Mary Hogarth

Mary Hogarth

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Mary Scott Hogarth was born in Edinburgh in 1819. Mary was one of ten children, including Catherine Hogarth (1815) and Georgina Hogarth (1827). Her father, George Hogarth, was a talented writer and worked as a journalist for the Edinburgh Courant.

In 1830 Hogarth and his family moved to London in order to develop his career as a writer. Claire Tomalin has argued: "He decided to move south, using his knowledge of music and literature to help him find work as a journalist and critic. At first he worked for Harmonicon . In 1831 Hogarth went to Exeter to edit the tory Western Luminary , and in the following year he moved to Halifax as the first editor of the Halifax Guardian. He supplemented his income by doing some teaching in the town.

In 1834 George Hogarth returned to London and was engaged by the The Morning Chronicle as a writer on political and musical subjects. The following year he was appointed as editor of The Evening Chronicle . He became friends with Charles Dickens and commissioned him to write a series of stories under the pseudonym "Boz".

Hogarth invited Dickens to visit him at his home in Kensington. The author of Dickens: A Life (2011) has pointed out: "Hogarth... had a large and still growing family, and when he (Dickens) made his first visit to their house on the Fulham Road, surrounded by gardens and orchards, he met their eldest daughter, nineteen-year-old Catherine. Her unaffectedness appealed to him at once, and her being different from the young woman he had known, not only in being Scottish but in coming from an educated family background with literary connections. The Hogarths, like the Beadnells, were a cut above the Dickens family, but they welcomed Dickens warmly as an equal, and George Hogarth's enthusiasm for his work was flattering."

Mary was only fourteen when she met Dickens. Peter Ackroyd has pointed out: "Mary was not yet of an age to marry but there is no doubt that the affection between her and the younger Dickens was strong; she gave him presents, a fruit knife and silver inkwell, very soon after he had come to know the Hogarths and it is clear from all later reports that her gentle and selfless nature deeply impressed the young man."

Charles Dickens married Catherine Hogarth on 2nd April, 1836, at Lukes Church, Chelsea. After a wedding breakfast at her parents, they went on honeymoon to the village of Chalk, near Gravesend. Dickens wanted to show Catherine the countryside of his childhood. However, he discovered that his wife did not share his passion for long, fast walks. As one biographer put it: "Writing was necessarily his primary occupation, and hers must be to please him as best she could within the limitations of her energy: writing desk and walking boots for him, sofa and domesticity for her."

The couple lived in Furnival's Inn where Dickens had rented three rooms. Mary moved in with them when the arrived back after their honeymoon. She stayed for a month but friends said that she always seemed be with Catherine in her new home. Dickens later wrote: "From the day of our marriage, the dear girl had been the grace and life of our home, our constant companion, and the sharer of all our little pleasures."

Mary Hogarth wrote to her cousin describing Catherine as "a most capital house-keeper... happy as the day is long". She added: "I think they are more devoted than ever since their marriage if that be possible - I am sure you would be delighted with him if you knew him he is such a nice creature and so clever he is courted and made up to by all literary gentlemen, and has more to do in that way than he can well manage."

Catherine Dickens had her first child, Charles Culliford Dickens, in January, 1837. She had difficulty feeding the baby and gave up trying. A wet nurse was found but Mary believed that her sister was suffering from depression: "Every time she (Catherine) sees her baby she has a fit of crying and keeps constantly saying she is sure he (Charles Dickens) will not care for her now she is not able to nurse him."

Dickens now travelled around London with Mary to find a new home. On 18th March he made an offer for 48 Doughty Street. After agreeing to a rent of £80 a year, they moved in two weeks later. Situated in a private road with a gateway and porter at each end. It had twelve rooms on four floors. Mary had one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Dickens employed a cook, a housemaid, a nurse, and later, a manservant.

During this period Mary was greatly admired by men who met her. John Strang commented that "she is a sweet interesting creature" and would not be surprised if "some two-legged monster does not carry her off". The poet, Robert Story described Mary Hogarth as the "fairest flower of spring" but also compared her glances to those of a falcon.

On 6th May, 1837, Charles, Catherine and Mary went to the St James's Theatre to see the play, Is She His Wife ? They went to bed at about one in the morning. Mary went to her room but, before she could undress, gave a cry and collapsed. A doctor was called but was unable to help. Dickens later recalled: "Mary... died in such a calm and gentle sleep, that although I had held her in my arms for some time before, when she was certainly living (for she swallowed a little brandy from my hand) I continued to support her lifeless form, long after her soul had fled to Heaven. This was about three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon." Dickens later recalled: "Thank God she died in my arms and the very last words she whispered were of me." The doctor who treated her believed that she must have had undiagnosed heart problems. Catherine was so shocked by the death of her younger sister that she suffered a miscarriage a few days later.

Peter Ackroyd has argued: "His grief was so intense, in fact, that it represented the most powerful sense of loss and pain he was ever to experience. The deaths of his own parents and children were not to affect him half so much and in his mood of obsessive pain, amounting almost to hysteria, one senses the essential strangeness of the man... It has been surmised that all along Dickens had felt a passionate attachment for her and that her death seemed to him some form of retribution for his unannounced sexual desire - that he had, in a sense, killed her."

