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of the Plague at 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. Yet if we could abstract our minds from the fascinating colours of the picture, and forget the coarse execution (in some respects) of the print, intended as it was to be a cheap plate, accessible to the poorer sort of people, for whose instruction it was done, I think we could have no hesitation in conferring the palm of superior genius upon Hogarth, comparing this work of his with Poussin's picture. There is more of imagination in it -that power which draws all things to one, -which makes things animate and inanimate, beings with their attributes, subjects, and their accessories, take one colour and serve to one effect. Everything in the print, to use a vulgar expression, tells. Every part is full of " strange images of death." It is perfectly amazing and astounding to look at. Not only the two prominent figures, the woman and the half-dead man, which are as terrible as anything which Michael Angelo ever drew, but everything else in the print, contributes to bewilder and stupify,-the very houses, as I heard a friend of mine express it, tumbling all about in various directions, seem drunk-seem absolutely reeling from the effect of that diabolical spirit of frenzy which goes forth over the whole composition. To show the poetical and almost prophetical conception in the artist, one little circumstance may serve. Not content with the dying and dead figures, which he has strewed in profusion over the proper scene of the action, he shows you what (of a kindred nature) is passing beyond it. Close by the shell, in which, by direction of the parish beadle, a man is depositing his wife, is an old wall, which, partaking of the universal decay around it, is tumbling to pieces. Through a gap in this wall are seen three figures, which appear to make a part in some funeral procession which is passing by on th the other side of the wall, out of the sphere of the composition. This extending of the interest beyond the bounds of the
At the late Mr. Hope's, in Cavendish-square.
subject could only have been conceived by a great genius. Shakspeare, in his description of the painting of the Trojan War, in his Tarquin and Lucrece, has introduced a similar device, where the painter made a part stand for the whole :
"For much imaginary work was there,
This he well calls imaginary work, where | the spectator must meet the artist in his conceptions half way; and it is peculiar to the confidence of high genius alone to trust so much to spectators or readers. Lesser artists show everything distinct and full, as they require an obiect to be made out to themselves before they can comprehend it.
When I think of the power displayed in this (I will not hesitate to say) sublime print, it seems to me the extreme narrowness of system alone, and of that rage for classification, by which, in matters of taste at least, we are perpetually perplexing, instead of arranging, our ideas, that would make us concede to the work of Poussin above mentioned, and deny to this of Hogarth, the name of a grand serious composition.
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.
I entertain the highest respect for the talents and virtues of Reynolds, but I do not like that his reputation should overshadow and stifle the merits of such a man as Hogarth, nor that to mere names and classifications we should be content to sacrifice one of the greatest ornaments of England.
I would ask the most enthusiastic admirer The Boys under Demoniacal Possession of of Reynolds, whether in the countenances of Raphael and Domenichino, by what law of his Staring and Grinning Despair, which he classification are we bound to assign them to has given us for the faces of Ugolino and belong to the great style in painting, and to dying Beaufort, there be anything com- degrade into an inferior class the Rake of parable to the expression which Hogarth Hogarth when he is the Madman in the has put into the face of his broken-down Bedlam scene? I am sure he is far more rake in the last plate but one of the Rake's impressive than either. It is a face which Progress, where a letter from the manager no one that has seen can easily forget. There is brought to him to say that his play "will is the stretch of human suffering to the not do?" Here all is easy, natural, undis- utmost endurance, severe bodily pain brought torted, but withal what a mass of woe is on by strong mental agony, the frightful here accumulated!-the long history of a obstinate laugh of madness,-yet all so mis-spent life is compressed into the coun- unforced and natural, that those who never tenance as plainly as the series of plates were witness to madness in real life, think before had told it; here is no attempt at they see nothing but what is familiar to Gorgonian looks, which are to freeze the them in this face. Here are no tricks of beholder-no grinning at the antique bed- distortion, nothing but the natural face of posts-no face-making, or consciousness of agony. This is high tragic painting, and we the presence of spectators in or out of the might as well deny to Shakspeare the picture, but grief kept to a man's self, a face honours of a great tragedian, because he has retiring from notice with the shame which interwoven scenes of mirth with the serious great anguish sometimes brings with it,-a business of his plays, as refuse to Hogarth final leave taken of hope,-the coming on of the same praise for the two concluding vacancy and stupefaction, a beginning scenes of the Rake's Progress, because of the alienation of mind looking like tranquillity. Comic Lunatics* which he has thrown into Here is matter for the mind of the beholder the one, or the Alchymist that he has to feed on for the hour together,-matter to introduced in the other, who is paddling in feed and fertilise the mind. It is too real to the coals of his furnace, keeping alive the admit one thought about the power of the artist who did it. When we compare the expression in subjects which so fairly admit of comparison, and find the superiority so clearly to remain with Hogarth, shall the mere contemptible difference of the scene of it being laid, in the one case, in our Fleet or King's Bench Prison, and, in the other, in the State Prison of Pisa, or the bed-room of a cardinal, or that the subject of the one has never been authenticated, and the other is matter of history, so weigh down the real points of the comparison, as to induce
us to rank the artist who has chosen the one scene or subject (though confessedly inferior in that which constitutes the soul of his art) in a class from which we exclude the better genius (who has happened to make choice of the other) with something like disgrace ?*
The first perhaps in all Hogarth for serious expression. That which comes next to it, I think, is the jaded morning countenance of the debauchee in the second plate of the Marriage Alamode, which lectures on the vanity of pleasure as audibly as anything in Ecclesiastes.
