der französischen Kunst und Kunsttheorie des 17, und 18, Jahrhunderts (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1991).

  74. See Charles Le Brun, Conférence de Monsieur Le Brun, Premier Peintre du Roy de France, Chancelier et Directeur de l'Académie de Peinture et Sculpture, sur l'expression générale et particulière, enrichié de figures gravées par B. Picart (Amsterdam: J. L. de Lorme, 1698); translated by John Williams as A Method to Learn to Design the Passions Proposed in a Conference on Their General and Particular Expression (London: Printed for the author, 1734). In England, the illustrations in Le Brun's treatise were also used by Hogarth's friend Francis Hayman as models for a folding plate depicting the passions and illustrating lesson 9 in chapter 6 of Robert Dodsley's popular The Preceptor: Containing a General Course of Education, Wherein the First Principles of Polite Learning are Laid Down in a Way Most Suitable for Trying the Genius, and Advancing the Instruction of Youth (London: R. Dodsley, 1748). See Brian Allen, Francis Hayman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 20, 154, no. 84, fig. 6.

  75. See Paulson, 1993, 258-59.

  76. As for Saint Augustine, I mention only the dog depicted in the altarpiece by the Bruges Master of Saint Augustine (ca. 1490: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York): it sits beneath the pulpit from which its master is preaching. See Patrik Reuterswärd, “The Dog in the Humanist's Study,” in The Visible and Invisible in Art: Essays in the History of Art (Vienna: Irsa. 1991), 211, fig. 216.

  77. Horace Walpole, Aedes Walpolianae; or, A Description of the Collection of Pictures at Houghton-Hall, in Norfolk, The Seat of the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Orford, 2d ed. (London, 1752), xi. For Reynolds, too (as in n. 69), 150, the naturalness of Dutch art was “certainly of a lower order.”

  78. See Ireland (as in n. 46), 236; Hogarth, 1955, 136; fig. 106 on plate I left; 1997, 95.

  79. See Paulson, 1989, no. 191. For more details on, and the best account of, Hogarth's satirical borrowings from Rembrandt in that print, see Werner Busch, Nachahmung als bürgerliches Kunstprinzip: Ikonographische Zitate bei Hogarth und in seiner Nachfolge (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1977), 90-95.

  80. De Piles (as in n. 67), 489-98. On de Piles's Balance, see John Steegman, “The Balance des Peintres of Roger de Piles,” Art Quarterly 17 (1954): 255-61; Susanne Heiland, “La Balance des Peintres,” in Festschrift Johannes Jahn zum XXII, November MCMLVII (Leipzig: Seemann, 1958), 237-45; Martin Rosenberg. Raphael and France: The Artist as Paradigm and Symbol (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 55-56.

  81. See the table in Steegman (as in n. 80), 258, although he gets his sums wrong for Le Brun's score.

  82. Jonathan Richardson, Sr., and Jonathan Richardson, Jr., An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas-reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy, &c. With Remarks (London: J. Knapton, 1722), 295-96. For engravings after the statue, see Charles de Tolnay, Michelangelo, vol. 4, The Tomb of Julius II (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954), pl. 281; Bilder nach Bildern: Druckgraphik und die Vermittlung von Kunst, exh. cat., Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, March 21-May 2, 1976, fig. 88.

  83. Hogarth, quoted in Kitson (as in n. 72), 92.

  84. Hogarth, 1955, 132; 1997, 93.

  85. See, for instance, the satirical print Enthusiasm Display'd, or the Moor-Fields Congregation (1739), representing Whitefield's preaching as a performance for crazy women (Dallimore, vol. 1, ills. between pp. 114 and 115); and Hogarth's early prints Masquerades and Operas (1723/24) and A Just View of the British Stage (1724), which ridicule the popular mania for pantomimes, harlequinades, marionette plays, and the like (Paulson, 1989, nos. 44 [34], 57 [45]). On the “bad taste of the town” depicted in these prints, see also Wagner (as in n. 49), 329 ff.

  86. See Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 239.

  87. In his Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 2d ed. (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1759), pt. 1. chap. 7, Burke wrote: “Whatever is fitted in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling. … Without all doubt, the torments which we may be made to suffer are much greater in their effect on the body and mind, than any pleasures which the most learned voluptary could suggest, or than the liveliest imagination, and the most sound and exquisitely sensible body, could enjoy.”

  88. See Paulson, 1971 (as in n. 35), vol. 1, pl. 236; idem. 1993, fig. 26. The first state of Sandby's caricature, which carries the French title Burlesque sur le Burlesque, is compared with the second state in David Bindman, Hogarth and His Times: Serious Comedy, exh. cat., British Museum, London, 1997. 174-75, nos. 103a, 103b.

  89. Jean Baptiste DuBos, Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture. 5th ed., vol. 1 (Paris: P.-J. Mariette, 1746), xxxi.

  90. Jonathan Richardson, An Essay on the Theory of Painting, 2d ed. (London: Printed for A. C. and sold by A. Bettesworth, 1725), 37.

  91. Jonathan Richardson, Two Discourses; I. An Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as it Relates to Painting; II. An Argument in Behalf of the Science of a Connoisseur (London: W. Churchill, 1719), Discourse, I, 55. See also Carol Gibson-Wood, “Jonathan Richardson and the Rationalization of Connoisseurship,” Art History 7 (1984): 44 ff.

  92. Sir Harry Beaumont [Joseph Spence], Crito; or, A Dialogue on Beauty (London: R. Dodsley, 1752). For a contemporary review of this book, see also Monthly Review 6 (1752): 226 ff.

  93. [Allan Ramsay], Investigator, no. 322 (1755): 29. It should be noted in this connection that Ramsay's comment was also partly aimed at Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty. Hogarth, however, seemed to have accepted his friend's criticism, since, according to an address in the Public Advertiser of Feb. 28, 1757, Ramsay's “eighteen-penny pamphlet … written in opposition to the principles laid down in the … Analysis of Beauty” was delivered gratis (that is, as a free supplement to the Analysis) to any buyer of Hogarth's book.

  94. Ramsay (as in n. 93), 30-32.

  95. Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, vol. 1 (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1760), chap. 9.

  96. John Oakly, “Of Connoisseurs in Painting, Letters I and II,” St. James's Chronicle, Apr. 23-25 and May 14-16, 1761.

  97. A manuscript note in a copy of this pamphlet, a photocopy of which is kept in the British Library, identifies the author “T. B.” as James Barry (and, presumably, his publisher, Thomas Becket), and not as Thomas Bardwell or Bonnell Thornton, as Paulson and Dobai assume. See Paulson, 1993, 333; Johannes Dobai, Die Kunstliteratur des Klassizismus und der Romantik in England, 4 vols. (Berne: Benteli, 1974-84), vol. 2, 1124 n. 78a.

  98. See, for instance, Joshua Reynolds's portrait of Johnson as “blinking Sam” of 1772 or 1778 (Tate Gallery, London). See Richard Wendorf, The Elements of Life: Biography and Portrait-Painting in Stuart and Georgian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 254-55, pl. 71; Nicholas Penny, ed., Reynolds, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Art, London (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), no. 80.

  99. Hogarth, 1955, 209.

I would like to thank Friedrich Wilms, who helped to translate my thoughts into English, and Lory Frankel, Stephen Reader, and Brian Nattress for their suggestions concerning the finer points of the English language. Deep gratitude goes to Stephen Cone Weeks for transferring the rough style of the first draft of the text into polite, fluent English.

Frequently Cited Sources

Dallimore, Arnold A., George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1970-80).

Hogarth, William, 1955. The Analysis of Beauty, ed. Joseph Burke (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

———. 1997, The Analysis of Beauty, ed. Ronald Paulson (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Paulson, Ronald, Hogarth's Graphic Works, 3d ed., rev. (London: Print Room, 1989).

———. Hogarth, vol. 3, Art and Politics, 1750-1764 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1993).

James Lawson (essay date July-September 1998)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Lawson, James. “Hogarth's Plotting of Marriage à la Mode.Word & Image 14, no. 3 (July-September 1998): 267-80.

[In the following essay, Lawson analyzes Hogarth's series Marriage à la Mode using multiple critical perspectives.]

Particularly as an engraver, William Hogarth (1697-1764) addressed his audience on matters of social concern. The scene that he presented was the contemporary one, and his mode of address was declamatory. His is a thoroughly extroverted art. Of course, Hogarth was far from unreflective about what was proper to it, considered in terms of autonomy. He wrote The Analysis of Beauty (1753) in order to trace pleasure in art back to formal roots. However, to the extent that the content of his paintings and engravings is capable of subsisting beyond considerations of form, Hogarth's work can be compared directly with the products of other declamatory arts dealing with contemporary realities.

His works, particularly his ‘Modern Moral Subjects’, are comparable with novels and plays of the time. Hogarth was, himself, an enthusiast for the theatre.1 His composition of these narratives owes much to dramatic staging and at the same time to the other principal narrative form, the novel.2 Hogarth identified a source of pleasure in life, literature and art when he wrote, in The Analysis of Beauty, ‘… with what delight does it [the mind] follow the well-connected thread of a play or novel, which ever increases as the plot thickens, and ends most pleas'd, when it is most distinctly unravelled’.3

Of course, there is a kind of drama and a sort of novel that would not count themselves as a Moral Subject in Hogarth's sense. Not all literature possessed the necessary moral force. That is what is wanting in melodrama and the penny dreadful. These are categories of literature; but they should also be thought of as existing by degrees of admixture within the more august forms. These genres are modern or of their moment insofar as they are commodities, to be consumed—immediately to be discarded. Hogarth's ‘Modern Moral Subjects’, however, ally themselves with a literature that is worth revisiting. Unlike the melodrama and the penny dreadful that are disposable because they are given over largely to the sort of plotting, which, having worked itself out in the final act or the final page is concluded, the literature revisited remains essentially unfathomed.

The art and fictional literature that had moral force in the eighteenth century were elaborately and, at the same time, evasively plotted. An architectural sort of structure guaranteed that elements could be compared with care and implications be drawn. But there would be yet more to be discovered. On a small scale it might be a Ciceronian sentence by Samuel Johnson, or on an epic scale it could be like Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. In the novel, structures of axiality and symmetry contained narrative elements, characters, emblems and abstract principles; and the audience which could trace out the system of composition would note any assymmetries, discontinuities or flaws of reason. For the audience to be alert to the ‘architecture’ of composition and to those less obvious features that contradict its classical composure is for it to be alive to irony. Thus, close reading in the literary context is to be equated with close looking in the case of Hogarth's work. The withholding of immediate gratification of curiosity is essential to these works as art and as declamation, for in the midst of that puzzling and pondering, the audience is morally responsible. The audience with a sense of irony provides the missing pieces and corrections that return stability to the work of reason.

An abiding concern of the period was with the coincidence of pleasure and instruction. The discovery of the outline of structure and the provision of the components necessary for its maintenance were, at the same time, pleasurable and morally serious activities. In other words, close enquiry, pleasure and moral instruction were connected. Hogarth subscribed to this system of values. He identified a coincidence of necessity, utility and disinterested pleasure in the act of pursuit. It was the crucial element of his aesthetic theory, applying equally to form and content. He thinks of it literally and figuratively, describing it as ‘the business of our lives’.4 It was also something for its own sake: ‘This love of pursuit, merely as pursuit is implanted in our natures, and design'd, no doubt, for necessary and useful purposes’.5 The joy in puzzling through the plot of a play or novel is likened to the pleasure of the walker in a garden: ‘The eye hath this sort of enjoyment in winding walks, and serpentine rivers …’.6 It has its corollary in the visual arts where it is ‘Intricacy of form … that leads the eye a wanton kind of chace, and from the pleasure that [it] gives the mind, intitles it to the name of beautiful’.7 Hogarth's engravings were to disclose their details, their hidden symmetries and their covert themes slowly and as reward for intricate enquiry.

The observer of The Harlot's Progress would work out the story and, becoming increasingly familiar with the work, would find it fleshed out with a multitude of corroborative details. With this assimilation of the particular to the general would also come an amplification of the universal significance of the narrative. The audience will find convincing Hogarth's argument, which is that stupidity and laziness are deficiencies that combine fatally in a vicious society that, at the same time, reprehends and exploits them. In The Rake's Progress, a sort of Judgement of Paris in reverse takes place. In general terms, love is rejected where moral education has been neglected. Wealth and power are pursued. They, by their nature, possess no measure, and whoever would be their pursuer will lack all measure in his own conduct. That is to be mad. Hogarth observes human folly and he locates it in society conceived as a system for the reception of such individuals and as a crucible for the conversion of that folly into self-destructive vice.

Marriage à la Mode is more complicated than the Progresses. Briefly, Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode is the tale of an arranged marriage and its disastrous consequences. Instead of a meeting of hearts, a commercial transaction sees the forging of the bonds between the couple. Lord Squanderfield marries off his son for the money that will enable him to resume his interrupted life of profligacy. By this marriage of his daughter, the Merchant will have bought a pedigree. The daughter is shown to be sulky, snobbish and lustful, and the son restive, vain and wrathful. The audience follows a complicated plot, amplified by a multitude of corroborative incident, up to the deaths of the young people and a third party. Infidelity and violence come into disastrous collision. Described in this way, the principals of the story are all guilty of error, and society has changed their weaknesses of thought and feeling into vices with tragic consequences.8

However, there is also indication of a complementary thread of plot running through the narrative. Furthermore, it is one that has not been remarked upon by students of Hogarth's work. It points to an even deeper venality than that which the familiar interpretation indicts, and makes for a bleaker and more universal tragedy. The additional narrative thread that is being suggested here concerns vice—but not of the merely topical kind, the stuff usually believed to be Hogarth's principal concern, a matter of social delinquency. Instead, an altogether more biblical—we could say ‘classic’ or ‘chronic’—evil is the additional theme.9

The results of a reading of Hogarth's narrative in terms of its own internal consistency, and an acceptance of his invitation to ponder the moral and social implications of the action are worth reporting.10 Hogarth's ‘Modern Moral Subjects’ are scripted with prodigious elaboration. The observer/reader/audience is addressed by a painter/narrator/pamphleteer/dramatist. It is necessary to be ready to adopt a variety of critical and analytical approaches to the work, to don a multitude of different hats.

