18 June 2016

William Hogarth, English pride and 18th century gallophobia

In early 1745, a terrible year for Britain, Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s attempt to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to Britain was being taken very seriously. By Sept,  rebellion in Scotland by the Highland Jacobite army seemed to be succeeding. By late 1745 the Young Pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite men had marched south to Manchester, opposed by two armies commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. At the end of the year, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army were marching north of London! Orders were issued that all Grenadier Guards should march immediately to the encampment at Finchley Common. The Duke of Cumberland and his troops were the last barrier between the Stuart prince and London.

11th Lord Lovat in St Albans, 1747
A Scottish Jacobite supporter, just Prior to His Execution

At least during the next year, God must have been Protestant. A battle was fought on Culloden Moor near Inverness in 1746 between supporters of the exiled House of Stuart on one side and the Duke of Cumberland’s British army on the other. The government victory ended the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and resulted in the closing down of Highland culture... to pun­ish the Stuart supporters. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in Oct 1748 finally ended hostilities between Britain and France, meaning that no French-sponsored attempt to restore the Stuarts would ever re-occur.

My question is: why did William Hogarth (1697–1764) paint themes dealing with the Jacobite Rebellion, after it had been crushed? Consider his engraving of the Jacobite Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat prior to his execution in 1747. This leader of Clan Fraser had unlimited personal ambition. He recruited a small regiment in apparent service to William and Mary but was actually planning to desert to the Stuarts. In fact he sneakily converted to Catholicism, to have an entry into those exiled Stuarts and their French allies. 

The National Gallery of Scotland has the print, but they did not explain why Hogarth went to see Lovat while he was in custody in St Albans, en route for his trial for high treason in London. Certainly Lovat was the last of the rebel Scottish lords to be executed after the Jacobite Rebellion, so perhaps Hogarth saw a chance to make money. In the event, Hogarth printed some 10,000 copies of this etching, which were sold for a shilling a print!

Hogarth was not impressed when he visited France in 1748, and decided to return home early. While waiting at Calais for a boat, he sat down to sketch the city gate. Beneath the city gate of Calais, a chef struggled to carry English beef destined for British travellers at the English Inn in Calais. Alas Hogarth was arrested in error for espionage and sent home. The painting O The Roast Beef of Old England was his revenge. In the centre a waiter was struggling under a hunk of beef intended for red-blooded British tourists. Naturally, Hogarth believed, the feeble-looking French soldiers who lived on snails and onions would envy the beef. Hogarth depicted himself sketching, the heavy hand of the French law about to land on his shoulder. He was clearly saying that Britain’s enemies, the French, Scottish highlanders and Irish Catholics, were weedy and pathetic.

O The Roast Beef of Old England, 1748
The Tate London

Hogarth’s The March of the Guards to Finchley 1749 may have been intended as a satire, poking fun at an unprepared British government and a chaotic army. But The March to Finchley was painted AFTER the Jacobite rebellion had been defeated. It seems that Hogarth was warning his fellow citizens that even now they had to remain on alert; that the French could never be trusted! Beneath the sign of the Adam and Eve tavern, a French dandy whispered of an imminent invasion to an ecstatic or demented Jacobite sympathiser. The haggard woman with a swing­ing crucifix clutched Catholic and anti-government newspapers! On the other arm was a very pregnant woman, a basket on her arm with a scroll saying God Save the King. The soldier was Hogarth's Britain; the two women were fighting for his loyalty. 

This works were Hogarth's warning to Britain. But despite the haranguing Jacobite, the young Briton and his young mistress appeared to be mov­ing forward together in step: Britain had already made up its mind

The March of the Guards to Finchley, 1749
Thomas Coram Foundling Museum

There were two didactic Invasion Prints c1756 (at the Tate) produced by Hogarth at the outbreak of the Seven Years War of 1756–1763 when an invasion from France again seemed likely. In Invasion France, a French monk sharpened his executioner's axe. In front of him were implements of torture and Catholic icons. With such items he was preparing to convert the British to Catholicism. Behind him was a grouping of French soldiers, representing chaos i.e starvation and fanaticism. In Invasion England the citizens were healthy, happy and prosperous. The English tavern had a large beefsteak on the table, along with a mug of beer, and weapons on the table. Clearly the French would never taste England's prized produce. In the background, eager British soldiers drilled in an orderly manner.

These images were in sharp contrast. On one hand Hogarth was a powerful critic of French society and military terror. On the other hand he was a warm supporter of English freedom and courage.

What was Hogarth’s artistic goal in getting involved in the Jacobite Rebellion? Hogarth saw great dangers in Catholicism and thoroughly distrusted the French. Would depicting the Jacobite Rebellion have any negative influence on his income stream or reputation? Apparently not, if his experience with Lord Lovat was a guide. In any case, Hogarth was a canny artist. Note the “March to Finchley” print was dedicated to Frederick II, a Prussian king, rather than King George II. King George had blotted his copy book by appointing another artist to the post of Painter in Ordinary to the King, a position Hogarth wanted.

