London: Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1822. Engraving. Image measures 17.25 x 22". Sheet measures 18.5 x 23.5"
Popular politics in the eighteenth century were often complicated affairs. While British contemporaries prided themselves on their constitutional rights, only a small fraction of the population were able to vote in general elections for parliament. Around the time that this print was originally published in 1758, only about 200,000 men were able to vote for members of parliament. Even so, politicians were inclined to appeal to public support and it was not uncommon for disorder to break out around election time. Some candidates even coaxed their voters with alcohol or threats of violence. This print depicts the victory of two candidates for seats in Parliament and is dedicated to Hogarth's friend, George Hay, for his re-election in 1757. As with many of Hogarth's engraved prints, this image was first an oil painting and serves as the final supplement to Hogarth's 4-part Election Series, which is still held in the Soane Museum in London. The inspiration for this series was the notorious General Election of 1754 when a Tory stronghold in Oxfordshire was finally contested by the Whigs and resulted in an election that was unrivaled in its levels of corruption. The print presents the newly-elected members' supporters hoisting them up onto chairs to parade them through the streets. Much to the pedestrians' dismay, chaos has broken out as there is a scuffle between a sailor and another man, a trained bear devouring a fish-monger's wares, and a poor lady tumbles over a mother pig with her piglets jumping off the bridge. The celebration for the political victory gathers in the stately house on the far right. Meanwhile a vagabond gleefully plays his fiddle along with the pandemonium. This plate was reissued in an 1822 publication "The Works of William Hogarth" by Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, who purchased the original copper-plates in 1818 from the Boydell sale who had in turn bought the plates from Hogarth, widow. This edition is unique because these were the last prints to be made from the original plates and were restored by the royal engraver, James Heath. The print is in very good condition with some minor tearing to wide margins. William Hogarth (1697-1764) is considered by many scholars and print enthusiasts as the grandfather of English graphic satire, but he was also an accomplished oil painter, portraitist, engraver, and draughtsman. Hogarth mastered the art of depicting human nature and all of its hypocrisies in society with graphic satire. The universality of his humor and the all-too-human characters featured in his works make Hogarth's satires remarkable. This print represents the epitome of Hogarth's skills as an artist and as a conscientious observer of humanity.