William Hogarth

Paintings and engravings

A Harlot's Progress (1732)
A Rake's Progress (1733)
Before and After (1736)

Times of the Day (1736)
Marriage a-la-mode (1743)
Industry and Idleness (1747)

Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751)
The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751)
Humours of an Election (1754)
The Invasion, or France and England (1756)
William Hogarth
A Harlot's Progress (1732)
A Harlot's Progress (also known as The Harlot's Progress) is a series of six paintings (1731, now lost) and engravings (1732) by the English artist William Hogarth. The series shows the story of a young woman, M. (Moll or Mary) Hackabout, who arrives in London from the country and becomes a prostitute. The series was developed from the third image: having painted a prostitute in her boudoir in a garret on Drury Lane, Hogarth struck upon the idea of creating scenes from her earlier and later life. The title and rich allegory are reminiscent of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
In the first scene, an old woman praises her beauty and suggests a profitable occupation, procuring her for the gentleman shown towards the back of the image. She is a mistress with two lovers in the second, has become a common prostitute on the point of being arrested in the third, and is beating hemp in Bridewell Prison in the fourth. By the fifth, she is dying from venereal disease, and she is dead aged only 23 in the last.

The protagonist "M. Hackabout" (see Plate 1, Plate 3, and the coffin-lid in Plate 6, which reads: "M. Hackabout Died Sepr 2d 1731 Aged 23") is either named after the heroine of Moll Flanders and Kate Hackabout or ironically after the Blessed Virgin Mary. Kate was a notorious prostitute and the sister of highwayman Francis Hackabout: he was hanged on 17 April 1730; she was convicted of keeping a disorderly house in August the same year, having been arrested by Westminster magistrate Sir John Gonson.
The series of paintings proved to be very popular and Hogarth used his experience as an apprentice to a silversmith to create engravings of the images, selling a "limited edition" of 1,240 sets of six prints to subscribers for a Guinea. Pirate copies of the engravings were soon in circulation, and Hogarth procured a 1735 Act of Parliament (8 Geo. II. cap. 13) to prohibit the practice. Soon after, Hogarth published his second series of satirical and moralistic images, A Rake's Progress, followed some years later by Marriage à-la-mode.
The original paintings were destroyed in a fire at Fonthill House in 1755, the country house of William Beckford (1709–1770), a politician and father of William Thomas Beckford (1 October 1760 – 2 May 1844) builder of Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire. The original plates survived, and were sold by Hogarth's widow, Jane, to John Boydell in 1789; by him to Baldwin, Cradock and Joy in 1818; and then to Henry Bohn in 1835. Each produced further copies.
The New York Times has confirmed that young British composer Iain Bell will be composing an operatic adaptation of the work to open at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in 2013 with German soprano Diana Damrau in the title role. Theater an der Wien has announced the world premiere of the opera A Harlot's Progress on 13 October 2013.


Plate 1 Moll Hackabout arrives in London at the Bell Inn, Cheapside

The protagonist, Moll Hackabout, has arrived in London. Moll carries scissors and a pincushion hanging on her arm, suggesting that she sought employment as a seamstress. Instead, she is being inspected by the pox-ridden Elizabeth Needham, a notorious procuress and brothel-keeper, who wants to secure Moll for prostitution. The notorious rake Colonel Francis Charteris and his pimp, John Gourlay, look on, also interested in Moll. The two stand in front of a decaying building, symbolic of their moral bankruptcy. Charteris fondles himself in expectation.

Londoners ignore the scene, and even a mounted clergyman ignores her predicament, just as he ignores the fact of his horse knocking over a pile of pans.
Moll appears to have been deceived by the possibility of legitimate employment. A note on Moll's luggage is addressed to "My lofing cosen in Tems Stret in London": showing that she has been misled; this "cousin" might have been a recruiter or a paid-off dupe of the bawdy keepers. Moll is dressed in white, in contrast to those around her, illustrating her innocence and naiveté. The dead goose near Moll's luggage, similarly white, foreshadows Moll's death as a result of her gullibility.
The inn sign, with a picture of a bell, may refer to the belle (French for beautiful woman) who has newly arrived from the country. The teetering pile of pans alludes to Moll's imminent "fall". The goose and the teetering pans also mimic the inevitable impotence that ensues from syphilis, foreshadowing Moll's specific fate.
The composition resembles that of a Visitation, i.e. the visit of Mary with Elizabeth as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:39–56.

Plate 2 Moll is now a kept woman, the mistress of a wealthy merchant
Moll is now the mistress of a wealthy Jewish merchant, as is confirmed by the Old Testament paintings in the background which have been considered to be prophetic of how the merchant will treat Moll in between this plate and the third plate. She has numerous affectations of dress and accompaniment, as she keeps a West Indian serving boy and a monkey. The boy and the young female servant, as well as the monkey, may be provided by the businessman. She has jars of cosmetics, a mask from masquerades, and her apartment is decorated with paintings illustrating her sexually promiscuous and morally precarious state. She pushes over a table to distract the merchant's attention as a second lover tiptoes out.