Charles Dickens cut off a lock of Mary's hair and kept it in a special case. He also took a ring off her finger and put it on his own, and there it stayed for the rest of his life. Dickens also expressed a wish to be buried with her in the same grave. He also kept all of Mary's clothes and said a couple of years later that "they will moulder away in their secret places". Dickens wrote that he consoled himself "above all... by the thought of one day joining her again where sorrow and separation are unknown". He was so upset by Mary's death that for the first and last time in his life he missed his deadlines and the episodes of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist which were supposed to be written during that month were postponed.

Dickens told his friend, Thomas Beard: "So perfect a creature never breathed. I knew her inmost heart, and her real worth and values. She had not a fault." He told other friend that "every night she appeared in his dreams". Michael Slater, the author of Charles Dickens: A life Defined by Writing (2011) has suggested: "It was the third great emotional crisis of his life, following the blacking factory experience and the Beadnell affair, and one that profoundly influenced him as an artist as well as a man."

Philip V. Allingham has argued: "Critics and biographers... have written extensively on the massive influence that the memory of the dead seventeen-year-old Scottish girl exerted upon Dickens throughout his career... As numerous critics have noted, Mary probably served Dickens as the basis - the spiritual essence, as it were - of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop (the child-character's death in January 1841 brought back the pain of Dickens's parting from his sister-in-law on Sunday, 7 May 1837), of Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist, of the protagonist's seventeen-year-old sister Kate in Nicholas Nickleby, and of Agnes in David Copperfield."

In 1841 Mary's brother, George Hogarth, died suddenly. It was decided that he should be buried in the same grave as his sister. Charles Dickens was intensely distressed by the news and told John Forster that "it seems like losing her for a second time".

Mary... This was about three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon. ... Thank God she died in my arms and the very last words she whispered were of me.

His (Dickens) grief was so intense, in fact, that it represented the most powerful sense of loss and pain he was ever to experience. It has been surmised that all along Dickens had felt a passionate attachment for her and that her death seemed to him some form of retribution for his unannounced sexual desire - that he had, in a sense, killed her.

At the beginning of his literary career he suffered a great sorrow in the death-a very sudden death - of my mother's sister, Mary Hogarth. She was of a most charming and lovable disposition, as well as being personally very beautiful. Soon after my parents married, Aunt Mary was constantly with them. As her nature developed she became my father's ideal of what a young girl should be. And his own words show how this great affection and the influence of the girl's loved memory were with him to the end of his life.

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, character Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits who show him the error of his ways and lead him to a conversion of life. It is a classic Christmas tale that has survived the test of time.

Interestingly, a year after Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, the Protestant author had his own spiritual experience. He wrote about it in a letter to friend John Forster on September 30, 1844, while on a vacation in Genoa, Italy.

Dickens wasn’t sure exactly the identity of the Spirit. He says that it “bore no resemblance to any one I have known except in stature,” but he refers to the spirit as “Mary’s spirit,” referring to his sister-in-law Mary Hogarth, who had passed away.

The Protestant author goes on in the letter to explain how he may have been influenced by his Italian room, full of Roman Catholic pieces of furniture, including an altar.

The validity of such a dream is difficult to evaluate from a single letter, but it would not have been the first time that the Virgin Mary visited a non-Catholic. She is even known to appear to atheists throughout history.

Dickens may have experienced a version of his own story, being visited by a heavenly woman who was trying to guide him to the practice of the Catholic religion.

Read more:
These apparitions were officially approved by the Holy See as “worthy of belief”

Read more:
4 More apparitions that were declared “fake”

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English Historical Fiction Authors

Both the painting and the post make the lady someone I want to know.

She lived a remarkable life I think Hogarth's portrait really captures her spirit and his friendship with her too!

Excellent post. I had no idea Hogarth painted oils!. I thought it was all prints
Many thanks!

Thank you! Hogarth's works are so diverse, I never tire of them. :-)

She is buried in the village of Welham, Leicestershire. She had erected a very fine marble tomb to her father who had bought the village and manor of Welham. Elizabeth's name is inscribed on the monument.

As well as the portrait by Hogarth, Elizabeth had purchased Hogarth's painting of 'Soutwark Fair' and had commissioned 'Taste in High Life' in 1742 as a riposte to those who attacked her old fashioned clothes, the painting satirised the Frenchified Taste of High Society. Mary Edwards also features in a family painting portraying her with her husband and their child.

Her early demise is attributed to her fondness to a glass of gin. For those interested in Mary Edwards relationship with Hogarth I can recommend the following essay 'An Un-married Woman: Mary Edwards, William Hogarth, and a case of Eigthteenth Century British Patronage' by Nadia Tscherny. I have it in 'The Other Hogarth, Asthetics of Difference' edited by Bernadette Fort and Angela Rosenthal, Princeton University Press. 2001.

