“New to the school of hard mishap,
Driven from the ease of fortune’s lap.
What schemes will nature not embrace
T’ avoid less shame of drear distress?
Gold can the charms of youth bestow,
And mask deformity with shew:
Gold can avert the sting of shame,
In Winter’s arms create a flame:
Can couple youth with hoary age,
And make antipathies engage.”
To be thus degraded by the rude enforcement of the law, and relieved from an exigence by one whom he had injured, would have wounded, humbled, I had almost said reclaimed, any man who had either feeling or elevation of mind; but, to mark the progression of vice, we here see this depraved, lost character, hypocritically violating every natural feeling of the soul, to recruit his exhausted finances, and marrying an old and withered Sybil, at the sight of whom nature must recoil.
The ceremony passes in the old church, Mary-le-bone, which was then considered at such a distance from London, as to become the usual resort of those who wished to be privately married; that such was the view of this prostituted young man, may be fairly inferred from a glance at the object of his choice. Her charms are heightened by the affectation of an amorous leer, which she directs to her youthful husband, in grateful return for a similar compliment which she supposes paid to herself. This gives her face much meaning, but meaning of such a sort, that an observer being ask, ”How dreadful must be this creature’s hatred?“ would naturally reply, ”How hateful must be her love!“
In his demeanor we discover an attempt to appear at the altar with becoming decorum: but internal perturbation darts through assumed tranquillity, for though he is plighting his troth to the old woman, his eyes are fixed on the young girl who kneels behind her.
The parson and clerk seem made for each other; a sleepy, stupid solemnity marks every muscle of the divine, and the nasal droning of the lay brother is most happily expressed. Accompanied by her child and mother, the unfortunate victim of his seduction is here again introduced, endeavouring to enter the church, and forbid the banns. The opposition made by an old pew-opener, with her bunch of keys, gave the artist a good opportunity for indulging his taste in the burlesque, and he has not neglected it.
A dog (Trump, Hogarth’s favorite), paying his addresses to a one-eyed quadruped of his own species, is a happy parody of the unnatural union going on in the church.
The commandments are broken: a crack runs near the tenth, which says, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife; a prohibition in the present case hardly necessary. The creed is destroyed by the damps of the church; and so little attention has been paid to the poor’s box, that it is covered with a cobweb! These three high-wrought strokes of satirical humour were perhaps never equalled by any exertion of the pencil; excelled they cannot be.
On one of the pew doors is the following curious specimen of church-yard poetry, and mortuary orthography.
This is a correct copy of the inscription. Part of these lines, in raised letters, now form a pannel in the wainscot at the end of the right-hand gallery, as the church is entered from the street. The mural monument of the Taylor’s, composed of lead, gilt over, is still preserved: it is seen in Hogarth’s print, just under the window.
A glory over the bride’s head is whimsical.
The bay and holly, which decorate the pews, give a date to the period, and determine this preposterous union of January with June, to have taken place about the time of Christmas;
“When Winter linger’d in her icy veins.”
Addison would have classed her among the evergreens of the sex.
It has been observed, that “the church is too small, and the wooden post, which seems to have no use, divides the picture very disagreeably.” This cannot be denied: but it appears to be meant as an accurate representation of the place, and the artist delineated what he saw.
The grouping is good, and the principal figure has the air of a gentleman. The light is well distributed, and the scene most characteristically represented.
The commandments being represented as broken, might probably give the hint to a lady’s reply, on being told that thieves had the preceding night broken into the church, and stolen the communion-plate, and the ten commandments. “I suppose,” added the informant, “that they may melt and sell the plate; but can you divine for what possible purpose they could steal the commandments?"—“To break them, to be sure,” replied she; —“to break them.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09