… and doesn’t notice the danger
he is getting into himself
Hogarth, William (1697 London 1764). The Politician. Reading the newspaper, holding the candle close to his eyes for better reading while not becoming aware of how it burns through his hat. Engraving by Thomas Cook (c. 1744 – London 1818). Inscribed: Hogarth pinxt. / T. Cook sculpt. / Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, & Orme, July 1st. 1809., otherwise as above. Image size 7 × 5⅝ in (17.8 × 14.3 cm).
Published posthumously only the drawing alludes to the circumstances about 1730. The politician – by the way the then well-known London lace dealer Tibson – looking fascinatedly at the continental events of which the paper reports, while
disregarding his own nearest problems
indicated by his burning hat :
“ As everybody knows the English were the only nation in Europe in the past century up to the French revolution of which the greater populace could take a vivid interest in political events due to the circumstances which resulted from the constitution and the laws. How this rather common inclination to take a vivid interest in the government’s politics was observed by the nations of the continent can be learned best from the then book by a German (Archenholz, England and Italy) … Thus (Hogarth) has drawn here a figure at which still others can be edified by in states in which
the proper people are not granted any part in the administration
no more than an opinion about it …
“ The figure is a man from the middle classes … It shall be the portrait of a trimmings maker and be from the year 1730 as one can see from the clothes and the rapier. For English commentators say with regard to the latter: in those years the tradesmen had all carried that weapon to protect themselves and their property against thieves by which with worse police, as later, the streets of the capital had become highly insecure. The man … is so much immersed in the flames which rage on the continent that he does not notice the closer flame which threatens him …
“ By the way this idea (of the hat catching fire at the reading) was not new; for there is a quite well-known caricature on William III (a painting by Schalchen) who sets fire to his hat by reading dispatches, an image the Tory party staged against the king,
who threw the influence and the power of England
into the scales
to check the ambition of Louis XIV on continental Europe. By it it should be said that
the king pays more attention to the affairs of the continent
than the … danger … which menaces in the interior of the state
which he causes just by his exterior politics ”
However, in the course of which it shall not go unmentioned that
“ The wars of William (III) and Anne were no mere effort of national ambition or territorial gain. They were in essentials a struggle for the life and liberty not only of England, but of Protestant Europe … The triumph of the France of Louis XIV would have warped and restricted the development of the freedom we now enjoy, even more than the domination of Napoleon or of the German Kaiser ”
(Winston S. Churchill, Marlborough, His Life and Times [Chicago 2002], vol. I, p. 16).
Cook’s (“made his mark as Hogarth engraver, too”, Thieme-Becker) smaller version. – Trimmed within the wide white platemark. – Barely perceptible slight fold in the lower image/platemark.
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(Herr A. O., 19. November/19. December 2015)