William Hogarth anti London Distilled Gin manifesto

William Hogarth born 10 November 1697 – 26 October 1764, is the artist credited with pioneering western ‘Sequential Art’.  He was also a renowned social critic with his portfolio of work ranging from portraiture to a comic strip’esque series of illustrations named “modern moral subjects” a style that is often referred to as “Hogarthian”.

Why is it important to mention William Hogarth on the pages of Oliver Twist London Distilled Gin?  Well believe it or not, dear William was a great believer that Gin was the route to all of society’s evils, from pick pocketing and prostitution to v.d. and poverty with a little bit of witch craft chucked in for good measure.   At a time (1751) when the British government was passing the last of the infamous “Gin Acts” in an effort to rein in society from the gutter they also abolished witch craft as a statutory offence in England.   


To celebrate and or promote the immoral values of the Gin Act, William Hogarth issued a satirical print called “Gin Lane” personifying the disease of female gin drinking in 1751 called “Madam Geneva”.  Decribed as ‘part whore, part witch’ Madame Geneva is depicted as a drunken wench sitting drunk on the steps of St Gile’s next to an urn with the words ‘Gin Royal’ engraved on the top.   Surrounding her is a scene of death and chaos, but the most telling indication of William Hogarth’s conviction that Gin was path to the moral indecency of the female population, is Madame Geneva herself.  She is shown with her blouse open, her breast exposed and too drunk to notice that her infant child has fallen from her arms and is plummeting head first toward the cobbled streets below.  With sores on her legs, most likely syphilis, she is epitome of the evils of Gin and it corruption of the female populous.   William Hogarth was a renowned social reformer and “Gin Lane” is his manifesto attacking the rife abuse of Gin at the time.   Madam Geneva a failed mother and immoral whore was inspired by the true murder committed by Judith Defour.  Judith’s murdering way and the publication of Madam Geneva were the rallying cry for reform that the social critics had been yearning for and actually helped make the passing of the 1751 Gin Act possible.


Even today when a terrible crime is committed social critics and media look to portion blame on popular culture, be it violent video games, rock and roll played backwards, or a psychotic movie doll with a liking for hacking his owners to death with an axe.   So did Hogarth and his peers exaggerate the case of Judith Defour for the greater good of their cause? Sadly no!  Judith Defour, single mother, convicted of infanticide, stripped her infant child Mary of the clothes she had just been donated by the parish before strangling her to death.  The motive?  She sold Mary’s clothes to buy some Gin!

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