“The destruction that wasteth at noonday”
Hogarth’s Hog Lane and the Huguenot Fortress of Memory
Turning over the Bible which lay before me ... I cried out, “Well, I know not what to do; Lord, direct me!”. . . ; and at that juncture I happened to stop turning over the book at the 91st Psalm, and ... I read ... as follows: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday . . . Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord . . . thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”
I scarce need tell the reader that from that moment I resolved that I would stay in the town, and casting myself entirely upon the goodness and protection of the Almighty, would not seek any other shelter whatever; and that . . . my times were in His hands.
—DANIEL DEFOE, A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
How might historians enter the shadows where refugee artisans “dwelled”? Once inside, can we pose the question: How did dwelling therein enable the construction of an identity at once both hidden and representational? Let us begin with what we know: the matrix of refugee work and worship in London was inextricably intertwined with the human geography of the immigrant ghetto in Soho. The Eglise des Grecs, the Huguenot church, received its unexpected name from the Greek Orthodox congregation that had worshipped there before the Huguenots replaced it. After the peak years of the sixteenth century, the steady influx of French refugees to London did not increase greatly again until the 1660s and ultimately the turbulent 1680s. By that time, the immigrant population finally exceed the seating capacity of existing immigrant churches. The Eglise des Grecs accommodated the rapid overflow of worshippers and became the “daughter” church of the Savoy Chapel, one of the largest and best-connected French churches in early eighteenth-century London.
William Hogarth (1697–1764) learned his trade as a painter-engraver after years of life study with Huguenot instructors, at the Parisian Louis Cheron’s Academy, which by 1718 was located in St. Martin’s Lane, directly behind the Eglise des Grecs.1 Hogarth’s name was closely associated with Cheron’s Academy beginning in the 1730s, and he kept a studio nearby.2 Once reaching a position in his profession whereby he could hire engravers to make prints after his original designs, he hired French refugees almost exclusively. Of the twelve engravers known to be associated with Hogarth’s shop during the eighteenth century, seven were French, four English, and one Dutch. To put this into perspective, most of Hogarth’s non-French engravers were also trained by Huguenot masters, some at the St. Martin’s Lane Academy. Indeed, so close was William Hogarth’s personal and professional “friendship” with the French refugees of Soho that he was reputed to know all of their “secrets.”3
Hogarth put his intimate knowledge of the variety of Soho’s refugee terrain—and so of Huguenot history, piety, and artisanal secrets—to use in his painting Noon, L’Eglise des Grecs, Hog Lane, Soho (fig. 14.1).4 He worked from experience. Painted in 1736 as the second in a cycle of four paintings depicting The Four Times of the Day, Noon was once thought to have been commissioned by Jonathan Tyers for display at the popular public pavilion at Vauxhall Gardens, which was known for eclectic architectural styles as well as licentious behavior, both of which appear in the painting. The Tyers-Vauxhall association is apocryphal, however; in fact, Hogarth sold the entire series at public auction on March 1, 1745. Noon and Evening sold to the duke of Ancaster.5 Any attempt to reconstruct a viewership at Vauxhall is therefore futile. Even if something more might be said about the painting’s viewership in situ, the real life of the image in Noon is as a prototype for reproduction and international diffusion throughout the Atlantic world as an engraving, beginning with its publication by Hogarth in 1728.
Still, other opportunities present themselves in Noon. The construction of subterranean refugee culture by both the Huguenots and their detractors is seldom plumbed below the surface rhetoric. Were its hidden foundations represented in interaction between the shadow world of private artisanal memory, piety, and technology and the public performance of consumers; that is, aspiring natives with enough cash to buy the external trappings of polite identity built into products of Huguenot craftsmanship? Because Noon addresses these questions, it is Hogarth at his most ambitious. He attempts nothing less than to unify perceptions of the hidden links between consumption and production that animated Huguenot material life in the early eighteenth century. More than that, however, because he was privy to the “secrets” of the Huguenots, plus a few of his own, Noon stands alone as a personal manifesto on natural-philosophical and alchemic secrets that Hogarth shared in the form of a transatlantic artisanal cosmology with refugee colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Hogarth’s painting, then, is both historical and scientific: first, it specifically contextualizes the new London congregation formed from the cohort of French Calvinist refugees of the 1680s, a group sanctified by the violence of Louis XIVs dragonnades; and second, it unearths the refugees’ natural-philosophical cosmology and reintegrates it into a reading of the Huguenots’ function as the invisible artisans of modern life. This act of reintegration demonstrates intimate knowledge on the part of both Hogarth and his audience of basic continuities between the metaphysical concerns of Bernard Palissy’s generation of civil war Huguenot artisans and the material culture of politeness carried throughout the Atlantic world by refugees by the late seventeenth century.
FIGURE 14.1. William Hogarth, Noon, L’Eglise des Grecs, Hog Lane, Soho. Oil on canvas. London, 1736. Courtesy Trustees of the Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust. Photograph: Photographic Survey, Courtauld Institute of Art.
Excavation of the shadow world begins as spectators peer with difficulty into the murky background in Hogarth’s painting of the Huguenot ghetto to search for the church. They can barely discern an ethereal congregation of sober French Calvinists as they move through an amorphous veil of dark paint. Some of the worshippers have already gone. They emerged silently from the noon prayer at L’Eglise des Grecs, evading notice altogether. Others seem to pass quickly from the scene, disappearing into the shadows. Covertness is the natural condition of the pious refugees in Noon. Hogarth’s Huguenots search out the shadows. This is their territory if they venture into the public spheres of the microcosm, which must be carefully negotiated after prayer to reclaim the private worlds of their workshops.
Hogarth invites his audience to negotiate their labyrinth of historical, scientific, and spiritual trails through his art. Such paths constitute metaphorical passages into the secret life of Hog Lane, analogous to journeys into the self taken by earlier Huguenot artisans, moved by religious violence, to embark on soulish quests for mechanical knowledge of earthly materials. Hogarth begins by punning on the title, Noon, an indispensable clue to his symbolic program. The time of the day is exploited as a verbal and visual palindrome of dazzling flexibility. The mirror structure of these palindromes ramify, deployed like a mathematical puzzle; a kind of fractal based on contingencies of Huguenot history, artisanry, and natural philosophy.
Noon implicitly invites spectators to reflect upon themselves and others, as if in a mirror; to move beyond the stance of casual spectator and discover what lies beneath what we see that animates the world. Spectators are given options to consider the invisible depth of experience that accompanies production. Ephemeral moments of exchange were infinite in London, an expanding commercial city. Yet even superficial commercial transactions in Soho are products of hidden artisanal languages and sub-cultural memories. Production required access to astonishing historical, scientific, and aesthetic knowledge overlooked by the consumer. Such knowledge was available to some. For most others, the shadowy paths of access were ignored, obscured, invisible, or blocked.
Shaftesbury argued that the material culture of politeness must be transparent to avoid the stigma of disjunction between being and appearance and function smoothly as a medium of commercial exchange in English civil society. But Hogarth shows how the self-conscious affect of transparency through public display of polite artifacts obscured an oblique and deeply coded natural-philosophical dialogue about the dangers of ignoring elemental material processes behind the polished surfaces of words and things. Paracelsian discourse on the spirituality of material life, although widely known in the host culture since the sixteenth century, was practiced in the cash economy by Palissy and Huguenot refugees from southwestern France. Like these artisans, the congregants of the Eglise des Grecs labored to relocate secret knowledge of the synthesis of spirit and matter to the British-American world. Following the lead established by such successful predecessors as Bernard Palissy in Medician Paris and Balthazar Gerbier in Stuart London, they strategized to gain access to powerful patrons in the core culture.
Hogarth thus faced a considerable pictorial problem: how to represent the instant when hidden transactional events occur? How, he asked himself, does one represent an absence? How do artists reveal as their subject that imperceptible moment in time when it is in the process of changing, without reducing the complexity of lived experience hidden in the moment? Hogarth pursues the problem analytically, testing the limits of perception and the hypothesis that multiple levels of experience exist simultaneously in a single moment. The painting plots the results on a mystical terrestrial clock integrated with human, artificial, and natural components.
When clocks struck twelve in 1736, the longer minute hand passed directly over the short hour hand at the apex of the clock face. In so doing, the minute hand obscures the hour hand, which it supersedes in the beholder’s field of vision. Noon is thus one of the times of the day when two hands—or perhaps the big world and the little world—merge seamlessly into one. The hour hand is then thrown into shadow for precisely one minute, before the minute hand separates from the hour and continues on its way around the dial.
This clockwork action mimics the foreground placement of the polite strollers in “Noon,” at the moment they cast an obscuring shadow over the worshippers emerging from a midday service in the background. Significant contradictions remain, however, as life bends to conform to the outward demands of Hogarth’s plays on the clockwork mechanism and its analogy to Newton’s cosmos. Although in shadow, the pious Huguenots remain barely visible behind the self-absorbed strollers. Moreover, if this event actually occurred at the precise second the church clock tolled twelve, then both the theatrical strollers and covert Huguenots would merge to form a kind of horological total eclipse, thereby obscuring the Huguenots completely from view. But Hogarth indicates by the clock on the church steeple that the time of the scene as we see it in his art is actually 12:10, not noon, as the title suggests. Therefore, the strollers and the Huguenots stand on their respective parts of Hogarth’s terrestrial clock at 12:10. New curiosities appear and questions arise: Does the lowest point of the strange sign hanging high above the strollers signify an advertisement of some sort, or (given the painting’s temporal theme) a sundial’s gnomon, a pendulum, or a clock hand, or perhaps an amalgam of all three? Whatever else it signifies, it directs notice down to a specific quadrilateral space pointed out by the man’s right hand and contained by the left feet of all three strollers, as well a piece of unidentifiable debris at which the boy gestures with his walking stick. Are these the four main compass points commonly engraved on a sundial, an astrological analogy for The Four Times of the Day?
Consider that Hogarth has constructed a terrestrial clock with human “movements.” This clock is animated by light and obscured by darkness, like all sundials. A converging mass of humanity inverts and conflates the mechanistic certainty of the great clock high on the steeple of Savoy Chapel, which is literally cast into the uncertainty of shadow on the ground. These differences suggest that Noon-time is lived on at least two different, yet interlocking, levels of experience, and that the action on the ground may be influenced by the invisible, mythological, inner demons of noonday.6 Action on the Savoy clock face parallels the dancelike positions of the strollers’ left toes. These form points of an equilateral triangle, bisected with precision by the lady’s stylish shoe at 12 o’clock. The toes of the man and boy point to 11 and one o’clock respectively. When read from directly in front of the polite group, at the point where the acute angle in the left foreground lines up with the high sign and the church clock, then the walking sticks form the “hands” of the terrestrial clock. They trace the movement of their shadows cast on the cobblestones of Hog Lane toward ten past the hour, even as the strollers walk along.
The well-dressed boy’s tiny “hour-hand” walking stick, which he points from a slight distance to the left (with his left hand) at a morsel of food (or dirt), lines up with his mother’s toe at 12 o’clock. His father complements this action by gesturing with his open right hand to “twelve,” while his left thumb and forefinger rise above the top of his long “minute-hand” walking stick. These actions are mirrored by the boy’s right hand and arm. There is precedent for this representation in the eighteenth century. It is in fact, much like the stiff action of the automaton (fig. 14.2), an automatic machine that by Hogarth’s time was a commonly used metaphor in political discourse for the tension between Continental authoritarianism (the automaton) and British “natural” anti-mechanistic, self-regulated liberty. Hogarth writes frequently about “clock-work machines” in The Analysis of Beauty (1753). He was fascinated by one “brought from France some years ago . . . with a duck’s head and legs fixed to it, ... : which was so contrived as to have some resemblance of that animal standing on one foot, and stretching back its leg, turning its head, opening and shutting its bill, moving its wings and shaking its tail; all of them the plainest and easiest directions in living movements.” Yet Hogarth ultimately disparages “this silly, but much extolled machine [which] being uncover’d, appeared a most complicated, confused and disagreeable object.” Much like the unnaturally polite threesome in Noon, the clockwork machine instructs human beings (and the artist who paints them) that “the more variety we pretend to give our trifling movements, the more confused and unornamental the forms become; nay chance but seldom helps them.—How much the reverse are nature’s! the greater the variety her movements have, the more beautiful are the parts that cause them.”7 An automaton was a sophisticated toylike machine, wound up with a key and operated by a clockwork mechanism. The figures were programmed for amusing, stereotyped gestures; imitating life, yet inspiring the pejorative use of the word “automaton” if applied to people interacting with others. With that in mind, the father’s walking stick is slightly elevated and in automatic motion around the “dial” to his left, toward 2 o’clock (and 12:10). Thus his gold-tipped “minute hand” lines up like a surveyor’s arrow with gold-tipped spire of Savoy Chapel clock tower.
