I felt the need to begin a series of posts illustrating William Hogarth’s series of eight paintings from 1732-34 (and published en masse in 1735) known as A Rake’s Progress. The paintings reveal the rise, decline, and demise of Tom Rakewell, the son and heir of a wealthy merchant who inherits, comes to London, lives out the parable of the Prodigal Son, and eventually takes an involuntary tour of the Fleet Prison and Bedlam. The paintings are in the collection of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, and considered part of the public domain.
He is a young chub, or a mere chub; i.e. a foolish fellow, easily imposed on: an illusion to a fish of that name, easily taken.
Plate No. 1, A Rake’s Progress, The Young Heir Takes Possession of the Miser’s Effects. From the Wikipedia description:
In the first painting, Tom has come into his fortune on the death of his miserly father. While the servants mourn, he is measured for new clothes. Although he has had a common-law marriage with her, he now rejects the hand of his pregnant fiancée, Sarah Young, whom he had promised to marry (she holds his ring and her mother holds his love letters). He pays her off, but she still loves him, as becomes clear in the fourth painting. Evidence of the father’s miserliness abound: his portrait above the fireplace shows him counting money; symbols of hospitality (a jack and spit) have been locked up at upper right; the coat of arms shows three clamped vises with the motto “Beware”; a half-starved cat reveals the father kept little food in the house, while lack of ashes in the fireplace demonstrates that he rarely spent money on wood to heat his home. The engraving at the right shows the father went so far as to resole his shoes with a piece of leather cut from a Bible cover.
I thought it was interesting that the colorized version was reversed, I’m assuming due to the printing/copying process. Based on the description of this first plate, it’s about to get all biblical up in here for Tom.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.