We see a ghost: Hogarth's satire on Methodists and Connoisseurs.

Author:Krysmanski, Bernd

I have seen Hogarth's print of the Ghost. It is a horrid composition of lewd Obscenity & blasphemous prophaneness for which I detest the artist & and have lost all esteem for the man. The best is, that the worst parts of it have a good chance of not being understood by the people. - Bishop William Warburton, 1762(1)

William Hogarth's "print of the Ghost" is his engraving Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism: A Medley (1762, [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]),(2) which, as a satire on Methodist "enthusiasts," is indeed "horrid" in its vicious attack on a fanatic preacher and swooning congregation. Bishop Warburton, the well-known eighteenth-century advocate of the established church and keen antagonist of deism, atheism, and Methodism, was equally right in his supposition that parts of Hogarth's print "have a good chance of not being understood," since the work has several levels of interpretation. When published, it was a total reworking of a first state, entitled on the proofs Enthusiasm Delineated [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED].(3) Figuratively and literally, the one obscures the other, and it is the purpose of this paper to look at the published print to unveil the hidden meaning of its unpublished proof.

Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism depicts the inside of a Methodist meeting place in which a congregation has gone mad over an enthusiastic sermon. The name of the most prominent Methodist preacher at that time, George Whitefield, and two lines from his Collection of Hymns for Social Worship (1753)(4) are inscribed on a slip of paper attached to the clerk's lectern. Near the pulpit, banderole-like, is a sonometer called "W[hitefiel]d's Scale of Vociferation." It ranges from "Nat[ura]l Tone" to "Bull Roar," another clear allusion to Whitefield, who was known for his powerful voice. The instrument hangs grotesquely from a nose and screaming mouth inscribed "Blood, Blood, Blood, Blood," a reference to Whitefield's use of repetition to dramatize his words.(5) Describing Methodist preaching, a certain "Eusebius" wrote in A Fine Picture of Enthusiasm (1744) that

the frequent mention of the Name of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and the Blood of Jesus, filling up great Part of their public Discourses, and very often only used to supply the Want of Ideas or sense; so that these Expressions our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, and the Blood, the precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are used as the Music of their Discourses.(6)

The preacher's arms are raised, a handkerchief held theatrically in his left hand to suggest grief, a pose typical of George Whitefield.(7) In order to leave no doubt about whom he was attacking, Hogarth has made the clerk at the lectern an obvious caricature of the man. He is even portrayed cross-eyed, as he is in the portrait of him painted by John Wollaston in 1742 [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 3 OMITTED].(8) Whitefield in 1762 was rather corpulent, but Hogarth presents him here emaciated and depressed, a shadow of his former self. His wings may refer to a canard that appeared in the Lloyd's Evening Post in 1761 reporting that the Methodist leader had died.(9) The cherubim on either side of the clerk also allude to the world beyond.

A postboy from heaven, echoing the clerk's putti, appears in the upper center of the print. The fact that he is delivering a letter addressed to "St. Money-trap" underlines the preacher's greed, as does the "Poors Box," which is a mousetrap. Whitefield was brilliant at collecting money from the ignorant. In Israel Pottinger's The Methodist, a Comedy (1760) he is called "an Enthusiastic Rascal! - That frightens the Ignorant out of their Wits, and afterwards picks their Pockets."(10)

Hogarth's pulpiteer cannot be preaching the word of God. With a harlequin's suit under his gown, he speaks, as indicated on the open page of his Bible, "as a fool" (2 Cor. 2:23). All the members of the equally foolish congregation have lost their senses. The atmosphere is hellish, the preacher's puppets a devil and a witch. The "Globe of Hell" hanging from the ceiling has a face and is inscribed with strange topographical expressions such as "Molten Lead Lake," "Pitch & Tar Rivers," "Horrid Zone," "The Brimstone Ocean," and "Eternal Damnation Gulf." This is probably a sideswipe at the attitudes of a "hellfire Methodist preacher" who sees hell's flames flashing in the faces of the congregation and believes "that they are now! now! now! dropping into Hell! into the Bottom of Hell! the Bottom of Hell!"(11)

These inscriptions may also insinuate Roman Catholic fantasies of hell.(12) The preacher's wig falls away and reveals the shaven crown of a Jesuit, an allusion to the then widely held opinion that Methodists were in fact secret papists. Bishop Lavington, for instance, compared the "modern Enthusiasts" to the "most ridiculous, strolling, fanatical, frantic, delirious, and mischievous of all the saints in the Romish Communion." And Theophilus Evans wrote that "the Sects of all Denominations . . . were made Tools in the Hands of Romish Priests, to carry on their Interest, that they are all the Spawn of the Jesuits, however diversified in Tenets and Principles."(13)