† Sir Joshua Reynolds, somewhere in his Lectures, speaks of the presumption of Hogarth in attempting the
certain Scripture subjects. Hogarth's excursions into
grand style in painting, by which he means his choice of
a Madonna he has substituted a sleepy, insensible, un
tenderness with reverential awe and wonder approaching
to worship, with which the Virgin Mothers of L. da Vinci and Raphael (themselves by their divine countenances inviting men to worship) contemplate the union of the two natures in the person of their Heaven-born Infant.
"There are of madmen, as there are of tame,
All humour'd not alike. We have here some
So blemish'd and defac'd, yet do they act
flames of vain hope within the very walls of the prison to which the vanity has conducted him, which have taught the darker lesson of extinguished hope to the desponding figure who is the principal person of the scene.
It is the force of these kindly admixtures which assimilates the scenes of Hogarth and of Shakspeare to the drama of real life, where no such thing as pure tragedy is to be found; but merriment and infelicity, ponderous crime and feather-light vanity, like twi-formed births, disagreeing complexions of one intertexture, perpetually unite to show forth motley spectacles to the world. Then it is that the poet or painter shows his art, when in the selection of these comic adjuncts he chooses such circumstances as shall relieve, contrast with, or fall into, without forming a violent opposition to his principal object. Who sees not that the Grave-digger in Hamlet, the Fool in Lear, have a kind of correspondency to, and fall in with, the subjects which they seem to interrupt: while the comic stuff in Venice Preserved, and the doggrel nonsense of the Cook and his poisoning associates in the Rollo of Beaumont and Fletcher, are pure, irrelevant, impertinent discords,—as bad as the quarrelling dog and cat under the table of the Lord and the Disciples at Emmaus of Titian?
ence, that we do not merely laugh at, we are led into long trains of reflection by them. In this respect they resemble the characters of Chaucer's Pilgrims, which have strokes of humour in them enough to designate them for the most part as comic, but our strongest feeling still is wonder at the comprehensiveness of genius which could crowd, as poet and painter have done, into one small canvas so many diverse yet co-operating materials.
The faces of Hogarth have not a mere momentary interest, as in caricatures, or those grotesque physiognomies which we sometimes catch a glance of in the street, and, struck with their whimsicality, wish for a pencil and the power to sketch them down; and forget them again as rapidly,— but they are permanent abiding ideas. Not the sports of nature, but her necessary eternal classes. We feel that we cannot part with any of them, lest a link should be broken.
