“’Twas at the gate of Calais, Hogarth tells,
Where sad despair and famine always dwells;
A meagre Frenchman, Madame Grandsire’s cook,
As home he steer’d, his carcase that way took,
Bending beneath the weight of famed sirloin,
On whom he often wish’d in vain to dine;
Good Father Dominick by chance came by,
With rosy gills, round paunch, and greedy eye;
And, when he first beheld the greasy load,
His benediction on it he bestow’d;
And while the solid fat his fingers press’d,
He lick’d his chops, and thus the knight address’d:
‘O rare roast beef, lov’d by all mankind,
Was I but doom’d to have thee,
Well dress’d, and garnish’d to my mind,
And swimming in thy gravy;
Not all thy country’s force combined,
Should from my fury save thee!
‘Renown’d sirloin! oft times decreed
The theme of English ballad,
E’en kings on thee have deign’d to feed,
Unknown to Frenchman’s palate;
Then how much must thy taste exceed
Soup-meagre, frogs, and salad!’”
The thought on which this whimsical and highly-characteristic print is founded, originated in Calais, to which place Mr. Hogarth, accompanied by some of his friends, made an excursion, in the year 1747.
Extreme partiality for his native country was the leading trait of his character; he seems to have begun his three hours’ voyage with a firm determination to be displeased at every thing he saw out of Old England. For a meagre, powdered figure, hung with tatters, à-la-mode de Paris, to affect the airs of a coxcomb, and the importance of a sovereign, is ridiculous enough; but if it makes a man happy, why should he be laughed at? It must blunt the edge of ridicule, to see natural hilarity defy depression; and a whole nation laugh, sing, and dance, under burthens that would nearly break the firm-knit sinews of a Briton. Such was the picture of France at that period, but it was a picture which our English satirist could not contemplate with common patience. The swarms of grotesque figures who paraded the streets excited his indignation, and drew forth a torrent of coarse abusive ridicule, not much to the honour of his liberality. He compared them to Callot’s beggars — Lazarus on the painted cloth — the prodigal son — or any other object descriptive of extreme contempt. Against giving way to these effusions of national spleen in the open street, he was frequently cautioned, but advice had no effect; he treated admonition with scorn, and considered his monitor unworthy the name of Englishman. These satirical ebullitions were at length checked. Ignorant of the customs of France, and considering the gate of Calais merely as a piece of ancient architecture, he began to make a sketch. This was soon observed; he was seized as a spy, who intended to draw a plan of the fortification, and escorted by a file of musqueteers to M. la Commandant. His sketch-book was examined, leaf by leaf, and found to contain drawings that had not the most distant relation to tactics. Notwithstanding this favourable circumstance, the governor, with great politeness, assured him, that had not a treaty between the nations been actually signed, he should have been under the disagreeable necessity of hanging him upon the ramparts: as it was, he must be permitted the privilege of providing him a few military attendants, who should do themselves the honour of waiting upon him, while he resided in the dominions of “the grande monarque.” Two sentinels were then ordered to escort him to his hotel, from whence they conducted him to the vessel; nor did they quit their prisoner, until he was a league from shore; when, seizing him by the shoulders, and spinning him round upon the deck, they said he was now at liberty to pursue his voyage without further molestation.
So mortifying an adventure he did not like to hear recited, but has in this print recorded the circumstance which led to it. In one corner he has given a portrait of himself, making the drawing; and to shew the moment of arrest, the hand of a serjeant is upon his shoulder.
The French sentinel is so situated, as to give some idea of a figure hanging in chains: his ragged shirt is trimmed with a pair of paper ruffles. The old woman, and a fish which she is pointing at, have a striking resemblance. The abundance of parsnips, and other vegetables, indicate what are the leading articles in a Lenten feast.
Mr. Pine, the painter, sat for the friar, and from thence acquired the title of Father Pine. This distinction did not flatter him, and he frequently requested that the countenance might be altered, but the artist peremptorily refused.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55