Times of the Day (1736)
Four Times of the Day is a
series of four paintings by English artist William Hogarth.
Completed in 1736, they were reproduced as a series of four
engravings published in 1738. They are humorous depictions of life
in the streets of London, the vagaries of fashion, and the
interactions between the rich and poor. Unlike many of Hogarth's
other series, such as A Harlot's Progress, A Rake's Progress,
Industry and Idleness, and The Four Stages of Cruelty, it does not
depict the story of an individual, but instead focuses on the
society of the city. Hogarth intended the series to be humorous
rather than instructional; the pictures do not offer a judgment on
whether the rich or poor are more deserving of the viewer's
sympathies: while the upper and middle classes tend to provide the
focus for each scene, there are fewer of the moral comparisons seen
in some of his other works.
The four pictures depict scenes of daily life in various locations
in London as the day progresses. Morning shows a prudish spinster
making her way to church in Covent Garden past the revellers of the
previous night; Noon shows two cultures on opposite sides of the
street in St Giles; Evening depicts a dyer's family returning hot
and bothered from a trip to Sadler's Wells; and Night shows
disreputable goings-on around a drunken freemason staggering home
near Charing Cross.
Four Times of the Day was the first
set of prints that Hogarth published after his two great successes,
A Harlot's Progress (1732) and A Rake's Progress (1735). It was
among the first of his prints to be published after the Engraving
Copyright Act 1734 (which Hogarth had helped push through
Parliament); A Rake's Progress had taken early advantage of the
protection afforded by the new law. Unlike Harlot and Rake, the four
prints in Times of the Day do not form a consecutive narrative, and
none of the characters appears in more than one scene. Hogarth
conceived of the series as "representing in a humorous manner,
morning, noon, evening and night".
Hogarth took his inspiration for the series from the classical
satires of Horace and Juvenal, via their Augustan counterparts,
particularly John Gay's "Trivia" and Jonathan Swift's "A Description
of a City Shower" and "A Description of the Morning". He took his
artistic models from other series of the "Times of Day", "The
Seasons" and "Ages of Man", such as those by Nicolas Poussin and
Nicholas Lancret, and from pastoral scenes, but executed them with a
twist by transferring them to the city. He also drew on the Flemish
"Times of Day" style known as points du jour, in which the gods
floated above pastoral scenes of idealised shepherds and
shepherdesses, but in Hogarth's works the gods were recast as his
central characters: the churchgoing lady, a frosty Aurora in
Morning; the pie-girl, a pretty London Venus in Noon; the pregnant
woman, a sweaty Diana in Evening; and the freemason, a drunken Pluto
Hogarth designed the series for an original commission by Jonathan
Tyers in 1736 in which he requested a number of paintings to
decorate supper boxes at Vauxhall Gardens. Hogarth is believed to
have suggested to Tyers that the supper boxes at Gardens be
decorated with paintings as part of their refurbishment; among the
works featured when the renovation was completed was Hogarth's
picture of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The originals of Four Times
of the Day were sold to other collectors, but the scenes were
reproduced at Vauxhall by Francis Hayman, and two of them, Evening
and Night, hung at the pleasure gardens until at least 1782.
The engravings are mirror images of the paintings (since the
engraved plates are copied from the paintings the image is reversed
when printed), which leads to problems ascertaining the times shown
on the clocks in some of the scenes. The images are sometimes seen
as parodies of middle class life in London at the time, but the
moral judgements are not as harsh as in some of Hogarth's other
works and the lower classes do not escape ridicule either. Often the
theme is one of over-orderliness versus chaos. The four plates
depict four times of day, but they also move through the seasons:
Morning is set in winter, Noon in spring, and Evening in summer.
However, Night—sometimes misidentified as being in September—takes
place on Oak Apple Day in May rather than in the autumn.
Evening was engraved by Bernard Baron, a French engraver who was
living in London, and, although the designs are Hogarth's it is not
known whether he engraved any of the four plates himself. The
prints, along with a fifth picture, Strolling Actresses Dressing in
a Barn from 1738, were sold by subscription for one guinea (£147.00
in 2013), half payable on ordering and half on delivery. After
subscription the price rose to five shillings per print (£35.00 in
2013), making the five print set four shillings dearer overall.
Although Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn was not directly
connected to the other prints, it seems that Hogarth always
envisaged selling the five prints together, adding the Strolling
Actresses as a complementary theme just as he had added Southwark
Fair to the subscription for The Rake's Progress. Whereas the
characters in Four Times play their roles without being conscious of
acting, the company of Strolling Actresses are fully aware of the
differences between the reality of their lives and the roles they
are set to play. Representations of Aurora and Diana also appear in
Hogarth advertised the prints for sale in May 1737, again in January
1738, and finally announced the plates were ready on 26 April 1738.
The paintings were sold individually at an auction on 25 January
1745, along with the original paintings for A Harlot's Progress, A
Rake's Progress and Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn. Sir
William Heathcote purchased Morning and Night for 20 guineas and £20
6s respectively (£ 2,900 and £ 2,800 in 2013), and the Duke of
Ancaster bought Noon for £38 17s (£ 5,400 in 2013)) and Evening for
£39 18s (£ 5,600 in 2013). A further preliminary sketch for Morning
with some differences to the final painting was sold in a later
auction for £21 (£ 2,900 in 2013).
