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   Chapter 4 HOGARTH

Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century By Virginia Tatnall Peacock Characters: 18673

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

Before he took up residence at the Twickenham villa, Pope lived for some time with his father in one of the houses of Mawson's Buildings (now Mawson Row), Chiswick. So far it has been impossible to decide which of these five red-brick houses is the one that was theirs, for the only evidence of their tenancy consists of certain letters preserved at the British Museum, which are addressed to "Alexr. Pope, Esquire, Mawson's Buildings, in Chiswick," and on the backs of these are written portions of the original drafts of Pope's translation of the Iliad. James Ralph, the unfortunate poetaster whom Pope satirised in his Dunciad, was also a native of Chiswick, and lies buried in the parish churchyard. One other link Pope has with Chiswick-he wrote a rather poor epigram on Thomas Wood, who resided there, and who seems to have been connected with the Church, for according to the poet-

"Tom Wood of Chiswick, deep divine,

To painter Kent gave all his coin;

'Tis the first coin, I'm bold to say,

That ever churchman gave away."

This Kent, I take it, was the man of the same name who likewise lived at Chiswick in Pope's day, and was more notable as a landscape gardener than as a painter.


But, to say nothing of William Morris's more recent association with the district, the most interesting house in Chiswick is Hogarth's. It is a red-brick villa of the Queen Anne style, with a quaint, overhanging bay window, and stands in a large, walled garden, not far from the parish church. For many years this was Hogarth's summer residence-his "villakin," as he called it. His workshop, or studio, that used to be at the foot of the garden, has been demolished; otherwise the house remains very much as it was when he occupied it.

Hogarth was essentially a town man; he was almost, if not quite, as good a Londoner as Lamb. He was born in Bartholomew Close, West Smithfield, that storied place where Milton had lived before, and Washington Irving went to live after, him; and he spent nearly all his life in the neighbourhood of Leicester Square. He was rarely absent from London at all, and never for long; even when he was supposed to be passing his summers at his Chiswick villa, he made frequent excursions into town, and would put up for a few days at his house in Leicester Square-or Leicester Fields, as it then was.

In 1712 Hogarth went to serve a six years' apprenticeship to Ellis Gamble, a silver-plate engraver, in Cranbourne Alley (now Cranbourne Street), and, on the death of his father in 1718, he started business for himself as an engraver in what had been his father's house in Long Lane, West Smithfield, and later removed to the corner of Cranbourne Alley, leaving his mother with his two sisters, who had opened shop as mercers, at the old Long Lane address. He engraved for them a shop card, duly setting forth that "Mary and Ann Hogarth, from the old Frock Shop, the corner of the Long Wall, facing the Cloysters, Removed to ye King's Arms joining to ye Little Britain Gate, near Long Walk, Sells ye best and most Fashionable Ready Made Frocks, Sutes of Fustian, Ticken, and Holland, Stript Dimity and Flanel Waistcoats, blue and canvas Frocks, and bluecoat Boys' Drars., Likewise Fustians, Tickens, Hollands, white stript Dimitys, white and stript Flanels in ye piece, by Wholesale or Retale at Reasonable Rates."

Hogarth was very self-satisfied and rather illiterate; his spelling and his grammar-as in this shop-card-were continually going wrong. But he was kindly, good-hearted, high-minded, and had imagination and an original genius that could laugh at the nice, mechanical accomplishments of the schoolmaster. It was Nollekens, the sculptor, who said that he frequently saw Hogarth sauntering round Leicester Square, playing the nurse, "with his master's sickly child hanging its head over his shoulder." That was in the early days, when he was still serving his time to Gamble, and not even dreaming, I suppose, that he would one day own the big house at the south-east corner of the Square, would enjoy some of his highest triumphs and sharpest humiliations in it, and die in it at last, leaving behind him work that would give him a place among the very first of English painters.

