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Occasions of public mourning or private distress, and who supplied printsellers with jingling commendations of the works which they published. They wrote epigrams for half-a-crown each-a fair price for four wretched lines. From such men Hogarth is supposed to have obtained many of the verses which are attached to his prints. But less charitable persons have ascribed them all to himself.
Heidegger, a Swiss, and the Thersites of his day, had a face beyond the reach of caricature: his portrait by Hogarth is nature without addition or exaggeration, and it appears in all its hideousness
“ Something between a Heidegger and owl”— in a little humorous print of the masquerade. This
man obtained the management of the Opera House, > was countenanced by the court, and amassed a for
tune. Being once asked in company what nation had the greatest ingenuity-" The Swiss !” exclaimed Heidegger. “I came to England without a farthing, where I gain five thousand a-year, and spend it: now I defy the cleverest of you all to do the same in Switzerland.”
Hogarth was fond of making experiments in his profession. He resolved to finish the engraving of the first print of the Election, without taking a proof. to ascertain the success of his labours. He had nearly spoiled the plate, and was so affected with the misadventure that he exclaimed “I am ruined.” He soon, however, proceeded to repair the damage which his haste or obstinacy had caused, and with such good fortune that the print in question is one of the clearest and cleverest of all his productions.
" When Barry, the painter," says Smith, “ was asked if he had ever seen Hogarth, · Yes-once,' he replied, “I was walking with Joe Nollekens through Cranbourne Alley, when he exclaimed, « There! there's Hogarth.' "What,' said I, that little man in a sky-blue coat?' Off I ran, and though I lost sight of him only for a moment or two, when I turned the corner into Castle Street, he was patting one of two quarrelling boys on the back, and looking steadfastly at the expression in the coward's face, cried Damn him, if I would take it of him at him again.'”
The character of William Hogarth as a man is to be sought for in his conduct, and in the opinions of his more dispassionate contemporaries; his character as an artist is to be gathered from numerous works, at once original and unrivalled. His fame has flown far and wide; his skill as an engraver spread his reputation as a painter; and all who love the dramatic representation of actual life—all who have hearts to be gladdened by humour-all who are pleased with judicious and well-directed satire-all who are charmed with the ludicrous looks of popular folly-and all who can be moved with the pathos of human suffering—are admirers of Hogarth. That his works are unlike those of other men is his merit, not his fault. He belonged to no school of art; he was the produce of no academy; no man living or dead had any share in forming his mind, or in rendering his hand skilful. He was the spontaneous offspring of the graphic spirit of his country, as native to the heart of England as independence is, and he may be fairly called, in his own walk, the firstborn of her spirit.
He painted life as he saw it. He gives no visions of by-gone things—no splendid images of ancient manners; he regards neither the historian's page nor the poet's song. He was contented with the occurrences of the passing day—with the folly or the sin of the hour; to the garb and fashion of the moment, however, he adds story and sentiment for all time.
The morality of Hogarth has been questioned; and indeed the like has befallen Crabbe. We may smile as we look at his works, and we may laugh all this is true :—the victims whom Hogarth conducts pass through many varied scenes of folly, and commit many absurdities; but the spectacle saddens as we move along, and if we commence in mirth, we are overwhelmed with sorrow at last. His object was to insinuate the excellence of virtue by proving the hideousness of vice ;-and if he has failed, who has succeeded? As to other charges, preferred by the malice of his contemporaries, time and fame have united in disproving them. He has been accused of want of knowledge in the human form, and of grace and serenity of expression. There is some truth in this perhaps; but the peculiar character of his pictures required mental vigour rather than external beauty, and the serene Madonnalike loveliness could not find a place among the follies and frivolities of the passing scene. He saw a way of his own to fame, and followed it; he scorned all imitation, and by word and works recommended nature for an example and a monitress in art.
His grammatical accuracy and skill in spelling have been douhted by men who are seldom satisfied with any thing short of perfection, and they have added the accusation that he was gross and unpolished. Must men of genius be examples of both bodily and mental perfection ? Look at the varied works of Hogarth, and say, could a man overflowing with such knowledge of men and manners, be called illiterate or ignorant? He was of no college, but not therefore unlearned; he was of no academy, yet who will question his excellence in art? He acquired learning by his study of human nature, in his intercourse with the world, in his musing on the changes of seasons, and on the varying looks of the nation and the aspect of the universe. He drank at the great fountain of information, and went by the ancient road; and till it is shown that his works are without knowledge, I shall look op him as a well-informed man.
In his memorandums respecting the establishment of an Academy of Art in England, he writes wel and wisely. Voltaire asserts, that after the establish ment of the French Academy, not one work of genius appeared, for all the painters became man nerists and imitators. Hogarth agrees with the acute Frenchman; he declares that the institution will serve to raise and pension a few bustling and busy men, whose whole employment will be to tell a few simple students when a leg is too long, or an arm too short. More," says Hogarth, “will flock to the study of art than what genius sends; the hope of profit or the thirst of distinction will induce parents to push their offspring into the lecture-room, and many will appear and but few be worthy. The paintings of Italy form a sort of ornamental fringe to their gaudy religion, and Rome is the general i store-shop of Europe. The arts owe much to popery, and popery owes much of its universality to the arts. The French have attained to a sort of foppish magnificence in art; in Holland selfishness is the ruling passion, and in England vanity is united with selfishness. Portrait-painting, therefore, has succeeded, and ever will succeed better, in England than in any other country, and the demand will continue as new faces come into the market. Portraitpainting is one of the ministers of vanity, and vanity is a munificent patroness; historical painting seeks to revive the memory of the dead, and the dead are very indifferent paymasters. Paintings are plentiful enough in England to keep us from the study of nature; but students who confine their studies to the wirks of the dead need never hope to live them. I selves; they will learn little more than the names of the painters : true painting can only be learned in one school, and that is kept by nature.” These are the written words of a man illiterate and gross, who
1 was unacquainted with grammar, and could not
spell! In this free, clear, and pithy way, Hogarth handled the great question of public instruction in art, and his conduct has been imputed to envy of the growing fame of Sir Joshua Reynolds. If those sarcastic strictures arose from envy-of which I find no traces-the envy of Hogarth was met by the contempt of Reynolds; for never in all his letters and discourses does Sir Joshua, save once or so, and that with more of censure than of praise, allude even to the existence of his eminent contemporary.
It is seldom that envy urges such sensible reasons for its opposition. Hogarth disliked a formal school, because he was the pupil of nature, and foresaw that students would flock to it from the feeling of trade rather than the impulse of genius, and that it would rather become a manufactory for conventional forms and hereditary graces. He satirized some of the dark masters, and laughed at, as well he might, their legions of saints and Madonnas. He saw their influence in England, and he lamented it and lampooned them ; but he was not, therefore, insensible to the merits of the more eminent masters. Opulent collectors were filling their galleries with the religious paintings of the Romish church, and vindicating their purchases by representing these works as the only patterns of all that is noble in art and worthy of imitation. Hogarth perceived that all this was not according to the natural spirit of the nation; he well knew that our island had not yet poured out its own original mind in art, as it had done in poetry; and he felt assured that such a time would come, if native genius were not overlaid systematically by mock patrons and false instructers. In this mood he looked coldly, too coldly perhaps, on foreign art; and perhaps too fondly on his own productions. But even there, where vanity soonest misleads the judginent, he thought wisely. He contemplated liis own works, not as things excellent in themselves,