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The Madhouse
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rzarlif's picture

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Hogarth is in an unforgiving mood and, in the eighth and last of the "A Rake’s Progress" series, the idle and squanderer of not one but two fortunes, Tom Rakewell, has been committed.

London’s Bethlehem Hospital for the criminally insane is a place you really wanted to avoid in the 1700s. It’s the origins of the word ‘bedlam’ and was as nasty as it got. Bethlehem is where the painter Richard Dadd was held after murdering his father, at the direction of an Egyptian god.

Dadd produced his best work in captivity, but not so Tom. He is lying on the floor, pretty much naked, and shackled by his left arm and right foot. It's only the best psychiatric care at Bethlehem. 

His former fianceé has finally given up on him and is no where to be seen. 

In the back, two upper-class ladies are engaged in a bit of 18th century calamity tourism, kind of like those tours in California to watch people from Mexico try to cross the border illegally, or the tours through the worst parts of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (shantytowns). The ladies look pleased with their courage.

On the left, a bloke has a sheet of music on his head and plays the fiddle. Another believes he’s the pope and is wearing a cone-shaped hat.

I think that's enough satirical humiliation for one series. The tragic and completely destroyed Tom has earned a little peace before he is put into the ground.

 

Source

Christina Scull, The Soane Hogarths. Sir John Soane’s Museum, 2nd edition 2007.