Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751)
Beer Street and Gin Lane are two
prints issued in 1751 by English artist William Hogarth in support
of what would become the Gin Act. Designed to be viewed alongside
each other, they depict the evils of the consumption of gin as a
contrast to the merits of drinking beer. At almost the same time and
on the same subject, Hogarth's friend Henry Fielding published An
Inquiry into the Late Increase in Robbers. Issued together with The
Four Stages of Cruelty, the prints continued a movement started in
Industry and Idleness, away from depicting the laughable foibles of
fashionable society (as he had done with Marriage à-la-mode) and
towards a more cutting satire on the problems of poverty and crime.
On the simplest level, Hogarth portrays the inhabitants of Beer
Street as happy and healthy, nourished by the native English ale,
and those who live in Gin Lane as destroyed by their addiction to
the foreign spirit of gin; but, as with so many of Hogarth's works,
closer inspection uncovers other targets of his satire, and reveals
that the poverty of Gin Lane and the prosperity of Beer Street are
more intimately connected than they at first appear. Gin Lane shows
shocking scenes of infanticide, starvation, madness, decay and
suicide, while Beer Street depicts industry, health, bonhomie and
thriving commerce, but there are contrasts and subtle details that
some critics believe allude to the prosperity of Beer Street as the
cause of the misery found in Gin Lane.
Set in the parish of St Giles—a notorious slum district that Hogarth
used in several works around this time—Gin Lane depicts the squalor
and despair of a community raised on gin. Desperation, death and
decay pervade the scene. The only businesses that flourish serve the
gin industry: gin sellers; distillers (the aptly named Kilman); the
pawnbroker where the avaricious Mr. Gripe greedily takes the vital
possessions (the carpenter offers his saw and the housewife her
cooking utensils) of the alcoholic residents of the street in return
for a few pennies to feed their habit; and the undertaker, for whom
Hogarth implies at least a handful of new customers from this scene
alone. Most shockingly, the focus of the picture is a woman in the
foreground, who, addled by gin and driven to prostitution by her
habit —as evidenced by the syphilitic sores on her legs— lets her
baby slip unheeded from her arms and plunge to its death in the
stairwell of the gin cellar below. Half-naked, she has no concern
for anything other than a pinch of snuff. This mother was not such
an exaggeration as she might appear: in 1734, Judith Dufour
reclaimed her two-year-old child from the workhouse where it had
been given a new set of clothes; she then strangled it and left the
infant's body in a ditch so that she could sell the clothes to buy
gin. In another case, an elderly woman, Mary Estwick, let a toddler
burn to death while she slept in a gin-induced stupor. Such cases
provided a focus for anti-gin campaigners such as the indefatigable
Thomas Wilson and the image of the neglectful mother became
increasingly central to anti-gin propaganda. Sir John Gonson, whom
Hogarth featured in his earlier A Harlot's Progress, turned his
attention from prostitution to gin and began prosecuting gin-related
crimes with severity.
The gin cellar, Gin Royal, below advertises its wares with the
Drunk for a penny
Dead drunk for twopence
Clean straw for nothing
Other images of despair and madness fill the scene: a lunatic
cavorts in the street beating himself over the head with a pair of
bellows while holding a baby impaled on a spike—the dead child's
frantic mother rushes from the house screaming in horror; a barber
has taken his own life in the dilapidated attic of his barber-shop,
ruined because nobody can afford a haircut or shave; on the steps,
below the woman who has let her baby fall, a skeletal
pamphlet-seller rests, perhaps dead of starvation, as the unsold
moralising pamphlet on the evils of gin-drinking, The Downfall of
Mrs Gin, slips from his basket. An ex-soldier, he has pawned most of
his clothes to buy the gin in his basket, next to the pamphlet that
denounces it. Next to him sits a black dog, a symbol of despair and
depression. Outside the distiller's a fight has broken out, and a
crazed cripple raises his crutch to strike his blind compatriot.
Images of children on the path to destruction also litter the scene:
aside from the dead baby on the spike and the child falling to its
death, a baby is quieted by its mother with a cup of gin, and in the
background of the scene an orphaned infant bawls naked on the floor
as the body of its mother is loaded into a coffin on orders of the
beadle.Two young girls who are wards of the parish of St
Giles—indicated by the badge on the arm of one of the girls—each
take a glass. Hogarth also chose the slum of St Giles as setting for
the first scene of The Four Stages of Cruelty, which he issued
almost simultaneously with Beer Street and Gin Lane. Tom Nero, the
central character of the Cruelty series wears an identical arm
badge. In front of the pawnbroker's door, a starving boy and a dog
fight over a bone, while next to them a girl has fallen asleep;
approaching her is a snail, emblematic of the sin of sloth.
