DICKENS, Charles - William HOGARTH (1697-1764). 'Gin Lane. - Beer Street.' [London: Boydell, or Heath, 1759]. 2 etchings with engraving, both in 4th state [Paulson 185a, 4; 185b, 4], plate c.390 x 325mm, framed and glazed to c.470 x 403mm. (Lightly browned, frames chipped.) Provenance: CHARLES DICKENS (bookplate on frame versos), by descent to his son, Charles Dickens - Edmund Yates (sale 1894, bought by:) - Edgar Cohen (printed notice from the Times on frame versos) - Thomas McLean, printseller and publisher (d. 1908; printed label on frame versos).
DICKENS'S OWN COPIES OF HOGARTH PRINTS, CONSIDERED THE STRONGEST VISUAL STIMULUS TO THE AUTHOR. Dickens's familiarity with the prints was intimate, and he regularly invoked Hogarth in his correspondence, reviews and novels. In an 1876 memoir the poet J.T. Fields recalled Dickens praising Hogarth's genius, particularly in regard to Gin Lane, and marvelling at 'the fertility of mind that had conceived and the hand that had executed these powerful pictures of human life' (In and Out of Doors with Charles Dickens). Dickens likened his own London to Hogarth's. He compared the 'wretched neighbourhood' of St. Giles, which he had visited with his friend and later biographer Forster, to Gin Lane, remarking that it bore 'a remarkable trait of Hogarth's picture' and concluding that 'Hogarth had many meanings which have not grown obsolete in a century' (Forster 42).
More significant is the inspiration these prints provided for Dickens's novels. An 1838 review of Sketches by Boz noted that 'What Hogarth was in painting, such very nearly is Mr. Dickens in prose fiction' - a sentiment which delighted the author enormously - and he continued to paint pen portraits of Hogarthian scenes. St. Giles's, so reminiscent of Gin Lane to Dickens, became Tom-All-Alone's in Bleak House. Beer Street, by contrast, represents prosperity, leisure, good eating and good drinking. Interestingly, Dickens's own regular midday meal consisted of bread, cheese and a glass of ale, as a former owner of these prints, Edmund Yates, described (cf. Wilson, World of Dickens, p. 259).
The early ownership of the prints is well documented. They hung with 46 others first in the staircase at Gad's Hill, where Dickens expostulated on them to visitors, and later in Dickens's bedroom. On his death they were bequeathed to his son Charles, and offered for sale later that year as part of the library in a catalogue by Sotheran's. Beer Street bears the Dickens bookplate attached to all items in that catalogue. They were exhibited soon thereafter at the Museum of Science and Art, Edinburgh, and subsequently acquired by Dickens's friend Edmund Yates. In the Yates sale in 1894 they were acquired for £230 by Edgar Cohen of London, as was reported in the Times, and later passed into the hands of the printseller Thomas McClean. R. Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works, 1989. Cf. Stonehouse, Catalogue of the library of Charles Dickens. London: 1935, pp.58-59. (2)