Even before so fastidious a critic as Whistler had declared that Hogarth was "the greatest English artist who ever lived," Hazlitt had said much the same thing, and paid a glowing tribute to the vitality and dramatic life of his pictures; but perhaps no critic has written a finer, more incisive criticism on him than Lamb did in his essay on "The Genius and Character of Hogarth." Lamb had been familiar with two of Hogarth's series of prints-"The Harlot's Progress," and "The Rake's Progress"-since his boyhood; and though he was keenly alive to the humour of them, he denied that their chief appeal was to the risible faculties. It was their profound seriousness, their stern satire, the wonderful creative force that underlay them, that most impressed him. "I was pleased," he says, "with the reply of a gentleman who, being asked which book he most esteemed in his library, answered 'Shakespeare'; being asked which he esteemed next best, replied 'Hogarth.' His graphic representations are indeed books; they have the teeming, fruitful, suggestive meaning of words. Other pictures we look at; his prints we read." He protests against confounding "the painting of subjects in common or vulgar life with the being a vulgar artist. The quantity of thought which Hogarth crowds into every picture would alone unvulgarise every subject he might choose. Let us take the lowest of his subjects, the print called 'Gin Lane.' Here is plenty of poverty and low stuff to disgust upon a superficial view; and accordingly a cold spectator feels himself immediately disgusted and repelled. I have seen many turn away from it, not being able to bear it. The same persons would, perhaps, have looked with great complacency upon Poussin's celebrated picture of the 'Plague of Athens.' Disease and death and bewildering terror in Athenian garments are endurable, and come, as the delicate critics express it, within the 'limits of pleasurable sensation.' But the scenes of their own St. Giles's, delineated by their own countryman, are too shocking to think of.... We are for ever deceiving ourselves with names and theories. We call one man a great historical painter because he has taken for his subjects kings or great men, or transactions over which time has thrown a grandeur. We term another the painter of common life, and set him down in our minds for an artist of an inferior class, without reflecting whether the quantity of thought shown by the latter may not much more than level the distinction which their mere choice of subjects may seem to place between them; or whether, in fact, from that very common life a great artist may not extract as deep an interest as another man from that which we are pleased to call history." He found that, though many of the pictures had much in them that is ugly and repellent, "there is in most of them that sprinkling of the better nature which, like holy water, chases away and disperses the contagion of the bad. They have this in them besides, that they bring us acquainted with the everyday human face." And because of this, of their truth to contemporary life, and the vigorous realism of the stories they tell, he ranked the work of Hogarth not only high among that of the world's great painters, but with the best novels of such men as Smollett and Fielding.

According to a note in his fragmentary autobiography, Hogarth conceived an early admiration for the paintings of Sir James Thornhill, and, somewhere about 1727, he joined the painting school that Sir James established in the Piazza, at the corner of James Street, Covent Garden. And Sir James soon seems to have taken a particular interest in his pupil, and had him as a frequent visitor to his house at 75 Dean Street, Soho; and on March 23rd, 1729, he eloped with his teacher's daughter, and they were married at old Paddington Church. There are paintings and decorations still to be seen on the walls of the Dean Street house, in some of which Hogarth is believed to have had a hand.

After his marriage, Hogarth lived for a while at Lambeth; but it was not long before he was reconciled to his father-in-law. In 1730 he was engaged with Sir James Thornhill on their famous picture of "The House of Commons"; and a year later, when he was engraving his series of prints "The Harlot's Progress," he and his wife had apparently taken up quarters with Sir James in the Piazza.


"The Harlot's Progress," and the issue of "The Rake's Progress" shortly afterwards, lifted Hogarth into fame. He began to move in better society, and was to be met with at the fashionable as well as at the Bohemian clubs of the day. He and Thornhill founded the Arts Club at the Turk's Head, in Gerrard Street; and, after the latter's death, he took over Thornhill's art school, and transferred it to Peter's Court, St. Martin's Lane. Occasionally he visited Richardson, the novelist, in Salisbury Court; and it was here he first made the acquaintance of Dr. Johnson. He struck up a friendship with Garrick, too, and painted several po

rtraits of him, for one of which he received two hundred pounds; and with Fielding, of whom he has given us the only portrait we possess.

