WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Covent Garden Nun

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Covent Garden Nun

We’re halfway through A Harlot’s Progress, up to Plate 3 – Moll as a Prostitute. I think the whole of the series is progression of sadness, but this plate always brings home the reality of Moll’s life to me. I think there must be some hope – even if it’s only delusion – when one is a mistress. Yes, you’re a kept woman, looked down on by polite society, but you’re not on the street, not in a brothel, and have a modicum of control over your life. But now that Moll has sunk from mistress to prostitute, what little sovereignty she had has evaporated.

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.

Covent Garden Nun

A prostitute.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 3 – Moll as a Prostitute, by William Hogarth, 1732, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

Moll has gone from kept woman to common prostitute. Her maid is now old and syphilitic, and Henry Fielding, in Tom Jones (2:3), would say that the maid looks like his character of Mrs. Partridge. Her bed is her only major piece of furniture, and the cat poses to suggest Moll’s new posture. The witch hat and birch rods on the wall suggest either black magic, or more importantly that prostitution is the devil’s work. Her heroes are on the wall: Macheath from The Beggar’s Opera and Henry Sacheverell, and two cures for syphilis are above them. The wig box of highwayman James Dalton (hanged on 11 May 1730) is stored over her bed, suggesting a romantic dalliance with the criminal. The magistrate, Sir John Gonson, with three armed bailiffs, is coming through the door on the right side of the frame to arrest Moll for her activities. Moll is showing off a new watch (perhaps a present from Dalton, perhaps stolen from another lover) and exposing her left breast. Gonson, however, is fixed upon the witch’s hat and ‘broom’ or the periwig hanging from the wall above Moll’s bed.

The composition satirically resembles that of an Annunciation, i.e. the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:26–39.

 

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

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Peculiar

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Peculiar

It is speculated that William Hogarth named Moll Hackabout in A Harlot’s Progress after Daniel Dafoe’s Moll Flanders, notorious prostitute Kate Hackabout, or the Virgin Mary; each one of these presents intriguing possibilities.

Moll Flanders was published anonymously as an autobiography in 1722, and told the story of the life of Moll from birth to old age. The book was not attributed to Defoe until after his death in 1731, because he had met a criminal named Moll King during multiple visits to Newgate Prison. The birth to old age angle dovetails nicely with Hogarth’s Moll Hackabout.

Prostitute Kate Hackabout (who was also the sister of highwayman Francis Hackabout) could possibly be the inspiration for Hogarth’s Moll as she was convicted of keeping a “disorderly house” (i.e., brothel) after having been arrested by one Westminster Magistrate by the name of Sir John Gonson. Gonson’s efforts and exploits to clean up brothels and street prostitution kept his name in the papers, and eventually in the fourth and fifth plates of A Harlot’s Progress.

I understand the Virgin Mary parallel in so far as Moll’s arrival in London as a country innocent, but for the life of me I can’t fathom a further comparison. This one fizzles for me.

Anyway, this week brings about Plate 2: Moll as a Mistress. We are witnesses to the pinnacle of Moll’s career, as it were.

Peculiar

A mistress.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 2 – Moll as a Mistress, by Willliam Hogarth, 1732, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

Moll is now the mistress of a wealthy Jewish merchant, as is confirmed by the Old Testament paintings in the background which have been considered to be prophetic of how the merchant will treat Moll in between this plate and the third plate. She has numerous affectations of dress and accompaniment, as she keeps a West Indian serving boy and a monkey. The boy and the young female servant, as well as the monkey, may be provided by the businessman. The presence of the servant, the monkey and the mahogany table of tea things all suggest a colonial source for the merchant’s wealth. She has jars of cosmetics, a mask from masquerades, and her apartment is decorated with paintings illustrating her sexually promiscuous and morally precarious state. She pushes over a table to distract the merchant’s attention as a second lover tiptoes out.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Abbess

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Abbess

Well, if turnabout is fair play, it’s time to examine A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth. I’ll be the first to admit: Moll’s story seems much sadder to me than Tom Rakewell’s.

The history behind the art is fascinating. There were two schools of thought in conflict in the war on prostitution at the time of Hogarth’s painting. The official attempts at eradication were championed by Justice John Gonson, whose fervent enthusiasm to clean up London – especially Covent Garden – was regularly documented in the city papers. Both brothel and street prostitutes were initially portrayed as “vain, artful temptresses” wholly responsible for “moral corruption and the spread of disease.” With a little time and investigation, however, public perception became tempered by a new impression of the prostitute as a blameless country girl who came to the city, alone and entirely vulnerable, only to be gulled into harlotry by malicious a brothel keeper.

Hogarth combined these two depictions into his Harlot, Moll Hackabout, and even referenced several real-life characters in some scenes (including Justice Gonson). He struck upon the idea of painting the story of his fictional Moll after painting the portrait of a prostitute in her living quarters on Drury Lane. He decided to paint Moll’s life from her arrival in London from the country through her eventual death in the city in an allegorical manner similar to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Moll’s story then led him to paint A Rake’s Progress and, ten years later, Marriage à-la-mode.