FIGURE 14.2. Automaton in the form of a nef, with a side removed to reveal its hidden clockwork mechanism, attributed to Hans Schlottheim. Augsbourg, ca. 1580. © Copyright The British Museum. The eight courtiers marching on deck have been restored after the example of two similar nefs, also by Schlottheim. The royal and ecclesiastical figures on the upper deck (to the left) are original. Schlottheim is also known to have automated tiny marsh creatures similar to the ones found on Palissy’s rustic dishes.
Meanwhile, back in the shadows, a tiny walking stick belonging to a diminutive Huguenot child, who gestures minimally with his body and occupies ground space so close to the street that he is nearly indistinguishable from the earth, crosses this path to form an X. He is, in effect, congruent to the polite boy’s mirror image. Like his polished counterpart, the homespun Huguenot lad holds his stick to the ground at about twelve o’clock, yet has none of the disdain for the flotsam down below manifested by the other. It is hard to be certain where time stands now for him, since this pious child is the inversion of his polite counterpart, and he is obscured by his opposite’s shadow as he walks away with his back to the spectator. However, if the spectator continues to follow sundial logic as the basis for Hogarth’s terrestrial clock, then the gutter bisecting Hog Lane is a surrogate for the shadow cast by the invisible gnomon at 12:10. This is confirmed as the shadow passes under the stylish man’s minute-hand walking stick, with the murky debris to the left of the gentleman’s left foot marking the direction of the shadow’s course as time progressed.
From the inverted perspective, the departing Huguenots stand on the shadow line (the brown ocher gutter) marking 12:10, while the polite threesome stand, facing south, gesturing in the vicinity of the sun and the origin of noon’s shadow. Ironically, what seems at first to be the shallow, house-of-mirrors depth of the everyday temporal process depicted here transforms a ribald street scene into discourse on the interaction of cosmology, history, and time. Mirrors may be shallow, but they also connect everything reflected in them. Thus, Hog Lane’s fashionable “sun” figures move forward toward the spectator observing present time as, simultaneously, most of the refugees move back, into the past. Or are they moving in the opposite direction, into the future? This depends on the viewer’s perspective on the status of light and shadow. Meanwhile, the sun reaches its peak at noon and begins its descent in the midday sky, while the architectural arch above the foreground actors’ heads is thrown into half-shadow to mark the moment.
Hogarth presents more clues in the foreground light, perhaps to entice the spectator to look closer for the meaning of what is happening there. Large orbs of sun-bright orange makeup circle the polite lady’s cheeks, with five orange buttons crowning her bonnet. These mischievous references to the transitory nature of style and appearance by analogy to the five standard sundial stages (south/southwest/west/northwest/north), that mark the sun’s transit from sunrise until noon in conjunction with the earth’s rotation. Just so, the coquettish tilt of her head shows the sun rising on the southwestern side of her face to the foreground (about 6 A.M. on the dial), making its daily transit across her bonnet, and beginning its descent into background shadow to the northeast on the sunset side of her face.
As Huguenot “earth” figures in the background begin to rotate north, receding away from the sunlight into shadow, they turn back into their future, toward darkness at the end of day and the rising of the moon. The rotation is prefigured by the transition from the architectural arch on the Eglise des Grecs (already in half-shadow) to the dark oval window (cloaked fully in shadow) placed directly over the church door as the earth figures exit. Hence, there are at least “four times of the day” occurring simultaneously in Noon: past, present, future, and cosmological time. The interaction of microcosm and macrocosm is linked in the motions of the human body, which are influenced, as in Winthrop’s chair and Howes’s pictograph, by the motion of the earth and moon. All rotate—or “dial”—around the Copernican sun. These temporal dimensions are linked oppositionally and interact like mirror images. Like the Hebrews living in millennial time in Jeremiah 7:24, most of the action in Noon goes “backward and not forward.”
Like the automaton, such temporal motions were often predetermined by popular misreadings of Newtonian physics as revealing a clockwork universe, although, in fact, Newton and his followers vigorously denied any such belief. Newton never used the clock metaphor, and his dynamic cosmology based on God’s continuous maintenance of the universe seems much closer to Paracelsus than Descartes.8 At first glance, the motions in Noon appear to be locked into structures already defined by mechanistic philosophy, rather than the sort of inner-directed spiritualist animate materialism we have associated with the Paracelsians. However, the actions and intentions of the figures presented in Noon are far too fluid or obscure to define. They shift ambiguously over time. Depending on position bodies may be hidden or distorted by a surfeit of light or shadow. A cryptic Hogarth plays off the relationships between the variety of visual perception and monolithic readings of Newtonian natural-philosophical concepts in a time-travel game. This starts with the painting’s title, which is Noon, after all, not 12:10. Hogarth’s time game thus revolves around perceptions of history, since the central action has already happened in the past.
Witness the outcome of a catastrophic transaction on the other side of Hog Lane, resulting in a broken earthenware pie dish and a hurt and crying child. In both the foreground and background, the polite threesome and the worshipful Huguenots are in the process of leaving the central pictorial space. Since the passage of time is linked to the movements of the actors, whatever happened on Hog Lane ten minutes earlier is no longer fully visible in Noon. Yet time’s internal logic in the unmechanized shadow world of Hogarth’s art allows as much for unforeseen accident as clockwork fate.
In other words, rewinding the hands of the steeple clock—or running an automaton in reverse—will not suffice to reverse human experience, and hence the full history of events that led to the broken plate. The pieces of pottery in Hogarth’s painting cannot be put back together again retrospectively; neither can spectators reconstitute the hidden history of Noon as in a time machine. No mechanism can rewind the past in form and substance. The whole story cannot be retold without knowledge of what occurred in the shadows. This is complicated further by the culture of Hog Lane itself. What is hidden is out of style and so beyond consumption. But the seduction of the labyrinth keeps Hogarth’s audience in the game. Spectators become historians complicitous in the production of a complex pictorial text in urban pluralism, which guarantees the pleasure of many possible readings and outcomes, and exits from the labyrinth. Indeed, the introductory paragraphs of chapter 5 (“Of Intricacy”) of The Analysis of Beauty leave no doubt whatever of the intentional complexity of Hogarth’s project:
The active mind is ever bent to be employed. Pursuing is the business of our lives; and even abstracted from any other view, gives pleasure. Every arising difficulty, that for a while attends and interrupts the pursuit, gives a sort of spring to the mind, enhances the pleasure, and makes what would else be toil and labour, become sport and recreation.
.... It is a pleasing labour of the mind to solve the most difficult problems; allegories and riddles, trifling as they are, afford the mind amusement: and with what delight does it follow the well-connected thread of a play, or novel, which ever increases as the plot thickens, and ends most pleas’d, when that is most distinctly unravell’d?
The eye hath this sort of enjoyment in winding walks, and serpentine rivers, and all sorts of objects . . . composed principally of what I call the waving and serpentine lines.
Intricacy in form, therefore, I shall define to be that peculiarity in the lines, which compose it, that leads the eye on a wanton kind of chase, and form the pleasure that gives the mind, intitles it to the name of beautiful.”9
Given the clockwork pace at which the motion occurs, one may presume that as the clock struck twelve, the Huguenots were just emerging from the church door to descend into the shadows. At the same time, the fashionable threesome—the sun figures—approach the church door from the direction of Savoy Chapel, coming face to face with the exiting congregants. At that moment, the Huguenots eclipse the threesome and are briefly exposed to sunlight just as their counterparts are cloaked in shadow. Having been conjoined at noon, the solar threesome walk through into the foreground to their appointed position just exiting center stage, and the earthly Huguenots, returning to their natural habitat, continue to descend “in winding walks” into the shadows in the background at right. For a brief instant, the congregants of the Eglise des Grecs are revealed converging with polite culture, as the artisans of politeness. To perceive such an easily overlooked incident suggests that to understand the relation between production, consumption, and time on Hog Lane, the spectator must look in detail at the whole surface of reality in flux at the margins of peripheral vision. To “teach us to see with our own eyes” as Hogarth commands (his emphasis),10 it is necessary to take inventory of the interaction of public and private bodies moving in a continuum from atomized detachment to brief moments of convergence.
To make sense of Hogarth’s narrative, we have to begin again in “real time,” where nothing is as innocent as may appear at first glance and periphery is center. Pious congregants descend in procession from a church door, rotate their faces away from spectators in the light, and converge silently into the darkness like ghosts behind the façade of Hog Lane. Blurring in and out of focus, they retreat surreptitiously back into the streets of Soho, a French stronghold after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Underneath the half-seen arch, two elderly Calvinist women—one of whom clutches a sacred text (perhaps a book of psalms) under her right arm—separate from the majority of their co-religionists, and embrace in a covenant of spiritual friendship. Their embrace signifies the presence of a mobile community of the faithful joined together by the Word animated by the Holy Spirit.
But even this scene shields secrets and will not yield to the comfort of a transparent piety. Is there a face hidden ominously beneath the black tricorn hat with gold frills that floats directly behind and just slightly above the ancient women, leaving virtually zero degree of separation? This spectral figure reveals not a face but the presence of something absent. Who is this mysterious third party? Does the memory of Huguenot dead stand guard over the heart of the community’s oldest survivors, the knot of violence and the sacred that bound kinship ties together with the history of refugee culture? Is this an allegory of the mystical cope of heaven that conjoins macrocosm and microcosm through the living Word, and that was also materialized in the canopy of portable pulpits Huguenots used for their clandestine assemblies of the désert? Multiple readings are available for this apparition, so sometimes a hat is not just a hat. In this sacred context, this hovering presence reveals the existence of the invisible Holy Spirit in everyday life, or simply the ineffable, mystical quality of the sacred mysteries, which cannot be controlled by any mechanism: Trinitarianism, as it were, in a three-cornered hat. The hat seems almost to fit the “head” of the two embracing women at once. To pursue Hogarth’s cosmic themes of doubling and inversion, are the two heads are joined permanently at the mouth, connecting the breath of spirit with the bodily organ of the Word contained in the book?
Unlike the elderly women, most of the congregation shun pious display. Reversing direction, it turns away from the polished sun figures. Like a monolithic sun, oblivious to the human drama that transpires all around it, Hogarth’s fashionable threesome proceed just past the church door and stroll blithely past the two pious women as well. This group comprises a discrete social unit. The adult couple affects polite conversation. They present themselves and their possessions narcissistically, with their public gestures of exorbitant and self-conscious theatricality. But where is their audience beyond themselves? Surely not their preoccupied offspring, who uses his walking stick to delicately prod a scrap discarded in the street. Neither are the subaltern characters on the other side of Hog Lane interested in the conspicuous display of fashion; they are absorbed with their own carnal desires for sex and gluttony. The only actors fully concerned with this bit of theater are the couple themselves, Hogarth’s audience of consumers, and that lone figure who stares back at his audience knowingly from the narrow space still available between the polite couple.
The painter stops time to expose the civic benefits of Lord Shaftesbury’s philosophy of virtuous interaction. The idealized social and material discourse of politeness is embodied here by this solipsistic couple and young child—a family that labors not to produce but to consume sufficient goods and knowledge to abide by the rules of the distinctive social system advertised by their clothing and gestures. Hogarth and those who viewed his work knew very well that the costumes, cosmetic masks, and other ostentatious courtly French bodily adornments fashionable in England were designed and produced by ascetic Huguenot artisans who retreated behind a cloak of invisibility when their clients theatrically displayed themselves. Thus private and public life are inseparable realities, even if only the public domain at center is perceived by most spectators.
This dialectical framework also directs our attention to the soiled condition of the polite man’s left coat sleeve (which hovers directly over the gutter), and hence another hidden reality: no matter how lightly they may seem to tread—or how self-consciously they distance themselves from the “low culture” of production—the all-consuming sun figures cannot rise completely above the flotsam of dirt and refuse that spatters up from the street. This, after all, is a story of production as well as consumption. We perceive the remnants of an obscure transaction between the Huguenots and their clients, which took place when their paths crossed ten minutes earlier. Here is raw evidence that like the human body, polished goods derive from gross earthy matter. “Our necessities have taught us to mould matter into various shapes,” Hogarth reminds us, “and to give them fit proportions for particular uses.” Thus, the fashionable hands of time must pass through the muck of the terrestrial world.
