My last two monthly instalments have shown how many parts of the Third Degree are hidden within the funeral scene of A Harlot’s Progress.
The Third Degree was first introduced by the recently formed Premier Grand Lodge in 1725. It was written by Jean Desaguliers (1683-1744), the third Grand Master and undisputed ‘father of Freemasonry’.
This famous French emigre presided over the nascent Grand Lodge during the two decades during which his new degree was introduced.
He probably wanted to make sure that it was being conducted properly. Afterall, he had written it.
Hogarth chose this ritual to be the theme of his final picture from this series.
It was predictable that he would include the author of this ritual in the lineup.
Hogarth had already included several portraits of other famous persons within the scenes (Charteris, Gourlay, Needham, Gonson, Huggins, Dr Misaubin and Dr Rock).
Several clues help us identify Desaguliers as the old whorehouse madam, crying at the loss of one of her girls.
The first clue lies at his feet, in the shape of the bottle of Nants brandy.
Desaguliers came to England when his family were forced to flee France after the ‘Revocation of Nantes’.
Notice that his glass is turned over next to a flagon that is labelled ‘Nants’. He is ‘refusing a glass’, or ‘Revoking’ the Nants! Hogarth loved this kind of pictorial riddle.
Figure 2 – Desaguliers with closeup of Nantes. Note the ‘grinning face’ on the bottle.
IMAGE CREDIT: from the author
The bottle has a grinning face, further mocking the Grand Master whom Hogarth has painted as a whorehouse keeper dressed in women’s clothing!
This manly looking bawd (notice her muscular forearms) has a plaster over her eye. This is exactly where Desaguliers had a huge wart.
His ill-fitting shoe is a jab at the gout from which the Frenchman suffered.
Desguliers was a famous scientist of his day, and one of his experiments involved a piece of apparatus known as ‘Desagulier’s Balance’.
Hogarth jests at this by featuring the Grand Master falling back off his chair.
Hogarth would repeat this clever balancing jest again in his painting of Lord Hervey and Friends (1738).
Can you see the Reverend Desaguliers toppling off his chair? Desaguliers initiated Lord Hervey into Freemasonry.
Desaguliers is looking through a telescope because he also experimented with optics.
There are many other Masonic clues within this painting which hangs in Ickworth House in Suffolk. (See FMH page 95).
Figure 3 – Detail from Hogarth’s Lord Hervey and Friends (1738) Ickworth House, Suffolk. It shows him toppling off a chair, as compared to the scientific apparatus known as ‘Desaguliers Balance’.
IMAGE CREDIT: from the author
While Deaguliers created a new element of theatre for the Third Degree, he continued the ancient Masonic tradition of giving gloves.
This part of the ceremony of initiation was first recorded in the 1600s.
The candidate is given the apron of a FreeMason, a pair of men’s gloves for himself, and another pair of ladies’ gloves, for her whom he esteems the most.
-‘Reception d’un Frey-Macon’, 1737.
The man directly above Desaguliers is in the action of presenting a pair of gloves to ‘the woman he most esteems’ – a common prostitute! This Masonic joke would be well received in the lodge room.
The man presenting the gloves to the woman is another famous person from the time (the ninth so far).
It is William Hogarth himself! Just compare the likeness to his official self-portrait which was painted just a few years after this print was made.
My discovery was acknowledged by Robert Cowley in the British Art Journal, 2020.
Figure 4 – Likeness of Hogarth’s official self-portrait (1735), to the man helping the prostitute on with her gloves.
IMAGE CREDIT: from the author
This makes perfect sense. Hogarth was one of the first people to go through the new Third Degree. He joined his lodge in 1725, and this was the very year that this degree was introduced.
I was thrilled to find further evidence of Hogarth’s inclusion. A copy of Hogarth’s original painting was made by the prolific printer Elisha Kirkall in 1732.
In a line from the poem that accompanied the print, there was the hint that Hogarth had indeed included himself in the scene – ‘The Painter’s drawn himself in masquerade.’
To boast that he had just slept with the whore is in keeping with Hogarth’s character.
You will notice that this woman is still in a state of undress. Hogarth is helping her back on with her clothes (gloves).
They have just had sex! Look at the dreamy look he is giving her! And look at the size of the glove stretcher on the stool next to him!
‘Glove stretcher’ was a vulgar term for penis, because the vagina was known as the ‘velvet glove’.
Hogarth is boasting about the size of his manhood – the vulgar term ‘oversized glove stretcher’ was used in a pornographic novel of the time (Fanny Hill).
So, we end the series with a marvellous Hogarth ‘Selfie’, and a curious Hogarthian ‘Dick Pic’!
This scene is so cramped with symbolism that it took me three blogs to complete. Would you believe that there is more?!
Contrary to popular belief, this was not the end of the series. I have discovered that there was an extra print that was meant to accompany A Harlot’s Progress.
It showed one part of the ritual that Hogarth was not able to fit into the narrative – the actual theatre of the Third Degree.
Artist: William Hogarth (1697-1764)
William Hogarth was made a Mason at the Hand and Apple Tree Lodge in Little Queen Street, Holborn, London c1725-28.
He later joined the Bear and Harrow in Butcher Row, known later as the ‘Corner Stone’ Lodge 4, and then Grand Steward’s Lodge. He designed a jewel known as ‘Hogarth’s Jewel’, it remained in continual use into the nineteenth century.
Hogarth was a prolific English painter whose scenes often demonstrated a satirical depiction of 18th century life.
He was responsible for the Copyright Act passed by Parliament in 1735 also known as the Hogarth Act.
Artwork: Tim Fowler
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