A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732
This series of engravings (and lost painted versions) by the fascinating William Hogarth depicts the journey and tragic end of Moll Hackabout, the country girl who moved to the city of London and became a prostitute. From top to bottom, left to right, we have:
Plate I: Moll arrives in London and engages with the owner of a brothel, though she was probably looking for work as a seamstress originally. The scene is quite chaotic and shows the dark seedy side of city life.
Plate II: Moll has become the mistress of a Jewish merchant. However here she is shown trying to distract him as her secret lover escapes out of the room. Her promiscuity is really in full swing!
Plate III: Moll’s life has become even more sordid. Each scene becomes more and more involved in her life as a harlot and her obvious deterioration.
Plate IV: As her situation becomes increasingly desperate, Moll ends up working at Bridewell Prison. She is shown beating hemp for nooses.
Plate V: Moll is dying of syphilis, a common disease in the world of prostitutes and their customers. As she suffers and is attended to by doctors, people around her are shown looting her belongings.
Plate VI: Moll has died at the tender age of just 23. The drinking and sexual flirtations shown in the final scene epitomise Moll’s demise, as well as indicating the carelessness of humans.