"After the March to Finchley," says Hogarth, "the next Print that I engraved was 'The Roast Beef of Old England,' which took its rise from a visit I paid to France the preceding year. The first time an Englishman goes from Dover to Calais, he must be struck with the different face of things at so little a distance. A farcical pomp of War, pompous parade of Religion, and much bustle with very little business. To sum up all, poverty, slavery, and innate insolence, covered with an affectation of politeness, give you even here a true picture of the manners of the whole Nation. Nor are the Priests less opposite to those of Dover than the two shores. The Friars are dirty, sleek, and solemn; the Soldiery are lean, ragged, and tawdry; and as to the Fish-women, they are absolute leather. As I was sauntering about, and observing them, near the Gate, which it seems was built by the English when the place was in our possession, I remarked some appearances of the Arms of England on the front. By this and idle curiosity I was prompted to make a sketch of it; which being observed, I was taken into custody: but, not attempting to cancel any of my sketches or memorandums, which were found to be merely those of a Painter for his private use, without any relation to Fortification, it was not thought necessary to send me back to Paris. I was only closely confined to my own lodgings till the wind changed for England; where I no sooner arrived, than I sat about the Picture; made the Gate my back-ground, and in one corner introduced my own Portrait, which has generally been thought a correct likeness, with the Soldiers hand upon my shoulder. By the fat Friar, who stops the lean Cook that is sinking under the weight of a vast sirloin of beef, and two of the Military bearing off a great kettle of soup maigre, I meant to display to my own Countrymen the striking difference between the Food, Priests, Soldiers, &c. of two Nations, so contiguous that in a clear day one coast may be seen from the other. The melancholy and miserable Highlander, browzing on his scanty fare, consisting of a bit of bread and an onion, is intended for one of the many that fled from their countryafter the Rebellion in 1745."
Mr. Pine, the Engraver, sat for the Portrait of the Friar, a circumstance of which he afterwards repented; for, thereby obtaining the nick-name of Friar Pine, and being much persecuted and laughed at, he strove to prevail on Hogarth to give his Ghostly Father another face. Indeed, when he sat to our Artist, he did not know to what purpose his similitude would afterwards be applied.
The half-starved French Centinel is so situated, as to give some idea of a figure hanging in chains; his ragged shirt is trimmed with a pair of paper ruffles, on which is written Grand Monarch. The old Woman and a Fish which she is pointing at have a striking resemblance. The abundanceof vegetables indicate the leading articles of a Lenten feast.
Part of the Print was engraved by C. Mosley, but the Heads are evidently by Hogarth. It was soon copied at the top of "The Roast Beef of Old England," the production of Mr. Forest, and published under the sanction of our Artist; and the figure of the Centinel has since ornamented the printed advertisements for Recruits, where it is opposed to the representation of a rich-fed British Soldier. Thus the genius of Hogarth still militates in the cause of his Country. The original Picture was in the possession of the late Earl of Charlemont. Soon after it was finished, it fell down by accident, and a nail ran through the Cross at the top of the Gate. Hogarth strove in vain to mend it with the same colour, so as to conceal the blemish. He therefore intr duced a starved crow looking down on the roast beef, and thus completely covered the defect. "In this Piece," Mr. Walpole says, "though it has great merit, the Caricature is carried to excess."