Four Prints of an Election

Method Copper engraving
Artist William Hogarth
Published Published 24th Feb.ry 1755, as the Act directs. [Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London, 1822]
Dimensions Images 400 x 536 mm, Plates 434 x 555 mm
Notes The Heath edition of William Hogarth's Four Prints of an Election, which satirises the notorious Oxfordshire election of 1754. Two years prior, the Whiggish party, who already held a large majority in Parliament, decided that they would contest the Oxfordshire seats. The Conservatives were the hegemonic force, and the seats had not been challenged since 1710. This heralded a two year campaign trail for both parties which was characterised by unprecedented levels of expenditure, bribery and corruption. Begun in 1754, and sold to David Garrick, the original paintings are now housed in Sir John Soane's Museum. Owing to the returning officer's decision to call a double return, and thus leave the judgement to the House of Commons, by the time that the Whig candidates were elected on the 23rd of April 1755, Hogarth had already released the first engraving to subscribers.

Plate 1. An Election Entertainment
Hogarth's 'An Election Entertainment' depicts a feast hosted by the Whigs as they champion their party for parliament. The Tory opposition parade outside, and advocate trivial issues such as their opposition to the Jewish Naturalisation Act of 1753, the Marriage Act, and the Gregorian Calendar. The two Whig candidates are surrounded by an assembly of drunken characters. An obese and toothless woman embraces the younger of the candidates to the left. A man sets his wig afire, whilst a small girl steals a ring from his finger. To the near right, a gentleman with scratches on his face lets smoke from his pipe blow into the other candidate's eye. Elsewhere, a clergyman, believed to be Dr. James Cosserat of Exeter College, removes his wig to wipe his sweating head. A large, reclining man is being bled by a barber-surgeon to relieve him of the effects caused by a surfeit of oysters. In the foreground, a butcher pours gin on the scalp-wound of Teague Carter, an Oxford fighter who was employed as an electoral ruffian. To his right, another head trauma ensues as the candidates' agent is struck by a Tory brick. His open book displays two columns; one side is marked 'sure votes,' the other, 'Doubtfull.' In the background, a portrait of William III has been slashed.

Paulson 198 viii/viii. BM Satires 3285

Plate 2. Canvassing for Votes
'Canvassing for Votes' was engraved by Charles Grignion the Elder. It is a more rural scene, and shows an alehouse on the left, whilst two inns appear to the right. The allegiance of the first is Whig, the second is Tory. The inn in the background is the Whig stronghold. Its title, 'The Excise Office' alludes to Walpole's Excise Bill of 1733. Walpole later dropped the tax, but it remained political fodder for his opponents. Hence why a Conservative mob besieges the building, though the man sawing the excise sign seems unaware that it will drop on his fellow rioters.
The inn in the foreground is a Tory headquarter, as 'The Royal Oak' recalls Conservative support for the Stuart monarchy. In the centre, a young country gentleman is bribed by agents of both parties. The pose of the group comedically mimics the Choice of Hercules, though the route proposed is far from virtuous. To the right of him, hypocrisy abounds. The Tories fiercely opposed the Jewish Bill, yet the merchant from whom a portly candidate buys trinkets for ladies on the balcony is clearly of Jewish descent. On the left, two veterans sit under an alehouse sign which states 'Tobello.' This refers to The Battle of Porto Bello, a celebrated naval excursion in 1739 in which Admiral Vernon captured the Spanish settlement. This is steeped in irony however, for the most recent naval battle in British history was the humiliating loss of Minorca in 1756. Subtle allusions are made to this disparity in naval strength. The banner which partly obscures the Royal Oak states 'Punch Candidate for Guzzledown', and depicts the Treasury being emptied of money that the candidate throws at voters. The panel above shows where the money would have been better spent; the armed forces. In addition to this, a wooden effigy of the British Lion attempts to eat the Fleur-de-lis on the right hand-side. The Lion is toothless, though Hogarth's comment is pointed. The plate is dedicated to Charles Hanbury Williams, Ambassador to the Court of Russia.