By 1733 Hogarth was prosperous enough to take the house in Leicester Square that was pulled down, in 1870, to furnish a site for the Archbishop Tenison School that has replaced it; and in 1749, "having sacrificed enough to his fame and fortune," he purchased the villa at Chiswick as a summer holiday home, and became a familiar figure about the Chiswick lanes from time to time-"a blue-eyed, intelligent little man, with a scar over his right eye, and wearing a fur cap." Allan Cunningham furnishes a more vivid description of his personal appearance in his Lives of the Painters, where he says he was "rather below the middle height; his eye was peculiarly bright and piercing; his look shrewd, sarcastic, and intelligent; the forehead high and round. He was active in person, bustling in manner, and fond of affecting a little state and importance. He was of a temper cheerful, joyous, and companionable, fond of mirth and good-fellowship." Benjamin West called him a strutting, consequential little man; and, one way and another, we know that he was sturdy, obstinate, pugnacious, and that once he thrashed a ruffian whom he found maltreating the beautiful drummeress that he sketched in his picture of Southwark Fair. Possibly that scar over his right eye was a record of this chivalrous deed.

There are very few records of his home life, and these are of the homeliest, most ordinary sort. He was fond of smoking, and the arm-chair, in which he was wont to sit with his pipe, is still preserved at Chiswick. He had a favourite dog, a pet cat, and a bullfinch, which he buried in his Chiswick garden, commemorating them with tablets that have now vanished from the wall, the bird's epitaph being "Alas, poor Dick!" and the dog's, "Life to the last enjoyed, here Pompey lies"-which parodies a line in the Candidate, by that dissipated, brilliant satirist, Charles Churchill: "Life to the last enjoyed, here Churchill lies."


The Candidate was published at the beginning of 1764, and on the 25th October of that year Hogarth died. Churchill had been a warm friend of his, but before the end had become one of his bitterest enemies-that enmity arising in this wise. In 1762 Hogarth published a political print called the Times, in which he supported the policy of Lord Bute, and ridiculed Pitt, Temple, and Wilkes. By way of retaliation, Wilkes wrote a scathing attack upon Hogarth in his paper, the North Briton, in which he made a sneering reference to Mrs. Hogarth. This stirred Hogarth to anger; and when Wilkes was presently arrested on a charge of high treason, he sat in court and sketched the prisoner, immortalising his villainous squint, and accentuating all the worst qualities in his features. On this print making its appearance, Churchill, a staunch friend and partisan of Wilkes, took up the cudgels, and scarified Hogarth without mercy in An Epistle to William Hogarth (1763), praising his art, but pouring contempt upon his envy and self-esteem, and affecting to believe that he was in his dotage. He can laud the genius, he says, but not the man.

"Freely let him wear

The wreath which Genius wove and planted there:

Foe as I am, should envy tear it down,

Myself would labour to replace the crown....

Hogarth unrivalled stands, and shall engage

Unrivalled praise to the most distant age."

But for the man-

"Hogarth, stand forth-I dare thee to be tried

In that great Court where Conscience must preside;

At that most solemn bar hold up thy hand;

Think before whom, on what account you stand;

Speak, but consider well;-from first to last

Review thy life, weigh every action past.

Canst thou remember from thy earliest youth,

And as thy God must judge thee, speak the truth,

A single instance where, self laid aside,

And Justice taking place of Fear and Pride,

Thou with an equal eye didst Genius view,

And give to Merit what was Merit's due?

Genius and Merit are a sure offence,

And thy soul sickens at the name of sense.

Is any one so foolish to succeed?

On Envy's altar he is doomed to bleed;

Hogarth, a guilty pleasure in his eyes,

The place of executioner supplies;

See how he gloats, enjoys the sacred feast,

And proves himself by cruelty a priest....

Oft have I known thee, Hogarth, weak and vain,

Thyself the idol of thy awkward strain,

Through the dull measure of a summer's day,

In phrase most vile, prate long, long hours away,

Whilst friends with friends all gaping sit, and gaze,

To hear a Hogarth babble Hogarth's praise....

