WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Public Ledger

Oh, lud.

Distinctions rarely get easier to make out than those between a proper wife and a common prostitute, and that’s exactly what we see between Plates 6 and 7 in Industry and Idleness. Francis Goodchild married well while Tom Idle secured for himself the lowest of all who sell their bodies; the former is respectable while the latter is anything but.

Public Ledger

A prostitute: because, like that paper, she is open to all parties.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 7: The Idle ‘Prentice Return’d from Sea, & in a Garret With a Common Prostitute, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

Idle, too, has been interrupted by noise from outside. But whereas Goodchild acts calmly, having nothing to fear, Idle is startled and terrified. Contrasting with Goodchild’s open door, his is locked, bolted and reinforced with planks of wood. The reason is clear. He and his partner in crime are thieving for a living, the ‘rewards’ of which are examined by the prostitute.

From the Wikipedia description:

For reasons unknown (but probably related to his namesake vice), Tom Idle is back on land again. If he was callous enough to throw out his indenture leaving land, he certainly doesn’t feel bound by any law on his return as he has gone so far as to turn highwayman (more likely footpad) and take up a (dismal) residence with “a common Prostitute”.

…Thomas and his companion are shown living in complete squalor somewhere in London. The sole article of furniture in the room is the broken down bed that Tom and his woman are lying on. She is busy examining the various nonmonetary spoils from his thefts on the highway, including an earring that looks like a gallows. The bottles on the fireplace mantel are suggestive of venereal disease, similar to those of plate 3 in A Harlot’s Progress.

The broken flute and bottle, together with the pair of breeches discarded on the bedclothes, suggest they’ve been spending their time in drunken debauchery. Samuel Ireland suggests that he was doing this to drive away his fears of the law.

The principal event of the scene is a cat falling down the chimney with a few bricks (which strongly suggests the quality of the house they are lodging in), which causes Tom Idle to start up with all the fear of the law on him.

The extremely dilapidated condition of the building, lack of any obvious source of light or fire, and covering over of the window by a hoop petticoat suggest that Idle is in hiding and sparing no pains to keep his location a secret.

Leviticus CHAP: XXVI Ve: 30
The Sound of a Shaken Leaf
shall Chace him.


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