William Hogarth - «The March to Finchley»
"The original Painting," Hogarth informs us, "was disposed of by Lottery (the only way a living Painter has any chance of being paid for his time) for £300. By the like means," he adds, "most of my former Pictures were sold."
The price of the Print was to be 6d.; and in the Subscription-book it was proposed, that each Subscriber of three additional shillings should be entitled to a chance of obtaining the original Picture, as soon as the Engraving could be finished. The number of chances was limited to two thousand; and on the 30th of April 1750, 1843 chances being sold, the remaining 157 were given by Mr. Hogarth to the Foundling Hospital. At two o'clock the box was opened; the fortunate chance was N°. 1941, which belonged to the Hospital; and the same night the Picture was delivered to the Governors. Soon after the Lottery, Mr. Hogarth acquainted the Treasurer that the Trustees were at liberty to dispose of the Picture by auction; but scarcely was the message delivered before he changed his mind, and never afterwards would consent to the measure he had proposed.
The Donations in Paintings which several Artists presented to the Foundling Hospital first led to the idea of those Exhibitions which are now so lucrative to the Royal Academy, and so entertaining to the Publick; and Hogarth must certainly be considered as prominent among the Benefactors.
The following complete Explanation of this Print was written by Hogarth's cordial friend, Saunders Welch, Esq.
"The Scene of this Representation is laid at Tottenham Court Turnpike; the King's Head, Adam and Eve, and the Turnpike-house, in full view; beyond which are discovered parties of the Guards, Baggage, &c. marching towards Highgate, and a beautiful distant prospect of the country; the sky finely painted. The Picture, considered together, affords a view of a military march, and the humours and disorders consequent thereupon.
"Near the centre of the Picture, the Painter has exhibited his principal figure, which is a handsome young Grenadier, in whose face is strongly depicted repentance mixed with pity and concern; the occasion of which is disclosed by two Females putting in their claim for his person, one of whom has hold of his right arm, and the other has seized his left. The figure upon his right hand, and perhaps placed there by the Painter by way of preference (as the object of love is more desirable than that of duty), is a fine young girl in her person, debauched, with child, and reduced to the miserable employ of selling ballads, and who, with a look full of love, tenderness, and distress, casts up her eyes upon her Undoer, and with tears descending down her cheeks, seems to say, 'Sure you cannot—will not leave me!' The person and deportment of this figure well justifies the Painter's turning the body of the youth towards her.
"The woman upon the left is a strong contrast to this girl; for rage and jealousy have thrown the human countenance into no amiable or desirable form. This is the wife of the youth, who, finding him engaged with such an ugly slut, assaults him with a violence natural to a woman whose person and beauty are neglected. To the fury of her countenance, and the dreadful weapon her tongue, another terror appears in her hand, equally formidable, which is a roll of papers, whereon is written, 'The Remembrancer;' a word of dire and triple import; for, while it shews the occupation the amiable bearer is engaged in, it reminds the youth of an unfortunate circumstance he would gladly forget: and the same word is also a cant expression, to signify the blow she is meditating. And here, I value myself upon hitting the true meaning, and entering into the spirit of the great Author of that celebrated Journal called 'The Remembrancer.'
"It is easily discernible that the two Females are of different parties. The Ballad of 'God save our noble King,' and a Print of 'the Duke of Cumberland,' in the basket of the girl, and the cross upon the back of the wife, with the implements of her occupation, sufficiently denote the Painter's intention: and, what is truly beautiful, these incidents are applicable to the March. The hard-favoured Serjeant directly behind, who enjoys the foregoing scene, is not only a good contrast to the youth, but also, with other helps, throws forward the principal figure.