Morning (Painting I)
Morning (Plate I)
In Morning, a lady makes her way to church, shielding herself with
her fan from the shocking view of two men pawing at the market
girls. The scene is the west side of the piazza at Covent Garden,
indicated by a part of the Palladian portico of Inigo Jones's Church
of St Paul visible behind Tom King's Coffee House, a notorious venue
celebrated in pamphlets of the time. Henry Fielding mentions the
coffee house in both The Covent Garden Tragedy and Pasquin. At the
time Hogarth produced this picture, the coffee house was being run
by Tom's widow, Moll King, but its reputation had not diminished.
Moll opened the doors once those of the taverns had shut, allowing
the revellers to continue enjoying themselves from midnight until
dawn. The Mansion House with columned portico visible in the centre
of the picture, No. 43 King Street, is attributed to architect
Thomas Archer (later 1st Baron Archer) and occupied by him at the
date of Hogarth's works. It was situated on the north side of the
piazza, while the coffee house was on the south side, as depicted in
Hogarth's original painting. In the picture, it is early morning and
some revellers are ending their evening: a fight has broken out in
the coffee house and, in the melée, a wig flies out of the door.
Meanwhile, stallholders set out their fruit and vegetables for the
day's market. Two children who should be making their way to school
have stopped, entranced by the activity of the market, in a direct
reference to Swift's A Description of the Morning in which children
"lag with satchels in their hands". Above the clock is Father Time
and below it the inscription Sic transit gloria mundi. The smoke
rising from the chimney of the coffee house connects these portents
to the scene below.
Hogarth replicates all the features of the pastoral scene in an
urban landscape. The shepherds and shepherdesses become the beggars
and whores, the sun overhead is replaced by the clock on the church,
the snow-capped mountains become the snowy rooftops. Even the
setting of Covent Garden with piles of fruit and vegetables echoes
the country scene. In the centre of the picture the icy goddess of
the dawn in the form of the prim churchgoer is followed by her
shivering red-nosed pageboy, mirroring Hesperus, the dawn bearer.
The woman is the only one who seems unaffected by the cold,
suggesting it may be her element. Although outwardly shocked, the
dress of the woman, which is too fashionable for a woman of her age
and in the painting is shown to be a striking acid yellow, may
suggest she has other thoughts on her mind. She is commonly
described as a spinster, and considered to be a hypocrite,
ostentatiously attending church and carrying a fashionable ermine
muff while displaying no charity to her freezing footboy or the
half-seen beggar before her. The figure of the spinster is said to
be based on a relative of Hogarth, who, recognising herself in the
picture, cut him out of her will. Fielding later used the woman as
the model for his character of Bridget Allworthy in Tom Jones.
A trail of peculiar footprints shows the path trodden by the woman
on her pattens to avoid putting her good shoes in the snow and filth
of the street. A small object hangs at her side, interpreted
variously as a nutcracker or a pair of scissors in the form of a
skeleton or a miniature portrait, hinting, perhaps, at a romantic
disappointment. Although clearly a portrait in the painting, the
object is indistinct in the prints from the engraving. Other parts
of the scene are clearer in the print, however: in the background, a
quack is selling his cureall medicine, and while in the painting the
advertising board is little more than a transparent outline, in the
print, Dr. Rock's name can be discerned inscribed on the board below
the royal crest which suggests his medicine is produced by royal
appointment. The salesman may be Rock himself. Hogarth's opinion of
Rock is made clear in the penultimate plate of A Harlot's Progress
where he is seen arguing over treatments with Dr Misaubin while Moll
Hackabout dies unattended in the corner.
Hogarth revisited Morning in his bidding ticket, Battle of the
Pictures, for the auction of his works, held in 1745. In this, his
own paintings are pictured being attacked by ranks of Old Masters;
Morning is stabbed by a work featuring St. Francis as Hogarth
contrasts the false piety of the prudish spinster with the genuine
piety of the Catholic saint.
Noon (Painting II)
Noon (Plate II)
The scene takes place in Hog Lane, part of the slum district of St
Giles with the church of St Giles in the Fields in the background.
Hogarth would feature St Giles again as the background of Gin Lane
and First Stage of Cruelty. The picture shows Huguenots leaving the
French Church in what is now Soho. The Huguenot refugees had arrived
in the 1680s and established themselves as tradesmen and artisans,
particularly in the silk trade; and the French Church was their
first place of worship. Hogarth contrasts their fussiness and high
fashion with the slovenliness of the group on the other side of the
road; the rotting corpse of a cat that has been stoned to death
lying in the gutter that divides the street is the only thing the
two sides have in common. The older members of the congregation wear
traditional dress, while the younger members wear the fashions of
the day. The children are dressed up as adults: the boy in the
foreground struts around in his finery while the boy with his back
to the viewer has his hair in a net, bagged up in the "French"
At the far right, a black man fondles the breasts of a woman,
distracting her from her work, her pie-dish "tottering like her
virtue". Confusion over whether the law permitted slavery in
England, and pressure from abolitionists, meant that by the
mid-eighteenth century there was a sizeable population of free black
Londoners; but the status of this man is not clear. The black man,
the girl and bawling boy fill the roles of Mars, Venus and Cupid
which would have appeared in the pastoral scenes that Hogarth is
aping. In front of the couple, a boy has set down his pie to rest,
but the plate has broken, spilling the pie onto the ground where it
is being rapidly consumed by an urchin. The boy's features are
modelled on those of a child in the foreground of Poussin's first
version of the Rape of the Sabine Women (now held in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art), but the boy crying over his lost pie
was apparently sketched by Hogarth after he witnessed the scene one
day while he was being shaved.