In scene I, Lord Squanderfield postures. He can be thought of as posing for his portrait. The audience is given his ‘better side’: we are invited to admire his noble profile. Now, a simple but easily overlooked fact here is that the young Viscount, who is to be married off, presents his profile too: and it is unlike Squanderfield's. The idea of posing, which is so clear in the case of the Earl, is easily transferred, with appropriate modification, to the Viscount. Whereas the Earl has an aquiline nose, the Viscount has one that turns up at the end. There seems to be no coincidence in this dissimilarity.

And not only in this particular is the Viscount different from the Earl. Another physical feature of which the Earl is proud has not been inherited by the Viscount, namely the well-proportioned calf. The Viscount is spindle-shanked. Obviously, in the real world, such differences can be accounted for in various ways, not least the genetic contribution of the mother. In the present dramatic context, however, these differences indicate that the very matter of lineal descent is being called into question. Lord Squanderfield can point to the document in the form of his family tree but not to the authentic document in the form of family likeness in the Viscount. There does seem to be some question of true paternity—though it passes the merchant by, so much is his attention fixed upon legal documents, and lucre. Long sightedness and short sightedness are clearly contrasted in scene I. Whilst the merchant myopically scrutinizes what is minute and legalistic, the Earl ‘sees’ past and future—respectively, his family tree and his yet-to-be-completed house. Neither sees what is really before them. The son and daughter share their distractedness. True seeing is epitomized in the horrifying stare of the head of Medusa on the wall. If there is indeed a question of true paternity here, a further, and dramatic, element is added to the satirical narrative.

Pursuit of the conjecture involves attempting to reconstruct the plot, with the sort of symmetries in which the novel and the drama of the age so delighted. Ought not what is true of the Viscount be true of the Merchant's daughter? The Earl is not scrutinizing the goods of the transaction either. Indeed, the daughter also looks unlike her father. If unlikeness is relevant where the father and son are concerned, it ought also to be relevant vis-à-vis father and daughter. The comparisons of profile are made relatively easy for the observer or audience by the ingenious mirrorings of fathers and children, the former facing towards and the latter away from one another.

So, Earl and Merchant are involved in a commerce where, on closer scrutiny, it seems they do not have, so to speak, a biological interest. All these years ago—it would follow—someone else had sexual access to their wives. It is easy to imagine how they would have been blind to the infidelities. The one was dedicated to libertinism and lofty fantasizing, whilst the other sought money with the eager and myopic perspective of a truffle hunter. The merchant's moral kinship with a pig is implied in the form of his purse on the floor—looking like two ears and a snout.11

The plot would be weak at this point if there were no means of pursuing an enquiry into the ‘true’ paternity of son and daughter. But Hogarth does seem to lay clues. For one thing, while the matter of physical likeness and unlikeness is in mind, it is clear that the son and daughter, so unlike their ‘fathers’, are like no one so much as one another. Their profiles are similar, and Hogarth seems to have posed them, in scene I, addorsed, as well as to indicate their indifference to one another, for ease of comparison by the audience. Such a heraldic mode of presentation had once been habitual for Hogarth, the young engraver of silver plate. The idea that the figures are addorsed, in the sense of mirroring, is strengthened by the extension of the symmetry of the group to include the lawyer, Silvertongue, who appears twice—once in material form and once in reflection. R. Paulson identified the reflection as that of the Viscount.12 Close scrutiny of the engraving shows clearly that this is not the case. It means, of course, that the vanity of the Viscount is not, after all, such a prominent vice, for the point is not a narcissistic one. If this observation about the physiognomies of the couple is made in scene I, study of scene II tends to confirm the prejudice that is forming. The tone is darkly ironic in this juxtaposition of husband and wife. The truly chilling thought comes that a marriage of half-brother and sister is about to take place in scene I.

This thought finds circumstantial confirmation when we return to the physical peculiarity of the Viscount—his spindleshankedness. The nature of muscles, as fibres taking winding paths about the bones into which they are inserted, was intimately involved with Hogarth's notion of the ‘Line of Grace’ as he explains in chapter X of The Analysis of Beauty.13 However, ‘… when these lines lose so much of their twists as to be come almost straight, all elegance of taste vanishes’. He goes on to refer to the ‘sticky manner’—when forms are ‘dry, stiff and lacking moisture’.14 For all his affectation, the Viscount is a figure without grace in Hogarth's terms. Health, morality and beauty are connected, for Hogarth, when he writes of, ‘… the principles of that grace and beauty which is to be found in well-turn'd limbs, in fine, elegant, healthy life …’.15

Symmetries of incidence, character and plot are crucial to Hogarth's narrative style. It is typical of the art of his age. Here, the audience is drawn on to consider the state of health of the merchant. Hogarth's hints are often very oblique and on this, as on other occasions, there is the danger of forging rather than finding connections. However, it is notable that the Merchant's pig-like purse on the floor in scene I still has one gold coin in it, while the rest of its contents are on the table in front of the Earl. The implication is perhaps to be drawn that the Merchant has in the past been a victim of scrofula, or the King's Evil. Scrofula was a tubercular disease, and the sufferer had subcutaneous swellings or lumps, most conspicuously on the neck. The cure had been the monarch's touch. Ceremonies were organized at which patients would receive the laying on of the royal hand and a gold coin. So long as the gold coin was retained, the cure was effective. The practice, or therapy, was discontinued at the death of Queen Anne (1714). The merchant's retention of the one gold coin could be a reference to this ancient superstition.16 A final point to add is that the word ‘scrofula’ derives from the Latin for a sow.

The theme of standing up or not runs through the narrative. Lord Squanderfield cannot stand on his own two feet, both figuratively and literally. Of course, his disability is self-inflicted, gout usually being associated with heavy drinking. The Viscount is shown sitting throughout the story, until his last appearance when he totters, supporting himself by a hand on a table. The sword on the floor in scene II has not been broken in a brawl or some other outdoor escapade, otherwise the two parts would not have made it home. More likely, he has broken it while using it as a stick, with which to lower himself onto his chair.17 By virtue of his position within the picture field, he is obviously to be compared and contrasted with the seated invalid Earl, in the previous scene—a further chance to note the disparities between them. It is a strong stick with a ferrule that he brandishes in scene III.18 That he should look up at the person whom he offends by the gesture with the stick and who responds with anger, expressed as clearly as if it were by Charles Le Brun, remains perplexing; but part of the explanation of the oddity of this passage of action could be that the Viscount cannot get to his feet with the alacrity of the Procuress. There is reason to believe that he suffers from a specific weakness.19 There is no sure evidence that Hogarth read Nicholas Andry's Orthopaedia, but it is the sort of work that he would have been drawn to. Moral and physical deformities were of great interest to him. The book's subtitle was ‘The art of correcting and preventing deformities in children’. Hogarth was also interested in parental education, as narrator in The Rake's Progress, where he traced the roots of the tragedy to Tom's want of parental education, and as a governor of the Foundling Hospital. The subtitle of Orthopaedia continues: ‘By such means as may easily be put into practice by parents themselves, and all such as are employed in educating children’. N. Andry quoted La Bruyère: ‘… a fool neither enters a room, nor retires, nor sits down, nor rises up nor stands, nor walks like a man of parts’.20Orthopaedia was published in 1743, and appeared in translation in English in the same year, two years before the publication of Marriage à la Mode.

The visual evidence cannot, of course, be so conclusive where the wife/sister is concerned. But in the light of suspicions about their true relationship, it is perhaps legitimate to give special weight to the fact that, in scene II, she spreads her legs in similar fashion to the exhausted Viscount. The angle of her lower leg may be construed from the fact that the base of the heel of her shoe is visible. The pose recurs approximately as she dies away in the final scene.

Throughout the narrative, the Viscount and the Countess, for all their affectations, adopt inelegant postures. In The Analysis of Beauty, Hogarth acknowledges the value of dancing and fencing.21 But these are accomplishments which the Viscount lacks, one of them with tragic consequences. The Countess has engaged a dancing master in scene IV, but he stares distractedly into space, his services presumably neglected. The Countess's art-loving but remiss chaperone is moved by the music of the castrato and the flautist.

It is in the final scene that the tragic consequences of this unfortunate coupling are shown, extended to the deformity of the child. Two spindle-shanked people produce—so the theory of selective breeding goes—a child who can only stand on callipers. P. de Voogd suggests that the child's wearing of callipers connects with the grandfather's dependency upon crutches.22 This would be an example of plotting by emblem rather than causal connections. Hogarth will, indeed, have intended that the parallel be drawn. However, he could also draw other connections at the same time. Of two analyses of plotting, that dwelling upon causal links has more force, especially in view of the argument of de Voogd's book, that Hogarth's narrative resembles a literary one. The Earl's invalidity is self-inflicted. In that respect, he is unlike the child, the cause of whose disability is to be found in the parents. Andry, in Orthopaedia, quotes Claude Quillet's Callipaedia, which offered four rules for those intending to marry. The third rule was ‘that neither of them have any considerable deformity of body’.23 At the same time, it must be allowed that Hogarth has another way of accounting for physical traits: over-development of parts or atrophy are consequences of use or disuse. He compares the upper-body development of rowers with the lower-body development of chairmen.24 Of course, the matter of use of limbs does not apply to the young child.

The child has inherited something specific here. This is not just a general act of vengeance on Nature's part for the couple having been forced into a loveless marriage. The inheritance of the Viscount's syphilis is sufficiently indicated by the black mark on the child's cheek. A customary reading of the plot finds an insufficiently compelling reason for the child's deformity and, as a consequence, the story is somewhat weak at this crucial point. Moreover, an element of plotting of such a kind was anathema to the Enlightenment: it would be essentially unreasonable. As an event that could have occurred within the normal telling of the story, it would have been explainable by reference to unnatural or unreasonable causes—within the cosmology, in other words, of the superstitious and the gullible.25 Surely, the child's deformity is the working out of Nature's impartial law.

If it is fair to say that the dissimilarity of a profile and a leg indicate that the Earl and the Viscount are not related by blood, the similarity of these features suggests the presence of such a relation. Here, it seems that the young couple may be half-brother and sister as well as husband and wife.26 In this event, there was one man with entry to the house of the Earl and of the Merchant. And he has to have had the characteristics that the Viscount and the Merchant's daughter share.

A candidate is provided in Hogarth's narrative, in the person who conducts the business between the Earl and the Merchant in scene I. He is a banker or, with his plump money bags so contrasting with his own dessicated form, probably more specifically a usurer.27 He has the profile, so far as can be seen, the line of calf, and had, no doubt, the opportunity. He has made himself rich at the Earl's and Merchant's expense. It is easy to imagine him being an opportunist in other ways too. Then, there is a detail that, although it does not point directly to his paternity, does mark him out as the focus of horror in the scene: the head of Medusa on the wall, epitomizing ‘true’ seeing, looks at him. In addition, if the Usurer can be thought of as a replica of Medusa, he is perhaps to be thought of as also possessing a vision that others lack. The evidence is not enough to draw a confident verdict of guilty from a jury, but an examining magistrate would be prompted to continue his investigations. There is an instance of opportunist theft in the final scene where an emaciated, two-tone grey dog stands on the Merchant's chair and steals the pig's head from the table.28 If this dog is indeed a parallel to the Usurer, it is worth remarking that the dogs chained together in scene I, which parallel the young couple, are white, brown and black. There is perhaps a mongrel randomness in the placings of the black patches.29

This is not the place to discuss Hogarth's participation, through his ‘Modern Moral Subjects’, in the debate around the Lockean view that moral conduct is learned rather than inherited. Here, it can be said that, if there is a physical inheritance from the parents, considered biologically, there is a moral one to be derived from their example, considered socially. The example of the ‘step’-fathers is plain to see. So is the genetic contribution of the ‘true’ father. The mothers are absent from the drama. But it is possible to sketch something of the psychological and moral nature of the mothers of the young couple from the evidence of the behaviour of their husbands and children—unless the mothers had also been neglectful of their parental duties, handing their offspring over to that other great enemy of virtue in eighteenth-century children, the wet-nurse.30

The conduct of neglected wives is so much to be expected in the context of this sort of narrative that failure to delineate it only makes the audience conjecture. Squire Western's wife in Tom Jones comes to mind. When we discover that she was neglected by her husband, our first reaction is to check father against daughter. And indeed, Sophia is in many respects unlike. However, like him, she is headstrong. Learned or inherited? It is not clear that Fielding is implying that Western was a dupe in the same way as the Earl and the Merchant are—though whether Western the huntsman ever played the sexual poacher is another question. But the text is worth close scrutiny here.

In other words, the title, Marriage à la Mode, can be taken to refer not just to the marriage of the young couple. Three marriages conspire to create the tragedy, and it is possible to reconstruct the scene in the households of the Earl and the Merchant. From the evidence of the conduct of fathers and children it is clear that the Merchant's wife was a snob in her infidelity while her husband's attention was absorbed by his money-grubbing enterprises and that the Earl's wife philandered with a social inferior while her husband was engaged in his lordly profligacy. The Viscount follows his mother's taste for what is low (scene III) and is indifferent to his father's ambition for the lofty, whilst the Merchant's daughter has social ambitions and in her frivolity rejects his prudent example (scene IV.) The two pass one another on the stairs so to speak. For all the contrast in the social interests of the two parties, they share the characteristic that their lives are contradictory in themselves. The Countess has lofty ambitions, and a gross appetite for Silvertongue. The Viscount is, socially, a slum-dweller, pleased to immerse himself in a materialist existence. Yet he goes to the quack. He is a superstitious fool or, at least, he believes what is scientifically unsound. He has the experience of an empiricist but he is incapable of drawing reasonable conclusions from it. Neglected by their fathers, the children learn the vices of their mothers.

The story, then, seems to be about incest. In that light, the villainy of the Usurer, if he is the father, goes to depths immeasurably deeper than those that normally accommodate his avocation. Here is a deeply evil panderer performing his office in scene I.

