Enlivening our Present by Illuminating our Past


<Enlivening our Present by
Illuminating our Past>



<Enlivening our Present by
Illuminating our Past>



<Enlivening our Present by
Illuminating our Past>



<Enlivening our Present by
Illuminating our Past>



The Ballarat Mechanics Institute has, in the extensive heritage collection of rare books, a complete volume of the works of William Hogarth.

This publication is the 1822 (1837) edition of plates restored by James Heath, Esq.,R.A.

There are a total of 116 full-page plates, some 40 pages having multiple engravings.

Inspection of the plates may be had on application to the BMI librarian, and a suitable time for showing can be arranged.

The plates are not on permanent display in the heritage library.

The Works Of

William Hogarth,

From The Original Plates Restored By James Heath, Esq. R.A.;

With The Addition Of Many Subjects Not Before Collected;

To Which Are Prefixed, A Biographical Essay On The Genius and Productions of Hogarth,

And Explanations Of The Subjects Of The Plates, By John Nichols, Esq. F.S.A.


At the Bell Inn, in Wood Street—Mary Hackabout and the Procuress

“The snares are set, the plot is laid,
Ruin awaits thee, hapless maid!
Seduction sly assails thine ear,
And gloating, foul desire is near;
Baneful and blighting are their smiles,
Destruction waits upon their wiles:
Alas! thy guardian angel sleeps,
Vice clasps her hands, and virtue weeps.”—E.

This series of prints gives the history of a Prostitute. The story commences with her arrival in London, where, initiated in the school of profligacy, she experiences the miseries consequent to her situation, and dies in the morning of life. Her variety of wretchedness forms such a picture of the way in which vice rewards her votaries, as ought to warn the young and inexperienced from entering this path of infamy. The first scene of this domestic tragedy is laid at the Bell Inn, in Wood Street, and the heroine may possibly be daughter to the poor old clergyman who is reading the direction of a letter close to the York waggon, from which vehicle she has just alighted. In attire, neat, plain, unadorned; in demeanor, artless, modest, diffident; in the bloom of youth, and more distinguished by native innocence than elegant symmetry; her conscious blush and downcast eyes attract the attention of a female friend who panders to the vices of the opulent and libidinous. Coming out of the door of the inn we discover two men, one of whom is eagerly gloating on the devoted victim. This is a portrait, and said to be a strong resemblance of Colonel Francis Chartres, whose epitaph was written by Doctor Arbuthnot: in that epitaph his character is most emphatically described.

The old procuress, immediately after the girl’s alighting from the waggon, addresses her with the familiarity of a friend rather than the reserve of one who is to be her mistress.

Had her father been versed in even the first rudiments of physiognomy, he would have prevented her engaging with one of so decided an aspect; for this also is the portrait of a woman infamous in her day: but he, good, easy man, unsuspicious as Fielding’s Parson Adams, is wholly engrossed in the contemplation of a superscription to a letter addressed to the bishop of the diocese. So important an object prevents his attending to his daughter, or regarding the devastation occasioned by his gaunt and hungry Rozinante having snatched at the straw that packs up some earthenware, and produced

“The wreck of flower-pots, and the crash of pans!”


The Jew’s Mistress quarrelling with her Keeper

“Ah! why so vain, though blooming in thy spring;
Thou shining, frail, adorn’d, but wretched thing!
Old age will come; disease may come before,
And twenty prove as fatal as threescore!”

Entered into the path of infamy, the next scene exhibits our young heroine the mistress of a rich Jew, attended by a black boy, and surrounded with the pompous parade of tasteless profusion. Her mind being now as depraved as her person is decorated, she keeps up the spirit of her character by extravagance and inconstancy. An example of the first is exhibited in the monkey being suffered to drag her rich head-dress round the room, and of the second in the retiring gallant. The Hebrew is represented at breakfast with his mistress; but having come earlier than was expected, the favourite has not departed. To secure his retreat, is an exercise for the invention of both mistress and maid. This is accomplished by the lady finding a pretence for quarrelling with the Jew, kicking down the tea-table, and scalding his legs, which, added to the noise of the china, so far engrosses his attention, that the paramour, assisted by the servant, escapes discovery.

The subjects of two pictures with which the room is decorated are, David dancing before the ark, and Jonah seated under a gourd. They are placed there, not merely as circumstances which belong to Jewish story, but as a piece of covert ridicule on the old masters, who generally painted from the ideas of others, and repeated the same tale ad infinitum. On the toilet-table we discover a mask, which well enough intimates where she had passed part of the preceding night, and that masquerades, then a very fashionable amusement, were much frequented by women of this description; a sufficient reason for their being avoided by those of an opposite character.