The composition of the scene juxtaposes the prim and proper Huguenot
man and his immaculately dressed wife and son with these three, as
they form their own "family group" across the other side of the
gutter. The head of John the Baptist on a platter is the
advertisement for the pie shop, proclaiming "Good eating". Below
this sign are the embracing couple, extending the metaphor of good
eating beyond a mere plate of food, and still further down the
street girl greedily scoops up the pie, carrying the theme to the
foot of the picture. I. R. F. Gordon sees the vertical line of
toppling plates from the top window downwards as a symbol of the
disorder on this side of the street. The man reduced to a head on
the sign, in what is assumed to be the woman's fantasy, is mirrored
by the "Good Woman" pictured on the board behind who has only a
body, her nagging head removed to create the man's ideal of a "good
woman". In the top window of the "Good Woman", a woman throws a
plate with a leg of meat into the street as she argues, providing a
stark contrast to the "good" woman pictured on the sign below.
Ronald Paulson sees the kite hanging from the church as part of a
trinity of signs; the kite indicating the purpose of the church, an
ascent into heaven, just as the other signs for "Good Eating" and
the "Good Woman" indicate the predilections of those on that side of
the street; but he also notes it as another nod to the pastoral
tradition: here instead of soaring above the fields it hangs
impotently on the church wall.
The time is unclear. Allan Cunningham states it is half past eleven,
and suggests that Hogarth uses the early hour to highlight the
debauchery occurring opposite the church, yet the print shows the
hands at a time that could equally be half past twelve, and the
painting shows a thin golden hand pointing to ten past twelve.
In this scene more than any of the others Hogarth's sympathies seem
to be with the lower classes and more specifically with the English.
Although there is disorder on the English side of the street, there
is an abundance of "good eating" and the characters are rosy-cheeked
and well-nourished. Even the street girl can eat her fill. The
pinch-faced Huguenots, on the other hand, have their customs and
dress treated as mercilessly as any characters in the series. A
national enmity towards the French, even French refugees, may
explain why the English are depicted somewhat more flatteringly here
than they are by figures in the accompanying scenes. Hogarth mocked
continental fashions again in Marriage à-la-mode (1743–1745) and
made a more direct attack on the French in The Gate of Calais which
he painted immediately upon returning to England in 1748 after he
was arrested as a spy while sketching in Calais.
Evening (Painting III)
Evening (Plate III)
Unlike the other three images, Evening takes place slightly outside
the built-up area of the city, with views of rolling hills and wide
evening skies. The cow being milked in the background indicates it
is around 5 o'clock. While in Morning winter cold pervades the
scene, Evening is oppressed by the heat of the summer. A pregnant
woman and her husband attempt to escape from the claustrophobic city
by journeying out to the fashionable Sadler's Wells (the stone
entrance to Sadler's Wells Theatre is shown to the left). By the
time Hogarth produced this series the theatre had lost any vestiges
of fashionability and was satirised as having an audience consisting
of tradesmen and their pretentious wives. Ned Ward described the
clientele in 1699 as:
Butchers and bailiffs, and such sort of fellows,
mixed with a vermin train'd up for the gallows,
As Bullocks and files, housebreakers and padders,
With prize-fighters, sweetners, and such sort of traders,
Informers, thief-takers, deer stealers, and bullies.
The husband, whose stained hands
reveal he is a dyer by trade, looks harried as he carries his
exhausted youngest daughter. In earlier impressions (and the
painting), his hands are blue, to show his occupation, while his
wife's face is coloured with red ink. The placement of the cow's
horns behind his head represents him as a cuckold and suggests the
children are not his. Behind the couple, their children replay the
scene: the father's cane protrudes between the son's legs, doubling
as a hobby horse, while the daughter is clearly in charge, demanding
that he hand over his gingerbread. A limited number of proofs
missing the girl and artist's signature were printed; Hogarth added
the mocking girl to explain the boy's tears.
The heat is made tangible by the flustered appearance of the woman
as she fans herself (the fan itself displays a classical
scene—perhaps Venus, Adonis and Cupid); the sluggish pregnant dog
that looks longingly towards the water; and the vigorous vine
growing on the side of the tavern. As is often the case in Hogarth's
work, the dog's expression reflects that of its master. The family
rush home, past the New River and a tavern with a sign showing Sir
Hugh Myddleton, who bankrupted himself financing the construction of
the river to bring running water into London in 1613 (a wooden pipe
lies by the side of the watercourse). Through the open window other
refugees from the city can be seen sheltering from the oppressive
heat in the bar. While they appear more jolly than the dyer and his
family, Hogarth pokes fun at these people escaping to the country
for fresh air only to reproduce the smoky air and crowded conditions
of the city by huddling in the busy tavern with their pipes.
Night (Painting IV)
Night (Plate IV)
The final picture in the series, Night, shows disorderly activities
under cover of night in the Charing Cross Road, identified by Hubert
Le Sueur's equestrian statue of Charles I of England and the two
pubs; this part of the road is now known as Whitehall. In the
background the passing cartload of furniture suggests tenants
escaping from their landlord in a "moonlight flit". In the painting
the moon is full, but in the print it appears as a crescent.
