WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Venus’s Curse

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Venus’s Curse

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Seriously. Who can look at Moll’s face, posture, or living conditions in Plate 5 and not be affected. The doctors attending her were Richard Rock (the chubby one) and Jean Misaubin (the skinny one), who both advertised in 1732 their inventions of pills that would supposedly cure venereal disease. I almost chose a different slang term this week: nimginner, meaning a physician or surgeon, particularly those who “cure” the venereal disease.

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.

Venus’s Curse

The venereal disease.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 5 – Moll Dying of Syphilis, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

From the Wikipedia description:

Moll is now dying of syphilis. Dr. Richard Rock on the left (black hair) and Dr. Jean Misaubin on the right (white hair) argue over their medical methods, which appear to be a choice of bleeding (Rock) and cupping (Misaubin). A woman, possibly Moll’s bawd and possibly the landlady, rifles Moll’s possessions for what she wishes to take away.

Two Doctors and the Landlady/Bawd from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 5 – Moll Dying of Syphilis, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

Meanwhile, Moll’s maid tries to stop the looting and arguing. Moll’s son sits by the fire, possibly addled by his mother’s venereal disease. He is picking lice or fleas out of his hair. The only hint as to the apartment’s owner is a Passover cake used as a fly-trap, implying that her former keeper is paying for her in her last days and ironically indicating that Moll will, unlike the Israelites, not be spared. Several opiates (“anodynes”) and “cures” litter the floor. Moll’s clothes seem to reach down for her as if they were ghosts drawing her to the afterlife.

Moll, Her Maid, and Son from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 5 – Moll Dying of Syphilis, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

 

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

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Canary Bird

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Canary Bird

We’ve seen fresh-faced, country girl Moll Hackabout arrive in London, hit the harlotry jackpot and become a mistress, only to fall a few rungs into prostitution. This week, with Plate 4, she has fallen further and is now in jail (or gaol, if you prefer).

It’s amazing the amount of sympathy I feel for Moll, as compared to Tom Rakewell from A Rake’s Progress. For me, I feel that Moll came to London innocently enough, hoping for the best, although I wonder if she was warned on the coach along the way, that little good turned out for girls on their own in Town. In contrast, Tom Rakewell earns my ire, having been given every advantage only to squander them, despite having several chances to repent and escape his ultimate fate. Moll finally looks defeated in this plate, too, which somehow makes it worse.

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.

Canary Bird

A jail bird, a person used to be kept in a cage. Prisoners.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 4 – Moll Beats Hemp in Bridewell Prison, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

From the Wikipedia description:

Moll is in Bridewell Prison. She beats hemp for hangman’s nooses, while the jailer threatens her and points to the task. Fielding would write that Thwackum, one of Tom Jones’s sadistic tutors, looked precisely like the jailer. The jailer’s wife steals clothes from Moll, winking at theft. The prisoners go from left to right in order of decreasing wealth. Moll is standing next to a gentleman, a card-sharp whose extra playing card has fallen out, and who has brought his dog with him. The inmates are in no way being reformed, despite the ironic engraving on the left above the occupied stocks, reading “Better to Work/ than Stand thus.” The person suffering in the stocks apparently refused to work.

Moll, the Jailer, and His Wife, from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 4 – Moll Beats Hemp in Bridewell Prison, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

Next is a woman, a child who may suffer from Down syndrome (belonging to the sharper, probably), and finally a pregnant African woman who presumably “pleaded her belly” when brought to trial, as pregnant women could not be executed or transported. A prison graffito shows John Gonson hanging from the gallows. Moll’s servant smiles as Moll’s clothes are stolen, and the servant appears to be wearing Moll’s shoes.

Prisoners and Moll’s Servant from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 4 – Moll Beats Hemp in Bridewell Prison, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

 

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

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.

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.