Playing off his story of mass production, social quotation, and the superficiality of style, another peculiar sign hovers over the hidden boutique fronting the narrow background space that opens in the direction of the departing refugees. The headless sign reminds spectators of the faceless hat in the foreground. They can draw a connecting line between the hat and the sign. Here is a Hogarthian pun on seduction by self-deception: the refined sun group defines its social self-identity through imported clothing and gestures. This is reproduced and multiplied in the sign: the polite woman’s mirror image in the “French style.” So, like the tyrannical court style of the sun king’s absolutism, style functions here to negate individual “faces” and difference within the group, while setting up boundaries of social distance and “distinction” outside.11 Thus, the boutique advertises the dress of a headless female. This image is an inversion of the spirituality of the Huguenots’ headless hat. It is animated during its brief existence as fashion solely by the transitory nature of style itself; by its life as a transaction and a conduit of a theatrical gesture at the moment of consumption and display. After these ephemeral moments in the sun vanish, fashion disappears from the scene as human waste, indistinguishable from a joint of rotten meat, the carnal body dumped from the window above the dispirited boutique sign down into the gutter below. At the same time, one cannot overlook the probability that this shop sign directs consumers to a boutique that belongs to a congregant. Did the stylish threesome purchase their clothing at the boutique? The discarded meat draws attention from the stylish foreground back across the gutter that bisects Hog Lane. The gutter is an open sewer streaming waste, marking the “fluid” boundary between being and appearance. Here again Hogarth inverts the fashionable threesome into the figures of the racially mixed couple and child. On a sign above their heads for Hog Lane’s public house that reads “Good Eating” (a grotesque pun for the platter of meat), we find advertised a disembodied head on a platter. This was standard iconography for the beheaded St. John the Baptist. It shows him after he lost his “head” to Salome’s sexual frustration, a stoic who refused to be seduced by carnal desire. Here his emblem is a bawdy double entendre to the action taking place directly below at street level. “Good Eating” thus completes a triangle of floating bodily signifiers and unifies three fragmented figures. The disembodied hat of the invisible spirit, which transcends all the categories of sublunar temporality on display here (including being and appearance, night and day, sun and moon, darkness and shadow, high and low), reconnects the disembodied head of the spirit that resisted porcine consumption (St. John) with the headless body of soulless fashion (the headless woman).
Under the sign of the beheaded saint, the stylish threesome emerges as distinctively unpolished, in formal opposition to their polite counterparts across the gutter. Here the process of “Good Eating” is revealed as a crapulous riot of sexual transgression and rampant (re-)production in the service of premature, displaced or wasted consumption. This is harnessed to an orgy of carnal desire that conflates such disorders of bodily discipline as gluttony and unrestrained sexual appetite. The flushed and aroused shop girl presents consumers with her anatomically suggestive meat pie, which she casually offers for sale. The pie drips condensed streams of hot juicy liquid from a tufted hole at center, as if an ornament on a bizarre sexual fountain. She has been caught by surprise in a salacious, behind-the-back embrace by an opportunistic “African.” The construction of this figure’s furtive yet aggressive persona on the painting’s margins plays on local stereotypes inspired by the common sight of black craftsmen or seamen passing through London’s artisans’ ghettos during the eighteenth century.
Large numbers of both freed and enslaved “black jacks” could possess a relatively high degree of personal autonomy (compared with plantation slaves) while serving on transatlantic ships that carried raw materials such as sugar, tobacco, and wheat from the American colonies to the metropolis.12 Superficially, Hogarth presents most casual observers with a lewd image of the libidinous African. This was a variant of the ubiquitous and corrosive eighteenth-century racial trope of impure desire. It is also an archetype of the shadowy Anglo-American fetish for the seductions of darkness, famously elaborated by Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia. This text summarizes Jefferson’s natural philosophy, drawn from Aristotelian sources and clearly refracted through the lens of the Chesapeake slaveholding elite. Included is a “scientific” essay on early Virginia’s race relations. Jefferson reasoned against racial mixing and that enslaved Africans, contrary to the natural symmetry of the white race, were burdened with an unequal balance of rational and emotional impulses. Africans’ surfeit of undisciplined emotion and raw sexual energy necessitated restraint and domestication through the rational assertion of white mastery (that is, slavery). For Jefferson, the natural racial equilibrium was achieved in Virginia, thus linking both races.13
It was natural for a depiction of miscegenation to show the African in charge in the one arena in which he was accorded dominance in British-American culture, that of transgressive desire. He gropes roughly around the servant’s back (under her left arm and over her right shoulder), to encircle her body and possess her orblike breasts. Meanwhile the girl turns her head lustfully, to receive his kiss. The tip of her right breast is squeezed between his black thumb and forefinger and her nipple is exposed. Given its proximity, this suggests the servant’s breast was a natural font for her meat pie’s milky stream of waste. However, the African’s disordered and profane movements to possess the shop girl are the cause of a chaotic chain reaction with unforeseen consequences.
In addition to spilling the fountain of liquid, the surprised servant knocks her dripping pie onto the head of her frizzy-haired child (the hair perhaps a sign of African paternity) hard enough to cause the boy to cry, grab his head, and drop an identical earthenware pie plate he is carrying down below at street level. This “lesser” plate appears linked on a parallel plane to the one above. The plate below smashes in two, causing its unrecognizable contents to go crashing down to the cobblestones. This has occurred ten minutes earlier—prematurely, at noon—because the boy has by now retrieved the plate’s broken half from the street. Even wasted material finds its proper consumer at the lowest level of existence. Close to the open sewer, a spectral street urchin sneaks in and scavenges hungrily for soiled scraps in the rubble, like a pig on Hog Lane.
To complete the first level of Hogarth’s metaphysical dialogue between the alchemy of politeness and its dark, chaotic underside, the prima materia of base materialism: the transgressive desire that triggers the impulse of wasteful consumption is refined and redirected from the physical absorption of “Good Eating.” Here it appears first as bodily waste in the gutter; then, transmuted into highly valued commodities, it takes the commercial form of polished materials displayed by the polite group across the street. Still, every material contains remnants of its history and the potential (as on the coat’s unclean sleeve) to degrade and revert to human waste. On the other side of the street, the African’s openly crude gesture of encompassing sexual consumption is mirrored and distilled in his polite counterpart to a delicate touch of thumb to forefinger.
Finally, out of the corner of his eye, the beholder returns to the pious Huguenot women joined in holy embrace. The pious embrace of heaven and earth gives birth to a sacred book that meditates on the meaning of spiritual life, and it is still within reach. But the Word speaks the Huguenot’s shadow language of interiority; thus it is out of fashion (the book receives in passing the back of the lady’s gloved right hand). This lady of fashion’s hyperaesthetic politeness is elaborately rhetorical. Her comportment resists the “plain style” fundamental to the Reformation’s moral passion, fervently possessed by the Continental reformers who elucidated the personal experience of inner grace by both verbal and material subtraction, another refining process. At the same time, using his right hand, the stylish male in white powder completes the polite analogy to the subversive sexuality of his black alter ego, with a delicate, openhanded gesture toward the result of this amorous “touch”: a fully formed, miniature reproduction of himself (and his self-love). The child of this shallow union is a kind of homunculus; that is, a play on Paracelsus’s artificial, self-contained “little man.” A composite male and female, made in his father’s image to scavenge at his feet. Idiosyncratic gestures reinvent in alchemic terms the conventional iconography of misalliance and bastardy, signaled by the smashed vessel, still partly possessed by the despondent child crying loudly over his misfortune on the other side of Hog Lane. Thus, three diminutive figures form the basis of another triangle composed of mirror images, at street level, with the Huguenot child leading the way to form the hidden apex/head. This deepens the viewers perspective into the shadows of the workshops of Soho. It rotates back into memory, simultaneously moving forward into the millennial future, along the path taken by the Huguenots in retreat from the disorder of consumption they quietly created on Hog Lane.
The presence of alchemical signs extends Hogarth’s invitation to further natural-philosophical inquiry beyond the mechanistic reading of time. Perceptive spectators may now move to deeper levels of meaning hidden in a metaphysical reading of materialism on Hog Lane. This is further reinforced by oblique references to the mystical quest for universal knowledge, diffused by a number of well-known alchemical texts published in response to the religious violence suffered by Huguenots in La Rochelle, as well as by other refugee groups in the Netherlands and the German Palatinate during the last stages of the Thirty Years’ War.
Hogarth harnessed alchemical themes to specific images from a series of engraved books by the influential second-generation English Paracelsian and hero to Howes and Winthrop: the Oxford physician, natural philosopher, and cosmographer, Robert Fludd. These huge folio editions were engraved by the foremost refugee printer, Johann Theodore de Bry, and published ca. 1617–29, in Frankfurt and Oppenheim. Fludd and the first-generation Paracelsian John Dee (1527–1608) were the two widely read English mystics of the early modern period. Winthrop’s alchemical library has shown that both bibliophiles and print collectors pursued the magnificent volumes resulting from the Fludd-de Bry collaboration. Prized for the quality of de Bry’s cosmological engravings after Fludd’s drawings, these images were elucidated in the occult text. Fludd-de Bry collaborations were thus considered the crowning glory of all English natural-philosophical libraries throughout the early modern Atlantic world. John Winthrop Jr.’s library still contains eleven titles by Fludd alone. Hog Lane layers Hogarth’s perception of profound linkages between memories of the Soho Huguenots’ hidden modes of production, the gaudy spectacle of theatrical consumption, and the natural-philosophical imagery and texts of Robert Fludd.14
Hogarth’s cryptic pictorial references to the Fludd volumes found a knowledgeable audience of learned English book and print collectors in 1736. Old print culture was yet another category of consumable with an expanding market from commercialization and the consumer revolution. Consumers with the finances and libraries to acquire the Fluddian texts may be represented by individuals from both groups of characters on the left side of Hog Lane. There was a keen interest in the occultism of philosophers such as Dee and Fludd. Their cosmologies were both fashionable and intellectually respectable in Hogarth’s time, in large part because of the growth of Freemasonry and the fascination of London’s large community of scientists and literati with the millennial performances staged during the early eighteenth century by the French Prophets. Unlike the stoical Calvinists on Hog Lane, these Huguenots expressed their religious enthusiasm in theatrical ways (at least until the 1740s), and were attracted to open performances of their interpretation of Paracelsian apocalyptics to wrest meaning out of violent experience in southeastern France. These Camisard “Seekers, Citizens, [and] Scientists” were deeply engaged in alchemic experimentation toward a universal theory of animate materialism based on laws of motion in matter. The personal and prophetic theory of motion developed by these scientists differed sharply from mechanical philosophy. Clearly building on the work of both Paracelsus and Palissy, the French Prophets experimented with salt (Sal volatile oleosum). It was, they argued by the 1740s, the hidden, germinative element in nature and man, linking the motions of microcosm and macrocosm.15
Hogarth’s audience of erudits and collectors had at hand the research materials necessary to identify the source of Noon’s alchemic code, which represented earth’s status as one of the four primordial elements, providing a key to deciphering the painting’s semiotics of Huguenot artisanal experience. I would argue that Hogarth in fact intended Earth as a hermetic title and a sort of subtextual surrogate for Noon. While it is not my task here to analyze all The Four Times of the Day to assess how the logic of this assertion might extend to the others as well, one might speculate that the set may have functioned as an alchemical allegory of the four elements. By harnessing the cycle of time as it completes its passage from beginning to end, together with the four elements of nature essential to mankind’s material life (and in particular to geochronology), Hogarth links the natural philosophy of “Noon” to the millennial discourse of an aging earth. Many artisans also encountered this influential millennial worldview at the same time that it was reactivated by Europe’s reformed sectarian groups—in particular, the Anabaptists—during the era of religious warfare.16 Palissy showed the discourse of the aging earth was resonant with the early modern natural philosophers and was fundamental to Paracelsian medical practice and alchemy. By extension, Joachim’s chiliastic framework for knowledge of the past, present, and future ages of earthy materials, powerfully informed the materio-holiness synthesis forged by the potter and his Huguenot artisanal community in Aunis-Saintonge during the civil war years. Remnants of this community ultimately relocated to the Eglise des Grecs and New York City in the 1680s.
Fludd’s mystical presence in Noon dwells in a third, “high sign,” the unusually shaped escutcheon that appears in the upper left foreground hovering near the cornice of the Eglise des Grecs. With its back to the audience, yet fronting the Huguenot ghetto, it floats at the painting’s highest margin. A backward sign occupies virtually the same supermundane plane of material existence as the church steeple in the deep background, and so it emits an aura of spiritual lightness and transparency that would be singular on Hog Lane were it not for its resonance with the hat that also levitates below without visible means of support. The floating signifier, at once Hogarth’s most enigmatic artifact of Fluddian philosophy and his most mysterious, is distinguished by sheer physical ambiguity: what manner of sign is this? Since only an armature in the back is barely visible, making none of the usual product advertisements or even a simple place-name available, what message was it meant to convey to Hogarth’s audience? Is it really untethered, floating up in the air like a sort of kite; alternatively, does it hang down by a rope, like the one carried by the ascending Christlike figure, upheld by angels, illustrating “second sight” in figure 8.21, from some unseen place on the cornice gutter; yet more linguistic doubling, this time of the gutter that collects raw sewage down on Hog Lane? That gutter is now elevated to its mirror image, its function to collect and redirect transparent rainwater as it flowed down off the roof of the Eglise des Grecs, just before it descended into its impure state, mixing with dirt and waste down in the filthy street.