The night is 29 May, Oak Apple Day, a public holiday which
celebrated the Restoration of the monarchy, demonstrated by the oak
boughs above the barber's sign and on some of the subjects' hats,
which recall the royal oak tree in which Charles II hid after losing
the Battle of Worcester in 1651.
Charing Cross was a central staging post for coaches, but the
congested narrow road was a frequent scene of accidents; here, a
bonfire has caused the Salisbury Flying Coach to overturn. Festive
bonfires were usual but risky: a house fire lights the sky in the
distance. A link-boy blows on the flame of his torch, street-urchins
are playing with the fire, and one of their fireworks is falling in
at the coach window.
On one side of the road is a barber surgeon whose sign advertises
Shaving, bleeding, and teeth drawn with a touch. Ecce signum! Inside
the shop, the barber, who may be drunk, haphazardly shaves a
customer, holding his nose like that of a pig, while spots of blood
darken the cloth under his chin. The surgeons and barbers had been a
single profession since 1540 and would not finally separate until
1745, when the surgeons broke away to form the Company of Surgeons.
Bowls on the windowsill contain blood from the day's patients.
Underneath the windowshelf, a homeless family have made a bed for
In the foreground, a drunken freemason, identified by his apron and
set square medallion as the Worshipful Master of a lodge, is being
helped home by his Tyler, as the contents of a chamber pot are
emptied onto his head from a window. In some of the prints, a woman
standing back from the window looks down on him, suggesting that his
soaking is not accidental. The freemason is traditionally identified
as Sir Thomas de Veil, who was a member of Hogarth's first Lodge,
Henry Fielding's predecessor as the Bow Street magistrate, and the
model for Fielding's character Justice Squeezum in The Coffee-House
Politician (1730). He was unpopular for his stiff sentencing of
gin-sellers, which was deemed to be hypocritical as he was known to
be an enthusiastic drinker. He is supported by his Tyler, a servant
equipped with sword and candle-snuffer, who may be Brother
Montgomerie, the Grand Tyler.
All around are pubs and brothels. The Earl of Cardigan tavern is on
one side of the street, and opposite is the Rummer, whose sign shows
a rummer (a short wide-brimmed glass) with a bunch of grapes on the
pole. Masonic lodges met in both taverns during the 1730s, and the
Lodge at the Rummer and Grapes in nearby Channel Row was the
smartest of the four founders of the Grand Lodge. The publican is
adulterating a hogshead of wine, a practice recalled in the poetry
of Matthew Prior who lived with his uncle Samuel Prior, the Landlord
successively of both the Rummer and Grapes and the Rummer";.
"My uncle, rest his soul, when living,
Might have contriv'd me ways of thriving;
Taught me with cider to replenish
My vats, or ebbing tide of Rhenish."
On either side of the street are signs for The Bagnio and The New
Bagnio. Ostensibly a Turkish bath, bagnio had come to mean a
The 6th Earl of Salisbury scandalised society by driving and
upsetting a stagecoach. John Ireland suggests that the overturned
"Salisbury Flying Coach" below the "Earl of Cardigan" sign was a
gentle mockery of the Grand Master 4th Earl of Cardigan, George
Brudenell, later Duke of Montagu, who was also renowned for his
reckless carriage driving,; and it also mirrors the ending of Gay's
"Trivia" in which the coach is overturned and wrecked at night.
Four Times of the Day was the first
series of prints that Hogarth had issued since the success of the
Harlot and Rake (and would be the only set he would issue until
Marriage à-la-mode in 1745), so it was eagerly anticipated. On
hearing of its imminent issue, George Faulkner wrote from Dublin
that he would take 50 sets. The series lacks the moral lessons that
are found in the earlier series and revisited in Marriage à-la-mode,
and its lack of teeth meant it failed to achieve the same success,
though it has found an enduring niche as a snapshot of the society
of Hogarth's time. At the auction of 1745, the paintings of Four
Times of the Day raised more than those of the Rake; and Night,
which is generally regarded as the worst of the series, fetched the
highest single total. Cunningham commented sarcastically: "Such was
the reward then, to which the patrons of genius thought these works
entitled". While Horace Walpole praised the accompanying print,
Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn, as being the finest of
Hogarth's works, he had little to say of Four Times of the Day other
than that it did not find itself wanting in comparison with
Hogarth's other works.
Morning and Night are now in the National Trust Bearsted Collection
at Upton House, in Warwickshire. The collection was assembled by
Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted and gifted to the Trust, along
with the house, in 1948. Noon and Evening remain in the Ancaster
Collection at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire.
Marriage a-la-mode (1743)
Marriage à-la-mode is a series
of six pictures painted by William Hogarth between 1743 and 1745
depicting a pointed skewering of upper class 18th century society.
This moralistic warning shows the disastrous results of an
ill-considered marriage for money and satirises patronage and
aesthetics. This is regarded by many as his finest project,
certainly the best example of his serially-planned story
cycles. The pictures are exhibited in the National
This series of paintings was not received as well as his other moral
tales, A Harlot's Progress (1732) and A Rake's Progress (1735), and
when they were finally sold in 1751, it would be for a much lower
sum than the artist had hoped for.