In the rear of the picture, the church of St. George's Church,
Bloomsbury is seen, but it is a faint and distant image, and the
picture is composed so the pawnbroker's sign forms a huge corrupted
cross for the steeple: the people of Gin Lane choose to worship
Townley's verses are equally strong in their condemnation of the
Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
And steals our Life away.
Virtue and Truth, driv'n to
Its Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes with hellish Care
Theft, Murder, Perjury.
Damned Cup! that on the Vitals
That liquid Fire contains,
Which Madness to the heart conveys,
And rolls it thro' the Veins.
In comparison to the sickly hopeless denizens of Gin Lane, the happy
people of Beer Street sparkle with robust health and bonhomie. "Here
is all is joyous and thriving. Industry and jollity go hand in
hand". The only business that is in trouble is the pawnbroker: Mr
Pinch lives in the one poorly maintained, crumbling building in the
picture. In contrast to his Gin Lane counterpart, the prosperous
Gripe, who displays expensive-looking cups in his upper window (a
sign of his flourishing business), Pinch displays only a wooden
contraption, perhaps a mousetrap, in his upper window, while he is
forced to take his beer through a window in the door, which suggests
his business is so unprofitable as to put the man in fear of being
seized for debt. The sign-painter is also shown in rags, but his
role in the image is unclear.
The rest of the scene is populated with doughty and good-humoured
English workers. It is George II's birthday (30 October) (indicated
by the flag flying on the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in the
background) and the inhabitants of the scene are no doubt toasting
his health. Under the sign of the Barley Mow, a blacksmith or cooper
sits with a foaming tankard in one hand and a leg of ham in the
other. Together with a butcher-his steel hangs at his side-they
laugh with the pavior (sometimes identified as a drayman) as he
distracts a housemaid from her errand. Ronald Paulson suggests a
parallel between the trinity of signs of ill-omen in Gin Lane, the
pawnbroker, distiller, and undertaker, and the trinity of English
"worthies" here, the blacksmith, pavior, and butcher. Close by a
pair of fish-sellers rest with a pint and a porter sets down his
load to refresh himself. In the background, two men carrying a sedan
chair pause for drink, while the passenger remains wedged inside,
her large hoop skirt pinning her in place. On the roof, the
builders, who are working on the publican's house above the "Sun"
tavern share a toast with the master of a tailor's workshop. In this
image it is a barrel of beer that hangs from a rope above the
street, in contrast to the body of the barber in Gin Lane.
The inhabitants of both Beer Street and Gin Lane are drinking rather
than working, but in Beer Street the workers are resting after their
labours—all those depicted are in their place of work, or have their
wares or the tools of their trade about them-while in Gin Lane the
people drink instead of working. Exceptions to this rule come, most
obviously, in the form of those who profit from the vice in Gin
Lane, but in Beer Street Hogarth takes the opportunity to make
another satirical statement. Aside from the enigmatic sign-painter,
the only others engaged in work in the scene are the tailors in an
attic. The wages of journeyman tailors was the subject of an ongoing
dispute, which was finally settled by arbitration at the 1751 July
Quarter sessions (in the journeymen's favour). Here Hogarth shows
them continuing to toil while all the other inhabitants of the
street, including their master, pause to refresh themselves.
Hogarth also takes the opportunity to comment on artistic
pretensions. Tied up together in a basket and destined for use as
scrap at the trunk-maker are George Turnbull's On Ancient Painting,
Hill on Royal Societies, Modern Tragedies, Polticks vol. 9999 and
William Lauder's Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns
in Paradise Lost, all examples, real and imagined, of the type of
literature that Hogarth thought fabricated connections between art
and politics and sought out aesthetic connections that did not
exist. Lauder's work was a hoax that painted Milton as a plagiarist.