Unlike the two conventional signs of conventional construction across the lane, there are no wooden brackets visible or other means of attachment beyond the enigmatic floating rope or chain with tasseled end. Where then, and how, is this strange object physically mounted to the building? How is it connected to the tripartite dynamics of the scenes below? What does it mean that nearly transparent materials are used in its craftsmanship? Are they meant to convey—like the Huguenot congregation—a sense of ethereal refinement and attenuation, one that keeps its distance from the lower world of Hog Lane, at the same time the sign seems attached to the terrestrial sphere? The tension between material translucency and earthy mixing punctuates the sign’s high status in the continuum of man-made earthy materials, from unformed dross in one gutter to refined luminosity in the other. The sign floats like a plumb line above the church, pointing down at the enclave of false transparency. Here, at least, we locate a standard reference to Shaftesbury’s admonition against the disjunction of being and appearance; the synchronic depth of near transparency illuminates the transience of mere polish.
Since the audience sees only the back of the sign, the front—presumably containing the message that would end speculation—is hidden to those who occupy Hog Lane’s foreground, and to Hogarth’s spectators above all. Should we assume that secret knowledge of the special materials used in its manufacture is available to the pious Huguenot artisans alone? They have the sign side in plain sight. Situated in a natural place for a church sign, it may also serve as a sign of the palindrome (another sign of reversals). Or it could signify the Huguenot artisans’ social simultaneity; their shifty, protean quality of both being in back (as hidden producers) and appearing in front (as finished products displayed by clients). As such, the sign may have many names—backward sign, high sign, church sign, Huguenot sign—in the shifting context of Hog Lane. The sign’s elegant formal structure, its linear trajectories that send two opposing cyma-recta curves in parallel motion to connect at the bottom, has a finely wrought seam at the intersection that also bisects the uppermost acute angle. This construction joins the apex of a slightly concave compass, dividing the whole in two halves. Its formal structure thus reinforces the light sensation of simultaneity in perpetual motion. This was the line of beauty.
Contextualizing the aesthetics of natural philosophy and the formal logic of perpetual motion was precisely what Hogarth had in mind when he called the cyma-recta or S-curve the “line of beauty.” On the title page of The Analysis of Beauty, the subtitle of which is Written with a View of Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas of Taste (1753), Hogarth’s critique of the “fluctuation” of modern tastes in fashion, are variations of his serpentine line. He chose to focus on and illustrate a form widely understood among connoisseurs of French taste as an object of Huguenot artisanal manufacture: a curved chair leg (fig. 14.3, boxes 49, 50).17 Hogarth was aware that knowledge of the curved leg in London was traceable at least to 1702, when the Huguenot architect and designer Daniel Marot (1661–1752) published his first collection of designs, containing 236 leaves of engraved plates.18
Marot entered William III’s service in London as a refugee of 1685. Yet the Oxford English Dictionary shows that the word cabriole was first used in English as early as the sixteenth century, although not specifically in reference to an article of furniture. Rather, it signified the spirited caper of a leaping goat or horse. Thomas Fitch, a Boston upholsterer of leather chairs, called such a leg a “horse bone” or “Crookt Foot” in his account book, a lexical pattern that soon became common in appraisals of chairs with these legs. Such legs were identified as ubiquitous on artifacts of politeness in probate inventories taken in affluent colonial households.19 Why serpentine chair components were idealized in British-American transatlantic culture, and hence considered analogous to a part of natural bodies essential to the “caper” of politeness, is also essential to the natural philosophy of Noon.20’
Hogarth was unambiguous on this point. If a “grand secret of the ancients, or great key of knowledge” existed, he had found it in the serpentine line which connected “an infinite variety of parts.” Like Palissy, Hogarth looked to Nature for the source of this foundational line, and, like Palissy, he found it in the inner and outer bodies of the shell, where his eye went, “in the pursuit of these serpentine-lines, as in their twistings their concavities and convexities are alternately offer’d to its view”:
[L]et every object ... be imagined ... to have nothing of it left but a thin shell, exactly corresponding both in its inner and outer surface, to the shape of the object itself . . . whether the eye is supposed to observe them from without, or within; ... we shall find the ideas of the two surfaces of this shell will naturally coincide. The very word, shell, makes us seem to see both surfaces alike.
FIGURE 14.3. William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (London, 1753), pl. 1. Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Compare sections 49 and 50 to see the “line of beauty” materialized as a chair leg. Sections 38 and 39 refer to patterns for turned legs on other sorts of furniture, such as the high chest of drawers in figure 16.17. Numbers 17 and 18 recall earlier images of crying and posing children on Hog Lane.
... the [more often] we think of objects in this shell-like manner, we shall facilitate ... a more perfect knowledge of the whole . . . because the imagination will naturally enter into this vacant space within this shell . . . and make us masters of the meaning of every view of the object.21
With the important exception of the outsized earthenware pitcher cloaked in shadow on a pedestal in the deep background, no other “moveable” figure down on street level in “Noon” shows the line of beauty seen on the Huguenot sign. Indeed, Hogarth’s polite threesome can only manage to convey a sort of angular—even geometrical—stiffness. Rather than repeating the requisite series of mobile serpentine lines like the ones floating effortlessly above their heads, at first glance the sun figures present instead an image of arrested action. Here, light and spirit are forced through a maze of straight lines that bend into triangles and converge at the head, arms, legs, and feet. Here, too, Hogarth’s agenda is inferred from The Analysis of Beauty. Elucidating the aesthetic relation between philosophical language and animate form, Hogarth reinvented seventeenth-century artisanal and scientific images, “with a view of fixing the fluctuating ideas of taste.”
FIGURE 14.4. William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, title page. Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. In both the subtitle and his epigram from Milton, as well as in the famous image of VARIETY, Hogarth plays with “views” of fixing ever-changing relations between form, perception, and meaning in material life.
In a second engraving of the line of beauty published on the title page (fig. 14.4), Hogarth contains the fluctuating line of taste in solid geometric form. This thought experiment in the aesthetics of matter in motion (or put another way, motion hidden inside of matter) focuses the line vertically and in two directions at once. Here an animate spirit undulates between macrocosm and microcosm in perpetuity inside a transparent crystal pyramid; that is, inside of four transparent triangles connected with a common point at the apex, which Hogarth explains suggests the alchemical symbols connoting fire and air. Just as Hogarth appropriated the line of beauty for the chairs in figure 14.3 (boxes 49, 50) from Marot’s designs for William III’s chairs, so, too, he gathered the conceptual framework for this system of triangles from a cryptogram on the title page of Fludd’s De technica microcosmi historia, or History of the Microcosmic Arts (Oppenheim, 1619), an elaboration on Renaissance drawing in deep perspective. Fludd identified this formal representation as his most influential natural-philosophical conception, the “science of pyramids” (pyramidum scientia) (fig. 10.6). Hogarth used it as a fragmentary source for the backward sign. When Fludd’s multiple volumes of cosmology were engraved and published by the refugee de Bry in Oppenheim and Frankfurt between 1617 and 1631, they were contextualized as major contributions to the Huguenot corpus that, as Frances Yates and Frank Lestringant show, emerged specifically from apocalyptic conditions created by the Thirty Years’ War. The Fluddian images from Microcosmi historia explored the metaphysics of movement in the context of flight from religious warfare. Both were necessary for the construction of the crystal pyramid in The Analysis of Beauty, and the system of materialism configured in the form of the backward sign of the Huguenot church in Noon.
As we have learned from the introduction to his chapter “Of Intricacy” in The Analysis of Beauty, Hogarth also followed an older tradition of representation in showing the linear movement of numerous bodies through geographical space. Serpentine lines had been used cross-culturally to document passage over distances by important court or religious processions ever since the Middle Ages, when the courtly progress was a common event. But it became a conventional artistic schema of dispersion in early modern times, when it underwent a process of elaboration. In 1661, a similar serpentine composition was elaborated in a Dutch engraving of La Rochelle that reimagines the largest outmigration of refugees from the city after 1628 as a frantic flight by diasporic Huguenots carrying the tools of their trades and material belongings with them (fig. 14.5).
FIGURE 14.5. Jan Luyken (1649–1712), Vervolging in Rochell (“Persecution in La Rochelle”), engraving, Amsterdam, ca. 1661. Courtesy Collections du Musée d’Orbigny-Bernon de La Rochelle. Photo, Neil Kamil. The legend reads: “Three hundred Reformed Huguenots flee from [trekken voor] the persecution in La Rochelle in the month of November 1661.” By the 1640s, Protestant demographics had begun a brief recovery from 1628, especially among artisans, who, demonstrating greater industry than their Catholic counterparts, began to reclaim trades after guilds were suspended by the articles of capitulation and trades became free (métiers libres). This occasioned a rise in Catholic anti-Protestant workers’ organizations and ultimately a massive purge of Protestants from La Rochelle in 1661 by the police courts, directed by the Catholic corporations, which said they were only targeting illegal residents. (On the 1661 purge, see Katherine Louise Milton Faust, “A Beleaguered Society: Protestant Families in La Rochelle, 1628–1685” [Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1980], 101–15.) In fact, Huguenots were banished—literally thrown out into the street, as Luyken dramatized—for minor offenses. Among the homeless is the orphan pointed out in the foreground, certain to be rebaptized a Catholic. Luyken’s composition follows the conventional serpentine pattern. A large number of these families made their way to New Amsterdam, where they were recorded in town records a few years before the English takeover.
The serpentine line was thus also a trope for migration of refugees during wartime. Hogarth’s education as a printmaker probably owed more specific debts to representations of the siege of La Rochelle. Hogarth’s fascination with the Jacques Callot’s seventeenth-century engravings of the “horrors of war” is well documented. One of his earliest commissions—John Beaver’s The Roman Military Punishments (London, 1725)—was modeled on Callot’s Misères de la guerre?22 Hogarth thus knew the many reproductions available in England of Callot’s enormous composite engraving of The Siege of La Rochelle (1628), a watershed in seventeenth-century French engraving. These overlapping contexts formed the natural-philosophical and aesthetic foundations for Hogarth’s “analytical” discourse on the serpentine line. The hidden, albeit “fluctuating,” history of Soho’s refugee Huguenot artisans was particularly well suited on many levels to function as Noon’s primary historical text.
Specific linear forms assume greater historical meaning here. Just as the cyma-recta merges into the angle atop the pyramid in The Analysis of Beauty, so the opposing S-curves at the top of the Huguenot sign merge together to form a compass. If one imagines a line that connects its bottom two points above the curves, it forms the top of a triangle as well. A small segment of the audience was prepared by knowledge of natural-philosophical principles to follow the motion of the opposing serpentine lines down through the arrowlike point at the bottom of the sign. If spectators knew it was plausible for that descending motion to continue downward through the physical and material mass of the enclave of politeness into the ground in exactly the same way—like an invisible effluvium that passes through purified earthy matter like a Palissian snake just as it passes through the lightness of air—then they also understood that motion must follow this path through a gauntlet of congruent triangles.
The first triangle points up. It is composed of the heads—or, rather, the vacant and triangular noses of three individual actors. The fashionable couple facing each other make up the base of an equilateral triangle. At its apex—in the place taken by the enigmatic hat to his right—is a shadowy male figure (who mingles among the congregants but does not appear to be one of them, for he is not dressed in black). The stranger has long black hair, the most prominent nose of all, and stands almost invisibly behind the couple. Is this the maker of the automaton’s mechanism or a puppeteer hidden behind his marionettes? Or, like the carved crest of an upholstered chair, is he the upholsterer between the customary pair of turned finials. Is this a cryptic representation of Hogarth himself as the earthly conduit for the animating spirit, standing behind the theatrical, two-dimensional world of pictorial creation?
The figure does not, however, resemble the known Hogarth self-portraits. Still, allusions to the spirit-animated hidden theater of behind-the-scenes manipulation fit Hogarth’s (and the artist’s) traditional role as animator of pigments, materials, or otherwise dumb characters. They would also seem to fit the role Hogarth and Englishcraft culture had assigned the shadowy Huguenot artisans in their traditional behind-the-scenes relation to elite clients. The stranger stands among the Huguenots in the shadows, so he may also share their identity as a marginalized outsider with hidden transformative powers, who stands behind as operator of a theater of powerful public actors. In another variation on the automaton, while Huguenot artisans supply the taste in fashionable goods that ornament the homes and bodies of elite consumers, the stranger helps set the scene, and seems to direct narrative and gesture to enable otherwise wooden figures to be set in motion. Secretive Huguenot artisans and designers were industrious in private life, but were they also virtuous? Where did the shadowy operators of Hog Lane acquire their authority?