The blackest evil is forged in the crucible of knowledge. The four principals of the drama are less culpable, because they are victims of calculating evil and, in different ways, of their own folly. A narrative that can trace the tragedy to beginnings in folly denounced society rather than Nature. However, in so far as the tragedy was caused by factors beyond the control of the actors, the problem of evil itself, and therefore the culpability of Nature (or the incompetency or malignity of God), has to be considered. Here, the agents are knowing, and the matter of knowledge being stratified—in the possession of some and denied to others—is present elsewhere in the narrative. Certainly, the puzzling scene III is to be interpreted as an encounter between different levels of knowledge: the quack and the procuress have sure knowledge of some sort.31 Silvertongue's seduction of the Merchant's daughter is a particularly insolent act of betrayal—both of his clients and of his profession. Perhaps his monologue directed at the Merchant's daughter in scene I concerns bonds of love—a blasphemy on St Sebastian's bonds in the picture which he half-mimics on the wall behind him—and on the binding contract, in the writing of which he has blunted his pen. Cutting metal and feather could permit a reference to Cupid's darts. More obviously, they ridicule St Sebastian's arrows. However, within the dramatic action itself, shorn of the coincidences of symbolism and irony, Silvertongue's sharpening of his pen while he courts the daughter indicates a totally unprincipled indifference to the meaning of law and contract—though it might be no such serious offence in Nature if there is a blood relationship between the married couple.

Silvertongue has, of course, a key role in the unfolding tragedy. But the proposition here of the relationship of the couple being incestuous requires that he have more than the role of seducer and assassin. At any rate, the suggestion of this additional thread to the narrative requires that the drama too be enriched. The degree of Silvertongue's knowledge of the relationship is a function of the dramatic force of scene V. It is not enough that, at the point of death, the Viscount should look into the fire and, recalling the sins of his life, see the flames and the instruments of torture, and foresee his eternity in Hell. With this additional thread of plot, he must also see the greater enormity as prelude to his perdition. A strong drama would have had his rival, after delivering the fatal blow, tell him the truth.

Unfortunately, there is no sure evidence that Silvertongue knew about the paternity of the couple. There is, instead, the possibly rather attenuated reading of the implications of the way in which some of the pictures within the pictures are hung. Picture-hanging should obey the hierarchy of earth and Heaven as well as of genres. It is therefore anomalous, in scene IV, that the portrait usually identified as being of Silvertongue hangs above the picture of the Rape of Ganymede. The implication is—besides sexual irregularity—of a super-Olympian perspective. In a sense, it is pendant to the picture of St Luke over the door on the other side of scene V. Now, Lord Squanderfield had claimed an Olympian perspective in scene I. He had himself represented as a military commander in the armour of an earlier age, with the attributes of Jupiter, in the picture above the head of the Usurer (Hogarth's sarcastic point is perhaps that it was during the Earl's military service—one no doubt less heroic than that depicted—that the Viscount was conceived by a lesser mortal). The argument would run that Silvertongue looks down upon the Viscount, or more specifically his household, because he is privy to information that ridicules the Viscount, of which the latter is ignorant, and that has come from its unique source, the Usurer. It might also be noted that the three-quarter portrait, viewed from within the picture space, could be construed as looking at the bed. This could be an indication of simple lust. However, Hogarth is at pains, in this scene, to remind the audience of the Earl, by the relics that populate the room. The bed is clearly of an earlier epoch, and the scene of earlier couplings.32 The pictures do not fit the panelling, as the bed sits inconveniently in the recess. Nothing quite fits in the new Palladian residence. If Silvertongue, in his painted form, is to allude only to the lawyer's lust and not to his knowledge of the past, the plotting would be pretty crude here. An additional allusion may be contained in Silvertongue's name. That tongue that, like Cupid's arrow, seduces the wife perhaps stabs the husband with its dreadful intelligence.

This reading can be supported by reference back to scene I. Conversation takes place between Silvertongue and the Merchant's daughter. The nature of the ‘conversation’ is clear enough, and the word was used at the time with the connotation of love-making or even sexual intercourse.33 At the same time, the composition on that side of the scene has axial symmetry, with the Viscount and Silvertongue's reflection in the mirror corresponding with the bride and the lawyer. The shadowy reflection of the lawyer can be thought of as being in another kind of conversation with the Viscount or, to put it another way, the image can be interpreted as a prefiguration of a future conversation—that in scene V. The speculation that Silvertongue knows the true parentage of the young couple depends upon there being communication between himself and the Usurer. The connection is perhaps to be read from the fact that, in scene I, the Usurer has his hat under his arm. The implication is that he is not party to the formal proceedings, but has made a sudden and, from the Earl's point of view, probably unwelcome appearance. How did he know that the Earl was on the point of being in funds? His most likely informant was the lawyer.

While a reading of Marriage à la Mode concentrates upon the matter of arranged marriage, and sees the first movers of the tragedy as the Earl and the Merchant, the larger cause of the evil reveals itself as a tendency in society to confuse human relations with economic ones. The vanity of the Viscount and the weak spiritedness of the Merchant's daughter have their parts to play in bringing about the tragic conclusion. But when the question of the Viscount and the Merchant's daughter having a blood relationship is considered, something more fateful is afoot. Yet this is not altogether to exonerate the young couple: Sophia Western and Clarissa Harlowe had character enough to resist the tyranny to which fops and wimps bend the knee. Their moral security, despite all social perils, was guaranteed by their obedience to Nature. They were natural enough to recognize their true inclinations. Their obduracy is in fact their constancy. It is an affirmation, and is heartening.

However, Hogarth's young couple are weak, and are therefore incapable of functioning outside the artificiality of society. Like Hogarth, Abbé Laugier, in his Essai sur l'Architecture (1753), insisted upon the necessity of keeping intact our memory of Nature, and advised us ‘never to forget our little wooden hut’. Architectural monsters would result if we lost our touchstone. After Hogarth, Jean-Jacques Rousseau laid out his system of education in Emile (1762). Its aim was to forge indestructible bonds with Nature in the youth, so that the adult would be armed against the social perils of self-interest, unreason and artificiality. Hogarth spoke a familiar (if not universal) moral language.34 But by including a species of evil in the formation (if not the conjoining) of the couple he introduced a quality of Jacobean horror to the drama. Was their fate, then, irresistible?

The narrative of the Earl's son and the Merchant's daughter is a pessimistic one. It argues that society's dictates are irresistible, to the extent that, in the face of indifference and even disinclination, the marriage yet produced a child. We have been witnesses to a most comprehensive denial of Nature. The culpability of the principals survives because that denial was wilful and wrong. As the rest of the drama makes clear, they were not people without will: so resistance could not be demanded of them. Fielding stated the matter in Amelia:

Hence, my worthy reader, console thyself, that however few of the good things of life are thy lot, the best of things, which is innocence, is always within thy own power: and though Fortune may make thee often unhappy, she can never make thee completely and irreparably miserable without thy own consent.35


  1. From among the multitude of notices that could be presented to confirm this point it is perhaps enough to refer to his early success with his picture of The Beggar's Opera of which several versions are known.

  2. Famously, Henry Fielding recognized common purpose with Hogarth, who is invoked several times in Tom Jones and, of course, in Joseph Andrews, where the author enunciated Hogarth's distinction between character and caricature. P. de Voogd, Henry Fielding and William Hogarth: The Correspondences of the Arts (Amsterdam, 1981).

  3. W. Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (1753) ed. J. Burke (Oxford, 1955), p. 42.

  4. Ibid., p. 41.

  5. Ibid., p. 42.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Hogarth connected plotting, hunting and gardening (or ‘improving’) in his chapter V, ‘Of Intricacy’. He expresses the same preference as Stephen Switzer, the writer of Ichnographica Rustica (1718 and 1741/2), ‘… the Beauty of … Regularity is easily seen at once, and then the Mind is by Nature soon cloy'd of it, … but how pleasingly does it rove uncontroul'd thro' the promiscuous Scenes of a Country’, quotation by John Dixon Hunt and Peter Willis, The Genius of the Place: The English Landscape Garden 1620-1820, 2nd edn (Cambridge, MA, 1988), p. 156.

  8. The story is elaborated with a prodigious amount of detail. For a summa of the analysis of the matter of the story, see R. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works (London and New Haven, 1975).

  9. The art historian's customary recourse for corroboration to documentation of the social, economic and political issues of the age—in this case, the morally topical—will be useful, but it will not be sufficient. Matters of style and chronology are equally peripheral. It is the student of literature whose learning is called upon principally here. Hogarth's semi-concealed extra thread of plot will be the more plausible if other narrators of the period can be shown to have attempted similar things.

  10. Hogarth did intend that his work should be read in its own terms. He rejected the idea that a baggage of theory was necessary. As an opponent of charlatanism in all its forms, he especially despised art experts, believing them to be involved in the deceit of themselves and others; to be guilty, in other words, of false vision. These attitudes emerge through a reading of The Analysis of Beauty, and the Autobiographical Notes. He wrote in the latter, ‘I have hope of succeeding a little with such as dare (?) think for themselves and can believe their own eyes’ (p. 21).

  11. Here and elsewhere reference will be made to such ‘similes’ or ‘puns’. Hogarth was acutely aware of the ability of the mind to make, of a single sensation, a number of interpretations. In The Analysis of Beauty, he wrote of, ‘… the surprising alterations objects seemingly undergo through the prepossessions and prejudices contracted by the mind’ (p. 25). In chapter XIII, he writes, ‘… the mind itself may be so imposed upon as to make the eye see falsely as well as truly’ (p. 119). An obvious example of punning objects is the wigs in The Five Orders of Periwigs.

  12. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, p. 269.

  13. Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty, p. 67ff.

  14. Ibid., p. 73.

  15. Ibid., p. 74.

  16. C. Mettler, History of Medicine (Philadelphia and Toronto, 1947), p. 398.

  17. The broken sword may also carry the implication that the Viscount is sexually spent. A reading of the sword point in phallic-symbolic terms is prompted by the ridicule which is clearly intended in scene I where it emerges pathetically from between the merchant's legs. Perhaps the money-lender's plump money bags are, by their location, to be construed as making a contrasting sexual allusion. However, in scene II, the Countess is perhaps intended to be communicating lasciviousness by pose and expression, and it is possible that the audience is to interpret this scene as the prelude to the conception of the child. Hogarth makes clear that the parentage of the child is not in doubt by hanging the teething coral on the wife's chair in scene IV, before the assignation with Silvertongue, which results in the events of scene V.

  18. The precise content of this scene has remained unclear to students of the work of Hogarth, and it therefore continues to hold some secrets of plotting. This fact makes the present suggestion of a semi-concealed thread of plot less implausible. Scene III remains largely mysterious as is perhaps proper to a scene denouncing superstition in the same breath as quackery. However, one of Hogarth's points is perhaps worth remarking upon in passing. The group of the visitors to the Quack seems to burlesque the Laocöon. A couple of points in The Analysis of Beauty support what is suggested by the composition itself. Hogarth remarks (p. 39) upon the sculptors providing adult anatomy at half-scale for the sons. The young girl in scene III is their heir. Her ‘sister’ is in every respect, not least the massiveness of her hooped substructure, her opposite. Physically, the latter is massive and bulbous, while she is thin and straight. Psychologically, the one is sudden and violent whilst the other is passive and miserable. Hogarth notes that the sculptors made the sons small in the interests of the pyramid of the composition. Laocöon's triangular neatness is replaced by an x-shape, thanks to the stick and the narwal horn. The Viscount's pose, gesture and psychological state are ridiculed by comparison with Laocöon's. The Laocöon group is also psychologically pyramidal whilst here, the composition arcs from the young girl up and across to the Procuress, the central character far from heroic. Hogarth used the Laocöon also for his picture of David Garrick as Richard III (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). In this case too, the movement of the figure is to be reconstructed by the observer. Garrick's previous position was hieratic and symmetrical, perhaps like an image of a medieval king on his seal. It would have been a fine theatrical moment in performance when Garrick threw himself out of his static pose, into that of Laocöon, with the naturalism of emotion which that implies.

  19. An important theme within the cycle is sickness and medicine. One of the readings of scene III would include hearing an argument about the merits of pills or bleeding as remedy. The Procuress with the knife supports, literally or metaphorically, the argument in favour of bleeding. In addition, provided with the narwal horn, she is perhaps to be construed as some sort of unicorn-barber. The unicorn part gathers in the virgins, and the barber part bloods them. The theme runs right through the cycle, but is particularly the content of scene III. The preoccupations with superstition, idleness and profligacy that are legible here also Mark Samuel Garth's poem, The Dispensary, 8th edn (London, 1718). Of the dupes of quackery he writes, ‘religion's bright authority they dare, / And yet are slaves to superstitious fear (p. 26). Disease is ‘Begot by sloth, maintained by luxury’ (p. 29).

  20. N. Andry, Orthopaedia, 2 vols. (London, 1743), I, p. 226.

  21. Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty, p. 149. The Merchant's daughter, in scene I, clearly has ‘bad posture’. In fact, in her pose, she resembles the illustration of bad posture in Andry's Orthopaedia, I, p. 86. Andry recommended dancing: ‘… there is nothing properer than this exercise, for forming the bodies of young people’ (I, p. 228). He also advocated fencing: ‘… there is no exercise where the joints are moved with greater force and quickness, especially those of the arms and legs, and consequently there is none more proper for strengthening those parts’ (II, p. 215)

  22. P. de Voogd, Henry Fielding and William Hogarth: The Correspondences of the Arts (Amsterdam, 1981), pp. 95-6.

  23. Andry, Orthopaedia, vol. I p. 26.

  24. Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty, p. 99.

  25. Hogarth shows, in The Rake's Progress, the fate of those who favour unnatural and irrational forms of explanation. In the final scene, the man with fantasies of absolutism is to be seen in one cell, and the man who believes he has special access to God is in the other. To have power over the world without science and understanding of design in the world by introspection are delusive fantasies.

  26. Allusion to incest is perhaps to be found in incidental detail within the stage-setting of the tale. In scene III, a picture of a hermaphrodite with two heads hangs on the wall behind the quack (Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works). It could serve as an emblem for the young couple in scene I and is, of course, very like the situation of the two dogs chained together in the same scene. Below the hermaphrodite in scene III are two mummy cases. Presumably, the marriage customs of the rulers of Egypt were as notorious in the eighteenth century as now.