Marriage à-la-mode, Hogarth challenges the ideal view that the rich
live virtuous lives with a heavy satire on the notion of arranged
marriages. In each piece, he shows the young couple and their family
and acquaintances at their worst: engaging in affairs, drinking,
gambling, and numerous other vices.
The Marriage Settlement
In the first of the series, The Marriage Settlement, he shows
an arranged marriage between the son of bankrupt Earl Squanderfield
and the daughter of a wealthy but miserly city merchant.
Construction on the Earl's new mansion, visible through the window,
have stopped and a usurer negotiates payment for further
construction at the center table. The Earl proudly points to a
picture of his family tree. The son views himself in the mirror,
showing where his interests in the matter lie. The distraught
merchant's daughter is consoled by the lawyer Silvertongue while
polishing her wedding ring. Even the faces on the walls appear to
have misgivings. Two dogs chained to each other in the corner mirror
the situation of the young couple.
The Tête à Tête
In the second, The Tête à Tête, there are signs that the
marriage has already begun to break down. The husband and wife
appear uninterested in one another, amidst evidence of their
separate overindulgences the night before. A small dog pulls a
lady's cap from the husband's coat pocket, indicating his adulterous
ventures. A broken sword at his feet shows that he has been in a
fight. The open posture of the wife also indicates unfaithfulness.
As Hogarth once noted: "A lock of hair falling thus cross the
temples ... has an effect too alluring to be strictly decent, as is
very well known to the loose and lowest class of women." The
disarray of the house and the servant holding a stack of unpaid
bills shows that the affairs of the household are a mess.
The third in the series, The Inspection, shows the Viscount
visiting a quack with a young prostitute. The viscount, unhappy with
the mercury pills meant to cure his syphilis, demands a refund while
the young prostitute next to him dabs an open sore on her mouth, an
early sign of syphilis.
In the fourth, The Toilette, the old Earl has died and the
son is now the new Earl and his wife, the Countess. As was the very
height of fashion at the time, the Countess is holding a "Toilette",
or reception, in her bedroom. The lawyer Silvertongue from the first
painting is reclining next to the Countess, suggesting the existence
of an affair. This point is furthered by the child in front of the
pair, pointing to the horns on the statue of Actaeon, a symbol of
cuckoldry. Paintings in the background include the biblical story of
Lot and his daughters, Jupiter and Io, and the rape of Ganymede.
In the fifth painting, The Bagnio, the new Earl has caught
his wife in a bagnio with her lover, the lawyer, and is fatally
wounded. As she begs forgiveness from the stricken man, the murderer
in his nightshirt makes a hasty exit through the window. A picture
of a woman with a squirrel on her hand hanging behind the countess
contains lewd undertones. Masks on the floor indicate that the
couple have been at a masquerade.
The Lady's Death
Finally, in the sixth painting, The Lady's Death, the
Countess poisons herself in her grief and poverty-stricken
widowhood, after her lover is hanged at Tyburn for murdering her
husband. An old woman carrying her baby allows the child to give her
a kiss, but the mark on her cheek and the caliper on her leg suggest
that disease has been passed onto the next generation. The
countess's father, whose miserly lifestyle is evident in the bare
house, removes the wedding ring from her finger.
These pictures were at first poorly received by the public, to the
great disappointment of the artist. He sold them to a Mr. Lane of
Hillington for one hundred and twenty guineas. The frames alone had
cost Hogarth four guineas each, so his initial remuneration for
painting this valuable series was only sixteen shillings over a
hundred pounds. From Mr. Lane's estate, they became the property of
his nephew, Colonel Cawthorn. In the year 1797 they were sold by
auction at Christie's, Pall Mall, for the sum of one thousand
guineas; the purchaser was John Julius Angerstein. They are now
owned by the British government and part of the collection of the
It had been Hogarth's intention to follow the Marriage à-la-mode
series with a companion series called The Happy Marriage, however,
this series was never completed and only exists as a series of
unfinished sketches. Hogarth's loss of interest was probably because
a conventional and happy marriage gave little opportunity for barbed
and ironic treatment of events.
Although this series of paintings are works of art in their own
right, their original purpose was to provide the subjects for the
series of engraved copper plate prints. By the nature of the
process, when engraving copper plates, the image engraved on the
plate by the engraver is reversed, that is to say, a mirror image of
the final print. Normally, when undertaking paintings that are to be
engraved, the painting is produced the "right way round" — not
reversed – and then the engraver views it in a mirror as he
undertakes the engraving. Hogarth was an engraver himself and
disliked this course of action using mirrors, so unusually, he
produced the paintings for Marriage à-la-mode already reversed so
the engraver could directly copy them.
It would normally be expected to view the series of prints moving
from left to right and Hogarth would have taken this into account
when composing the original paintings.
Industry and Idleness (1747)
Industry and Idleness is the
title of a series of 12 plot-linked engravings created by William
Hogarth in 1747, intending to illustrate to working children the
possible rewards of hard work and diligent application and the sure
disasters attending a lack of both. Unlike his earlier works, such
as A Harlot's Progress (1731) and Marriage à-la-mode (1743), which
were painted first and subsequently converted to engravings,
Industry and Idleness was created solely as a set of engravings.
