The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings Part 16

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Having seen the ignominious end of the idle apprentice, nothing remains but to represent the completion of the other's happiness; who is now exalted to the highest honour, that of Lord Mayor of London; the greatest reward that ancient and n.o.ble city can bestow on diligence and integrity. Our artist has here, as in the last plate, given a loose to his humour, in representing more of the low part of the Lord Mayor's show than the magnificent; yet the honour done the city, by the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, is not forgotten. The variety of comic characters in this print serves to show what generally pa.s.ses on such public processions as these, when the people collect to gratify their childish curiosity, and indulge their wanton disposition, or natural love of riot. The front of this plate exhibits the oversetting of a board, on which some girls had stood, and represents them sprawling upon the ground; on the left, at the back of the scaffold, is a fellow saluting a fair nymph, and another enjoying the joke: near him is a blind man straggled in among the crowd, and joining in the general halloo: before him is a militia-man, so completely intoxicated as not to know what he is doing; a figure of infinite humour. Though Mr. Hogarth has here marked out two or three particular things, yet his chief intention was to ridicule the city militia, which was at this period composed of undisciplined men, of all ages, sizes, and height; some fat, some lean, some tall, some short, some crooked, some lame, and in general so unused to muskets, that they knew not how to carry them. One, we observe, is firing his piece and turning his head another way, at whom the man above is laughing, and at which the child is frightened.

The boy on the right, crying, "A full and true account of the ghost of Thomas Idle," which is supposed to have appeared to the Mayor, preserves the connexion of the whole work. The most obtrusive figure in his Lordship's coach is Mr. Swordbearer, in a cap like a reversed saucepan, which this great officer wears on these grand occasions. The company of journeymen butchers, with their marrow-bones and cleavers, appear to be the most active, and are by far the most noisy of any who grace this solemnity. Numberless spectators, upon every house and at every window, dart their desiring eyes on the procession; so great indeed was the interest taken by the good citizens of London in these civic processions that, formerly, it was usual in a London lease to insert a clause, giving a right to the landlord and his friends to stand in the balcony, during the time of "the shows or pastimes, upon the day commonly called the Lord Mayor's Day."

Thus have we seen, by a series of events, the prosperity of the one and the downfall of the other; the riches and honour that crown the head of industry, and the ignominy and destruction that await the slothful.

After this it would be unnecessary to say which is the most eligible path to tread. Lay the roads but open to the view, and the traveller will take the right of course; give but the boy this history to peruse, and his future welfare is almost certain.

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




The subject of the plate under consideration is that of the Borough Fair; a fair held some time since in the Borough of Southwark, though now suppressed. This fair was attended, generally, by the inhabitants of town and country, and, therefore, was one that afforded great variety; especially as, before its suppression, it was devoted to every thing loose and irregular. A view of the scene, of which the following print is a faithful representation, will affirm this truth.

The princ.i.p.al view upon the left represents the fall of a scaffold, on which was a.s.sembled a strolling company, pointed out, by the paper lantern hanging in front, to be that belonging to Cibber and Bullock, ready dressed to exhibit "The Fall of Bajazet." Here we see merry-andrews, monkeys, queens and emperors, sinking in one general confusion; and, that the crash may appear the greater, the stand beneath is humorously supposed to consist of earthenware and china.

