The Times Plate I & The Times Plate II

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The Times Plate I & The Times Plate II
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William Hogarth
a. The Times Plate I
b. (The Times Plate II)
London, Baldwin, Cradock & Joy 1822
Copper engravings
250 x 315mm
£280
This pair of engravings have a complicated publishing history. Plate ‘b’ was unfinished at Hogarth’s death and it unclear whether this first proof state was published by Mrs Hogarth late in life or as the first of the sequence of later states by Boydell after 1790. To further complicate the issue, the contemporary collector George Steevens (1736-1800) has written on his copy of this state that it was ‘taken during the life time of Hogarth’, but it was not until June 1781 that he (according to Malone’s letter to Lord Charlemont) ‘ransacked Mrs. Hogarth's house for obsolete and unfinished plates’, so perhaps the inscription may be taken with a pinch of salt. With The Times Plate I Hogarth took a decisive political, and at this time unpopular position to support the peace movement against the Seven Years' War (also called the French Indian War) spearheaded by King George III and his chief advisor, Lord Bute. Bute's opponent and leader of the Commons, William Pitt, supported the interests of the war and the economic profit derived from the colonial exploitations it permitted. In this first state Henry VIII (Pitt in later states) marches on stilts to fan the fires of war which the Union Officer of the King is trying to extinguish with a fire engine. William Beckford, the Lord Mayor and Pitt follower, who made a fortune through tobacco and sugar plantations in Jamaica, appears in the doorway on the left and points to a signboard advertising a naked Indian that reads 'Alive from America.' In the foreground women die of starvation in the street and a drunken fiddler plays his violin. Plate II of The Times depicts a more peaceful and prosperous Britain. Plants are nourished by water spouting from the monument of George III, with the elegant Lord Bute as the chief gardener of the State, controlling access to the King. A gigantic palette dangling from the facade of a newly-erected public building indicates that under the reign of the young King art flourishes. 'Ms Fanny' (a reference to the Cock Lane Ghost) and 'Wilkes', a fervent opponent of the King and Bute, appear in the pillory, while to the left those few members of Parliament who are still awake, including Pitt with bandaged legs, shoot at the dove of peace in the sky.