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HOGARTH, SMOLLETT, AND FIELDING. SUPPOSE, as long as novels last and authors aim at interesting
their public, there must always be in the story a virtuous and gallant hero, a wicked monster his opposite, and a pretty girl who finds a champion; bravery and virtue conquer beauty; and vice, after seeming to triumph through a certain number of pages, is sure to be discomfited in the last volume, when justice overtakes him and honest folks come by their own. There never was perhaps a greatly popular story but this simple plot was carried through it: mere satiric wit is addressed to a class of readers and thinkers quite different to those simple souls who laugh and weep over the novel. I fancy very few ladies indeed, for instance, could be brought to like “Gulliver” heartily, and (putting the coarseness and difference of manners out of the question) to relish the wonderful satire of " Jonathan Wild.” In that strange apologue, the author takes for a hero the greatest rascal, coward, traitor, tyrant, hypocrite, that his wit and experience, both large in this matter, could enable him to devise or depict; he accompanies this villain through all the actions of his life, with a grinning deference and a wonderful mock respect : and doesn't leave him, till he is dangling at the gallows, when the satirist makes him a low bow and wishes the scoundrel good day.
It was not by satire of this sort, or by scorn and contempt, that Hogarth achieved his vast popularity and acquired his reputation.* His art is quite simple, he speaks popular parables to interest simple
* Coleridge speaks of the “ beautiful female faces " in Hogarth's pictures, “in whom,” he says, “the satirist never extinguished that love of beauty which belonged to him as a poet.”—The Friend.
† “I was pleased with the reply of a gentleman, who, being asked which book he esteemed most in his library, answered 'Shakspeare :' being asked which hearts, and to inspire them with pleasure or pity or warning and terror. Not one of his tales but is as easy as Goody Twoshoes; it is the moral of Tommy was a naughty boy and the master flogged him, and Jacky was a good boy and had plum-cake, which pervades he esteemed next best, replied “Hogarth.' His graphic representations are indeed books : they have the teeming, fruitful, suggestive meaning of words. Other pictures we look at—his prints we read.
“The quantity of thought which Hogarth crowds into every picture would almost unvulgarise every subject which he might choose.
“I say not that all the ridiculous subjects of Hogarth have necessarily something in them to make us like them ; some are indifferent to us, some in their nature repulsive, and only made interesting by the wonderful skill and truth to nature in the painter ; bụt I contend that there is in most of them that sprinkling of the better nature, which, like holy water, chases away and disperses the contagion of the bad. They have this in them, besides, that they bring us acquainted with the every-day human face,—they give us skill to detect those gradations of sense and virtue (which escape the careless or fastidious observer) in the circumstances of the world about us; and prevent that disgust at common life, that tædium quotidianarum formarum, which an unrestricted passion for ideal forms and beauties is in danger of producing. In this, as in many other things, they are analogous to the best novels of Smollett and Fielding.”—CHARLES LAMB.
“It has been observed that Hogarth's pictures are exceedingly unlike any other representations of the same kind of subjects—that they form a class, and have a character, peculiar to themselves. It may be worth while to consider in what this general distinction consists.
“In the first place, they are, in the strictest sense, historical pictures ; and if what Fielding says be true, that his novel of 'Tom Jones' ought to be regarded as an epic prose-poem, because it contained a regular development of fable, manners, character, and passion, the compositions of Hogarth will, in like manner, be found to have a higher claim to the title of epic pictures than many which have of late arrogated that denomination to themselves. When we say that Hogarth treated his subject historically, we mean that his works represent the manners and humours of mankind in action, and their characters by varied expression. Everything in his pictures has life and motion in it. Not only does the business of the scene never stand still, but every feature and muscle is put into full play; the exact feeling of the moment is brought out, and carried to its utmost height, and then instantly seized and stamped on the canvas for ever. The expression is always taken en passant, in a state of progress or change, and, as it were, at the salient point.
His figures are not like the back-ground on which they are painted : even the pictures on the wall have a peculiar look of their own. Again, with the rapidity, variety, and scope of history, Hogarth's leads have all the reality and correctness of portraits. He gives the extremes of the whole works of the homely and famous English moralist. And if the moral is written in rather too large letters after the fable, we must remember how simple the scholars and schoolmaster both were, and like neither the less because they are so artless and honest. “It was a maxim of Dr. Harrison's," Fielding says, in " Amelia,”-speaking of the benevolent divine and philosopher who represents the good principle in that novel" that no man can descend below himself, in doing any act which may contribute to protect an innocent person, or to bring a rogue to the gallows." The moralists of that age had no compunction, you see; they had not begun to be sceptical about the theory of punishment, and thought that the hanging of a thief was a spectacle for edification. Masters sent their apprentices, fathers took their children, to see Jack Sheppard or Jonathan Wild hanged, and it was as undoubting subscribers to this moral law, that Fielding wrote and Hogarth painted. Except in one instance, where, in the mad-house scene in the “Rake's Progress,” the girl whom he has ruined is represented as still tending and weeping over him in his insanity, a glimpse of pity for his rogues never seems to enter honest Hogarth's mind. There's not the slightest doubt in the breast of the jolly Draco.
