Item of the Day: Hogarth Moralized (1768)

Full Title:

Hogarth Moralized. Being a Complete Edition of Hogarth’s Works. Containing near fourscore copper-plates, most elegantly engraved : with an explanation, pointing out the many beauties that may have hitherto escaped notice, and a comment on their moral tendency. Calculated to improve the minds of youth, and, convey instruction, under the mask of entertainment. Now first published, with approbation of Jane Hogarth, widow of the late Mr. Hogarth. London: Sold by S. Hooper, the East Corner of the New Church in the Strandl and, Mrs. Hogarth, at her House in Leicester-Fields. Price One Pound Sixteen Shillings, bound. Where may be also had, the originals complete. Price thirteen guineas bound. MDCCLXVII

The Rake’s Progress.

Of all the follies in human life, there is none greater, than that of extravagance, or, profuseness; it being constant labour, without the least ease, or, relaxation. It bears, indeed, the colour of that, which is commendable, and, would fain be thought to take its rise from laudable motives, searching, indefatigably, after true felicity : now, as there can be no true felicity without content, it is this, which every man is in constant hunt after; the learned, for instance, in his industrious quest after knowledge; the merchant, in his dangerous voyages; the ambitious, in his passionate pursuit of honour; the conqueror, in his earnest desires of victory; the politician, in his deep-laid designs; the wanton, in his pleasing charms of beauty; the covetous, in his unwearied heaping up of treasure; and the prodigal, in his general and extravagant indulgence.–Thus far it may be well;–but, so mistaken are we in our road, as, to run on in the, very opposite, tract, which leads, directly, to our ruin. Whatever else we indulge ourselves in, is attended with some small degree of relish, and, has some trifling satisfaction in the enjoyment; but, in this, the farther we go, the more we are lost; and, when arrived at the mark proposed, we are as far from the object we hunt, as when we first set out. Here, then, we are inexcusable, in not attending to the secret dictates of reason, and, in stopping our ears at the timely admonitions of friendship. Headstrong and ungovernable, we pursue our course withot intermission; thoughtless and unwary, we see not the dangers that lie, immediately, before us; but, hurry on, even, without sight of our object, till we bury ourselves in that gulph of woe, where perishes, at once, health, wealth, and, virtue; and, whose dreadful labyrinths admit of no return.

Struck with the foresight of that misery, attendant on a life of debauchery, which is, in fact, the off-spring of prodigality; our author has, in the scenes before us, attempted the reformation of the worldling, by stopping him, as it were, in his career, and, opening to his view, the many doleful calamities awaiting the prosecution of his proposed scheme of life : he has, I say, in hopes of reforming the prodigal, and, at the same time, deterring the rising generation, whom Providence may have blessed with earthly wealth, from entering, at all, into so iniquitous a course, traced out the life of a young man, hurried on, through a various succession of different pursuits, for the few years nature was able to support itself; and, this from the instant, he might be said to enter into the worl, till the time of his leaving it. But, as the vice of avarice is equal to that of prodigality, and, the ruin of children is, often, owing to the indiscretion of their parents, he has opened the piece with a scene, which at the same time, that it exposes the folly of the youth, shews us the imprudence of the father, who is supposed to have hurt the principles of his son, in depriving him of the necessary use of some of that gold, he had, with the greatest covetousness, been hoarding, to no kind of purpose, in his coffers.

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Filed under 1760's, Art, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire

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