This was going to make London a grander and better place for everybody. A ‘palace for lunatics’, it’s often called – Mike Jay

According to Jay, “It was part of an attempt to recreate London as something grand and modern, instead of the old medieval timber warrens that that part of London consisted of before the fire. And it was a kind of civic pride, and it was a sense of charitable mission: that this was going to make London a grander and better place for everybody. A ‘palace for lunatics’, it’s often called.”

Bethlem became known as a ‘palace for lunatics’ (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

For the first time, meanwhile, private asylums were opening up in the city. The new design was also an attempt to stay on top of what was becoming a contested market then as now, some of the city’s most jaw-dropping buildings were spurred by capitalist competition.

The interior (and reality) of the hospital, though, was altogether different. Because the ornate façade was so heavy, it immediately cracked at the back. Whenever it rained, the walls ran with water. And as the hospital was built on the rubble next to the city’s Roman wall, it didn’t even have a proper foundation.

The new hospital was, quite literally, putting a pretty face on what many Londoners saw as a messy, distasteful problem. “You had this weird, creaking, collapsing building from the very beginning. It was a contrast everyone picked up on at the time: this grand façade – and how grim it was on the inside,” Jay says.

The hospital may have looked like a palace, but treatment of patients was hardly ideal, as shown in this etching of William Norris in 1814 (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

In 1699, satirist Thomas Brown wrote drolly that the design made you wonder “whether the persons that ordered the building of it, or those that inhabit it, are the maddest.” Four years later, Ned Ward had this to say in his famous periodical London Spy: “We came in Sight of a Noble Pile of Building, which diverted us from our former discourse, and gave my Friend the Occasion of asking me my Thoughts of this Magnificent Edifice: I told him, I conceiv’d it to be my Lord Mayors Palace, for I could not imagine so stately a Structure could be design’d for any Quality inferior he smil’d at my Innocent Conjecture, and inform’d me this was Bedlam, an Hospital for Mad-folks”.

The protagonist’s response: “I think they were Mad that Built so costly a Colledge for such a Crack-brain’d Society.”

So the sane were mad, and the mad were sane. Perhaps ironically, given the ways in which contemporaries responded to the asylum’s “mad” architects, one of the ways in which people girded themselves against becoming insane themselves was by visiting Bethlem.

Statues of ‘melancholy’ and ‘raving’ – thought to be the two sides of mental illness – crowned the entrance gates to the hospital (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

In 1681, City governors noted “the greate quantity of persons that come daily to see the said Lunatickes”. Though one figure that’s often given the number of visitors – 96,000 a year – doesn’t have much evidence behind it, as Jonathan Andrews et al note in the book The History of Bethlem, there’s no arguing that Bethlem was a popular attraction. It was also encouraged by the hospital itself, which benefited both from visitors’ donations as well as from any later charitable contributions. As Andrews writes, “In 1610 Lord Percy recorded going to see the lions in the Tower, the show of Bethlem, and the fireworks at the Artillery Gardens. In those days there was nothing odd about permitting or encouraging such a spectacle: all the world was a stage and visiting Bethlem was regarded as edifying for the same reasons as attending hangings.”

In particular, going to the hospital was meant to be an instructive reminder to visitors to “keep baser instincts in check”… lest they, too, wind up on the other side of the bars.

Double meaning

But even as Bethlem the hospital was becoming more and more well-known, it was also turning into an idea with a life of its own. By the 1600s, the most difficult patients were called ‘stark Bedlam mad’. Beggars who only pretended to be ‘lunatics’ – so as to avoid being sent to a workhouse or to prison, as the Relief of the Poor act of 1601 stated that only the poor who were incapable of work be cared for by the parish, while the rest went to workhouses or even prison – were known as ‘Tom o’Bedlams’.

From there, the idea mutated even further, coming to mean not just ‘insanity’ but chaos in general. This interpretation was strengthened by contemporary ideas of London as confused and chaotic. That made Bethlem not only the city’s set piece, but its symbol.

It didn’t just apply to London, either. When William Hogarth updated his final panel in The Rake’s Progress – which he famously set in Bethlem Hospital – in 1763, he added a large British coin to the wall, a way to ensure the audience understood that his Bethlem was a symbol of Britain itself. Even the world was sometimes a ‘bedlam’. As one (possibly fictional) 1722 account of a visit to Bethlem put it, describing the catastrophic collapse of the South Sea Company two years earlier, “all the World became a Bedlam, and London and Westminster made but One great Mad-House.”

The Versailles-like version of Bethlem was torn down in 1815 and replaced by this stark building at St George’s Fields in Southwark (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

In 1815, the palatial Bethlem Hospital, which would have been at the south side of today’s Finsbury Circus, was torn down. The “only” palace-like building in London was gone. Gone, too, are the unfortunate conditions that patients lived in: today, the hospital runs on a state-of-the-art facility in Beckenham, complete with a museum open to the public. But the idea, and the word, lives on.

