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THE TOMB OF WILLIAM HOGARTH.
OGARTH, the great painter-teacher of his age and country, was born in the parish of St. Bartholomew the Great, in London, on the 10th of November, 1697,* and his trusty and sympathising biographer, Allan Cunningham, says, “We have the authority of his own manuscripts for believing he was baptised on the 28th of the same month ; ' but the parish registers have been examined for confirma
tion with fruitless solicitude.' Cunningham gives December as the month of his birth ; this is a mistake ; so also is his notice of the painter's introduction of the Virago into his picture of the Modern Midnight Conversation.' No female figure appears in this subject. It is in the third plate of the · Rake's Progress' the woman alluded to is introduced. A small critic might here find a fit subject for vituperation, and loudly condemn Cunningham as a writer who was too idle to examine the works he was describing ; pouncing on his minute errors, and forgetting the totality of his generous labours. Much of this spirit infests literature ; and merges the kindly exposition of error into the bitterness of personal attack. The
* His parents resided at the time of his birth in Ship Court, in the Old Bailey, where his father had kept a school, and obtained some slight literary employment. The locality at that time, as at present, had no refinement to boast of; but it must have brought young William early into contact with the hard-featured natures' he afterwards so ably delineated,-laying bare many of the coarser realities of life to the keen gaze of a shrewd boy.
fallibility of human nature should teach us charity, and our own faults lead us to more gently scan our brother man, -a thing too often unthought of by those who are nothing if not critical, and as frequently nothing when they are. The painter was descended from a Westmoreland family. Sprung from an industrious race of self-helping yeomen, whose hardy toil brought them health and contentment, Hogarth had an early advantage, derived from his father's love of letters, which eventually drew him away from field and wood to the great London mart. Like thousands of others, he was unsuccessful. Fortunately, in this instance, his want of success in literature stimulated the strong mind of his son to seek occupation of more certain profit ; and those who feel interest in the whereabouts of celebrated men, may think upon the days when William Hogarth wrought in silver, * as the apprentice of Ellis Gamble, in Cranbourne Street, and speculate upon the change of circumstances, wrought by his own exertions, when, as a great painter, in after time, he occupied the house, now known as the Sablonière Hotel, in Leicester Square.t
Hogarth's character of mind, evidenced in his works and proved by his biography, is so perfectly honest, open, home-bred English, that we claim him with pride—as belonging exclusively to England. His originality is of English growth ; his satire broad, bold, fair-play English. He was no screened assassin of character, either with pen or pencil ; no journalist's hack to stab in secret-concealing his name, or assuming a forged one ; no masked caricaturist, responsible to none. His philosophy was of the straightforward,
* After Hogarth’s fame had been fully established, and his death had attracted the attention of collectors to the many efforts of his graver, great industry was shown in obtaining worthless mementos of his early years when employed in the drudgery of eugraving on salvers and silver mugs. Several have since been copied in fac-simile, and may be seen in the works of Ireland and others. Although there is little to admire in them, there is always a rough vigour and boldness of treatment which, however coarse, redeems them from common-place prettiness, the staple commodity of such works in general. The arms of the Duchess of Kendal, engraved by Hogarth on a silver salver, is perhaps one of the best of the artist's early works.
+ This house, in which Hogarth lived many years, in which he died, and where his wife continued to vend his engravings afterwards, bore at that time the sign of The Golden Head.' It is scarcely necessary to remark that it has undergone changes to fit it to the necessities of a modern hotel. Its present aspect is as new as if it had not numbered twenty years since its erection.
clear-sighted English school ; his theories—stern, simple, and unadornedthoroughly English ; his determination-proved in his love, as well as in his hate-quite English ; there is a firmness of purpose, a rough dignity, a John-Bull look in his broad intelligent face ; the very fur round his cap must
; have been plain English rabbit-skin! No matter what schools' were in fashion, Hogarth created and followed his own : no matter what was done, or said, or written, Hogarth maintained his opinion unflinchingly: he was not to be moved or removed from his resolve. His mind was vigorous and inflexible, and withal keen and acute ; and though the delicacy of his taste in this more refined age may be matter of question, there can be no doubt as to his integrity and uprightness of purpose—in his determination to denounce Vice, and by that means cherish Virtue.
Professor Leslie, in his eloquent and valuable Lectures on Painting, delivered for the instruction and improvement of the students of the Royal Academy, has nobly vindicated Hogarth as an artist and a man, in words, that all who heard will long remember. “Hogarth,' he said, “it is true, is often gross; but it must be remembered that he painted in a less fastidious age than ours, and that his great object was to expose vice. Debauchery is always made by him detestable, never attractive. Charles Lamb, one of the best of his commentators, who has viewed his labours in a kindred spirit, speaking of one of his most elaborate and varied works, the Election Entertainment,' asks : What is the result left on the mind? Is it an impression of the vileness and worthlessness of our species? Or is not the general feeling which remains after the individual faces have ceased to act sensibly on the mind, a kindly one in favour of the species?' Leslie speaks of his . high species of humour pregnant with moral meanings, ' and no happier choice of phrase could characterise his many works. Lamb, with true discrimination says: • All laughter is not of a dangerous or soulhardening tendency. There is the petrifying sneer of a demon, which excludes and kills love, and there is the cordial laughter of a man, which implies and cherishes it.' Hogarth's works are before us all ; and are lessons as much for to-day as
; they were for yesterday. We have no intention of scrutinising their merits or defects ; we write only of the influence of a class of Art such as he brought courageously before the English public. Every one is acquainted with the
• Rake's Progress,' and can recal subject after subject, story after story, which he illustrated. Comparatively few can judge of him as a painter, * but all can comprehend his moral essays-brave as true!