The picture is a counterpoint to the more powerful Gin Lane—Hogarth
intended Beer Street to be viewed first to make Gin Lane more
shocking—but it is also a celebration of Englishness and depicts of
the benefits of being nourished by the native beer. No foreign
influences pollute what is a fiercely nationalistic image. An early
impression showed a scrawny Frenchman being ejected from the scene
by the burly blacksmith who in later prints holds aloft a leg of
mutton or ham (Paulson suggests the Frenchman was removed to prevent
confusion with the ragged sign-painter). There is a celebration of
English industriousness in the midst of the jollity: the two
fish-sellers sing the New Ballad on the Herring Fishery (by
Hogarth's friend, the poet John Lockman), while their overflowing
baskets bear witness to the success of the revived industry; the
King's speech displayed on the table makes reference to the
"Advancement of Our Commerce and the cultivating Art of Peace"; and
although the workers have paused for a break, it is clear they are
not idle. The builders have not left their workplace to drink; the
master tailor toasts them from his window but does not leave the
attic; the men gathered around the table in the foreground have not
laid their tools aside. Townley's patriotic verses further refer to
the contrast between England and France:
Beer, happy Produce of our Isle
Can sinewy Strength impart,
And wearied with Fatigue and Toil
Can cheer each manly Heart.
Labour and Art upheld by Thee
We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee
And Water leave to France.
Genius of Health, thy grateful
Rivals the Cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous Breast
With Liberty and Love!
Paulson sees the images as working on different levels for different
classes. The middle classes would have seen the pictures as a
straight comparison of good and evil, while the lower classes would
have seen the connection between the prosperity of Beer Street and
the poverty of Gin Lane. He focuses on the well-fed woman wedged
into the sedan chair at the rear of Beer Street as a cause of the
ruin of the gin-addled woman who is the principal focus of Gin Lane.
The free-market economy espoused in the King's address and practised
in Beer Street leaves the exponents prosperous and corpulent but at
the same time makes the poor poorer. For Paulson the two prints
depict the results of a move away from a paternalistic state towards
an unregulated market economy. Further, more direct, contrasts are
made with the woman in the sedan chair and those in Gin Lane: the
woman fed gin as she is wheeled home in a barrow and the dead woman
being lifted into her coffin are both mirror images of the
hoop-skirted woman reduced to madness and death.
The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751)
The Four Stages of Cruelty is a series
of four printed engravings published by English artist William
Hogarth in 1751. Each print depicts a different stage in the life of
the fictional Tom Nero.
Beginning with the torture of a dog as a child in the First stage of
cruelty, Nero progresses to beating his horse as a man in the Second
stage of cruelty, and then to robbery, seduction, and murder in
Cruelty in perfection. Finally, in The reward of cruelty, he
receives what Hogarth warns is the inevitable fate of those who
start down the path Nero has followed: his body is taken from the
gallows after his execution as a murderer and is mutilated by
surgeons in the anatomical theatre.
The prints were intended as a form of moral instruction; Hogarth was
dismayed by the routine acts of cruelty he witnessed on the streets
of London. Issued on cheap paper, the prints were destined for the
lower classes. The series shows a roughness of execution and a
brutality that is untempered by the humorous touches common in
Hogarth's other works, but which he felt was necessary to impress
his message on the intended audience. Nevertheless, the pictures
still carry the wealth of detail and subtle references that are
characteristic of Hogarth.
In common with
other prints by Hogarth, such as Beer Street and Gin Lane, The Four
Stages of Cruelty was issued as a warning against immoral behaviour,
showing the easy path from childish thug to convicted criminal. His
aim was to correct "that barbarous treatment of animals, the very
sight of which renders the streets of our metropolis so distressing
to every feeling mind". Hogarth loved animals, picturing himself
with his pug in a self-portrait, and marking the graves of his dogs
and birds at his home in Chiswick.
Hogarth deliberately portrayed the subjects of the engravings with
little subtlety since he meant the prints to be understood by "men
of the lowest rank" when seen on the walls of workshops or taverns.
The images themselves, as with Beer Street and Gin Lane, were
roughly drawn, lacking the finer lines of some of his other works.
Fine engraving and delicate artwork would have rendered the prints
too expensive for the intended audience, and Hogarth also believed a
bold stroke could portray the passions of the subjects just as well
as fine lines, noting that "neither great correctness of drawing or
fine engraving were at all necessary".