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Why Historians Are Reexamining the Case of the Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits

Wellcome Collection & Library


In 1726, London was hoodwinked by a poor, illiterate woman named Mary Toft. She had fooled the city’s finest doctors, scientists, and even the King. She, apparently, could give birth to rabbits. It was not a skill anyone had been clamoring for, but it understandably had everyone fascinated. Toft delivered on that promise󈟡 times over, leading to a spectacle that mesmerized the nation for several months. At least until she was inevitably exposed.

Today, Toft has been relegated to a footnote in the “weird” archives of history. She has become an entry in a listicle, a cocktail fact, a curiosity, proof that people in the 18th century had to have been different from us in some crucial, preposterous way. But Karen Harvey, a historian at the University of Birmingham, thinks we should take Toft more seriously, as a poor woman caught up in a power struggle between powerful men, a woman who lost authority over her body in the process—a story that says a great deal about its time and place. “The idea is absurd, and we know it’s absurd,” Harvey says. “But when you think about it, it’s quite a ghastly story.”

Mary Toft, rabbit in hand. Wellcome Collection/CC by 4.0

Harvey began teaching Toft’s case to her undergraduate history students, and soon realized that historians had left out a great deal of what she saw as crucial to it. “Nobody had asked very many questions about her and her life,” she says. So Harvey dug into Toft’s confessions, which can be found today in the University of Glasgow’s special collections. The scholar was struck by how much distress Toft appeared to be in, and how explicitly she articulated the pain of the whole process. Rather than a master manipulator, Toft appeared to have been exploited herself. “‘But all along, she says, ‘It wasn’t me, it wasn’t my idea, there are women who put me up to it,’” Harvey says. “I’m not sure she had any power at all.”

Toft was born Mary Denyer in 1703 in Godalming, Surrey, just about 40 miles from London. Godalming was one of the poorest areas in the county, according to Harvey’s paper “Rabbits, Whigs and Hunters: Women and Protest in Mary Toft’s Monstrous Births of 1726.” At 17, she married the wool textile worker Joshua Toft, 18, and soon had two children. Every morning, Mary Toft walked two hours to labor in a hop field, another grueling day in a relatively grueling life.

Toft was just 25 when she delivered her first monster. The ruse began on September 27, 1726. She’d miscarried the month before—a common outcome for pregnant peasants in the 18th century, who were required to continue working in the fields while pregnant—and reportedly delivered several lumps of flesh, which may have been a malformed placenta. But this latest “birth” did not appear to have been human. Toft’s family called upon local obstetrician John Howard, who helped her deliver what he described as “three legs of a Cat of a Tabby Colour, and one leg of a Rabbet: the guts were as a Cat’s and in them were three pieces of the Back-Bone of an Eel,” according to Fiona Haslam’s From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth-Century Britain. In one particularly productive day, according to Niki Russell, who works in the University of Glasgow’s special collections, Toft allegedly gave birth to a nine dead baby rabbits.

A scene from The Doctors in Labour, a 1726 illustrated poem about Toft’s scandal. Public Domain

Entranced by what seemed to be a supernatural occurrence, Howard wrote to England’s most revered doctors and scientists, as well as the secretary of King George I. The monarch sent two men to investigate: Nathaniel St. André, his Swiss surgeon-anatomist, and Samuel Molyneux, the Prince of Wales’s secretary. Toft had already become a local celebrity, and she was moved from Godalming to a larger town of Guildford, where Howard worked. Whenever Toft delivered a rabbit, Howard promptly pickled it and placed it in a jar on a shelf in his study.

The noblemen arrived on November 15 to learn, rather conveniently, that Toft had just gone into labor with her fifteenth dead rabbit. St. André and Molyneux then witnessed the births of a couple more. Examination of the bunnies suggested, as one might expect, they could not have originated in Toft’s body one’s stomach contained remnants of hay and grass. Some appeared to be fetuses, while others were maybe three months old. But St. André was just thrilled by the possibility, and he explained things away, reasoning that the rabbits were delivered dead and, in some cases, in pieces because of the contractions of labor, British historian Edward White wrote in The Paris Review. And so St. André took one of the pickled rabbits back to the king.

Nathaniel St. André, the disgraced royal rabbit doctor. Public Domain

By way of explanation, Toft said that she had been startled by a rabbit while working in the field. This notion complied with a theory, quite popular at the time, called “maternal impression,” which attempted to explain birth defects and other congenital disorders, according to Russell. Joseph Merrick, known as the “Elephant Man,” explained his own condition along these lines, claiming that his mother was startled by an elephant while pregnant with him. St. André was thoroughly convinced that Toft’s case was a stunning example of this theory. Other doctors, such as the respected midwives James Douglas and Sir Richard Manningham, not so much.

