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Masonic Bios

William Hogarth

By Bro. Jacob Hugo Tatsch
Assistant Editor - The Builder

THE Masonic records of the seventeenth century are few in number. Fortunately those of the eighteenth century, owing to the so-called "Revival" which took place in 1717, and the phenomenal growth of the Craft in the years immediately following, are far more numerous. Yet the gaps still exist, and evidences of Masonic activities culled from other sources are therefore of great value. Much can be deduced from such sources of information - of which I shall consider only one in this article; namely, that of engravings, and under this subject the work of one man - our brother, William Hogarth, Grand Stewaxd of the Grand Lodge of England in 1735.

According to a quaint recital of his life as detailed in an eighteenth century book (1) in my possession, William Hogarth born about 1698 (another authority gives November 10, 1697, as the exact date), in the parish of St. Bartholomew, London. It is said that his name was originally spelled Hogart, a corruption of Hogherd; it is also given as Haggard and Hogard. The elder Hogard changed it to Hogarth, yielding to the solicitation of his wife (the mother of our subject), who wished her unborn child to have a name less what suggestive of what was probably the early occupation of her husband's ancestors.

In Anecdotes of Himself, Hogarth has left us the story of his early life. "As I had naturally a good eye, and a fondness for drawing, shows of all sorts gave me uncommon pleasure when an infant; and mimicry, common to all children, was remarkable in me. An early access to a neighboring painter drew my attention from play; and I was, at every possible opportunity, employed in making drawings. I picked up an acquaintance of the same turn, and soon learnt to draw the alphabet with great correctness. My exercises, when at school, were more remarkable for the ornaments which adorned them, than for the exercises themselves. In the former, I soon found that block-heads with better memories could much surpass me; but for the latter I was particularly distinguished...

"I thought it still more unlikely that by pursuing the common method, and copying old drawings, I could ever attain the power of making new designs, which was my first and greatest ambition. I therefore endeavored to habituate myself to the exercise of a sort of technical memory; and by repeating in my own mind the parts of which objects were, composed, I could by degrees combine and put them down with my pencil. Thus, with all the drawbacks which resulted from the circumstances I have mentioned, I had one material advantage over my competitors; viz., the early habit I thus acquired of retaining in my mind's eye, without coldly copying it on the spot, whatever I intended to imitate."

Hogarth's talent for caricature was discovered while still serving his apprenticeship with an engraver of arms on plate. In company with several companions, he made an excursion to a nearby point. The heat of the day suggested refreshment at a public house, in which a quarrel arose among some men who had preceded Hogarth and his friends. Using a beer mug to enforce his contention, one of the disputants struck the other on the head with such force as to cut open his skull. The subject formed by the bleeding man, with agonizing wound and hideous grin, appealed to the caricatural instincts of Hogarth. He took his pencil and hurriedly produced an extremely ludicrous sketch. Hogarth was thus early "apprised of the mode Nature had intended he should pursue."

Completing his apprenticeship, he entered the academy in St. Martin's Lane and studied drawing from life. He never attained great excellence in the art, but showed genius in depicting character and passions.

It is believed that he began business on his own account as early as 1720. Beginning with the engraving of arms and shop bills, he next designed and furnished plates for booksellers. Thirteen folio prints, with his name attached to each, appeared in Aubry de la Motraye's Travels, 1723; seven smaller prints in 1724 illustrated Apuleius' Golden Ass; a series of prints appeared in 1726 as illustrations for Butler's Hudibras, of which one will be mentioned more fully later; other illustrations were engraved for various books printed up to 1736. He also did some work in oils, but these paintings and portraits do not possess the merit of his engravings.

Married in 1730 to the only daughter of Sir James Thornhill, who objected to the stolen match as he considered the girl too young for marriage at eighteen, in addition to being averse to Hogarth's impecunious circumstances and lack of reputation, Hogarth was beset with the difficulties familiar to struggling genius, but in 1733 his work was recognized and he rose completely into fame. It is not necessary in this article to itemize his famous engravings, as copies are readily procurable in the numerous editions of his works. I shall treat those of Masonic interest only.