Under the protection of this disciple of Moses she could not remain long. Riches were his only attraction, and though profusely lavished on this unworthy object, her attachment was not to be obtained, nor could her constancy be secured; repeated acts of infidelity are punished by dismission; and her next situation shows that, like most of the sisterhood, she had lived without apprehension of the sunshine of life being darkened by the passing cloud, and made no provision for the hour of adversity.

In this print the characters are marked with a master’s hand. The insolent air of the harlot, the astonishment of the Jew, eagerly grasping at the falling table, the start of the black boy, the cautious trip of the ungartered and barefooted retreating gallant, and the sudden spring of the scalded monkey, are admirably expressed. To represent an object in its descent has been said to be impossible: the attempt has seldom succeeded; but in this print, the tea equipage really appears falling to the floor.


Visit of the Constables

Reproach, scorn, infamy, and hate,
On all thy future steps shall wait;
Thy form be loathed by every eye,
And every foot thy presence fly.

We here see this child of misfortune fallen from her high estate! Her magnificent apartment is quitted for a dreary lodging in the purlieus of Drury Lane: she is at breakfast, and every object exhibits marks of the most wretched penury; her silver tea-kettle is changed for a tin-pot, and her highly-decorated toilet gives place to an old leaf-table, strewed with the relics of the last night’s revel, and ornamented with a broken looking-glass.

Around the room are scattered tobacco-pipes, gin measures, and pewter pots,—emblems of the habits of life into which she is initiated, and the company which she now keeps: this is further intimated by the wig-box of James Dalton, a notorious street-robber, who was afterwards executed. In her hand she displays a watch, which might be either presented to her, or stolen from her last night’s gallant. By the nostrums which ornament the broken window, we see that poverty is not her only evil. The dreary and comfortless appearance of every object in this wretched receptacle, the bit of butter on a piece of paper, the candle in a bottle, the basin upon a chair, the punch-bowl and comb upon the table, and the tobacco-pipes, etc. strewed upon the unswept floor, give an admirable picture of the style in which this pride of Drury Lane ate her matin meal. The pictures which ornament the room are, Abraham offering up Isaac, and a portrait of the Virgin Mary; Dr. Sacheverel, and Macheath the highwayman are companion prints. There is some whimsicality in placing the two ladies under a canopy, formed by the unnailed valance of the bed, and characteristically crowned by the wig-box of a highwayman.

A magistrate, cautiously entering the room with his attendant constables, commits her to an house of correction, where our legislators wisely suppose, that being confined to the improving conversation of her associates in vice, must have a powerful tendency towards the reformation of her manners!


Mary Hackabout beating Hemp in Bridewell

“With pallid cheek and haggard eye,
And loud laments, and heartfelt sigh,
Unpitied, hopeless of relief,
She drinks the bitter cup of grief.
In vain the sigh, in vain the tear,
Compassion never enters here;
But justice clanks her iron chain,
And calls forth shame, remorse, and pain.” —E.

The situation in which the last plate exhibited our wretched female was sufficiently degrading, but in this her misery is greatly aggravated. We now see her suffering the chastisement due to her follies; reduced to the wretched alternative of beating hemp, or receiving the correction of a savage taskmaster. Exposed to the derision of all around, even her own servant, who is well acquainted with the rules of the place, appears little disposed to show any return of gratitude for recent obligations, though even her shoes, which she displays while tying up her garter, seem by their gaudy outside to have been a present from her mistress. The civil discipline of the stern keeper has all the severity of the old school. With the true spirit of tyranny, he sentences those who will not labour to the whipping post, to a kind of picketing suspension by the wrists, or having a heavy log fastened to their leg. With the last of these punishments he at this moment threatens the heroine of our story; nor is it likely that his obduracy can be softened except by a well-applied fee. How dreadful, how mortifying the situation! These accumulated evils might perhaps produce a momentary remorse, but a return to the path of virtue is not so easy as a departure from it. The Magdalen hospital has been since instituted, and the wandering female sometimes finds it an asylum from wretchedness, and a refuge from the reproaches of the world.

To show that neither the dread nor endurance of the severest punishment will deter from the perpetration of crimes, a one-eyed female, close to the keeper, is picking a pocket. The torn card may probably be dropped by the well-dressed gamester, who has exchanged the dice-box for the mallet, and whose laced hat is hung up as a companion trophy to the hoop-petticoat.