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.

Abbess

A bawd, the mistress of a brothel.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 1 – Moll Hackabout Arrives in London, by Willliam Hogarth, 1732, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

The protagonist, Moll Hackabout, has arrived in London’s Cheapside. Moll carries scissors and a pincushion hanging on her arm, suggesting that she sought employment as a seamstress. Instead, she is being inspected by the pox-ridden Elizabeth Needham, a notorious procuress and brothel-keeper, who wants to secure Moll for prostitution. The notorious rake Colonel Francis Charteris and his pimp, John Gourlay, look on, also interested in Moll. The two stand in front of a decaying building, symbolic of their moral bankruptcy. Charteris fondles himself in expectation.

Close up of brothel owner – Abbess – A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 1 – Moll Hackabout Arrives in London, by Willliam Hogarth, 1732, Public Domain.

Londoners ignore the scene, and even a mounted clergyman ignores her predicament, just as he ignores the fact of his horse knocking over a pile of pans.

Moll appears to have been deceived by the possibility of legitimate employment. A goose in Moll’s luggage is addressed to “My lofing cosen in Tems Stret in London”: suggesting that she has been misled; this “cousin” might have been a recruiter or a paid-off dupe of the bawdy keepers. Moll is dressed in white, in contrast to those around her, illustrating her innocence and naiveté. The dead goose in or near Moll’s luggage, similarly white, foreshadows Moll’s death as a result of her gullibility.

The inn sign, with a picture of a bell, may refer to the belle (French for beautiful woman) who has newly arrived from the country. The teetering pile of pans alludes to Moll’s imminent “fall”. The goose and the teetering pans also mimic the inevitable impotence that ensues from syphilis, foreshadowing Moll’s specific fate.

The composition resembles that of a Visitation, i.e. the visit of Mary with Elizabeth as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:39–56.

Close up of clergyman ignoring Moll – A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 1 – Moll Hackabout Arrives in London, by Willliam Hogarth, 1732, Public Domain.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Pluck

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Pluck

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, the day we remember and honor those who died in active service to our country. Lives that were given to safeguard freedoms and protect those who stayed behind.

Without detracting from or denigrating the sacredness of this special day, I still wanted to use a slang term appropriate for today’s observation. I also found quotes from perhaps England’s most celebrated military general, the Duke of Wellington. Please indulge me as I use the words from the early 19th Century to illustrate the timelessness of the effects of war.

Pluck

Courage, boldness, (1785). Perhaps influenced by figurative use of the verb in pluck up (one’s courage, etc.), attested from c. 1300.

“Up, Guards, and at them again.”

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, at the Battle of Waterloo, as quoted in a letter from Captain Robert Batty, 1st Foot Guards (22 June 1815).

The Battle of Waterloo: The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers, oil on canvas, Henri Félis Emmanuel Philippoteaux, 1874, Victoria and Albert Museum

“It has been a damned serious business… Blucher and I have lost 30,000 men. It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.… By God! I don’t think it would have been done if I had not been there.”

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington; quote documented by Thomas Creevey, from a series of interviews he had with the Duke of Wellington at his headquarters after the Battle of Waterloo. From Chapter X of his book Creevey Papers.

La Bataille de Waterloo 18 Juin 1815 (The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815), oil on canvas, Clément Auguste Andrieux, 1852

“The history of a battle,” says the greatest of living generals, “is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance…. It is impossible to say when each important occurrence took place, or in what order.”

From Wellington Papers, Aug. 8, and 17, 1815, as documented in The History of England from the Accession of James II (1848) by Thomas Babington Macaulay, Volume I Chapter 5.

Am Morgen nach der Schlacht von Waterloo (The Morning After the Battle of Waterloo), John Heaviside Clarke, 1816

Sir Walter Scott documented these observations of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815), in Paul’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1815):

On another occasion, when many of the best and bravest men had fallen, and the event of the action seemed doubtful, even to those who remained, he said, with the coolness of a spectator, who was beholding some well contested sport, “Never mind, we’ll win this battle yet.” To another regent, then closely engaged, he used a common sporting expression; ” Hard pounding this, gentlemen; let’s see who will pound longest.”

All who heard him issue orders took confidence from his quick and decisive intellect, all who saw him caught metal from his undaunted composure. His staff, who had shared so many glories and dangers by his side, fell man by man around him, yet seemed in their own agony only to regard his safety.

Sir William Delancy, struck by a spent ball, fell from his horse—”Leave me to die,” he said to those who came to assist him. Also, the lamented Sir Alexander Gordon, whose early experience and high talents had already rendered him the object of so much hope and expectation, received his mortal wound while expostulating with the General on the personal danger to which he was exposing himself.