**

The UK will hold a referendum on 23rd June 2016 to decide if the nation will stay in or leave the European Union. Years after I first wrote this post, Jonathan Jones is now reinterpreting the Hogarth painting O The Roast Beef of Old England in contemporary terms.  The painting can help us understand what is going on in the mind of the Brexit-leaning public in Britain because it was the funniest slice of cocksure nationalism in British art. It sneered at France and, by extension, the entire European continent.

Hogarth's painting O! The Roast Beef of Old England was a tease – there was no hate in it. It expressed a more subtle sentiment: economic superiority. So the impulse driving Britain towards isolation now may not be bigotry, fear of The Other or any of the other horrors that Remainers imagine. It may be to do with the economy after all. 





17 comments:

Andrew said...

The more things change the more they stay the same. My English in laws are passionately wanting Brexit to go ahead. Unlike the forecasts of some British politicians, I don't think the world will collapse, or even Britain. It is a very rich country.

Student of History said...

Bless his heart. What I remember from lectures was that Hogarth was working at a time when British art was largely dominated by foreign-born artists like Canaletto, van Dyck, Lely and Kneller. Hogarth thought it was important to promote native-born artists like himself. And maybe he was also promoting British themes.

Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, It is interesting to consider the political background of Hogarth's art. It certainly reflects the attitudes found in plays and novels of the period, in which French and other foreign attitudes are ridiculed, while British principles are revered. The situation is admirably summed up by Ogden Nash: "Every Englishman is convinced of one thing, viz: / That to be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is."
--Jim

Anonymous said...

The Brexit debate ha ha.

Hels said...

Andrew

Unless we still have British citizenship, I suppose most of us will just watch from the sidelines. Personally I think Britain will do the Right Thing and will not leave the EU after the referendum next week. But as you say, even if they do leave, the economy will not collapse and the currency will not be devalued.

Perhaps a strong EU could not have prevented the catastrophes of WW1 and WW2, but at least the members nations would have felt a sense of obligation to all the other member nations. Ditto with the refugees currently needing to be resettled in Europe - a strong EU can only help with that difficult process.

Hels said...

Student

And another thing. Remember what we said about the greatest grist for his artistic mill? All people were rapt in affectation. No person, class or institution was immune; all were possessed by a keen need to be other than they were. Socially unfortunate perhaps, but great stuff for a critical artist.

While I assume Hogarth was mainly thinking of affectation in London, how much sillier were the French with their ridiculous clothing, inedible food and absurd Catholicism. At least in Britain, Hogarth believed, the citizens were healthy, happy and prosperous.

Hels said...

Parnassus

While British principles were revered and all foreign attitudes were indeed being ridiculed, I wonder why French attitudes in particular were a laughing stock. Why not the Germans, Spanish, Italians, Russians or Swedes? Was it because France was geographically the first country that British tourists visited? Or was it because of the endless military struggles against France over the centuries?

Perhaps Britain had a closer relationship with the Germans because of the royal family, once the first of the Georgians was crowned in 1714. This was in Hogarth's life time of course, as was the French perfidy in trying to get the Young Pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite men to defeat the British.

Hels said...

Anon

Of course Hogarth couldn't predict the EU, but the Jonathan Jones article wrote "British feelings of isolationism, anger and complacency are nothing new – Hogarth was busy skewering them in 1748. He also understood what today’s Brexiters do not: the country’s power relies on an international economy". The Guardian article is worth a few minutes of our time :)
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2016/jun/14/hogarth-painting-roast-beef-brexit-eu-referendum

Mandy Southgate said...

I like Hogarth's style and his humour. The referendum makes me uneasy. I'm not as confident as you that we'll vote to remain.

Hels said...

Mandy

the referendum should make us all uneasy :( This was in our newspapers. UKIP has been criticised after using an image of refugees fleeing warzones in his latest Brexit poster. The Ukip leader revealed his party’s new campaign in Parliament Square, just a week before people vote in the EU referendum. It featured a line of immigrants, with the words ‘Breaking Point’ written in big red text. The poster also stated ‘the EU has failed us all’ and ‘we must break free from the EU to take back control of our borders’.

Of course there are very fine, non-racist people on the Leave Side, but there are some very racist, nasty people as well.

mem said...

We live in very interesting times . A mass movement to the right or maybe just a rightest reaction to the liberalization of expression of sexuality , race , freedom of movement and the general freeing up of what is considered acceptable in western society Maybe the laws of physics , every action has an equal and opposite reaction are universally true ?
Its hard to reconcile the fact that in the US we will have either a severe trouncing of the TRUMP and his fascistic leanings or we will have the rise of fascism or something approaching it in the US and perhaps world wide looking at what is going on in Britain and Austria etc.
The world seems to be going a bit mad at the moment or maybe we are just more aware of it ?? . One of my favorite things has been seeing Hogarth's Rakes Progress at the Soan museum in London . Just the best museum .
I also have just finished watching aa series on U tube entitled The History Of Scotland . Absolutely brilliant .

bazza said...

