The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate IX.

The Idle ’prentice Betrayed by a Prostitute, and Taken in a Night Cellar with His Accomplice.

“The adulteress will hunt for precious life.”

Proverbs, chap. vi. verse 26.

From the picture of the reward of diligence, we return to take a further view of the progress of sloth and infamy; by following the idle ‘prentice a step nearer to the approach of his unhappy end. We see him in the third plate herding with the worst of the human species, the very dregs of the people; one of his companions, at that time, being a one-eyed wretch, who seemed hackneyed in the ways of vice. To break this vile connexion he was sent to sea; but, no sooner did he return, than his wicked disposition took its natural course, and every day he lived served only to habituate him to acts of greater criminality. He presently discovered his old acquaintance, who, no doubt, rejoiced to find him so ripe for mischief: with this worthless, abandoned fellow, he enters into engagements of the worst kind, even those of robbery and murder. Thus blindly will men sometimes run headlong to their own destruction.

About the time when these plates were first published, which was in the year 1747, there was a noted house in Chick Lane, Smithfield, that went by the name of the Blood-Bowl House, so called from the numerous scenes of blood that were almost daily carried on there; it being a receptacle for prostitutes and thieves; where every species of delinquency was practised; and where, indeed, there seldom passed a month without the commission of some act of murder. To this subterraneous abode of iniquity (it being a cellar) was our hero soon introduced; where he is now represented in company with his accomplice, and others of the same stamp, having just committed a most horrid act of barbarity, (that of killing a passer-by, and conveying him into a place under ground, contrived for this purpose,) dividing among them the ill-gotten booty, which consists of two watches, a snuff-box, and some other trinkets. In the midst of this wickedness, he is betrayed by his strumpet (a proof of the treachery of such wretches) into the hands of the high constable and his attendants, who had, with better success than heretofore, traced him to this wretched haunt. The back-ground of this print serves rather as a representation of night-cellars in general, those infamous receptacles for the dissolute and abandoned of both sexes, than a further illustration of our artist’s chief design; however, as it was Mr. Hogarth’s intention, in the history before us, to encourage virtue and expose vice, by placing the one in an amiable light, and exhibiting the other in its most heightened scenes of wickedness and impiety, in hopes of deterring the half-depraved youth of this metropolis, from even the possibility of the commission of such actions, by frightening them from these abodes of wretchedness; as this was manifestly his intention, it cannot be deemed a deviation from the subject. By the skirmish behind, the woman without a nose, the scattered cards upon the floor, &c. we are shown that drunkenness and riot, disease, prostitution, and ruin are the dreadful attendants of sloth, and the general fore-runners of crimes of the deepest die; and by the halter suspended from the ceiling, over the head of the sleeper, we are to learn two things — the indifference of mankind, even in a state of danger, and the insecurity of guilt in every situation.

Industry and Idleness.
Plate 9.
The Idle ‘Prentice Betrayed by a Prostitute.

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