“When fear cometh as desolation, and their destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress cometh upon them, then shall they call upon God, but he will not answer.”
Proverbs, chapter i. verse 7, 8.
Thus, after a life of sloth, wretchedness, and vice, does our delinquent terminate his career. Behold him, on the dreadful morn of execution, drawn in a cart (attended by the sheriff’s officers on horseback, with his coffin behind him) through the public streets to Tyburn, there to receive the just reward of his crimes — a shameful ignominious death. The ghastly appearance of his face, and the horror painted on his countenance, plainly show the dreadful situation of his mind; which we must imagine to be agitated with shame, remorse, confusion, and terror. The careless position of the Ordinary at the coach window is intended to show how inattentive those appointed to that office are of their duty, leaving it to others, which is excellently expressed by the itinerant preacher in the cart, instructing from a book of Wesley’s . Mr. Hogarth has in this print, digressing from the history and moral of the piece, taken an opportunity of giving us a humorous representation of an execution, or a Tyburn Fair: such days being made holidays, produce scenes of the greatest riot, disorder, and uproar; being generally attended by hardened wretches, who go there, not so much to reflect upon their own vices, as to commit those crimes which must in time inevitably bring them to the same shameful end. In confirmation of this, see how earnestly one boy watches the motions of the man selling his cakes, while he is picking his pocket; and another waiting to receive the booty! We have here interspersed before us a deal of low humour, but such as is common on occasions like this. In one place we observe an old bawd turning up her eyes and drinking a glass of gin, the very picture of hypocrisy; and a man indecently helping up a girl into the same cart; in another, a soldier sunk up to his knees in a bog, and two boys laughing at him, are well imagined. Here we see one almost squeezed to death among the horses; there, another trampled on by the mob. In one part is a girl tearing the face of a boy for oversetting her barrow; in another, a woman beating a fellow for throwing down her child. Here we see a man flinging a dog among the crowd by the tail; there a woman crying the dying speech of Thomas Idle, printed the day before his execution; and many other things too minute to be pointed out: two, however, we must not omit taking notice of, one of which is the letting off a pigeon, bred at the gaol, fly from the gallery, which hastes directly home; an old custom, to give an early notice to the keeper and others, of the turning off or death of the criminal; and that of the executioner smoking his pipe at the top of the gallows, whose position of indifference betrays an unconcern that nothing can reconcile with the shocking spectacle, but that of use having rendered his wretched office familiar to him; whilst it declares a truth, which every character in this plate seems to confirm, that a sad and distressful object loses its power of affecting by being frequently seen.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55