  27. Paulson (ibid) explains that he is identifiable as a miser from the three pins in his sleeve. It might be remarked, in addition, that they look rather like three-fifths of the coronet with which the Earl has decorated his possessions, including the dispirited dog in the foreground of the scene (in the engraving). A small point perhaps worth noting is that two of the five points of the coronet on the canopy of the Earl's throne are obscured by shadow, leaving three clearly illuminated.

  28. The chair is the merchant's because the food on the plate has been consumed. The other plate—that of the widowed Countess—is still charged.

  29. It is worth adding the observation here that, whilst the Merchant's purse in scene I resembles a pig's ears and snout, the Earl's handkerchief, draped over the arm of his chair, can be read as a dog, pawing the scroll with the family tree. This is a reading that works better in the painting than in the engraving. The part of the dog stealing the pig's head in the final scene would have been taken by a metaphorical cut-purse in the first scene. Whoever was possessing himself of the Merchant's money in scene I was, by the rule of narrative symmetry, stealing from his table in scene VI. But, of course, in the action of scene I, the Usurer—an interloper in the proceedings as his carrying of his hat shows—is acquiring the Merchant's gold at second hand, in return for the Earl's mortgages. So, if, by the strict letter of the law, no theft is taking place in scene I, but yet theft is being alluded to, it is necessary to cast around for some other sort of theft happening—in other words, not the theft of chattels but of some metaphysical property, like chastity or good name or trust. de Voogd, Henry Fielding and William Hogarth, p. 96, interprets the action of the dog in the light of the slang expression for a serious mistake, the pulling of the ‘wrong pig by the ear’, and has it refer to the Merchant having made a bad contract with the Earl. However, the logic of the proposal that is being advanced here is that, pedigree and purse being brought into a marriage with one another, the pedigree is being stolen by the ‘dog’ in scene I and the purse is being stolen in the final scene. The standard reading of the Marriage does not include the suggestion that the substance of one-half of the deal, the pedigree, was fallacious. It should be remarked that Hogarth included an episode of a dog stealing food in The Distressed Poet. The argument of that engraving is that the poet, with his eye vainly on fame and his attention elsewhere, allows what belongs properly to his own life to drain or be spirited away. His folly is not too distant from the Earl's folie de grandeur.

  30. The campaign against the employment of wet-nurses was carried on by many in the period. For example, Rousseau wrote in impassioned terms on the matter in Emile (1762). Andry spoke against the practice in Orthopaedia, II. And it is surely a wet-nurse whose neglect leads to the injury of the child in Hogarth's Gin Lane.

  31. Some of the apparatus of this scene, especially the alligator perversely suspended from the ceiling, recalls Hogarth's engraving, Visiting Sidrophel, for his Hudibras series. Samuel Garth's poem, The Dispensary, contains a description of a quack's premises: ‘Here, mummies lay most reverendly stale … Aloft in Rows large Poppy Heads were strung. / And near, a scaly Alligator hung’; quotation by L. King, The Medical World of the Eighteenth Century (Chicago, 1958), p. 15. The illustration to canto III in the 8th edn (London, 1718) shows the alligator hanging from the ceiling. An explanation of the content of Marriage à la Mode was published on 8 February 1746 in the London Evening Post entitled ‘Marriage à la Mode: an Humourous Tale, in Six Cantos, in Hudibrastic Verse’. There is a challenge to the buyer's critical independent mindedness here, for Hogarth's narrative is very much elevated above the visual equivalent of doggerel. Nevertheless, the scene of the death of the Viscount in Marriage à la Mode has certain similarities to the engraving, Hudibras Catechised.

  32. See Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, plate II, figure 63, bottom right.

  33. The OED refers to Joseph Addison and Fielding for eighteenth-century usages in this sense.

  34. The moral language dovetailed with the matter as it related to artistic imitation. Hogarth explained, in the Introduction to The Analysis of Beauty, how the connoisseur could become confused: ‘… for by having thus espoused and adopted their first notions from nothing but imitations, and becoming too often bigotted in their faults, as their beauties, they at length, in a manner, totally neglect, or at least disregard the works of nature …’ (p. 24).

  35. Amelia, VIII, 3; II; quotation in de Voogd, Henry Fielding and William Hogarth, p. 135.

Paul Williamson (essay date February 1999)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Williamson, Paul. “Hogarth and the Strangelove Effect.” Eighteenth-Century Life 23, no. 1 (February 1999): 80-95.

[In the following essay, Williamson contends that many of Hogarth's scenes of disorder and degradation are both enticing and repulsive at the same time.]

In Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963), directed by Stanley Kubrick, a mad USAF general orders a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union with apocalyptic consequences. When all recall mechanisms fail, the Superpowers are spurred into cooperation. The Soviets, forewarned of the approaching American B-52s, set about shooting them down, but one of the planes evades Soviet defenses. Badly damaged and leaking fuel, its wacky pilot diverts the attack to the nearest possible target, a Soviet missile base. As the crippled plane maneuvers over the earth in a desperate attempt to drop its load of nuclear bombs on the enemy installation, the film activates a familiar rhetoric. The crew of the B-52, on what is now virtually a suicide mission, are shown to be individuals of heroic coolness and efficiency, motivated by a patriotism of refined emotional purity. The inside of the plane is metamorphosed into the abstract space of the action film, in which friends take on foes and where cinematic suspense, assisted by the soundtrack, persistently invites the viewer to empathize with the crew and so to hope that they will survive. Cinematic techniques help the viewer learn to stop worrying and love the bomb. If the heroes succeed, however, the Soviet counterattack (the Doomsday Machine) will be triggered and the world will be destroyed. This plot development remorselessly underlines the fascinating absurdity of the response to the cinematic artistry, which generates an emotional power that can undermine a rational response to the horror of the events. The madness of this Strangelove Effect is personified by the weirdly hawkish General Turgidson (George C. Scott) who simultaneously squeals with childish excitement and covers his mouth in horror when he speaks of the crew's certain success; by the naïve pilot of the plane who opens the failed bomb doors manually and rides down to earth on an H-bomb waving his cowboy hat; and most importantly by Dr. Strangelove himself (Peter Sellers) whose body, erupting periodically in uncontrollable Nazi salutes, refuses to be restrained by his mind. The film closes with scene after scene of mushroom clouds accompanied by Vera Lynn singing We'll Meet Again.

Hogarth is a master of the Strangelove Effect. In the ironically entitled Midnight Modern Conversation (1730-31, Yale Center for British Art), for example, the scene is a riot of drunkenness. The circular table in the center of the room barely holds the party of drinkers together, and the social grouping alluded to in the title has fragmented into atomistic chaos. A man in the foreground of the engraved version published in March 1733 has fallen off his chair and broken a cup, shards of which are shown flying past his head while his pointing finger directs our attention to the empty bottles on the floor. Above him, a blind-drunk man staggers forward, his wig askew, his body needing the support of the back of a chair. An upturned bottle in his left hand empties itself onto the head of the man below. To the right of the plate, by the table, a man has fallen asleep while lighting his pipe, and the flaming candle is now dangerously close to his lace cuffs. In the painting a member of the group stares in horrified anticipation of the imminent conflagration but does not do anything about it; the engraving leaves all sense of anticipation to the viewer as the equivalent figure is obliviously drunk. At the back of the engraving two subgroups achieve limited social interaction, centered ironically on the brimming punchbowl, while to the left, in the far corner, a man smoking a pipe with his back to the room is oddly mirrored by a man smoking a pipe who faces the viewer, perhaps to indicate a quarrel. On the extreme left another drinker has fallen asleep, precariously balanced against the wall on the back two legs of his chair, his mouth and nostrils open, his wig falling back to reveal a bald pate.

The dominant impression of disorder reflects the state of inebriation and may, in turn, suggest moral condemnation. Yet the image also invites a different viewing characterized by the man who excitedly raises his glass as if to toast the occasion. The scene may be one of moral degradation, but the viewer is encouraged to see it with a glee that is emphasized by the exuberance captured in the dishevelment of the figures, the disarray of the myriad objects, the breaking glass, the cascading wine, and most impressively in the hats that seem to float in a kind of fairy ring against the back and side walls. As Ronald Paulson remarks, Hogarth's image is “no more a denunciation” than, say, Jacob Jordaens' mid-seventeenth-century Feast of the Bean King (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), and one may add that the peculiarly durable air of celebration with which Hogarth invests the scene is inseparable from the basic topos of Bacchic revelry.1

A Midnight Modern Conversation demonstrates the important sense in which the product that emerges when life is turned into art is like drunkenness. In the Analysis of Beauty (1753), a document avowedly based on principles observed in art and to that extent a summary of the precepts that had governed Hogarth's own art long before the treatise was published, Hogarth states at the outset that “grace and beauty” are the characteristics of “those compositions in nature and art, which seem most to please and entertain the eye.2 The equation between beauty and pleasure is explicit, and when the theoretical background to the lines of beauty and grace is given in the section on intricacy Hogarth includes hunting, reading, playgoing, and thinking itself in a divinely sanctioned urge to mix business and pleasure:

The active mind is ever bent to be employ'd. Pursuing is the business of our lives; and even abstracted from any other view, gives pleasure. Every arising difficulty, that for a while attends and interrupts the pursuit, gives a sort of spring to the mind, enhances the pleasure, and makes what would else be toil and labour, become sport and recreation. … This love of pursuit, merely as pursuit, is implanted in our natures, and design'd, no doubt, for necessary, and useful purposes. Animals have it evidently by instinct. The hound dislikes the game he so eagerly pursues; and even cats will risk the losing of their prey to chase it over again. It is a pleasing labour of the mind to solve the most difficult problems; allegories and riddles, trifling as they are, afford the mind amusement: and with what delight does it follow the well-connected thread of a play, or novel, which ever increases as the plot thickens, and ends most pleas'd, when that is most distinctly unravell'd?

(pp. 41-42)

Hogarth clarifies the connection between beauty, artistic lines, and intricacy: “Intricacy in form, therefore, I shall define to be that peculiarity in the lines, which compose it, that leads the eye a wanton kind of chace, and from the pleasure that gives the mind, intitles it to the name of beautiful” (pp. 42-43).

In A Midnight Modern Conversation, the representation of profound disorder invites the viewer to follow the kinds of visual paths that were later schematized in The Analysis of Beauty and so to engage in that playful pursuit essential to art. Delight meets disorder when conviviality meets alcohol because this is the point where, for Hogarth, “our natures” reveal themselves. The same juxtaposition is the subject of the print, A Chorus of Singers, Hogarth's subscription ticket for the engraved A Midnight Modern Conversation. Here a jumble of heads, arms, torsos, and sheet music is overlooked by a bald-headed music master whose raised arm and open-mouthed intensity invite a comparison with the posture of the toasting reveller at the back of the group of drinkers. Although musically united in a performance of Judith, an oratorio by William Huggins and William Defesch, the arrangement of the singers is disorderly; they form six disconnected clusters facing in six different directions, and most cannot see the conductor. The disorder is underlined by the distorted caricature quality of the pompous central chorister (bewigged and bespectacled) and by one singer's need of a magnifying glass.3 Such tendencies to entropy are set in counterpoint with the ghostly but binding presence of the oratorio, whose enactment is as important in this scene as the punchbowl that provides a center of gravity in A Midnight Modern Conversation.

In these pictures art does not resolve chaos into order, but rather holds disorder in tension with creative exuberance on the basis that both are signs of the same urge, “implanted in our natures.” The implication is that they are more concerned with the juxtapositions inherent in human nature than—to use a favorite Hogarthian term—moral progress. Another argument might suggest that disorder and creativity both imply another kind of order, one that is signalled (in the engraving of A Midnight Modern Conversation) by the geometry of the round table and the square room. Such geometrical forms appear elsewhere, partially in the triangles and circles of the hats, and most importantly in the circular clock face set in its square frame. In this progression from geometrical shape to stock motif a moral imperative emerges that might formulate itself as memento mori or tempus fugit. Yet even the process of discovering such a relationship depends on the picture's stimulating the kind of boisterous energy the image celebrates and so reemphasizes the concern with pleasure—as in Dr. Strangelove, memento mori is here twinned with carpe diem.

Concerned with juxtaposition rather than progression, A Midnight Modern Conversation resists being turned into a moral tag by asserting the absolute value of the visible. Being a picture (as opposed to being a picture that can be reduced to a proposition) is an end in itself because, for Hogarth, looking at pictures—like reading, going to the theatre, and fishing—engages an instinct that insists on being satisfied. But if moralizing and visualizing are at odds in this picture, so are reading and looking. The case for Hogarth's overwhelming readability has recently been restated with succinct force by Norman Bryson with reference to the engraved series, Industry and Idleness (October 1747):

In Hogarth there is always that second level of reading—if there were not, we would find the series lacking in interest. At this second, darker level the antitheses of the official text [industry rewarded, idleness punished] are turned upside-down: the virtuous apprentice … becomes insufferable, and the idle apprentice … emerges as an anti-hero. Between these two signifying levels, of official morality and its unofficial counterpoint, the Hogarth image is entirely exhausted: what cannot fit the first level drops to the second is processed there, and as we gaze at the series we are asked to perform, repeatedly, and in two different registers, an act of extraction which is always the same and ends by finally emptying the image of all its content. Irony in Hogarth—the interplay between the two textual levels—works as an instrument for subjecting the image to an absolute control by text: despite its apparent playfulness it is authoritarian, expropriative, and entirely anti-figural.4

Working on a “discursive” or textual principle rather than a “figural” or visual one, Hogarth apparently displays a “commitment to the textuality of the image over its figurality” (Bryson, p. 36) comparable in its ferocity with that of Charles LeBrun. LeBrun's Cartesian study of physiognomies, for example, locates the meeting point of soul and body in the center of the brain at the pineal gland. When the soul feels attracted to or repulsed by something in the physical world, the pineal gland is stimulated and corresponding facial expressions are mechanically produced. The result, chez LeBrun, is a vocabulary of expressions codified with reference to the two poles of attraction and repulsion that makes facial imagery definitively legible.5 For LeBrun this philosophical substructure finds a practical application in the context provided by the Court of Louis XIV where the personal is fused so totally with the political that life and art are “only at the same degree of semantic pressure” (Bryson, p. 41). The totally readable image is, at the same time, a totally political one.