To ensure that the prints were priced within reach of the intended
audience, Hogarth originally commissioned the block-cutter J. Bell
to produce the four designs as woodcuts. This proved more expensive
than expected, so only the last two of the four images were cut and
were not issued commercially at the time. Instead, Hogarth proceeded
to create the engravings himself and announced the publication of
the prints, along with that of Beer Street and Gin Lane, in the
London Evening Post over three days from 14–16 February 1751. The
prints themselves were published on 21 February 1751 and each was
accompanied by a moralising commentary, written by the Rev. James
Townley, a friend of Hogarth's. As with earlier engravings, such as
Industry and Idleness, individual prints were sold on "ordinary"
paper for 1s. (one shilling, equating to about £ 6.70 in 2013
terms), cheap enough to be purchased by the lower classes as a means
of moral instruction. "Fine" versions were also available on
"superior" paper for 1s. 6d. (one shilling and sixpence, about £
10.00 in 2013 terms) for collectors.
Variations on plates III and IV exist from Bell's original woodcuts,
bearing the earlier date of 1 January 1750, and were reprinted in
1790 by John Boydell, but examples from either of the woodcut
printings are uncommon.
First stage of abuse
First stage of cruelty (Plate I)
In the first print Hogarth introduces Tom Nero, whose name may have
been inspired by the Roman Emperor of the same name or a contraction
of "No hero". Conspicuous in the centre of the plate, he is shown
being assisted by other boys to insert an arrow into a dog's rectum,
a torture apparently inspired by a devil punishing a sinner in
Jacques Callot's Temptation of St. Anthony. An initialled badge on
the shoulder of his light-hued and ragged coat shows him to be a
pupil of the charity school of the parish of St Giles. Hogarth used
this notorious slum area as the background for many of his works
including Gin Lane and Noon, part of the Four Times of the Day
series. A more tender-hearted boy, perhaps the dog's owner, pleads
with Nero to stop tormenting the frightened animal, even offering
food in an attempt to appease him. This boy supposedly represents a
young George III. His appearance is deliberately more pleasing than
the scowling ugly ruffians that populate the rest of the picture,
made clear in the text at the bottom of the scene:
While various Scenes of sportive Woe,
The Infant Race employ,
And tortur'd Victims bleeding shew,
The Tyrant in the Boy.
Behold! a Youth of gentler Heart,
To spare the Creature's pain,
O take, he cries—take all my Tart,
But Tears and Tart are vain.
Learn from this fair Example—You
Whom savage Sports delight,
How Cruelty disgusts the view,
While Pity charms the sight.
The other boys carry out equally barbaric acts: the two boys at the
top of the steps are burning the eyes out of a bird with a hot
needle heated by the link-boy's torch; the boys in the foreground
are throwing at a cock (perhaps an allusion to a nationalistic
enmity towards the French, and a suggestion that the action takes
place on Shrove Tuesday, the traditional day for cock-shying);
another boy ties a bone to a dog's tail—tempting, but out of reach;
a pair of fighting cats are hung by their tails and taunted by a
jeering group of boys; in the bottom left-hand corner a dog is set
on a cat; and in the rear of the picture another cat tied to two
bladders is thrown from a high window. In a foreshadowing of his
ultimate fate, Tom Nero's name is written under the chalk drawing of
a man hanging from the gallows; the meaning is made clear by the
schoolboy artist pointing towards Tom. The absence of parish
officers who should be controlling the boys is an intentional rebuke
on Hogarth's part; he agreed with Henry Fielding that one of the
causes for the rising crime rate was the lack of care from the
overseers of the poor, who were too often interested in the posts
only for the social status and monetary rewards they could bring.
Below the text the authorship is established: Designed by W.
Hogarth, Published according to Act of Parliament. 1 Feb.. 1751 The
Act of Parliament referred to is the Engraving Copyright Act 1734.
Many of Hogarth's earlier works had been reproduced in great numbers
without his authority or any payment of royalties, and he was keen
to protect his artistic property, so had encouraged his friends in
Parliament to pass a law to protect the rights of engravers. Hogarth
had been so instrumental in pushing the Bill through Parliament that
on passing it became known as the "Hogarth Act".