One of the girls appears scarcely in her teens. To the disgrace of our police, these unfortunate little wanderers are still suffered to take their nocturnal rambles in the most public streets of the metropolis. What heart so void of sensibility as not to heave a pitying sigh at their deplorable situation? Vice is not confined to colour, for a black woman is ludicrously exhibited as suffering the penalty of those frailties which are imagined peculiar to the fair.

The figure chalked as dangling upon the wall, with a pipe in his mouth, is intended as a caricatured portrait of Sir John Gonson, and probably the production of some wou’d-be artist whom the magistrate had committed to Bridewell as a proper academy for the pursuit of his studies. The inscription upon the pillory, BETTER TO WORK THAN STAND THUS, and that on the whipping-post, near the laced gambler, THE REWARD OF IDLENESS, are judiciously introduced.

In this print the composition is tolerably good: the figures in the background, though properly subordinate, sufficiently marked; the lassitude of the principal character well contrasted by the austerity of the rigid overseer. There is a fine climax of female debasement, from the gaudy heroine of our drama to her maid, and from thence to the still lower object who is represented as destroying one of the plagues of Egypt.


The Harlot’s Death—Quacks Disputing

“With keen remorse, deep sighs, and trembling fears,
Repentant groans, and unavailing tears,
This child of misery resigns her breath,
And sinks, despondent, in the arms of death.”—E.

Released from Bridewell, we now see this victim to her own indiscretion breathe her last sad sigh, and expire in all the extremity of penury and wretchedness. The two quacks, whose injudicious treatment has probably accelerated her death, are vociferously supporting the infallibility of their respective medicines, and each charging the other with having poisoned her. While the maid-servant is entreating them to cease quarrelling, and assist her dying mistress, the nurse plunders her trunk of the few poor remains of former grandeur. Her little boy turning a scanty remnant of meat hung to roast by a string; the linen hanging to dry; the coals deposited in a corner; the candles, bellows, and gridiron hung upon nails; the furniture of the room, and indeed every accompaniment, exhibit a dreary display of poverty and wretchedness. Over the candles hangs a cake of Jew’s bread, once perhaps the property of her Levitical lover, and now used as a fly-trap. The initials of her name, M. H., are smoked upon the ceiling as a kind of memento mori to the next inhabitant. On the floor lies a paper inscribed ANODYNE NECKLACE, at that time deemed a sort of CHARM against the disorders incident to children and near the fire, a tobacco-pipe and paper of pills.

A picture of general, and, at this awful moment, indecent confusion, is admirably represented. The noise of two enraged quacks disputing in bad English, the harsh vulgar scream of the maid-servant, the table falling, and the pot boiling over, must produce a combination of sounds dreadful and dissonant to the ear. In this pitiable situation, without a friend to close her dying eyes or soften her sufferings by a tributary tear,—forlorn, destitute, and deserted,—the heroine of this eventful history expires; her premature death brought on by a licentious life, seven years of which had been devoted to debauchery and dissipation, and attended by consequent infamy, misery, and disease. The whole story affords a valuable lesson to the young and inexperienced, and proves this great, this important truth, that A DEVIATION FROM VIRTUE IS A DEPARTURE FROM HAPPINESS.

The emaciated appearance of the dying figure, the boy’s thoughtless inattention, and the rapacious, unfeeling eagerness of the old nurse, are naturally and forcibly delineated.

The figures are well grouped; the curtain given depth, and forms a good background to the doctor’s head; the light is judiciously distributed, and each accompaniment highly appropriate.


The Funeral

“No friend’s complaint, no kind domestic tear,
Pleas’d thy pale ghost, or grac’d thy mournful bier:
By harlots’ hands thy dying eyes were clos’d;
By harlots’ hands thy decent limbs compos’d;
By harlots’ hands thy humble grave adorn’d;
By harlots honoured, and by harlots mourn’d.”

The adventures of our heroine are now concluded. She is no longer an actor in her own tragedy; and there are those who have considered this print as a farce at the end of it: but surely such was not the author’s intention.

The ingenious writer of Tristram Shandy begins the life of his hero before he is born; the picturesque biographer of Mary Hackabout has found an opportunity to convey admonition, and enforce his moral, after her death. A wish usually prevails, even among those who are most humbled by their own indiscretion, that some respect should be paid to their remains; that their eyes should be closed by the tender hand of a surviving friend, and the tear of sympathy and regret shed upon the sod which covers their grave; that those who loved them living should attend their last sad obsequies, and a sacred character read over them the awful service which our religion ordains with the solemnity it demands. The memory of this votary of prostitution meets with no such marks of social attention or pious respect. The preparations for her funeral are as licentious as the progress of her life, and the contagion of her example seems to reach all who surround her coffin. One of them is engaged in the double trade of seduction and thievery; a second is contemplating her own face in a mirror. The female who is gazing at the corpse displays some marks of concern, and feels a momentary compunction at viewing the melancholy scene before her: but if any other part of the company are in a degree affected, it is a mere maudlin sorrow, kept up by glasses of strong liquor. The depraved priest does not seem likely to feel for the dead that hope expressed in our liturgy.[63] The appearance and employment of almost every one present at this mockery of woe, is such as must raise disgust in the breast of any female who has the least tincture of delicacy, and excite a wish that such an exhibition may not be displayed at her own funeral.