The farnous set of pictures called “Marriage à la Mode,” and which are now exhibited in the National Gallery in London, contains the most important and highly wrought of the Hogarth comedies. The care and method with which the moral grounds of these pictures are laid is as remarkable as the wit and skill of the observing and dexterous artist. He has to describe the negotiations for a marriage pending between the daughter of a rich citizen Alderman and young Lord Viscount Squanderfield, the dissipated son of a gouty old Earl. Pride and pomposity appear in every
character and expression, but he gives them with perfect truth and accuracy. *This is, in fact, what distinguishes his compositions from all others of the same kind, that they are equally remote from caricature, and from mere still life.
His faces go to the very verge of caricature, and yet never (we believe in any single instance) go beyond it.”-HAZLITT.
accessory surrounding the Earl. He sits in gold lace and velvetas how should such an Earl wear anything but velvet and gold lace? His coronet is everywhere : on his footstool, on which reposes one gouty toe turned out ; on the sconces and looking-glasses; on the dogs; on his lordship's very crutches; on his great chair of state and the great baldaquin behind him ; under which he sits pointing majestically to his pedigree, which shows that his race is sprung from the loins of William the Conqueror, and confronting the old Alderman from the City, who has mounted his sword for the occasion, and wears his Alderman's chain, and has brought a bag full of money, mortgage-deeds, and thousand-pound notes, for the arrangement of the transaction pending between them. Whilst the steward (a Methodist—therefore a hypocrite and cheat: for Hogarth scorned a Papist and a Dissenter,) is negotiating between the old couple, their children sit together, united but apart. My lord is admiring his countenance in the glass, while his bride is twiddling her marriage ring on her pocket-handkerchief, and listening with rueful countenance to Counsellor Silvertongue, who has been drawing the settlements. The girl is pretty, but the painter, with a curious watchfulness, has taken care to give her a likeness to her father; as in the young Viscount's face you see a resemblance to the Earl, his noble sire. The sense of the coronet pervades the picture, as it is supposed to do the mind of its wearer. The pictures round the room are sly hints indicating the situation of the parties about to marry. A martyr is led to the fire ; Andromeda is offered to sacrifice; Judith is going to slay Holofernes. There is the ancestor of the house in the picture it is the Earl himself as a young man), with a comet over his head, indicating that the career of the family is to be brilliant and brief. In the second picture, the old lord must be dead, for Madam has now the Countess's coronet over her bed and toilet-glass, and sits listening to that dangerous Counsellor Silvertongue, whose portrait now actually hangs up in her room, whilst the counsellor takes his ease on the sofa by her side, evidently the familiar of the house, and the confidant of the mistress. My lord takes his pleasure elsewhere
than at home, whither he returns jaded and tipsy from the “Rose;" to find his wife yawning in her drawing-room, her whist-party over, and the daylight streaming in; or he amuses himself with the very worst company abroad, whilst his wife sits at home listening to foreign singers, or wastes her money at auctions, or, worse still, seeks amusement at masquerades. The dismal end is known. My lord draws upon the counsellor, who kills him, and is apprehended whilst endeavouring to escape. My lady goes back perforce to the Alderman in the City, and faints upon reading Counsellor Silvertongue's dying speech at Tyburn, where the counsellor has been executed for sending his lordship out of the world. Moral :-Don't listen to evil silver-tongued counsellors : don't marry a man for his rank, or a woman for her money: don't frequent foolish auctions and masquerade balls unknown to your husband : don't have wicked companions abroad and neglect your wife, otherwise you will be run through the body, and ruin will ensue, and disgrace, and Tyburn. The people are all nanghty, and Bogey carries them all off. In the “Rake's Progress," a loose life is ended by a similar sad catastrophe. It is the spendthrift coming into possession of the wealth of the paternal miser; the prodigal surrounded by flatterers, and wasting his substance on the very worst company; the bailiffs, the gambling-house, and Bedlam for an end. In the famous story of “Industry and Idleness," the moral is pointed in a manner similarly clear. Fair-haired Frank Goodchild smiles at his work, whilst naughty Tom Idle snores over his loom. Frank reads the edifying ballads of “Whittington” and the “London 'Prentice," whilst that reprobate Tom Idle prefers “Moll Flanders,” and drinks hugely of beer. Frank goes to church of a Sunday, and warbles hymns from the gallery; while Tom lies on a tombstone outside playing at "halfpenny-under-the-hat” with street blackguards, and is deservedly caned by the beadle. Frank is made overseer of the business, whilst Tom is sent to sea. Frank is taken into partnership and marries his master's daughter, sends out broken victuals to the poor, and listens in his nightcap and gown, with the lovely Mrs. Goodchild by his side, to the nuptial music of the City