Hogarth's grim depiction of a society addicted to gin, 1768

Description

Alcoholism was widespread amongst the poor in the 1700s, and the rise of the ‘gin craze’ became infamous. Gin was cheap and potent, and for many people offered a quick release from the grinding misery of everyday life. By the 1730s, over 6,000 houses in London were openly selling gin to the general public. The drink was available everywhere, from street markets, grocers and chandlers to barbers and brothels.

This print by William Hogarth, entitled Gin Lane, depicts all the chaos and misery of a drunken society. The print was intended to show the destructive effects of the drink; the slogan in Hogarth’s gin shop reads, ‘drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence, clean straw for nothing’.

Crime, poverty and a soaring death rate were all linked to the insatiable demand for ‘Madame Geneva’, as the drink was known. In 1751, magistrate and novelist Henry Fielding argued that there would soon be ‘few of the common people left to drink it’ if the situation continued. The crisis required decisive political attention. In the 1740s and 1750s Parliament was forced to pass a series of acts restricting both the sale of spirits and its manufacture, in order to bring the situation back under control.

Full title:
Hogarth Moralized. Being a complete edition of Hogarth's works containing near fourscore copper-plates ... with an explanation ... and a comment on their moral tendency [by John Trusler], etc.
Published:
1768, London
Format:
Print / Image
Language:
English
Creator:
William Hogarth
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
G.2585

Full catalogue details

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