WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Carrion Hunter

The last plate in the series means we’ve reached Moll’s final fate, and it’s as sad and final a one as might be expected for a prostitute. I am most struck by her son in this engraving – at his expression, and wondering about his future.

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.

Carrion Hunter

An undertaker; called also a cold cook, and death hunter.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 6 – Moll’s Wake, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

From the Wikipedia description:

In the final plate, Moll is dead, and all of the scavengers are present at her wake. A note on the coffin lid shows that she died aged 23 on 2 September 1731. The parson spills his brandy as he has his hand up the skirt of the girl next to him, and she appears pleased. A woman who has placed drinks on Moll’s coffin looks on in disapproval. Moll’s son plays ignorantly. Moll’s son is innocent, but he sits playing with his top underneath his mother’s body, unable to understand (and figuratively fated to death himself).

Parson and Moll’s Son from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 6 – Moll’s Wake, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

Moll’s madam drunkenly mourns on the right with a ghastly grinning jug of “Nants” (brandy). She is the only one who is upset at the treatment of the dead girl, whose coffin is being used as a tavern bar. A “mourning” girl (another prostitute) steals the undertaker’s handkerchief. Another prostitute shows her injured finger to her fellow whore, while a woman adjusts her appearance in a mirror in the background, even though she shows a syphilitic sore on her forehead. The house holding the coffin has an ironic coat of arms on the wall displaying a chevron with three spigots, reminiscent of the “spill” of the parson, the flowing alcohol, and the expiration of Moll. The white hat hanging on the wall by the coat of arms is the one Moll wore in the first plate, referring back to the beginning of her end.

Moll’s Maid and Other Prostitutes from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 6 – Moll’s Wake, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

 

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

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