Hi Hels. I don't think Lovat looks like he missed out on ant Roast Beef! This is what I posted on Facebook earlier this week and it has had many 'shares'. Sorry it's a bit long:
"I don’t generally believe that Facebook is the right place to express political views. However, today I am making an exception because I think that next Thursday’s referendum is vitally important. I am definitely on the side of those who want to Remain in the EU but I realise that, like most things in life, it’s not a ‘black-and-white’ issue. Sadly, there have been exaggerations, doubtful claims, misleading statistics and complete lies on both sides of the campaign.
I feel that many of the people who have expressed a desire to leave have done so for the wrong reasons. It looks like a lot of decisions have been built on an emotional response to the question rather than a rational one. Also there are elements of xenophobia, jingoism, wilful ignorance of the facts and simple racism. Further the ridiculous but continuing mantra that “we give £350m per week to the EU and this amount could build an NHS hospital every time” is plain nonsense and wrong in several ways. We get around half of that amount back in rebates and subsidies. That’s something Leave campaigners always fail to mention (and we are not the biggest contributor to the EU budget anyway). Secondly, do you really think that if we leave those hospitals would start appearing? The money would simply not be spent that way.
But the greatest misguided thing that one continually hears in all the media is “We want to regain control of our own destiny”! Really? Apart from on a personal and individual level, when have we been in control of our destinies? We vote for one party or another and that’s as far as it goes. The politicians may have the control but ‘we’ don’t!
We cannot live a life of isolation from the world – we are too much a part of it. Most of the so-called facts about immigration are myths and lies. Immigrants are less likely to be claiming benefits in the UK than the indigenous population. New immigrants do not go ‘straight to the top of the housing list’. They contribute a net gain to our economy and the NHS would collapse without them! Yes, we do need some form of control of immigration and many EU reforms are necessary but nearly half of our exports go to EU countries and we would be much worse off economically if that was subject to trade tariffs. Listen to the voice of the leaders of every UK political party, the IMF, the Bank of England, the TUC, the Confederation of British Industry, Martin Lewis the Money Saving Expert, every one of our European partners, the President of the USA, the vast majority (OK, not all) of British business leaders. Those who talk about getting a stronger economy by leaving may have over-looked the fact that our economy is actually doing very well while we are inside the EU with falling unemployment and a growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Finally, opinion polls show that younger people are much more in favour of Remain than us older ones. The older population may be wishing to go back to some phantom Golden Age. Well, the time we ‘Never had it so good’ is NOW!"
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hels said...

mem

The Rake's Progress series was very clever and quite critical of the Great and the Good. Tom's father was a rich merchant so the son should have known better. But Tom abandoned his pregnant fiancee, wasted dad's inheritance on fancy living, prostitution and gambling, went to gaol and then to Bedlam mental asylum. Short of bribery and corruption, Hogarth nailed every bit of nastiness in the moneyed classes in his time.

I don't suppose the moneyed classes, aristocracy or politicians are any more moral today. But I would not liked to have been Hogarth in the USA during the McCarthy witch hunts in the early 1950s or any Trump era in the near future. Racism and hate crimes will get a future President Trump excluded from many countries.

Hels said...

bazza

agreed totally, but the only sentence that gives me a lot of hope is "opinion polls show that younger people are much more in favour of Remain than us older ones". I am surprised and delighted that younger people understand, better than their parents and grandparents, that no nation can live a life of isolation from the world. Particularly not in a squishy continent like Europe with its bitter and relentless history of wars between neighbours.

mem said...

We can only hope so Hels . I actually suspect that there is a conspiracy being hatched as we speak which might include a terminally ill democrat or horrified republican who is a very good shot . That is how they do things over there !!!My sons are living in the UK at the moment and have become electrified by the goings on . They are very pro staying in even though from an Australian perspective leaving might give us more rights to visas over a longer period of time . MY son says that he works with so many Aussies and New Zealanders in his advertising job that he doesn't know how his boss would go if he didn't have a large pool of keen skilled and employable people to pick from , very few of who are British .
On a recent trip to Poland I was incredibly impressed by the skills of Polish plasterers who have been trained in the most amazing hard plastering skills . They are available to work all through the EU at reasonable rates . I just wish they wanted a holiday in the sun because my house could surely use their help ! Maybe we could join the EU , after all we did get into Eurovision !

Hels said...

mem

I can well identify with your son's boss re skilled non-British workers. Years ago my husband graduated medicine in Australia but didn't start to work full time in a hospital until he did his house year, junior residency and senior residency in Britain. The consultant in every department was always British but the junior staff were largely from Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand. The National Health Service, the hospitals and the patients all loved it.

I imagine it is the same today, except that skilled workers from British Commonwealth countries have been added to by skilled workers from across Europe.

Bernd said...

Dear Helen,

As I found your recent discussion of Hogarth's paintings and prints that are related to the Jacobite rebellion interesting, I have placed a link to your melbourneblogger page on my Hogarth site: http://www.william-hogarth.de/webhoess.html

Best wishes,

Bernd