The circumstance on which this severe satire against the irritable Bard of Twickenham was built, is thus described by Dr. Johnson:
"Mr. Pope published, in 1731, a Poem, called 'False Taste,' in which he very particularly and severely criticises the house, the furniture, the gardens, and the entertainments of Timon, a man of great wealth and little taste. By Timon, he was universally supposed, and by the Earl of Burlington, to whom the Poem is addressed, was privately said, to mean the Duke of Chandos; a man perhaps too much delighted with pomp and show, but of a temper kind and beneficent, and who had consequently the voice of the publick in his favour. A violent outcry was therefore raised against the ingratitude and treachery of Pope, who was said to have been indebted to the patronage of Chandos for a present of a thousand pounds, and who gained the opportunity of insulting him by the kindness of his invitation. The receipt of the thousand pounds Pope publicly denied; but from the reproach, which the attack on a character so amiable brought upon him, he tried all means of escaping. The name of Cleland was employed in an apology, by which no man was satisfied; and he was at last reduced to shelter his temerity behind dissimulation, and endeavoured to make that disbelieved which he never had confidence openly to deny. He wrote an exculpatory letter to the Duke, which was answered with great magnanimity, by a man who accepted his excuse, without believing his professions. He said "that to have ridiculed his taste or his buildings, had been an indifferent action in another man; but that in Pope, after the reciprocal kindness that had been exchanged between them, it had been less easily excused."—Johnson's Life of Pope.
Soon after the publication of the Poem alluded to, Hogarth made this design, which presents a view of Burlington gate. On the front, as a crooked compliment to the Noble Proprietor, he has inscribed the word Taste; and, as a standing proof of the Projector being entitled to the application, placed a statue of his grand favourite William Kent, triumphantly brandishing his palette and pencils on the summit, with two reclining figures, representing Raphael and Michael Angelo, for his supporters. Standing on a scaffold-board beneath them, Mr. Pope, in the character of a Plasterer, is white-washing the front, and whirling his brush with a spirit that produces a shower of liquid pearl, which dismays and defiles the passengers beneath : the principal of these, intended for the Duke of Chandos, holds his hat over his head, to shelter himself in his retreat. The torrent is not confined to his Grace's person, but lavishly scattered over his carriage and attendants, among whom is a Blackamoor in the way of being white-washed.
The Clergyman, probably intended for the Duke's Chaplain, is escaping round the carriage.
An old Military Character, who, as well as the Chaplain, has got out of the Poet's vortex, is rubbing off the stains which he had previously contracted.
Climbing a ladder reared against the scaffold, we have Lord Burlington, performing the office of a Labourer, arrayed in a tie-wig, with a pair of compasses suspended to the riband of his order, and carrying to his little active Work- man a hand-hawk, on which is a portion of what I am told the bricklayers call fine stuff, to mix up more whitening for beautifying: the front of his own gate, and defiling the garments of every passenger. This, it must be acknowledged, our poetical Plasterer performs with distinguished dexterity: he at the same time covers the corrosions in the front, dashes a plenteous shower on those who come near it, and so kicks the bottom of a pail which hangs to his short ladder, that a copious stream flows on the head of a gentleman beneath.—This double distribution of flattery and satire is amply exemplified in the "Epistle to Lord Burlington;" where the Poet, by contrasting the feeble and imperfect efforts of those he abuses with the superior and superlative genius of the Peer, elevates the powers of his own Patron, and sinks those of all his Competitors.
The Print from which this Plate is copied was originally prefixed to "A Miscellany on Taste, by Mr. Pope, &c.; viz. 1. Of Taste in Architecture, an Epistle to the Earl
of Burlington, with Notes Variorum, and a complete Key; 2. Of Mr. Pope's Taste in Divinity; viz. the Fall of Man, and the First Psalm, translated for the use of a Young Lady; 3. Of Mr. Pope's Taste of Shakspeare; 4. His Satire on Mr. P[ultene]y; 5. Mr. Congreve's fine Epistle on Retirement and Taste, addressed to Lord Cobham."
The Pamphlet soon became scarce, as the Publisher was immediately prosecuted, and the sale prohibited.
There are three Engravings from the same design. In the largest of these, Mr. Pope has a tie-wig on, and in the others a cap.