To answer these questions about Noon, we must reconstruct the geometry of the polite family and the stranger to see how Hogarth, like Ezra Stiles, tracked metaphysical impulses as they circulated from macrocosm to microcosm. This would establish a specific nexus for time and motion in the formation of animate matter. While the illusion of volume gives depth to the outline of the equilateral triangle of heads and noses, this abbreviated form is merely the “head” atop a large pyramid composed of the lower bodies of the threesome. As these triangular human containers interact with one another in polite discourse, they simultaneously appear to labor to envelope the line of beauty just as Hogarth would later demonstrate in his schematic diagram on the title page of The Analysis of Beauty. If the outer edges of their fashionable attire mark the sides of the polite triangle in two dimensions, then the seams that form its inner edges, as well as the placement of feet and arms, push the triangle forward, forming the illusion of the outside front and back of a pyramid. Closed, and yet politely transparent, this interactive space, encompassed in the midst of the triumvirate of fashion, signifies the sanctum sanctorum of the crystal pyramid. Now, in Noon, it is prepared to receive the spiraling line of beauty from the sign above. Hogarth shows us that the line moves through space in the much same pattern as the necklace around the lady’s neck moves over her heart. Its movement is directed by the gentleman’s right hand, which functions like a pendulum, and is open to the precise center point of the pyramid, and that of the two wooden walking sticks, which are held upright, (again) like hidden boundaries, to contain the double helix on its path of descent to the ground, as well as on its return journey upward again through the pyramid with its system of triangles.
Hogarth’s voyeuristic stranger stares back, inscrutably, at his audience, over the shoulders of the two awkward marionettes, who are, of course, oblivious to his presence as he animates their bodies. As if by chance, the polite lady points her closed fan, which is also the side of a triangle, directly at the lurking interloper’s nose. Thus, Hogarth playfully directs the motion of the dual effluvial lines to pass like breath, or spiritus (or less “subtly,” like a sneeze?), through the stranger’s two nostrils, which point the way down, bisecting the “base” of the uppermost triangle. The base of this triangle of nasal passages is congruent to the base of an isosceles triangle directly beneath it. However, the central angle of this one is aimed downward, toward the ground. The serpentine lines must now pass “lightly” through the fingertips of the gentleman’s strangely shaped right hand, with bizarre fingers curved like the claw of a crab. The two central fingers are seamed together like the sign above to form one appendage. This echoes the earthbound movement of the lines, as the hand closely follows the shape of the rococo cartouche (see fig. 14.3, boxes 1–7) accompanying Hogarth’s chair legs in The Analysis of Beauty. That grotesquely curved double fingertip—in careful opposition to the perfect anatomy of the gentleman’s elegant left hand—forms the apex of another isosceles triangle pointing up, its base composed of the tip of the boy’s cane touching the cobblestones and the tip of his father’s daintily deployed left foot.
Finally, the Huguenot sign’s two cyma-recta lines pass down into the earth of Hog Lane, but not before bisecting the common base of two congruent equilateral triangles that lay flat on the ground. The bases of the two earthly triangles are formed by the two left feet of father and son, while their apexes are formed by the morsel of debris prodded by the boy, and the point of the lady’s left foot. The foreground triangle points in the direction of the audience, while the background triangle creates a sense of closure, by pointing back over the voyeur’s shoulder at the pious Huguenot congregation as it emerges from the Eglise des Grecs. The line of beauty mingles with the Huguenots as they snake their way back into Soho, directed by the hand of the couturier’s sign. That pathway leads to a congruent system of vertical triangles already linked with the Huguenot sign. These connect the pyramidal steeple of the church in the background with the Huguenots on the ground, in precisely the same way that the Huguenot sign is joined to the group of polite strollers displaying themselves on Hog Lane. The sacred aspect of the line of beauty, its traversing spiritual course, travels backward and forward on its serpentine path between the gold cross at the top of the church and the two conjoined women who are embracing in the foreground; an act of cosmic reciprocity. The line’s movement is delineated by the valley amid the peaks and cornice ridges of the triangular gabled roofs. It flows directly into the steeple and back again, down the corner of the building. Then it merges into the shadow of the Huguenot effluvium.
We are thus confronted with the two most significant elements in Noons structure of palindromes: the “hidden” spirit (or being) that animates the painting’s Huguenot artisanal community in relation to that of the audience. Depending on the spectator’s place in the continuum of production and consumption between being and appearance, do spectators form a community with the polite threesome in the foreground. Where does the beholder stand? As the stranger stares out from behind his marionettes at his audience, does he see inversion or duplication, wasted effort or opportunity? We have already seen how in Noon’s terrestrial clock, the lady’s foot marks twelve, and, by analogy, the morsel of waste pointing back at the audience is on precisely the same timeline. Does this mean that the beholder, on whom the stranger alone casts a judgmental eye, lives in the very same moment?
If the terrestrial clock of the aging “earth” conforms to the palindrome logic of Noon, the foreground triangle mirrors and inverts its opposite. Hogarth’s audience of consumers may thus have been witness to the prophesy of an unhappy millennial ending. From where the spectators stood on the imaginary chapter ring (at the point of the gnomon’s angle), their backs to the light shining on the painting, with faces cast in shadow as they beheld mirror images on the sundial, the aging earth’s reading of geological time was midnight and not midday. Even as the Huguenots disappear behind them into the background, the consumers must stand still, under the floating sign. Like a gnomon, the beholders are riveted by the transiting sun to the one position on the dial that provided both a reflection of solar light and a pyramidal shell in order to direct “fluctuating ideas of taste.” Politeness may be polished in the light, but it is a fragile vessel, one that merely contains and stiffens, gesturing conformity to angles that can only reflect and encompass light and motion. Politeness is thus represented as an a posteriori effect of the light, rather than its embodiment.
The Huguenots are superficially dark and recessive, but their amorphous spirituality is the embodiment of motion itself. Their movements forward and backward with serpentine fluidity inside of dark matter cause its transformation by imparting the essence of light and motion. Unlike their polite counterparts, the Huguenots are animate in the shadows, without exterior light (it is already hidden inside). They move physically beyond the brightness of Noon, away from Hog Lane and back into Soho, where for them the time is now 12:10. For some mechanistic philosophers, this meant matter would remain inanimate without the “vivid ray” of external light to provide the impetus for industriousness. Was Hogarth playing with the triangular, refractive structures of mechanistic optics (the mechanistic hypothesis of primary and secondary fields of vision) in his design of the polite family’s angular lines as they ascend to (and descend from) the source of astral light in the Huguenot sign? Hogarth’s subterranean Huguenots function on interior time during the metaphoric night. They operate without regulative power or optical illumination provided by the external light of the sun. Like the Germanic pietists who inspired their reinterpretation of rural Calvinism during the early years of the civil wars of religion, southwestern French Huguenots carried the light with them into the shadows.23
On Hog Lane, even symbols easily visible in the light of day masked false reciprocity and incomplete exchange. For example, at first glance the Huguenot sign could read as the bottom half of an hourglass split in two at middle by the top of the picture plane. It is directly in line of sight to the church steeple, where the clock reads 12:10. This is a reminder that noon is midday in the light (in the dark, its metaphorical inverse: millennial midnight). Yet the shape does not conform to the round glass baluster at the bottom of a figure eight; it devolves to a directive point instead, with its escutcheon shape. There is no funnel to a receptacle at top, and it is difficult to explain the significance of the cord in the context of an hourglass.
Yet cords are central to the image of a pair of scales titled The Weighing of the Worlds in Fludd’s De praeternaturali (Frankfurt, 1621).24 While the serpentine form and pointed bottom is absent here as well, it is an explicit emblem of the interaction of microcosm and macrocosm, and a narrative of elemental earth in particular. The Weighing of the Worlds pictures the hand of Iod (God) holding a pair of scales with the sun as balancing point (or fulcrum) at the center of the cosmos. The rising scale of the “empyrean heaven” consists of “light fire”; the descending scale (congruent to the Huguenot sign) signifies the “elemental realm” of “heavy earth.” The “wings” on the sign’s bottom half suggest the back of an earthbound dove descending in flight (its “beak” at the lowest point). This spirit figure of the soul’s downward motion through the air into the heart was commonly linked by a jeweler’s chain to the bottom of a Maltese cross (fig. 14.6), perhaps similar to the one worn around the maiden’s neck in figure 10.4, and in this instance, clearly a symbol of the Huguenots of the désert. This symbol of cultural continuity was worn outwardly as a sacred medal in the presence of coreligionists, or secreted under clothing, near the heart. Sometimes incorporated into public monuments, more often craftsmen blended it discreetly into objects such as furniture or other utilitarian things. This signaled the identity of an artifact of the diaspora in everyday life. This is closer to what we would expect to see high above the Eglise des Grecs, almost—but not quite—out of sight. Like the legend of the philosopher’s stone, it was obscured by the seductive theater of the street. Many messages were intended to make sense in passing; interchangeable at a general level of busy urban life, simulacra for a host of possible signs.
Consider again that the palindrome was the central metaphor of Hogarth’s system of signs. Itself a backward sign, it automatically conveys inside knowledge of an alternative perspective on refugee artisanal culture working “behind” the scenes. If the Huguenot sign in Noon is also a palindrome that reads the same backward and forward, then its duality is deeply problematic: the back we see is simultaneously the front we thought we did not. This fundamental misreading of front and back does not mean at all that the sign is functionally transparent. Like a mirror, it is reflective rather than transparent. Casual viewers are unaware the sign has no back—or two backs and two fronts—or that the private message available only to the Huguenots of Soho was apparently immediately available to everyone all along.
Thus Hogarth conjoins hidden and revealed aspects of refugee artisanal society at the margins of perception. The intentions of the Huguenots of Hog Lane remain unclear. They seem to blend the sacred and material worlds, hovering ambiguously on the periphery of their clients’, spectators’, and host culture’s vision. Hosts inadvertently support unclear and potentially subversive intentions by politely ignoring the inner realities of the shadowy strangers in their midst, limited as they are by a hierarchy of vision that is focused on distinctive objects and materials that shine in the light and satisfy their own private concerns. Hogarth not only asks viewers of his picture to expand their peripheral vision to accommodate its margins but expands his inquiry into the uncertainty of face-to-face interactions between immigrant and host cultures. He reframes the question in terms of the extent to which ethical ambiguities influence the relation between the production and consumption of earth materials.
FIGURE 14.6. Maltese cross with descending dove (the “Huguenot cross”). Monument to six Huguenot martyrs, Fort Réal, Île de Sainte-Marguerite, Bay of Cannes. Drawing by John Cotter. The monument reads, “In memory of the pastors . . . Exiled from France at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes who returned clandestinely to serve churches under the cross. Imprisoned for life at Vincennes and at Sainte Marguerite from 1689 to 1725, having chosen prison over abjuration.”
Hogarth thus posits the moral complicity of artisans in the social process of politeness that supports (and is supported by) commerce. He links the narrow visual field of consuming English elites possessed by novelty, theatricality, and self-advertising narcissism and their gluttonous subaltern counterparts on Hog Lane, who consume carnal materials in a disordered porcine manner under a sign that infers cannibalism. Such grotesque carnality is instructive precisely because it functions without the mediation of politeness. Ultimately, Hogarth confronts the paradoxes of Soho’s southwestern Huguenot artisans themselves: “hidden” at high “noon”; and yet represented by strangely blatant, in-your-face displays of spiritual practice performed with secrecy, denial, self-effacement, self-discipline, accommodation, and security. Appearing to consume nothing at noon, with the exception of the Word, these Huguenots seem to receive nourishment subtly, as it were, through the air. We have seen how these cultural traits were transformed by refugee artisans into habits of survival during the religious wars that drove them out of southwestern France and into the Atlantic world. In this context, Hogarth shows how they serve equally well in the quest for profit. But it is not enough to say that Noon is merely a visual rehearsal for the advent of classical Weberian pieties. By emphasizing the role played by the inner workings of soulishness, natural philosophy, alchemy, the transmutation of earth materials, and, above all, refugee Huguenot artisans, and adding to the mix the complicity of secrecy, politeness, and commerce in the immigrant communities of eighteenth-century London, Hogarth constructs a total artisanal history from the fragmentary elements of a subterranean culture with origins in sixteenth-century Aunis-Saintonge.
To review the thread of my argument thus far: Hogarth locates a natural-philosophical dialogue between macrocosm and microcosm and being and appearance at the intersection of at least three apparently different realities of human experience, all of which converge in front of the Huguenot Church on Hog Lane in Noon. While superficially unlike one another, these three different yet simultaneous experiences in the nexus of parallel universes are interconnected by a very specific time and place, inside a hierarchical semiotic system, at the apex of which “floats” an idiosyncratic backward sign. I have also called this the “Huguenot sign.”
