The Works of William Hogarth, by John Trusler

Plate X.

The Industrious ‘prentice Alderman of London; the Idle One Brought Before Him, and Impeached by His Accomplice.

“Thou shalt do no unrighteousness in judgment.”

Leviticus, chap. xix. verse 15.

“The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.”

Psalms, chap. ix. verse 16.

Imagine now this depraved and atrocious youth hand-cuffed, and dragged from his wicked haunt, through the streets to a place of security, amidst the scorn and contempt of a jeering populace; and thence brought before the sitting magistrate, (who, to heighten the scene and support the contrast, is supposed to be his fellow-‘prentice, now chosen an alderman,) in order to be dealt with according to law. See him then at last having run his course of iniquity, fallen into the hands of justice, being betrayed by his accomplice; a further proof of the perfidy of man, when even partners in vice are unfaithful to each other. This is the only print among the set, excepting the first, where the two principal characters are introduced; in which Mr. Hogarth has shown his great abilities, as well in description, as in a particular attention to the uniformity and connexion of the whole. He is now at the bar, with all the marks of guilt imprinted on his face. How, if his fear will permit him to reflect, must he think on the happiness and exaltation of his fellow-‘prentice on the one hand, and of his own misery and degradation on the other! at one instant, he condemns the persuasions of his wicked companions; at another, his own idleness and obstinacy: however, deeply smitten with his crime, he sues the magistrate, upon his knees, for mercy, and pleads in his cause the former acquaintance that subsisted between them, when they both dwelt beneath the same roof, and served the same common master: but here was no room for lenity, murder was his crime, and death must be his punishment; the proofs are incontestable, and his mittimus is ordered, which the clerk is drawing out. Let us next turn our thoughts upon the alderman, in whose breast a struggle between mercy and justice is beautifully displayed. Who can behold the magistrate, here, without praising the man? How fine is the painter’s thoughts of reclining the head on one hand, while the other is extended to express the pity and shame he feels that human nature should be so depraved! It is not the golden chain or scarlet robe that constitutes the character, but the feelings of the heart. To show us that application for favour, by the ignorant, is often idly made to the servants of justice, who take upon themselves on that account a certain state and consequence, not inferior to magistracy, the mother of our delinquent is represented in the greatest distress, as making interest with the corpulent self-swoln constable, who with an unfeeling concern seems to say, “Make yourself easy, for he must be hanged;” and to convince us that bribery will even find its way into courts of judicature, here is a woman feeing the swearing clerk, who has stuck his pen behind his ear that his hands might be both at liberty; and how much more his attention is engaged to the money he is taking, than to the administration of the oath, may be known from the ignorant, treacherous witness being suffered to lay his left hand upon the book; strongly expressive of the sacrifice, even of sacred things, to the inordinate thirst of gain.

From Newgate (the prison to which he was committed; where, during his continuance he lay chained in a dismal cell, deprived of the cheerfulness of light, fed upon bread and water, and left without a bed to rest on) the prisoner was removed to the bar of judgment, and condemned to die by the laws of his country.

Industry and Idleness.
Plate 10.
The Industrious ‘Prentice Alderman of London. The Idle One Impeached Before Him by His Accomplice.

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