Each of the prints was sold for 1 shilling each so 12 for the entire
set, which is equivalent in purchasing power to approximately 80 GBP
as of 2005. It may be assumed that these prints were aimed for a
wider and less wealthy market than his earlier works. The originals
currently reside at the British Museum.
Hogarth was far from the first to
attempt to dramatically display parallel lives leading from the same
start to opposite ends. Paulson suggests two: the plays "Eastward
Hoe" (Revived after Hogarth's publication of these) and "The London
Merchant", the latter containing the especially applicable quote
that "business [is] the youth's best preservative from ill, as
idleness [is] the worst of snares". He also suggests that Hogarth
already had the idea when he painted "Hudibras and the Lawyer" with
its 2 (industrious and idle) clerks.
Each print shows a representative
or important scene at some point in the life of one of the
protagonists (In two plates, both are shown together). Together, the
seven appearances of Francis Goodchild and Thomas Idle show their
steady paths up the social and political ladder to the pinnacle of
power and esteem and down the path of immorality and crime to
complete disgrace and legal infamy, respectively. Each appearance is
also accompanied by some explainitary or foreshadowing text from the
The plates show one of the two
apprentices at some stage in their life, alternating between one
'prentice and the other (Industrious, Idle, Industrious, etc.) with
the exceptions of 1 and 9 where both are shown. Each has a Biblical
quotation relevant to the scene.
Plate 1 – The Fellow 'Prentices at their Looms
Exactly equal footing at
their first meeting. Tom is on the left, Francis on the right and
the master weaver on the extreme right
In plate 1 the two protagonists are introduced: both are
"'prentices" on equal terms with their master, and doing the same
Beyond this framework, the two characters rigorously follow their
respective traits: Francis is busy at work with his loom and
shuttle, with his copy of "The Prentice's Guide" at his feet and
various wholesome literature tacked up on the wall behind him
such as "The London Prentice" and (portentously) "Whitington Ld
Tom Idle leans snoring against his still loom, probably as a result
of a huge mug labelled "Spittle Fields" sitting on his loom. A clay
pipe is wedged into the handle and a cat is busy fooling with the
shuttle. Tacked to the post he's sleeping against is "Moll
Flanders"; his "Prentice's Guide" is also lying on the ground, but
in a completely filthy and shredded state.
To the right, their master looks disappointedly at Thomas, with a
thick stick in his left hand.
Their future courses are marked off for them by the imagery
surrounding the frame of the painting: To the left, representing
Idle's future, a whip, fetters and a rope; to the right, over
Goodchild, a ceremonial mace, sword of state and golden chain. The
master's sword segues exactly into the shaft of the mace: more
foreshadowing for the second encounter of the two in plate 9.
“ Proverbs Chap: 23 Ve: 21
The Drunkard shall come to
Poverty, & drowsineſs shall
cloath a Man wth rags ”
“ Proverbs Ch:10 Ver:4
The hand of the diligent
maketh rich ”
Plate 2 — The Industrious 'Prentice performing the Duty of a
Goodchild in church, singing hymns
Plate two occurs at some point on a Sunday, when their master has
given them part (or all) of the day to attend church service.
Francis Goodchild is shown taking good advantage of this, attending
St. Martin-in-the-Fields, standing in a pew with his master's
daughter, singing out of a hymnal. Their piety is contrasted with
the sleeping man in the pew and the vain woman at the far right, and
complements the quiet devotion of the old pew opener, the woman who
has the keys to the pew, who is facing away from the service to spot
Significantly, since this is the first in the series of images of
Francis' fortune, his career is literally shown to start with his
Note the tricorns hanging everywhere.
“ Psalm CXIX Ver:97
O! How I love thy Law it is my
meditation all day ”
Plate 3 — The Idle 'Prentice at Play in the Church Yard, during
Not outside the same church
In this case, Tom Idle is shown doing the exact opposite: gambling
and cheating with some pence on top of a tomb in the churchyard. The
foreground is strewn with spare bones and skulls, and behind him a
beadle is about to whack him with a cane or something similar for
his insolence and tardyness.
Also note that the frame is reversed: Now the mace, etc. are on the
left of the engraving.
“ Proverbs CH:XIX. Ve:29.
Judgments are prepared for scorners
& stripes for the back of Fools ”
Plate 4 — The Industrious 'Prentice a Favourite, and entrusted by
Francis finds people clearly
appreciative of his steady-going ways
Clearly Goodchild's industry and piety are paying off. He's now no
longer working a loom, but rather keeping his master's business: He
holds the "Day Book", keys to the house and a pouch of money. His
master is also present and using the greatest familiarity with him,
further testifying to his advanced state. On the desk before them
two gloves shaking hands illustrate the friendship and foreshadow
their ultimate harmony and agreement in plate 6.
Behind them are a row of women at looms and one at a spinning wheel
and to the left, a man wearing the symbol of the Corporation of
London and carrying material in labelled "To Mr West". Both show
that the business is a going concern.
To the lower right a copy of the "London Almanack" is tacked up,
headed by an allegorical figure of the genius of Industry assaulting
Father Time. A dog stands by the carrier, annoying a cat up on the
platform West and Goodchild stand on.
“ Matthew CHAP:XXV. Ve:21.
