The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate IV.

Arrested for Debt.

“O, vanity of youthful blood,

So by misuse to poison good!

Reason awakes, and views unbarr’d

The sacred gates he wish’d to guard;

Approaching, see the harpy Law,

And Poverty, with icy paw,

Ready to seize the poor remains

That vice has left of all his gains.

Cold penitence, lame after-thought,

With fear, despair, and horror fraught,

Call back his guilty pleasures dead,

Whom he hath wrong’d, and whom betray’d.”

The career of dissipation is here stopped. Dressed in the first style of the ton, and getting out of a sedan-chair, with the hope of shining in the circle, and perhaps forwarding a former application for a place or a pension, he is arrested! To intimate that being plundered is the certain consequence of such an event, and to shew how closely one misfortune treads upon the heels of another, a boy is at the same moment stealing his cane.

The unfortunate girl whom he basely deserted, is now a milliner, and naturally enough attends in the crowd, to mark the fashions of the day. Seeing his distress, with all the eager tenderness of unabated love, she flies to his relief. Possessed of a small sum of money, the hard earnings of unremitted industry, she generously offers her purse for the liberation of her worthless favourite. This releases the captive beau, and displays a strong instance of female affection; which, being once planted in the bosom, is rarely eradicated by the coldest neglect, or harshest cruelty.

The high-born, haughty Welshman, with an enormous leek, and a countenance keen and lofty as his native mountains, establishes the chronology, and fixes the day to be the first of March; which being sacred to the titular saint of Wales, was observed at court.

Mr. Nichols remarks of this plate:—“In the early impressions, a shoe-black steals the Rake’s cane. In the modern ones, a large group of sweeps, and black-shoe boys, are introduced gambling on the pavement; near them a stone inscribed Black’s, a contrast to White’s gaming-house, against which a flash of lightning is pointed. The curtain in the window of the sedan-chair is thrown back. This plate is likewise found in an intermediate state; the sky being made unnaturally obscure, with an attempt to introduce a shower of rain, and lightning very aukwardly represented. It is supposed to be a first proof after the insertion of the group of blackguard gamesters; the window of the chair being only marked for an alteration that was afterwards made in it. Hogarth appears to have so far spoiled the sky, that he was obliged to obliterate it, and cause it to be engraved over again by another hand.”

Mr. Gilpin observes:—“Very disagreeable accidents often befal gentlemen of pleasure. An event of this kind is recorded in the fourth print, which is now before us. Our hero going, in full dress, to pay his compliments at court on St. David’s day, was accosted in the rude manner which is here represented. — The composition is good. The form of the group, made up of the figures in action, the chair, and the lamplighter, is pleasing. Only, here we have an opportunity of remarking, that a group is disgusting when the extremities of it are heavy. A group in some respects should resemble a tree. The heavier part of the foliage (the cup, as the landscape-painter calls it) is always near the middle; the outside branches, which are relieved by the sky, are light and airy. An inattention to this rule has given a heaviness to the group before us. The two bailiffs, the woman, and the chairman, are all huddled together in that part of the group which should have been the lightest; while the middle part, where the hand holds the door, wants strength and consistence. It may be added too, that the four heads, in the form of a diamond, make an unpleasing shape. All regular figures should be studiously avoided. — The light had been well distributed, if the bailiff holding the arrest, and the chairman, had been a little lighter, and the woman darker. The glare of the white apron is disagreeable. — We have, in this print, some beautiful instances of expression. The surprise and terror of the poor gentleman is apparent in every limb, as far as is consistent with the fear of discomposing his dress. The insolence of power in one of the bailiffs, and the unfeeling heart, which can jest with misery, in the other, are strongly marked. The self-importance, too, of the honest Cambrian is not ill portrayed; who is chiefly introduced to settle the chronology of the story. — In pose of grace, we have nothing striking. Hogarth might have introduced a degree of it in the female figure: at least he might have contrived to vary the heavy and unpleasing form of her drapery. — The perspective is good, and makes an agreeable shape.”


The Rake’s Progress.
Plate 4.
Arrested for Debt as Going to Court.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter5.html

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