WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ottomised

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ottomised

This week, the final panel is brought to you by the letters ‘G’ for gruesome and ‘I’ for ick.

Tom Nero’s crimes have not paid, but he has, and has been hanged for all his cruelty and machinations. We see him splayed on an anatomist’s table, grimace permanently plastered on his face, fingers pointing to his own bones now on display for the students and surgeons. He’s lost an eye, just as he did to his horse, and a dog under the table gets a little revenge for his maligned cousins from the first panel.

In the words of the introductory song by Count Orloff in a Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, “Look Away.”


To be ottomised; to be dissected. You’ll be scragged, ottomised, and grin in a glass case: you’ll be hanged, anatomised, and your skeleton kept in a glass case at Surgeons’ Hall.

The Fourth Stage of Cruelty: The Reward of Cruelty, by William Hogarth, 1751, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

Having been tried and found guilty of murder, Nero has now been hanged and his body taken for the ignominious process of public dissection. The year after the prints were issued, the Murder Act 1752 would ensure that the bodies of murderers could be delivered to the surgeons so they could be “dissected and anatomised”. It was hoped this further punishment on the body and denial of burial would act as a deterrent. At the time Hogarth made the engravings, this right was not enshrined in law, but the surgeons still removed bodies when they could.

A tattoo on his arm identifies Tom Nero, and the rope still around his neck shows his method of execution. The dissectors, their hearts hardened after years of working with cadavers, are shown to have as much feeling for the body as Nero had for his victims; his eye is put out just as his horse’s was, and a dog feeds on his heart, taking a poetic revenge for the torture inflicted on one of its kind in the first plate. Nero’s face appears contorted in agony and although this depiction is not realistic, Hogarth meant it to heighten the fear for the audience. Just as his murdered mistress’s finger pointed to Nero’s destiny in Cruelty in Perfection, in this print Nero’s finger points to the boiled bones being prepared for display, indicating his ultimate fate.

While the surgeons working on the body are observed by the mortar-boarded academics in the front row, the physicians, who can be identified by their wigs and canes, largely ignore the dissection and consult among themselves. The president has been identified as John Freke, president of the Royal College of Surgeons at the time. Freke had been involved in the high-profile attempt to secure the body of condemned rioter Bosavern Penlez for dissection in 1749. Aside from the over-enthusiastic dissection of the body and the boiling of the bones in situ, the image portrays the procedure as it would have been carried out.

Two skeletons to the rear left and right of the print are labelled as James Field, a well-known boxer who also featured on a poster in the second plate, and Macleane, an infamous highwayman. Both men were hanged shortly before the print was published (Macleane in 1750 and Field in 1751). The skeletons seemingly point to one another. Field’s name above the skeleton on the left may have been a last minute substitution for “GENTL HARRY” referring to Henry Simms, also known as Young Gentleman Harry. Simms was a robber who was executed in 1747. The motif of the lone “good man” is carried through to this final plate, where one of the academics points at the skeleton of James Field, indicating the inevitable outcome for those who start down the path of cruelty.

The composition of the scene is a pastiche of the frontispiece of Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica, and it possibly also borrows from Quack Physicians’ Hall (c. 1730) by the Dutch artist Egbert van Heemskerck, who had lived in England and whose work Hogarth admired.[22] An earlier source of inspiration may have been a woodcut in the 1495 Fasciculo di medicina by Johannes de Ketham which, although simpler, has many of the same elements, including the seated president flanked by two windows.

Fasiculo de Medicina, Venice, 1495, by Johannes de Ketham, Wikipedia Commons.

Below the print are these final words:

Moral accompanying The Fourth Stage of Cruelty: The Reward of Cruelty, by William Hogarth, 1751, Public Domain.

From the Tate Museum description:

As a piece of propaganda, this macabre image was calculated to deromanticise criminality and its consequences. It takes place in the Cutlerian theatre near Newgate prison.