Paulson 199 vi/vi, BM Satires 3298

Plate 3. The Polling
François Morellon de la Cave was the engraver that Hogarth chose to work on the third plate of the series, 'The Polling.' The scene depicts a polling station on the day of election. The two candidates are seated in a pavilion as ailing bodies are brought forward to vote. In the centre, a gentleman, clearly in mental distress is being urged onward. Behind him, a dying man wears the 'True Blue' cap of the Whigs as he is assisted by a man with a carbuncular nose, and another without any at all. A further blind man tries to navigate the stairs, as does a man on crutches. The first voter, isolated and on the left, is an old soldier who has lost various limbs. As he takes the oath with his hook, the clerk bursts into laughter, whilst lawyers behind him appear to argue over the validity of such an act. The soldiers pocket is marked with the words 'Militia Bill.' This refers to an act passed by William Pitt in 1757 which permitted the drafting of Englishmen to supplement the army. Hogarth again appears to suggest that the money squandered on electoral bribery should have been applied to arms. Consequently, maimed veterans must be employed to defend the nation. Elsewhere, a coach bearing the sign of the Union Flag has collapsed, and its female passenger, the allegorical figure of Britannia, is unable to gain the attention of her coachmen as they are absorbed in a card game. The plate is dedicated to Edward Walpole, son of Sir Robert, and Knight of the Bath.'

Paulson 200 iii/iii, BM Satires 3309

Plate 4. Chairing the Members
'Chairing the Members' was engraved, under Hogarth's supervision, by François Antoine Aveline. It shows two newly-elected members of parliament as they are paraded by their constituents on chairs. The first is a representation of George Bubb Doddington, whilst the other is only visible as a shadow on a distant wall. The irony being that Doddington was the only prominent politician to be defeated in the 1754 election, as he lost his seat for Bridgewater, which he had represented for thirty years. The precarious tipping of Doddington's chair may well allude to this displacement. The politician is surrounded by a melee of chaotic characters. Two chimney boys sit on a church wall. Next to them, a black serving woman's face contorts in horror as the rifle of a monkey discharges near them. Elsewhere, a dancing-bear interferes with a donkey's load as the driver draws his club. Another man swings a flail, whilst a soldier to the right is stripped to the waist taking tobacco from a wrapper. A sow and her piglets up-end a woman as they charge across the street. High above, a goose flies, and displays a striking resemblance to the profile of the victorious politician. Ronald Paulson writes that Hogarth intended this as a bathetic parody of the triumphal processions in which an eagle flies over the hero's head. The zoomorphic figure of a goose was also a popular trope in caricatures of the time and The Duke of Newcastle was often represented in this form. The plate is dedicated to George Hay, a supporter of Pitt who was re-elected to parliament in July 1757 as a member for Calne.

Paulson 201 iii/iii, BM Satires 3318

William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) was born in London, the son of an unsuccessful schoolmaster and writer from Westmoreland. After apprenticeship to a goldsmith, he began to produce his own engraved designs in about 1710. He later took up oil painting, starting with small portrait groups called conversation pieces. He went on to create a series of paintings satirising contemporary customs, but based on earlier Italian prints, of which the first was The Harlot's Progress (1731), and perhaps the most famous The Rake's Progress. His engravings were so plagiarised that he lobbied for the Copyright Act of 1735 as protection for writers and artists. During the 1730s Hogarth also developed into an original painter of life-sized portraits, and created the first of several history paintings in the grand manner.

Charles Grignion the Elder (1721 - 1810) was a British engraver and draughtsman. He trained under Hubert Francois Gravelot, before working in Paris for J. P. Le Bas. Upon his return to London in 1738, Grignion worked of his own accord. His skills in draughtmanship and purity of line meant that Grignion was a popular book illustrator. He produced engravings for Walpole's 'Anecdotes of Painting,' Smolett's 'History of England,' as well as Dalton's 'Antique Statues.' Hogarth thought very highly of Grignion, and commissioned him on several occassions, as did Stubbs, who is thought to have initially wanted Grignion to engrave the plates for 'The Anatomy of a Horse.'

François Morellon de la Cave (1706 - 1766; fl.) was a printmaker of French origin. Born in Amsterdam, de la Cave later became a student of Bernard Picart shortly after the latter had emmigrated to The Netherlands. Whilst here, he was largely involved in book illustration and engraved a Dutch edition of Voltaire's 'La Henriade.' The date of his move to London is unknown, but he engraved a perspective of the rotunda in the Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea at least a decade before his employment by Hogarth.

François Antoine Aveline (1718 - 1762; fl.) was a French printmaker. He was born in Paris in 1718, and was the cousin and pupil of Pierre Aveline. He moved to London in 1750, and impressed Hogarth soon after. In addition to his commissions, Aveline was a prolific book illustrator, and from 1752, he taught in the Foulis Academy in Glasgow.

Condition: Minor foxing to margins, within platemark in some instances. Otherwise clean clear impressions on early nineteenth century paper.
Framing unmounted
Price £800.00
Stock ID 49598