William Hogarth – The March To Finchley

The March to Finchley, with which the selection concludes, is another instance of a crowded and animated picture; but here the general result is hardly so good as in the last-named, a more confused effect being created, as if the artist had attempted to delineate more than the scope of the canvas permitted. Nevertheless this is justly given a high place among Hogarth’s compositions, for it contains some admirable pieces of character drawing, and is full of significance. Originally entitled “A Representation of the March of the Guards towards Scotland in the year 1745,” the picture shows us the junction of Tottenham Court and Euston Roads. This fact is interesting to Londoners, bearing in mind that Hogarth’s rustic highway is now a spot so congested with traffic that an agitation is on foot to widen the road. The two hostelries, the ” Adam and Eve ” and the ” King’s Head,” still stand on either side of the busy street ; but their aspect also has greatly changed. How different, too, is the present view towards the North from the country lane in the scene before us !

The central figure in the picture is a hand-some grenadier, whose attention is sought by two women—the one young and comely, and the other a witch-like person of more insistent aspect. Practically the group is an allegory, for the guardsman may be considered representative of state and military influence, while the women are openly partisans of the rival Jacobite and Protestant interests. Note the embroidered cross upon the cloak, and the uplifted “Remembrancer,” on the one hand ; and on the other, “God save the King,” and other expressions of loyalty to the House of Hanover. The detailed incidents in the surrounding crowd are well worth examination. Beginning on the left of the picture, note the sad-looking drummer seeking to drown his trouble in the noise of his instrument, but conscious all the same that his weeping wife and child cling to him pleadingly. A boy performs shrilly on a fife, while one unmoved warrior reads a placard on the wall of the toll-house, from the window of which a woman looks over the motley gathering. Two suspicious-looking individuals hard by engage in an “aside” of conspiracy; one betrays a plaid through the rent in his disguise. Next is an old woman, smoking, whose child, tied to her back with a shawl, turns attracted by the drummer’s performance. Behind these the crowd watches eagerly a prize-fight in progress before the “Adam and Eve ” inn. Continuing our gaze to the right, a soldier savagely threatens the importunate Jacobite, while the opposite emotion causes an exchange of kisses between the flag-bearer and a pretty milk-seller. While her attention is thus occupied, a fellow empties one of the pails into his hat. Another laughingly calls a pieman’s attention to this circumstance, who hugely enjoys the joke, forgetful that his own tray is in similar case with the milk-pail, for the other purloins a pie to reward his information. A third rogue taps a porter’s barrel and fills his can from the resulting stream. A stout soldier has fallen by the wayside with his feet in a pond; he proffers his hand for spirit, with which a woman is about to supply him, while her infant mimics the drunkard’s gesture. Water is held to his lips by a good samaritan, whose virtue, however, has yielded to the temptation of a live hen. The poor bird’s wing sticks out from his wallet, and her disconsolate chicks run aimlessly about. Under the sign of the ” King’s Head ” a mounted loyalist, to whom a server hands a can of beer, raises his hat and cheers, no doubt to the honour of his own monarch. The windows of the inn are filled with women, who converse with the crowd below. A cart, containing women and children, occupies a prominent place in the background, beyond which again a more orderly body of troops is seen wending their way to the North to meet Prince Charles.

This popular picture, from which Luke Sullivan executed the engraving, was dedicated in the first instance to George H. That monarch, however, apprceiated neither its wit nor its subject, but suggested instead that it was a caricature of his soldiers. Therefore the painter altered its dedication to King Frederick of Prussia, whose name appeared when the engraving was published in 1750. The March to Finchley is among the pictures presented by Hogarth to the Foundling Hospital.