"Upon the right of the Grenadier is a Drummer, who also has his two Remembrancers, a Woman and a Boy, the produce of their kinder hours; and who have laid their claim by a violent seizure upon his person. The figure of the woman is that of a complainant, who reminds him of her great applications, as well in sending him clean to guard, as other kind offices done, and his promises to make her an honest woman, which he, base and ungrateful, has forgot, and pays her affection with neglect. The craning of her neck shews her remonstrances to be of the shrill kind, in which she is aided by the howling of her boy. The Drummer, who has a mixture of fun and wickedness in his face, having heard as many reproaches as suit his present inclinations, with a bite of his lip, and a leering eye, applies to the instrument of noise in his profession, and endeavours to drown the united clamour, in which he is luckily aided by the ear-piercing fife near him.
"Between the figures before described, but more back in the Picture, appears the important but meagre phiz of a Frenchman, in close whisper with an Independent. The first I suppose a spy upon the motion of the Army; the other probably drawn into the crowd, in order to give intelligence to his brethren, at their next meeting, to commemorate their noble struggle in support of Independence. The Frenchman exhibits a letter, which he assures him contains positive intelligence that 10,000 of his countrymen are landed in England in support of Liberty and Independence. The joy with which his friend receives these glorious tidings causes him to forget the wounds upon his head, which he has unluckily received by a too free and premature declaration of his principles.
"There is a fine contrast in the smile of innocence in the child at the woman's back, compared with the grim joy of a gentleman by it; while the hard countenance of its mother gives a delicacy to the Grenadier's girl.
"Directly behind the Drummer's quondam spouse, a soldier is reclining against a shed; near which is posted a quack-bill of Dr. Rock; and directly over him a wench at a wicket is archly taking a view both of the Soldier and of the March.
"Behind the Drummer, under the sign of the Adam and Eve, are a group of figures; two of which are engaged in the fashionable art of bruising: their equal dexterity is shewn, by sewed-up peepers on one side, and a pate well sconced on the other. And here the Painter has shewn his impartiality to the merit of our Noble Youths (who, their minds being inflamed with a love of glory, appear, not only encouragers of this truly laudable science, but many of them are also great proficients in the art itself) by introducing a Youth of Quality, whose face is expressive of those boisterous passions necessary to form a Hero of this kind; and who, entering deep into the scene, endeavours to inspire the combatants with a noble contempt of bruises and broken bones. An old woman, moved by a foolish compassion, endeavours to force through the crowd, and part the fray, in which design she is stopped by a fellow, who prefers fun and mischief to humanity. Above their heads appears Jackey James, a Cobler, a little man of meagre frame, but full of spirits, who enjoys the combat, and with fists clenched, in imagination deals blow for blow with the Heroes. This figure is finely contrasted, by a heavy sluggish fellow just behind. The Painter, with a stroke of humour peculiar to himself, has exhibited a figure shrinking under the load of a heavy box upon his back, who, preferring curiosity to ease, is a spectator, and waits in this uneasy state the issue of the combat. Upon a board next the sign, where roots, flowers, &c. were said to be sold, the Painter has humourously altered the words Tottenham-Court Nursery; alluding to a bruising-booth then in that place, and the group of figures underneath.
"Passing through the Turnpike, appears a carriage laden with the implements of War, as drums, halberts, tent-poles, and hoop-petticoats. Upon the carriage are two old Women-campaigners, funking their pipes, and holding a conversation, as usual, in fire and smoke. These grotesque figures afford a fine contrast to a delicate Woman upon the same carriage, who is suckling a child. This excellent figure evidently proves that the Painter is as capable of succeeding in the graceful style as in the humourous. A little boy lies at the feet of this figure; and the Painter, to shew him of martial breed, has placed a small trumpet in his mouth.
"The serious group of the principal figures, in the centre, is finely relieved by a scene of humour on the left. Here an Officer has seized a Milk wench, and is rudely kissing her. While the Officer's ruffles suffer in this action, the girl pays her price, by an arch Soldier, who, in her absence of attention to her pails, is filling his hat with milk, and, by his waggish eye, seems also to partake in the kissing scene. A Chimney-sweeper's boy with glee puts in a request to the Soldier, to supply him with a cap-full when his own turn is served; while another Soldier points out the fun to a fellow selling pies, who, with an inimitable face of simple joy, neglects the care of his goods, which the Soldier dextrously removes with his other hand. In the figure of the Pie-man, the pencil has exceeded all power of description.
