“ His Most Famous Cycle (of Paintings) ”
“ The Joys of Wedlock consist
in having a Discreet and Affectionate Wife ”
Hogarth, William (1697 London 1764). Marriage à la Mode. 6-sheet set. Steel engravings. C. 1840. Inscribed: Die Heirath nach der Mode. / Marriage à la Mode. / I(-VI). 5-5½ × 5¾-6¼ in (12.6-13.9 × 14.6-15.9 cm). – Two sheets faintly foxed within the caption.
“ The finest painted satire of the century ”
(Dobson in Thieme-Becker) and, so Nagler,
“ in Waagen’s opinion the most ingenious (of Hogarth’) sets … Here the artist has (depicted) the wedding of the high, but hollow family tree (of Lord Squander) with the dirty, but full money cat (of a rich citizen) … along with their results with the rarest expenditure of invention, observation, humour, and dramatic energy … ”
The Marriage Contract
“ Poor alderman, what now is all your temporary stock-jingling against this splendour and the trumpet-tone of an almost millenial forefame? … This little canapé scene contains then the germ from which the artist develops the whole with great subtlety; here the spark glows, which now peu à peu becomes to heat, finally burning up to flames, by which everything falls in ”
The Breakfast of the Bridal Pair
“ The old count already seems to be decomposed and being with William the Conqueror … Both they have slept a little or not at all last night; She, here in the house, not, and He, in another, neither … Here it is still early in the morning … and still one has breakfast … the young gentleman, who just became elder by quite a heavy campaign over night seems, just unloaded by the coach, to have thrown himself here … The figure is a masterpiece and undoubtly one of the best Hogarth ever has drawn. The true allegory of enervation after the wildest debauchery of all kind … Where the money stuck there now stick the hands … And now a word on the deeds of the young lady … There in the splendid Egyptian hall she had a gamble party all night long, and play with cards, young gentlemen and such, a little tea, a little concert, and a little dance. One has played longly and wildly … one of the tables has thrown its cards on the earth, the pandects of the whist, Hoyle on Whist, have been trampled with feet … ”
The Visit to the Quack Doctor
“ Beside the poison-cupboard Hogarth has placed, as seems to me, capitally, two mummies. Obviously they see down with proud-disdainful look at all quack doctor bustle and all medicine-jumble of this world from their infinite safety and after their millenial peace with the healing faculty; and that one can do so if one is – a mummy. ”
Monsieur de la Pillule, identified by the way as the ill-famed Dr. Misaubin from Hamburg, is not only expert on the field of French illness, but also inventor of two elaborate machines examined and found for good by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris: for straightening the shoulders and pulling corks. “By ‘uncorking’ it succeeds to rights again the reputation of a ‘patient’ within the high life”, meaning to cure again certain results (Catalogue Zurich in departure from the usual interpretations deducing from this the possibility of an abortion by cure by magic formulas).
The Countess’ Morning Levée
Madame in the morning before the fateful masked ball linking her morning toilette, for which she uses the skills of a hairdresser, to her welcome, accompanied by music. Alongside of her Councillor Silvertongue, known as her lover in spe from the contract scene and here resting with oriental-softish ease on a sofa as it would stand in his harem, the hero of the following night as which he illustrates to her the earmarked masquerade – monk + nun – by folding-screen, showing her also the code plan upon the locality of their rendezvous. Apart from that
the classic boudoir scenery par excellence
with the gallant pictures belonging to on the walls, and on the sofa, at the councillor’s feet, the “ill-reputed, hot-blooded” book Crebillon’s with just the same name.
The Killing of the Earl
The husband has disturbed the adulterous couple. With the result of a duel in which the Earl is wounded, and Silvertongue, in illuminating habit like that of the wife, is trying to escape through the window, but the guard comes promptly.
“ A recording painter is at hand in the form of St Luke in the picture above the door. It becomes clear in the print that the comically crude tapestry illustrates The Judgment of Solomon, as if to confirm the ludicrous fact that the imminence of death is needed to expose the truer love ”
(Hogarth Catalogue of the Tate Gallery, 1971/72, p. 63).
The End of the Countess
Physician and apothecary come too late to bring help for madame. Receiving the broadsheet with The Gallows-Speech of Councillor Silvertongue she took the overdose laudanum bought by the poor servant who now is reproved by the apothecary while the doctor already retires “to make the honneurs to the soul before the front-door”. Because “vis à vis to a deceased, whom he wished to save, the best physician makes no good figure … (and so) the doctor sneaked off leaving to the less fine ear of the apothecary the mourners’ complains about our scanty knowledge and needless costs.”
It goes without saying that Hogarth’ intent was not successful as Lichtenberg had to state. For “alone after the newest letters from England (the marriages à la mode) continue till today”. As thirty years before Rev. Trusler reminded in his essay to the set:
“ Although there is no act in our life of greater importance to us, nor one on which our happiness depends, more than that of marriage; yet so rash and presumptive are we, that we pay little regard to it … On talking about this subject, most men shall speak as with the tongue of a philosopher; they shall tell you that the joys of wedlock consist in having a discreet and affectionate wife; but when they are about to enter on the state you shall hear them opening in a different language; nothing then shall satisfy but money: she that has most, is most amiable; and she that has none is totally deserted.
“ Happy might they now have been could they e’en have thought so, say, doubly happy if they loved: but where affection is wanting, felicity is banished; for Heaven has so framed our natures for this intimate society, that without it even amid the affluence of fortune, and the flow of uninterrupted health, there will be an aking void in the solitary breast that can never know a plenitude of happiness.
“ It is your express duty to study the disposition of each other, to look over the common frailties of each particular sex, and to avoid all extravagance, irregularity, and other failings that many occasion disgust. This if you do with care and exactness, marriage will become a blessing, and your home a paradise. ”
But though Hogarth lived, as Lichtenberg hands down, in very merry wedlock he did not execute the pendant of the merry marriage he already had sketched. May be in respect of the futility of his warning or of the realization “he would be in harmony with his great compatriot Milton :
Milton , as everybody knows , was in the lost paradise ,
but not in that found again . ”
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