The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings Part 15

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Notwithstanding all this, there are men, who, looking on the dark side, and perhaps rendered splenetic, and soured by not being invited to these sumptuous entertainments, have affected to fear, that their frequent repet.i.tion would have a tendency to produce a famine, or at least to check the increase, if not extirpate the species, of those birds, beasts, and fish, with which the tables of the rich are now so plentifully supplied. But these half reasoners do not take into their calculation the number of gentlemen so laudably a.s.sociated for encouraging cattle being fed so fat that there is no lean left; or that more ancient a.s.sociation, sanctioned and supported by severe acts of parliament, for the preservation of the game. From the exertions of these and similar societies, we may reasonably hope there is no occasion to dread any such calamity taking place; though the Guildhall tables often groaning under such hecatombs as are recorded in the following account, may make a man of weak nerves and strong digestion, shake his head, and shudder a little. "On the 29th October, 1727, when George II.

and Queen Caroline honoured the city with their presence at Guildhall, there were 19 tables, covered with 1075 dishes. The whole expense of this entertainment to the city was 4889_l._ 4_s._"

To return to the print;--a self-sufficient and consequential beadle, reading the direction of a letter to Francis Goodchild, Esq. Sheriff of London, has all the insolence of office. The important and overbearing air of this dignified personage is well contrasted by the humble simplicity of the straight-haired messenger behind the bar. The gallery is well furnished with musicians busily employed in their vocation.

Music hath charms to sooth the savage breast, And therefore proper at a sheriff's feast.

Besides a portrait of William the Third, and a judge, the hall is ornamented with a full length of that ill.u.s.trious hero Sir William Walworth, in commemoration of whose valour the weapon with which he slew Wat Tyler was introduced into the city arms.

[Ill.u.s.tration: INDUSTRY AND IDLENESS.






"The adulteress will hunt for precious life." Proverbs, chap. vi.

verse 26.

From the picture of the reward of diligence, we return to take a further view of the progress of sloth and infamy; by following the idle 'prentice a step nearer to the approach of his unhappy end. We see him in the third plate herding with the worst of the human species, the very dregs of the people; one of his companions, at that time, being a one-eyed wretch, who seemed hackneyed in the ways of vice. To break this vile connexion he was sent to sea; but, no sooner did he return, than his wicked disposition took its natural course, and every day he lived served only to habituate him to acts of greater criminality. He presently discovered his old acquaintance, who, no doubt, rejoiced to find him so ripe for mischief: with this worthless, abandoned fellow, he enters into engagements of the worst kind, even those of robbery and murder. Thus blindly will men sometimes run headlong to their own destruction.

About the time when these plates were first published, which was in the year 1747, there was a noted house in Chick Lane, Smithfield, that went by the name of the Blood-Bowl House, so called from the numerous scenes of blood that were almost daily carried on there; it being a receptacle for prost.i.tutes and thieves; where every species of delinquency was practised; and where, indeed, there seldom pa.s.sed a month without the commission of some act of murder. To this subterraneous abode of iniquity (it being a cellar) was our hero soon introduced; where he is now represented in company with his accomplice, and others of the same stamp, having just committed a most horrid act of barbarity, (that of killing a pa.s.ser-by, and conveying him into a place under ground, contrived for this purpose,) dividing among them the ill-gotten booty, which consists of two watches, a snuff-box, and some other trinkets. In the midst of this wickedness, he is betrayed by his strumpet (a proof of the treachery of such wretches) into the hands of the high constable and his attendants, who had, with better success than heretofore, traced him to this wretched haunt. The back-ground of this print serves rather as a representation of night-cellars in general, those infamous receptacles for the dissolute and abandoned of both s.e.xes, than a further ill.u.s.tration of our artist's chief design; however, as it was Mr.

Hogarth's intention, in the history before us, to encourage virtue and expose vice, by placing the one in an amiable light, and exhibiting the other in its most heightened scenes of wickedness and impiety, in hopes of deterring the half-depraved youth of this metropolis, from even the possibility of the commission of such actions, by frightening them from these abodes of wretchedness; as this was manifestly his intention, it cannot be deemed a deviation from the subject. By the skirmish behind, the woman without a nose, the scattered cards upon the floor, &c. we are shown that drunkenness and riot, disease, prost.i.tution, and ruin are the dreadful attendants of sloth, and the general fore-runners of crimes of the deepest die; and by the halter suspended from the ceiling, over the head of the sleeper, we are to learn two things--the indifference of mankind, even in a state of danger, and the insecurity of guilt in every situation.

[Ill.u.s.tration: INDUSTRY AND IDLENESS.






"Thou shalt do no unrighteousness in judgment." Leviticus, chap.

xix. verse 15.

"The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands." Psalms, chap.

ix. verse 16.

Imagine now this depraved and atrocious youth hand-cuffed, and dragged from his wicked haunt, through the streets to a place of security, amidst the scorn and contempt of a jeering populace; and thence brought before the sitting magistrate, (who, to heighten the scene and support the contrast, is supposed to be his fellow-'prentice, now chosen an alderman,) in order to be dealt with according to law. See him then at last having run his course of iniquity, fallen into the hands of justice, being betrayed by his accomplice; a further proof of the perfidy of man, when even partners in vice are unfaithful to each other.

