The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

The Harlot’s Progress.

Plate IV.

With pallid cheek and haggard eye,

And loud laments, and heartfelt sigh,

Unpitied, hopeless of relief,

She drinks the bitter cup of grief.

In vain the sigh, in vain the tear,

Compassion never enters here;

But justice clanks her iron chain,

And calls forth shame, remorse, and pain.

The situation, in which the last plate exhibited our wretched female, was sufficiently degrading, but in this, her misery is greatly aggravated. We now see her suffering the chastisement due to her follies; reduced to the wretched alternative of beating hemp, or receiving the correction of a savage task-master. Exposed to the derision of all around, even her own servant, who is well acquainted with the rules of the place, appears little disposed to show any return of gratitude for recent obligations, though even her shoes, which she displays while tying up her garter, seem by their gaudy outside to have been a present from her mistress. The civil discipline of the stern keeper has all the severity of the old school. With the true spirit of tyranny, he sentences those who will not labour to the whipping-post, to a kind of picketing suspension by the wrists, or having a heavy log fastened to their leg. With the last of these punishments he at this moment threatens the heroine of our story, nor is it likely that his obduracy can be softened except by a well applied fee. How dreadful, how mortifying the situation! These accumulated evils might perhaps produce a momentary remorse, but a return to the path of virtue is not so easy as a departure from it.

To show that neither the dread, nor endurance, of the severest punishment, will deter from the perpetration of crimes, a one-eyed female, close to the keeper, is picking a pocket. The torn card may probably be dropped by the well-dressed gamester, who has exchanged the dice-box for the mallet, and whose laced hat is hung up as a companion trophy to the hoop-petticoat.

One of the girls appears scarcely in her teens. To the disgrace of our police, these unfortunate little wanderers are still suffered to take their nocturnal rambles in the most public streets of the metropolis. What heart, so void of sensibility, as not to heave a pitying sigh at their deplorable situation? Vice is not confined to colour, for a black woman is ludicrously exhibited, as suffering the penalty of those frailties, which are imagined peculiar to the fair.

The figure chalked as dangling upon the wall, with a pipe in his mouth, is intended as a caricatured portrait of Sir John Gonson, and probably the production of some would-be artist, whom the magistrate had committed to Bridewell, as a proper academy for the pursuit of his studies. The inscription upon the pillory, “Better to work than stand thus;” and that on the whipping-post near the laced gambler, “The reward of idleness,” are judiciously introduced.

In this print the composition is good: the figures in the back-ground, though properly subordinate, are sufficiently marked; the lassitude of the principal character, well contrasted by the austerity of the rigid overseer. There is a fine climax of female debasement, from the gaudy heroine of our drama, to her maid, and from thence to the still object, who is represented as destroying one of the plagues of Egypt.

Such well dressed females, as our heroine, are rarely met with in our present houses of correction; but her splendid appearance is sufficiently warranted by the following paragraph in the Grub-street Journal of September 14th, 1730.

“One Mary Moffat, a woman of great note in the hundreds of Drury, who, about a fortnight ago, was committed to hard labour in Tothill-fields Bridewell, by nine justices, brought his majesty’s writ of habeas corpus, and was carried before the right honourable the Lord Chief Justice Raymond, expecting to have been either bailed or discharged; but her commitment appearing to be legal, his lordship thought fit to remand her back again to her former place of confinement, where she is now beating hemp in a gown very richly laced with silver.”


The Harlot’s Progress.
Plate 4.
Scene in Bridewell.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter19.html

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