Plate 3 Moll has gone from kept woman to common prostitute

Moll has gone from kept woman to common prostitute. Her maid is now old and syphilitic, and Henry Fielding, in Tom Jones (2:3), would say that the maid looks like his character of Mrs. Partridge. Her bed is her only major piece of furniture, and the cat poses to suggest Moll's new posture. The witch hat and birch rods on the wall suggest either black magic, or more importantly that prostitution is the devil's work. Her heroes are on the wall: Macheath from The Beggar's Opera and Henry Sacheverell, and two cures for syphilis are above them. The wig box of highwayman James Dalton (hanged on 11 May 1730) is stored over her bed, suggesting a romantic dalliance with the criminal. The magistrate, Sir John Gonson, with three armed bailiffs, is coming through the door on the right side of the frame to arrest Moll for her activities. Moll is showing off a new watch (perhaps a present from Dalton, perhaps stolen from another lover) and exposing her left breast. Gonson, however, is fixed upon the witch's hat and 'broom' or the periwig hanging from the wall above Moll's bed.
The composition satirically resembles that of an Annunciation, i.e. the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:26–39.

Plate 4 Moll beats hemp in Bridewell Prison
Moll is in Bridewell Prison. She beats hemp for hangman's nooses, while the jailer threatens her and points to the task. Fielding would write that Thwackum, one of Tom Jones's sadistic tutors, looked precisely like the jailer (Tom Jones 3:6). The jailer's wife steals clothes from Moll, winking at theft. The prisoners go from left to right in order of decreasing wealth. Moll is standing next to a gentleman who has brought his dog with him (a card-sharp whose extra playing card has fallen out). The inmates are in no way being reformed, despite the ironic engraving on the left above the occupied stocks, reading "Better to Work/ than Stand thus." The person suffering in the stocks apparently refused to work.
prisoners, Moll's servant
Next is a woman, a child who may suffer from Down Syndrome (belonging to the sharper, probably), and finally a pregnant African woman who presumably "pleaded her belly" when brought to trial, as pregnant women could not be executed or transported. A prison graffito shows John Gonson hanging from the gallows. Moll's servant smiles as Moll's clothes are stolen, and the servant appears to be wearing Moll's shoes.

Plate 5 Moll dying of syphilis
Moll is now dying of syphilis. Dr. Richard Rock on the left (black hair) and Dr. Jean Misaubin on the right (white hair) argue over their medical methods, which appear to be a choice of bleeding (Rock) and cupping (Misaubin). A woman, possibly Moll's bawd and possibly the landlady, rifles Moll's possessions for what she wishes to take away.
Moll, her maid and son
Meanwhile, Moll's maid tries to stop the looting and arguing. Moll's son sits by the fire, possibly addled by his mother's venereal disease. He is picking lice or fleas out of his hair. The only hint as to the apartment's owner is a Passover cake used as a flytrap, implying that her former keeper is paying for her in her last days and ironically indicating that Moll will, unlike the Israelites, not be spared. Several opiates ("anodynes") and "cures" litter the floor. Moll's clothes seem to reach down for her as if they were ghosts drawing her to the afterlife.

Plate 6 Moll's wake
In the final plate, Moll is dead, and all of the scavengers are present at her wake. A note on the coffin lid shows that she died aged 23 on 2 September 1731. The parson spills his brandy as he has his hand up the skirt of the girl next to him, and she appears pleased. Moll's son plays ignorantly. Moll's son is innocent, but he sits playing with his top underneath his mother's body, unable to understand (and figuratively fated to death himself).
Moll's maid, other prostitutes
Moll's madam drunkenly mourns on the right with a ghastly grinning jug of "Nants" (brandy). She is the only one who is upset at the treatment of the dead girl, whose coffin is being used as a tavern bar. A "mourning" girl (another prostitute) steals the undertaker's handkerchief. Another prostitute shows her injured finger to her fellow whore, while a woman adjusts her appearance in a mirror in the background, even though she shows a syphilitic sore on her forehead. The house holding the coffin has an ironic coat of arms on the wall displaying a chevron with three spigots, reminiscent of the "spill" of the parson, the flowing alcohol, and the expiration of Moll. The white hat hanging on the wall by the coat of arms is the one Moll wore in the first plate, referring back to the beginning of her end.
A Rake's Progress (1733)
A Rake's Progress is a series of eight paintings by 18th century English artist William Hogarth. The canvases were produced in 1732–33, then engraved and published in print form in 1735. The series shows the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, the spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bethlem Hospital, or Bedlam. The original paintings are in the collection of Sir John Soane's Museum in London, where they are normally on display.
The filmmaker Alan Parker has described the works as an ancestor to the storyboard.


