The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

The Rake’s Progress.

Of all the follies in human life, there is none greater than that of extravagance, or profuseness; it being constant labour, without the least ease or relaxation. It bears, indeed, the colour of that which is commendable, and would fain be thought to take its rise from laudable motives, searching indefatigably after true felicity; now as there can be no true felicity without content, it is this which every man is in constant pursuit of; the learned, for instance, in his industrious quest after knowledge; the merchant, in his dangerous voyages; the ambitious, in his passionate pursuit of honour; the conqueror, in his earnest desire of victory; the politician, in his deep-laid designs; the wanton, in his pleasing charms of beauty; the covetous, in his unwearied heaping-up of treasure; and the prodigal, in his general and extravagant indulgence. — Thus far it may be well; — but, so mistaken are we in our road, as to run on in the very opposite tract, which leads directly to our ruin. Whatever else we indulge ourselves in, is attended with some small degree of relish, and has some trifling satisfaction in the enjoyment, but, in this, the farther we go, the more we are lost; and when arrived at the mark proposed, we are as far from the object we pursue, as when we first set out. Here then, are we inexcusable, in not attending to the secret dictates of reason, and in stopping our ears at the timely admonitions of friendship. Headstrong and ungovernable, we pursue our course without intermission; thoughtless and unwary, we see not the dangers that lie immediately before us; but hurry on, even without sight of our object, till we bury ourselves in that gulf of woe, where perishes at once, health, wealth and virtue, and whose dreadful labyrinths admit of no return.

Struck with the foresight of that misery, attendant on a life of debauchery, which is, in fact, the offspring of prodigality, our author has, in the scenes before us, attempted the reformation of the worldling, by stopping him as it were in his career, and opening to his view the many sad calamities awaiting the prosecution of his proposed scheme of life; he has, in hopes of reforming the prodigal, and at the same time deterring the rising generation, whom Providence may have blessed with earthly wealth, from entering into so iniquitous a course, exhibited the life of a young man, hurried on through a succession of profligate pursuits, for the few years Nature was able to support itself; and this from the instant he might be said to enter into the world, till the time of his leaving it. But, as the vice of avarice is equal to that of prodigality, and the ruin of children is often owing to the indiscretion of their parents, he has opened the piece with a scene, which, at the same time that it exposes the folly of the youth, shews us the imprudence of the father, who is supposed to have hurt the principles of his son, in depriving him of the necessary use of some portion of that gold, he had with penurious covetousness been hoarding up, for the sole purpose of lodging in his coffers.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter1.html

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