Crackling Sujet of Earthy Liveliness
The Antichristian Opera
Hogarth, William (1697 London 1764). Sr. Hudibras Encounters the Skimmington (or The Antichristian Opera). The knight, an English Don Quixote, happens upon and misinterprets as anti-Christian ceremony an unruly procession of the old English and Scottish custom of publicly ridiculing a hen-pecked man or even cuckold suffering his wife’s adultery. Here both with the man set with a distaff backwards behind the woman onto the horse and treated by her with a ladle. At the window above, however, the tailor, whom his wife cuckolds by the sign of her hand, just as then also one of the two standards with shift and skirt resp. bears horns on top. Otherwise plenty of noise with pans & pots, but also horn & bagpipe. Engraving by Thomas Cook (c. 1744 – London 1818). Inscribed: Plate XII. / Design‘d by W. Hogarth. / Engrav‘d by T. Cook. / London Published by G. & I. Robinson Pater noster Row February 1st. 1802., otherwise as above + 6 six-lined stanzas as caption. 11⅜ × 20⅛ in (29 × 51.1 cm).
HUDIBRAS XII. – Cook “made his mark as Hogarth engraver, too (1795-1803) whose complete work he has reproduced” (Thieme-Becker VII, 1912, p. 348/I) and whose original format he maintained in contrast to all later Hogarth editions, which moreover mostly don’t contain the consequently rarer Hudibras. Several works not published by Hogarth himself had been engraved by Cook for the first time as he met with approval by a contemporary connoisseur as Maximilian Speck von Sternburg, too. – Small tear off in the wide white upper margin, in the right one two faint tidemarks. – On strong paper. – Of finest chiaroscuro.
“ is a vulgarized (English) Don Quixote , a dewitted Rabelais ”
(Laaths, Geschichte der Weltliteratur, 1953, p. 375), a “satiric scourge” (Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., III, 693/I) on the politically just sacked Puritanism and the best-known work of its creator esteemed by Charles II,
(Strensham, Worcestershire, 1612/13 – London 1680), as result of his impressions in the employ of Cromwell’s Colonel Sir Samuel Luke, “at which religious and political sects were about” (Meyers). Remaining incomplete the first two parts of the epic were published in 1663/64, a third one in 1678, then, joined, long-lived through the centuries. In three cantos each
“ describing in rough, mostly eight-syllabic songs (later known as ‘hudibrastic verse’) the loosely connected, grotesque adventures of two Puritans, the knight Hudibras and his shield-bearer Ralpho. Hogarth has engraved two different sets of illustrations to this poem: twelve large, carefully executed engravings he has created on his own, independently of a publisher, and published in February 1726, and seventeen smaller ones which have more the character of woodcuts and presumably done before, but were published the following April only in a poem edition. These follow the course of the action while the large sheets only represent the decisive scenes with an abridgement as legend … Epic and pictures are an antiheroic satire on Puritanism and sectarianism ”
(Margrit Bachofen-Moser in Hogarth Catalogue Zurich, 1983, pp. 25 ff. illustrating the large version in partly differing arrangement).
In the first instance Cook repeated the 12-sheet large version in its original format as for the 3rd sheet in question then here, too, years later in a popular small one of only c. 5½ × 6¾ in (14 × 17 cm) subject size.
The Hudibras set – Thieme-Becker judge – is “of decisive significance for Hogarth’s development.
Here lies the key to the understanding of the satirist H. ”
(Thieme-Becker XVII , 300/II).
And Austin Dobson in the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 :
“ These (plates Hogarth) himself valued highly, and they are the best of his book illustrations. But he was far too individual to be the patient interpreter of other men’s thoughts, and it is not in this direction that his successes are to be sought … (And generally resuming) If we regard him – as he loved to regard himself – as ‘author’ rather than ‘artist’, his place is with the great masters of literature – with the Thackerays and Fieldings, the Cervantes and Molières. ”
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– – – The same in Cook’s smaller version with the caption being replaced by the series title. Inscribed: Pl. XII. / Hogarth pinxt. / HUDIBRAS. / T. Cook & Son cm. / Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, & Orme, May 1st. 1808. Subject size 4⅜ × 7⅝ in (11 × 19.4 cm). – At three sides trimmed within the wide white platemark, which is partially a little time-marked.
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– – – The same in Hogarth’s own etching with engraving of 1726 with the Sayer address of the 1768 new edition and here in the 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 , 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”]). Inscribed: 12 (by the publisher) / W. Hogarth Inv. et Sculp (in the lower left edge of the subject), otherwise with title + caption. 10¾ × 20⅜ in (27.4 × 51.7 cm). – Hogarth Catalog Zurich, 1983, ills. 7.
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