It is not generally known that Hogarth was also the author of a solitary volume, the Analysis of Beauty, published in 1753. it is a treatise on art and was apparently so well received that we find it translated into German, Italian, and French. A second German edition, translated from the French, appeared July 1, 1754, prepaired by Ch. Fr. Vok. A contemporaneous observer states: "This book had many sensible hints and observations; but it did not carry the conviction, nor meet the universal acquiescence he (Hogarth) expected. As he treated his contemporaries with scorn, they triumphed over this publication, and irritated him to expose him."

Hogarth's fame lies in his caricatures and satires. "It may be truly observed of Hogarth, that all his powers of delighting were restrained to his pencil. Having rarely been admitted into polite circles, none of his sharp corners had been rubbed off, so that he continued to the last a gross, uncultivated man. The slightest contradiction transported him into a rage. To be member of a club consisting of mechanics, or those not many removes above them, seems to have been the utmost of his social ambition; but even in these societies he was oftener sent to Coventry for misbehaviour than any other person who frequented them. To some confidence in himself he was certainly entitled; for, as a comic painter, he could have claimed no honour that would not most readily have been allowed him; but he was at once unprincipled and variable in his political conduct and attachments. He is also said to have beheld the rising eminence and popularity of Sir Joshua Reynolds with a degree of envy; and, if I am not misinformed, frequently spoke with asperity both of him and his perfonnances. Justice, however, obliges me to add, that our artist was liberal, hospitable, and the most punctual of paymasters; so, that, in spite of the emoluments his works had procured to him, he left but an inconsiderable fortune to his widow." (2)

His closing years were marked with political strife, in which he expressed himself forcibly by his carcatures of men in public life. In 1762 his health began visibly to decline. On October 25, 1764, he was conveyed to Leicesterfields. Here he received a letter from Benjamin Franklin, and drew up a rough draft in reply; but being seized with illness, died within two hours. He was buried in Chiswick, England, and a monument erected to his memory with the following inscription:

"Here heth the body
Of William Hogarth, Esq.
Who died October the 26th, 1764,
Aged 67 -years."


Little is known of Hogarth's Masonic record. Where and when he received the degrees are facts awaiting discovery by the students of the Craft. A manuscript list in the records of the Grand Lodge of England show him as a member of the lodge meeting at the "Hand and Apple Tree," Little Queen Street, London; and in 1730, of the "Corner Stone" Lodge. Apparently Hogarth became a member of the Fraternity between 1725 and 1728, Robert Freke Gould stating that he was a member of the "Hand and Apple Tree" Lodge in 1725, but does not give his authority. Hogarth officiated as one of the Grand Stewards of the Assembly and Feast on April 17, 1735, as shown by the minutes of the Grand Lodge of England. His appointment March 30, 1734, is recorded as follows: "Then the twelve present Stewards were called up, and Thanks returned them from the Chair for the Care they had taken in providing such an elegant Entertainment for the Society, and at the same time their Healths were drank and also desired to proceed for each Steward to name his successor for the ensuing year which they did in manner following....... Hogarth's name appears as the eighth of a list then itemized.

"We may perhaps conjecture that in joining our ranks he was influenced by the example of Sir James Thornhill, Grand Warden in 1728, whose assistant he was, and in whose house he is said to have resided for some time before his marriage; for Hogarth was hardly the man to tamely follow a mere general fashion of the day in selecting his associates, or joining any association." (3)


William Hogarth's Night

Hogarth's best known Masonic engraving is the one entitled Night, the last of a series known as The Four Times of the Day. Considering the scarcity of original prints, it is interesting to note that these impressions, measuring 19 by 15 1/2 inches, were offered for sale at the nominal price of five shillings each in 1782. A reproduction of an original print in my possession accompanies this article as a frontis- piece to this issue of THE BUILDER.

Unlike some of Hogarth's other prints, this one bears the date of issue, March 25, 1738. The date is important as it enables us to fix events depicted which would otherwise be matters of conjecture. Judging from the oak leaves in the barbor's sign, and in the hats of two of the men depicted, it is believed that Hogarth had May 29th in mind, the anniversary of the restoration of Charles II to the throne of England.