On November 29, Toft was taken to a bath house in London to be observed further. There, she was examined frequently, by as many as 10 doctors at a time, all of whom were men, Harvey writes in her paper, “What Mary Toft Felt: Women’s Voices, Pain, Power and the Body.” She gave birth to no more rabbits, and also seems to have taken quite ill. But it was during this time that a porter was caught sneaking a rabbit into Toft’s room. He explained to Douglas that Toft’s sister-in-law, Margaret Toft, had asked him to obtain the smallest rabbit he could find. Toft refused to confess until Manningham threatened to perform surgery to determine if she had strange reproductive organs. On December 7, she came clean. The confession surprised very few, but was unfortunately timed for St. André, who had just published his thrilling, “true-to-life” exposé, “A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets,” just four days prior. Needless to say, his career was never quite the same.

Mary’s first confession, given on December 7, 1726. Courtesy University of Glasgow Library

Though the rabbit births weren’t real, the pain was. According to Toft’s confessions, the ruse relied on an accomplice placing parts of dead animals into Toft’s vagina—painful, difficult, and dangerous. Per St. André’s early reports, Toft’s rabbits were often delivered with their sharp nails intact. Because these animal remains were likely hidden in Toft’s body for several weeks, Harvey says, “It’s astonishing she didn’t die of a bacterial infection.”

Rabbits were widely available at the time, and they also symbolized the carelessness of nobility, Harvey adds. In medieval Britain, rabbits lived in warrens, built by local lords who sold their meat and fur as elite goods. These rabbits frequently escaped to munch on commoners’ grasslands and gardens. “Landowners’ rabbits were seen as a pest for lower status people in rural areas,” Harvey says. “So I think there might be something quite political about that choice.”

It’s impossible to say why Toft executed this dangerous, strange ruse, but Harvey doesn’t believe Toft to have been primarily responsible. “She was a young, extremely poor woman from a small town who was taken to London, all the time escorted and watched by titled, landed, aristocratic men,” Harvey says. “I think she was just playing the lead role in a performance orchestrated by other people.” In her confessions, Toft repeatedly blamed other people: her husband, her mother-in-law, even the wife of a local organ-grinder.

William Hogarth’s Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, a dramatization of Toft’s trial published in 1762. William Hogarth/Public Domain

When the hoax was revealed, the papers had a field day—ridiculing the venerated medical professionals in particular. “It was the media sensation of 1726 to 1727,” Russell says. “It certainly helped to tarnish the reputation of doctors as a profession.” But Toft did not escape opprobrium. On December 9, she was charged as a “Notorious and Vile Cheat” and incarcerated at Bridewell prison for four months. Crowds of people came to gawk into her public-facing cell. Eventually, she was released without charge, and disappeared back into some kind of obscurity. But her place in history had been established. When she died in 1763 at the age of 60, the parish noted her as “Mary Toft, Widow, the Impostress Rabbitt.”

Toft’s case still fascinates. Russell receives many inquiries about it from people visiting the Glasgow library. She is also a rather popular subject at London’s Wellcome Library, which recently held an art installation inspired by her. “It could have been seen as a way out of grinding poverty or a desire just to be noticed or important for a short while,” Russell says. “But she seemed completely overwhelmed and scared, fearful of what would happen to her for making fools out of so many prominent people in society.”

The most famous image of Mary Toft is a print by the great satirist William Hogarth. In Cunicularii—a pun on the Latin words for “rabbit” (cuniculus) and “vulva” (cunnus)—Hogarth depicts Toft’s body wrenched in labor, surrounded by doctors. It is dramatic, but not flattering. Hogarth wanted to satirize the gullibility of medical professionals of the day, many of whom sought to gain fame through such strange cases. Harvey, who will soon publish a book that aims to humanize Toft, first encountered the case through the print. She immediately noticed how Toft was surrounded by so many men, including her husband and a doctor with his arm up her skirt. “You could see her in agony, but it almost looks like she’s experiencing ecstasy,” she says. “Either way, she’s in a very vulnerable position.”

Mary Hogarth

Mary Scott Hogarth (1820 – 1837) was a sister-in-law to Charles Dickens whose death at an early age profoundly affected the author.

Early Life.

Mary Scott Hogarth was born in Edinburgh in 1819. Mary was one of ten children, including Catherine Hogarth (1815) and Georgina Hogarth (1827). Her father, George Hogarth, was a talented writer and worked as a journalist for the Edinburgh Courant.

In 1834 she moved along with her family to London where her father had taken a job as a music critic for the The Morning Chronicle. The family lived at Queen’s Elm, Brompton, then a rural area of orchards and market gardens on the fringes of the city.

Doughty Street.

Mary Hogarth entered Dickens’s Doughty Street household to offer support to her newly married sister, Catherine and brother-in-law. It was not unusual for the unwed sister of a new wife to live with and help a newly married couple. Charles Dickens became very attached to Mary.


Mary died after a brief illness in the arms of Charles Dickens on 7 May 1837.

Charles arranged to have Mary buried in Kensal Green Cemetery and composed her epitaph.

Catherine Curzon’s Glorious Georgians

I think that the remarkable thing about Hogarth is that he must have continued to love humanity despite all that he saw. His caricatures can be quite biting, but his other portraits are often very kindly, and indeed, even some of his satirical paintings show a degree of sympathy to human weakness. His most vicious caricatures are, I would say, of the avaricious, and I wonder if his feelings about the erstwhile husband of Miss Edwards have anything to do with this, that it became personal.