With all the symptoms of assured decay,

With age and sickness pinched and worn away,

Pale quivering lips, lank cheeks, and faltering tongue,

The spirits out of tune, the nerves unstrung,

The body shrivelled up, the dim eyes sunk

Within their sockets deep, thy weak hams shrunk,

The body's weight unable to sustain,

The stream of life scarce trembling through the vein,

More than half killed by honest truths which fell,

Through thy own fault, from men who wished thee well-

Canst thou, e'en thus, thy thoughts to vengeance give

And, dead to all things else, to malice live?

Hence, dotard, to thy closet; shut thee in;

By deep repentance wash away thy sin;

From haunts of men to shame and sorrow fly,

And, on the verge of death, learn how to die!"

Hurt and deeply mortified, a month later Hogarth satirised Churchill's former connection with the Church and present loose living in a caricature which represented him as a bear wearing torn clerical bands, with ruffles on his paws, in one hand a pot of porter, and in the other a bundle of lies and copies of the North Briton. Garrick had heard that Churchill was making ready to issue that vitriolic satire of his, and hastened to beg him, "by the regard you profess to me, that you don't tilt at my friend Hogarth before you see me. He is a great and original genius. I love him as a man, and reverence him as an artist. I would not for all the politics and politicians in the universe that you two should have the least cause of ill-will to each other. I am sure you will not publish against him if you think twice." One could honour Garrick if it were for nothing else but that letter; but it was written in vain, and the exasperation and humiliation that Hogarth suffered under Churchill's lash are said to have hastened his death. He had been broken in health and ailing all through the summer of 1764, but took several plates down to his Chiswick villa with him for retouching, and-possibly with some foreboding of his own approaching dissolution-drew for a new volume of his prints a tailpiece depicting "the end of all things."


But he could not be satisfied to keep away from London, and on 25th October was conveyed from Chiswick to his house in Leicester Square, "very weak," says Nichols, "but remarkably cheerful, and, receiving an agreeable letter from Dr. Franklin" (Benjamin Franklin was, by the way, dwelling at this time in Bartholomew Close; he did not remove to 7 Craven Street, Strand, until three years later), "he drew up a rough draft of an answer to it; but, going to bed, was seized with a vomiting, upon which he rang the bell with such violence that he broke it, and expired about two hours afterwards in the arms of Mrs. Mary Lewis, who was called up on his being suddenly taken ill."

He was buried in Chiswick Churchyard; and in 1771 his friends erected a monument over him, the epitaph on which was written by Garrick:-

"Farewell, great Painter of Mankind,

Who reached the noblest point of Art,

Whose pictured morals charm the Mind,

And through the eye correct the Heart.

If Genius fire thee, Reader, stay;

If Nature touch thee, drop a tear;

If neither move thee, turn away,

For Hogarth's honoured dust lies here."

Garrick sent his verses to Dr. Johnson, who frankly criticised them, and offered him a revised version, the first lines of which were a distinct improvement:-

"The hand of Art here torpid lies

That traced the essential form of Grace;

Here Death has closed the curious eyes

That saw the manners in the face."...

Garrick preferred his own composition, slightly altered, as it now appears; but Johnson's was certainly the better effort of the two.

Mrs. Hogarth retained possession of the Leicester Square house until her death in 1789, but she resided principally at Chiswick. Sir Richard Phillips saw her there, when he was a boy, and had vivid recollections of her as a stately old lady, wheeled to the parish church on Sundays in a bath-chair, and sailing in up the nave with her raised head-dress, silk sacque, black calash, and crutched cane, accompanied by a relative (the Mary Lewis who was with Hogarth when he died), and preceded by her grey-haired man-servant, Samuel, who carried her prayer-books, and, after she was seated, shut the pew door on her.

From 1824 to 1826 the Hogarth villa was inhabited by the Rev. H. F. Cary, the translator of Dante, who was one of Charles Lamb's many friends, and wrote the feeble epitaph that is on his tomb at Edmonton.

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