G.W. Speth, to whom much of the credit is due what was accomplished during its early years by Qatuor Coronate Lodge No. 2076 of London, in describing the print, says:

"The street presented to our view is, almost without doubt, Hartshorn Lane, Charing Cross, opening to what is now Trafalgar Square, and which was known to our generation as Northumberland Street, but is now replaced by Northumberland Avenue. The only element of uncertainty arises from the position the equestrian statue of Charles I, of which one expect to more of the near side, unless either its position has been changed, or our artist has taken one of those liberties which by painters and poets are deemed allowable. In Hartshorn Lane 'rare Ben Johnson' was born, and at the 'Rummer Tavern, Prior was found reading Horace when a boy. Wapole's remarks would imply that the Runner was not a very reptuable was not a very reputable house in his time, and if the room over the barber's shop be in any way connected with the tavern, the inference would appear to be justified. The only connection of the Rummer with the Craft, which I have been able to discover is that a Lodge, constituted 18th August, 1732, and erased in 1746, met at the 'Rummer, Charing Cross,' but removed in 1733. The signboard facing the 'Rummer' is inscribed 'Earl of Cardigan.' I cannot find that any Lodge met here previous to the date of the engraving; but from 1739-42, a Lodge which was constituted 15th April, 1728, and erased in 1743, held its meetings at the 'Earl of Cardigan's Head,' Charing Cross, and from 1742-44 its place was occupied by the 'Union French' Lodge, constituted the 17th August, 1732. On the whole, it would not appear that any Masonic memories were associated with this particular street in Hogarth's mind." (4)

J. Nichols, in his work, Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, said, "In NIGHT, the drunken Free-mason has been supposed to be Sir Thomas de Veil; but Sir John Hawkins assures me, it is not in the least like him." (5) Other authorities, however, seem to differ. It is now generally accepted that Hogarth intended to satirize de Veil. There is no doubt that he designed the principal caricature to be a Mason. A Thomas Veal appears in the list of members of Hogarth's first Lodge, and arguing from the manners of the times, no question remains that Thomas Veal, Thomas Veil, and Sir Thomas de Veil are one and the same person.

The square on de Veil's breast, suspended from a ribbon about his neck, indicates either the rank of Master or of Past Master, the emblem being used for the latter purpose during the early days of the reorganized Craft. The large apron worn by him is also of interest, and is one of the strongest proofs we have that our aprons were not always of the present convenient size.

Some doubt exists whether Hogarth intended de Veil's companion to be depicted as a Mason. Possibly he may be the tyler of the Lodge, judging from the apron and the sword he carries. Again, he may only be an attache of the tavern where de Veil, to speak charitably and bearing in mind the convivial spirit of our early brethren, drank slightly to excess. The sword may have been de Veil's, taken away from him as a matter of prudence, for he could have done more damage with it than with the cane he wields against an imaginary opponent. The apron on this man may have served a real utilitarian purpose back of a tavern bar. The apparent skill of the man in helping de Veil clearly indicates that this is not his first experience in duties of this kind - a fact which can be used as a cogent argument for or against the theory that he may have been a brother of the Craft.

It is generally agreed that the other two figures in the foreground are satirical characterizations. The knife, or steel, on the belt of one of them is considered to indicate a butcher, and by analogical play on the word "veal" and the name "de Veil," to again point out that the principal figure in the picture is Sir Thomas de Veil.

Another prominent English Mason, W.H. Rylands, himself an artist, has said, "The picture is a hit, not at Masonry, but at the manners and customs of some Masons of the period.... There is a secret meaning in every little item of the picture, if one could only discover it." (6)


Next to Night, Hogarth's engraving, The Mystery of Masonry brought to Light by the Gormogons, is of greatest interest to the student. The Gormogons were a secret society established in 1724 in England in opposition to Freemasonry. Absurd and intentionally pretentious in character, it claimed a great antiquity and that it was descended from an ancient Chinese society. It flourished but a short time. Hogarth's engraving depicts characters of interest to Masons, among them a figure said to represent Dr. James Anderson, and another the Duke of Wharton, Grand Master 1722-23. Opinions differ as to the original publication of the print, for while it appeared about 1742, it is believed to have been engraved about twelve years earlier.

The Mystery of Masonry brought to Light by the Gormogons

Those familiar with Samuel Butler's poem, Hudibras, will remember where Sir Hudibras resolves to consult Sidrophel, the astrologer, on his love affair with the widow who had released him from the stocks. This astute doctor of occultism immediately dispatches his man Whacum to wheedle the squire of Sir Hudibras into telling him the object of his master's visit. This ascertained, Sidrophel informs Hudibras that

"'The stars your coming did foretel;
I did expect you here, and knew,
Before you spake, your business, too.'
Quoth Hudibras, 'Make that appear.'"