Well done good and faithfull
servant thou hast been faithfull
over a few things, I will make thee
Ruler over many things ”
Plate 5 — The Idle 'Prentice turn'd away, and sent to Sea
Tom finally exhausts
everyone's patience – except his mother's
On the other hand Tom Idle's useless ways have finally gotten their
reward: His master (possibly with the consultation of or incitement
by Francis) either throws him out or orders him away to sea. In
either case, Tom clearly feels that his authority over him is at an
end and has cast his indenture into the boat's wake in the lower
Judging by his companions' antics, his reputation of laziness and
disobedience have preceded him: One tries to tease him with the
frayed end of a rope (i.e. a cat o' nine tails), the other points
towards a man hanging from a gallows at the waterline for some
nautical crime (It is also possible he's pointing at their ship).
The sky also grows noticeably darker in the direction their boat is
For the first time, we learn his name from the wooden crate next to
him labelled "Tho Idle his Chest". An old woman, dressed as a widow,
tearfully remonstrates with him, while he ignores her. The verse at
the bottom clearly indicates this is his mother.
In the background, on low land, are a number of Dutch windmills.
“ Proverbs CHAP:X. Ve:1.
A foolish son is the heavineſs
of his Mother ”
Plate 6 — The Industrious 'Prentice out of his Time, & Married to
his Master's Daughter
Mr. and Mrs. Goodchild
The next plate shows that Francis Goodchild has been improving his
time, as usual. He has also escaped his apprenticeship, but in the
intended manner: having served his time, he is free and a journeyman
weaver. Beyond that even, the sign of "WEST and GOODCHILD" under
their trademark of a lion rampant shows that his former master has
taken him into partnership (not an unreasonable step given that he
previously kept the accounts).
The other significant change is that Miss West, last seen in Plate
2, has become Mrs. Goodchild. The scene here is likely the day
after, when they distribute the remnants of the feast to various
Francis is at the window holding a teacup (without a handle) and
giving a coin. In the foreground at the door a footman gives away a
plate. To the left, a legless man in a tub, probably invalided from
the Army or Navy, holds out a sheet of paper containing "Jeſse or
the Happy Pair. a new Song". Behind him a Frenchman with a base viol
is forced out of the line by a (British) butcher.
The background shows the London Monument when it contained the lines
"by the treachery of the Popish Faction."
“ Proverbs CH:XII. Ver:4.
The Virtuous Woman is a
Crown to her Husband. ”
Plate 7 — The Idle 'Prentice return'd from Sea, & in a Garret with
Not fighting the Law, but scared of it!
For reasons unknown (but probably related to his namesake vice), Tom
Idle is back on land again. If he was callous enough to throw out
his indenture leaving land, he certainly doesn't feel bound by any
law on his return as he has gone so far as to turn highwayman (more
likely footpad) and take up a (dismal) residence with "a common
In contrast to the luxury of Francis in plate 8, Thomas and his
companion are shown living in complete squalor somewhere in London.
The sole article of furniture in the room is the broken down bed
that Tom and his woman are lying on. She is busy examining the
various nonmonetary spoils from his thefts on the highway, including
an earring that looks like a gallows. The bottles on the fireplace
mantel are suggestive of venereal disease, similar to those of plate
3 in A Harlot's Progress.
The broken flute and bottle, together with the pair of breeches
discarded on the bedclothes, suggest they've been spending their
time in drunken debauchery. Samuel Ireland suggests that he was
doing this to drive away his fears of the law.
The principal event of the scene is a cat falling down the chimney
with a few bricks (which strongly suggests the quality of the house
they are lodging in), which causes Tom Idle to start up with all the
fear of the law on him.
The extremely dilapidated condition of the building, lack of any
obvious source of light or fire, and covering over of the window by
a hoop petticoat suggest that Idle is in hiding and sparing no pains
to keep his location a secret.
“ Leviticus CHAP:XXVI. Ve:30.
The Sound of a Shaken Leaf
shall Chace him. ”
Plate 8 — The Industrious 'Prentice grown rich, & Sheriff of London
Only incidentally about the
Plate 8 shows the opulence that industry has produced (or rather,
allowed to be procured): the couple sit at the far end of the table
(Just to the right of the man in the foreground with the staff) on
chairs, apparently in state. His chair has the sword of state on its
right arm and on her left the crowned mace.
A significant portion of this plate is taken up with a related
satire of gluttony, which takes place in the left foreground. In
particular, the two on the far right warn that even earned riches
are as susceptible to squander and waste as any other.
To the upper left, an orchestra on a balcony provides musical
The chamberlain (the man with the staff of office) examines a paper
addressed "To the worſhipl Fraſ Goodchild Eſq Sher[...] Lond" while
a crowd of people mills at the bar. This is the first time we find
out his first name.
“ Proverbs CH:IV. Ver:7, 8.
With all thy getting get understanding
Exalt her, & she shall promote thee: she
shall bring thee to honour, when
thou dost Embrace her ”
Plate 9 — The Idle 'Prentice betrayed (by his Whore), & taken in
a Night-Cellar with his Accomplice
Idle has now gone from highway robbery to out and out murder for
petty gain. He's shown here examining the effects of the dead man in
a hat (probably his!) between them, while another man pitches the
body down a trap door. In the process, they are all totally
oblivious not only to the men of the Law coming down the stairs with
lit lanterns, but Idle's prostitute being paid (one coin) for her
information! Clearly Idle is caught without any means of escape.
