WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Collar Day

We’ve come to the penultimate piece in Hogarth’s Industry and Idleness series, and it’s a tragic, though not wholly unexpected one. Tom Idle meets his fate: we see that he’s headed to Tyburn.

Collar Day

Execution day.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 11: The Idle ‘Prentice Executed at Tyburn, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

Earlier in the series Idle had chosen gambling and cheating in the churchyard rather than attend the church service. Now he desperately reads a Book of Common Prayer [sic], while a Methodist clergyman evangelises over sin and damnation beside him. The Tyburn gallows, seen in the centre background, was a distinctive tripod-shaped wooden construction on which numerous criminals could be hung at once. After execution there was sometimes a scramble for the corpse between the assistance of surgeons, who required it for research and the teaching of anatomy, and friends and family of the hanged. The coffin accompanying Idle suggests that he is intended to be buried post-execution. However, the skeletons displayed either side of the print suggests that his body will end-up anatomised.

From the Wikipedia description:

Idle now comes, like Tom Nero in The Four Stages of Cruelty, to the reward of his depredations and malice: a felon’s death on the gallows.

The procession from left to right shows a detachment of soldiers riding behind the tumbrel, which contains a preacher with a book labelled Wesley, a reference to Methodism. The cleric vigorously discourses to a now hairless Thomas Idle, who is leaning on his own coffin (marked by the initials “T.I.”). The coach ahead carries the Official clergyman (who will actually preside at the execution). Beyond looms the Tyburn Tree. The executioner lays unconcernedly along one of the crossbeams, smoking his pipe and apparently inured to the nature of his work.

In the right background, more or less well behaved spectators wait. One releases a bird that will fly back to Newgate and give the news that (by the time it’s arrived) the malefactor is dead.

Around and in the midst of the semi-orderly procession, chaos reigns.

In the front center, a woman with a baby is advertising “The last dying Speech & Confession of—Tho. Idle.” although the condemned has not yet arrived at the gallows. To the left, a brawl involves two to four people. To her left, a drunken sot attempts to court her with ridiculous airs, notwithstanding his holding a dog up by the tail. The suspended dog, positioned directly below the gibbet in the picture, prefigures another “cur” who is about to be hanged. Behind them a massive riot goes on while a woman assaults the man pushing over her cart of fruit. A man to the far right peddles something. In one corner are two boys, one pickpocketing and the other resisting temptation, possibly echoing Idle and Goodchild.

The frame of the picture shows Thomas’ ultimate fate, hung on a gibbet for his highway collecting.

Finally, the verse at the bottom completes Idle’s doom.

Proverbs CHAP I Ver: 27, 28
When fear cometh as desolation, and their
destruction cometh as a Whirlwind; when
distress cometh upon them, they shall
call upon God, but he will not answer


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

One thought on “WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Collar Day

  1. Pingback: WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Galley Foist – Obstinate Headstrong Girl … author Renée Reynolds

Comments are closed.