The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate VIII.

Scene in a Madhouse.

Madness! thou chaos of the brain,            }

What art, that pleasure giv’st and pain?    }

Tyranny of fancy’s reign!

Mechanic fancy! that can build

Vast labyrinths and mazes wild,

With rude, disjointed, shapeless measure,

Fill’d with horror, fill’d with pleasure!

Shapes of horror, that would even

Cast doubt of mercy upon Heaven;

Shapes of pleasure, that but seen,

Would split the shaking sides of Spleen.

    “O vanity of age! here see

The stamp of Heaven effaced by thee!

The headstrong course of youth thus run,

What comfort from this darling son?

His rattling chains with terror hear,

Behold death grappling with despair!

See him by thee to ruin sold,

And curse thyself, and curse thy gold!”

See our hero then, in the scene before us, raving in all the dismal horrors of hopeless insanity, in the hospital of Bethlehem, the senate of mankind, where each man may find a representative; there we behold him trampling on the first great law of nature, tearing himself to pieces with his own hands, and chained by the leg to prevent any further mischief he might either do to himself or others. But in this scene, dreary and horrid as are its accompaniments, he is attended by the faithful and kind-hearted female whom he so basely betrayed. In the first plate we see him refuse her his promised hand. In the fourth, she releases him from the harpy fangs of a bailiff; she is present at his marriage; and in the hope of relieving his distress, she follows him to a prison. Our artist, in this scene of horror, has taken an opportunity of pointing out to us the various causes of mental blindness; for such, surely, it may be called, when the intuitive faculties are either destroyed or impaired. In one of the inner rooms of this gallery is a despairing wretch, imploring Heaven for mercy, whose brain is crazed with lip-labouring superstition, the most dreadful enemy of human kind; which, attended with ignorance, error, penance and indulgence, too often deprives its unhappy votaries of their senses. The next in view is one man drawing lines upon a wall, in order, if possible, to find out the longitude; and another, before him, looking through a paper, by way of a telescope. By these expressive figures we are given to understand that such is the misfortune of man, that while, perhaps, the aspiring soul is pursuing some lofty and elevated conception, soaring to an uncommon pitch, and teeming with some grand discovery, the ferment often proves too strong for the feeble brain to support, and lays the whole magazine of notions and images in wild confusion. This melancholy group is completed by the crazy tailor, who is staring at the mad astronomer with a sort of wild astonishment, wondering, through excess of ignorance, what discoveries the heavens can possibly afford; proud of his profession, he has fixed a variety of patterns in his hat, by way of ornament; has covered his poor head with shreds, and makes his measure the constant object of his attention. Behind this man stands another, playing on the violin, with his book upon his head, intimating that too great a love for music has been the cause of his distraction. On the stairs sits another, crazed by love, (evident from the picture of his beloved object round his neck, and the words “charming Betty Careless” upon the bannisters, which he is supposed to scratch upon every wall and every wainscot,) and wrapt up so close in melancholy pensiveness, as not even to observe the dog that is flying at him. Behind him, and in the inner room, are two persons maddened with ambition. These men, though under the influence of the same passion, are actuated by different notions; one is for the papal dignity, the other for regal; one imagines himself the Pope, and saying mass; the other fancies himself a King, is encircled with the emblem of royalty, and is casting contempt on his imaginary subjects by an act of the greatest disdain. To brighten this distressful scene, and draw a smile from him whose rigid reasoning might condemn the bringing into public view this blemish of humanity, are two women introduced, walking in the gallery, as curious spectators of this melancholy sight; one of whom is supposed, in a whisper, to bid the other observe the naked man, which she takes an opportunity of doing by a leer through the sticks of her fan.

Thus, imagining the hero of our piece to expire raving mad, the story is finished, and little else remains but to close it with a proper application. Reflect then, ye parents, on this tragic tale; consider with yourselves, that the ruin of a child is too often owing to the imprudence of a father. Had the young man, whose story we have related, been taught the proper use of money, had his parent given him some insight into life, and graven, as it were, upon his heart, the precepts of religion, with an abhorrence of vice, our youth would, in all probability, have taken a contrary course, lived a credit to his friends, and an honour to his country.


The Rake’s Progress.
Plate 8.
Scene in Bedlam.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hogarth/william/trusler/chapter9.html

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