This is the only print among the set, excepting the first, where the two princ.i.p.al characters are introduced; in which Mr. Hogarth has shown his great abilities, as well in description, as in a particular attention to the uniformity and connexion of the whole. He is now at the bar, with all the marks of guilt imprinted on his face. How, if his fear will permit him to reflect, must he think on the happiness and exaltation of his fellow-'prentice on the one hand, and of his own misery and degradation on the other! at one instant, he condemns the persuasions of his wicked companions; at another, his own idleness and obstinacy: however, deeply smitten with his crime, he sues the magistrate, upon his knees, for mercy, and pleads in his cause the former acquaintance that subsisted between them, when they both dwelt beneath the same roof, and served the same common master: but here was no room for lenity, murder was his crime, and death must be his punishment; the proofs are incontestable, and his mittimus is ordered, which the clerk is drawing out. Let us next turn our thoughts upon the alderman, in whose breast a struggle between mercy and justice is beautifully displayed. Who can behold the magistrate, here, without praising the man? How fine is the painter's thoughts of reclining the head on one hand, while the other is extended to express the pity and shame he feels that human nature should be so depraved! It is not the golden chain or scarlet robe that const.i.tutes the character, but the feelings of the heart. To show us that application for favour, by the ignorant, is often idly made to the servants of justice, who take upon themselves on that account a certain state and consequence, not inferior to magistracy, the mother of our delinquent is represented in the greatest distress, as making interest with the corpulent self-swoln constable, who with an unfeeling concern seems to say, "Make yourself easy, for he must be hanged;" and to convince us that bribery will even find its way into courts of judicature, here is a woman feeing the swearing clerk, who has stuck his pen behind his ear that his hands might be both at liberty; and how much more his attention is engaged to the money he is taking, than to the administration of the oath, may be known from the ignorant, treacherous witness being suffered to lay his left hand upon the book; strongly expressive of the sacrifice, even of sacred things, to the inordinate thirst of gain.

From Newgate (the prison to which he was committed; where, during his continuance he lay chained in a dismal cell, deprived of the cheerfulness of light, fed upon bread and water, and left without a bed to rest on) the prisoner was removed to the bar of judgment, and condemned to die by the laws of his country.

[Ill.u.s.tration: INDUSTRY AND IDLENESS.






"When fear cometh as desolation, and their destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress cometh upon them, then shall they call upon G.o.d, but he will not answer." Proverbs, chapter i. verse 7, 8.

Thus, after a life of sloth, wretchedness, and vice, does our delinquent terminate his career. Behold him, on the dreadful morn of execution, drawn in a cart (attended by the sheriff's officers on horseback, with his coffin behind him) through the public streets to Tyburn, there to receive the just reward of his crimes,--a shameful ignominious death.

The ghastly appearance of his face, and the horror painted on his countenance, plainly show the dreadful situation of his mind; which we must imagine to be agitated with shame, remorse, confusion, and terror.

The careless position of the Ordinary at the coach window is intended to show how inattentive those appointed to that office are of their duty, leaving it to others, which is excellently expressed by the itinerant preacher in the cart, instructing from a book of Wesley's. Mr. Hogarth has in this print, digressing from the history and moral of the piece, taken an opportunity of giving us a humorous representation of an execution, or a Tyburn Fair: such days being made holidays, produce scenes of the greatest riot, disorder, and uproar; being generally attended by hardened wretches, who go there, not so much to reflect upon their own vices, as to commit those crimes which must in time inevitably bring them to the same shameful end. In confirmation of this, see how earnestly one boy watches the motions of the man selling his cakes, while he is picking his pocket; and another waiting to receive the booty! We have here interspersed before us a deal of low humour, but such as is common on occasions like this. In one place we observe an old bawd turning up her eyes and drinking a gla.s.s of gin, the very picture of hypocrisy; and a man indecently helping up a girl into the same cart; in another, a soldier sunk up to his knees in a bog, and two boys laughing at him, are well imagined. Here we see one almost squeezed to death among the horses; there, another trampled on by the mob. In one part is a girl tearing the face of a boy for oversetting her barrow; in another, a woman beating a fellow for throwing down her child. Here we see a man flinging a dog among the crowd by the tail; there a woman crying the dying speech of Thomas Idle, printed the day before his execution; and many other things too minute to be pointed out: two, however, we must not omit taking notice of, one of which is the letting off a pigeon, bred at the gaol, fly from the gallery, which hastes directly home; an old custom, to give an early notice to the keeper and others, of the turning off or death of the criminal; and that of the executioner smoking his pipe at the top of the gallows, whose position of indifference betrays an unconcern that nothing can reconcile with the shocking spectacle, but that of use having rendered his wretched office familiar to him; whilst it declares a truth, which every character in this plate seems to confirm, that a sad and distressful object loses its power of affecting by being frequently seen.

[Ill.u.s.tration: INDUSTRY AND IDLENESS.






"Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour." Proverbs, chap. iii. ver. 16.

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The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings Part 15 summary

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