Notwithstanding this fatal overthrow, few below are seen to notice it; witness the boys and woman gambling at the box and dice, the upright monkey, and the little bag-piper dancing his wooden figures. Above this scaffold hangs a painting, the subject of which is the stage mutiny; whose figures are as follow:--On one side is Pistol, (strutting and crying out, "Pistol's alive,") Falstaff, Justice Shallow, and many other characters of Shakspeare. On the other, the manager bearing in his hand a paper, on which is written, "it cost 6000_l._" a scene-painter, who has laid his brushes aside, and taken up a cudgel; and a woman holding an ensign, bearing the words, "We'll starve 'em out." In the corner is a man, quiet and snug, hugging a bag of money, laughing at the folly of the rest; and behind, a monkey, perched upon a sign iron, supposed to be that of the Rose Tavern in Drury-lane, squeaking out, "I am a gentleman." These paintings are in general designed to show what is exhibited within; but this alludes to a dispute that arose at the time when this print was published, which was in the year 1733, between the players and the patentee of Drury-lane Theatre, when young Cibber, the son of the Laureate, was at the head of the faction. Above, on one side, is an equilibrist swinging on a slack rope; and on the other, a man flying from the tower to the ground, by means of a groove fastened to his breast, slipping over a line strained from one place to the other. At the back of this plate is Lee and Harper's great booth, where, by the picture of the wooden horse, we are told, is represented "The Siege of Troy." The next paintings consist of the fall of Adam and Eve, and a scene in Punch's opera. Beneath is a mountebank, exalted on a stage, eating fire to attract the public attention; while his merry-andrew behind is distributing his medicines. Further back is a shift and hat, carried upon poles, designed as prizes for the best runner or wrestler. In front is a group of strollers parading the fair, in order to collect an audience for their next exhibition; in which is a female drummer, at that time well known, and remarked for her beauty, which we observe has caught the eye of two countrymen, the one old, the other young. Behind these men is a buskined hero, beset by a Marshalsea Court officer and his follower. To the right is a Savoyard exhibiting her farthing show; and behind, a player at back sword riding a blind horse round the fair triumphantly, in all the boast of self-important heroism, affecting terror in his countenance, glorying in his scars, and challenging the world to open combat: a folly for which the English were remarkable. To this man a fellow is directing the attention of a country gentleman, while he robs him of his handkerchief. Next him is an artful villain decoying a couple of unthinking country girls to their ruin.

Further back is a man kissing a wench in the crowd; and above, a juggler performing some dexterity of hand. Indeed it would be tedious to enter into an enumeration of the various matter of this plate; it is sufficient to remark that it presents us with an endless collection of spirited and laughable characters, in which is strikingly portrayed the character of the times.

[Ill.u.s.tration: SOUTHWARK FAIR.]


Give me another horse,--bind up my wounds,-- Have mercy, Jesu!--Soft; I did but dream.-- O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!-- The lights burn blue!--is it not dead midnight?

Cold, fearful drops hang on my trembling flesh.--

Such is the exclamation of Richard, and such is the disposition of his mind at the moment of this delineation. The lamp, diffusing a dim religious light through the tent, the crucifix placed at his head, the crown, and unsheathed sword at his hand, and the armour lying on the ground, are judicious and appropriate accompaniments. Those who are acquainted with this prince's history, need not be told that he was naturally bold, courageous, and enterprising; that when business called him to the field, he shook off every degree of indulgence, and applied his mind to the management of his affairs. This may account for his being stripped no otherwise than of his armour, having retired to his tent in order to repose himself upon his bed, and lessen the fatigues of the preceding day. See him then hastily rising, at dead of night, in the utmost horror from his own thoughts, being terrified in his sleep by the dreadful phantoms of an affrighted imagination, seizing on his sword, by way of defence against the foe his disordered fancy presents to him. So great is his agitation, that every nerve and muscle is in action, and even the ring is forced from his finger. When the heart is affected, how great is its influence on the human frame!--it communicates its sensibility to the extreme parts of the body, from the centre to the circ.u.mference; as distant water is put in motion by circles, spreading from the place of its disturbance. The paper on the floor containing these words,

Jockey of Norfolk, be not so bold, For d.i.c.ken thy master is bought and is sold,

brought him by the Duke of Norfolk, saying he found it in his tent, and lying here unattended to, as a mark of contempt, plainly informs us that however a man may attempt to steel himself against the arrows of conscience, still they will find a way to his breast, and shake the sinner even in his greatest security. And indeed we cannot wonder, when we reflect on the many murders he was guilty of, deserving the severest punishment; for Providence has wisely ordained that sin should be its own tormentor, otherwise, in many cases, the offender would, in this life, escape unpunished, and the design of heaven be frustrated. But Richard, though he reached a throne, and by that means was exempt from the sufferings of the subject, yet could not divest himself of his nature, but was forced to give way to the workings of the heart, and bear the tortures of a distracted mind. The expression in his face is a master-piece of execution, and was a great compliment paid by Mr.

Hogarth to his friend Garrick; yet not unmerited, as all that have seen him in the part must acknowledge the greatness of the actor. The figures in the distance, two of whom,

Like sacrifices by their fires of watch, With patience sit, and inly ruminate The morning's danger,

are properly introduced, and highly descriptive.

