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Tapan Kumar Mukherjee


William Hogarth called his caricature painting of Mary Toft or The Wisemen of Godliman in Consultation as 'Cunicularii' drawn in 1726. The lady was rumoured to have given birth to seventeen rabbits in a small town called Godalming (Guildford) Surrey. Cunicularii is a military slang and its superficial meaning is burrows like a rabbit, or dig a hole for underground dwelling like rabbits. But I think it has not been pointed out earlier that the term used by the artist to describe the painting as 'cunicularii' may have another sexual connotation the implication of which is most probably intended by the artist as a pun for the picture, for the word 'cunni' of cunnilingus or cunnilinctus means vagina or female genital organ. The incident made a media sensation in contemporary newspaper and magazine, and Gentleman's Magazine carried a series of reports on the issue which ultimately proved to be a huge hoax for which Mary Toft was taken to task. Hogarth's description of the painting as 'cunicularii' seems particularly appropriate because overtly it refers to the hole or the burrow for the rabbits, but covertly the veiled reference is to the vagina or female genital organ and the lady was subsequently revealed to have concealed the rabbits in her private parts to create the hoax and thereby make contemporary media sensation which must have been more salacious to the readers on account of its sexual overtone.
Friday, 2013-09-27 at 09:31


Hogarth bibliographer

Did you know that Clifford Armion, professor of English at the Université de Lyon, has created an online version of "The Works of William Hogarth, from the Original Plates restored by James Heath" (London, 1822)? It includes all illustrations and the accompanying commentaries by John Nichols.

See http://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/the- works-of-william-hogarth-169448.kjsp?


Hogarth bibliographer


Published in November 2010:

Bernd W. Krysmanski

Hogarth's Hidden Parts: Satiric Allusion, Erotic Wit, Blasphemous Bawdiness and Dark Humour in Eighteenth-Century English Art

Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 2010

ISBN 978-3-487-14471-9

This book questions the established view that William Hogarth (1697-1764) was chiefly a social moralist who charitably took care of foundling children and produced serialised pictorial satires for ethical guidance. In contrast the author, a recognised expert in the field of Hogarthian studies, reveals a different, a rather self-complacent, an opportunistic and hugely immoral English artist who disguised an unsavoury predilection for cruelty, malignity, wayward perversity and promiscuity hidden away from view behind a public mask of moral purpose. This other hidden Hogarth is here portrayed as being a rather jolly person though a spiteful joker; a carouser and debauchee who lived the life of a libertine to the full; an artist who mercilessly attacked his contemporaries while spending his time in obscene amusement with ladies of questionable virtue. Furthermore, it is argued, Hogarth may have had connections with the paedophilic subculture of eighteenth-century London. This other artist primarily dealt in sexual double entendre and suggestive detail tucked away in his works; indulged in dark humour; and produced, within his witty and extremely profane genre scenes, blasphemous motifs that satirically alluded to and disparaged "high" religious art and in doing so exposed the biased preference of art dealers and connoisseurs for Italianate Old Master works. It is little wonder therefore that there is evidence pointing to the fact that Hogarth the vicious, impious rake died untimely of syphilitic aortitis. As this book contains, in addition, many new and surprising findings on numerous canonical works—among them Gin Lane; The Four Stages of Cruelty; Industry and Idleness; Sigismunda; Boys Peeping at Nature; Before and After; Plate 2 of The Analysis of Beauty; Noon and Evening; Marriage A-la-Mode; A Rake’s Progress; Chairing the Members; Paul before Felix and its burlesqued version; Captain Lord George Graham in his Cabin; David Garrick and his Wife; The Cockpit; Transubstantiation Satirized; and Enthusiasm Delineated—it will change the way we think about the pictorial satirist Hogarth.

See table of contents: http://d-nb.info/1007175796/04

The book can be ordered at




M. Hywelsmith wrote:

As a scholarly work on Hogarth the book is physically easy to handle and easy on the eye: typeface, point size, paper quality and so on. It is a reader’s book. The illustrations, determined by the book’s format, in some cases could have been bigger however this minor distraction is no barrier to understanding. The structure to Krysmanski’s argument is well laid out in the contents and is spread throughout the text in bold print, which together with the on-page footnoting, make it easy to delve into to access some point or other or to check on the fully cited sources: this latter a powerful feature of the book. In this sense it is an easy read but it is not a tabloid romp of titillation as the title and some chapter headings might at first suggest: it is a closely argued and sustained thesis that requires thoughtfulness, even so there is much to tickle one’s fancy.

In the writing of this book Krysmanki’s aim is set out on page 10: ‘… I want to provide future scholars with a most extensive and precise critical apparatus on the subject [namely the hidden aspects of Hogarth’s personality and work, the other Hogarth as it were], which may give new impulses to further research in this broad, but nevertheless intriguing, and highly entertaining field.’ In this he may, in the fullness of time, be proved successful though there is a lot here that some might take issue with, nevertheless one cannot deny the author’s marshalling of evidence in support of his arguments.

There is internal evidence to show that the book has been reworked right up to the point of publication by the citing of sources of the same year but more impressive than this is his citation from sources that are contemporaneous with the prints themselves and to the points being made. For example in footnote 60, in discussing the twin prints of Gin Lane and Beer Street (2.1.3. The Campaign against Alcoholism), he cites Stephen Hales’ essay of 1754, warning of the dangers of consuming gin, and Martin Grindal’s, 1741, warm endorsement of beer as a health drink. Further, for the Anglo centric reader, Krysmanski provides some excellent insights into German scholarship. In this regard I am for one humbled and welcome this central European perspective on Hogarth.

For those who are open to having their preconceptions challenged I thoroughly recommend this book: it is a well paced, carefully written, judiciously illustrated and slow burning page turner: a book for savouring the carnal delights of human frailty.


Hogarth bibliographer


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