The background shows his most congenial surroundings to be the most
lawless and depraved possible: playing cards are strewn in the right
foreground, men are murdered with no hue and cry, a rope hangs
ominously from one of the beams in the ceiling, a syphilitic woman
with no nose serves a mug of something, presumably liquor and/or
gin, and a massive drunken brawl occupies half of the room, while
the others unconcernedly ignore it.
“ Proverbs CHAP:VI. Ve:26.
The Adultereſs will hunt for
the precious life ”
Note that in some versions the title is "The Idle 'Prentice betrayed
by his Whore, & taken in a Night-Cellar with his Accomplice",
whereas others remove "by his Whore".
Plate 10 – The Industrious 'Prentice Alderman of London, the Idle
one brought before him & Impeach'd by his Accomplice
Ending on unequal footing
Having led their separate lives for four plates each, the two
apprentices meet again, considerably further down their paths of
life. Again, Tom is on the left, Francis, the right (Interestingly,
the frame is reversed, so the rope, etc. is above Francis).
Idle is now completely lost: his accomplice readily turns King's
evidence, a man behind him holds up the two pistols and sword used
in the commission of the murder in one hand and points to Idle with
the other, and he's being arraigned before his former
fellow-apprentice, who remembers his earlier inclinations and could
well imagine him turning footpad. While he turns away, either
struggling with his feelings (as implied by the quote at the bottom
of the frame) or disgustedly spurning his entreaties, the clerk next
to him writes out the warrant of admission "To the Turnkey of
To the right of Idle, his mother again tearfully pleads with an
officer who dismisses her. The bailiff administering the oath has
put his quill pen behind his ear facing forward, making him look
ridiculous, so that he might take a bribe from the woman next to
him, who is paying him to not notice that the oath he's
administering is being sworn with the wrong hand and hence
Fire buckets labelled "SA" hang from the balcony behind the crowd.
“ Pſalm IX. Ver:16.
The Wicked is snar'd in the
work of his own hands ”
“ Leviticus CH:XIX Ve:15.
Thou shall do no unrighteous-
-neſs in Judgement ”
Plate 11 — The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn
Idleness and immorality
produce their just reward.
Idle now comes, like Tom Nero in The Four Stages of Cruelty, to the
reward of his depredations and malice: a felon's death on the
The procession from left to right shows a detachment of British
soldiers marching behind the tumbrel containing a preacher with a
book labelled Wesley, a reference to Methodism, vigorously
discoursing to the now hairless Thomas Idle, who is leaning on his
own coffin (Shown by his initials "T.I.").[original research?] In
the coach ahead of them the Official clergyman (Who will actually
preside at the execution) and beyond him, the Tyburn Tree. His
executioner lays unconcernedly along one of the crossbeams, smoking
his pipe and totally inured to the nature of his work.
In the right background, more or less well behaved spectators wait.
One releases a bird that will fly back to Newgate and give the news
that (by the time it's arrived) the malefactor is dead.
Around and in the midst of the semi-orderly procession, chaos
In the front center, a woman with a baby is advertising "The last
dying Speech & Conſeſsion of—Tho. Idle.", a most brazen fraud,
considering that he hasn't even gotten to the gallows yet and
everyone who can hear here can clearly see as much! To the left, a
brawl involves two to four people. To her left, a drunken sot
attempts to court her with ridiculous airs, notwithstanding his
holding a dog up by the tail. The suspended dog, positioned directly
below the gibbet in the picture, prefigures another "cur" who is
about to be hanged. Behind them a massive riot goes on while a woman
assaults the man pushing over her cart of fruit. A man to the far
right peddles something. In one corner are two boys, one
pickpocketing and the other resisting temptation, possibly echoing
Idle and Goodchild.
The frame of the picture shows Thomas' ultimate fate, hung on a
gibbet for his highway collecting or anatomised, for his murder.
Finally, the verse at the bottom completes his utter doom.
“ Proverbs CHAP I. Verſ:s 27, 28.
When fear cometh as desolation, and their
destruction cometh as a Whirlwind; when
distreſs cometh upon them, they shall
call upon God, but he will not answer ”
Plate 12 – The Industrious 'Prentice Lord-Mayor of London
Fulfilling the constant foreshadowing
Now that the Idle 'Prentice met his reward, industry gets its turn:
The industry and morality of Francis Goodchild result in his being
chosen the Lord Mayor of the City.
He is here shown riding in the Lord Mayor's carriage, holding the
sword of state and looking completely ridiculous in his top hat.
From the balcony on the right, a genteel crowd observes his passing,
as to people in all the windows fronting on the street.
Meanwhile, as usual, the crowd drunkenly near-riots around him. In
the far lower right, a boy holding "A full and true Account of ye
Ghoſt of Tho Idle. Which [...]" shows the final fate of Thomas
Idle's memory: an entry in The Newgate Calendar.
The frame is now surrounded by cornucopias, referring to the verse
at the bottom:
“ Proverbs CHAP: III. Ver:16.
Length of days is in her right hand, and
in her left hand Riches and Honour ”
Hogarth sketched out at least three other scenes that never got made
into engravings: one of the inside of Goodchild's place after his
marriage (Presumably to go after or instead of 6) and a set of him
giving money to his parents while Idle swipes a tankard of his
mother's (Meant to follow 7).