William Hogarth - «Four Prints of an Election»
Plate I. An Election Entertainment
In this Plate Hogarth assured Dr. Morell that there is but one intended for a real Portrait; and that is the Irish Gentleman (Sir John Parnell, nephew to the Poet, and remarkable for a very fat nose), who is diverting the company by a face drawn with a burnt cork upon the back of his hand, while he is supposed to be singing "An old woman clothed in grey." This Gentleman (then an eminent Attorney) begged it as a favour, declaring, at the same time, he was so generally known, that the introduction of his face would be of service to our Artist in the sale of his Prints at Dublin. Notwithstanding Hogarth's assertion, however, the handsome Candidate is pronounced to be Thomas Potter, Esq. M. P. for Aylesbury; a Gentleman well known in the fashionable circles of his day. He was the youngest son of the Archbishop, who bequeathed to him an ample fortune.
The effigies seen through the window, with "No Jews" about its neck, is supposed to be meant for the Duke of Newcastle, who had exerted his influence in support of the Naturalization Bill. Another personage is noticed in a Pamphlet, intituled, " The Last Blow; or, an Unanswerable Vindication of the Society of Exeter College, in reply to the Vice-Chancellor Dr. King, 1755:" —"The next character to whose merits we would do justice, is the Rev. Dr. Cosseret; but, as it is very difficult to delineate him in colours sufficiently strong and lively, it is fortunate for us and the Doctor, that Hogarth has undertaken that task."
The inscription on the banner, "Give us our eleven days," alludes to the alteration of the Style in 1752; in which year, from the 2d to the 14th of September, eleven days were not reckoned, by Act of Parliament.
The accomplished Gentleman, who aspires to the honour of a seat in the British Senate, is politely lending an attentive ear to a disgusting old Beldam, who produces a letter, directed to Sir Commodity Taxem. The highly-polished Knight, stretching his long arm round her ample waist, shews her every polite attention. A little Girl, dazzled with the splendour of his brilliant ring, attempts to make it a prize; while a fellow standing upon a chair behind him, strikes the Knight's head against that of the old woman, with all that freedom which Election humour authorizes.
Another stroke of Election wit is exhibited in the adjoining group, consisting of a Cobler, a Barber, and a squeamish Gentleman. The Cobler grasps the hand of the Gentleman with a zeal that almost cracks his bones; and the Barber gives him a friendly pinch, and merrily blows the hot fumes from the short tobacco-pipe into his eyes. The group behind are, an Officer, a Drunken Counsellor, and a Pretty Woman.
The Barrister flourishing a bumper of wine over the Fair-one's head, emphatically roars out a silly toast.
At the table an Orthodox Divine sits, stowing his remnant of the haunch; stripped of his canonical periwig, and wiping the perspiration from his forehead. A Scotch Bagpiper behind him accompanies his harsh music with a hearty scratching. A Female Player on a violin, and a pompous performer on the bass viol, bear a part in the melodious concert. A fourth Musician, with his instrument under his arm, drinks with a gentleman, who seems to be diverted with his own resemblance to the Fiddler, in an enormous length of chin. Two Country Fellows enjoy the fun of seeing the representation of a face in a napkin, &c. and hearing the song. A fellow behind is emptying a vessel through the window upon a crowd of the opposite Party, who return the compliment by a shower of stones. We also behold the worshipful Mayor, who has crammed himself with oysters till he can no longer breathe; but, true to his cause, even in death, he grasps a fork, on which he has impaled an oyster. Behind him, an agent attempts to corrupt a Puritanic Tailor with a bribe, who rejects the glittering bait, though threatened with the displeasure of his terrific wife.
A Man of the Law, in the act of examining the votes, having received a blow, falls prostrate on the floor.
A Bludgeon-man has had a similar accident, and a Butcher, acting the part of a Surgeon, pours gin into the wound.
In the front, a Boy is filling a mashing-tub with punch; and Abel Squat, a dealer in ribbands, gloves, and stockings, has received a promissory note of fifty pounds, payable in six months, with which he seems much dissatisfied.
Entering at the door, we see a large band of assailants from the opposite Party, armed with cudgels, &c. and one of the heroes brandishing a sword. A party called Jacobites, have mangled the Portrait of King William.