It is worthy of observation, that he has seldom drawn a mean or insignificant countenance." Hogarth's mind was eminently reflective; and, as it has been well observed of Shakspeare, that he has transfused his own poetical character into the persons of his drama (they are all more or less poets) Hogarth has impressed a thinking character | upon the persons of his canvas. This remark must not be taken universally. The exquisite idiotism of the little gentleman in the bag and sword beating his drum in the print of the Enraged Musician, would of itself rise up against so sweeping an assertion. But I think it will be found to be true of the generality of his countenances. The knife-grinder and Jew flute-player in the plate just mentioned, may serve as instances instead of a thousand. They have intense
Not to tire the reader with perpetual reference to prints which he may not be fortunate enough to possess, it may be sufficient to remark, that the same tragic cast of expression and incident, blended in some instances with a greater alloy of comedy, characterises his other great work, the Marriage Alamode, as well as those less elaborate exertions of his genius, the prints called Industry and Idleness, the Distrest Poet, &c. forming, with the Harlot's and Rake's Progresses, the most considerable if thinking faces, though the purpose to which not the largest class of his productions, they are subservient by no means required enough surely to rescue Hogarth from the it; but indeed it seems as if it was painful | imputation of being a mere buffoon, or one to Hogarth to contemplate mere vacancy or whose general aim was only to shake the insignificance sides.
There remains a very numerous class of his performances, the object of which must be confessed to be principally comic. But in all of them will be found something to distinguish them from the droll productions of Bunbury and others. They have this differ
• If there are any of that description, they are in his Strolling Players, a print which has been cried up by Lord Orford as the richest of his productions, and it may be, for what I know, in the mere lumber, the properties, and dead furniture of the scene, but in living character and expression it is (for Hogarth) lamentably poor and at which we have a right to feel disgusted.
wanting; it is perhaps the only one of his performance■
This reflection of the artist's own intellect from the faces of his characters, is one reason why the works of Hogarth, so much more than those of any other artist, are objects of meditation. Our intellectual natures love the mirror which gives them back their own likenesses. The mental eye will not bend long with delight upon vacancy.
plate of the Harlot's Funeral, (the only thing in that assembly that is not a hypocrite,) quiets and soothes the mind that has been disturbed at the sight of so much depraved man and woman kind.
I had written thus far, when I met with a passage in the writings of the late Mr. Barry, which, as it falls in with the vulgar notion respecting Hogarth, which this Essay has been employed in combating, I shall take the liberty to transcribe, with such remarks as may suggest themselves to me in the transcription; referring the reader for a full answer to that which has gone before.
entitle him to an honourable place among the artists, "Notwithstanding Hogarth's merit does undoubtedly and that his little compositions, considered as so many dramatic representations, abounding with humour, character, and extensive observations on the various inci
Another line of eternal separation between Hogarth and the common painters of droll or burlesque subjects, with whom he is often confounded, is the sense of beauty, which in the most unpromising subjects seems never wholly to have deserted him. "Hogarth himself," says Mr. Coleridge,* from whom I have borrowed this observation, speaking of a scene which took place at Ratzeburg, 66 never drew a more ludicrous distortion, both of attitude and physiognomy, than this effect occasioned: nor was there wanting beside it one of those beautiful female faces which the same Hogarth, in whom the satirist never extinguished that love of beauty which belonged to him as a poet, so often and so gladly introduces as the central figure in a crowd of humorous deformities, which figure (such is the power of true genius) neither acts nor is meant to act as a contrast; but diffuses through all and over each of the group a spirit of reconciliation and human kindness; and even when the attention is no longer consciously directed to the cause of this feeling, still blends its tenderness with our laughter: and thus prevents the instructive merriment at the whims of nature, or the foibles or humours of our fellow-men, from degenerating into the heart-poison of contempt or hatred." To the beautiful females in Hogarth, which Mr. C. has pointed out, might be added, the frequent introduction of children (which Hogarth seems to have taken a particular delight in) into his pieces. They have a singular effect in giving tran-happily succeeded in the vein of humour and caricatura,
dents of low, faulty, and vicious life, are very ingeniously brought together, and frequently tell their of the elevated and more noble inventions of Raphael own story with more facility than is often found in many and other great men; yet it must be honestly confessed, that in what is called knowledge of the figure, foreigners have justly observed, that Hogarth is often so raw and unformed, as hardly to deserve the name of an artist. But this capital defect is not often perceivable, as examples of the naked and of elevated nature but rarely occur in his subjects, which are for the most part filled with characters that in their nature tend to deformity; besides his figures are small, and the jonctures, and other difficulties of drawing that might occur in their limbs, are artfully concealed with their clothes, rags, &c. But what would atone for all his defects, even if they were twice told, is his admirable fund of invention, ever inexhaustible in its resources; and his satyr, which is always sharp and pertinent, and often highly moral, was (except in a few instances, where he weakly and meanly suffered his integrity to give way to his envy) seldom or never employed in a dishonest or unmanly way. Hogarth has been often imitated in his satirical vein, sometimes in his humorous: but very few have attempted to rival him in his moral walk. The line of art pursued by my very ingenious predecessor and brother Academician, Mr. Penny, is quite distinct from that of Hogarth, and is of a much more delicate and superior relish; he attempts the heart, and reaches it, whilst Hogarth's general aim is only to shake the sides; in other respects no comparison can be thought of, as Mr. Penny has all that knowledge of the figure and academical skill which the other wanted. As to Mr. Bunbury, who had so
he has for some time past altogether relinquished it, for
quillity 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 time-furrowed countenance of the treason-plotting French priest,) perfectly sobers the whole of that tumultuous scene.
