Keen blows the blast, and eager is the air;
With flakes of feather’d snow the ground is spread;
To step, with mincing pace, to early prayer,
Our clay-cold vestal leaves her downy bed.
And here the reeling sons of riot see,
After a night of senseless revelry.
Poor, trembling, old, her suit the beggar plies;
But frozen chastity the little boon denies.
This withered representative of Miss Bridget Alworthy, with a shivering foot-boy carrying her prayer-book, never fails in her attendance at morning service. She is a symbol of the season. —
—————— Chaste as the icicle
That’s curdled by the frost from purest snow,
And hangs on Dian’s temple
she looks with scowling eye, and all the conscious pride of severe and stubborn virginity, on the poor girls who are suffering the embraces of two drunken beaux that are just staggered out of Tom King’s Coffee-house. One of them, from the basket on her arm, I conjecture to be an orange girl: she shows no displeasure at the boisterous salute of her Hibernian lover. That the hero in a laced hat is from the banks of the Shannon, is apparent in his countenance. The female whose face is partly concealed, and whose neck has a more easy turn than we always see in the works of this artist, is not formed of the most inflexible materials.
An old woman, seated upon a basket; the girl, warming her hands by a few withered sticks that are blazing on the ground, and a wretched mendicant,3 wrapped in a tattered and parti-coloured blanket, entreating charity from the rosy-fingered vestal who is going to church, complete the group. Behind them, at the door of Tom King’s Coffee-house, are a party engaged in a fray, likely to create business for both surgeon and magistrate: we discover swords and cudgels in the combatants’ hands.
On the opposite side of the print are two little schoolboys. That they have shining morning faces we cannot positively assert, but each has a satchel at his back, and according with the description given by the poet of nature, is
Creeping, like snail, unwillingly to school.
The lantern appended to the woman who has a basket on her head, proves that these dispensers of the riches of Pomona rise before the sun, and do part of their business by an artificial light. Near her, that immediate descendant of Paracelsus, Dr. Rock, is expatiating to an admiring audience, on the never-failing virtues of his wonder-working medicines. One hand holds a bottle of his miraculous panacea, and the other supports a board, on which is the king’s arms, to indicate that his practice is sanctioned by royal letters patent. Two porringers and a spoon, placed on the bottom of an inverted basket, intimate that the woman seated near them, is a vender of rice-milk, which was at that time brought into the market every morning.
A fatigued porter leans on a rail; and a blind beggar is going towards the church: but whether he will become one of the congregation, or take his stand at the door, in the hope that religion may have warmed the hearts of its votaries to “Pity the sorrows of a poor blind man,” is uncertain.
Snow on the ground, and icicles hanging from the penthouse, exhibit a very chilling prospect; but, to dissipate the cold, there is happily a shop where spirituous liquors are sold pro bono publico, at a very little distance. A large pewter measure is placed upon a post before the door, and three of a smaller size hang over the window of the house.
The character of the principal figure is admirably delineated. She is marked with that prim and awkward formality which generally accompanies her order, and is an exact type of a hard winter; for every part of her dress, except the flying lappets and apron, ruffled by the wind, is as rigidly precise as if it were frozen. It has been said that this incomparable figure was designed as the representative of either a particular friend, or a relation. Individual satire may be very gratifying to the public, but is frequently fatal to the satirist. Churchill, by the lines,
———————— Fam’d Vine-street,
Where Heaven, the kindest wish of man to grant,
Gave me an old house, and an older aunt,
lost a considerable legacy; and it is related that Hogarth, by the introduction of this withered votary of Diana into this print, induced her to alter a will which had been made considerably in his favour: she was at first well enough satisfied with her resemblance, but some designing people taught her to be angry.
Extreme cold is very well expressed in the slip-shod footboy, and the girl who is warming her hands. The group of which she is a part, is well formed, but not sufficiently balanced on the opposite side.
The church dial, a few minutes before seven; marks of little shoes and pattens in the snow, and various productions of the season in the market, are an additional proof of that minute accuracy with which this artist inspected and represented objects, which painters in general have neglected.
Govent Garden is the scene, but in the print every building is reversed. This was a common error with Hogarth; not from his being ignorant of the use of the mirror, but from his considering it as a matter of little consequence.
3 “What signifies,” says some one to Dr. Johnson, “giving halfpence to common beggars? they only lay them out in gin or tobacco.” “And why,” replied the doctor, “should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence? It is surely very savage to shut out from them every possible avenue to those pleasures reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can swallow without gilding, yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still more bare, and are not ashamed to show even visible marks of displeasure, if even the bitter taste is taken from their mouths.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51