William Hogarth joined the Freemasons in 1725, the very same year the Premier Grand Lodge introduced its new Third Degree. The most famous British artist hid the signs, passwords and ‘knocks’ within his popular prints. They have not been seen in nearly three centuries.
In this, the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England, we let William Hogarth tell a new story of his early career and how he affected the development of the Freemasons.
We begin with a selfie – Hogarth includes himself within this well known scene from A Harlot’s Progress.
I will show several other previously unreported self portraits of Hogarth in the book.
Hogarth is actually giving gloves to the prostitute, as was the Masonic custom. He has just taken his Third Degree, and exposes the secret sign in the prostitute’s hand position. Compare an illustration from an expose showing the sign.
Hogarth also hid himself within his first painting – Sleeping Congregation. You can just make out his tiny form in the gallery, dropping a rose to his sweetheart, Jane Thornhill. He eloped with her just months after finishing this painting, which features his future father-in-law, Sir James Thornhill, Sergeant Painter to the King.
Sir James was a senior Freemason, and Hogarth litters the painting with Masonic clues. Even the Deacon’s ‘erection’ (made with his thumb) is a Masonic joke on a ‘erect column’.
The minister in the pulpit stands underneath the letter G, an important symbol of Freemasonry (my red outline below). He has been identified as John Desaguliers, the Father of Freemasonry, the man who introduced many of these new symbols to the Craft. Hogarth hated him, as we will see in Fart Catcher!
Next – Fart Catcher!