As the "Globe of Hell," which hangs level with the pulpiteer, is inscribed "A New and Correct Globe of Hell by Romaine," it must refer to another notorious London Calvinist Methodist preacher, William Romaine, who was, in 1752, appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College. In a lecture read at the college Romaine had once asked: "was dying sinner ever comforted by the spots in the Moon? Was ever miser reclaimed from avarice by Jupiter's Belts? or did Saturn's Ring ever make a lascivious female chaste?"(14) Contrary to the opinion that celestial bodies had "no tendency to mend the heart," Hogarth's print indicates the effect Romaine's "Globe" had on churchgoers. We need only look at the man at the back left, his hair on end, the expression on his face one of horror as the preacher by his side points out the globe to him. This preacher is, no doubt, John Wesley, as one lifted arm was characteristic of his manner of preaching, as his portrait indicates [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED].(15)

The Methodists were regularly accused of being distracted,(16) and, indeed, in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism the room, with its windowpanes resembling prison bars, looks more like a madhouse than a Methodist meeting place.(17) Religious fanaticism was likened to not only madness during this period but also to carnal desire. Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) associates religious melancholy with "Love-Madness," which he describes as "a Disease, Phrensy, Madness, Hell." Henry More states that "it is plain in sundry Examples of Enthusiasm, that the more hidden and lurking Fumes of Lust had tainted the Fancies of those Pretenders to Prophecy and Inspiration."(18) Bishop Lavington was of the opinion that "these excesses of the spiritual and carnal affections are nearer allied than is generally thought," and, interestingly, an anonymous pamphlet even reports The Amorous Humours of One Whitefield.(19) How appropriate to find that, in the right-hand corner of his print, Hogarth has provided a mental thermometer that rises out of a "Methodist's Brain." The mercury here measures states of enthusiasm and insanity, ranging from cold, melancholic conditions such as "Low Spirits," "Settled Grief," and even "Suicide" to hot states of sexual excitement, first "Love Heat," "Lust," and "Extacy," and then "Convulsion Fits" and "Raving." Correspondingly, the preacher's enthusiasm has turned into sexual arousal, for the edging of the pulpit cushion, converging in a tassel at the corner, looks like an erect penis as it seems to protrude from a significant part of his harlequin's suit.

Thermometer scales were frequently used by eighteenth-century satirists to describe human passions. The Connoisseur 85 (September 11, 1754) gives an account of a "Female Thermometer" that indicates "the exact temperature of a lady's passions" and includes "Inviolable Modesty," "Indiscretions," "Innocent Freedoms," "Loose Behaviour," "Gallantry," and "Abandoned Impudence." Henry Fielding's True Patriot 22 (March 25-April 1, 1746) describes a "WeatherGlass of Wit" that could indicate the "Degree of Heat or Coldness in the Understanding." It runs from "Vivacity" to "True Wit, or Fire" and "Wildness" up to "Madness," the "raving point."(20) Later in the century even the Methodists knew "Spiritual Barometers" or "Scales of the progress of Sin and of Grace," which accompanied the faithful on their way through life, indicating whether they were on the path of righteousness.

Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism ironically connects the satirical uses of thermometry with the strange contemporary views of mental barometry. We recognize most of the thermometer's different degrees of mood in the behavior and faces of the congregation. Thus, on the left, a woman has fallen to the ground, "all over convulsed"(21) and is giving birth to rabbits. In 1726 a certain Mary Toft had caused considerable uproar when she claimed she could actually give birth to rabbits. She had fooled several physicians and obstetricians and the outrage had prompted Hogarth to make an earlier print of the subject, Cunicularii; or, The Wise Men of Godliman in Consultation [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 5 OMITTED].(22) In this print the sexual connotations are unambiguous. The curtains of the four-poster bed on which Mary Toft lies resemble the female vulva. The title of the print, which is the Latin word for tunnelers, likewise plays on the pun of cuniculus (the Latin word for rabbit) and cunnus (the pudenda),(23) and an "Occult Philosopher" reaches under Mary Toft's dress, shouting: "It Pouts it swells, it spreads it comes."

Below Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, there is a warning caption quoted from 1 John 4:1: "Believe not every Spirit; but try the Spirits...

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