WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tip-Top

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tip-Top

This week we find Francis Goodchild moving up in the world in Plate 4 of Industry and Idleness. The lesson to be learned: diligence has rewards.


The best: perhaps from fruit, that growing at the top of the tree being generally the best, as partaking most of the sun. A tip-top workman; the best, or most excellent Workman.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 4: The Industrious ‘Prentice a Favourite, and Entrusted by His Master, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

Plate 4 highlights Goodchild’s rise in the master weaver’s business. Once he had worked at the looms on the shop floor, but now he is in the master weaver’s counting office. The master leans on his shoulder in a gesture of affection and trust. The gloves on the desk, positioned like a hand shake, suggest that a deal has been made concerning the master’s business and that they are in partnership.

From the Wikipedia description:

Clearly Goodchild’s industry and piety are paying off. He’s now no longer working a loom, but rather keeping his master’s business: He holds the “Day Book”, keys to the house and a pouch of money. His master is also present and using the greatest familiarity with him, further testifying to his advanced state. On the desk before them two gloves shaking hands illustrate the friendship and foreshadow their ultimate harmony and agreement in plate 6.

Behind them are a row of women at looms and one at a spinning wheel and to the left, a man wearing the symbol of the Corporation of London and carrying material in labelled “To Mr West”. Both show that the business is a going concern.

To the lower right a copy of the “London Almanack” is tacked up, headed by an allegorical figure of the genius of Industry assaulting Father Time. A dog stands by the carrier, annoying a cat up on the platform West and Goodchild stand on.

Matthew CH: XXV Ve: 21
Well done good and faithfull
servant thou hast been faithfull
over a few things, I will make thee
Ruler over many things


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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Counterfeit Crank

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Counterfeit Crank

While Francis Goodchild makes nice inside the church, Tom Idle makes coin dicing amongst the graves outside this week in Plate 3. One could argue Tom is not exactly loafing around: relieving others of their blunt can be hard work, especially if you’re not an honest gambler. That takes some skill and effort. Be it of a questionable nature.

Counterfeit Crank

A general cheat, assuming all sorts of characters; one counterfeiting the falling sickness.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 3: The Idle ‘Prentice at Play in the Church Yard, During Diving Service, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

Idle is shown to be a gambler and a cheat. Clearly at home with the criminal underclass represented by his grotesque companions, he sprawls over a coffin signalling his disrespectful and progressively brutalised character. The skulls and bones scattered on the ground presage his fate and remind us of the biblical ‘Day of Judgement’. At the same time he seems oblivious to the punishment that is about to be served by the man wielding a stick.

From the Wikipedia description:

In this case, Tom Idle is shown doing the exact opposite [of Francis Goodchild]: gambling and cheating with some pence on top of a tomb in the churchyard. The foreground is strewn with spare bones and skulls, and behind him a beadle is about to strike him with a cane for his insolence and tardiness. Curiously, the beadle looks to be winking at the viewer of this work.

Also note that the frame is reversed: Now the mace, etc. are on the left of the engraving.

Proverbs CH: XIX Ve: 29
Judgments are prepared for scorners
& stripes for the back of Fools


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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Strait-Laced

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Strait-Laced

Last week, in plate one, hardworking Francis Goodchild and lazy Thomas Idle were shown together; this will only happen once more, in plate ten. The rest of the plates will feature only one of the main characters, alternating each time. This week, in plate two, we see nose-to-the-grindstone Francis polishing his morality. Were this the Renaissance, no doubt Hogarth would have placed a halo about his head.


Precise, over nice, puritanical.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 2: The Industrious ‘Prentice Performing the Duty of a Christian, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

The church is representative of the establishment and indicates social and religious conformity. Goodchild is in the church… [and his] preferment in the workplace and acceptance into polite society are shown by his occupying the master weaver’s church pew and sharing a hymnbook with his daughter.

From the Wikipedia description:

Plate two occurs at some point on a Sunday, when their master has given them part (or all) of the day to attend church service. Francis Goodchild is shown taking good advantage of this, attending St. Martin-in-the-Fields, standing in a pew with his master’s daughter, singing out of a hymnal. Their piety is contrasted with the sleeping man in the pew and the vain woman at the far right, and complements the quiet devotion of the old pew opener, the woman who has the keys to the pew, who is facing away from the service to spot new arrivals.

Significantly, since this is the first in the series of images of Francis’ fortune, his career is literally shown to start with his devotion. Note the tricorns hanging everywhere.

Psalm Ch: XIX Ver: 97
O! How I love thy Law it is my
meditation all day


A post about behaving in church always bends my mind toward Mr. Bean. Most either love him or hate him. Those in the latter category…I shall say a pray for you.


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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Strap

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Strap

Industry and Idleness.

William Hogarth doesn’t pull any punches in the twelve engravings of this series, comparing and contrasting the virtues of work versus the sins of sloth. Each plate shows one of two, and sometimes both, apprentices (‘prentices) at various stages in their lives; each plate also contains at least one relevant Biblical quotation. The industrious worker is portrayed as moral and successful, while the idle “worker” displays characteristics of laziness and crime. It’s a bit heavy-handed by today’s jaundiced eye, but lines up with the societal beliefs and mid-18th century Protestant work ethic.