The escutcheon, with the Electors' arms, A chevron Sable, between three guineas Or, with a crest of a gaping mouth, and the motto, Speak and Have, is pertinent and appropriate. On a flag, the words Liberty and Loyalty are inscribed. In the tobacco-tray we perceive a paper of Kirton's best, and a slip of paper torn from an Act against Bribery and Corruption. We may also descry a lobster creeping towards a mutton-chop, which lies unheeded in a corner. "Kirton's best" has its peculiar significance. This man was a Tobacconist in Fleet-street, and ruined his health and constitution, as well as impaired his circumstances, by being busy in the Oxfordshire Election of 1754.
In the second state of this Plate are a few variations. The perspective in the oval over the stag's horns is improved. A shadow on the wainscot, proceeding from a supposed window on the left side, is effaced. The hand of the Beldam kissing the young Candidate is removed from under her apron, and now dangles by her side. In the first impression also, the Butcher, who is pouring gin on the broken head of another man, has For our Country on his cockade; in the second we find Pro Patria in its stead.
Plate II. Canvassing for Votes
Two Country Inn-keepers, Agents for their respective Parties, are here dropping money into the hands of a rustic Freeholder, who, after taking all he can get from both, will perhaps conscientiously vote for the most liberal Paymaster. One of the Candidates is purchasing trinkets for two Ladies in the balcony to obtain their interest, as they are not capable of giving a vote. By the direction upon a Letter, delivered with a bended knee, we may rationally suppose this man to be a descendant of the ancient family of Party Tools. The Porter has brought a quantity of printed bills to be dispersed, intimating that Punch's Theatre is opened, and the company of the worthy Electors humbly requested, &c. Two hungry Countrymen in the Royal Oak are displaying their extraordinary talents in eating, one of them voraciously devouring a fowl, and the other, committing most unmerciful outrages on a round of beef. The Landlady of the Inn is importantly engaged in counting the money she has received for her interest in the Borough. She is seated on the stern of a ship, placed at the Inn-door, which represents the British Lion swallowing the Flower-de-luce, emblematical of the natural animosity between the two Nations. A Grenadier appears to have a longing desire to partake of the sport. A Barber and a Cobler are warmly engaged in a political dispute at the door of the Porto-Bello alehouse, and pointing out the particulars of Admiral Vernon's exploits, with pieces of broken tobacco pipes. A Fellow on a cross beam at the end of the Crown sign-post is endeavouring to cut through the beam with his hand-saw, not considering that, when the Crown drops, he must consequently fall upon the ground. To accelerate this business, two assistants exert their strength in pulling a rope which is tied round the beam. The Landlord, enraged at a wanton attack upon his castle by a crowd of assailants, opens his window, and discharges a blunderbuss upon them. Painted on the upper part of a show-cloth, before the sign of the Royal Oak (in which our once merry monarch is represented in a great tree, with a large black wig) is a view of the Treasury, out of which a stream of gold is poured into a bag, to defray the expence of the approaching Election. On this cloth the height of the Treasury is contrasted with the squat solidity of the Horse Guards, where the arch is so low that the State Coachman cannot pass through with his head on; and the turret on the top resembles a beer-barrel. Ware, the Architect, very gravely remarked upon this occasion, that the chief defect would have been sufficiently pointed out by making the Coachman only stoop. He was hurt by Hogarth's stroke of satire.
Beneath we perceive the facetious Mr. Punch, profusely throwing guineas to the populace who attempt to catch them in their hats. The old Woman with a magic wand is probably Mr. Punch's Wife. The inscription below is very applicable: "Punch, a candidate for Guzzledown."
The characters are finely discriminated.
Plate III. The Polling
We now behold both parties on the Hustings, displaying their own importance; and the lame, deaf, and blind, appear in crowds, to give their independent votes; the contending Candidates being seated at the back of the Booth. One of them, cooly resting upon his cane, seems certain of success; the other shows every mark of agitation, carefully scrutinizes the state of the Poll, and shudders at the expence of a contest. The first person who tenders his oath to the Clerk is an old Soldier, who has lost a leg, an arm, and a hand, in the service of his country. The Veteran laying his wooden stump upon the book, the Clerk bursts into an immoderate fit of laughter, which is not a little increased by two Counsellors disputing the legality of the oath, the Statute saying the "right hand" (not the stump) should be laid upon the book. A person who has the appearance of being a deaf Idiot presents himself at the Hustings. He is attended by a man in fetters, who instructs him on which side to vote. By the shackle on this man's leg, and the paper in his pocket with the title of "The Sixth Letter to the People of England," we know him to be Dr. Shebbeare, and that he came into disgrace for being the author of that Letter. The Doctor frequently said in a coffee-house, that he would have a pillory or a pension; and he was gratified with both — with the former by Lord Mansfield, and with the latter by Lord Bute. Behind him is another Freeholder brought almost dying from his bed. This is supposed to allude to an event which happened during the contested Election between Bosworth and Selwyn. "Why," says one of the Clerks, "you have brought us here a dead man!" "Dead!" cries the bringer, "dead as you suppose him, you shall soon hear him vote for Bosworth." On this a thump was given to the body, which being full of wind, emitted a sound that was immediately affirmed to be distinct, audible, and good vote for the Candidate already mentioned.
