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William Hogarth - The Cockpit


The Cockpit (HD download)

The scene of this Print is Newmarket; and the first object of attention in the assembly is Lord Albemarle Bertie. Full of cash, he is beset by a number of Sharpers; and so intently is he engaged in betting with them, as to afford an opportunity to one of the gang, of purloining a bank note. Two ragged associates fruitlessly attempt to inform his Lordship of the depredation. Near him, on the right of the Plate, a man is registering the bets. Next to him is another with a bag, containing a favourite cock for a bye-battle, and by his side is a third, pointing to a piece of money, and vociferously betting. On the left of the Plate a curious group appears, among whom we see a Nobleman in imminent danger of suffocation from the individuals falling upon him; a luckless wight, unable to support this solid pressure, has tumbled backward with his head against the Pit, into which his wig is falling. Above, without the Pit, is a Frenchman, exclaiming with disgust against this savage sport; and inadvertently dropping some snuff into the eyes of a man below him, who is sneezing and swearing most furiously. This figure is sketched with admirable spirit; we can almost hear him sneeze. Behind the blind Peer, a Fellow is smoking his pipe with the utmost unconcern. In the middle of the Pit is the shadow of a man suspended from the cieling in a basket, and which Hogarth has introduced here for want of room. By one of the Cockpit laws, this punishment awaits every one who bets more money than he is able to pay. On this side of the Pit are several persons, chiefly Postillions, all eagerly intent on betting. One of this group in the left (apparently a Barber) is furiously menacing with his stick a loser unable to pay: and another is ruefully contemplating his almost empty purse; while a Fellow on his left, with a hooked stick, is endeavouring  to draw it from him.

The decorations of this apartment are the Kings Arms, and a Portrait of the notorious Nan Rawlins, a very ugly old Woman (commonly called Deptford Nan, sometimes the Duchess of Deptford), and well remembered at Newmarket. She was a famous Cock-feeder, and did the honours of the Gentlemen's Ordinary at Northampton, while, in return, a single Gentleman was deputed to preside at the table appropriated to the Ladies. The figure with a hump-back was designed for one Jackson, who at that period was a noted Jockey at Newmarket.

Had Hogarth been acquainted with a circumstance mentioned by Mr. Tyers in his "Rhapsody," our British Horace would very probably have had a place in this group. Tyers tells us, that "Pope, while living with his father at Chiswick, before he went to Binfield, took great delight in Cock-fighting and laid out all his school-boy money, and little perhaps it was, in buying Fighting-cocks. From this passion, but surely not the play of a child, his mother had the dexterity to wean him." Admitting the fact, it does not tell in favour of that delicate and tender humanity which this elegant Poet so much affected.

In the margin, at the foot of the Plate, is a small oval, comprising a Fighting-cock, on which was inscribed, "Royal Sports," and beneath was written, "Pit Ticket."

 

 
 
Mise à jour le 27 juin 2014
Créé le 17 juin 2013
ISSN 2107-7029
DGESCO Clé des Langues