the more amiable pursuit of beautiful nature: this, indeed, is not to be wondered at, when we recollect that he has, in Mrs. Bunbury, so admirable an exemplar of the most finished grace and beauty continually at his elbow. But (to say all that occurs to me on this subject) perhaps it may be reasonably doubted, whether the being much conversant with Hogarth's method of exposing meanness, deformity, and vice, in many of his works, is not rather a dangerous, or, at least, a worthless pursuit;
which, if it does not find a false relish and a love of and
The boy mourner winding up his top with so much unpretending insensibility in the
search after satyr and buffoonery in the spectator, is at least not unlikely to give him one. Life is short; and
the little leisure of it is much better laid out upon that species of art which is employed about the amiable and the admirable, as it is more likely to be attended with
The Friend, No. XVI.
better and nobler consequences to ourselves. These two pursuits in art may be compared with two sets of people with whom we might associate; if we give ourselves up to the Footes, the Kenricks, &c. we shall be continually busied and paddling in whatever is ridiculous, faulty,
and vicious in life; whereas there are those to be found
with whom we should be in the constant pursuit and
merce, at the Adelphi, by James Barry, R.A., Professor
It is a secret well known to the professors of the art and mystery of criticism, to insist upon what they do not find in a man's works, and to pass over in silence what they do. That Hogarth did not draw the naked figure so well as Michael Angelo might be allowed, especially as examples of the naked," as Mr. Barry acknowledges, "rarely (he might almost have said never) occur in his subjects;" and that his figures under their draperies do not discover all the fine graces of an Antinous or an Apollo, may be conceded likewise; perhaps it was more suitable to his purpose to represent the average forms of mankind in the mediocrity (as Mr. Burke expresses it) of the age in which he lived: but that his figures in general, and in his best subjects, are so glaringly incorrect as is here insinuated, I dare trust my own eye so far as positively to deny the fact. And there is one part of the figure in which Hogarth is allowed to have excelled, which these verses upon their own goodness to which foreigners seem to have overlooked, or the gentlemen of the Literary Fund annually perhaps calculating from its proportion to sit still with such shameless patience to the whole (a seventh or an eighth, I forget listen, to the satires of Juvenal and Persius; which,) deemed it of trifling importance; I because the former are full of tender images mean the human face; a small part, reckon- of Worth relieved by Charity, and Charity ing by geographical inches, in the map of stretching out her hand to rescue sinking man's body, but here it is that the painter Genius, and the theme of the latter is men's of expression must condense the wonders of crimes and follies with their black conhis skill, even at the expense of neglecting sequences — forgetful meanwhile of those the "jonctures and other difficulties of strains of moral pathos, those sublime heartdrawing in the limbs," which it must be a touches, which these poets (in them chiefly cold eye that, in the interest so strongly showing themselves poets) are perpetually demanded by Hogarth's countenances, has darting across the otherwise appalling gloom leisure to survey and censure. of their subject—consolatory remembrancers, when their pictures of guilty mankind have
of the illustrious obscure than myself, I
"The line of art pursued by my very ingenious prede- made us even to despair for our species,
cessor and brother Academician, Mr. Penny."
It must be honestly confessed, that in what is called knowledge of the figure, foreigners have justly observed," &c.
know who this Mr. Penny was.
The first impression caused in me by reading this passage was an eager desire to
that there is such a thing as virtue and moral dignity in the world, that her unquenchable spark is not utterly out