The Enraged Musician

New book examines Hogarth's musical imagery

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A noteworthy new book on the works of William Hogarth, entitled The Enraged Musician and written by Jeremy Barlow, has recently been released.

More than 70 of Hogarth’s works include musical references, and Barlow's book is the first full-length work devoted to this aspect of his imagery.

The first two chapters of the book examine the evidence for Hogarth's interest in music and the problems of assessing accuracy, realism and symbolic meaning in his musical representations. Subsequent chapters show how musical details in his works may often be interpreted as part of his satirical weaponry; the starting point seems to have been his illustrations of the clamorous 'rough music' protest in Samuel Butler's immensely popular poem "Hudibras". Hogarth's use of music for satirical purposes also has connections with a particular type of burlesque music in 18th-century England.

It may be seen too in the roles played by his humiliated fiddlers or abject ballad singers. Each of the final two chapters focuses on a particular Hogarth subject: his paintings of a scene from a theatrical satire of music and society, "The Beggar's Opera", and the print "The Enraged Musician" itself. The latter work draws together uses of musical imagery discussed previously and the book concludes with an analysis of its internal relations from a musical perspective.

Jeremy Barlow spoke eloquently on Radio 3’s music matters last Sunday 4th December. This interview can now be found in Radio 3’s archive.

December 8, 2005