In The Analysis of Beauty Hogarth is pragmatic about the value of LeBrun's schematic facial lines; and, although he speaks of expressions as a “language,” he is doubtful about their transparency as signifiers:

But least I should be thought to lay too great a stress on outward shew, like a physiognomist, take this with you, that it is acknowledg'd there are so many different causes which produce the same kind of movements and appearances of the features, and so many thwartings by accidental shapes in the make of faces, that the old adage, fronti nulla fides, will ever stand its ground upon the whole; and for very wise reasons nature hath thought fit it should.

(pp. 137-38)

Hogarth's brilliantly vernacular “take this with you” represents the usual elevation of experience over theory. Comparably, his frontispiece to John Clubbe's Physiognomy replaces LeBrun's Cartesian scheme with a parodic Newtonian one in which, with the help of a steel belt around the waist and a magnet, “the solid contents of every man's head” are ascertained, and the “Gravity” of a man's character scientifically determined. The same abiding skepticism, authorized by nature as Hogarth says, can also be seen in Industry and Idleness. The progress to riches successfully undertaken by the industrious apprentice, Francis Goodchild, is also a progress from performing his duties as an apprentice to accepting civic responsibility and the honors that go with it—imagery and politics apparently working in tandem. With the antihero, Tom Idle, Hogarth invokes a Strangelove Effect that tends to make Idle's demise more fascinating than his counterpart's success, undercutting the expected social moral. But in the final two scenes of the series, it is not the viewer's sympathy for Idleness that undermines Industry's triumph in order to make a point about social structures. It is rather the mob, whose deluge-like incursion precludes the possibility of a simple binary opposition between Industry and order on the one hand and Idle in association with a lamentably uncontrolled populace on the other.6 Visually, the presence of the mob makes the pictures homomorphic; thematically, both characters are included in a doomsday vision that swallows up industry and idleness alike. Looking back over the series it becomes clear that such a “free chaotic mingling of forms” works throughout to equalize industry and idleness.7 The viewer, moreover, indulges in the kind of idleness that is a prerequisite for looking at pictures. As in Dr. Strangelove, while art supplants ethics, human nature works out the logic of its own destruction. The final appeal is neither to text nor subtext but to a belief about human nature, and the medium of that appeal is essentially pictorial.

The Analysis is overwhelmingly concerned with the organization of visual material, not with reference to a controlling text but as a distinct species. Although Joseph Burke calls it “the first work in European literature to make formal values both the starting-point and basis of a whole aesthetic theory,”8 Hogarth states at the outset that it is in part a corrective to the earlier work advocating the purely visual qualities of painting done by Roger de Piles.9 De Piles countered the textual bias of the French Academy, manifested in LeBrun's readable body, in the elevation of history painting, and in the doctrine of ut pictura poesis based on Aristotle's Poetics, with his views on the paramount importance of color as the medium of vision and his championing of Rubens.10 For de Piles the primary aim of painting is to seduce the eye by marshalling visual forces into an affecting tout-ensemble. Where de Piles distinguished between grace and beauty by arguing that “beauty pleases by the rules, and grace without them,” however, Hogarth demystifies this Je ne sais quoi, an obscurantist connoisseur's dream, by clarifying that there are definite correspondences between beauty, grace, and particular visual forms—hence, the “waving line, or line of beauty” and the serpentine line or “line of grace” which, “by its waving and winding at the same time different ways, leads the eye in a pleasing manner along the continuity of its variety.”11

The importance of lines in the Analysis is indicative of the way visual qualities operate in engravings and paintings alike.12 Paulson notes that when confronted with Hogarth's use of color in, for example, the painted version of Marriage à la Mode (1743, National Gallery, London), “the viewer finds that the colour actively prevents him from getting down to the reading structure” (Art of Hogarth, p. 46). Yet the prints of the series, published in June 1745, are equally concerned with the kind of visual bustle that first grabs the viewer's attention and then invites the eye not simply to decode but to explore the visual properties of the picture as picture. Hogarth employed French engravers, announcing his wish to avoid “the least Objection to the Decency or Elegancy of the whole Work,”13 and so signalling a concern to attract the eye of the purchaser. Similarly, in the tavern scene of the Rake's Progress details may well combine to suggest a straightforward, legible morality; but in both cases, as in the Midnight Modern Conversation, “moralizing realism”14 does not dictate the mere reduction of image to word.

At first glance this view may seem to conflict with Hogarth's own definition of his narrative progresses in terms of what he calls “moder[n] (?) moral Subject a Field unbroke up in any Country or any age”; and despite the inherent uncertainty of the transcription, it would be churlish to quarrel with a phrase that has proved so universally acceptable as this.15 The epithet has gained powerfully from a fertile relationship with Henry Fielding's celebrated allusion to Hogarth in the Preface to Joseph Andrews (1742), where Fielding allies his newborn “comic epic in prose” with comic history painting, invoking Hogarth as his example.16 The essentially moral nature of the shared attitude that Fielding perceives seems confirmed by an earlier reference to Hogarth as “one of the most useful Satyrists any Age hath produced,” and to the Harlot's Progress (engravings published April 1732) and Rake's Progress (engravings published June 1735) as “calculated more to serve the Cause of Virtue, and for the Preservation of Mankind, than all the Folios of Morality which have been ever written.”17 As Paulson remarks, however, in the Preface to Joseph Andrews, “Fielding is trying, as Hogarth had done since Boys Peeping at Nature [1730-31], to secure a place in the classical (and contemporary) hierarchy of genres higher than satire, the grotesque, or the comic” (Hogarth, 2:195). On this level, Fielding's inflationary mock-epic style rapidly takes on a life independent of its moral force, resolving into a highly entertaining play of form.18 This is most apparent in Tom Jones (1749), where, despite the illuminating arguments of William Empson and Bernard Harrison, almost all readers in almost all periods have almost always seen the stylistic flights of the epideictic narrative voice as separable from the book's action.19 Indeed, readers tend to subdivide not on the issue of the separability of style and moral content, but on the nature of the achievement that the process represents.20 Comparably, it is the stylistic texture that provides the primary inspiration for John Osborne's and Tony Richardson's acclaimed film, Tom Jones (1963), in which the camera work, narrative voice-overs, musical effects, and several direct addresses to the audience all suggest an anarchic, farcical, and festive bestiality—a vision that replaces moral discriminations with the entertaining exaggerations characteristic of pantomime.

Harrison has described Fielding's irony in Tom Jones as subtly “reconstitutive” in the sense that it works to purify a set of primary moral qualities—prudence, generosity, honor, love, for example—by drawing the reader,

as spectator and judge, into a complex imagined world in which he must actually exercise moral judgement in circumstances which force him to reflect upon what he is doing in making such judgements, and upon the difference between making such judgements in a full consciousness of what the words employed in them really mean, and making them with the kind of inattention to meaning which can spring equally from vulgar self-deceit or from the arrogance of an over-theoretical mind, or from both combined.21

This exercise of judgement relies on an appeal to intuition, to the felt values characteristic of the Good Heart. In practice, however, the moral force of the procedure tends to dissolve into a conviviality that is facilitated by the pleasurable sensations induced by the narrative texture. The ironies of Hogarth's progresses are similarly problematic. Paulson has recently accounted for Hogarth's development from the progresses of the 1730s to later works in terms of a shift from Augustan irony to Shandean playfulness.22 Yet the problem with the irony of the Harlot's Progress, as of the Rake's, is the tenuousness of its hold on what Henry James terms the “possible other case,” the positive value against which the delusions subjected to the “operative irony” of the fictional work are to be judged.23 Is one really to assume that the visual abundance of these progresses is satisfactorily contained by a proverbial caution—rakishness or prostitution with health warnings? As regards the latter, John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure; or Fanny Hill (1748-49) plainly showed how harlotry could also be fun or even routinely mundane, while Hogarth's repeated invocation of Swift reinforces a vision of human nature that undermines irony to the point of nihilism. In the progresses as elsewhere, that is, Hogarth continues to place the readable in a state of creative tension with the visual pleasures afforded by the image in a manner that, as it were, confronts LeBrunian legibility with a de Pilesian emphasis on vision.

From Paulson's many indispensable volumes on Hogarth one might cull an overview of the relative readability of Hogarth's chief works. This Paulson balance (to borrow a word from de Piles),24 would show the way in which the paintings, always more concerned with visibility, break their attachment to the “reading structure” to gain visual independence as Hogarth's mind develops from that of an engraver to that of a painter. The engravings, by contrast, remain more readable throughout, though formally the rococo line gives way to blocks of light and shade.25 In a dominant eighteenth-century sense, such a balance would not chart Hogarth's progression from the status of mere mechanic to that of liberal artist. When Reynolds, for example, talks of the “mechanical part of the art” he means the artist's facility with purely visual qualities, the aspect of art to which Titian, Rubens, the Dutch School, and Gainsborough all paid too much attention.26 The mechanics of art, according to Reynolds, should be subordinated to a governing idea, a devaluation of the pure visibility of art that is indicative of the way Reynolds judged artistic achievement according to his interpretation of ut pictura poesis.27

The visible and empirical here equate with the mechanical and formal, and it is against this background that Hogarth's Analysis is so resolutely “anti-academic.”28 This is also the point at which the modern fondness for pictorial form—the “figural,” painterly trace as seen in Hogarth's mid-1750s Shrimp Girl (National Gallery, London) or the play of line and shape in the engraved Rake's Progress—shares common ground with eighteenth-century aesthetics. When Gainsborough argued that a supposed Poussin was false because it lacked Poussin's “sweet simplicity” of “effect” and “elegance” of “drawing” and so “produced no emotion,” his evaluation was based on an equation between visual and emotional qualities that, in his own painting, he exploited to the full.29 The emphasis on the emotional effect of painterly qualities is central in de Piles and is present in Hogarth's opinion that visual experience can be pleasurable. Despite his academic disapproval, it is also an informing principle in Reynolds' consideration of Rubens, who “executed with a facility that is astonishing: and let me add, this facility is to a painter, when he closely examines a picture, a source of great pleasure.”30 Pictorial style—“effect” or “facility,” to use eighteenth-century terms—is emotionally expressive.

When theorists and practitioners of other arts found inspiration in Hogarth's championing of the visible it was not necessarily, as has been assumed, because the immediacy of vision represented a natural alternative to the artifice of language, “a fortunate regression into primitivism prior to language, or a leap forward to the ineffable beyond language.”31 Early in the century Joseph Addison allowed for the easy primacy of vision—“It is but opening the Eye, and the scene enters”32—and the Abbé du Bos developed the premise to assert that painting is more powerful than poetry because it employs “natural” rather than “artificial” “signs.”33 As Bishop Berkeley argued with irresistible power, however, and as William Cheselden's much-publicized operation to restore the sight of a man blind from birth dramatically confirmed, visual sensations must be interpreted before they can be seen as objects: seeing is an acquired, not an innate, skill.34 Berkeley's theory that the language of vision is a language that must be learned like any other quickly gained currency. Its influence is felt in the Analysis when Hogarth notes that the eye “gives its assent to such space and distances as have been first measured by the feeling, or otherwise calculated in the mind.” He also wishes to “teach us to see with our own eyes,” and elsewhere remarks with some pleasure that the Analysis was “honord” [sic] by those with “[great] abilities in the knowledge of optics.”35 The analogy between seeing and reading is a central principle of this new theory of vision and may perhaps imply the kind of reading structure that has so often been discovered in Hogarth's pictures. It also suggests the possibility of a more abstract or “figural” concept of form that precedes the word/image level of signification; for when seeing itself becomes a matter of interpreting or composing visual traces, then, as the Analysis is so keen to demonstrate, a primary stage in the image-making process is the organizing of the image as a purely visual experience.36

It is this formal rationale that Sterne conjures up when Hogarth is alluded to in Tristram Shandy (1760-67).37 Throughout the novel the pleasures of narrative closure are displaced by the pleasures of form as the narrative line dissolves into a play of style. Thus, in the scene illustrated by Hogarth in which Corporal Trim is about to begin reading the sermon “bespeaking attention with a slight movement of his right hand,” the progress of the narrative is interrupted by a description of Trim's posture that closes in on the lines of the left knee:

—his knee bent, but that not violently,—but so as to fall within the limits of the line of beauty;—and I add, of the line of science too;—for consider, it had one eighth part of his body to bear up;—so that in this case the position of the leg is determined,—because the foot could be no further advanced, or the knee more bent, than what would allow him, mechanically, to receive an eighth part of his whole weight under it,—and to carry it too.

This I recommend to painters;—need I add,—to orators?—I think not; for unless they practise it,—they must fall upon their noses.38

The introduction of the line of beauty places the focus on manner rather than matter; and when Tristram, echoing Trim, bespeaks attention with a stylized right hand, the fictional situation erupts momentarily into a gambol of verbal and visual signs that are “artificial” to the point of absurdity. Similarly, Tristram's page of diagrams showing the course of the book so far—and clearly recalling Hogarth's remark about the “delight” offered by “the well-connected thread of a play, or novel”—is hardly a recourse to pictorial transparency. The humor of these narrative lines depends on the threefold suggestion: a) that they are unexpected; b) that they are indecipherable; and c) that their unexpectedness and indecipherability are—surprisingly—an accurate account of what has been happening in the novel because the leap they enact is from fictional situation to a play of effects located in the opacity of narrative manner. This, to adopt Hazlitt's phrase, is the “truth of absurdity to itself”;39 and it works on the assumption, shared with Hogarth, that the purely formal qualities of the artifact can be a source of affective energy.