In the first painting, Tom has come into his fortune on the death of his miserly father. While the servants mourn, he is being measured for new clothes. He is also rejecting the hand of his pregnant fiancée, Sarah Young, whom he had promised to marry (she is holding his ring and her mother is holding his love letters). He will pay her off, but it is clear that she still loves him.

In the second painting, Tom is at his morning levée in London, attended by musicians and other hangers-on all dressed in expensive costumes. Surrounding Tom from left to right: a music master at a harpsichord, who was supposed to represent George Frideric Handel; a fencing master; a quarterstaff instructor; a dancing master with a violin; a landscape gardener Charles Bridgeman; an ex-soldier offering to be a bodyguard; a bugler of a fox hunt club. At lower right is a jockey with a silver trophy. The quarterstaff instructor looks disapprovingly on both the fencing and dancing masters. Both masters appear to be in the "French" style, which was a subject Hogarth loathed.

The third painting depicts a wild party or orgy underway at a brothel. The whores are stealing the drunken Tom's watch. On the floor is a night watchman's staff and lantern. The scene takes place at the Rose Tavern, a famous brothel in Covent Garden. The prostitutes have black spots on their faces to cover syphilitic sores.

In the fourth, he narrowly escapes arrest for debt by Welsh bailiffs (as signified by the leeks, a Welsh emblem, in their hats) as he travels in a sedan chair to a party at St. James's Palace to celebrate Queen Caroline's birthday on Saint David's Day (Saint David is the patron saint of Wales). On this occasion he is saved by the intervention of Sarah Young, the girl he had earlier rejected; she is apparently a dealer in millinery. In comic relief, a man filling a street lantern spills the oil on Tom's head. This is a sly reference to how blessings on a person were accompanied by oil poured on the head. In this case the "blessing" being the "saving" of Tom by Sarah, although Rakewell, being a rake, will not take the moral lesson to heart. In the engraved version, lighting flashes in the sky and a young pickpocket has just emptied Tom's pocket. The painting, however, shows the young thief stealing Tom's cane and has no lightning.

In the fifth, Tom attempts to salvage his fortune by marrying a rich but aged and ugly old maid at St Marylebone. In the background Sarah arrives holding their child while her indignant mother struggles with a guest.

The sixth painting shows Tom pleading for the assistance of the Almighty in a gambling den at Soho's White Club after losing his "new fortune." Neither he nor the other obsessive gamblers seem to have noticed a fire breaking out behind them.

All is lost by the seventh painting, and Tom is incarcerated in the notorious Fleet debtor's prison. He ignores the distress of both his angry new (old) wife and faithful Sarah, who cannot help him this time. Both the beer-boy and the jailer demand money from him. Tom begins to go mad, as indicated by both a telescope for celestial observation poking out of the barred window and an alchemy experiment in the background. Beside Tom is a rejected play; another inmate is writing a pamphlet on how to solve the National debt. Above the bed at right is an apparatus for wings, which is more clearly seen in the engraved version at the left.

Finally insane and violent, in the eighth painting he ends his days in Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam), London's celebrated mental asylum. Only Sarah Young is there to comfort him, but Rakewell continues to ignore her. While some of the details in these pictures may appear disturbing to modern eyes, they were commonplace in Hogarth's day. For example, the fashionably dressed women in this last painting have come to the asylum as a social occasion, to be entertained by the bizarre antics of the inmates.

Gavin Gordon wrote a 1935 ballet titled The Rake's Progress, based directly on Hogarth's paintings. It was choreographed by Ninette de Valois, designed by Rex Whistler, has been recorded several times, and remains in the repertoires of various ballet companies.
Igor Stravinsky's 1951 opera The Rake's Progress, with a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, is loosely based on the story from Hogarth's paintings. In 1961, David Hockney created his own print edition version of The Rake's Progress; he has also created stage designs for the Stravinsky Opera.
The 1946 RKO film Bedlam, produced by Val Lewton and directed by Mark Robson, was inspired by A Rake's Progress. Hogarth received a writing credit for the film.
The University of New Hampshire's Department of Theatre and Dance created a collaborative stage show titled "The Rake's Progress" in 2003, which, with 17 actors and actresses, provided an intensive study of the etchings.

The engravings

Plate 1 – The Young Heir Takes Possession of the Miser's Effects

Plate 2 – Surrounded By Artists And Professors

Plate 3 – The Tavern Scene

Plate 4 – Arrested For Debt

Plate 5 – Married to an Old Maid

Plate 6 – Scene in a Gaming House

Plate 7 – The Prison Scene

Plate 8 – In The Madhouse

Before and After (1736)