William Hogarth FRSA – A Mason in Middlesex

William Hogarth Self Portrait – (Yale Centre for British Art) – Public Domain

W Bro Leonardo Monno of North Harrow Lodge, No. 6557 who has recently joined the Media Team presents an interesting insight into the life and times of the famous painter, engraver and freemason – William Hogarth.

Hogarth and his work –

William Hogarth was born in Bartholomew Court, near Smithfield, in the City of London, on November 10, 1697, the child of Richard Hogarth, a struggling school teacher.

The family was never poor, but in 1707 William’s father was confined in the Fleet Prison for debts after his Latin-speaking-only coffeehouse failed.

He was released in 1712 but died six years later.

At sixteen William became an apprentice to Ellis Gamble, a silversmith, learning the skills of an engraver.

In 1720 he launched his a new business from his mother’s house in Long Lane and joined a not very successful Arts Academy in St Martin’s Lane.

The English historian and Freemason Horace Walpole – who during Hogarth’s life built Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, Middlesex – revealed that when the apprenticeship was over, Hogarth: “…. entered into the Academy in St. Martin’s Lane, and studied drawing from life …… In colouring he proved no great a master: his force lay in expression, not tints and chiaroscuro.”

In 1724 Hogarth left the St Martin’s Lane Academy and almost certainly entered the free Academy that James Thornhill, the English history-painter of the day, started up at his house in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza.

On 23 March 1729 Hogarth married James Thornhill’s daughter Jane in Paddington and briefly settled into his father-in-law’s fashionable house.

Hogarth, William; Mrs Jane Hogarth (d.1789); Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/mrs-jane-hogarth-d-1789-107124

Hogarth the Freemason –

In 1723 Hogarth’s father-in-law, James Thornhill, had been installed as Worshipful Master of the Lodge that met at the Swan in East Street, Greenwich.

Given this ascendency and Hogarth’s sociable nature, his embracing Freemasonry was an inevitable step.

Hogarth was Initiated into the Hand and Apple Tree Tavern Lodge, No. 41 sometime between 1724 and 1728.
In consequence of becoming a Freemason, Hogarth made several acquaintances among the London’s affluent society.

He met, for example, Martin Folkes, who was the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England in 1724 and painted him in 1741.

Hogarth was also a member of a well-known and highly convivial drinking club that gathered at the Ball and Butcher tavern in Clare Market, just off The Strand.

Alcohol played a large part in Georgian society, and Hogarth did not shy away from it.

To the Clare Market Club belonged the Duke of Wharton, leader of the infamous “Hell Fire Club” but also Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London.

In 1724 Hogarth painted the Duke in a satirical print called “The Mistery of Masonry” that shows him at the head of a Masonic procession emerging from the Rummer and Grapes tavern and mingling with one other organised by the Gormogons, a rival society – (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormogons).

Freemasonry was a theme in some of Hogarth’s work, most notably ‘Night’, the fourth in the quartet of paintings (later released as engravings) collectively entitled the Four Times of the Day.

The Four Times of Day – William Hogarth – Public Domain

After his wedding to Jane Thornhill, Hogarth launched his first large set of moral compositions, all of which illustrate episodes of debauchery or crime, for which he is famous today.

Hogarth’s approach to art was primarily satiric, and he applied that sense of humour even in Masonic subjects.

The fourth engraving of The Four Times of the Day series that he produced in 1738, called “Night”, is among the most explicit of his mockery.

Hogarth set the scene in an alley-possibly off Charing Cross – occupied by two brothels and two taverns.

Both The Earl of Cardigan on the left and the Rummer Tavern on the right served as Freemason Lodges in the 1730s.

In the foreground is shown an inebriated Worshipful Lodge Master supported by his equally drunk Tyler, being showered with urine dumped from a first-floor window.

This a fair castigation for an immoral, debauched Freemason who should instead have been leading by example.

Hogarth was also especially sensitive to British values and would not have been out-of-place in the Britain of today; he disliked foreigners and the French in particular.

Being a member of the Sublime Society of the Beefsteaks (www.sublimesocietyofbeefsteaks.com) in the picture The Gate of Calais (a British territory at the time) Hogarth compares the superb Beef the English will have for dinner with the low protein “Soup-a-la-Royale” of the French, on the right of the picture. (www.sublimesocietyofbeefsteaks.com)

William Hogarth – The Gate of Calais – Public Domain – Tate Gallery London

Hogarth the Benefactor –

Hogarth never forgot his disturbed childhood years, which were upset by the consequences of his father’s incarceration.

His wife, Jane, could not give him children and as he had witnessed first-hand the cruelty committed against youngsters in London, he became an enthusiastic supporter of Thomas Coram’s Institution for the orphans: The Foundling Hospital, in Brunswick Square, London.

When Coram launched the project, Hogarth donated 120 pounds and designed the hospital’s coat of arms.

He also painted a full-size portrait of Coram and bequeathed it to the Foundling’s, a gesture that encouraged other leading artists of the time to emulate his generosity.

He became the Foundling’s “Governor and Guardian” and held a similar position at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and also at The Bedlam Hospital for the mentally ill.

Thomas Coram by William Hogarth –(Foundling Museum, London) – Public Domain.

The move to Chiswick – Middlesex –

London life was hectic and feverish, and Hogarth was serious when he told Jane that he wished he could get away to the country.

In 1749, William Hogarth bought a two-storey cottage.

Over the years Hogarth added a new kitchen with a room above and he raised the roof to provide a third storey.

On the first floor was Hogarth’s bedroom, whilst his relatives had chambers on the second floor and the servants slept in the rooms under the roof.

When William and his wife moved into the new home in the autumn of 1750,they were accompanied by Jane’s widowed mother, a young cousin named Mary Lewis and Hogarth’s sister Anne.

Chiswick, Middlesex, had started off as a quiet rural corner with cobbled streets lined with old cottages.

Only shopkeepers and minor merchants lived along the waterside of the Thames at the beginning of the 18thcentury.
However, new palaces were built in Chiswick throughout the reigns of Queen Anne and King George I, such that when Hogarth took possession, he felt like a country gentlemen, almost on par with those he intended to appeal to in his profession.

Hogarth House still stands today and has been turned into a Museum. ( hogarthshouse.org )

Death –

His health grew worse in his later years and he had a stroke in 1763.

He and Jane were at the Chiswick house one day in October 1764 when Hogarth needed to go back briefly to the Leicester Fields house in London, while Jane stayed in Chiswick.

He was in a cheerful mood, but in the night he woke in agony with pains in his chest and died a few hours later of what the doctors diagnosed as a ruptured artery.

He was two weeks short of his 67th on 26th October 1764 and is buried at St. Nicholas Church, Chiswick, in West London.


– Hogarth, a life and a world, by Jenny Uglow – Faber and Faber – 2002

– The ingenious Mr Hogarth, by Derek Jarrett – Michael Joseph – 1976





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