In Tristram Shandy the degree of abstraction entailed by this formalist impulse is controlled by the mimetic appeal to a self-conscious narrator. Still greater abstraction was discovered elsewhere, and here, too, Hogarth was an important model. Eighteenth-century music theory faced a crisis when an older doctrine of music as imitation came into conflict with the idea that the imitative powers of music are limited.40 With vocal music, the text may guide the listener's response and so allow music to mimic the sounds of nature or evoke feelings of anger or love, whereas in instrumental music the absence of a text means the listener's emotional response must be stimulated by abstract patterns of sound. As Adam Smith put it,

The melody and harmony of instrumental Music … do not distinctly and clearly suggest any thing that is different from that melody and harmony. Whatever effect it produces is the immediate effect of that melody and harmony, and not of something else which is signified and suggested by them: they in fact signify and suggest nothing.41

Musical form is not imitative but structural, an “agreeable,” “great,” “various,” and “interesting” play of artistic signs whose effect is “not only a very great sensual, but a very high intellectual, pleasure” (p. 172). Elsewhere, the inherent link between such ideas and Hogarth's Analysis was made explicit. James Beattie, for example, denied that music was imitative and invoked the line of beauty as a structural principle:

Equable sounds, like smooth and level surfaces, are in general more pleasing than such as are rough, uneven, or interrupted; yet, as the flowing curve, so essential to elegance of figure, and so conspicuous in the outlines of beautiful animals, is delightful to the eye; so notes gradually swelling, and gradually decaying, have an agreeable effect on the ear, and on the mind.42

Similarly, in the Preface to his popular Elegies, William Jackson makes verbal and visual reference to the Analysis to support a point about the progress of music from Guido of Arezzo to Handel and its subsequent deterioration to “our present crooked Deviation from the true Line of Beauty.”43

In these examples the interest in pure form is at least as important as the concern with morality or mimesis, and Hogarth provides an important model. In an article entitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cinema,” Stanley Kubrick remarked that Dr. Strangelove's apocalyptic subject made it “eminently a problem to be dealt with dramatically” because “it's the only social problem where there's absolutely no chance for people to learn anything from experience.”44 The result is a pursuit of form that invites the film's viewers to partake in a vision of human nature in which loving the bomb and loving the cinema amount to much the same thing. The view of human nature that informs Hogarth's separation of style and subject allows for a comparable formal logic. Sterne's formalism has been sanctioned by modernist interpretations of enormous authority: “Did you ever read Laurence Sterne?,” asked James Joyce when searching for a way of shedding light on Finnegans Wake. The suggestion is clearly of a mode of reading and a sort of text quite different from those usually associated with Hogarth.45 Comparable modern interpretations of Hogarth exist—one thinks of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hoffmansthal; Stravinsky, Auden, and Chester Kallman; David Hockney46—and it may well be that such readings as these have an unexpected historical power.


  1. See Paulson, The Art of Hogarth (London: Phaidon, 1975), note to pls. 16-18. Frederick Antal also compares Jan Steen; see Hogarth and His Place in European Art (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), pp. 95-96.

  2. The Analysis of Beauty, ed. Joseph Burke (Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1955), p. 31.

  3. Ronald Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, rev. edn., 2 vols. (New Haven & London: Yale Univ., 1970), 1:149, quotes a pirated copy of the print on which the words “Sicilian Sisters tuneful Nine” have been added to suggest “the sexual status of the singers.”

  4. Word and Image (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1981), pp. 149-50.

  5. For a full account of LeBrun's theory, see Jennifer Montagu, The Expression of the Passions (New Haven & London: Yale Univ., 1994), pp. 9-30.

  6. Cf. Barry Wind, “Hogarth's Industry and Idleness Reconsidered,” Print Quarterly 14 (1997): 235-51.

  7. The quote is from Ronald Paulson, Emblem and Expression (London: Thames & Hudson, 1975), p. 76. Cf. Peter Wagner's poststructuralist reading of the series, which reveals “a kind of tragedy for Goodchild” (Reading Iconotexts: From Swift to the French Revolution [London: Reaktion, 1995], pp. 113-17).

  8. See Burke's intro. to Hogarth, Analysis, p. xlvii (Burke's emphasis).

  9. The Principles of Painting, an English trans. of De Piles' Cours de Peinture (1708), was published in London in 1743.

  10. See Thomas Puttfarken, Roger de Piles' Theory of Art (New Haven & London: Yale Univ., 1985).

  11. Analysis, pp. 56-57. Hogarth quotes De Piles on p. 7. Cf. S. H. Monk, “A Grace Beyond the Reach of Art,” Journal of the History of Ideas 5 (1944): 131-50.

  12. Cf. Joseph Burke, Hogarth and Reynolds: A Contrast in English Art Theory (Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1943).

  13. Quoted from Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, 1:268.

  14. F. Antal, “The Moral Purpose of Hogarth's Art,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 15 (1952): 181.

  15. See Hogarth's “Autobiographical Notes,” appended to Burke's edn. of the Analysis, p. 216. Cf. Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, 3 vols. (New Brunswick & Cambridge: Rutgers Univ., 1991-93), vol. 1: The “Modern Moral Subject” 1697-1732.

  16. Ed. Martin C. Battestin (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967), pp. 3-11. Cf. Paulson, Hogarth, 2:194-95.

  17. Henry Fielding, The Champion, 10 June 1740, qtd. in Paulson, Hogarth, 2: 194.

  18. For Fielding's reversal of the “mock-heroic policy of deflation,” see Frank Kermode, “Richardson and Fielding,” Cambridge Journal 4 (1950): 106.

  19. See William Empson, “Tom Jones,The Kenyon Review 20 (1958): 217-49, repr. in Martin C. Battestin, ed., Twentieth-Century Interpretations of Tom Jones (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968), pp. 33-55, and Bernard Harrison, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones: The Novelist as Moral Philosopher (London: Sussex Univ., 1975).

  20. A survey of the debate is provided by Harrison, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, pp. 11-27. Harrison's chief anti-Fielding witness is Kermode (“Richardson and Fielding,” p. 110), who argues that “Fielding the moralist completely evades the only genuinely crucial test that confronts his hero as a moral being, in the whole course of his adventures,” namely the charge of incest.

  21. Pp. 56-57 (Harrison's emphasis).

  22. The Beautiful, Novel, and Strange (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ., 1996), pp. 251-60.

  23. See Richard Blackmur, ed., The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces by Henry James (N.Y. & London: Charles Scribner's, 1934), p. 222 (from the Preface to The Lesson of the Master).

  24. Cf. de Piles' Balance des Peintres, appended to the Cours de Peinture (1708).

  25. Cf. Paulson, Art of Hogarth, p. 66: “Throughout his career Hogarth developed in the engravings his interest in the meaning of objects and actions and in the paintings his interest in their essential shapes.”

  26. See, for example, Discourse IV; cf. Amal Asfour and Paul Williamson, “On Reynolds's Use of De Piles, Locke, and Hume in his Essays on Rubens and Gainsborough,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 60 (1997): 215-29.

  27. Rensselaer W. Lee, Ut Pictura Poesis (N.Y.: W. W. Norton, 1967), and J. H. Hagstrum, The Sister Arts (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1958).

  28. Michael Kitson, ed., “Hogarth's ‘Apology for Painters’,” The Walpole Society 56 (1966-68): 65. Cf. Burke, Hogarth and Reynolds, p. 9.

  29. For Gainsborough's comment see W. T. Whitley, Thomas Gainsborough (London: John Murray, 1915), p. 279. Cf. Amal Asfour and Paul Williamson, “Gainsborough's Wit,” Journal of the History of Ideas 68 (1997): 479-501.

  30. Joshua Reynolds, A Journey to Flanders and Holland, ed. Harry Mount (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1996), p. 147.

  31. Paulson, Emblem and Expression, pp. 52-53. William V. Holtz's comparison of Hogarth and Sterne in Image and Immortality (Providence, R.I.: Brown Univ., 1970) starts from the same premise.

  32. The Spectator, ed. D. F. Bond, 6 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), 3, no. 411.

  33. Critical Reflections on Poetry and Painting, trans. Thomas Nugent, 3 vols. (London, 1748), 1:321 and passim. See Victor Anthony Rudowski, “The Theory of Signs in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of the History of Ideas 35 (1974): 683-90.

  34. Cf. Berkeley, Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) and Theory of Vision Vindicated and Explained (1733). Cheselden's account was published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 405 (1728). See Nicholas Pastore, Selective History of Theories of Visual Perception: 1650-1950 (London & N.Y.: Oxford Univ., 1971), pp. 71-99. For Hogarth's acquaintance with Cheselden see Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times, 2 vols. (New Haven & London: Yale Univ., 1971), 1:100.

  35. See Hogarth, Analysis, pp. 119, 22, and Kitson, ed., “Hogarth's ‘Apology’,” p. 109.

  36. See Amal Asfour and Paul Williamson, “Splendid Impositions: Gainsborough, Berkeley, Hume,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 31 (1998): 403-32.

  37. Cf. R. F. Brissenden, “Sterne and Painting,” in Of Books and Humankind, ed. John Butt (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964), pp. 93-108, and Holtz, Image and Immortality, pp. 116-19. For Lichtenberg's “Shandean Hogarth,” see Paulson, Beautiful, Novel, and Strange, pp. 251-56.

  38. Quoted from Tristram Shandy, vol. 2, 2nd edn. (London, 1760), pp. 99-100. Cf. Lewis Perry Curtis, ed., Letters of Laurence Sterne (Oxford: Clarendon, 1935), no. 50A, Mar. 1760.

  39. From Lectures on the English Comic Writers, Lecture I, “On Wit and Humour,” qtd. from Alan B. Howes, ed., Sterne: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), p. 359.

  40. See H. M. Schueller, “‘Imitation’ and ‘Expression’ in British Music Criticism in the Eighteenth Century,” Musical Quarterly 34 (1948): 544-66, and Kevin Barry, Language, Music and the Sign (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1987), pp. 1-25. A full discussion of the relations between theories of painting and music in the 18th century is contained in Amal Asfour and Paul Williamson, Gainsborough's Vision (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ., forthcoming 1999), chap. 5.

  41. Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. Joseph Black & James Hutton (London, 1795), pp. 173-74.

  42. “On Poetry and Music, as they affect the Mind,” in Essays (Edinburgh, 1776), p. 458. The comparison between music and painting is found in De Piles (see Principles of Painting, pp. 5-6) and developed in some detail by Charles Avison. See An Essay on Musical Expression, 2nd edn. (London, 1753), Section II.

  43. Elegies, 2nd edn. (London [1770]), pp. iv-v.

  44. Films and Filming 9 (June 1963): 12-13.

  45. Quoted in Melvyn New, Tristram Shandy: A Book for Free Spirits (N.Y.: Twayne 1994), p. 21.

  46. Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, with a libretto by Hugo von Hoffmansthal, was partly inspired by Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode. The opera opened in Dresden in Jan. 1911. The libretto for Stravinski's opera, The Rake's Progress, based on Hogarth, was written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman. The work was first performed in Venice in Sept. 1951; British and American premieres followed in 1953. David Hockney's set designs for the piece were first used at Glyndebourne in 1975.

Philip Momberger (essay date fall 1999)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

SOURCE: Momberger, Philip. “Cinematic Techniques in William Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress.Journal of Popular Culture 33, no. 2 (fall 1999): 49-65.

[In the following essay, Momberger suggests that Hogarth's engravings anticipate the narrative devices associated with cinema.]

Recent and illuminating analyses of William Hogarth's serial engravings—A Harlot's Progress (1732), A Rake's Progress (1735), Marriage à la Mode (1745), and Industry and Idleness (1747)—have explored his brilliant synthesizing of traditional pictorial forms with elements drawn from the popular arts of his eighteenth century London milieu, among them theater, pantomime, ballad opera, sensational journalism and erotica, book illustration, pictorial and verse satire, the traditional emblem book, and the newly emergent novel. Other commentaries have noted his anticipatings of such later forms as the comic strip, the comic book, and the political cartoon.1 As yet unremarked, but at least as striking, are the uncanny presagings of cinematic device and structure that Hogarth devised in 1731-1732 for the first and most powerful of his pictorial narratives, A Harlot's Progress. Examined as if they composed a motion picture's preparatory “story board” or were still frames in a black-and-white silent film, those six engravings prophesy major strategies in the filmic art that would lie nearly two centuries in the future.

Before exploring those proto-cinematic devices, it will be necessary to summarize the course of Hogarth's pictorial narrative through its succeeding frames. In his Harlot's Progress Hogarth unfolds the brief, unhappy history—the ironic non-progress—of a naive country lass, one “Mary Hackabout,” who journeys from her home in rural Yorkshire to London, there to seek her modest fortune as a seamstress or in some other honest trade. Mary is soon drawn, however, into a life of vice that finally destroys her.

In frame one, Mary has just alighted from the covered York-to-London Wagon at the Sign of the Bell tavern and gambling den in seamy Cheapside. Attired in a simple white country dress and straw hat, with a white rose of innocence pinned to her bosom and her sewing kit dangling from her arm, Mary expects to be met and aided by her city cousin, for whom she has brought the gift goose at the lower right corner of the frame. Mary's clumsily lettered, semi-literate gift tag bespeaks her lack of education: “For my Lofing Cosen in Tems Stret in London.” Baneful chance and urban corruption intervene, however. The supposedly “loving” cousin does not appear, and Mary is welcomed instead by a notorious old procuress, clad in rich satins but with a syphletically cankered face, who will flatter and seduce the naively susceptible girl into the life of vice.

At first Mary prospers on that low road, where she soon acquires a taste for the trappings of fashion and wealth. In frame two, a rich Jewish merchant with an elongated caricatured nose has established her as his mistress in a luxurious apartment with elegant wall covering, expensive furniture and oil paintings, a lady's maid, an exotic black child servant, and even a fashionable pet monkey. Mary, however, has evidently—and imprudently—been two-timing her much older patron. She snaps her fingers and kicks over the tea table in order to distract his attention from the handsome young gallant—Mary's overnight companion—who is shushing the wide-eyed maid and exiting on shoeless tiptoe at the left rear.

