A Harlot's Progress

Tags: Recent items.
A Harlot's Progress
Hover your mouse over to magnify


William Hogarth

A Harlot's Progress

London, Baldwin, Cradock & Joy 1822

Copper engravings


Hogarth's first major 'moral progress' depicting the initiation, career and death of a young prostitute, executed after his emancipation from the print publishers.


1.   Arrival in London.

Innocent young Moll Hackabout arrives in London on the stagecoach from York to be apprenticed to a milliner, but is met in the inn yard by the bawd Mother Needham. In the background is the notorious rapist Colonel Francis Charteris. Paulson 121 IV/IV.


2        The Quarrel with her Jew Protector.

Moll is the mistress of a wealthy London Jew and the scene takes place in his fashionably furnished salon. He has evidently arrived home unexpectedly and interrupted her with her handsome young lover. Moll distracts his attention by kicking over the tea table while her maid smuggles the young man out behind the Jew's back. Paulson 122 IV/IV.


3        Apprehended by a Magistrate.

Moll has been turned off by her wealthy lover and is now a common whore living in a filthy Drury Lane lodging.  She rises languidly from her tumbled bed while her maid pours tea; however, a magistrate and his bailliffs are at the door. Paulson 123 III/III.


4        Scene in Bridewell.

Moll has been convicted for prostitution and is imprisoned in Bridewell. In company with other women she is beating hemp which was manufactured into hangman's ropes. In the background is the stocks which are inscribed Better to Work than to Stand thus. Paulson 124 III/III.


5        She Expires, while the Doctors quarrel.

Moll dies of venereal disease in the arms of her servant, wrapped in a 'sweating robe'. Her illegitimate child plays with the fire tongs turning away from his dying mother, a maid rifles through her trunk,  and the fat Dr Rock and skinny Dr Misaubin (both syphillis specialists) quarrel over the correct treatment, ignoring their patient. Paulson 125 IV/IV.


6        The Funeral.

The funeral wake in Moll's lodging, with her coffin in the centre propped on two stools. None of the mourners seem too concerned with Moll, they drink and flirt with each other, even the clergyman slyly gropes the woman seated next to him, a woman picks the pocket of the undertaker and Moll's little boy plays with a spinning top. The only mourner showing any grief is Mother Needham, perhaps because her source of income has gone. Paulson 126 III/III.