The sign is a metaphysical message, which delivers us to the next level of Hogarth’s natural-philosophical labyrinth. It also serves to reinforce intuitive claims that the fulcrum of Noon is not the sun per se, but rather the hidden light of refugee Huguenot artisanal culture, which absorbs energy from deep inside earth’s subterranean places. Insurmountable cultural, social, historical, and even perceptual boundaries fragment and separate pluralistic Hog Lane, but these differences are simultaneously collapsed and linked by a mysterious materio-holiness synthesis of parallels, palindromes, and inversions. The nature of these linkages resists reductive, mechanistic explanations of distribution of energy in matter. They were capable of supporting multiple and relativistic responses to the same cosmological impulses, since animate spirits of light and motion did not enter all matter in the same way at the same time. Noon transcends superficial perception. Rather, it is a complete cosmology for elemental “earth.” Here Huguenot artisans are represented as intermediaries at the limen of Soho’s spiritual and material life. Like noon itself, Huguenots are in the middle, balancing cosmic forces of time, space, spirit, matter, and history.
Despite its appearance on the remotest perceptual margins of Noon, the backward “Huguenot” sign, assumes an optimum position as Hogarth’s core metaphor for the Huguenot artisan and his production. In fact, the sign is positioned to mediate between all three groups. Its peripheral position in the pictorial space also begs reconsideration of Hogarth’s notion of the status of communication in commercial society, and possible ethical problems in conveying perceptions of “pure” innocence. Knowledge is suddenly available in the Huguenot sign’s underlying material foundation (or, by analogy to natural philosophy, metaphysical foundation), which once seemed innocent of symbolic intention. Does this new information compel eighteenth-century beholders to reevaluate perceptions of innocence projected by the pious Huguenot refugees of the Eglise des Grecs? Their sign is apparently composed of mute materials. It is devoid of conventional languages of iconography, yet represented at the top of a hierarchy of all signs. There are private languages here, assigned to the “art and mystery” of artisanal materials. What do raw earthen materials communicate? Are spectators asked to reevaluate the cultural and ethical status of the production and consumption of materials?
Following the linguistic structure of the palindrome that Hogarth used to give its form meaning, the sign’s construction is binary on its surface; it has two identical “wings” in the subtle shape of vertical cyma recta curves, bisected in the middle by a joined seam held together by three horizontal cleats that run parallel to the ground.25 Having already inventoried similar formal and philosophical analogies between the parallel worlds of Noon, it is reasonable to assume that Hogarth intended this dark seam down the middle as yet a third gutteral analogy. A vertical axis this time, it provides a conduit for the ethereal “flow” between the gutter bisecting the middle of Hog Lane (the receptacle of effluent waste occluded in the microcosm) and the one attached to the cornice of the Eglise des Grecs (the receptacle of transparent waters distilled in the macrocosm, descending as astral raindrops). The sign is connected to (but also far above) Hog Lane’s heterogeneous urban landscape. It contains binding agents missing (or displaced) from the other signs. While the signs for couturier fashion and “Good Eating” on the other side of Hog Lane advertise the personal and social fragmentation of blind consumption, this entity lacks conventional commercial language to provide direction. Yet it is clearly unified by a trinity of binders that joins symmetrical halves into a self-contained whole. This infers that the binding power of the soul—what Ficino called the “knot” of the world—remained inside the Huguenot sign. On the other hand, the floating tricorn hat (of the trinity bound by the Holy Spirit) reconnects (and hence unifies and reanimates) the separated head and torso of the other two street signs from a distance. The signs for “Good Eating” and the couturier’s boutique give the appearance of clear, unambiguous public discourse advertising specific products. In contrast to the transparency and depth of the Huguenot sign, however, commonplace iconographic languages suddenly seem insufficient.
The armature of the Huguenot sign reads three-dimensionally as a construction of segmented parts, seamed together and joined by three cleats nailed parallel across the joint. But our hypothesis about the sign’s material-based symbol system indicates that it might be possible to adapt portions of the methodology developed by Michael Fried in his phenomenological reading of eighteenth-century French painting, to follow a related path of inquiry for a semiotics of Noon. Consider that Hogarth may also have represented the sign as a two-dimensional text to convey knowledge of materials as such; that is, as an array of marks and lines, dots and dashes, that infer primordial themes concerning the relation of earthen bodies to the creation of form. If we follow Fried in focusing on surface gesture as much as illusion of depth, Hogarth may be supposed to have represented this series of lines to form a geometric language on the surface of the escutcheon. We have read artisanal construction as discourse generated from a cosmological dialogue about the materiality of an aging “earth,” with a grammar and lexicon intended to communicate the natural-philosophical and temporal program of Noon. Thus the surface of the sign, which shows its construction, may be read as an outline of Robert Fludd’s abstract emblem for the occult art of geomancy (Geomantia), or “terrestrial astrology.”
Fludd’s emblem for geomancy appears prominently on two different occasions in his oeuvre: first, on a cosmological wheel engraved by de Bry on the title page of his 1618 De naturae simia seu technia macrocosmi historia (Nature’s Ape, or History of the Macrocosmic Arts), the second treatise of eleven of his De macrocosmi historia (History of the Macrocosm); and second, on the title-page of the second volume of his seven-volume series on the microcosm, De technica microcosmi historia (The History of the Microcosmic Arts), where it is included in a cosmological wheel. On the title page of De naturae simia, the eleven macrocosmic arts—mathematics (the ape points to an arithmetic primer with his stick); geometry (a surveyor plots a triangle); perspective; painting; fortifications; engineering; timekeeping; cosmography; astrology; geomancy; and music—are depicted in clockwise rotation (fig. 14.7). On that of De technica microcosmi historia, the seven microcosmic arts—prophesy (prophetia); geomancy (geomantia); memory (ars memoria); natal astrology (genethlialogia); physiognomy (physiognomia); and palmistry (chiromantia)—similarly reveal hidden aspects of the macrocosm (fig. 14.8).
FIGURE 14.7. Johann Theodore de Bry, title page of Robert Fludd’s De naturae simia seu technia macrocosmi historia (Nature’s Ape, or History of the Macrocosmic Arts) (Oppenheim: Johann Theodore de Bry, 1618; 2d ed., Frankfurt, 1624), the second volume of Fludd’s De macrocosmi historia (History of the Macrocosm). Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Geomancy is located over the ape’s left shoulder.
Fludd’s cosmologies are quintessentially Paracelsian in that they chart the interaction of microcosm and macrocosm through the medium of inspired artisanry and search for evidence of metaphysical process in the banality of everyday life, and Hogarth used Fludd’s influential innovations in the “science of pyramids” (pyramidum scientia) to show the connection of man in the microcosm by soulish analogy to spiritual motion in the universal macrocosm.
The construction of prophetic texts out of random dots of tossed dirt, sand, or cracks found on the earth’s surface defines geomancy in a general way. The same effect was sometimes achieved with a sort of “unconscious” or automatic writing. Both were read for answers to questions about the future, prophesies divined from earth’s elemental secrets. But there were many variations on this practice of what was essentially a form of terrestrial astrology. By the sixteenth century, natural philosophers in the West knew of an ancient Middle Eastern form of geomancy based on marks impressed into sand, called khatt al-raml (“sand writing”) in Arabic.26 During the Crusades, the practice was adapted by the Western alchemic tradition, and the word “geomancies” appears in Chaucer and the medieval romances. With numerous definitions used by secretive operators or mystical commentators to mislead the vulgar who were unworthy to receive such knowledge, geomancy had a long if undefinitive history of practice by the eighteenth century. Certain technical rules were, however, believed to be fundamental to all forms of geomancy. “A question is ‘proposed’ by the geomancer himself or by a person consulting him,” the Fludd scholar C. H. Josten notes; the geomancer then projects a pattern based on the number four (as in times of the day?):
Then the geomancer jots down (“projects”) four times four rows of a random number of dots. The geomancer must not count the dots while making them. According as their total in a row is an odd or an even number, one or two dots are considered to be the result of that row. The results of each row thus obtained become the constituent parts of four original “figures” called matres, each of which is derived from one of the four sets of four rows. . . . Any one of sixteen different figures, each consisting of four lines of one or two dots, may . . . result from each mater. Each of them has a Latin name, its special significance, and its zodiacal, planetary, and elementary correspondences.27
FIGURE 14.8. Johann Theodore de Bry, title page of Robert Fludd’s De technica microcosmi historia (History of the Microcosmic Arts) (Oppenheim: Johann Theodore de Bry, 1619).
The matres are then ramified into the figures of four filiae (fig. 14.9), and together this first group of eight figures are connected contiguously into a line of “houses.” Eight houses from the upper row of matres and filiae are subsequently paired to form four new houses called nepotes; these twelve houses are analogous to the twelve astrological houses. Following the genealogical method used in the upper rows, two nepotes are paired with two testes below, which in turn devolve finally to a single judex figure at the bottom point of the escutcheon.28
Translation of these Latin categories underscores both the hermaphroditic and dynastic nature of geomancy, for the practice was presented in a kind of genealogical structure. Four primordial houses of earth “mothers”—matres are a similitude in this context for (the singular) mater, or matter, the stuff of which everything is composed—produce four “daughters,” and together they are the parents of four houses of grandsons. These Adamic male descendant figures give birth to the “genitalia” formed at the bottom of the geomantic scheme: testis means “witnesses,” but the word also makes sense here as “testicles” (testes), “earthen vessels” (testae), or the Palissian metaphor of security and artisanal recreation, “shells” (also testae). A witness (“one who gives evidence”), is an appropriate source of information for the oracular judex, or phallus figure, which translates as “judge.” The binary geomantic scheme conjoins two opposing sexual worlds like a hermaphrodite. As such, its hermetic means of production recalls the fully formed alchemical homunculus, with progenitor earth figures ascendant in the female upper houses, declining to the prelapsarian Adamic male reproductive “organ” (a representation of adept aspirations).
Hogarth’s innovation was to transform the early seventeenth-century Fludd-de Bry interpretation of the centuries-old geomantic chevron—a heraldic escutcheon with straight dexter and sinister sides—by adapting its form and function to the serpentine line’s movement. Whoever stands in watchful pose toward his audience underneath the Huguenot sign—whether a surrogate for the artist himself, or perhaps a figure for the tastemaking Huguenot couturier emerging from midday prayer, or some composite figure—appropriates the judex role for himself. Comical nose size and shape is strong supporting evidence for this identity, as Hogarth’s judges on The Bench (1764)—one of his last engravings—attests (fig. 14.10). Here, Hogarth identifies his signifier of a British judge’s face as the radically long, downward pointing, boldly triangular nose. If the judex figure in Noon does not wear a powdered periwig, his long curly hair seems appropriately juridical. Perhaps the inspiration for this particular subject was Hogarth’s contemplation of his own impending mortality and judgment, since the title is followed by a humorous apology: “This Plate would have been better explaind had the Author lived a Week longer.” Hogarth did live long enough to explain “the different meaning of the Words Character, Caracatura and Outre in Painting and Drawing,” all of which are demonstrated in The Bench. “As to the French word Outre,” the accompanying text reads: “it . . . signifies nothing more than the exaggerated outlines of a Figure all parts of which may be in other respects a perfect and true Picture of Nature. A Giant or a Dwarf may be call’d a common Man Outre. So any part as a Nose, or a Leg made bigger or less than it ought to be, is that part Outre.”
FIGURE 14.9. Johann Theodore de Bry, geomantic escutcheons from Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi majoris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa... tomus primus De macrocosmi historia (Oppenheim, 1617; 2d ed., Frankfurt, 1624). Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. The filiae, matres, nepotes, testis, and judex are located on these escutcheons, which are represented like a genealogy of heraldic devices descended from noble houses.
FIGURE 14.10. William Hogarth, The Bench: “Of the different meaning of the Words Character, Caracatura and Outré in Painting and Drawing,” engraving, London, September 4, 1758. H: 12⅜″, W: 6¼″. Courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. Outré, used in the caricature of judges, with the outsized nose serving as a judicial signifier, is explained in the caption as “in the French word . . . the exaggerated outlines of a figure ... so any part as a Nose, or a Leg, made bigger or less than it ought to be.”
Geomancy had a long history of adherents in England after its introduction in the fourteenth century. Despite their rhetoric of ambivalence (at least in public) about the ethical and scientific value of occultism, the evidence suggests geomancy was considered practical science by many later English natural philosophers. The Oxford English Dictionary notes a citation from 1569 of an English translation of a Latin text published in 1531 (by the alchemist Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim), which defined “Geomancie,” as that “which doth divine by certaine conjectures taken of similitudes of the crackinge of the Earthe.”29 By 1591, the English status of geomancy had risen from mere conjecture to “a Science and Art which consisteth of points, prickes, and lines, made in steade of the foure Elements.” Geomancy was devalued as science in Hogarth’s time—having been assigned the ambiguous rhetorical status of “occult philosophy”—but this did not necessarily mean its venerable magic was dismissed as trivial by empiricists. Just as Ezra Stiles rediscovered Paracelsus and Fludd through his antiquarian experience with the “ancient” alchemical legends, library, and archives of John Winthrop Jr., late Enlightenment natural philosophers still honored (and consulted) “old” books by Fludd as science. Indeed, “all the renowned authors” (1774), from “certain colleges in old times, where . . . magical sciences were taught (1820).”
