William Hogarth - «Industry and Idleness»
The moral tendency and excellent design of these Twelve Prints are so well known as to render it unnecessary to bestow on them additional praise. The mode, however, in which Hogarth committed his first thoughts on paper, before he exerted his pencil in the execution of his designs, is here extracted from his own manuscript: "Industry and Idleness exemplified in the conduct of two Fellow-prentices; where the one, by taking good courses, and pursuing those points for which he was put apprentice, becomes a valuable man, and an ornament to his country; whilst the other, giving way to idleness, naturally falls into poverty, and most commonly ends fatally, as is expressed in the last Print. As these Prints were intended more for use than ornament, they were done in a way that might bring them within the purchase of those whom they might most concern; and, lest any part should be mistaken, a description of each print is engraved thereon. Yet, notwithstanding the inaccuracy of the engraving, what was thought conducive and necessary for the purpose for which they were intended, such as action and expression, &c. are as carefully attended to, as the most delicate strokes of the graver would have given, sometimes more; for often expression, the first quality in pictures, suffers in this point, for fear the beauty of the stroke should be spoiled; while the rude and hasty touch, when the fancy is warm, gives a spirit not to be equalled by high finishing."
The title on each Plate, explanatory of its subject, is well illustrated by the appropriate texts of Scripture selected by Hogarth's worthy Friend, the Rev. Arnold King.
A set of these well-intentioned Prints, presented by Hogarth, forms a very proper ornament to the Office of the Chamberlain of London, the Guardian and the Judge of Apprentices in the Metropolis.
The following memoranda seem addressed by Hogarth to some one whom he intended to continue Rouquet's description: "These Twelve Prints were calculated for the instruction of young people, and every thing addressed to them is fully described in words as well as figures, yet to Foreigners a translation of the mottoes, the intention of the story, and some little description of each Print, may be necessary. To this may be added, a slight account of our customs, as boys being usually bound for seven years, &c.
Suppose the whole story was made into a kind of tale, describing in episode the nature of a night-cellar, a marrow- bone concert, a Lord Mayor's show, &c. These Prints I have found sell much more rapidly at Christmas than at any other season."
Industry and Idleness, PLATE I
In PLATE I, the two Heroes of this Graphic Drama are introduced to us at the looms of their Master, an opulent Silk Manufacturer in Spital-fields. Diligence and assiduity are depicted on the ingenuous countenance of the one, and over his head are placed those excellent old ballads of "Turn again, Whittington," and "The Valiant Apprentice." On the floor we perceive "The 'Prentice's Guide," supposed to be a customary present from a respectable Citizen to all his pupils, as the same title appears on a mutilated pamphlet at the feet of Thomas Idle, whose eyes are closed by the somniferous qualities of beer and tobacco; and the shuttle, dropping from his hand, becomes the plaything of a wanton kitten. The pipe and porter-pot seem to confirm this observation; and the ballad of Moll Flanders on the wall sufficiently points out his attachments and propensities: his countenance expresses an abject groveling mind, and negligence and sloth are strongly indicated by his filthy apparel. The Master, on entering the apartment, seems inclined to punish him for his drowsiness and indolence; but declines the unpleasant task, from a conviction that his habits are too strongly rooted to be eradicated by chastisement.
The trophy composed of halters, whips, and fetters, and that of the contrasted sword, mace, and golden chain, are characteristic decorations of the designs.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE II
In PLATE II, the industrious Youth is represented at Church, assisting in the performance of divine worship, and honoured with the company of his Master's Daughter in the same pew. His decent deportment and steady attention are highly commendable.
But the solemnity of a Church could not check Hogarth's propensity to the burlesque. Truly whimsical are the characters here exhibited. The fat grotesque female in the upper corner, the fellow near her, accompanying the organ with his deep-toned vocal powers, and the man beneath, "'tween sleeping and waking," joining in the sonorous chorus, afford a feast for risibility. The pew opener, and two old women, almost obscured in the shadow, exert themselves in solemn vociferations.
