A Woman Swearing a Child to a Grave Citizen

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A Woman Swearing a Child to a Grave Citizen
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Joseph Sympson the Younger after William Hogarth
A Woman Swearing a Child to a Grave Citizen
London, J. Sympson c. 1731
Copper engraving
A rare engraving after Hogarth’s painting, now in the National Gallery of Ireland at Dublin. Hogarth had met the Sympsons, father and son, at Vanderbank’s Academy in St. Martins Lane, but there is no indication that he approved Sympson junior’s engravings after his paintings. Vertue, describing the early death of Sympson junior in 1735-6, states somewhat puzzling “ His father, having stuff’d his imagination so full of his own extraordinary capacity that prov’d in the end the down fall of the young man”. This engraving shows the chamber of Sir Thomas de Veil, the Bow Street Magistrate and fellow member of Hogarth’s Freemason’s Lodge. He sits at his desk, looking stern, and with a book entitled Law of Bastardy in front of him. Beside him sits his little daughter, teaching her spaniel to sit up. Before him stands a heavily pregnant young woman, being surreptitiously coached by a young man, probably the baby’s real father, while in the background is a rich, skinny old miser, being furiously upbraided by his wife. A satire on the law that if an unmarried pregnant girl came before a magistrate and swore on a bible that a particular man was the father of her child, without any further proof, he was obliged to pay an arbitrary fine and provide for the maintenance of the infant. This naturally caused many abuses, and led to whores hauling rich citizens (which they generally had never even met previously) before magistrates to claim maintenance for their bastard children. Paulson 1st edition page 309.