As a matter of available disciplinary knowledge, eighteenth-century scientists knew the fundamental element of geomantic divination was a millennial link between the puzzle’s beginning and its end. Thus, the alpha house of the first mater was unified with the omega of the judex figure. Even as Genesis adumbrated Revelation, posing problems for which answers would ultimately be revealed in the experience of final things, so, too, questions posed to the geomancer would be answered by pairing these two metaphorical “projections” of Earth’s original creation as mater of nature and the final judgment of the judex. This formula was perceived by natural-philosophical practitioners of geomancy to channel random variation in the same way experiments were conducted in the laboratory. In the end, only one set of the original sixteen geomantic figures remained and were available for interpretation.
Despite Neoplatonic strategies of reduction of the many to the one, and the “mechanistic” rigidity that superficially controlled the external form of the geomantic scheme, an infinite variety of internal arrangements, refinements, and subtleties were available for interpretation of this single figure. Shades of meaning were divined from the position and interaction of the figures inside their individual houses and, above all, the context in which the question itself was asked.30
Fludd received his M.A. degree from Oxford in 1598 (at age twenty-four). Like the younger Winthrop and other Paracelsians in search of worldly experience beyond the academy, he importuned his father to supply funds and embarked on a six-year journey to the centers of alchemic research in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. In southeastern France—the center of Camisard resistance—Fludd supplemented his father’s stipend by working as a tutor for the children of the ultra-Catholic nobility. The Protestant Fludd found himself the tutor of (among others) Charles de Lorraine, fourth duc de Guise, and his brother François. Here, Fludd repeated a classic pattern seen in Palissy’s quest for patronage among both the local Huguenot and “foreign” Parisian Catholic aristocracy. This provides a level of insight into Fludd’s use of the lingua franca of the Paracelsian program to further his career, but also his latitudinarian belief in the transcendence of religious difference through an animate spirit that ignored confessional distinctions and was both universal and personal at once.31
Most interconfessional encounters in France were not benign, however. While attempting to cross the Alps into Italy during the winter of 1601–2, Fludd was delayed in Avignon, which harbored a Jesuit community hostile to magic and Protestant scientific ideas. His dangerous experience of the ensuing debates with undisguised religious adversaries in Avignon was in a sense destabilizing, but it also compelled him to synthesize fragments of ancient geomantic practice. Fludd naïvely sought spiritual and material unity with these most zealous defenders of papism in France, but he found confessional competition and intellectual animosity instead. Thus, the model he chose to reinvent the experience as natural philosophy was Palissian. Fludd conceptualized geomancy as his Neoplatonic metaphor par excellence for the animate soul’s hidden unity behind the appearance of all duality and difference in matter—including bodily matter—derived from elemental earth. He used his geomantic program to reconfigure infinite varieties of contingency available for action, perception, and contemplation in the microcosm. Fludd published two essays on the subject under de Bry’s refugee imprint in Oppenheim. Read together, these texts constituted the most comprehensive theory of geomancy available to Western readers in the seventeenth century.
The first essay, concentrating on the macrocosm, appeared in 1617–18; the second, on the microcosm, completed the argument in 1619. Fludd’s theory of geomancy is also one of the earliest methodologies available for the study of urban human geography in the chaotic and protean urban context that tumbles out onto Hogarth’s atomized London cityscape in Noon. Flood adumbrated this for the composition of Hogarth’s pictorial narrative, because his theory of geomancy laid the cosmic groundwork in the spiritual direction, elemental composition, and relative spatial disposition of the human body on earth:
The rows of geomantic dots comprise and express the idea of the whole world no less than does the human body. The human body is seen only outwardly, whilst we contemplate . . . inwardly, with our spiritual eyes. As in the body we discern the elements, invisible in their mixed composition. ... Likewise, in every one of the four sets of four rows of geomantic dots, one of the four elements lies concealed: the element of fire in the first set, that of air in the second, the element of water in the third, and that of earth in the fourth set. In the figures produced from these four sets, the seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac are present, though they may only be perceived with the eyes of spiritus .32
Internal mixing of the elements is explicitly illustrated both in de Bry’s engraving of Fludd’s science of the pyramids (see fig. 10.6) and in descent from the Huguenot sign to Hog Lane. But where is the element of fire? The only one of the four elements not represented openly in the narrative of the painting is fire. Does this element exist implicitly in the light of the empyrean sphere, the sun figures on the polite lady’s cheeks or the furnacelike bowels of the earth? Does the fire in the earth also figure in the servant’s bubbling meat pie—a bawdy sign of her “fiery” sexual passion? Thus, by analogy, questions of elemental mixing informed the practical and formal logic of natural-philosophical theory, elucidating the structure and function of mixed societies in the new, commercialized, and densely populated early modern city.
Knowledge of these influential essays was widespread among natural philosophers during the eighteenth century, not only from the original de Bry editions, but also from the diffusion of lengthy extracts reprinted under Fludd’s name in Fasciculus geomanticus, a Veronese compendium of geomantic treatises that found sufficient readers for two editions (1687 and 1704). The essay of 1617–18 appeared in its entirety in both editions of Fasciculus geomanticus as “Roberti Flud tractatus de geomantia,” printed immediately following a modified version of chapters 1 through 6 of Fludd’s 1619 De technica microcosmi historia. Fludd’s chapters were ranked above his competitors; the Englishman’s preeminent place in the modern history of geomancy was clear.33
Fludd begins with a definition of the language of geomancy and the metaphysical forces behind it. All terminology had a specific task in animating the geomancer’s insight into essential questions of being and appearance:
Geomancy is an act of the anima intellectualis. Mens rules over intellectus and ratio as a king over his subjects, or a master over his servants. Intellectus and ratio in turn convey the impulses of mens to the region of imaginatio. In their service imaginatio operates as a vehicle. It is drawn by the senses as a chariot is drawn by horses. Thus it is the action of the horses that ultimately delivers the remote impulses of mens, the king and master, to the visible world. The servant, in carrying out the master’s command, does not know what the intentions and secret motives of the master are. Ratio, imaginatio, and sensus will be ignorant thereof as the servant, the chariot, and the horses. Yet ratio is far better equipped to make conjectures, than imaginatio or the senses. Like a servant, ratio may indeed sometimes, as it were, presume or guess the idea prevailing in the master’s mind, though never with absolute certainty.34
Following Ficino, Palissy, and mystical contemporaries such as Jakob Böhme, Fludd defined anima intellectualis—and hence geomancy—as “an act” of “soulish perception.” As animated perception, it greatly exceeded the common senses. Moving between macrocosm and microcosm, it enabled the hidden world of the spirit to communicate impulses from the macrocosm directly into the part of the human soul governing the geomancer’s ability to make sense of what he perceived in the world of the elements (“intellectus [sensual perception] and ratio [calculation]).” Thus, geomancers had the skill to discern hidden unities behind the “visible” chaos of the post-lapsarian world. Mens, that is to say, “understanding”—also, “to remember” (as in moments of lucidity when lost memories of Adam’s primordial unity with God are retrieved and understood retrospectively)—is superior in relation to man’s superficial thoughts and perceptions. Mens is literally the noetic “master”: intellectus and ratio serve their “king” by transporting his “remote impulses” to the imagination, which carries them as would a chariot. From thence, “it is drawn by the senses as ... by horses ... to the visible world.” Mens’s “impulses” are “remote” to his noetic servants, inasmuch as they are hidden to the “inferior . . . region” of sensate perception and inanimate thought. “The servant,” Fludd writes, “in carrying out his master’s command, does not know what the intentions and secret motives of the master are.”35
Hence, invisible or “secret” “intentions” and “motives” are privileged over “the visible world” in geomancy, just as they are by Hogarth in Noon, where they inhabit the ethereal geomantic sign and the shadowy domain of the Huguenot “masters.” Like the Saintongeais artisans who communicate (or “operate”) mysteriously through Nature’s fallen media (or matter), “in geomancy mens, operating through the media of intellectus or ratio, imaginatio, and sensus, is made to exert its divine virtue, in the same way as mens operates more openly and potently in the act of prophecy.” It is even possible to discern a more subtle distinction here between the inward experimental pietism of southwestern Huguenot culture and the outward, radical enthusiasm of the southeastern Camisard speakers in tongues. Indeed, Fludd claimed it was possible for mens humana to infuse servant media with a sort of internal prophetic power. This could be accomplished without direct infusion of sacred impulses (or radii superiores), hence without the operatic drama that ensued openly after the conjunction of macrocosm and microcosm. Yet this too may have been witnessed by the senses: “Whereas in prophecy mens [humana] is united to mens divina, whereby a multitude of radii superiores is introduced into the process, mens humana may by itself and without the aid of any divine radii infuse the geomantic process with a prophetical power whose effect can be apprehended by the senses.”36
This assertion would seem illogical or physically impossible, except that “the science of geomancy is very occult and inward; it is difficult to account for it in a rational way.” Fludd continued as if in response to those mechanists who perceived pluralism as mere chaos, while ignoring the power of man’s inner world to order and reverse “vulgar” outward direction: “geomancy transcends vulgar understanding to which it must appear foolish, inane, absurd, and ridiculous.”37 Neoplatonic logic in “De geomantia” extolled the primacy of hidden realities behind perception. It also recalled a creative tension in Palissy’s “The Art of the Earth,” which itself explored the chasm that existed for Huguenot potters who sought to craft a synthesis of macrocosm and microcosm in their translucent earthenware glazes. This early modern problematic had derived from the imperfect, postlapsarian knowledge of the hidden intentionality of God:
We know nothing of the [macrocosmic] ratio [that is, the mind of God] lying behind the acts of mens. Human reasoning on this subject relies entirely on effectus [behavior] and leads only to conjectures. As we may not know God but a posteriori, so also we may know [a thing] only by its effects. Likewise, we know indeed nothing with any certainty of the source, the vehicle, or the reason of the life we receive in a wondrous way from above, though we reason about them from performance and by way of conjecture.38
Following Palissy and Böhme, Fludd inveighed against the “obstacle” of sexual desire and the bodily need for consumption as an extension of the chasm between macrocosm and microcosm. Whereas Palissy and Böhme represented themselves as sublimating sexual desire to adopt chastity and heighten their experience as natural philosophers, Fludd claimed to have remained an “unstained virgin” all his life. This certainly trumped Palissy, who was chased from the bedroom by his irate wife. Not only did Fludd identify with his image of Christ as the unstained Word incarnate, but he also tended to read Adam’s sexual desire as the absolute cause of expulsion from Eden and so the source of separation and difference between the natural world and God.39
Thus, in the uppermost band of Fludd’s geomantic schema, the progenitor of the family tree is at first entirely female, and so the earth “mother” or “matter” was inseminated with the invisible “seed” from the macrocosm. This is conjoined by the middle band into the liminal figure of the hermaphrodite. By the lowest two bands (closest to the microcosm), the most overt representation of sexuality is sublimated into the judex figure. This phallic figure is a surrogate for the Adamic geomancer. He is fallen yet still an extension—if the lowest and potentially most corruptible—of the macrocosmic world. Sublimation of the “obstacle” of sexual desire was therefore necessary to avoid dissembling commotion within the atomized dot pattern. It was also in the arena of the deceptions of untrammeled desire that Hogarth reactivated Fludd’s ideas and images most explicitly. Their critical narratives on consumption on (and of) elemental earth had intersected on Hog Lane. “We are prevented by the obstacle of the flesh,” Fludd continued, “and the darkness [surrounding us] from having a proper knowledge of the marvelous effects in man by mens divina. We are content to recognize a monk by his habit, and a thing by its effects.”40
The adept’s God-given skill to stand in the golden circle and transcend the retrospective necessity of historical “effects,” to “penetrate” with spiritual eyes the essential unity of space and time hidden behind the chaos represented by bodily dots of fallen matter, defined the task of the Stoic, Protestant geomancer:
By the effects, however, the practitioners of the artistae [the “art,” also “occupation” or “knowledge”] have found geomancy to be a true science through which things future, present, and past may be revealed, provided the geomancer’s judgement is not obscured by the obnoxious influences of the body or the deceitful action of the senses. . . . Geomancy is not accessible to all. Fools would never be able to penetrate to that center of the action, that unity and very point of the mens. For that point lies beyond the degree of ratio and intellectus, and only those may reach it who manage to leave the habitation of their bodies.41
With the same now familiar “out-of-body” logic that harnessed the geomantic process to the global distances covered by similar particulates of “aerial niter” sent by the weapon salve through the “ether,” geomancy forged soulish connections and “convey[ed] the [prophetic] message” over space and time and between bodies, by using misunderstood gestures and following established Neoplatonic theories of motion for animate matter:42
The sixteen lines of dots which the geomancer produces at the beginning of the operation are not caused merely by an advantageous movement of the hand, as the ignorant would say; but in the number and proportion of the dots of those sixteen lines a prophetic message of the soul lies concealed. Inasmuch as the dots establish correspondences with the twelve signs of the zodiac, the seven planets, and the four elements, they convey the message of the soul by the macrocosmical vehicles of ether and the four elements. Without the aid of those macrocosmic vehicles, neither mens nor intellectus could have descended into man; and nothing real [emphasis added] or essential can issue from mens unless it passes through those media.43
Fludd’s occult science of triangles conceptualized reciprocal movement between worlds using “macrocosmic vehicles,” and Hogarth’s line of beauty imagined the form in which “the message of the soul” was “conveyed” through them. Noons silent pictorial narrative forges astral and elemental links throughout the mirror worlds of atomized and dissonant humanity on Hog Lane, “as the dots establish correspondences.”
