The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate III.

The Tavern Scene.

“O vanity of youthful blood,

So by misuse to poison good!

Woman, framed for social love,

Fairest gift of powers above,

Source of every household blessing;

All charms in innocence possessing:

But, turn’d to vice, all plagues above;

Foe to thy being, foe to love!

Guest divine, to outward viewing;

Ablest minister of ruin?

And thou, no less of gift divine,

Sweet poison of misused wine!

With freedom led to every part,

And secret chamber of the heart,

Dost thou thy friendly host betray,

And shew thy riotous gang the way

To enter in, with covert treason,

O’erthrow the drowsy guard of reason,

To ransack the abandon’d place,

And revel there with wild excess?”

Mr. Ireland having, in his description of this Plate, incorporated whatever is of value in Dr. Trusler’s text, with much judicious observation and criticism of his own, the Editor has taken the former verbatim.

“This Plate exhibits our licentious prodigal engaged in one of his midnight festivities: forgetful of the past, and negligent of the future, he riots in the present. Having poured his libation to Bacchus, he concludes the evening orgies in a sacrifice at the Cyprian shrine; and, surrounded by the votaries of Venus, joins in the unhallowed mysteries of the place. The companions of his revelry are marked with that easy, unblushing effrontery, which belongs to the servants of all work in the isle of Paphos; — for the maids of honour they are not sufficiently elevated.

“He may be supposed, in the phrase of the day, to have beat the rounds, overset a constable, and conquered a watchman, whose staff and lantern he has brought into the room, as trophies of his prowess. In this situation he is robbed of his watch by the girl whose hand is in his bosom; and, with that adroitness peculiar to an old practitioner, she conveys her acquisition to an accomplice, who stands behind the chair.

“Two of the ladies are quarrelling; and one of them delicately spouts wine in the face of her opponent, who is preparing to revenge the affront with a knife, which, in a posture of threatening defiance, she grasps in her hand. A third, enraged at being neglected, holds a lighted candle to a map of the globe, determined to set the world on fire, though she perish in the conflagration! A fourth is undressing. The fellow bringing in a pewter dish, as part of the apparatus of this elegant and Attic entertainment, a blind harper, a trumpeter, and a ragged ballad-singer, roaring out an obscene song, complete this motley group.

“This design may be a very exact representation of what were then the nocturnal amusements of a brothel; — so different are the manners of former and present times, that I much question whether a similar exhibition is now to be seen in any tavern of the metropolis. That we are less licentious than our predecessors, I dare not affirm; but we are certainly more delicate in the pursuit of our pleasures.

“The room is furnished with a set of Roman emperors — they are not placed in their proper order; for in the mad revelry of the evening, this family of frenzy have decollated all of them, except Nero; and his manners had too great a similarity to their own, to admit of his suffering so degrading an insult; their reverence for virtue induced them to spare his head. In the frame of a Cæsar they have placed a portrait of Pontac, an eminent cook, whose great talents being turned to heightening sensual, rather than mental enjoyments, he has a much better chance of a votive offering from this company, than would either Vespasian or Trajan.

“The shattered mirror, broken wine-glasses, fractured chair and cane; the mangled fowl, with a fork stuck in its breast, thrown into a corner, and indeed every accompaniment, shews, that this has been a night of riot without enjoyment, mischief without wit, and waste without gratification.

“With respect to the drawing of the figures in this curious female coterie, Hogarth evidently intended several of them for beauties; and of vulgar, uneducated, prostituted beauty, he had a good idea. The hero of our tale displays all that careless jollity, which copious draughts of maddening wine are calculated to inspire; he laughs the world away, and bids it pass. The poor dupe, without his periwig, in the back-ground, forms a good contrast of character: he is maudlin drunk, and sadly sick. To keep up the spirit of unity throughout the society, and not leave the poor African girl entirely neglected, she is making signs to her friend the porter, who perceives, and slightly returns, her love-inspiring glance. This print is rather crowded — the subject demanded it should be so; some of the figures, thrown into shade, might have helped the general effect, but would have injured the characteristic expression.”


The Rake’s Progress.
Plate 3.
Tavern Scene.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter4.html

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