The circumstance, however, might have reference to the behaviour of Dr. Barrowby, who persuaded a dying patient he was so much better, that he might venture with him in his chariot to poll for Sir George Vandeput in Covent Garden. The unhappy voter took his Physician's advice, but expired after his return from the Hustings. —A Blind Man, and a Cripple, cautiously ascending the steps, conclude the series.
The Constable, fatigued by double duty, is taking a nap. Many of the multitude are hastening to a Female Warbler, chanting a libellous attack on one of the Candidates, who is represented suspended to a gibbet on the top of the ballad.
"If Hogarth," says Mr. Walpole, "had an emblematic thought, he expressed it with wit rather than by a symbol. Such is that of the Harlot setting fire to the World in 'The Rake's Progress.' Once indeed, in the Third Election Print, he condescended to use an allegorical personage, and was not happy in it. Britannia's Chariot breaks down, while the Coachman and Footman are playing cards on the top."
On a bridge, in the back ground, we discern a Carriage with colours flying, and a cavalcade of Freeholders, &c. advancing towards the Hustings. The Militia Bill, appearing out of the pocket of the maimed Voter, was added after the first impression.
This Print was engraved by Hogarth and Le Cade.
Plate IV. Chairing the Member
The successful Member is now exhibited in triumph. Seated in an arm chair, and exalted upon the shoulders of four lusty fellows, he is carried through the principal streets, which are crowded with his friends and enemies. A tumultuous procession of this kind is often productive of misfortunes. A Thrasher, in defence of his pigs, &c. flourishes his flail, and breaks the head of a Sailor; at which the exalted Senator is so much alarmed, that he trembles in every joint, fearing to be precipitated from the seat of honour to the bed of stone. Terrified at his perilous situation, a Lady of weak nerves, attended by her servants, in the church-yard, falls back in a swoon. Regardless of this circumstance, two little Chimney-sweepers on the gate-post are diverting themselves, by placing a pair of gingerbread spectacles on a Death's head. The Monkey riding on the Bear, with a cockade in his hat, has a carbine by his side, which goes off accidentally, and kills the little Sweep upon the wall. Such an event actually happened. During the Oxfordshire Election in 1754, an outrageous mob in the Old Interest had surrounded a post-chaise, and was on the point of throwing it into the river, when Captain T—, within-side, shot a Chimney-sweeper who was most active in the assault.
The venerable Musician enjoys his own music, and his resolution to espouse neutrality, not knowing which of the Parties is the best entitled to his suffrage.
A Soldier is regaling himself with a cheek-full of best Virginia, and preparing to equip himself for a pugilistic duel.
Three Cooks, of different denominations, are carrying three covers for the Lawyer's table; and two Fellows are pushing through the crowd with a barrel of home-brewed ale.
A procession of Electors enriches the scene; and in Mr. Attorney's first floor is a group of the defeated Party, enjoying in perfect security the bustle and confusion below. The old Duke of Newcastle, who was remarkably active upon these occasions, appears at a window. A poor old Lady is overset by a sow and her litter of pigs. A Tailor, in the back ground, is receiving the discipline of his Wife, for having deserted his shop-board to look at the Gentlemen.
Le Brun, in his Battle of the Granicus, has represented an Eagle hovering over the laureled helmet of Alexander.
The thought is here very happily parodied in a Goose flying immediately over the tie-wig of our triumphant Candidate.
The ruined house, adjoining to the Attorney's, very significantly alludes to the danger of having such a neighbour. It was, however, destroyed by a riotous mob, because it belonged to one of the opposite Party.
All the incidents in this Plate are naturally and yet skilfully combined; they abound in humour, and are highly characteristic. The motto on the Sun-dial, we must, is meant as a pun, though somewhat overstrained; and the Dial (die all) hieroglyphically imports we must die all.
The First Plate was published in 1755; the Fourth not till 1758. The original Pictures are still in the possession of Mrs Garrick at Hampton.
Pour citer cette ressource :
"William Hogarth - «Four Prints of an Election»", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), juin 2013. Consulté le 07/12/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/arts/peinture/william-hogarth-four-prints-of-an-election