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endured from his dependence, living chiefly on his pen; and the cruel treatment he met with from booksellers and printers. I had before my eyes the precarious situation of men of classical education; it was, therefore, conformable to my own wishes that I was taken from school and served a long apprenticeship to a silver-plate engraver." Walpole is, therefore, mistaken when he says that Hogarth was the son of a low tradesman.
of the extent of his education we have no account; but as his father was an enthusiastic scholar, we have no reason to suppose that it was neglected. He has been accused of ignorance; and friends and enemies united in upbraiding him with misspelling his native language. But when knowledge was required he showed no deficiency; some of his memorandums and remarks are well and cleverly written; and much of the misspelling on his plates is evidenıly intentional, and for the sake of effect. Correct spelling, however, was not then cornicul, and rnen of literary attainments must share in ihe reproach. Of his age, when he was apprenticed to Ellis Gamble, an eminent silversmith in Cranbourne Street, there is no notice ; he was old enough to observe that the classical knowledge of his father was no protection against sorrow and want. His own reflecting mind influenced him in the choice of a business which brought daily bread, in preference to precarious honours of scholarship. There were other reasons, which are best related in his ows words.
“As I had naturally a good eye and fondness fo drawing, shows of all sorts gave me uncommon plea sure when young, and mimickry, comnion to al children, was remarkable in me. An early access to a neighbouring painter drew my attention from play; and I was, at every possible opportunity, employed in making drawings. I picked up an acquaintance of the same turn, and soon learnt to
draw the alphabet with great correctness. My exercises when at school were more remarkable for ihe ornaments which adorned them, than for the exercise itself. In the former I soon found that blockheads, with better memories, would soon surpass me; but for the latter I was particularly distinguished.”
Nothing better could be done with a boy who thus adorned his school-exercises, than to make him an artist. But probationary study in painting, or in sculpture, provides neither food nor clothes, and as Hogarth required both, he was placed in a situation which procured them. The choice he made was a fortunate one. Drawing and engraving made part of his profession; and even shields, crests, supporters, coronets, and cyphers, afforded to his young hand the means of gaining facility and precision. Before his apprenticeship expired, however, he had gone far beyond these things; he had conceived a new and happy style of art—rough-hewn his own notions of excellence, and taken a satiric sitting or two from public vice and folly.
“I soon found," he observes, “ this business in every respect too limited. The paintings of St. Paul's and Greenwich Hospital, which were at that time going on, ran in my head, and I determined that silver-plate engraving should be followed no longer than necessity obliged me to it. Engraving on copper was at twenty years of age my utmost ambition. To attain this it was necessary that I should learn to draw objects something like nature, instead of the monsters of heraldry, and the common methods of study were much too tedious for one who loved his pleasure and came so late to it; for
the time necessary to learn in the usual mode would į leave me none to spare for the ordinary enjoyments
of life. This led me to considering whether a shorter
road than that usually travelled was not to be found. | The early part of my life had been employed in a
business rather detrimental than advantageous von those branches of the art which I wished to pursue and have since professed. I had learned by prac- de at tice to copy with tolerable correctness in the ordi. ti. nary way, but it occurred to me that there were lehen many disadvantages attending this method of study, the as having faulty originals, &c.; and even when the lig pictures or prints to be imitated were by the best f 15 masters, it was little more than pouring water out thie of one vessel into another."
Nichols asserts that the skill and assiduity of .40 Hogarth were, during his term of servitude, of singular assistance to his family and to his master. He was, I doubt not, a dutiful son, and on the whole tot a faithful servant; but it is seldoni that the labours de of an apprentice increase a master's fortune. He is has the general notion of his business to acquire, fra his hand to discipline, and his taste to correct; and Phim these things with the cleverest must be the work of the time. Hogarth, to be sure, was no common appren- ! 21 tice; yet his account of his own feelings and aspi- eine rations yields no support to the supposition of 1 Nichols. He found his profession too limited; he fish grew weary ofthe monotonous monsters of heraldry; to he loved his pleasure; and loved too to think upon the dignity of art and its honours. That a youth so a aspiring and ardent always employed his hands for his master's advantage, appears doubtsul. Wlien te released from his indenture, we find him skilful as hip an engraver, a good draughtsman, with considerable to knowledge in colouring. During the acquisition of much of this knowledge, I am afraid that he was not of " singular assistance” to Ellis Gamble. He served his time without any complaint-nor have I heard of any commendation.
Of those early days I find this brief notice in Smith's Life of Nollekens the sculptor. “I have several times heard Mr. Nollekens observe, that he had frequently seen Hogarth, when a young man,
saunter round Leicester Fields with his master's sickly child hanging its head over his shoulder.” It is more amusing to read such a book than safe to quote it. Hogarth had ceased to have a master for seventeen years, was married to Jane Thornhill, kept his carriage, and was in the full blaze of his reputation when Nollekens was born.
Of his short-hand way of acquiring knowledge we have some account from himself. His dislike of academic instruction, and his natural and proper notion of seeing art through stirring life, are very visible in all he says or writes. Copying other men's works he considered to resemble pouring wine out of one vessel into another; there was no increase of quantity, and the flavour of the vintage was liable to evaporate. He wished to gather in the fruit, press the grapes, and pour out the wine for himself. His words are instructive; he is speaking of his own aspirations after fame, and the unsatisfactory mode of study commonly recommended to students.
“Many reasons led me to wish that I could find the shorter path-fix forms and characters in my I mind-and, instead of copying the lines, try to read
the language, and, if possible, find the grammar of the art, by bringing into one focus the various observations I had made, and then trying by my power on the canvass how far my plan enabled me to combine and apply them to practice. For this purpose I considered what various ways, and to what different purposes, the memory might be applied; and fell upon one most suitable to my situation and idle disposition ;--laying it down first as an axiom, that he who could by any means acquire and retain in his memory perfect ideas of the subjects he meant to draw, would have as clear a knowledge of the figure, as a man who can write freely hath of the twenty-five letters of the alphabet, and their infinite combinations."
In this power of picturing in air the characters which composed his productions, Hogarth had great inastery. No man indeed can make a true design, who is deficient in pictorial fancy, and wants the vivid imagination which calls up, in moving form and breathing expression, the beings with whom he is to people his canvass. By a succession of effortsby slow and repeated touches-by studying a posture here and a character there-glancing one moment at life and another at art-a man may elaborate out a work which shall claim and even obtain a place among the productions of genius; but it will want those vivid and natural graces, and that lifelike air, which an imagination containing the picture within itself stamps upon its creations; even though blameless in its separate parts, it will appear defective as a whole.
Possessing this vividness of imagination, Hogarth was ready at a moment to embody his subjects; and by a sagacity all his own, and a spirit of observation which few have equalled, he had ever original characters at command. He seldom copied on the spot the peculiar objects which caught his notice; he committed them to memory, and his memory, accustomed to the task, never failed him. If, however, some singularly fantastic form or outré face came in his way, he made a sketch on the nail of his thumb, and carried it home to expand at leisure.
“I had,” he writes, “one material advantage over my competitors, viz. the early habit I acquired of retaining in my mind's eye, without coldly copying it on the spot, whatever I intended to imitate. Sometimes, but too seldom, I took the life for correcting the parts I had not perfectly enough remembered, and then I transferred them into my own compositions. Instead of burthening the memory with musty rules, or tiring the eye with copying dry or damaged pictures, I have ever found studying from nature the shortest and safest way of obtaining