The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

The Harlot’s Progress.

Plate II.

“Ah! why so vain, though blooming in thy spring,

Thou shining, frail, adorn’d, but wretched thing

Old age will come; disease may come before,

And twenty prove as fatal as threescore!”

Entered into the path of infamy, the next scene exhibits our young heroine the mistress of a rich Jew, attended by a black boy,1 and surrounded with the pompous parade of tasteless profusion. Her mind being now as depraved, as her person is decorated, she keeps up the spirit of her character by extravagance and inconstancy. An example of the first is exhibited in the monkey being suffered to drag her rich head-dress round the room, and of the second in the retiring gallant. The Hebrew is represented at breakfast with his mistress; but, having come earlier than was expected, the favourite has not departed. To secure his retreat is an exercise for the invention of both mistress and maid. This is accomplished by the lady finding a pretence for quarrelling with the Jew, kicking down the tea-table, and scalding his legs, which, added to the noise of the china, so far engrosses his attention, that the paramour, assisted by the servant, escapes discovery.

The subjects of two pictures, with which the room is decorated, are David dancing before the ark, and Jonah seated under a gourd. They are placed there, not merely as circumstances which belong to Jewish story, but as a piece of covert ridicule on the old masters, who generally painted from the ideas of others, and repeated the same tale ad infinitum. On the toilet-table we discover a mask, which well enough intimates where she had passed part of the preceding night, and that masquerades, then a very fashionable amusement, were much frequented by women of this description; a sufficient reason for their being avoided by those of an opposite character.

Under the protection of this disciple of Moses she could not remain long. Riches were his only attraction, and though profusely lavished on this unworthy object, her attachment was not to be obtained, nor could her constancy be secured; repeated acts of infidelity are punished by dismission; and her next situation shows, that like most of the sisterhood, she had lived without apprehension of the sunshine of life being darkened by the passing cloud, and made no provision for the hour of adversity.

In this print the characters are marked with a master’s hand. The insolent air of the harlot, the astonishment of the Jew, eagerly grasping at the falling table, the start of the black boy, the cautious trip of the ungartered and barefooted retreating gallant, and the sudden spring of the scalded monkey, are admirably expressed. To represent an object in its descent, has been said to be impossible; the attempt has seldom succeeded; but, in this print, the tea equipage really appears falling to the floor; and, in Rembrandt’s Abraham’s Offering, in the Houghton collection, now at Petersburg, the knife dropping from the hand of the patriarch, appears in a falling state.

Quin compared Garrick in Othello to the black boy with the tea-kettle, a circumstance that by no means encouraged our Roscius to continue acting the part. Indeed, when his face was obscured, his chief power of expression was lost; and then, and not till then, was he reduced to a level with several other performers. It has been remarked, however, that Garrick said of himself, that when he appeared in Othello, Quin, he supposed, would say, “Here’s Pompey! where’s the tea-kettle?”

1 The attendant black boy gave the foundation of an ill-natured remark by Quin, when Garrick once attempted the part of Othello. “He pretend to play Othello!” said the surly satirist; “He pretend to play Othello! He wants nothing but the tea-kettle and lamp, to qualify him for Hogarth’s Pompey!”


The Harlot’s Progress.
Plate 2.
Quarrels with Her Jew Protector.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter17.html

Last updated Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 11:28