WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Venus’s Curse

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Seriously. Who can look at Moll’s face, posture, or living conditions in Plate 5 and not be affected. The doctors attending her were Richard Rock (the chubby one) and Jean Misaubin (the skinny one), who both advertised in 1732 their inventions of pills that would supposedly cure venereal disease. I almost chose a different slang term this week: nimginner, meaning a physician or surgeon, particularly those who “cure” the venereal disease.

A Harlot’s Progress was a series of six paintings and engravings. The paintings were destroyed in a fire at Fonthill House in 1755, but the original engraving plates survived, and are in the public domain.

Venus’s Curse

The venereal disease.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 5 – Moll Dying of Syphilis, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

From the Wikipedia description:

Moll is now dying of syphilis. Dr. Richard Rock on the left (black hair) and Dr. Jean Misaubin on the right (white hair) argue over their medical methods, which appear to be a choice of bleeding (Rock) and cupping (Misaubin). A woman, possibly Moll’s bawd and possibly the landlady, rifles Moll’s possessions for what she wishes to take away.

Two Doctors and the Landlady/Bawd from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 5 – Moll Dying of Syphilis, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

Meanwhile, Moll’s maid tries to stop the looting and arguing. Moll’s son sits by the fire, possibly addled by his mother’s venereal disease. He is picking lice or fleas out of his hair. The only hint as to the apartment’s owner is a Passover cake used as a fly-trap, implying that her former keeper is paying for her in her last days and ironically indicating that Moll will, unlike the Israelites, not be spared. Several opiates (“anodynes”) and “cures” litter the floor. Moll’s clothes seem to reach down for her as if they were ghosts drawing her to the afterlife.

Moll, Her Maid, and Son from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 5 – Moll Dying of Syphilis, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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