The Distressed Poet, 1736
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
RA Collection: Art
Engraving by William Hogarth reversing his painting The Distressed Poet (c.1736, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery). The picture is a satire of so-called Grub-street authors, literary hacks trying to scrape a living without patronage. The poet sits by the window, trying to write while surrounded by the trappings of domesticity: his child in bed crying, a milkmaid berating the family over an unpaid bill, a dog stealing a piece of meat off of the table, and his wife mending the trousers of his only suit.
This first published state has four lines from Alexander Pope's The Dunciad below the image and an engraving of Pope pinned on the wall behind the poet. Four years later Hogarth reissued the print as a companion piece to another projected print, The Engraged Musician after making alterations to the plate. The lines from Pope were replaced by the title 'THE DISTREST POET' (although the previous inscription was still faintly visible), and the engraving of Pope on the wall was replaced with a 'View of the Gold Mines of Peru', probably alluding to the South Sea Bubble and other chimeric financial schemes.
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