Hogarth’s vision of London

If you are to ask Hogarth advocates they will tell you yes, Hogarth’s vision of London is a very accurate portrayal of the London of Hogarth’s time. How? The depiction of Gin Lane’s centre picture of a mother who let her baby fall from her hands may not be such an exaggeration. It was reported that in 1734, a Judith Dufour reclaimed her two-year-old child from the children’s house where the child has been given a new set of clothes; she then strangled the child and left it for dead in a ditch, why?

For the simple reason, that she was able to sell the new clothes, (for 1s. 4d. ) in order to buy gin. Another case, an aged woman, who let a toddler burn to death and since she was incapacitated by a gin-induced stupor, she was unable to do anything for the child. Cases such as that were mentioned provided a focus for anti-gin campaigners such as the unflagging Thomas Wilson and the image of the negligent mother became more and more central to anti-gin propaganda.

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Sir John Gonson, whom Hogarth also featured in his earlier work A Harlot’s Progress then turned his interest from prostitution to gin and started to prosecute gin-related offenses with ruthlessness. Now if you were to ask Hogarth opponents, they will tell you that Hogarth was an exaggerated picture story teller and that his stories were nothing more than his imagination growing wild at the simplest offense made by the people he was most angry with.

They will also tell you that because he grew up poor he harboured hatred for the wealthy and when he became wealthy, he hated the poor for not doing anything to better their situations. They will also readily tell those that will listen that Hogarth was not a rational thinker, that his life’s disappointments and tragedies moulded him into the being that eventually drew those hated pictures and that he used art as an expression of his anger that coupled with over exaggeration and malice produced a grotesque picture that does not truly depict what London was like in his time.

As for this writer, it may be surmised that Hogarth was a very good artist both in writing and imagery. He drew very well judging from the art work that was seen and it may be realized that William Hogarth deserved the title that was adhered to him as an artist. His depiction of London might also be true at some point. He lived the life and he knew what is like to be part of that world. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, even Hogarth, he saw a London that was cruel and harsh, and it may not be what others will see.

One might realize that at the starting point of his life, fate wasn’t very good to William Hogarth, he had an overambitious father who ended up in jail and left his mother to fend for herself and their children, it must be realized that during this time, society wasn’t very kind to women so one can imagine how difficult it must have been for Anne Hogarth to take care of her family, and how difficult it could have been for William to see his mother suffer.

One might realize that his cynicism might have stemmed from this very reason. One might realize that that his opinions may be biased secondary to all that he has suffered, experienced and saw during his lifetime. One must comprehend that this is but human nature, the overall experiences and life truths of an individual will definitely colour their opinions, add to this emotions and a semi-rational thinking, deciphers where one will tend to go.

Hogarth is an overwhelmingly talented individual, his uncanny flair for drawing, painting and engraving made him a popular choice among those who wanted their portraits painted, but as a real advocate of art, Hogarth felt belittled by commercialising his work, thus he compensated by producing paintings that talk tackling social and moral issues that were norms during his time. This writer believes that Hogarth may not have the purest of intentions when he drew his pictures and wrote his satires that coupled with the desire for a better life, which is not wrong in one sense, he drew and wrote graphic imagery.

Another thought that enters the mind is that Hogarth was a politician at heart, wanting to better the world in one click and seeing no other means to an end but his drawings and satires, he used them to get his point across, one might derive in this sense that Hogarth is not the only who does this and if he is disliked by many who sees themselves in his censure that become the problem of that person and not Hogarth, and as was mentioned before.

In order to fully believe that life is free one must realise that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and they are also given jurisdiction regarding how they wish to express themselves. In this sense, Hogarth just exercised his right to voice his thoughts and opinions, and if someone doesn’t like the way he does it, then it’s their own concern. One might conclude in this matter that, Hogarth dreamt of a world where everyone is equal there is no cruelty or injustice, if his views were clouded by unfairness in his life then that’s just how things go.

In answering the query made by the paper, it might be construed that there is no simple answer, a simple yes would mean that the views of the other satirist and writers and Hogarth antagonists were disregarded and an outright no would mean that the other side was not heard, it will be safer to surmise that Hogarth depicted a London he saw thru his eyes and everyone is entitled to such, he did depict London to be a place bustling with many activities and the people, it’s culture and society made their mistakes and may have learned from them and while Hogarth may have embellished some of the events that happened during his lifetime, one cannot accurately surmised that he was wrong in his perceptions but one might not also accurately say that he was right.

It is the opinion of this writer that there cannot be an accurate answer to the question posted since differences in opinion colours the set and even as Hogarth saw an evil London, many other painters and writers also see a beautiful London. It can be concluded that London during Hogarth’s time was as he saw it through his eyes and his colleagues can be deducted as the same.


Antal, F, The moral purpose of Hogarth’s art, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute, Vol. 15, No., 1952, pp. 169-197 Boccadoro, P, Exhibition Review: William Hogarth (1697-1764) CultureKiosque, retrieved 16 March 2008, www.gollner.ca.