This Print exhibits a View of the Court of Common Pleas in 1758, the Kings Arms at top; and Portraits of the four Sages who then sat on that Bench (a term peculiarly appropriated to the Court of Common Pleas). Lord Chief Justice Sir John Willes is the principal figure; on his right hand is Sir Edward Clive, and on the left Mr. Justice Bathurst and the honourable William Noel. Over the Print is written "Character;" under it, "Of the different meaning of the words, Character, Caracatura, and Outré, in Painting and Drawing." This is followed by the long explanatory inscription engraved on another piece of copper.
In the first state this Print gave Character only; for, though the robes of the Lord Chief Justice may have a shade of the outré, they in no degree approach to that Caricature, which the unfinished group, afterwards added to the Plate, was intended to display. In its present state, as altered by Hogarth in 1764, the word "Character" is effaced, the King's Arms discarded, its place supplied by eight caricatured heads ; and the following inscription is inserted:
"The unfinished group of Heads in the upper part of this Print, was added by the Author in October 1764, and was intended as a farther illustration of what is here said concerning Character, Caricatura, and Outré. He worked upon it the day before his death, which happened the 26th of that month."
Mr. John Ireland observes, "that the system which Hogarth laboured to establish in the above inscription, and which seems to be the genuine system, he has not illustrated with his usual felicity in the Print to which it is annexed."
The two Paintings, from which each of these Prints considerably varies, were originally the property of Sir George Hay, and afterwards came into the possession of Mr. Edwards.