Election Month

A Look back to the Age of

William Hogarth

William Hogarth, The Politician

“ … that he does not notice
the closer flame
which threatens him ”

William Hogarth (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 ”


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.

Offer no. 9,004 / EUR  189. (c. US$ 228.) + shipping

“ If you don’t read the newspaper ,

you’re uninformed .

If you do read the newspaper ,

you’re misinformed ”

Mark Twain (attributed)

The Election of a Member of Parliament
as the
Portrait of Corrupted Parties
and a Rotten Society

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). Four Prints of an Election. Set of 4 sheet engravings by Thomas Cook (c. 1744 – London 1818). Inscribed: Hogarth pinx(t). / T. Cook, sculp(t). / Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees(,) & Orme(,) (May 1st. 1807 – Oct. 1st. 1809). Subject size 5¾-6⅛ × 7⅜-7¾ in (14.6-15.5 × 18.8-19.7 cm).

1. Humours of an Election Entertainment. – 2. Canvassing for Votes. – 3. Polling at the Hustings. – 4. Chairing the Members.

Hogarth’s famous set full of contemporary allusions – belonging to his “most mature creations” (Th.-B.) and here in Cook’s small repetition – is

the best known graphic depiction

William Hogarth, Election IV
Chairing the Members

of an election of representatives .

Its origin in the classic country of parliamentarism imparts a particular significance to it. For it is at the same time – inspired by events in Oxfordshire during the elections of 1754, published 1755-58 – the portrait of not only corrupt politicians and parties, but of a rotten society as such. After all besides the usual feast and gorge documented on all plates as part of every election in Hogarth’s time bribery,

“ … first pursued systematically by Sir Robert Walpole and the Whigs, (was) practiced still far more scandalously than later; so it remained during the second half of the past century and till our days … Because then the possession of a parliamentary place was frequently regarded as a simple trade speculation, as the elected sold … his vote to the government for a sum of money, a sinecure, a post or a delivery, and thereupon could be re-elected by a rotten borough, a procedure which was so much easier as the minister Walpole had raised such a bribery of the members of the parliament – ‘every man has his price’ – literally to a system of government. Also Hogarth’s present plates give allusions of this ”


A wag who thinks at this of the independence of the representatives, the obligation to vote for the party line, and the election tickets granted by the parties actually deciding the majority in parliaments today. And of the disgust the class of professional politicians causes with today’s voters when Thieme-Becker sum up:

“ … a delightful satire on the vice of bribery and

the demoralization of the people tied to that . ”

But beyond the fullness of allusions Hogarth puts a special stamp on the abjectness and venal partiality of the whole proceedings. As these plates, too, are together caricatures or parodies of classic – and by this pure and clean – works from the Renaissance and Baroque:

So the first leaf up to the caption – not included in this version anymore – “He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me” after Leonardo’s Last Supper. Followed by plate two with the farmer being bribed by both sides as inversion of The Choice of Hercules. The election itself in turn taking up Tizian’s Presentation of the Virgin, with Britannia herself in a broken-down chariot whose coachman plays cards on the box with the footman, trying – allegory of the actual election process in front – to cheat each other. The last leaf finally, the triumphal march of the elected new member of the parliament, even alludes to Alexander the Great in Le Brun’s Victory of Alexander over Darius. Wherein the imperial eagle there had to give way to a goose here. Which by that what it lets fall even anticipates the new member’s contribution to the parliamentary debate.

This embedding in the canon of timeless art imparting to the set together and contrary to Lichtenberg’s reading that the pictures and their details were intelligible only from and in their own time

their own timelessness valid through the centuries .

Which is even stressed by Hogarth’ often ambiguous or – depending on time and position – differently interpretable sarcasm.

Offer no. 8,895 / EUR  375. / export price EUR  356. (c. US$ 430.) + shipping

– – – The same. Set of 4 sheet steel engravings. C. 1850. Inscribed. 5⅛-5¼ × 6¼-6⅜ in (12.9-13.5 × 15.8-16.2 cm).

Offer no. 12,169 / EUR  249. (c. US$ 301.) + shipping

Take it easy:

The Election Procession
The Mockery of the Defeated Candidate

William Hogarth (1697 London 1764). A Country Inn Yard (or The Election Procession in the Yard). Apart from the rich postal scene the actual happenings – in addition to above Four Prints of an Election – concern the mockery of a

“ candidate defeated in a parliamentary election ”

whose effigy – as already in regard of the Duke of Newcastle on plate 1 of the Election set – is carried round in a procession of the opposing party. This all the more annoying as the defeat is caused by formalities, that is the yet barely missed age of the candidate, and thus was foreseeable. Accordingly unwillingly an agent of the unfortunate – a copy of the Act against bribery and corruption in his pocket – foots the bill for the wasted election entertainment to the landlord. Engraving. Inscribed: Design’d and Engrav’d by W. Hogarth. — Publish’d According to Act of Parliament. 1747. 8⅝ × 12¼ in (22 × 31 cm).

William Hogarth, A Country Inn Yard

Nagler 30. – After the painting of 1747. – Impression on strong paper from the plate retouched by the royal engraver James Heath (1757 London 1834) about 1822 (“Even these impressions have become relatively rare today though”, Art Gallery Esslingen 1970; and Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., VIII [1888], 625: “A fine edition”, esteemed also already by contemporary collectors of the rank of for instance an A. T. Stewart [Catalog of the Stewart Collection, New York 1887, 1221, “fine plates”]).

“ The well-known plate … shows with Dickens’ humour a comfortable depiction of rural petty bourgeoisie ”

(Thieme-Becker XVII, p. 297, 2).

Offer no. 7,803 / EUR  135. (c. US$ 163.) + shipping

William Hogarth, Country Inn Yard (Cook small)

– – – The same in engraving by Thomas Cook (c. 1744 – London 1818). Inscribed: Hogarth pinxt. / T. Cook & Son sc. / Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees & Orme, May 1st. 1808. Subject size 4¾ × 6¾ in (12.2 × 17.1 cm).

Cook’s smaller version, engraved together with his son. – Trimmed within the wide white platemark.

Offer no. 8,941 / EUR  60. (c. US$ 73.) + shipping

William Hogarth, A Country Inn Yard (Riepenhausen)

– – – The same in engraving by Ernst Ludwig Riepenhausen (1765 Göttingen 1840). Inscribed: W. Hogarth pinx. 1747. / E. Riepenhausen sc. 8⅜ × 10½ in (21.3 × 26.7 cm).

Riepenhausen’s works after Hogarth ( “very valuable” ) belong to his major work and are partially even preferred to those by Hogarth. – In regard of the especially fine, sturdy paper supposedly an impression for a special edition about 1830. – Margins somewhat age-spotted. Equally the image itself slightly.

Offer no. 7,804 / EUR  118. (c. US$ 143.) + shipping

William Hogarth, A Country Inn Yard (lithograph)

– – – The same in lithography. (1833/36.) Inscribed: Die Landkutsche. 9¾ × 9⅜ in (24.7 × 23.7 cm). – Extensive caption in German.

Offer no. 7,805 / EUR  125. (c. US$ 151.) + shipping

“ … Thank you again for your considered thoughts. I am interested in the ‘Clara’ piece.  Please describe the process for completing a transaction for #15,275 ”

(Mr. M. P., December 8, 2008)