The tents of Richmond are so near

That the fix'd sentinels almost receive The secret whispers of each other's watch.

Considered as a whole, the composition is simple, striking, and original, and the figures well drawn. The whole moral tenour of the piece informs us that conscience is armed with a thousand stings, from which royalty itself is not secure; that of all tormentors, reflection is the worst; that crowns and sceptres are baubles, compared with self-approbation; and that nought is productive of solid happiness, but inward peace and serenity of mind.

[Ill.u.s.tration: GARRICK.

In the Character of Richard the Third.]


In the two following designs, Mr. Hogarth has displayed that partiality for his own country and contempt for France, which formed a strong trait in his character. He neither forgot nor forgave the insults he suffered at Calais, though he did not recollect that this treatment originated in his own ill humour, which threw a sombre shade over every object that presented itself. Having early imbibed the vulgar prejudice that one Englishman was a match for four Frenchmen, he thought it would be doing his country a service to prove the position. How far it is either useful or politic to depreciate the power, or degrade the character of that people with whom we are to contend, is a question which does not come within the plan of this work. In some cases it may create confidence, but in others lead to the indulgence of that negligent security by which armies have been slaughtered, provinces depopulated, and kingdoms changed their rulers.



With lantern jaws and croaking gut, See how the half-star'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.

The priests, inflam'd with righteous hopes, Prepare their axes, wheels, and ropes, To bend the stiff-neck'd sinner; But should they sink in coming over, Old Nick may fish 'twixt France and Dover, And catch a glorious dinner.

The scenes of all Mr. Hogarth's prints, except The Gate of Calais, and that now under consideration, are laid in England. In this, having quitted his own country, he seems to think himself out of the reach of the critics, and, in delineating a Frenchman, at liberty to depart from nature, and sport in the fairy regions of caricature. Were these Gallic soldiers naked, each of them would appear like a forked radish, with a head fantastically carved upon it with a knife: so forlorn! that to any thick sight he would be invisible. To see this miserable woe-begone refuse of the army, who look like a group detached from the main body and put on the sick list, embarking to conquer a neighbouring kingdom, is ridiculous enough, and at the time of publication must have had great effect. The artist seemed sensible that it was necessary to account for the unsubstantial appearance of these shadows of men, and has hinted at their want of solid food, in the bare bones of beef hung up in the window, the inscription on the alehouse sign, "_Soup maigre au Sabot Royal_," and the spider-like officer roasting four frogs which he has impaled upon his sword. Such light and airy diet is whimsically opposed by the motto on the standard, which two of the most valorous of this ghastly troop are hailing with grim delight and loud exultation. It is, indeed, an attractive motto, and well calculated to inspire this famishing company with courage:--"_Vengeance, avec la bonne Biere, et bon boeuf d'Angleterre._" However meagre the military, the church militant is in no danger of starving. The portly friar is neither emaciated by fasting nor weakened by penance. Antic.i.p.ating the glory of extirpating heresy, he is feeling the sharp edge of an axe, to be employed in the decollation of the enemies to the true faith. A sledge is laden with whips, wheels, ropes, chains, gibbets, and other inquisitorial engines of torture, which are admirably calculated for the propagation of a religion that was established in meekness and mercy, and inculcates universal charity and forbearance. On the same sledge is an image of St. Anthony, accompanied by his pig, and the plan of a monastery to be built at Black Friars.

In the back-ground are a troop of soldiers so averse to this English expedition, that their serjeant is obliged to goad them forward with his halberd. To intimate that agriculture suffers by the invasion having engaged the masculine inhabitants, two women, ploughing a sterile promontory in the distance, complete this catalogue of wretchedness, misery, and famine.

[Ill.u.s.tration: FRANCE.]




See John the Soldier, Jack the Tar, With sword and pistol arm'd for war, Should Mounseer dare come here; The hungry slaves have smelt our food, They long to taste our flesh and blood, Old England's beef and beer.

Britons to arms! and let 'em come, Be you but Britons still, strike home, And, lion-like, attack 'em, No power can stand the deadly stroke That's given from hands and hearts of oak, With Liberty to back 'em.

From the unpropitious regions of France our scene changes to the fertile fields of England.

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The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings Part 16 summary

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