The two Clergymen, the Clerk, and many of the small figures in the gallery and beneath, are ludicrous; but they are on so reduced a scale as hardly to be perceptible to the naked eye. Allowance must be made, indeed, for this seeming defect, and the departure from the rules of perspective, as Hogarth found it necessary to exhibit a crowded congregation.
Between Miss West and her worthy Admirer a resemblance may be perceived. In their countenances the Artist has judiciously avoided giving much expression; a pleasing simplicity, which he has well preserved, is all that can be required—more would have been outré.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE III
In PLATE III, while the well-disposed Youth is performing his duty as a Christian, devoting the seventh day to the praise of his Creator, and gratefully returning thanks to him for the blessings he enjoys, his profligate Associate is stretched upon a grave-stone in the church-yard, and gambling with the refuse of mankind. Though of the same age and rank in society with his fellow 'prentice, and entitled to participate in the same honours and advantages, he eagerly engages in the game of hustle-cap with a group of wretches as unprincipled and disorderly as himself. To manifest his progress in iniquity, a Shoe-black detects him in the very act of cheating, by concealing some of the coin under the broad brim of his hat. This infamous behaviour is strongly resented by the fellow with a black patch over his eye, who, with oaths and execrations, demands justice and fair play.
So deeply were the parties engaged in this contest, and so loud in their debate, that the Beadle, whose duty brought him to chastise and disperse such incorrigible vagabonds, was not perceived, till Thomas Idle felt the stripes of his rattan. His three companions are of the very lowest order, one of them being the Shoe-black already mentioned. The inscription on the tomb, of HERE LIES THE BODY OF —may be well applied to the lazy Silk-weaver, who, in an attitude highly expressive of indolence, is now recumbent on it. The skulls on the ground, near the open grave, are characteristic. These, with the other mementos of mortality, are indiscriminately scattered upon the earth, and carelessly trampled on by these abandoned ragamuffins.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE IV
In PLATE IV, the irreproachable conduct of the good Youth is at length rewarded with the confidence of his Master. He now presides in the Counting-house, and has the sole management of the business: the day-book, purse, and keys, are committed to his care by Mr. West, who, as a token of his regard for him, leans familiarly on his shoulder, and, with a placid smile, displays a thorough approbation of his conduct. A speedy partnership is intimated, by a pair of gloves on the escrutoire; and the sedulous application of the Youth is figuratively expressed by the head-piece to a Lon- don Almanack, INDUSTRY TAKING TIME BY THE FORELOCK. The City Porter entering the warehouse with a bale of goods, has a fine Bardolphian countenance: his attendant mastiff is violently opposed by the domestic cat, who, considering this house as her own peculiar domain, endeavours to drive him from the premises. The general design of this piece is carried on by easy and natural gradations.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE V
PLATE V. Grown infamous by sloth and bad company, the idle 'Prentice became odious to Mr. West, who, nevertheless, occasioned him to be sent to sea; imagining that a separation from his associates, joined to the inevitable hardships of a maritime life, might in some degree reclaim him. We here behold him in a ship's boat, accompanied by his afflicted Mother, whose dress denotes her to be a Widow, who, perhaps, had once entertained the pleasing hope of his being: a comfort to her old age. The Waterman sarcastically points to a figure on a gibbet, declaring it to be an emblem of his future fate. A cat-o'-nine-tails, held up by a sailor, announces the rigid discipline on board a man of war. To show his talent at retort, Mr. Thomas Idle holds up two of his fingers in the form of horns, and desires his satirical antagonist to look at Cuckold's Point, which was at that moment in view. He has thrown his forfeited indentures into the Thames, and is so totally lost to reflection as to be callous to the distresses of his mother, the ridicule of his companions, or his own unhappy situation.