I would agree with that in so many ways I think that more than anybody (for me, at least) , he could capture both the most beautiful and most ugly facets of humanity, in terms of spirit and behaviour, not just outward appearance. Whether he was inspired by the rather unpleasant husband of Miss Edwards we can't know, but I can't imagine he helped matters!

Oh dear, she died young and with so much to live for. :/

Mary Edwards portrait is now hanging in the Frick Collection in New York. A contemporary portrait is that of Captain Corum the founder of the Foundling Hospital who is wearing a bright red coat.
Mary Edwards was unusual as a patron as women in that period did not normally commission paintings from artists. Apart from family paintings she also purchased Hogarth's painting of Southwark Fair.

For a while I lived in the village of Welham in Leicestershire. The village had been purchased by her father who made his money as a merchant and had married a Dutch woman. The village was largely rebuilt by Francis Edwards in the early 1720's as part of his scheme to bring the road south from Leicester through the village before going on to London, his plan was rejected by the county. The village was described in the Eighteenth Century as having a Dutch appearance on account of it's neat gravelled road and the ornamental canals that flanked the road opposite the houses in the village.
Mary Edwards erected a handsome marble monument to her father consisting of a pyramid surmounting a chest tomb, this originally stood in the churchyard and was surrounded by an iron railing, in the corners there were columns with an urn on top. In Nichols County History of Leicestershire it is reported that the monument cost ٟ,500. The monument was moved to the north side of the church and enclosed in a brick built mausoleum around 1800-1810, as it was not weathering well and suffering from the attentions of small boys.

Francis Edwards had remodelled the church as part of his work on the village, but most of his work was swept away by a Victorian restoration. He also paid for a new building for the nearby Kibworth Grammar School. His father had been rector at Kibworth.

Mary Edwards relatively early death was hastened by a fondness for Gin. Her inherited wealth which made her one of the wealthiest women in England does not appear to have lead to a happy life.

Thank you for that addition information, how fascinating! I must admit, I do love the line that it was "suffering from the attentions of small boys" - some things never change!

Always interesting to hear about powerful women! Thank you for a fascinating article.

"When the time came to paint Mary herself in 1742, she was thirty seven years of age . "
"One year after Hogarth completed this lovely painting the lady was dead yet she lives on even now, vibrant, happy and adored, in this remarkable painting."
She was

William Hogarth - Biography and Legacy

William Hogarth was born on November 10 th , 1697 in London. His father, Richard, was a classical scholar, but although well-educated, was not wealthy, making a precarious living as a schoolmaster, from writing Latin and Greek textbooks and, later, as a coffee house proprietor. The Hogarth family moved a number of times during Hogarth's early years, but always remained within the bustling East End of the city, near to Smithfield Market.

In 1705, William's older brother (also named Richard) died at the age of ten. Infant mortality rates were high and an older brother and two sisters had already died before Hogarth was born only William and his sisters Mary and Ann survived to adulthood. Hogarth biographer, Jenny Uglow writes: "In those days, children were not kept away when sickness struck. Rooms were darkened, parents wept, and local women came in to lay out small bodies. Bereft of his older brother, [William] had to adjust to the new role as the eldest child."

Around 1708, the Hogarth coffee house failed and Hogarth's father fell into debt, resulting in him being detained in Fleet prison. The family moved to cramped rooms nearby in Black and White Court and Richard was allowed to join them at this address in 1709, the property being within the bounds of the wider prison jurisdiction. It is probable that his mother Anne and Wiliam himself, as the eldest son, worked to maintain the family during the four years that his father was imprisoned. Both London's East End and the area around Fleet Prison was impoverished and crime-ridden at the time, and it is probable that Hogarth's birthplace and childhood homes had a significant impact on his later career and choice of subjects.

During his father's incarceration, Hogarth is unlikely to have attended school as this cost money, but it is probable, given his competence in Latin and French, that his father tutored him in these subjects. At the age of 16, Hogarth was apprenticed to a silver engraver, engraving items such as watch cases, plates and cutlery, usually with heraldic designs. Although he quickly became bored by his work, Hogarth was a sociable and convivial character, and during his days as an apprentice enjoyed the hubbub of London life. He would visit coffee houses and theaters, befriending writers, musicians and actors and his love of the theater can be seen the theatricality of many of his later works. He also liked to walk, and would explore the city streets, sketching the characters that he saw around him.

Mature Period

In 1720, Hogarth left his apprenticeship early and, at the age of 23, successfully set up his own shop offering silver engraving as well as copper etched plates for printing business cards and book illustrations. It is not clear where he learnt this skill, but he was clearly adept at it by this date when he produced his own shop card by way of advertisement.