In frame three, we infer that Mary's patron has discovered her duplicity, and cast her out. No longer a kept and pampered mistress, Mary now plies the common whore's trade in far humbler surroundings, and for a much less savory clientele. The “Drury Lane” tavern markings on the pilfered tankard at the lower right indicate that Mary has been reduced to streetwalking in seamy Covent Garden. It is again tea-time, but telling contrasts between this frame and its predecessor dramatize the decline in Mary's circumstances. The lady's maid and exotic child servant of frame two have been replaced by an aging bunter with a disease-ravaged face; the elegant furnishings and tea set by a clutter of worn and merely functional objects; the fashionable pet monkey by a common alley cat, and the richly mounted oil paintings by the crude penny prints tacked to Mary's wall. One depicts “Captain Mackheath,” the highwayman hero of John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1728), and the labeled wig box stored atop Mary's bed canopy awaits the return of its owner, James Dalton, a notorious thief. Moreover, the witch's hat and bundle of birch sticks hanging by Mary's bed suggest that she is catering not only to criminals, but to deviant tastes. More ominously still, the marks of disease are spreading on Mary's face.

Now deprived of a patron's protection, Mary is left vulnerable to the first hazard of the harlot's trade. Led by a puritanical magistrate, the district vice squad enters at the right rear to arrest her, and send her in frame four to Bridewell Prison. There, with fellow prostitutes, a professional gambler, and other miscreants, Mary is set to work pounding hemp for rope-making. A glaring jailer directs her more conscientious attention to that task, and we see no evidence of honor or fellowship in the criminal class to which Mary has sunk. The one-eyed prisoner to the jailer's left is picking Mary's pocket, while the tattered whore at the frame's far right grins at the pretentious absurdity of Mary's elegant attire in so squalid a setting.

Released from prison, Mary is succumbing in frame five to the further—and final—risks of prostitution: unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease. Mary's lice-scratching little boy is dangerously close to the fire as he reaches for a chunk of broiling meat, but no one bothers to notice the child's hunger or his peril. Swathed by the fire in the “sweating blankets” prescribed for syphilis, the dying Mary is likewise ignored by the two quack physicians who squabble over which useless medicine to administer, and by the corpse-washer and layer-out who rifles Mary's trunk at the lower left. Even her beaklike nose and humpbacked form suggest a scavenging vulture.

Mary's wake in frame six is hardly a scene of gravity or grieving. As is indicated by the mock-heraldic coat of arms with keg taps that hangs on the rear wall, her “mourners” are assembled in a decrepit tavern's back room, where they use Mary's coffin as a buffet table, and where the urban vice and predation that have destroyed her continue unabated.2 In the left foreground, the presiding minister fondles the seated young lady who conceals his lecherous fumbling with his broad black mourning hat. By the window to the right, the undertaker seductively strokes one arm of the young woman who picks his pocket with the other, and the remaining mourners are similarly preoccupied with everything but the deceased. Is the wailing woman at the lower right grieving for poor Mary or, as seems more likely, has the open “Nants” brandy jug at her feet induced a bout of delirium tremens? The sniffling young lady to the right rear seems to be weeping only over an injured finger. The mirror-gazing woman behind her exhibits the same vanity that has helped bring poor Mary to her doom, and Mary's little boy in formal mourning garb plays with his toy top, ignored again by his elders and as oblivious as they to his mother's death. Only the white-dressed young woman at the frame's center peers with dismay into Mary's coffin, and to that figure's visual and thematic functions we shall shortly return.

Hogarth's primary clientele for his serial engravings was, of course, the rising London bourgeoisie.3 How, then, might those purchasers of these best-selling prints have construed the meaning and moral of his Harlot's doleful “progress” from innocence through corruption to death? In those terms dearest, of course, to the pragmatic bourgeois soul: As witness the monitory fate of Mary Hackabout, vice and crime are to be scrupulously eschewed—not because they are unkind to our neighbors or offensive to God, but because they do not pay. And, while applauding that affirmation of the bourgeois straight-and-narrow, the London purchaser of Mary's pictorial history would also have been powerfully confirmed in what he or she already knew: That the big city is a dangerous environment where predators of every stripe will exploit and consume the unwary, and at last cast them callously away. That recognition would in turn have reminded Hogarth's purchaser of his Christian enjoinment to compassion and forgiveness. Pretty young Mary is, after all, not so much wicked as she is naive, vain, malleable, shallowly ambitious, and rather stupid—a fatal compound that attracts London's corrupt and corrupting despoilers as surely as the whiff of blood draws sharks. Thus, Mary as victim is more to be pitied than censured; and in either event, whether condescending to condemn or to excuse, the bourgeois purchaser would rest comfortably assured of his own moral superiority to Hogarth's non-heroine.4

When Hogarth's client had wearied of such weighty moral reflections, he could have indulged in some lighter pleasures as well. He might have smiled, for example, at the artist's caricaturing of familiar public figures. The falsely friendly madame and the leering aristocrat fondling his genitals in the tavern doorway in frame one, the tight-lipped magistrate in frame three, and the disputatious quack doctors in frame five all have been identified as prominent Londoners whom Hogarth's contemporaries would instantly have recognized, with what Aristotle terms “the pleasure of the familiar.”5 Or, having purchased these Harlot's Progress engravings, the proud owner might have had them framed and mounted on his domestic walls, and would thus have felt himself elevated from bourgeois merchant or clerk to aristocratic patron of the arts.6 Or, on a less exalted plane, the purchaser might have relished the erotic titillation that the artist-salesman has shrewdly packaged in an homiletic wrapper. Hogarth's subject is, after all, harlotry; and his Mary in frames two and three has shed the modest country garb and downcast gaze of frame one for the provocative attire and come-hither expression appropriate to the very softest pornography. We may be sure that Hogarth's original consumers were not altogether averse to that allure. Scratch a strait-laced bourgeois puritan—in any century—and one is likely to find a panting libido as often as not. Hogarth himself implies as much in frame three of his Harlot's Progress. There, as Bindman observes, the rabidly puritanical magistrate Sir John Gonson “as he enters appears to hesitate as if caught by lust at the sight of the Harlot's seductive presence, for it was an old saw that such moralizing zeal was essentially prurient” (58). Hogarth confirms that suggestion by drawing emphatic visual correspondences between the puritanical magistrate and the lecherous aristocrat of frame one. In each frame the bewigged and socially powerful male figure stands with his male assistant or assistants at the right rear near an open doorway, gazes diagonally across and “down” the frame, looks over and past an intervening older and poxy female figure, fixes his stare on the alluring young Mary at the left, and simultaneously reaches for his groin.

Hogarth's occasional caricaturing of public figures like the magistrate and the aristocrat, with its implicit criticism of the powerful, would in the next century evolve into the more topically focused art of the political cartoon. His invitation to the middle class to mimic-on-the-cheap the art-collecting proclivities of its social superiors would in our century flower into the merchandising genius of the Franklin Mint and other such purveyors of ersatz Ming miniature vases, plastic Fabergè eggs, and replicated first-edition books bound in finest Naugahyde. And Hogarth's sly wrapping of erotic skin within didactic sermon prophesies nothing so much as the fleshy Biblical epics of the Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille.

Since William Hogarth arguably is the first modern, mass-producing visual artist successfully to court middle-class tastes and commercial patronage, further such comparisons of his work to the popular arts of our own time will of course suggest themselves to every student of those arts. My present interest, however, is in Hogarth's uncanny presagings of the narrative cinema that would lie nearly two hundred years in the future. I hasten to add that I am as inclined as anyone to doubt the paternity of children born centuries after their alleged fathers, that I know of no film-maker who has claimed or lauded Hogarth as an ancestor, and that I am not arguing for a linear historical influence or descent. Nevertheless, I am speculatively persuaded that were Hogarth the serial engraver our contemporary, he would be a film director, and a most resourceful one. Conversely, his eighteenth century pictorial narrative may have much to teach the twentieth century cinema and its students.

Consider first Hogarth's skillful composing of pictorial elements—of sets, props, actors, costumes, lighting, space—in a rectangular frame, his calculated assemblage of mise-en-scéne so that visual image will generate both drama and meaning.

Frame one—in cinematic terms, Hogarth's “establishing shot”—will serve to illustrate. Here Mary Hackabout arrives in London's Cheapside slum, at a topographically actual crossroads that becomes, metaphorically, a moral one. To the right in the frame are the sinister figures who tempt and menace her: the richly clad but syphletically cankered madame and the lecherous aristocrat in the tavern door. Fatefully absent is the city cousin who could have guided and protected her, but just behind Mary in the left middle distance is another potential savior: a black-robed clergyman on horseback. Unfortunately, the good minister will not be spurring his white horse to the imperiled maiden's rescue, for he is preoccupied with scrutinizing a letter of introduction that he hopes may advance his ecclesiastical career. As myopic as his blinkered steed, the minister fails to notice Mary's danger, or even that his grazing horse has toppled the stack of buckets at the frame's far left. Thus, neither family nor church will come to Mary's aid; indeed, the clergyman has unwittingly turned his back on her.7 She is endangered by figures both criminally lowlife and aristocratic, and her wholesome rural past is vanishing to the left with the covered York-to-London cart that has delivered Mary, and other white-clad country girls too poor to pay coach fare, to the corrupt and predatory city.

A virtuous alternative, however, yet remains. On the tenement balcony to the rear, just above Mary's head, is a poor but respectable housewife engaged in mending and hanging out her laundry. A straight and narrow slot of light joins the elevated housewife at once to heaven above and to the white-dressed Mary below. This first frame will be the only one set out-of-doors, and here the converging connotations of space and freedom and light and cleansing and what analysts of pictorial design term “vertical escape” define the positive possibilities of humble domestic virtue that the innocent Mary at her crossroads still might choose. But, unhappily, in corrupting London the city's crumbling buildings threaten to squeeze out heaven's light. The respectable housewife recedes and dwindles in comparison to the foreground figures of temptation and vice; and, as preoccupied as the minister with her own affairs, she takes no more notice than he of Mary's peril. The dark-clad old bawd is by far the largest figure in the frame, and she dominates the white-dressed Mary just as the black-robed minister rules his white horse. Indeed, the recruiting madame seems in horse-dealer fashion about to inspect Mary's teeth, and visual emblems that Mary faces to the right of the frame ominously prophesy her fate. Her black, initialed trunk resembles a coffin and appropriately will reappear in Mary's death scene in frame five; and her dead goose calls to mind the proverbial “silly goose,” “gone goose,” or “goose cooked” that Mary soon and finally will be. Moreover, as Paulson reports, “‘green goose’ or ‘Winchester goose’” were “contemporary slang for whore” (The Modern Moral Subject 262).

No later master of cinematic mise en scéne, not even Eisenstein or Hitchcock, has more effectively enframed pictorial elements for the dramatization of theme. Those directors, however, could elaborate such meanings as their moving “movie” pictures moved. Hogarth the engraver of course cannot, and one senses his impatience with his static pictorial medium throughout his Harlot's Progress sequence. Here the artist strives repeatedly for “snapshot” effects that will suggest motion only fleetingly, momentarily arrested and ongoing. Hogarth's human figures, for example, seem never posed or at rest but always caught in an instant of suspended motion, and the props that surround them are similarly dynamic. The stacked buckets are tumbling in frame one, the kicked tea table and crockery falling in frame two, the hot water pouring in frame three, the mallets rising or descending in frame four, the doctor's chair toppling backward and the stewpot forward in frame five, and the lecherous minister's wine glass spilling in frame six, with a none too subtle hinting at ejaculation. Moreover, recurrent visual references to time—to bell and watches and dated documents—serve as constant reminders of the temporal dimension in which motion and change inhere.

Such momentary freezings of motion remain, however, just that: frozen, in pictorial engraving's inescapably static mode. To induce the effect of motion, Hogarth must shift his reliance from his static prints to the unfettered mobility of the viewer's eye: to the optical mobility of the eye that roams searchingly up and down and across and into and out of each richly detailed frame; and, more importantly, to the figurative “eye” of visual memory that, as in film experience, shuttles between and among discrete visual data, joining image to image, event to event, frame to frame—and in that dynamic process actively extracting meaning.

At the simplest level of constructing meaning through visual memory and association, the active viewer of A Harlot's Progress infers relations of cause to effect, precisely as he would in watching a narrative silent film. The bad choice impending in frame one, for example, has its visible effect in Mary's reduction to kept woman in frame two. In turn, the betrayal depicted there causes the effect of Mary's demotion from pampered mistress to lowlife whore in frame three. Mary's approaching arrest in that frame causes her imprisonment in the next. And, ultimately, Mary's wrong turn at the moral crossroads in frame one initiates the inexorably unfolding causal chain that will propel her at last into her coffin.

Frame one also introduces a rich complex of pictorial parallels and symbols that the viewer's visual memory will associate into continuously evolving and thus “mobile” patterns of meaning. The telling visual correspondences between the criminal and judicial lechers in frames one and three have been noted above, and “animal” images compose another such dynamic that unfolds from frame to frame. The feeding horse in frame one is driven by the animal needs that in turn precipitate the stacked buckets' fall, just as humanity's own animal drives will propel the innocent Mary to her own “fall,” and ultimately to the doom that her dead goose prophesies. The sexual “monkey business” imagistically pointed up in frame two “makes a monkey out of” Mary's lustful patron, whose facial profile exactly mirrors her simian pet's. The monkey is associated as well with Mary, with a scrap of whose frilly clothing the animal has draped itself. Just as the monkey is Mary's pet, so is she her keeper's. And just as monkeys are said to “ape” human gestures and expressions, so the socially ambitious Mary is for her part mimicking the fashions of London's great ladies—in luxurious idleness, in elegant costume and furnishings, and even in the “unfaithful” taking of a handsome young lover.8

Humanity's imaged descent to brutishness continues in frame three, where the female cat-in-heat that sniffs under Mary's dress is a sardonic comment on her behavior, and on that of Mary's clients as well. As the dog image at the lower center of frame four confirms, Mary has there gone-to-the-dogs, leads a dog's life in prison, and like a canine pack animal has allowed brute instincts to submerge her prior, visually autonomous individuality into the criminal crowd. No animal images appear as such in frames five and six, nor need they there appear. The dominance of bestial impulse in Mary's life and world has by then been visually established, and we need only be reminded in those concluding frames of our animal needs (to feed and to breed) and of the ultimate and humbling animal destiny that we share with Mary Hackabout: to fall ill and die and decompose. The final stage in that process is grimly predicted in frame five, in the vulturous form of the kneeling corpse-washer and in the mended screen door and hanging fly trap to the scavenger's rear. In frame six, Mary's corpse has in fact not yet sunk to its final dissolution, but she is there invisible to the viewer and thus has been prophetically reduced to corporeal nullity.