Second stage of cruelty
Second stage of cruelty (Plate
In the second plate, the scene is Thavies Inn Gate (sometimes
ironically written as Thieves Inn Gate), one of the Inns of Chancery
which housed associations of lawyers in London. Tom Nero has grown
up and become a hackney coachman, and the recreational cruelty of
the schoolboy has turned into the professional cruelty of a man at
work. Tom's horse, worn out from years of mistreatment and
overloading, has collapsed, breaking its leg and upsetting the
carriage. Disregarding the animal's pain, Tom has beaten it so
furiously that he has put its eye out. In a satirical aside, Hogarth
shows four corpulent barristers struggling to climb out of the
carriage in a ludicrous state. They are probably caricatures of
eminent jurists, but Hogarth did not reveal the subjects' names, and
they have not been identified. Elsewhere in the scene, other acts of
cruelty against animals take place: a drover beats a lamb to death,
an ass is driven on by force despite being overloaded, and an
enraged bull tosses one of its tormentors. Some of these acts are
recounted in the moral accompanying the print:
The generous Steed in hoary Age,
Subdu'd by Labour lies;
And mourns a cruel Master's rage,
While Nature Strength denies.
The tender Lamb o'er drove and faint,
Amidst expiring Throws;
Bleats forth it's innocent complaint
And dies beneath the Blows.
Inhuman Wretch! say whence proceeds
This coward Cruelty?
What Int'rest springs from barb'rous deeds?
What Joy from Misery?
The cruelty has also advanced to include abuse of people. A dray
crushes a playing boy while the drayman sleeps, oblivious to the
boy's injury and the beer spilling from his barrels. Posters in the
background advertise a cockfight and a boxing match as further
evidence of the brutal entertainments favoured by the subjects of
the image. The boxing match is to take place at Broughton's
Amphitheatre, a notoriously tough venue established by the "father
of pugilism", Jack Broughton: a contemporary bill records that the
contestants would fight with their left leg strapped to the floor,
with the one with the fewest bleeding wounds being adjudged the
victor. One of the advertised participants in the boxing match is
James Field, who was hanged two weeks before the prints were issued
and features again in the final image of the series; the other
participant is George "the Barber" Taylor, who had been champion of
England but was defeated by Broughton and retired in 1750. On
Taylor's death in 1757, Hogarth produced a number of sketches of him
wrestling Death, probably for his tomb.
In an echo of the first plate, there is but one person who shows
concern for the welfare of the tormented horse. To the left of Nero,
and almost unseen, a man notes down Nero's hackney coach number to
Cruelty in perfection
Cruelty in perfection (Plate
By the time of the third plate, Tom Nero has progressed from the
mistreatment of animals to theft and murder. Having encouraged his
pregnant lover, Ann Gill, to rob and leave her mistress, he murders
the girl when she meets him. The murder is shown to be particularly
brutal: her neck, wrist, and index finger are almost severed. Her
trinket box and the goods she had stolen lie on the ground beside
her, and the index finger of her partially severed hand points to
the words "God's Revenge against Murder" written on a book that,
along with the Book of Common Prayer, has fallen from the box. A
woman searching Nero's pockets uncovers pistols, a number of pocket
watches—evidence of his having turned to highway robbery (as Tom
Idle did in Industry and Idleness ), and a letter from Ann Gill
My mistress has been the best of women to me, and my conscience
flies in my face as often as I think of wronging her; yet I am
resolved to venture body and soul to do as you would have me, so do
not fail to meet me as you said you would, for I will bring along
with me all the things I can lay my hands on. So no more at present;
but I remain yours till death.
The spelling is perfect and while this is perhaps unrealistic,
Hogarth deliberately avoids any chance of the scene becoming
comical. A discarded envelope is addressed "To Thos Nero at Pinne...".
Ronald Paulson sees a parallel between the lamb beaten to death in
the Second Stage and the defenceless girl murdered here. Below the
print, the text claims that Nero, if not repentant, is at least
stunned by his actions:
To lawless Love when once betray'd.
Soon Crime to Crime succeeds:
At length beguil'd to Theft, the Maid
By her Beguiler bleeds.
Yet learn, seducing Man! nor Night,
With all its sable Cloud,
can screen the guilty Deed from sight;
Foul Murder cries aloud.
The gaping Wounds and bloodstain'd steel,
Now shock his trembling Soul:
But Oh! what Pangs his Breast must feel,
When Death his Knell shall toll.
Various features in the print are meant to intensify the feelings of
dread: the murder takes place in a graveyard, said to be St Pancras
but suggested by John Ireland to resemble Marylebone; an owl and a
bat fly around the scene; the moon shines down on the crime; the
clock strikes one for the end of the witching hour. The composition
of the image may allude to Anthony van Dyck's The Arrest of Christ.
