Industry and Idleness.
William Hogarth doesn’t pull any punches in the twelve engravings of this series, comparing and contrasting the virtues of work versus the sins of sloth. Each plate shows one of two, and sometimes both, apprentices (‘prentices) at various stages in their lives; each plate also contains at least one relevant Biblical quotation. The industrious worker is portrayed as moral and successful, while the idle “worker” displays characteristics of laziness and crime. It’s a bit heavy-handed by today’s jaundiced eye, but lines up with the societal beliefs and mid-18th century Protestant work ethic.
To work. The kiddy would not strap, so he went on the scamp: the lad would not work, and therefore robbed on the highway.
From the Tate Museum description:
As indicated by the tankard on the left, this scene takes place in a workroom located in Spitalfields, then the centre of London silk-weaving. Goodchild works diligently at the loom, while, Idle is fast asleep. Two volumes entitled ‘The Prentices Guide’ are strategically placed, symbolising their respective attitudes to work and authority. Goodchild’s is in pristine condition, carefully propped against a thread winder but the other is soiled, ripped and discarded on the floor. Thus the direction that each apprentice’s career takes is presented as a personal choice. The master weaver enters the workroom holding a stick with which, we can imagine, Idle is about to be soundly beaten. From the beginning transgression and punishment are established as the dominant themes of his life, just as diligence and reward are those of Goodchild’s.
Goodchild’s Bible Verse:
Proverbs Ch: 10 Ver: 4
The hand of the diligent
Idle’s Bible Verse:
Proverbs Chap: 23 Ver: 21
The Drunkard shall come to
Poverty, & drowsiness shall
clothe a Man with rags.
Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.