Well, that escalated quickly.
Remember that time your typical society marriage was all beer and skittles, and you each went your married way, until your husband dandled a prostitute with an open sore on her mouth on his “knee.” The next thing you know, it’s mercury pills and trips to the doctor.
Yeah, that time. Oh, to have been a young Georgian lady with a father looking to marry her off to any young heir to an Earldom. Lud.
This is the third portrait in Marriage à-la-mode, a series of six pictures painted by William Hogarth between 1743 and 1745. The series is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery. It’s time to visit the doctor this week…although the curator of the National Gallery’s exhibition has doubts about just whose interests the physician in this portrait is serving.
A physician or surgeon, particularly those who cure the venereal disease.
From the Wikipedia description:
The third in the series, The Inspection (the name on its frame), called The Visit to the Quack Doctor by Hogarth, shows the viscount (the earl’s son) visiting a quack with a young prostitute. According to one interpretation, the viscount, unhappy with the mercury pills meant to cure his syphilis, demands a refund while the young prostitute next to him dabs an open sore on her mouth, an early sign of syphilis. But according to the analysis of Judy Egerton, the curator of the National Gallery’s exhibition, the interpretation is very different: The viscount has brought the child to the doctor because he believes he has infected her with syphilis. The woman with the knife is the girl’s mother, feigning anger in order to blackmail the viscount, who is being set up. The child already had the disease when her mother sold her to him, either because he was not her first “protector” or because she inherited the illness from her syphilitic father, who is the quack doctor.
Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.