William Hogarth’s Illustrations

FORTUNATELY for those who prefer to study Hogarth in the originals, his paintings and prints, almost without exception, remain in his native country ; the most notable of them being still in London, either in the public galleries or among a few semi-private and private collections. It is thus a comparatively easy matter to obtain access to nearly all his best works, and a reference to the list which immediately follows this chapter will enable the reader to locate the chief individual paintings. The eight pictures here reproduced have been selected not so much for their quantity of entertainment, but because they constitute a series fairly representative of Hogarth’s genius. For obvious reasons some of his best satires are unsuitable for popular illustration, and it has not been thought necessary to include any example of his flamboyant attempts ; but with these exceptions the following eight pictures present the painter in his characteristic and varying moods.

The Portrait of Hogarth and his dog Trump is the best of his likenesses of himself, of which there are several other examples. On a canvas measuring 27 by 35 inches is a large oval panel, partly draped, containing the portrait proper. Hogarth is here represented with an intelligent, good-natured countenance, slightly expressive of merriment. He is wearing a fur cap, and bears a deep scar over his right eye. Immediately below the panel are three volumes labelled Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift. A palette occupies the bottom left-hand corner, on which is the curved and inscribed “line of Beauty and Grace,” previously referred to. The dog Trump fills the opposite corner.

This portrait was painted in 1745, and was first engraved by Hogarth four years later. The canvas remainéd in his possession, and at his death passed to Mrs. Hogarth. At her sale, in 1790, it was sold to Mr. Angerstein, whose famous collection was acquired for the nation in 1824. This portrait is now in the National Gallery.

Scene I. of The Rake’s Progress depicts that point of the story where the young heir, newly come into his fortune, takes formal possession in the house of his dead ancestor, whose effects and documents are littered about the apartment.

Now view the Youth’s first darling Scene, The Taylor, Lawyer, all convene, Ope burst the Trunks, the Bags confus’d All dusty lie, the Bonds perus’d. Old Shoes by Weight of Iron sold, More precious to his Sire than Gold.

The miser, whose portrait over the mantelpiece paints him as the creature of avarice, is but lately dead. His escutcheons—three vices, with the motto ” Beware ! “—are still upon the wall ; and the undertaker’s assistant, in draping the room with mourning cloth, accidentally breaks the cornice and releases part of a hidden hoard. An open cupboard discloses the turnspit and jack, long disused ; it is evident also that the fire-grate, which an aged woman is about to replenish with sticks, has been empty for some considerable time. A save-all receives the candle-end ; the cat is little better than a skeleton. Note, too, how everything, useful and useless alike, has been preserved. Boxes and shelves are full of miscellaneous lumber ; even the empty frame of an old pair of spectacles hangs by the fireplace, near which the dead man’s crutch and walking-stick recall his feeble presence. The table and floor are strewn with mortgages, deeds, and other documents relating to property. A memorandum book lies open at the significant item, ” Put off my bad shilling.”

Tom Rakewell, the heir, stands in an easy attitude in the middle of the room, while being measured by a tailor for a suit of small-clothes. He is unconscious that at his back a greedy attorney, ostensibly looking after his interests, is in fact literally helping himself to the young man’s gold. A weeping woman, the youth’s deserted sweetheart, leans against a chair, holding in her hand his ring of unfulfilled betrothal. Behind is her mother, armed with an apronful of letters, who points to the girl and upbraids_ the Rake for his conduct towards her. For his part, the lad seeks to compound the matter with a handful of money, which the elder woman indignantly refuses.

This picture, although not good in the disposition of its several parts, is a typical example of Hogarth’s gift for painting facial expressions. The face of each character in the room displays admirably the emotion of the moment, from the outraged mother, whose countenance positively blazes with indignant wrath, to the cunning lawyer, whose eyes are watchfully upon his victim, lest perchance a sudden movement of the latter should defeat his purpose. The tailor, also, has the eminently natural expression of one whose concern is solely with the inches on his tape, and who cares nothing for the private affairs of his customers. Even the poor cat is hungrily clamorous !

The Rake’s Progress was painted and engraved in 1735. In the third state of the engraving of this scene one or two details are altered for example, a copy of the Bible is introduced, of which the leather cover has been mutilated to repair a shoe-sole. The original pictures were in the possession of Alderman Beckford, and afterwards of Col. Fullerton. They ultimately found their resting-place in Sir John Soane’s Museum.