This satirical performance of Hogarth, which is commonly called "The small Masquerade Ticket," is supposed to have been invented and drawn at the instigation of Sir James Thornhill, out of revenge, because Lord Burlington had preferred Mr. Kent before him to paint for King George the Second at his palace at Kensington; and the leader of the figures hurrying to a masquerade, crowned with a cap and bells, and a garter round his right leg, has been said to be intended for that Monarch, who was very partial to those nocturnal amusements, and bestowed a thousand pounds towards their support. The purse with the label £1000, which the Satyr holds immediately before him, gives some probability to the supposition.
The kneeling figure on the show-cloth, pouring gold at the feet of Cuzzoni, the Italian singer (who is drawing the money towards her with a rake) represents the Earl of Peterborough, and on the label is written, "Pray accept £8000." Mr. Heidegger, the regulator of the Masquerade, is also exhibited at a window, with the letter H under him.
Of the three figures in the centre of the Plate, the middle one is Lord Burlington, a Nobleman of considerable taste in Painting and Architecture. On one side of him is Mr. Campbell the Architect; on the other, some Artist now unknown.
On a board is a display of the words "Long Room. Fawks's dexterity of hand." On the opposite corner is the figure of Harlequin pointing to a label, on which is written, "Dr. Faustus is here." This was a pantomime performed to crowded houses throughout two seasons.
In this Print all the figures have a strong resemblance to those of Callot; and the follies of the town are very severely satirized, by the representation of multitudes, properly habited, crowding to the masquerade, opera, and pantomime; whilst the works of our greatest dramatic writers are trundled through the streets in a wheel-barrow, and cried as waste paper for shops; among these may be distinguished Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, Dryden, Congreve, Otway, Farquhar, and Addison. In the first copy of this print, instead of Ben Jonson's name on a label, we have Pasquin, N° XI. This was a periodical paper, published in 1722-3; and the number specified is particularly severe on operas, &c.
As a further illustration of the taste of the times, the Artist has given a view of Burlington Gate, with a figure, I believe, intended to represent the then fashionable Artist William Kent, on the summit, brandishing his palette and pencils, and placed in a more elevated situation than either Michael Angelo or Raphael, who, seated beneath, become the two supporters to this favourite of Lord Burlington.
Some verses (and those not always the same) engraved on a separate piece of copper, are found under the first impressions: For example, under the earliest impression of 1724:
"Could now dumb Faustus, to reform the age,
Conjure up Shakspeare's, or Ben Jonson's ghost,
They'd blush for shame, to see the English Stage
Debauch'd by fool'ries, at so great a cost.
What would their manes say? should they behold
Monsters and masquerades, where useful plays
Adorn'd the fruitful theatre of old,
And rival wits contended for the bays."
Under another impression:
"Long has the Stage productive been
Of offsprings it could brag on,
But never till this age was seen
A Windmill and a Dragon.
O Congreve, lay thy pen aside,
Shakspeare, thy works disown,
Since monsters grim, and nought beside,
Can please this senseless Town."
I have been the more particular in describing this Plate, as it appears to have been the first which Hogarth published on his own account, and respecting which he pathetically says, "I had to encounter a monopoly of Printsellers, equally mean, and destructive to the ingenious; for the first Plate I published, called "The Taste of the Town," in which the reigning follies were lashed, had no sooner begun to take a run, than I found copies of it in the Print-shops vending at half price, while the original Prints were returned to me again; and I was thus obliged to sell the Plate for whatever these Pirates pleased to give me, as there was no place of sale but their shops. Owing to this and other circumstances, by engraving, until I was near thirty, I could do little more than maintain myself; but even then, I was a punctual paymaster."