Tag Archives: Hogarth

Beer and Gin

The early 1700s was the time of the gin craze. Far from its modern image of G&Ts for the gin and Jag set, this was the cheap gin of Mother’s Ruin, with the slogan “Drunk for a Penny, Dead Drunk for Twopence, Straw for Nothing.” Gin was the drink of the poor who had nothing else. As Paulson notes, “For the poor man of this period, as Francis Place wrote, ‘none but the animal sensations are left; to these his enjoyments are limited, and even these are frequently reduced to two—namely sexual intercourse and drinking…Of the two…drunkenness is by far the most desired’ since it provides a longer period of escape and costs only a penny” [1991, III 25]. The sad fact is that Francis Place was writing a century later.

The gin craze got worse during the 1740s and the increased consumption of gin was seen (by the propertied classes in London) as contributing to crime. The magistrate (and author) Henry Fielding, who confronted poor criminals on a daily basis, was perturbed. He wrote a tract, An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, published in January 1751. To increase the impact of his Enquiry, he turned to his friend William Hogarth, presumably before the Enquiry was published, and Hogarth in turn produced his famous pendant pair of prints, Beer Street and Gin Lane.


The anti-gin campaign led to the passing of the Gin Act later in 1751 and gin consumption declined dramatically over the next decade.

Hogarth’s prints have been much-analyzed and indeed are very rewarding of analysis, but I do not want to talk about their content here. Instead, we note Hogarth’s advertisement for the prints, which appeared in the London Evening Post of February 14–16 1751.

This Day are publish’d, Price 1 s. each.
Two large Prints, design’d and etch’d by Mr. Hogarth called
BEER-STREET and GIN-LANE
A Number will be printed in a better Manner for the Curious, at 1s. 6d. each.
And on Thursday following will be publish’d four Prints on the Subject of Cruelty, Price and Size the same.
N.B. As the Subjects of these Prints are calculated to reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People, in hopes to render them of more extensive use, the Author has published them in the cheapest Manner possible.
To be had at the Golden Head in Leicester-Fields, Where may be had all his other Works.

While a price of one shilling kept the prints out of the hands of “the lower Class of People”, it did get them into taverns and coffee-houses, where they achieved wide display.

These prints also provide the first clear evidence of a connection between Hogarth and Kirby, for already by 9 March, Kirby was advertising Hogarth’s prints in the Ipswich Journal.

This Day are Publish’d, (Price 1s. each) Two large PRINTS, design’d and etch’d by Mr. Hogarth, call’d BEER-STREET and GIN-LANE. A Number will be printed in a better Manner for the Curious, at 1s. 6d. each. Also Four Prints on the Subject of Cruelty, Price and Size the same.

N.B. As the Subjects of these Prints are calculated to reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People, in hopes to render them of more extensive Use, the Author has published them in the cheapest Manner possible.

To be had of Joshua Kirby in Ipswich, and of Mr. Hogarth at the Golden Head in Leicester-Fields; where may be had, all his other Works.

I don’t know that Hogarth had any other agents selling these prints.

Related Posts:

The Perils of Drink

William Windham

A William Windham, Esq. subscribed to Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account. The Windhams were an old, prominent, and complex Norfolk family, far too many of whom were called William. However, Kirby’s Windham is probably the William Windham of Earsham in Norfolk, just across the county border from Bungay who was MP for Aldeburgh at the time. His father, Colonel William Windham, had served under Marlborough and lost a leg at Blenheim. He bought Earsham Hall in 1720 and was himself MP for Sudbury from 1722 to 1727 and then Aldeburgh from 1727 until his death in 1730.

Earsham Hall

The younger William (c.1706—1789), was appointed sub-governor to the Duke of Cumberland (son of George II, and also called William) in 1731. Windham was to serve the Duke until he died in 1765. While in service as governor, he naturally met the governess of the younger princesses. She was Mary, Dowager Countess Deloraine. Born Mary Howard, daughter of Captain Charles Howard, she had first been a maid of honour to Queen Caroline (then the Princess of Wales), but had lost her position when she married Henry Scott, Earl of Deloraine in 1726. He was lord of the bedchamber to George II (then the Prince of Wales), continuing on after the accession. He died in 1730, leaving a pretty widow and two young daughters. Mary now came back into royal service as governess of the princesses and appears in that role in Hogarth’s conversation piece “The Indian Emperor, or The Conquest of Mexico”. The performance being commemorated had taken place in 1732, although Hogarth did not finish the painting until 1735.