"Where shall we find," says Mr. Lamb, "a sublimer image of maternal love than in the aged woman in this Plate, who is clinging, with the fondness of hope not quite extinguished, to her brutal vice-hardened child, whom she is accompanying to the ship which is to bear him away from his native soil, of which he had been adjudged unworthy: in whose face every trace of the human countenance seems obliterated, and a brute beast's to be left instead, shocking and repulsive to all but her who watched over it in its cradle before it was so sadly altered, and feels it must belong to her whilst a pulse by the vindictive laws of his country shall be suffered to beat in it."—Lavater has introduced a copy of this Print in his "Physiognomy;" and exclaims, "Can perversion be more apparent than in the middle profile?"
Industry and Idleness PLATE VI
In PLATE VI, merit has met with its reward; the diligent and attentive Youth is now become a Partner with his Master, which is evident from their joint names appearing on the sign; and, further to promote his happiness, he receives his amiable Daughter from him in marriage. A view of the Monument, and not a very distant one, shews the residence of our Citizen to have been near that stately column.
To indicate opulence, plenty, and liberality, a Servant is distributing the remnants of the table, while the Bridegroom pays one of the Drummers for the usual thundering gratulations on a wedding-day. A Performer on the bass-viol, and a company of Butchers with a band of marrow-bones and cleavers, furnish additional noise for the delightful concert.
The Cripple in the corner, with the ballad of "Jesse, or the Happy Pair," represents a well-known Beggar, usually called Philip in the Tub, who had visited Ireland and the United Provinces, and was an attendant at weddings in the Metropolis, for which he generally received a small reward.
If some of the suggestions in this Print are trite, they must be acknowledged to be natural, and appropriate to the rank and situation of the parties.
In a few of the earliest impressions, "Goodchild and West," is written under the sign, instead of "West and Goodchild." Hogarth had inadvertently placed the name of the junior Partner first. Some mercantile friend, however, pointing out the mistake, when as yet only a few copies were taken off, our Artist corrected it.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE VII
In PLATE VII, the idle Apprentice is advancing with large strides towards his fate. We here behold him returned from sea, and in a miserable garret with a common prostitute. Displeased with the labour that was allotted to him, and weary of the punishments which his criminal acts so frequently drew upon him, he returned to London. The pistols, watches, trinkets, &c. scattered on and about the bed, are incontestible evidence that the source of his present subsistence is from robbery on the highway. Terror and horror are strongly depicted on his agitated countenance. Dreading the sufferings which are the natural consequences of heinous guilt, he has double-bolted his door, and barracadoed it with planks from the floor: but, in spite of these precautions, a visit from a cat, which accidently dropped down a ruinous chimney, throws him into unutterable alarms. The watches are at about a quarter after twelve, to denote the midnight hour. The depraved female companion of Thomas Idle, however, is not much affected with the accident that has happened, and gazes with delight at a glittering ear-ring. The broken jug, pipes, knife, plate, bottle, glass, and pistols, are naturally introduced; and the rat, which makes a precipitate retreat on the abrupt entrance of the cat, gives additional disgust to every spectator of this dreary and desolate apartment. The Lady's hoop is a good specimen of the preposterous fashion of that day.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE VIII
PLATE VIII. We have seen the progressive advances of Virtue and Vice, and their consequent rewards and punishments. Become respectable and opulent by industry and integrity, our young Merchant now appears in the character of a Sheriff of London, feasting with his Fellow-citizens.
The scene is laid in Fishmongers' Hall, which is decorated with the Portrait of William the Third, a Judge, and a full-length of that illustrious Hero, Sir William Walworth.
A group on the left side does honour to the talents of our Artist: they are admirably characteristic, and seem perfectly to enjoy a voluptuous meal. The Divine (who is said to represent Mr. Plotell, a French gentleman, and once Curate of Barnet) swallows his soup with as much gout as the Gentleman near him experiences in palating a glass of wine.
Famine appears written in the countenance of the poor creature in a black wig; and the sleek Citizen, with a napkin tucked in his button-hole, has evidently burnt his mouth by extreme eagerness and voracity.
