The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate VI.

Scene in a Gaming House.

Gold, thou bright son of Phœbus, source

Of universal intercourse;

Of weeping Virtue soft redress:

And blessing those who live to bless:

Yet oft behold this sacred trust,

The tool of avaricious lust;

No longer bond of human kind,

But bane of every virtuous mind.

What chaos such misuse attends,

Friendship stoops to prey on friends;

Health, that gives relish to delight,

Is wasted with the wasting night;

Doubt and mistrust is thrown on Heaven,

And all its power to chance is given.

Sad purchase of repentant tears,                }

Of needless quarrels, endless fears,        }

Of hopes of moments, pangs of years!    }

Sad purchase of a tortured mind,

To an imprison’d body join’d.”

Though now, from the infatuated folly of his antiquated wife, in possession of a fortune, he is still the slave of that baneful vice, which, while it enslaves the mind, poisons the enjoyments, and sweeps away the possessions of its deluded votaries. Destructive as the earthquake which convulses nature, it overwhelms the pride of the forest, and engulfs the labours of the architect.

Newmarket and the cockpit were the scenes of his early amusements; to crown the whole, he is now exhibited at a gaming-table, where all is lost! His countenance distorted with agony, and his soul agitated almost to madness, he imprecates vengeance upon his own head.

“In heartfelt bitter anguish he appears,

And from the blood-shot ball gush purpled tears!

He beats his brow, with rage and horror fraught;

His brow half bursts with agony of thought!”

That he should be deprived of all he possessed in such a society as surround him, is not to be wondered at. One of the most conspicuous characters appears, by the pistol in his pocket, to be a highwayman: from the profound stupor of his countenance, we are certain he also is a losing gamester; and so absorbed in reflection, that neither the boy who brings him a glass of water, nor the watchman’s cry of “Fire!” can arouse him from his reverie. Another of the party is marked for one of those well-dressed continental adventurers, who, being unable to live in their own country, annually pour into this, and with no other requisites than a quick eye, an adroit hand, and an undaunted forehead, are admitted into what is absurdly enough called good company.

At the table a person in mourning grasps his hat, and hides his face, in the agony of repentance, not having, as we infer from his weepers, received that legacy of which he is now plundered more than “a little month.” On the opposite side is another, on whom fortune has severely frowned, biting his nails in the anguish of his soul. The fifth completes the climax; he is frantic; and with a drawn sword endeavours to destroy a pauvre miserable whom he supposes to have cheated him, but is prevented by the interposition of one of those staggering votaries of Bacchus who are to be found in every company where there is good wine; and gaming, like the rod of Moses, so far swallows up every other passion, that the actors, engrossed by greater objects, willingly leave their wine to the audience.

In the back-ground are two collusive associates, eagerly dividing the profits of the evening.

A nobleman in the corner is giving his note to an usurer. The lean and hungry appearance of this cent. per cent. worshipper of the golden calf, is well contrasted by the sleek, contented vacancy of so well-employed a legislator of this great empire. Seated at the table, a portly gentleman, of whom we see very little, is coolly sweeping off his winnings.

So engrossed is every one present by his own situation, that the flames which surround them are disregarded, and the vehement cries of a watchman entering the room, are necessary to rouse their attention to what is generally deemed the first law of nature, self-preservation.

Mr. Gilpin observes:—“The fortune, which our adventurer has just received, enables him to make one push more at the gaming-table. He is exhibited, in the sixth print, venting curses on his folly for having lost his last stake. — This is, upon the whole, perhaps, the best print of the set. The horrid scene it describes, was never more inimitably drawn. The composition is artful, and natural. If the shape of the whole be not quite pleasing, the figures are so well grouped, and with so much ease and variety, that you cannot take offence.

“The expression, in almost every figure, is admirable; and the whole is a strong representation of the human mind in a storm. Three stages of that species of madness which attends gaming, are here described. On the first shock, all is inward dismay. The ruined gamester is represented leaning against a wall, with his arms across, lost in an agony of horror. Perhaps never passion was described with so much force. In a short time this horrible gloom bursts into a storm of fury: he tears in pieces what comes next him; and, kneeling down, invokes curses upon himself. He next attacks others; every one in his turn whom he imagines to have been instrumental in his ruin. — The eager joy of the winning gamesters, the attention of the usurer, the vehemence of the watchman, and the profound reverie of the highwayman, are all admirably marked. There is great coolness, too, expressed in the little we see of the fat gentleman at the end of the table.”


The Rake’s Progress.
Plate 6.
Gaming House Scene.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter7.html

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