The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: Jeremy Bell
Jeremy Bell is fascinated by William Hogarth who, as you probably know, was a keen Freemason, designer of the Grand Steward’s jewel and a master engraver best known for pictures such as ‘Night’ showing a drunken Worshipful Master, supported by his Tyler heading home through Charing Cross.
Jeremy has studied all of Hogarth’s pictures and has concluded that Hogarth included many more references to Freemasonry in his engravings. These included references to things which were happening in politics, religion and society at the time and also that Hogarth included in his pictures many Masonic references in the use of, for example, squares, compasses, triangles, pillars, masonic signs, actual Freemasons and so on. To prove his point Jeremy has produced a most beautiful book full of excellent illustrations of all of Hogarth’s work. But he has gone farther. He has not only added tremendous detail with regard to the characters and events portrayed but he has then highlighted in the pictures where the Masonic influences are to be seen. Thus, we may see an ordinary drawing room scene of his time with children presenting a play, only to realise that one of the characters, is in fact, Desaguliers, who is supervising activity, and that the bust on the wall is Isaac Newton. Another of the characters is the Duke of Montagu who Hogarth disliked and who thus had candle wax dripping on his head (later painted over). What appears to be a children’s play is in reality a third degree and the fact that a child is needing prompting is Hogarth’s jesting with Masons who forget their lines. Desaguliers had recently introduced the third degree, with the support of Isaac Newton, and was asking Masons to learn their parts to make it more effective. The other male characters in the painting are all well-known Freemasons of the time and so it is clear that Hogarth is playing a joke which only Freemasons would understand. Newton, for example, had recently invited Desaguliers to join the Royal Society and waived the entry fee for him. They were colleagues for many years and worked on the third degree together basing it on Newton’s study of Solomon. Desaguliers became curator of the society as well as a demonstrator. In the picture a child has dropped a fan showing the effects of gravity. And so it goes on. What appears to be a simple picture of a children’s play is full of Masonic references. The title of the chapter in which this appears is called ‘Fart Catcher’ in reference to another picture – but you will have to buy the book to discover all about that. And you should buy the book. It is a fascinating insight into society at the time, the London scene, Freemasonry and the cleverness and wit of William Hogarth. Jeremy has done a great job but also recognizes what others have contributed in this field with many references and bibliographies which will lead the reader to even more information. You will pick up this book many times and learn something new each time. Well worth reading!
Kendall Tavern Press
223 pages with over 300 illustrations