To Strap

To work. The kiddy would not strap, so he went on the scamp: the lad would not work, and therefore robbed on the highway.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 1: The Fellow ‘Prentices at Their Looms, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

As indicated by the tankard on the left, this scene takes place in a workroom located in Spitalfields, then the centre of London silk-weaving. Goodchild works diligently at the loom, while, Idle is fast asleep. Two volumes entitled ‘The Prentices Guide’ are strategically placed, symbolising their respective attitudes to work and authority. Goodchild’s is in pristine condition, carefully propped against a thread winder but the other is soiled, ripped and discarded on the floor. Thus the direction that each apprentice’s career takes is presented as a personal choice. The master weaver enters the workroom holding a stick with which, we can imagine, Idle is about to be soundly beaten. From the beginning transgression and punishment are established as the dominant themes of his life, just as diligence and reward are those of Goodchild’s.

Goodchild’s Bible Verse:

Proverbs Ch: 10 Ver: 4
The hand of the diligent
maketh rich

Idle’s Bible Verse:

Proverbs Chap: 23 Ver: 21
The Drunkard shall come to
Poverty, & drowsiness shall
clothe a Man with rags.


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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Humming Liquor

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Humming Liquor

Two weeks ago, I looked at William Hogarth’s engraving of Gin Lane, his depiction of London’s obsession with and addiction to blue ruin. It was equal parts satirical and heartrending.

This week I’m examining its sister piece, the less famous Beer Street. While gin was seen as a drink for the poor and desperate, beer was a drink for the hard-working everyman, a well-deserved reward for a honest day’s work. By the Regency era, gin still drew derision, while beer even came into vogue as a breakfast beverage for lords of the Corinthian set.

Having seen life from inside prison as a young boy when his father was incarcerated for an outstanding debt, Hogarth knew the hardships faced by those in want, and many think it later informed his art.

It definitely seems to have shaped his contrasts between Gin Lane and Beer Street.

Humming Liquor

Double ale, stout pharaoh.

Beer Street, William Hogarth, 1750-51, British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

A flourishing urban scene with well fed citizens; in the foreground, butchers, fish wives and a City of London porter hold large tankards of beer; a butcher lifts a skinny Frenchman into the air with one hand; in the background, paviours repair the street, chairmen carry a stout lady, tailors sew in a well lit attic, builders work on the roof of a house clad with scaffolding, and a warehouseman hauls a barrel to an upper storey – all are drinking beer; poverty appears only in the ragged coat of the artist painting the tavern sign and, more particularly, in the collapsing house of “N Pinch Pawn Broker”.

From the Wikipedia description:

In comparison to the sickly hopeless denizens of Gin Lane, the happy people of Beer Street sparkle with robust health and bonhomie. “Here all is joyous and thriving. Industry and jollity go hand in hand”. The only business that is in trouble is the pawnbroker: Mr Pinch lives in the one poorly maintained, crumbling building in the picture. In contrast to his Gin Lane counterpart, the prosperous Gripe, who displays expensive-looking cups in his upper window (a sign of his flourishing business), Pinch displays only a wooden contraption, perhaps a mousetrap, in his upper window, while he is forced to take his beer through a window in the door, which suggests his business is so unprofitable as to put the man in fear of being seized for debt. The sign-painter is also shown in rags, but his role in the image is unclear.

The rest of the scene is populated with doughty and good-humoured English workers. It is George II’s birthday (30 October) (indicated by the flag flying on the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in the background) and the inhabitants of the scene are no doubt toasting his health. Under the sign of the Barley Mow, a blacksmith or cooper sits with a foaming tankard in one hand and a leg of beef in the other. Together with a butcher—his steel hangs at his side—they laugh with the pavior (sometimes identified as a drayman) as he courts a housemaid (the key she holds is a symbol of domesticity). Ronald Paulson suggests a parallel between the trinity of signs of ill-omen in Gin Lane, the pawnbroker, distiller, and undertaker, and the trinity of English “worthies” here, the blacksmith, pavior, and butcher. Close by a pair of fish-sellers rest with a pint and a porter sets down his load to refresh himself. In the background, two men carrying a sedan chair pause for drink, while the passenger remains wedged inside, her large hoop skirt pinning her in place. On the roof, the builders, who are working on the publican’s house above the “Sun” tavern share a toast with the master of a tailor’s workshop. In this image it is a barrel of beer that hangs from a rope above the street, in contrast to the body of the barber in Gin Lane.

Beer, happy Produce of our Isle

Can sinewy Strength impart,
And wearied with Fatigue and Toil

Can cheer each manly Heart.
Labour and Art upheld by Thee

Successfully advance,
We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee

And Water leave to France.
Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste

Rivals the Cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous Breast

With Liberty and Love!


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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Red Letter Day

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Red Letter Day

At the risk of seeming sacrilegious, this week’s word (or phrase, actually), fit too well. I will also admit that the Word of the Week applies only to the holiday and not to the subject of my post. My brain, alas, is on early holiday, it seems.

