The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate III.

The Idle ‘prentice at Play in the Church-Yard During Divine Service.

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.”

Proverbs, chap. xix. verse 29.

As a contrast to the preceding plate, of the industrious young man performing the duties of a Christian, is this, representing the idle ‘prentice at play in the church-yard during divine service. As an observance of religion is allowed to be the foundation of virtue, so a neglect of religious duties has ever been acknowledged the forerunner of every wickedness; the confession of malefactors at the place of execution being a melancholy confirmation of this truth. Here we see him, while others are intent on the holy service, transgressing the laws both of God and man, gambling on a tomb-stone with the off-scouring of the people, the meanest of the human species, shoe-blacks, chimney-sweepers, &c. for none but such would deign to be his companions. Their amusement seems to be the favourite old English game of hustle-cap, and our idle and unprincipled youth is endeavouring to cheat, by concealing some of the half-pence under the broad brim of his hat. This is perceived by the shoe-black, and warmly resented by the fellow with the black patch over his eye, who loudly insists on the hat’s being fairly removed. The eager anxiety which marks these mean gamblers, is equal to that of two peers playing for an estate. The latter could not have more solicitude for the turn of a die which was to determine who was the proprietor of ten thousand acres, than is displayed in the countenance of young Idle. Indeed, so callous is his heart, so wilfully blind is he to every thing tending to his future welfare, that the tombs, those standing monuments of mortality, cannot move him: even the new-dug grave, the sculls and bones, those lively and awakening monitors, cannot rouse him from his sinful lethargy, open his eyes, or pierce his heart with the least reflection; so hardened is he with vice, and so intent on the pursuit of his evil course. The hand of the boy, employed upon his head, and that of the shoe-black, in his bosom, are expressive of filth and vermin; and show that our hero is within a step of being overspread with the beggarly contagion. His obstinate continuance in his course, until awakened by the blows of the watchful beadle, point out to us, that “stripes are prepared for the backs of fools;” that disgrace and infamy are the natural attendants of the slothful and the scorner; and that there are but little hopes of his alteration, until he is overtaken in his iniquity, by the avenging hand of Omnipotence, and feels with horror and amazement, the unexpected and inevitable approach of death. Thus do the obstinate and incorrigible shut their ears against the alarming calls of Providence, and sin away even the possibility of salvation.

The figures in this print are admirably grouped, and the countenances of the gamblers and beadle strikingly characteristic.

Industry and Idleness.
Plate 3.
The Idle ‘Prentice at Play in the Church Yard

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55