British painter William Hogarth is known for being the most honest artist of 18th century. His depictions of so-called “modern moral subjects” were crude, yet nothing was capable of capturing the repugnant reality of East London in more vivid detail. Hogarth’s portrayal of the underbelly of the metropolis is what lead author Michael Dean to use his persona as the lead character in his new title, I, Hogarth. This whimsical tale from Duckworth, an imprint of Overlook Press, with its surprising historical accuracies, is receiving praise only days after its release date (Feb.1, 2013), appearing in last week’s edition of The New York Times ’Sunday Book Review‘.
It’s easy to see why the heralded New York newspaper refers to Duckworth Overlook’s title as “gritty, bawdy, and funny.” Following a fictional Hogarth through his poverty stricken youth and rise to fortune from the rotten alleys of East London, I, Hogarth highlights the character that was William Hogarth in a way his paintings never could. Dean’s character describes his work as an engraver (a job Hogarth had to work on his way to becoming a renowned artist) as “scratch[ing] away laboriously like a whore with the clap, easing her itch.” The use of witty yet profuse language emulates Hogarth’s artwork flawlessly, especially “A Harlot’s Progress,” which chronicled an innocent country girl’s immoral demise in the cesspool of a city Harlot called home.
From his pants-dropping shenanigans with prostitutes to his recollection of theater crowds that smelled “like a dead dog rotting in the Devil’s privy,” Harlot’s character embodies 18th century life in London. He satirizes the moral decline of modern society while displaying immorality of his own, contracting syphilis and endangering his wife yet freely criticizing all those around him (even the Prime Minister).
Author “Dean[,] weaves Hogarth’s opinion on art into the narrative” and “paints with words as Hogarth did with his brush” writes Times reviewer Andrea Wulf. The boisterous and perverse character of Harlot, as well as his intriguing journey to stardom, is now available for your reading pleasure, as I, Hogarth is now available for purchase online and in bookstores near you. I encourage all readers of a mature enough age to pick up a copy and enjoy the comedic and captivating new Duckworth/Overlook title.
This piece originally appeared on the Benay Enterprises blog.