The viewer's visual memory brings still other images into associative conjunction as that faculty “moves” forward and back and forward again from frame to frame. The natural light and outdoor space that Mary had enjoyed in frame one, for example, will steadily diminish in the succeeding “indoor” frames. Light dims, windows darken, open doors close, ceilings and walls seem increasingly “barred,” and space contracts as Mary's entrapping circumstances usurp her freedom and squeeze her at last into her narrow coffin. Similarly, the changing image of the canopied bed epitomizes the biologically determined course of Mary's—or anyone's—life, for it is in bed that one is born, enjoys sex, usually breeds, and finally dies. The bed image expands radically and brazenly from frames two to three; vanishes in frame four, for Mary will enjoy neither sex nor comfortable rest in Bridewell Prison; reappears only to recede and contract as Mary is dying in frame five, and shrinks at last to Mary's covered casket.

Absent a sound track with dialogue or voice-over, and absent even the dramatic cartoonist's “speech balloons,” we of course cannot know precisely what the wordless Mary thinks or feels about what is happening to her, and in particular how she may regard the hypocrisy of the dominant male sex whose members first solicit her favors, and then condemn and persecute her for complying. On the one hand, it is appropriate that Mary be presented to us less as a conscious and feeling “subject” than as an exploitable “object,” for that is how her urban environment regards and treats her. On the other hand, however, Hogarth does through the series modulate his rendering of Mary's eyes, the conventional “windows of the soul,” to provide a degree of access to her changing interior state.

In frame one, the innocent Mary's eyes are modestly downcast and in a provincial newcomer's passive shyness nearly closed. In frame two, however, Mary has learned both deceptive cynicism and aggressiveness: as she distractingly snaps her fingers and kicks over the tea table, she fixes her startled patron with a challenging gaze. Mary has grown more brazen still in frame three as she makes direct eye contact with the viewer, to whom she displays a probably stolen watch. Mary's stare is ambiguous: Is she inviting the viewer to make a timed appointment, or pointing out that he is late for one? Is she proudly displaying a criminal trophy? Or is she making the viewer a silent witness and thus an accessory to theft? In any case, Mary's calculating boldness and her quest for initiative advantage have continued to grow, but to a degree unwarranted by the realities of social power and the vulnerability of her situation. Unbeknownst to the watch-flaunting Mary, her time is about to “run out.” When the approaching magistrate has arrested her, Mary will lose any hope of choosing and initiating action as a “subject” and will thereafter be only acted upon as a passive “object.” That realization has come home to the imprisoned Mary in frame four, as her now humbled gaze reveals. Here she dare not meet the jailer's threatening glare. She is too humiliated and fearful to make eye contact with her fellow convicts or with the viewer, and her now anxious eyes look down and out of the frame, perhaps in avoidance of her immediate circumstances, or perhaps in despairing search of a succor that of course will not come. Her victimization completed, Mary's eyes are closing in death in frame five, in a mordant echo of her demurely downcast gaze in frame one. In frame six, the dead Mary's soul has departed this world, and its ocular “windows” are accordingly unseen.9

There may well be dozens more of such incrementally evolving images, but let us conclude by examining a final cinematic device in A Harlot's Progress. Many great films have appealed to the viewer's visual memory by ending, visually, as they had begun. One thinks, for example, of the pictorially circular structures of Welles' Citizen Kane, Wilder's Double Indemnity, Clayton's The Innocents, and Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Such visual symmetry can yield a sense of dramatic closure and, more importantly, of thematic development epitomized and fulfilled. The initial and final frames of A Harlot's Progress achieve in conjunction precisely those effects.

In frame one, Mary had arrived in youthful life and hope near a London tavern's front door. In frame six, she will be borne from a tavern's back room, defeated and dead. In frame one, Mary had been surrounded by open space and outdoor light. In frame six, she is encoffined in indoor gloom. The preoccupied clergyman in frame one had been oblivious to Mary's need. His counterpart in frame six is deliberately and even obscenely indifferent. In frame one, the old procuress had pretended a friendly interest in Mary. If, as Bindman suggests, the aging bawd reappears in frame six as the wailing woman “lamenting the loss of revenue” (61) that Mary's death has caused her, then hypocrisy has been unmasked and the underlying reality of exploitation most hideously revealed.10 Frame one had hinted at drinking and sexual predation and corruption. Frame six seems a prelude to orgy. Evil, it appears, has not only come full circle; it has intensified. The inscribed plate on Mary's coffin records her date of death as 2 September 1731—the sixty-fifth anniversary, as Bindman points out, of the Great Fire of London, a catastrophe popularly regarded as “a manifestation of the wrath of God at the sins of Londoners” (93). On the visual evidence of frame six, the time for another such judgment would seem at hand.

We may now attend to the mysterious young woman in white who gazes with unique dismay into Mary's coffin at the center of that final frame. Published commentaries have assumed that she is simply one of the many prostitutes who have assembled to bid a colleague farewell, and that she peers at the dead Mary's face as a memento mori. The symmetrical construction of the series as a whole and the focal emphasis accorded the figure, however, suggest more extended and richer possibilities. Might the young woman be the London cousin expected but disastrously absent in frame one, and now at last but far too late arrived? Perhaps so. A country girl's beribboned white hat hangs just above her head on the rear wall, however, just as the imprisoned gambler's tricorn had hung above his head in frame four. If the hat is hers, then her rural headgear suggests that the young woman is the next Mary Hackabout, arriving in London at an overhead tavern sign just as Mary had: white-dressed and white-hatted, clear-skinned, focally central, flanked on the left by a preoccupied clergyman and on the right by an old procuress, facing to our right, gazing down, luminous in a surrounding gloom, perhaps just descended from a covered rural meat wagon into an urban sea of sharks.11 The dead Mary is now invisible to the viewer, for the newcomer has replaced her at the pictorial and dramatic center; and the young woman seems all but certain to re-enact the “progress” of the predecessor whose dead, coffin-framed face she contemplates, much as the nearby woman stares at her own rectangularly framed and mirrored image.

Mary Hackabout's surname had predicted and epitomized her destiny. A “hack,” like a prostitute, is a vehicle for hire and it daily runs a circular course, starting from its cab garage, then like a streetwalker moving randomly “about” in search of clients, and finally returning to the resting point from which its motion had begun. The visually circular patterning of Mary's sad “progress” complements that sense of futile movement, and the components of the final frame recapitulate the forces that have converged to destroy her: negligent clergyman, exploitative old bawd, unwanted child, selfish indifference, the disease that marks several prostitutes' faces, alcohol, theft, mirror of vanity, closed and “barred” space, and sexual predation. Accentuated and extended by the large semicircular shadow in the right foreground and the circular yew-tray on the floor, those elements now form a larger circle that is closing around the white-dressed newcomer at the frame's and the gathering's center. An inexorably entrapping cycle of destruction, it seems, is about to begin once more.

Conventional wisdom holds that one picture is worth a thousand words; but that equation would depend, one supposes, upon the worth of the picture, and of the words. In the case of William Hogarth's A Harlot's Progress, six serial pictures incorporate perhaps a thousand pictorial details that, in their dynamic continuity and interplay, earn their prophetic art a single word of description, and of praise: “Cinematic.”

And brilliantly so.


  1. Every student of Hogarth is indebted to the monumental scholarship of Ronald Paulson, including his Hogarth's Graphic Works: First Complete Edition, 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale UP, 1965; rev. eds. 1970, 1989); Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times, 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale UP, 1971); Hogarth: The “Modern Moral Subject,” 1697-1732 (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1991), and Popular and Polite Art in the Age of Hogarth and Fielding (South Bend: U of Notre Dame P, 1979). Other useful studies include those by Antal, Bindman, and Cowley listed below; David Kunzle, The Early Comic Strip (Berkeley: U of California P, 1973); Jack Lindsay, Hogarth: His Art and His World (New York: Taplinger, 1979); Neil McWilliam, Hogarth (London: Studio Editions, 1993); Robert Etheridge Moore, Hogarth's Literary Relationships (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1948), and Jenny Uglow, Hogarth: A Life and a World (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1997).

  2. Paulson takes the vulgar coat of arms to be Mary's: “… a mocking set of armorial bearings for the deceased hangs on the wall. Needless to say, such did not accompany the funerals of whores” (Hogarth's Graphic Works, I, 148-49). Paulson thus interprets the escutcheon to be a final sardonic comment on Mary's affectations of gentility. Given that the “arms” consist of three keg taps, that whores could claim no such armorial distinction, and that the wine is flowing at the wake, I take the plaque to be a tavern sign and thus to be a visual reminder of Mary's arrival at a tavern in London in frame one. Hogarth has been consistently at pains to specify the kind of setting in which his Harlot finds herself and to make frames one and six symmetrical, and such a sign would be the only pertinent visual clue in frame six. No church would be hosting a whore's bibulous wake, and Mary plainly is not being “buried from home,” for the cramped garret depicted in the preceding frame would not have accommodated the crowd assembled and drinking at her funeral. A tavern's back room accordingly seems the likeliest setting.

  3. Antal offers a thorough, if relentlessly Marxist, account of the “bourgeois” character and patronage of Hogarth's art.

  4. A contemporary dramatization of that moral ambivalence has come down to us. Four years after Hogarth's death, his widow Elizabeth Thornhill agreed to a re-engraved reissue of seventy-eight of his prints, including A Harlot's Progress, with each plate to be accompanied by a didactic commentary written by the Rev. John Trusler. The edition was aptly titled Hogarth Moralised (London, 1768). In Trusler's extended gloss on A Harlot's Progress, he cannot decide whether he wants to castigate Mary as a slut or to denounce sinful London's betrayal of her sweet innocence. He therefore does both, with no apparent awareness of inconsistency, and no doubt with a doubled assurance of his own superior righteousness.

  5. Hogarth's contemporary and fellow engraver George Vertue in his notebooks identified several of the actual persons depicted in A Harlot's Progress, and modern scholarship has confirmed and extended Vertue's identifications. The aging procuress in frame one is “Mother” Elizabeth Needham, who in 1731 was sentenced (fatally) to the pillory for keeping a disorderly house and was notorious enough to be satirized in Fielding's Covent Garden Tragedy and Pope's Dunciad. The lecherous aristocrat in the same frame is the still more infamous gambler and rapist Colonel Francis Charteris, whose powerful friends regularly connived to protect him from the law. At Charteris' side is his pimp, “Trusty Jack” Gourly. The arresting magistrate in frame three is Sir John Gonson, a bordello-raider famed and often mocked in Hogarth's London as the rabidly puritanical “Scourge of Whores.” The quack physicians in frame five have been identified as Drs. Richard Rock and Jean Misaubin, who regularly advertised spurious cures for venereal disease. Paulson offers a detailed account of those and other sources for Hogarth's characterizations in contemporary press accounts of crime and political scandal (Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times, I, 240-55).

  6. Hogarth expected his purchaser to have the Harlot's Progress engravings framed and hung as what Hogarth called “furniture,” and accordingly sized his plates at approximately 12″ × 14″. Paulson reports that the prints usually were framed and domestically mounted in two horizontal rows of three (Modern Moral Subject 282). Antal notes that the Harlot pictures were often reproduced on the inexpensive chinaware, decorative box lids, and fan mounts that bourgeois consumers liked to acquire in low-cost emulation of aristocratic tastes (52).

  7. Hogarth apparently told his friend and Continental publicist Jean André Rouquet that the mounted clergyman is Mary's father, who has accompanied her from Yorkshire to London in pursuit of his own advancement (Paulson, Modern Moral Subject 328). Trusler repeats that identification, presumably on the authority of Hogarth's widow, in Hogarth Moralised. If the identification is accepted (albeit with no supporting visual evidence), then Mary's abandonment by her family is the more striking and shameful still.

  8. I am indebted to Paulson's Modern Moral Subject at many points, but here especially (263).

  9. Hogarth occasionally incorporates verbal pointers into A Harlot's Progress, e.g., the gift tag and the letter of introduction in frame one and the labeled wig box and “Mackheath” print in frame three; but he relies almost entirely upon visual data to advance narrative and articulate theme. The artist's confidence in the communicative power of purely pictorial images seems subsequently to have waned, however. For his next graphic narrative, A Rake's Progress (1735), Hogarth commissioned a poet friend to write explanatory and moralizing verse commentaries that were printed at the bottom of each frame. That hybridizing of the visual and the verbal persists in Hogarth's Industry and Idleness (1747) and in the verbally annotated reissue of A Harlot's Progress that he authorized in 1744.

  10. Antal follows some contemporary accounts in identifying the wailing woman as “the deceased's employer, a well-known London character, an old procuress named Mother Bentley …” (101). Paulson endorses no specific identification for the figure, but concurs that she “must be [Mary's] bawd. This explains her passionate lamentation” over income lost (Hogarth's Graphic Works, I, 149).

  11. Regarding the wall-hung hat, Cowley in pursuit of religious iconology notes that “Hogarth … used innocent objects as haloes frequently” in his early “progress” series “to mock-sanctify his characters. A hat on the wall behind one of the harlots who mourns … in A Harlot's Progress VI makes hers the role of a sorrowing magdalen” (136). Perhaps so. In any case, the shiny white “halo” hat suspended over the young woman's head distinctly recalls the heavenly light that had bathed the innocent and luminous Mary in frame one and thus further reinforces the figural correspondence argued here.

Works Cited

Antal, Frederick. Hogarth and His Place in European Art. New York: Basic Books, 1962.

Bindman, David. Hogarth. New York: Oxford UP, 1981.

Cowley, Robert L. S. Marriage-à-la-Mode. A Re-view of Hogarth's Narrative Art. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1983.

Paulson, Ronald. Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times. 2 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1971.

———. Hogarth: The “Modern Moral Subject.” 1697-1732. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1991.

———. Hogarth's Graphic Works. First Complete Ed. 2 vols. New Haven: Yale UP, 1965. Rev. eds. 1970, 1989.


Principal Works


Further Reading