A lone Good Samaritan appears again: among the snarling faces of
Tom's accusers, a single face looks to the heavens in pity.
In the alternative image for this stage, produced as a woodcut by
Bell, Tom is shown with his hands free. There are also differences
in the wording of the letter and some items, like the lantern and
books, are larger and simpler while others, such as the man to the
left of Tom and the topiary bush, have been removed. The owl has
become a winged hourglass on the clock tower.
The reward of cruelty
The reward of cruelty (Plate IV)
Having been tried and found guilty of murder, Nero has now been
hanged and his body taken for the ignominious process of public
dissection. The year after the prints were issued, the Murder Act
1752 would ensure that the bodies of murderers could be delivered to
the surgeons so they could be "dissected and anatomised". It was
hoped this further punishment on the body and denial of burial would
act as a deterrent. At the time Hogarth made the engravings, this
right was not enshrined in law, but the surgeons still removed
bodies when they could.
A tattoo on his arm identifies Tom Nero, and the rope still around
his neck shows his method of execution. The dissectors, their hearts
hardened after years of working with cadavers, are shown to have as
much feeling for the body as Nero had for his victims; his eye is
put out just as his horse's was, and a dog feeds on his heart,
taking a poetic revenge for the torture inflicted on one of its kind
in the first plate. Nero's face appears contorted in agony and
although this depiction is not realistic, Hogarth meant it to
heighten the fear for the audience. Just as his murdered mistress's
finger pointed to Nero's destiny in Cruelty in Perfection, in this
print Nero's finger points to the boiled bones being prepared for
display, indicating his ultimate fate.
While the surgeons working on the body are observed by the
mortar-boarded academics in the front row, the physicians, who can
be identified by their wigs and canes, largely ignore the dissection
and consult among themselves. The president has been identified as
John Freke, president of the Royal College of Surgeons at the time.
Freke had been involved in the high-profile attempt to secure the
body of condemned rioter Bosavern Penlez for dissection in 1749.
Aside from the over-enthusiastic dissection of the body and the
boiling of the bones in situ, the image portrays the procedure as it
would have been carried out.
Two skeletons to the rear left and right of the print are labelled
as James Field, a well-known boxer who also featured on a poster in
the second plate, and Macleane, an infamous highwayman. Both men
were hanged shortly before the print was published (Macleane in 1750
and Field in 1751). The skeletons seemingly point to one another.
Field's name above the skeleton on the left may have been a last
minute substitution for "GENTL HARRY" referring to Henry Simms, also
known as Young Gentleman Harry. Simms was a robber who was executed
in 1747. The motif of the lone "good man" is carried through to this
final plate, where one of the academics points at the skeleton of
James Field, indicating the inevitable outcome for those who start
down the path of cruelty.
The composition of the scene is a pastiche of the frontispiece of
Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica, and it possibly also
borrows from Quack Physicians' Hall (c. 1730) by the Dutch artist
Egbert van Heemskerck, who had lived in England and whose work
Hogarth admired. An earlier source of inspiration may have been a
woodcut in the 1495 Fasciculo di medicina by Johannes de Ketham
which, although simpler, has many of the same elements, including
the seated president flanked by two windows.
Below the print are these final words:
Behold the Villain's dire disgrace!
Not Death itself can end.
He finds no peaceful Burial-Place,
His breathless Corse, no friend.
Torn from the Root, that wicked Tongue,
Which daily swore and curst!
Those Eyeballs from their Sockets wrung,
That glow'd with lawless Lust!
His Heart expos'd to prying Eyes,
To Pity has no claim;
But, dreadful! from his Bones shall rise,
His Monument of Shame.
Hogarth was pleased with the
results. European Magazine reported that he commented to a
bookseller from Cornhill (a Mr. Sewell):
... there is no part of my works of which I am so proud, and in
which I now feel so happy, as in the series of The Four Stages of
Cruelty because I believe the publication of theme has checked the
diabolical spirit of barbarity to the brute creation which, I am
sorry to say, was once so prevalent in this country.
—European Magazine, June 1801
In his unfinished Apology for Painters he commented further:
I had rather, if cruelty has been prevented by the four prints, be
the maker of them than the [Raphael] cartoons, unless I lived in a
Roman Catholic country.
