Artworks
The Polling

Contributor

Scene three of Hogarth’s "An Election" series. Time to get everyone to the polls and vote in the dismal elections of 1754.  

Voting is no improvement on campaigning. To vote you had to be a man (obviously, since women in the UK won the full right to vote in 1928) and own property, or at least lease land from the crown for no less than forty shillings. That was about 4,000 guys in Oxfordshire at the time and boy did they make a mess of it.

Hogarth has put so many small tragedies into the painting that it's overwhelming. 

  • A deathly grey-faced man is being carried up the stairs to vote at the polling station. 
  • A ‘simpleton’ is sitting in the voting chair and being told who to vote for. Conveniently there is no secret ballot.
  • Behind simpleton and election official, two lawyers representing the contending parties argue over who gets to vote, and a poor war veteran without arms, and right leg, is unable to swear on the bible that he has the right to vote.  
  • On the bridge in the background there is yet another brawl (see scenes one, two, and four) and a horse is about to jump into the river. 
  • Closer by, the gilded carriage representing Britannia has collapsed but the coachmen are unawares, playing cards. The guy on the left is cheating. 

 

Source

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