We Americans cherish our holidays, grasping at them as if they are life preservers tossed into the sea and we are drowning. Personally, I loathe Monday holidays. They make the rest of my week seem off-kilter and somehow longer despite one less work day. I blame math.

Red Letter Day

A saint’s day or holiday, marked in the calendars with red letters. Red letter men; Roman Catholics: from their observation of the saint days marked in red letters.

Labor Day in the US is the perfect time to take a break from my obsession with William Hogarth and look at social hierarchy during the Regency period. Why? I have no idea, other than the fact that I have the print below by Isaac Cruikshank and it caught my eye.

The Regency Era was marked by the rise of a larger middle class as well as cries for relief from the impoverished workers – among other social alterations – but the dividing lines between and compositions of the classes remained relatively unchanged, for all that this was an era of enlightenment and progress. There were plenty who tried to maneuver themselves up a level or two (those grasping cits), and indeed a few more rungs were added to the ladder, but the overall structure of the classes in society remained static.

They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.
Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 4

The Quality Ladder by Isaac Cruikshank, 1793, Yale University Library Digital Collections, Lewis Walpole Library.

For a less satirical picture of life on the ladder of society, the minds at Hierarchy Structure have a helpful chart. Although I will admit, I can totally picture the Bingley sisters knocking ladies down in their mad quest to reach the top rung of Cruikshank’s staircase.

Regency Period Social Hierarchy from

“In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”
Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 56

You tell her, Elizabeth. Preach.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Heart’s Ease

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Heart’s Ease

After marriage, dissolution, and prostitution, William Hogarth turned his jaundiced eye toward poverty; specifically, the slums of St. Giles. As did Sir John Gonson, whom we met in one of my posts about A Harlot’s Progress, feverishly attempting to clean up the sexual sins of Covent Garden. It seems the Justice now had a passion to prosecute those with a new fever – gin.

The “Gin Craze,” as it was called, nearly destroyed London in the first half of the 18th century. The “slow but sure poyson” was robbing Londoners of all manner of wisdom and reliability to maintain even the most basic activities of daily living. William Hogarth’s print Gin Lane, circa 1750-51, marked the beginning of the end of the period, but illustrated every evil and ill about it. The central figure of the woman so bewitched by gin that she’s driven to prostitution and condemned by syphilis, letting her baby fall to his death, shocked the world as much then as it does now – but it was not artistic license. It was shocking, horrid, reality.

In 1734, mother and gin addict Judith Dufour took back custody of her two-year-old child from a workhouse, then promptly strangled the child so as to sell its new set of clothes to be able to buy gin. Another woman, Mary Estwick, let a toddler burn to death while she lay passed out from gin.

And where were the men? A little further down the stairwell; that is, not even making it home, lying in fermenting stupors in gutters and alleys, or locked away in prison.

Heart’s Ease


Gin Lane, William Hogarth, 1750-51, British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

A scene of urban desolation with gin-crazed Londoners, notably a woman who lets her child fall to its death and an emaciated ballad-seller; in the background is the tower of St George’s Bloomsbury; in this state, the child’s face has been changed so that the face is wizened and the eyes sunken.

From the Wikipedia description:

Other images of despair and madness fill the scene: a lunatic cavorts in the street beating himself over the head with a pair of bellows while holding a baby impaled on a spike—the dead child’s frantic mother rushes from the house screaming in horror; a barber has taken his own life in the dilapidated attic of his barber-shop, ruined because nobody can afford a haircut or shave; on the steps, below the woman who has let her baby fall, a skeletal pamphlet-seller rests, perhaps dead of starvation, as the unsold moralising pamphlet on the evils of gin-drinking, The Downfall of Mrs Gin, slips from his basket. An ex-soldier, he has pawned most of his clothes to buy the gin in his basket, next to the pamphlet that denounces it. Next to him sits a black dog, a symbol of despair and depression. Outside the distiller a fight has broken out, and a crazed cripple raises his crutch to strike his blind compatriot.

Images of children on the path to destruction also litter the scene: aside from the dead baby on the spike and the child falling to its death, a baby is quieted by its mother with a cup of gin, and in the background of the scene an orphaned infant bawls naked on the floor as the body of its mother is loaded into a coffin on orders of the beadle. Two young girls who are wards of the parish of St Giles—indicated by the badge on the arm of one of the girls—each take a glass. In front of the pawnbroker’s door a starving boy and a dog fight over a bone, while next to them a girl has fallen asleep; approaching her is a snail, emblematic of the sin of sloth.

In the distance the church of St. George’s Church, Bloomsbury is seen, but only faintly, and the picture is composed so the pawnbroker’s sign forms a huge corrupted cross for the steeple: the people of Gin Lane choose to worship elsewhere.

This poem accompanied the original issuance of the print:

Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
   Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
   And steals our Life away.
Virtue and Truth, driv’n to Despair
   Its Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes with hellish Care
   Theft, Murder, Perjury.
Damned Cup! that on the Vitals preys
   That liquid Fire contains,
Which Madness to the heart conveys,
   And rolls it thro’ the Veins.