Lieutenant-Colonel Canning, and many of our lost heroes, died with the Duke’s name on their expiring lips. Amid the havoc which had been made among his immediate attendants, his Grace sent off a young gentleman, acting as aid-de-camp, to a general of brigade in another part of the field, with a message of importance. In returning he was shot through the lungs, but, as if supported by the resolution to do his duty, he rode up to the Duke of Wellington, delivered the answer to his message, and then dropped from his horse, to all appearance a dying man. In a word, if the most devoted attachment on the part of all who approached him, can add to the honours of a hero, never did a general receive so many and such affecting proofs of it; and their devotion was repaid by bis sense of its value and sorrow for their loss.

“Believe me,” he afterwards said, “that nothing, excepting a battle lost, can be half so melancholy as a battle won. The bravery of my troops has hitherto saved me from that great evil; but, I win even such a battle as this of Waterloo at the expense of the lives of so many gallant friends, it could only be termed a heavy misfortune were it not for its results to the public benefit.”

 

Over all our happy country – over all our Nation spread,
Is a band of noble heroes – is our Army of the Dead.
~ Will Carleton

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Touched

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Touched

The final painting of A Rake’s Progress – Plate 8 – In the Madhouse, is the sad ending to William Hogarth’s storyboard of art work. Tom is now of unsound mind, financially destitute, and a spectacle for both medical professionals and the bored elite.

While Bethlem Royal Hospital today is a state-of-the-art medical establishment for the treatment of psychiatric conditions, its history is much more sordid. Tom Rakewell would have dealt with the Monro family, who controlled the hospital for a total of 125 years, beginning in 1728. Under their watch, Bedlam, as the hospital came to be known, was a place where patient treatment consisted of frequent beatings, malnourishment to starvation, and ice baths to induce a return to sanity. When funds ran low for these so-called curatives ran low, the hospital opened its doors to family visitation; they generally declined to come. Instead, the scheme drew wealthy women touring what amounted to cruel entertainment in the form of everything from chained patients experiencing their “treatments,” to ill and abused patients wandering the halls and grounds.

The paintings of A Rake’s Progress are in the collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, and are considered part of the public domain.

Touched

Insane, crazy. Touched in the head.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 8 – In the Madhouse by William Hogarth, 1735, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

Finally insane and violent, in the eighth painting he ends his days in Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam), London’s infamous mental asylum. Only Sarah Young is there to comfort him, but Rakewell continues to ignore her. While some of the details in these pictures may appear disturbing to 21st-century eyes, they were commonplace in Hogarth’s day. For example, the fashionably dressed women in this last painting have come to the asylum as a social occasion, to be entertained by the bizarre antics of the inmates.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 8 – In the Madhouse (Engraving) by William Hogarth, 1735, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Public Domain.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Boarding School

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Boarding School

This week it’s the penultimate plate of A Rake’s Progress: Plate 7 – The Prison Scene. Tom has officially reached the end of his rope without reaching the end of His Majesty’s rope…as of yet. And he’s receiving a whole new kind of education at this institution.

The paintings of A Rake’s Progress are in the collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, and are considered part of the public domain.

Boarding School

Bridewell, Newgate, or any other prison, or house of correction.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 7 – The Prison Scene (Engraving) by William Hogarth, 1735, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

All is lost by the seventh painting, and Tom is incarcerated in the notorious Fleet debtors’ prison. He ignores the distress of both his angry new wife and faithful Sarah, who cannot help him this time. Both the beer-boy and jailer demand money from him. Tom begins to go mad, as indicated by both a telescope for celestial observation poking out of the barred window (an apparent reference to the Longitude rewards offered by the British government) and an alchemy experiment in the background. Beside Tom is a rejected play; another inmate is writing a pamphlet on how to solve the national debt. Above the bed at right is an apparatus for wings, which is more clearly seen in the engraved version at the left.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 7 – The Prison Scene by William Hogarth, 1735, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Public Domain.

Between Plates 6 and 7, I’m pleased to note Tom has found his periwig, at least, and replaced it upon his nog.

Next week we wrap up our visit to Soane’s Museum and our tour of A Rake’s Progress.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Done Up

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Done Up

We’re up to Plate 6 in William Hogarth’s A Rake’s ProgressScene in a Gaming House. Tom Rakewell, briefly flush with blunt after marrying for it in last week’s plate, is once again in the throes of his bad decisions. You know things are bad when you lose your hair.

The paintings of A Rake’s Progress are in the collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, and are considered part of the public domain.

Done Up

Ruined by gaming and extravagances. Modern Term.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 6 – Scene in a Gaming House (Engraving) by William Hogarth, 1735, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

The sixth painting shows Tom pleading for the assistance of the Almighty in a gambling den at White’s club in Soho after losing his reacquired wealth. Neither he nor the other obsessive gamblers seem to have noticed a fire that is breaking out behind them.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 6 – Scene in a Gaming House by William Hogarth, 1735, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Public Domain.

I think so much more detail can be seen in the engraving versus the oil portrait: I didn’t even notice that something was on fire in the background of the latter. Another observation for the Regency romance author is that this scene presents a sneak peek into a gambling room at White’s. An awful lot of men were crammed into that small space (possibly scenting blood in the water as Tom lost his fortune), and the decorations were spare (possibly an omission of the artist, but why decorate what men would likely not care to admire?).

 

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