Nero has been hanged at Tyburn and, as was the case with other executed criminals, his body is being dissected for the purpose of studying anatomy. The chief surgeon sits in the centre on a high-backed chair with the royal coat of arms hanging above, thus resembling a high court judge. This neatly represents the official process of judgement and punishment, which in the case of hanged criminals could extend beyond death itself.

The skeletons of dissected criminals were usually refused a Christian burial and subsequently displayed as specimens, as can be seen in the niches to the left and right.


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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

The second week naturally begets Plate 2 of The Four Stages of Cruelty by William Hogarth. Spoiler alert: this one isn’t any better than the first. Plate 1 saw the main character, Tom Nero, torturing a dog. Now he’s moved on to a horse, the parallels being the dog was a child, the horse, a man.

Again, trigger warnings for animal cruelty, and just cruelty in general.

Queer Prancer

A bad, worn-out, foundered horse.

The Second Stage of Cruelty: Coachman Beating a Fallen Horse, by William Hogarth, 1751, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

In the second plate, the scene is Thavies Inn Gate (sometimes ironically written as Thieves Inn Gate), one of the Inns of Chancery which housed associations of lawyers in London. Tom Nero has grown up and become a hackney coachman, and the recreational cruelty of the schoolboy has turned into the professional cruelty of a man at work. Tom’s horse, worn out from years of mistreatment and overloading, has collapsed, breaking its leg and upsetting the carriage. Disregarding the animal’s pain, Tom has beaten it so furiously that he has put its eye out. In a satirical aside, Hogarth shows four corpulent barristers struggling to climb out of the carriage in a ludicrous state. They are probably caricatures of eminent jurists, but Hogarth did not reveal the subjects’ names, and they have not been identified. Elsewhere in the scene, other acts of cruelty against animals take place: a drover beats a lamb to death, an ass is driven on by force despite being overloaded, and an enraged bull tosses one of its tormentors. Some of these acts are recounted in the moral accompanying the print:

Moral accompanying The Second Stage of Cruelty: Coachman Beating a Fallen Horse, by William Hogarth, 1751, Public Domain.

The cruelty has also advanced to include abuse of people. A dray crushes a playing boy while the drayman sleeps, oblivious to the boy’s injury and the beer spilling from his barrels. Posters in the background advertise a cockfight and a boxing match as further evidence of the brutal entertainments favoured by the subjects of the image. The boxing match is to take place at Broughton’s Amphitheatre, a notoriously tough venue established by the “father of pugilism”, Jack Broughton: a contemporary bill records that the contestants would fight with their left leg strapped to the floor, with the one with the fewest bleeding wounds being adjudged the victor. One of the advertised participants in the boxing match is James Field, who was hanged two weeks before the prints were issued and features again in the final image of the series; the other participant is George “the Barber” Taylor, who had been champion of England but was defeated by Broughton and retired in 1750. On Taylor’s death in 1757, Hogarth produced a number of sketches of him wrestling Death, probably for his tomb.

According to Werner Busch, the composition alludes to Rembrandt’s painting, Balaam’s Ass (1626).

Balaam and His Ass, by Rembrandt, 1626, Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris.

In an echo of the first plate, there is but one person who shows concern for the welfare of the tormented horse. To the left of Nero, and almost unseen, a man notes down Nero’s hackney coach number to report him.


From the Tate Museum description:

This scene suggests that the abuse of animals is widespread in the streets of London. On the left Nero (now grown-up) beats his horse, the poor creature having collapsed under the strain of the cart. This is overladen with four lawyers, who are too penny-pinching to hire two carts and insensitive to the suffering they are causing.

On the left a poster displayed near the door of ‘Thavies Inn Coffee House’ advertises ‘Broughton’s Amphitheatre’, a well-known venue for boxing. ‘James Field’ and ‘George Taylor’, named below, were celebrated pugilists.

Importantly, Field was hanged for highway robbery eleven days before Hogarth’s print was published, thus establishing an interrelationship between violent sports, entertainments and criminality.


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