"The old Soldier, divested of one spatter-dash, and near losing the other, is knocked down by all-potent gin: upon calling for t'other cogue, his waggish comrade, supporting him with one hand, endeavours to pour water into his mouth with the other, which the experienced old one rejects with disdain, puts up his hand to his wife, who bears the arms and gin-bottle, and who, well acquainted with his taste, is filling a quartern. And here the Painter exhibits a sermon upon the excessive use of spirituous liquors, and the destructive consequences attending it: for the Soldier is not only rendered incapable of his duty, but (what is shocking to behold) a Child, with an emaciated countenance, extends its little arms with great earnestness, and wishes for that liquor of which it seems well acquainted with the taste. And here, not to dwell wholly upon the beauties of this Print, I must mention an absurdity discovered by a professed Connoisseur in Painting— 'Can there,' says he, 'be a greater absurdity than the introducing a couple of chickens so near a crowd—and not only so—but see—their direction is to go to objects it is natural for them to shun—is this knowledge of Nature?—Absurd to the last degree!'— And here, with an air of triumph, ended our judicious Critic. But how great was his surprize, when it was discovered to him, that the said chickens were in pursuit of the hen, which had made her escape into the pocket of a Sailor!
"Next the sign-post is an honest Tar, throwing up his hat, crying 'God bless King George V Before him is an image of drunken Loyalty; who, with his shirt out of his breeches, and bayonet in his hand, vows destruction on the heads of the Rebels. A fine figure of a speaking old Woman, with a basket upon her head, will upon view tell you what she sells. A humane Soldier, perceiving a fellow hard loaded with a barrel of gin upon his back, and stopped by the crowd, with a gimblet bores a hole in the head of the cask, and is kindly easing him of a part of his burthen. Near him is the figure of a Fine Gentleman in the Army. As I suppose the Painter designed him without character, I shall therefore only observe, that he is a very pretty fellow; and happily the contemplation of his own dear person guards him from the attempts of the wicked woman on his right hand. Upon the right of this Petit-maître, a licentious Soldier is rude with a Girl, who screams and wreaks her little vengeance upon his face, whilst his Comrade is removing off some linen that hangs in his way.
"You will pardon the invention of a new term—I shall include the whole King's Head in the word Cattery, the principal figure of which is the famous Mother Douglas, who, with pious eyes cast up to Heaven, prays for the Army's success, and the safe return of many of her Babes of Grace. An Officer offers a letter to one of this lady's children, who rejects it; possibly not liking the cause her spark is engaged in, or, what is more probable, his not having paid for her last favour. Above her, a charitable girl is throwing a shilling to a cripple, while another kindly administers a cordial to her companion, as a sure relief against reflection. The rest of the windows are full of the like cattle; and upon the house-top appear three cats, just emblems of the creatures below, but more harmless in their amorous encounter."
King George the Second was told that Hogarth had painted this Picture, and wished to have the honour of dedicating to his Majesty the Print engraved from it; and a Proof Print was accordingly presented for his approbation. The King probably expected to see an allegorical representation of an Army of Heroes, devoting their lives to the service of their Country and their Sovereign; but we may readily conceive his disappointment on viewing their delineation. "Does the Fellow mean to laugh at my Guards?" exclaimed the indignant Monarch to a Nobleman in waiting. —"The Picture, please your Majesty, must be considered as a Burlesque."— "What! a Painter burlesque a Soldier?— he deserves to be picketed for his insolence."—The Print was returned to the Artist; who, completely mortified at such a reception of what he properly considered to be his greatest Work, immediately altered the Inscription; inserting, instead of the King of England, "the King of Prusia [so spelt in the earliest impressions], an Encourager of the Arts."
Pour citer cette ressource :
"William Hogarth - «The March to Finchley»", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2013. Consulté le 29/09/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/arts/peinture/william-hogarth-the-march-to-finchley