Mary bending down pointing out a dropped fan

Mary and William Windham married in April 1734, and this time she got to retain her position having at length talked Queen Caroline into keeping her on as a married woman. She soon added another post, that of mistress to the king. John Hervey, who Lucy Worsley in The Courtiers terms, “The most malicious, amusing and memorable spokesperson for the Georgian court”, and who really did not like Mary, said that the king had made “the governess of his two youngest daughters his whore… and the guardian director of his son’s youth and morals his cuckold”. Mary and William had one son, who died in 1743, and she followed in 1744, having lost the king’s favor a couple of years previously.

Duke of Grafton

Along with the Duke of Norfolk, Kirby also snagged the Duke of Grafton as a subscriber to the Twelve Prints and Historical Account. The Duke of Grafton was a title created for Henry Fitzroy, one of the numerous illegitimate children of King Charles II. Henry Fitzroy married the daughter of the Earl of Arlington (who gave his name to a portion of Washington DC). The marriage may have been a love match: he was nine, she was five. In Kirby’s time, it was his son, Charles Fitzroy (1683—1757), the 2nd Duke, who held the title. The first Duke sided with William of Orange in the 1688 Revolution and died in 1690 of wounds received fighting with William’s forces at Cork. His son was six.

The 2nd Duke went on to great things. He was Lord High Steward at King George I’s coronation, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1720 to 1724, and Lord Chamberlain from 1724 until his death. He was a strong supporter of the Royal Academy of Music, and, perhaps mindful of his own background, one of the original Governors of the Foundling Hospital, along with William Hogarth.

Here he is as a young man painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in a ‘Kit-cat’-sized portrait.

And later on in a portrait by William Hoare.

The Dukes of Grafton also have subsidiary titles of Viscount Ipswich and Baron Sudbury. The family seat is at Euston Hall in Suffolk. At the time of Kirby’s book, along with being Lord Chamberlain, the Duke of Grafton was Lord-Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum (keeper of the records) of Suffolk and could be expected to patronize worthy projects such as Kirby’s.

The Rembrandt Roast

One of the first accounts of Joshua Kirby in London is his presence as one of the two dozen diners at the infamous Rembrandt Roast of Thomas Hudson.  The anecdote is recounted in various versions – this is abbreviated from Paulson’s account in his three-volume Hogarth, which in turn is  based on Wilson’s account that appeared in a biography of one of his sons.  While there is no reason to trust all of Wilson’s reminiscence, it does give a colorful view.

The work of Rembrandt was much-prized by eighteenth century artists and connoisseurs, some of whom had more confidence in their taste than was warranted.  The artist Benjamin Wilson, who had a falling out with his neighbor Thomas Hudson, conceived of a plan, which he hatched with the connivance of Hogarth.  Wilson etched a couple of plates in the style of Rembrandt and passed the etchings off as those of the master. Hudson immediately bought one, claiming it had ‘the finest light and shade that he had ever seen by Rembrandt.’ Wilson and Hogarth sold a few other prints to gullible collectors and then decided to expose the hoax and Hudson.

Wilson took the money he had earned and invited two dozen artists, including Hudson, to a supper featuring an “English roast”. When the chief dish of a large cold sirloin appeared it was ‘decorated not with greens or with horseradish, but covered all over with the same kind of prints” as Hudson had bought. At first Hudson refused to believe he had been fooled, but “Hogarth stuck his fork into one of the engravings, and handed it to him”.

`”What did Hogarth say, Sir?” asked Benjamin West [to whom Wilson was recounting the episode], when he heard the story. “He! an impudent dog! he did nothing but laugh with Kirby the whole evening.—Hudson never forgave him for it.”‘

Hudson did not take the joke kindly, and the affair rumbled on.  However, Hudson, along with Wilson and Hogarth, was a subscriber to the first edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective a couple of years later.