The Distrest Poet
London, Baldwin Craddock & Joy 1822
360 x 410mm
Hogarth’s satire on the impoverished hack poet / scribbler (thought to be a portrait of Pope’s butt Lewis Theobald) who is only concerned with his composition (labelled ironically Riches – A Poem) rather than the upkeep of his family and responsibilities. Hogarth depicts the interior of a bare attic bedroom. On the right the poet (dressed in a dressing gown because his wife is repairing his tattered breeches) is engaged in anguished composition, totally ignoring the angry landlady who had burst in through the door waving a long, unpaid account. The poet’s pretty young wife sits before the fire sewing and looks up in dismay as the landlady erupts through the door. In the four poster bed in the background is a squalling baby, a cat feeds her kittens on the poet’s discarded coat (implying that she at least can feed her family), and a spaniel takes advantage of the distraction to steal a small joint of meat (the family’s meagre supper) from a chair by the door. Above the door an open food cupboard is totally bare, linen hangs drying before the fire and above the poet’s head hangs a map inscribed A View of the Gold Mines of Peru, an indication that the family has lost their money through unwise speculation. Paulson 145 III/III.