The backs of those at the other table, who seem equally expert in the science of devouring, are most laughably in caricature.
The consequential Beadle, reading the direction of a Letter "to Francis Goodchild, Esq. Sheriff of London," is marked with all the insolence of office. This important figure is well contrasted by the humble simplicity of a lank-haired Culprit behind the bar. The Musicians are busily employed in their vocation in a gallery appropriated to the purpose.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE IX
PLATE IX.—The scene is in the cellar of a noted house, which went by the name of "The Blood-bowl House," from the various scenes of blood that were there almost daily exhibited, and where there seldom passed a month without the commission of a murder. Blood-bowl Alley, now called Hanging-sword Alley, is near Water Lane in Fleet Street, and I am assured that the house, and event which gave rise to the name, were there. In this horrid cavern of profligacy and guilt, the wretched object of our animadversion is dividing the booty, which a robbery had produced, with one of his accomplices. His favourite Female, in whose garret we saw him in the Seventh Plate, coolly and deliberately betrays him. The Officers of Justice are entering, and he is on the point of being seized. Without surprize or concern, a murdered Gentleman is let down into a cavity made in the floor, for the purpose of concealment.
A Grenadier is introduced in a corner of the Print; and a scene of riot and confusion is displayed on the back ground, in which the countenance of the noseless Woman and the furious Combatants are finely delineated.
The rope hanging immediately over a fellow who is asleep is not without its signification. The watches in the hat furnish a strong instance of Hogarth's peculiar accuracy; each of them is a little after ten. Cards scattered on the floor tend to heighten the scene, by shewing: that gambling is one of the pursuits of the assembly: the card which is torn seems to indicate the effects of rage or despair when fortune has proved unfavourable, or impositions are suspected.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE X
PLATE X.—The industrious 'Prentice being now an Alderman, and consequently a Magistrate, the idle one is brought before him, and accused of robbery and murder. Shocked at seeing the companion of his youth in so degrading a situation, he turns from the afflicting object, to conceal the emotions of his mind, the scene being almost insupportable. "This," says Mr. Walpole, "is a touching picture, and big with humane admonition and reflection."
Trembling, terrified, and torn by remorse, the wretched Culprit is scarcely able to support his tottering frame.
The sorrowful Mother earnestly solicits the important Constable to use his interest for her unhappy Son. He graciously condescends to hear her tale; but seems to reply, with all the stern severity of pretended virtue, "We who are in power must do justice!" Among the Watchmen who attend the examination, one holds up the sword and pistols which were found upon the Prisoner.
The Alderman's Clerk is making out a warrant of commitment, directed to the Turnkey of Newgate; and a young woman is bribing the Clerk to be a friend to the one-eyed wretch who had turned Evidence, by administering the usual oath with the left hand laid upon the book, instead of the right. This finished Villain was first introduced to us gambling on a grave-stone, and secondly in a night-cellar, dividing the evening's plunder with the man he now betrays.
Industry and Idleness, PLATE XI
PLATE XI. The career of our degraded character terminates at Tyburn. His pale and ghastly countenance proclaims the horror of his mind, which must, if possible, be aggravated by hearing the Grub-street Orator roaring out his "Dying Speech." The Ordinary, with the usual solemnity, leads the melancholy procession. An irregular dealer in Divinity, supposed by Mr. Southey to be intended for one of the Wesleys, undertakes the spiritual concerns of the Malefactor, and zealously exhorts him to repentance. To shew the contempt of Religion among the lower orders, an inhabitant of St. Giles's seizes a dog by the tail, and is in the act of throwing it at the Methodist Parson.
On the right side of the Print we see the afflicted Mother, wiping away her tears with her apron. Though her face is concealed, she is distinguished by her excess of sorrow, and by the black hood she has worn throughout the foregoing representation of her. She is prepared with a cart, to bring away the body of the Criminal.