Eager to develop his drawing and painting, he started attending classes in St Martin's Lane and in 1724 he joined a drawing school at the home of history painter Sir James Thornhill, an artist he had long admired. At the age of 30, Hogarth began his painting career in earnest, and found success producing "conversation pieces" for wealthy patrons. These paintings showed groups of men and women at leisure and were rooted in the Rococo work of Antoine Watteau. He sometimes found these paintings tedious, however, and as a way of alleviating the boredom he also began to produce sketches and engravings of humorous everyday scenes, pieces that would pave the way for his later works of commentary on contemporary life.

In March 1729 Hogarth eloped with Thornhill's daughter Jane. They did not have any children, but had a long and happy marriage living in between London and the Essex countryside. The following year he began his work on his groundbreaking A Harlot's Progress, a series of six paintings (which he copied and circulated widely as prints) that told a story of a young women's corruption and subsequent decline in London. It was a critical and commercial success, bringing him recognition, and financial and artistic independence. The money generated by the work also allowed Hogarth and his wife to move to London's more fashionable West End.

The series became so popular that it was widely copied and produced as cheap, inferior engravings for the mass market by Hogarth's competitors. As Hogarth received no payment for these copies and the poor nature of the artwork damaged his reputation, Hogarth lobbied parliament to provide legal copyright protection for engravers such as himself. This was passed in 1735 as The Engraving Copyright Act, also known as Hogarth's Law, and was one of the first of its kind in the world. Although he had completed The Rake's Progress, his second series of images, he waited to publish until the law was fully passed.

Hogarth continued to socialize with other artists and designers, frequenting the well-known Old Slaughter's Coffee House on St Martin's Lane, a haunt for intellectuals. From here he set up the St Martin's Lane Academy in 1735, a precursor to the Royal Academy, which was not formally established until more than three decades later.

Late Period

Hogarth followed the same pattern for a number of his later works, producing a series of paintings, and then selling the prints of them at a price that targeted the new, moneyed middle classes. He saw real success from his series Marriage A-la-Mode (1745) which was aimed specifically at a middle-class audience in that it poked fun at the aristocracy. The six-part series told the story of the fictional aristocratic family The Squanderfields who had fallen on hard times. Their solution was to marry their son into a wealthy merchant family, but this marriage of convenience ended in disaster, as the final plate demonstrated.

Hogarth also continued to produce paintings and was a skilled portrait painter and colorist, but the success of his prints eclipsed public appetite for his painting. Around 1740 he produced a full-length portrait of philanthropist and founder of the Foundling Hospital, Captain Thomas Coram, which was widely praised and imitated. By 1751, however, Hogarth had become disillusioned by the disappointing amount of money his paintings made at auction. As writer Susan Elizabeth Benenson says: "Hogarth, in anger and mortification, retreated into aggrieved isolation, pursuing his philanthropic interests but adopting, in public, a defiant and defensive pose that involved him in increasingly rancorous debate on artistic matters." He took on a number of charitable roles and began to produce prints that were more focused on poverty and social issues.

In 1753 he wrote The Analysis of Beauty, an aesthetic treatise in which he rejected the formal style and proportions of the Italian Old Masters, expressed the importance of variety in art, and pro-posed that the serpentine line was central to all forms of beauty. The book sold well, but also opened him up to criticism from the establishment and most prominently by the young artist, Paul Sandby who created a number of satirical prints directly targeting Hogarth and his work. The book was heavily influenced by Hogarth's own practices and it had limited impact on the work of other contemporary painters. In his enthusiasm for the serpentine line, however, Hogarth reflected the art and design of the Rococo and preempted its importance in the later Art Nouveau movement.

In 1759 Hogarth produced a work entitled Sigismunda Mourning over the Heart of Guiscardo, which he had hoped would establish him as a respected history painter, but the wealthy patron who had commissioned it, Sir Richard Grosvenor, rejected it. It also received a number of poor re-views. Hogarth was furious and humiliated and in response to criticism, he removed it from exhibi-tion.

Hogarth returned to prints in 1762, producing The Times, a series of elaborate political allegories which shocked and divided the public. Offending right-leaning journalists, a counter attack was launched and Hogarth himself, again, became the subject of satire. Journalists and activists, John Wilkes and Charles Churchill accused Hogarth of falling into moral, mental and physical decline. A feud was born that lasted the rest of the artist's life. Hogarth died at home on October 25, 1764 from a ruptured artery and was buried near his second home in the countryside of Chiswick.

The Legacy of William Hogarth

Hogarth had been controversial among his peers. As Stephen Deuchar noted, when he was director of Tate Britain: "Hogarth's contemporaries found him always 'ingenious', variously zealous, flamboyant and self-righteous - a consummate operator and occasionally naive. His art was rarely considered to lie amidst the realms of greatness occupied by the Old Masters, whose uncritical devotees he so readily mocked."

This statement is supported by the writings of Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy, who rejected Hogarth's attempts at history painting. In 1788, Reynolds said Hogarth should be celebrated for inventing "a species of dramatic painting" and for his ability "to explain and illustrate the domestic and familiar scenes of common life", but that his ambitions in the "great historical style" were not only impudent but presumptuous.

