The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate V.

The Idle ‘prentice Turned Away and Sent to Sea.

“A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”

Proverbs, chap. x. verse 1.

Corrupted by sloth and contaminated by evil company, the idle apprentice, having tired the patience of his master, is sent to sea, in the hope that the being removed from the vices of the town, and the influence of his wicked companions, joined with the hardships and perils of a seafaring life, might effect that reformation of which his friends despaired while he continued on shore. See him then in the ship’s boat, accompanied by his afflicted mother, making towards the vessel in which he is to embark. The disposition of the different figures in the boat, and the expression of their countenances, tell us plainly, that his evil pursuits and incorrigible wickedness are the subjects of their discourse. The waterman significantly directs his attention to a figure on a gibbet, as emblematical of his future fate, should he not turn from the evil of his ways; and the boy shows him a cat-o’-nine-tails, expressive of the discipline that awaits him on board of ship; these admonitions, however, he notices only by the application of his fingers to his forehead, in the form of horns, jestingly telling them to look at Cuckold’s Point, which they have just passed; he then throws his indentures into the water with an air of contempt, that proves how little he is affected by his present condition, and how little he regards the persuasions and tears of a fond mother, whose heart seems ready to burst with grief at the fate of her darling son, and perhaps her only stay; for her dress seems to intimate that she is a widow. Well then might Solomon say, that “a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother;” for we here behold her who had often rejoiced in the prospect of her child being a prop to her in the decline of life, lamenting his depravity, and anticipating with horror the termination of his evil course. One would naturally imagine, from the common course of things, that this scene would have awakened his reflection, and been the means of softening the ruggedness of his disposition — that some tender ideas would have crossed his mind and melted the obduracy of his heart; but he continues hardened and callous to every admonition.

The group of figures composing this print has been copied by the ingenious Lavater; with whose appropriate remarks we conclude our present description. “Observe,” says this great analyst of the human countenance, “in the annexed group, that unnatural wretch, with the infernal visage, insulting his supplicating mother; the predominant character on the three other villain-faces, though all disfigured by effrontery, is cunning and ironical malignity. Every face is a seal with this truth engraved on it: ‘Nothing makes a man so ugly as vice; nothing renders the countenance so hideous as villainy.’”

Industry and Idleness.
Plate 5.
The Idle ‘Prentice Turned Away and Sent to Sea.

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