A curious trio of Females appears in a cart above her; an old hypocritical Beldam (intended for the well-known Mother Douglas, who is also introduced in "The March to Finchley"), breathing a pious ejaculation, and at the same moment swallowing a large bumper of Geneva; a young woman taking a similar cordial from beneath; and a third dissuading a fellow from descending the vehicle.
While a Vender of Gingerbread (a man then very generally known by the name of Tiddy Doll) is expatiating on the excellence of his cakes, a minor Pickpocket purloins his handkerchief. A ferocious Female, enraged at a man overturning her orange-barrow, endeavours to tear his eyes out.
A Female Pugilist, near the centre of the Print, is so earnest in punishing a Fellow who has offended her, that she neglects her Child, which, falling on the ground, is in imminent danger of being crushed to death. Near her is suspended, by a tall Butcher, a Lawyer's perriwig on the end of his cudgel. The Fellow smoking, the Cripple, the Soldier sunk knee-deep into a bog, and the boys grinning at him, are well imagined. The Finisher of the Law, in a posture of perfect ease and tranquillity, enjoys his pipe of tobacco upon the fatal tree. A Carrier Pigeon is dispatched when the Malefactor arrives at Tyburn, the usual place of execution when this representation was delineated; the background exhibiting a view of Highgate and Hampstead Hills.
The Skeletons are emblematical; the bodies of Murderers being generally consigned to Surgeons' Hall. Many of the figures in this composition are admirably expressed, and the grouping is highly meritorious. To this Mr. Gilpin bears testimony:—"We seldom," says he, "see the crowd more beautifully managed than in this Print."
Industry and Idleness PLATE XII
PLATE XII. Turning from a subject the most horrible that can be imagined, the ignominious death of a Thief and Murderer, we behold a cheerful group joining in the procession of the Chief Magistrate of London. A prominent figure in the State-coach is Mr. Sword-bearer, in a cap of a singular fashion, still regularly used on public occasions. The scene is at the East side of St. Paul's Cathedral; and, in honour of the day, the Artist has introduced Frederick Prince of Wales and his Princess at a balcony in view of the Pageant. A group of Journeymen Butchers, with their usual instruments of music, appear to be active and noisy.
A parcel of truly comic characters appear on the scaffolding beneath; and the City Militia, which are below them, can hardly be viewed without laughter. Undisciplined, and composed of men of all ages and descriptions; fat, meagre, tall, short, straight, and crooked, are most whimsically and characteristically pourtrayed. A plank, supported by a tub and a stool, having given way, two Damsels are thrown down.
A blind man in the left-hand corner, convinced that he has but an indifferent chance in the crowd, endeavours to preserve his hat and wig from the depredating multitude.
The Bunhill Fields Trooper, leaning against a post, with one of the Bandoleers in his left hand, seems to have made a mistake. A youth on the scaffold above, without soliciting permission, seizes and kisses a girl with great eagerness and violence. The young lady warmly resents this indecorum, by endeavouring to leave marks of her talons upon his forehead. At the opposite corner, a Hawker proclaims, "A full, true, and particular account of the Ghost of Thomas Idle, which appeared to the Lord Mayor."
Persons of all ages and conditions appear at the windows, and on the tops of houses. Two flags beneath the balcony at the King's Head are blazoned with the Arms of the Stationers' Company; and that in the stand belongs to the Worshipful Company of Pinners and Needlers. The Cornu-copiae on the frame are emblematical of abundance.
The following observation of Mr. Granger is not inapplicable: "It would be amusing to trace the progress of a Lord Mayor, from the Loom, or a Fishmonger's stall, to the Chair of the Magistrate. To be informed with what difficulty he got the first hundred pounds; with how much less he made it a thousand; and with what ease he rounded his plum. Such are, in the eye of reason, respectable characters, and the more so as they rose with credit from humbler stations."
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"William Hogarth - «Industry and Idleness»", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2013. Consulté le 23/09/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/arts/peinture/william-hogarth-industry-and-idleness