WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Carrion Hunter

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Carrion Hunter

The last plate in the series means we’ve reached Moll’s final fate, and it’s as sad and final a one as might be expected for a prostitute. I am most struck by her son in this engraving – at his expression, and wondering about his future.

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.

Carrion Hunter

An undertaker; called also a cold cook, and death hunter.

A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 6 – Moll’s Wake, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

From the Wikipedia description:

In the final plate, Moll is dead, and all of the scavengers are present at her wake. A note on the coffin lid shows that she died aged 23 on 2 September 1731. The parson spills his brandy as he has his hand up the skirt of the girl next to him, and she appears pleased. A woman who has placed drinks on Moll’s coffin looks on in disapproval. Moll’s son plays ignorantly. Moll’s son is innocent, but he sits playing with his top underneath his mother’s body, unable to understand (and figuratively fated to death himself).

Parson and Moll’s Son from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 6 – Moll’s Wake, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

Moll’s madam drunkenly mourns on the right with a ghastly grinning jug of “Nants” (brandy). She is the only one who is upset at the treatment of the dead girl, whose coffin is being used as a tavern bar. A “mourning” girl (another prostitute) steals the undertaker’s handkerchief. Another prostitute shows her injured finger to her fellow whore, while a woman adjusts her appearance in a mirror in the background, even though she shows a syphilitic sore on her forehead. The house holding the coffin has an ironic coat of arms on the wall displaying a chevron with three spigots, reminiscent of the “spill” of the parson, the flowing alcohol, and the expiration of Moll. The white hat hanging on the wall by the coat of arms is the one Moll wore in the first plate, referring back to the beginning of her end.

Moll’s Maid and Other Prostitutes from A Harlot’s Progress – Plate 6 – Moll’s Wake, by William Hogarth, 1732, British Museum.

 

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

Advertisements
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.

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 ~ Corinthians

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Corinthians

Moving along through William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (1735), we come to Plate 3: The Tavern Scene, or The Orgy. Main character Tom Rakewell has progressed from innocent heir to budding man-about-town, to this week’s full-blown ne’er-do-well.

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.

Corinthians

Frequenters of brothels. Also an impudent, brazen-faced fellow, perhaps from the Corinthian brass.

A Rake’s Progress – Plate 3 – The Tavern Scene, Engraving by William Hogarth, 1735, Public Domain.

From the Wikipedia description:

The third painting depicts a wild party or orgy underway at a brothel. The prostitutes are stealing the drunken Tom’s watch. On the floor at bottom right is a night watchman’s staff and lantern — souvenirs of Tom’s ‘wild night’ on the town. The scene takes place at the Rose Tavern, a famous brothel in Covent Garden. The prostitutes have black spots on their faces to cover syphilitic sores.

Tom, Tom, Tom…. And thus we witness the beginning of his end.

There is certainly no comparing Georgette Heyer’s titular character, Sir Richard Wyndham, whom I adore. Her perennially bored, devilish drunk, unluckiest dog alive, was about as far from Tom Rakewell on a good day as possible. Heyer’s use of the slang term in The Corinthian seems to prove the oft-tossed about rumor that she made up her own definitions and terms to track when others copied her. Her Corinthian was extremely benign, lovable, and jovial, for all that he was fairly useless, up until the point he spied Pen Creed dangling from her window. Certainly nothing to imply the actual slang definition of the term.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Family of Love

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Family of Love

Its members practice the world’s oldest profession. But despite the modern belief that the practice was a choice, more often than not, it was a last resort from which very few escaped.

Progress of a Woman of Pleasure by Richard Newton, 1794, Bonhams. The caption reads “You wind up the evening with a boxing match and a Warrant and two Black eyes salute you in the Morning.”

Family of Love

Lewd women; also, a religious sect.

For the purposes of this post, I’m only addressing the first part of the definition. Lewd women – those who engaged in crude and offensive acts of a sexual nature – were viewed with sympathy and even sentimentality. These women were either born to their station through poverty and circumstance, or fell into prostitution from a lack of education or employable skill. The general consensus was that no woman chose harlotry, but arrival in the sex trade was seen as inescapable for some, and the final option for others.

But sympathy and sentimentality did not lend themselves to social programs to rectify the situation, nor disfavor enough to shame those who partook of services. Prostitution wasn’t even illegal until the 1820s.

Touch for Touch, or a female Physician in full practice by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811, British Library. And by physician, he means prostitute, as evidenced by the exchange of coins and her dress, cloyingly raised to reveal her ankles. Displayed ankles were widely associated with prostitution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

And lewd women were not to be confused with mistresses, sometimes known as demi-reps (from 1749) and later the demi-monde (from the play of the same title by Alexandre Dumas in 1844), or courtesans. These ladies existed somewhere between the lewd and acceptable, a shadowy middle ground where money was exchanged for sexual congress, but whose services also included escort to social engagements. Mistresses and courtesans were usually put up in homes by their protectors or patrons. Lewd women were creatures of the streets or brothels. Brothels were not much refuge in that protection from a procuress/abbess meant victimization of a different kind: your coin earned a roof and some food, but precious little else.

William Hogarth’s six-print set, A Harlot’s Progress, published in 1732, tells the story of harlot Moll Hackabout, a visual tale of one member of the Family of Love. The series illustrated society’s beliefs that lewd women either rose from the ashes of prostitution through marriage or defensible employment, or died under tragic circumstances.

Moll Hackabout arrives in London and meets Mother Needham, a notorious procuress:

1. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll is mistress to a wealthy Jewish Man. She creates a diversion to allow a second lover to escape:

2. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll, in a reduced state, takes tea while baliffs enter her lodgings:

3. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll beats hemp in Bridewell Prison (incarcerated for debts, not debauchery):

4. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll is dying while two doctors argue over her treatment:

5. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll’s coffin is surrounded by a group of insincere mourners:

6. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.