Hogarth's work, however, did lay the foundations for the English School of Art, a movement which marked the emergence of a national artistic tradition. As art critic Jonathan Jones says: "Before Hogarth, there was not really any such thing as British art. There was art made in Britain, by such great European masters as Rubens and Van Dyck. But it was Hogarth who created the idea of a British school."

Though the artist was praised and remembered after his death - especially in terms of the variety of work he produced, Hogarth's legacy wasn't fully appreciated in his lifetime. As John Constable said: "Hogarth has no school, nor has he ever been imitated with tolerable success." Hogarth later found following in the Romanticism movement especially in literature. His series led the way in the exploration of individual experience, which became a key motif of 18 th century novels.

Hogarth's work was also hugely important in promoting British painting and engravings abroad. He had a profound influence on James McNeill Whistler, who in 1901 campaigned for Hogarth's Chiswick home to be preserved for future generations, writing angrily that "I am told that nothing official has been done, either by the Government, or The Royal Academy, to keep in respect the memory of [the nation's] one 'Master' who, outside of England, still is 'Great'." Whistler had been given a book of Hogarth's engravings as a child, and was inspired by the artists' paintings - specifically his brushwork and use of color. His multi-focal compositions can also be seen as inspirations in the work of David Wilkie (who was celebrated as "the Hogarth of his day"), William Powell and Ford Madox Brown.

Today Hogarth is best recognized as a satirist, who, as art historian Mark Hallett notes "offered an acidic and sometimes comic vision of a society mired in corruption and hypocrisy, and who told remarkable pictorial stories about the flawed and ill-fated individuals - prostitutes, rakes, alcoholics, yokels, thieves and murderers - who lived and died outside the boundaries of respectable society".

Secret lockets reveal grief that haunted Charles Dickens's 'Oliver Twist'

The Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street in London has acquired “highly personal and private” tokens of Dickens’s that largely influenced his work: two lockets, one containing a lock of his hair and the other containing a lock of sister-in-law Mary Hogarth’s.

“We are enormously pleased to be showing these previously unseen items, which we acquired last year, for the first time,” said the museum’s curator , Louisa Price. “They tell a story that had a direct influence on at least one of his best known works – ‘Oliver Twist’ – which he was writing when his sister-in-law, Mary, suddenly died.”

Dickens was working on his writing and living with his wife, his son Charley, and Mary, his wife’s teenage sister.

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“Mary and Catherine were close in age and were best friends as well as sisters,” Price said. “She effectively also became Dickens’s sister with the marriage and he became extremely fond of her. They all did a lot together and Mary’s letters to relatives show she felt he was a wonderful man who had made her sister very happy.”

While Dickens was working on his famed novel “Oliver Twist” 184 years ago, Hogarth collapsed and died suddenly at the age of 17. Initially her death was attributed to heart failure, however, today it is believed she died of an aneurysm or stroke.

Dickens wrote his publisher, Edward Chapman, to relay the news soon after, stating, “My dear sir, we are in deep and severe distress. Miss Hogarth after accompanying Mrs Dickens & myself to the theatre last night, was suddenly taken severely ill, and despite our best endeavours to save her, expired in my arms at two o’clock this afternoon.”

Devastated following her death, Dickens crafted the character Rose Maylie in “Oliver Twist” after Hogarth, a girl who falls ill but ultimately recovers.

“She was not past seventeen. Cast in so slight an exquisite a mould, so mild and gentle, so pure and beautiful that earth seems not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions."

The locket containing Hogarth’s lock of hair was gifted to Dickens by his wife’s other sister, Georgina.

The exhibit, called “More! Oliver Twist, Dickens and Stories of the City,” revolves around when Dickens wrote “Oliver Twist,” the story of an orphan boy who joins a group of pickpockets, from 1836 to 1837. It will run from June 30 through Oct. 17.

The museum’s director, Cindy Sughrue, said : “As we are not expecting to welcome many international visitors this summer, we hope that people from across Britain will take the opportunity to enjoy Dickens’s home without the crowds. ‘Oliver Twist’ is our local story so much of the action takes place around this part of London.”

The Truth comes to Light

However, Ahlers had Toft brought to London, where a gathering of physicians, including the respected Dr. James Douglas, watched over her as she went to labour many times. Interestingly, Toft never gave birth to a single rabbit in the presence of these people.

This continued for some days until a porter was caught trying to smuggle a small dead rabbit into the room. He confessed to the doctors that Margaret Toft, Mary’s sister-in-law, had asked him to look for any rabbit he could find.

On December 7, 1726, a week after she arrived in London, Mary Toft finally confessed that she, her mother-in-law, and Howard had been conniving together to perpetuate the prank since that fateful day in September.

Only a few were surprised with the confession, but for St. André, his career suffered as he had just published his thrilling discovery on December 3, 1726, just four days before Toft’s confession. It was the end of a medical career for him and the newspapers of the time had a field day.

So, how did Mary Toft give birth to these dead rabbits? You can check that out in the video below…

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Watch the video: HOGARTH - This Boy (June 2022).


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