In his 1817 book Shakespeare and His Times, Nathan Drake credits the
representation of "throwing at cocks" in the first plate for
changing public opinion about the practice, which was common at the
time, and prompting magistrates to take a harder line on offenders.
Others found the series less to their liking. Charles Lamb dismissed
the series as mere caricature, not worthy to be included alongside
Hogarth's other work, but rather something produced as the result of
a "wayward humour" outside of his normal habits. Art historian Allan
Cunningham also had strong feelings about the series:
I wish it had never been painted. There is indeed great skill in the
grouping, and profound knowledge of character; but the whole effect
is gross, brutal and revolting. A savage boy grows into a savage
man, and concludes a career of cruelty and outrage by an atrocious
murder, for which he is hanged and dissected.
The Anatomy Act 1832 ended the dissection of murderers, and most of
the animal tortures depicted were outlawed by the Cruelty to Animals
Act 1835, so by the 1850s The Four Stages of Cruelty had come to be
viewed as a somewhat historical series, though still one with the
power to shock, a power it retains for a modern audience.
Humours of an Election (1754-1755)
The Humours of an Election is a series
of four oil paintings and later engravings by William Hogarth that
illustrate the election of a member of parliament in Oxfordshire in
1754. The oil paintings were created in 1755.
The first three paintings, An Election Entertainment, Canvassing for
Votes and The Polling, demonstrate the corruption endemic in
parliamentary elections in the 18th century, before the Great Reform
Act. The last painting, Chairing the Member, shows the celebrations
of the victorious Tory candidates and their supporters.
At this time each constituency elected two MPs, and there was a
property qualification for voters, so only a minority of the male
population was enfranchised. There was no secret ballot, so bribery
and intimidation were rife.
The originals are held by Sir John Soane's Museum, London.
An Election Entertainment
Oil on canvas, 100 x 127 cm
Sir John Soane's Museum, London
The painting depicts a tavern
dinner organised by the Whig candidates, while the Tories protest
outside. The Tories are carrying an antisemitic caricature of a Jew,
a reference to recent legislation passed by the Whig government
which allowed greater freedom to Jews. A banner containing the words
"Give us our Eleven days", a protest against the adoption of the
Gregorian calendar, which was carried by the Tories, is on the
In the tavern the two Whig candidates are ingratiating themselves
with supporters. One candidate is kissing an ugly pregnant woman;
the other is listening to a drunken bore. At the other end of the
table the Mayor is collapsing from over indulgence in oysters, while
the Election Agent is knocked out by a brick thrown through the
window by the Tory mob. Other supporters throw furniture at the
The composition of the scene parodies traditional images of the Last
Supper and other Biblical feasts.
Canvassing for Votes
This scene depicts Tory and Whig
agents, both attempting to bribe an innkeeper to vote for them. The
crowd outside the tavern is visible in the background. In a
reference to the antisemitism of the crowd behind, a Jewish peddler
is being employed by another agent who is offering jewels and
ribbons to the wives of voters.
On the margins of the composition a soldier (left) and two old
sailors (right) represent uncorrupted patriotism. The soldier peeps
out from behind a now-impotently decorative figurehead depicting the
British lion devouring the French fleur-de-lis. A woman sits on it
looking at her bribes. The sailors on the right are re-enacting a
naval victory using pieces of broken clay pipe.
Voters are shown declaring their
support for the Whigs (orange) or Tories (blue). Agents from both
sides are using unscrupulous tactics to increase their votes or
challenge opposing voters. A Whig voter with a hook instead of his
amputated hand is being challenged because he is placing his hook,
rather than his hand, as legally prescribed, on the book.
Meanwhile, the Tories are bringing a mentally disabled man to vote.
A dying man is being carried in behind him. In the background a
woman in a carriage with a broken axle stands for Britannia. Her
coachmen are gambling, ignoring the fact that the carriage is
Chairing the Member
One of the victorious Tory candidates is being carried through the
streets on a chair in a traditional ceremony. He is about to tumble
down because one of his carriers has just been accidentally hit on
the head by a flail carried by a Tory-supporting rural labourer who
is attempting to fight off a Whig supporter (an old sailor with a
A group of frightened pigs run across the scene in a reference to
the story of the gadarene swine. The Whig leaders watch from a
nearby house. At the right two young chimney sweeps urinate on the
The Invasion, or France and England
The Invasion, or France and England. Pt. I - France.
The Invasion, or France and England. Pt. II - England.