In response to Sidrophel's reply, "You are in love, sir, with a widow," Hudibras answers,

"You're in the right,
But how the devil you came by't
I can't imagine; for the stars,
I'm sure, can tell no more than a horse."

The interview between the two men is cleverly illustrated in the plate entitled Hudibras Consulting Sidrophel, of which a reproduction accompanies this article. The two globes, celestial and terrestrial, first attract the attention of the Mason. The parchment spread on the table, with astrological signs, and the chart on the floor, are also of interest. The cross on the floor is not so readily recognized, but here represents a Rosicrucian symbol. The books on the wall, other objects owned by Sidrophel and which need not be itemized, clearly indicate that

"He had been long towards mathematics,
Optics, philosophy and statics,
Magic, horroscopy, astrology,
And was an old dog at physiology."

The Roast Beef of Old England, or The Gate of Calais, was the result of Hogarth's visit to France shortly after the peace of Aix la Chapelle. While sketching the gate, Hogarth was arrested as a spy committed a prisoner to his landlord, and not allowed to leave the house until he embarked for England. The print is of Masonic interest as the friar depicted there-in is none other than our brother, John Pine, who prepared the early engraved lists of the Grand Lodge England so greatly sought after by collectors.

The Sleeping Congregation, first published in 1736, is said to contain a representation of Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers, Grand Master, 1720, as the preacher therein. This print appears in different forms, to be recognized by modifications in the plate.

An engraving of Martin Folkes (1690-1754), Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England in 1724, was made by Hogarth in 1742. This print is sometimes overlooked by the Masonic collector, as all proofs do not bear Hogarth's name.

Hogarth also made an engraving of Simon Lord Lovat in 1746, for which there was an unusually great demand. Lovat is of interest to the Craft on account of his reputed connection with the Rite of Strict Observance. He was executed April 9, 1747, for treason, having been implicated in Jacobite plots.


Students of the literature and art of bygone centuries find a freedom of expression in surviving works which at first is rather startling; but when one realizes that these are but a faithful portrayal of the customs and manners of the times, the distaste and displeasure rapidly pass away. Hogarth is no exception among the artists of the eighteenth century whose works have been criticised. No better reply can be made to those who object to his freedom of expression and fidelity to detail than the following quotation from the Essays of William Hazlitt:

"Boceaccio, the most refined and sentimental of all novel writers, has been stigmatized as a mere inventor of licentious tales, because readers in general have only seized on those things in his works which were suited to their ovrn taste, and have reflected their own grossness back upon the writer. So it has happened that the majority of critics having been mostly struck with the strong and decided expressions in Hogarth, the extreme delicacy and subtle gradations of character in his pictures have almost entirely escaped them."

Thackeray also pays his tribute to our eighteenth century brother in the following words:

"To the student of history, these admirable works must be invaluable, as they give us the most complete and truthful picture of the manners, and even the thoughts, of the past century. We look, and see pass before us the England of a hundred years ago - the peer in his drawing room, the lady of fashion in her apartment; ... the church with its quaint florid architecture and singing congregation; the parson with his wig, and the beadle with his cane..... You see the judges on the bench; the audience laughing in the pit; the student in the Oxford Theatre; the citizen on his country walk; you see Broughton the boxer, Sarah Malcolm the murderess, Simon Lovat the traitor, John Wilkes the demagogue, leering at you with that squint which has become historical...... All these sights and people are with you."

Hogarth's own opinion of his life is aptly expressed in the closing words of his Anecdotes:

"I have gone through the circumstances of a life which till lately passed pretty much to my own satisfaction, and I hope in no respect injurious to any other man. This I may safely assert, that I have done my best to make those about me tolerably happy, and my greatest enerny cannot say I ever did an intentional injury. What may follow, God knows."

  1. Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth; with a Catalog of his storks, Chronologically Arranged; and Occasional Remarks. Second Edition, London. Printed for and by J. Nicholik. 1732, p. 5.
  2. Ibid., p. 81
  3. Transactions, Lodge of Research No. 2429, 1908-09.
  4. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. II, p. 116.
  5. Nichols, op. cit., p. 211.
  6. Transactions, Lodge of Research No. 2429, 1908-09, p. 112.
  7. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. VIII, p. 138 et. seq.

- Source: The Builder - March 1923

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