Wednesday, January 7, 2009
A Harlot's Progress: Plate 6
I wish I could say that our journey with Moll ends happily, but unfortunately I can't. This is a Hogarth series after all! We now find Moll at her own wake which anyone would be proud to call their own. Look, there's a nice crowd, a parson, a decent casket...which is being used as a bar. At second glace, the parson's hand seems to have disappeared under the skirt of the prostitute next to him. This is an awful wake! It appears as if no one even cares about our heroine's passing. All the other mourners/prostitutes are distracted at their co-worker's wake. One bar-tends, two gossip, another is checking her hair in the mirror while one more steals the undertaker's handkerchief. One prostitute is oblivious to Moll's dead body in front of her as she shows another mourner her injured pinky.
Even Moll's little son seems to not care about his own mother's passing. Whether this is because of her mothering skills or childhood ignorance, we can only guess. He sits under Moll's coffin and plays in front of the rosemary that is traditionally brought to funerals.
There does seem to be one person generally sad about Moll's passing and that is her madam who weeps by a bottle of booze. Maybe it's the booze talking? Or maybe, just maybe, someone does feel the loss of this gentle soul. Considering that this is a procuress we are speaking of, she is likely just mourning one less income to go into her pocket. If so, that means no one actually misses poor Moll who died at the age of 23 in 1731.
This may seem like a harsh satire that Hogarth presents us with but there is some truth in his assertion. Although the path to prostitution may have been a quick fix to poverty, the profession contained many dangers and sadness. Successful and celebrated prostitutes such Kitty Fisher existed, but were still rare. Today still, many young women are faced with the same options as Moll Hackabout and choose the same lifestyle. Like the fictional Moll they fall victim to substance abuse, sexually-transmitted disease, imprisonment, and poverty; not to mention many other awful things. Therefore, Hogarth's humourous satire also contains a frightening warning that should still be heeded to this day, as poor young girls are still forced into this dangerous way of life.
A Harlot's Progress Plate 1
A Harlot's Progress Plate 2
A Harlot's Progress Plate 3
A Harlot's Progress Plate 4
A Harlot's Progress Plate 5