In this plate there are some local customs which mark the manners of the times when it was engraved, but are now generally disused, except in some of the provinces very distant from the capital; sprigs of rosemary were then given to each of the mourners: to appear at a funeral without one, was as great an indecorum as to be without a white handkerchief. This custom might probably originate at a time when the plague depopulated the metropolis, and rosemary was deemed an antidote against contagion. It must be acknowledged that there are also in this print some things which, though they gave the artist an opportunity of displaying his humour, are violations of propriety and custom: such is her child, but a few removes from infancy, being habited as chief mourner, to attend his parent to the grave; rings presented, and an escutcheon hung up in a garret at the funeral of a needy prostitute. The whole may be intended as a burlesque upon ostentatious and expensive funerals, which were then more customary than they are now. Mr. Pope has well ridiculed the same folly:

“When Hopkins dies, a thousand lights attend
The wretch who, living, saved a candle’s end.”

The figures have much characteristic discrimination: the woman looking into the coffin has more beauty than we generally see in the works of this artist. The undertaker’s gloating stare, his companion’s leer, the internal satisfaction of the parson and his next neighbour, are contrasted by the Irish howl of the woman at the opposite side, and evince Mr. Hogarth’s thorough knowledge of the operation of the passions upon the features. The composition forms a good shape, has a proper depth, and the light is well managed.

Sir James Thornhill’s opinion of this series may be inferred from the following circumstance. Mr. Hogarth had without consent married his daughter: Sir James, considering him as an obscure artist, was much displeased with the connection. To give him a better opinion of his son-in-law, a common friend one morning privately conveyed the six pictures of the “Harlot’s Progress” into his drawing-room. The veteran painter eagerly inquired who was the artist; and being told, cried out, “Very well! Very well indeed! The man who can paint such pictures as these, can maintain a wife without a portion.” This was the remark of the moment; but he afterwards considered the union of his daughter with a man of such abilities an honour to his family, was reconciled, and generous.



When the publication was advertised, such was the expectation of the town, that above twelve hundred names were entered in the subscription book. When the prints appeared, they were beheld with astonishment. A subject so novel in the idea, so marked with genius in the execution, excited the most eager attention of the public. At a time when England was coldly inattentive to everything which related to the arts, so desirous were all ranks of people of seeing how this little domestic story was delineated, that there were eight piratical imitations,—besides two copies in a smaller size than the original, published, by permission of the author, for Thomas Bakewell. The whole series were copied on fan-mounts, representing the six plates, three on one side, and three on the other. It was transferred from the copper to the stage, in the form of a pantomime, by Theophilus Cibber; and again represented in a ballad opera, entitled, The Jew Decoyed, or the Harlot’s Progress.

A Joseph Gay, and several other wretched rhymers, published what they called poetical illustrations of Mr. Hogarth’s six plates: but these effusions of dulness do not deserve enumeration; nor would they deserve mention, but as collateral proofs of the great estimation in which these prints were held, when their popularity could force the sale of such miserable productions. Happily they are now consigned to those two high priests of the temple of oblivion, the trunkmaker and the pastrycook.

The six original pictures were sold on the 25th of January 1744-5, and produced eighty-eight pounds four shillings. Mr. Beckford, a late Lord Mayor of London, was, I believe, the purchaser. At a fire which burnt down his house at Fonthill, Wiltshire, in the year 1755, five of them were consumed.

When a messenger brought him intelligence of this unfortunate event, he said nothing, but took out his pocket-book, and wrote down a number of figures, which he seemed inspecting with the cool precision of a true disciple of Cocker, when a friend who was present, expressing some surprise at his being so collected after so heavy a loss, asked him what was the subject of his meditation? to which he answered, with the most philosophical indifference, “I am calculating how much it will cost me to rebuild my house.”


  • Barb Dunlop says:

    What a wonderful production!
    Thank you all for facts, laughter and memories.
    The BMI and contributors are amazing.
    Barb & Ric

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