His fearlessness and earnestness are above all price ; independent, in
* If Hogarth be judged simply as a British artist taking up a thoroughly original line of Art, and, to use his own words, turning his thoughts to painting and engraving subjects of a modern kind and moral nature—a field not broken up in any country or age,' pursuing his course with little artistic education, but with a high determination and a powerful mind, which achieved for him a place in art self-created, and held by him to the present hour amid many rivals but no conqueror; we can scarcely fail to look on him in his power and perfect originality, as one of our greatest creative geniuses—and, nationally speaking, our greatest English painter; for to no school or class of art did he belong, who owned Nature only as his mistress, and each change of many-coloured life he drew' as his only fount of inspiration. Untrammelled by any conventionalities; with a mind unfettered by desires to walk in any prescribed school of art, or follow in the wake of any great name, the strength of his genius led him triumphantly in a path of originality and power, and fixed him almost alone in his glory. As a painter of life in all its phases, he is unrivalled ; "his graphic representations are indeed books : they have the teeming, fruitful, suggestive meaning of words. Other pictures we look at—his prints we read. Such is the testimony of Lamb; but it may be objected, he was a literary man, not an artist. The testimony of Leslie, than whom a more fitting judge could scarcely be found, is given as strongly in the lectures we have already alluded to. Speaking of invention and expression, he declares Hogarth 'a master, who in these, is wholly unequalled, excepting by Raffaelle alone. Nor is the transition from the art of the one to that of the other so sudden as it may at first sight appear. They were both preeminently the painters of mankind ; though the range of subject they took, and the peculiar patronage of Raffaelle, and the no-patronage of Hogarth, made a wide separation between them. Raffaelle has given us an endless variety of images of all that is most dignified,
and most graceful in our nature, yet never at the expense of probability ; while Hogarth, the boldest satirist that ever held a pencil, has illustrated virtue by the exposure of vice. Yet there is a common ground on which they meet—the larger field of negative character.' The ability with which he could redeem the commonest incidents, has been shown by Lamb in his analysation of the lowest of his subjects, the print called “ Gin Lane,”' of which he truly observes, that had his figures been clothed “in Athenian garments,” his picture might rival the greatest'; many of the figures being as terrible as any Michael Angelo ever drew. Yet he adds, his sense of beauty never seems to have deserted him; and he frequently introduced children in his scenes, which have a singular effect in giving tranquillity, and a portion of their own innocence to the subject. The baby riding in its mother's lap, in the “ March to Finchley,” its careless innocent face placed directly behind the intriguing timefurrowed countenance of the treason-plotting French priest, perfectly sobers the whole of that tumultuous scene.' As an example of his power as a painter, we may refer to the head of the debauched husband in the breakfast scene of his series of pictures, the Marriage à la Mode,' in the National Gallery. It is a triumph of colour and expression which no engraving, not even Hogarth's own, can fully imitate.
their high estate, of all praise. We would send • Marriage à la Mode' into general circulation during the London season, where the market for wives and husbands is presided over by interest rather than affection. The matrimonial mart was as bravely exposed by the great satirist, as the brutal and unmanly cock-fight, which at that period was permitted to take place at the Cock-pit Royal, on the south side of St. James' Park.*
Society always needs such men as William Hogarth-true, stern mento grapple with and overthrow the vices which spring up-the very weeds both of poverty and luxury,—the latter filled with the more bitter and subtle poison. Calling to mind the period, we the more honour the great artist's resolution ; if the delicacy of our improved times is offended by what may seem deformity upon his canvas, we must remember that we do not shrink from Hogarth's coarseness, but from the coarseness he laboured, by exposing, to expel. He painted what Smollett, and Fielding, and Richardson, wrote far more offensively; but he surpassed the novelists both in truth and in intention. He painted without sympathising with his subjects, whom he lashed with unsparing bitterness or humour. He never idealised a vice into a virtue—he never compromised a fact, much less a principle.
He has, indeed, written fearful sermons on his canvas ; sermons which, however exaggerated they may seem to us in some of their painful details of human sin and human misery, are yet so real that we never doubt that such things were, and are. No one can suspect Hogarth to have been tainted by the vices he exposed. In this he has the advantage of the novelists of his period : he gives vice no loophole of escape ; it is there in its hideous aspect, each step distinctly marked, each character telling its own tale of warning, so that he who runs may read.'t
* There is extant a painting of Charles I. and his courtiers engaged at this sport. The cock-pit gave its name to a portion of the royal building at Whitehall. In Charles II.'s time it again flourished, and engrossed the attention of a heartless and depraved court. Nor was Westminster relieved of a so-called royal cock-pit until very recent times; it was situate in the worst part of a bad neighbourhood, and patronised by the worst of persons.
+ The name of GEORGE CRUIKSHANK is not one that we should wish to see thrust into a note; but we cannot omit to render him homage as the fearless exposer of the besetting vice of our age and country; his spirit, his genius, his honesty and bravery of purpose, are strictly Hogarthian. We look upon the · Bottle' and its · Conclusion' only as the commencement of the great moral lessons he is eminently qualified to teach.