Like Palissy’s Neoplatonic glazes, which settled into preordained patterns on the clay body naturalistically with only minimal direction from the potter’s hand, Fludd claimed the hand’s movement in tossing (or drawing) the geomantic dots on the ground—if pure and “unhindered” by the “accidents of the flesh,” the obstacle of desire—was not accidental:
The movement of the hand producing the geomantic dots is not accidental in so far as it proceeds from the human soul, man[’]s very essence. That movement acts, therefore, in an essentially significant way if it be unhindered by the accidents of the flesh and the senses.44
It followed, therefore, that accidents of the flesh were analogous to the accidents of the “inexperienced” (code for non-Paracelsian nonadepts) during the alchemic process, both of which set similar obstacles in the path of the growth and purification of matter:
Similarly we say that the mineral natures of lead and iron tend in their essence towards the nature of gold; but by accident, namely by [the presence of] impure sulphur, they are arrested in their natural growth, so that they may not attain the aim of nature. The inexperienced will object that the like impediments will always occur to the human body, because of the impurity of the flesh and the darkness of error into which our existence is plunged.45
Prominent mention of such key alchemic words as “accident,” “impure sulphur,” and “inexperience” returns us once again to the servant girl and her African lover in Noon. This sequence, which begins with a moment of transgressive sexual desire, surprise, and arousal, and ends in a chaotic chain reaction that results in the injured child, broken earthenware platter, and contents spilled into the street, is arguably a Hogarthian figure of Fludd’s “accident” of impurity. This intertextual reading is supported by our belated ability to identify the “impure sulphur” from Fludd’s text (its characteristic yellowish hue contaminated with white dross) as the probable contents of the boy’s broken platter, ultimately consumed by a hungry street urchin. Thus, while the sulphur actually signifies the “contents” of the platter, it is never carried “in” the thing, in the functional sense, like the servant’s pie. Rather, it is literally inside of the pottery in the material sense; seeming to be in the process of decomposing (or leaching out) from within elemental matter, from which the earthenware vessel was built and fired by the potter. Even as this crude misalliance of ill-matched opposites progresses, the soulish, Neoplatonic “bond and knot” of alchemic mercury that holds the “atoms” of the boy’s earthly possession together as a material unity has deserted its microcosmic hosts. Before the spectator’s very eyes, the detritus of impurity descends into chaos, falling under the weight of gravity to a kind of material death.
Contrast the comportment of Hogarth’s servant and African lover with figures 14.7 and 14.8, as well as with figure 2.3, the de Bry engraving in Fludd’s Utruisque cosmi majoris (1617).46 Both contain the geomantic escutcheon in cosmological wheels of the arts in the microcosm and their sources in the macrocosm. In fig. 2.3, Integrae naturae speculum artisque imago (The Mirror of the Whole of Nature and the Image of Art)—Fludd’s most famous and fully integrated cosmology—we confront the sources for Hogarth’s amorous couple. The servant is a similitude for the naked virgin (“not a goddess”) who stands as intermediary (or gatekeeper): “her right foot stands on earth,” Fludd wrote, “her left foot on water, signifying the conjunction of sulphur and mercury without which nothing can be created.” Thus she is chained in her liminal reality between God (as manifested by the light of the Word) and the microcosmic simian in figures 14.7 and 14.8. Nature’s ape is a dark and ambivalent creature who sits upon the sublunar world (measuring the globe as if a navigator with his compass). His head was arguably a model for Hogarth’s animalistic African sailor (another sort of navigator). This is particularly persuasive if the use of the African as signifier of the “universal tincture” (fig. 14.11) is any indication. In this seventeenth-century image, the African holds the sun and moon in either hand—the sun and moon also cover the virgin’s breasts and vagina in figure 2.3—inferring the potential of the arts of elemental earth to conjoin macrocosm and microcosm.
We have come across the “Mater” Nature figure before, of course; in the London “Palissy dish” and in Edward Howes’s cryptic reference to Sophia in the postscripted marginalia of his letter to the younger Winthrop in 1630, about the fall of La Rochelle—the figure’s prototype as God’s consort and helper—in the Wisdom of Solomon. In Fludd’s Utruisque cosmi majoris, we read:
She is not a goddess, but the proximate minister of God, at whose bequest she governs the subcelestial worlds. In the picture she is joined to God by a chain. She is the Soul of the World (anima mundi), or the Invisible Fire. ... It is she who turns the sphere of the stars and disposes the planetary influences to the elemental realm, nourishing all creatures from her bosom. On her breast is the True Sun; on her belly the Moon. Her heart gives light to the stars and planets, whose influence, infused in her womb by the mercurial spirit (called by the philosophers the Spirit of the Moon), is sent down to the very center of the Earth. Her right foot stands on earth, her left in water, signifying the conjunction of sulphur and mercury without which nothing can be created.47
FIGURE 14.11. The Universal Tincture as an African King. Seventeenth century. From Handbuch zu welchen ordentlich. Courtesy Glasgow University Library, Department of Special Collections.
Having plainly seen earth, air, and water, three of the four elements, in Noon, we are finally shown the container of the last, “Invisible Fire.” Unfortunately, however, the servant—like Nature (and the one other female figure, located in the realm of “Animalia”) in Integrae naturae (fig. 2.3)—is opposed to the sun figures of politeness, and so is lit darkly by an inverted quarter moon, situated on the source of carnality on her lower anatomy (note the shape and position of the servant’s apron). The inner invisible fire (and “light” of the heart) are, in this instance, thrown out of balance with the sun’s outer illumination by “accident”; the “accidents of the flesh” deform them too: “the more the rays of the mens are impeded in their movement by the filth of the body, the more the effect the action of the mens is weakened. Imaginatio may indeed be so affected by the world of matter that it will lie like a thick cloud over the senses, not allowing them to receive the sun-like rays of the mens”48
But part of the function of Hogarth’s chaotic Integrae naturae on Hog Lane is to insist that accident and destruction, too, are inescapable (and even perhaps redeemable) parts of this essentially artisanal process. The ostensible cause of the carnal accident that interrupted the equilibrium of the material economy of production and consumption on Hog Lane is the violent physical impetuosity (or “inexperience”) of Hogarth’s African sailor; that is, Flood’s simian figure, the craftsman, qua ape of Nature. In figures 14.7 and 14.8, this image refers to both the darkness of earthy matter, unpurified by conjunction with the spirit, and man’s efforts—usually incomplete or in folly—to imitate God’s work and in so doing to unite with him through metaphorical coitus with his seductive “proximate minister.” Like Palissy’s Recepte Veritable and Discours Admirables, Fludd’s discourse on Nature’s ape (fig. 14.7) concerns itself with art and artisanry as modes of contemplation of the soul and of personal and material transformation and metamorphosis. Fludd also sought to represent the ape’s potential to become a benign metaphysical figure into which he could collapse Hermes, Mercurius, and perhaps above all (in the instance of geomancy) the simian Thoth, inventor of writing and other communicative arts.49
Hogarth’s African fails to exploit his artisanal potential to change the darkness of his own materiality through work, into the translucency of the Huguenot sign, and thus complete the material-holiness synthesis. Overwhelmed by desire for Nature’s superficial bounty, he opts for “the obnoxious influence of the flesh and of crapulence,”50 and impedes the free movement of spirit in matter necessary to effect change. The process of transformation through conjunction of opposites is prematurely interrupted, and Fludd’s accident ensues with Hogarth’s burlesque depiction of coitus interruptus as wasted spillage.
Even in a highly charged and transgressive sexual context, this gesture seems to infer that the subaltern virgin of Hog Lane may have retained her chastity after all; the African’s dark hand does not dissolve matter into purity. Instead, it functions to obscure and sully the transparency of Nature’s absolute whiteness and the dissemination of her light as “Soul of the World.” That is why, as he encircles his unprepared lover from behind with his arms (with a bowed gesture analogous to that of the earthbound simian in fig. 14.8), the African deflects Nature’s “true” (inner) sunlight as he squeezes her right breast, and spills—rather than narrowly pours—her “milk” down in a crooked (not serpentine) stream. Without the narrow spiritual direction and discipline in the elemental realm, Nature cannot moderate the flow of terrestrial time, or “turn the sphere of the stars and dispose the planetary influences to the elemental realms, nourishing all creatures from her bosom.” The conjunction of microcosm and macrocosm ends in failure, and in this sense at least, natural time and—in a Hogarthian aside to smug mechanists—progress stops in the material world.
Indeed, the millennial discourse of an aging earth suffused Hogarth’s reinvention of Fludd’s two cosmological wheels (figs. 14.7 and 14.8) encompassing man’s mastery of the arts and crafts, both of which are divided into distinct sections—eleven and eight respectively—surrounding the craftsman figure of the ape at the hub. That these cosmological wheels are segmented is important, since Geomancy then forms only one segment of a large pie shape that closely resembles the meat pie held by Nature qua female servant in Noon. In a larger sense then, all the arts are represented in Noon, and it is especially noteworthy that the duality of timekeeping, represented by both the twelve-hour sundial and the twenty-four hour mechanical clock, is pictured on the title page of De naturae simia. But Hogarth carries the cosmological metaphor further. The servant’s sexually charged pie also mirrors the circular window over the church door across the street. Though darkened, it is still visibly segmented into quarters, interspersed with a profusion of minute panes of glass, around a central opening at the hub. It is as if Nature had taken her sacred macrocosm from the wall of the Huguenot church.
This makes it possible to identify the orange bosses of the “sun” that transit the cap of the polite lady as analogous to the course of brickwork that forms a rotational pattern around the window. Here is the stellar halo light that surrounds Nature’s head in Integrae naturae—and flows above Saturn into the uppermost orbit of the caelum stellatum (“heavenly stars”)—but has now been separated from the moonlit persona of the servant. Nature’s diadem, in turn, recalls the crimped edge of the servant’s meat pie. It also resonates with the numerous globular pendant drops, called “hanging flagons” (tavern signs) by Hogarth’s biographer Ronald Paulson. Perhaps there are also heavenly lights that fall from the overhang of buildings in the deep background and continue on the “Good Eating” side of Hog Lane. Like the tiny degrees of time that circulate around a sundial’s chapter ring, the drops and crimped crust circulate completely “around” the painting from light to shadow to light again.
This inversion of Copernican perspective is engraved in the “transit” function of sundials, which is to say that they track the “movement” of the sun. Even as the earth revolves around the sun in astronomical terms, in the archaic language of sundials, it is the sun that transits and circulates light. Visualize the entire geomantic street scene as a shaky system of hidden and revealed rotating parts animated by fragmented and competing elements that consume parts of the “Soul of the World”: the sun (the polite and fashionable trio); the moon (the weakness of the flesh); and the hidden inner spirit (the Huguenots of the Eglise des Grecs). Having closed a cosmological circuit between the two sides of Hog Lane, the dark metaphysical light of the church window across the street is projected down through the girl’s pie, into both halves of the boy’s broken earthenware pie plate, and then into the street, where the waste adds to the confusion of superfluous geomantic dots. Here, finally, is Hogarth’s figure par excellence of the dilemma of the Paracelsian artisan seeking to purify and transform himself by conjunction with the light of Nature. While Nature holds her macrocosm above and parallel to the earth—just as she does in Fludd’s Integrae naturae—the crying boy holds his half-decayed orb (the microcosm) below in its appointed place, his sorrow attesting to the inability of art and Nature to achieve unity in modern times.
The identity of the impure and decaying microcosm in the boy’s grasp is again confirmed by the legendary “pillar” upholding what is left of the little world in the shadow underneath. The process of the distillation of “nourishing” liquid dripping from Nature’s breast in the macrocosm down to the elements in the microcosm is, by simple analogy, precisely the same process that occurred in the alchemic crucible.
And as Palissy and Böhme believed, and Fludd reiterated in “De geomantia,” the danger for “inexperienced” operators of the alchemic crucible is of spreading the “accident” of impurity throughout mankind—instead of reversing the impurity of the Fall—which results inevitably from the catastrophic failure to know the spiritual essence of their materials. Such an elemental failure in the circuit of mankind’s ever-increasing commercial engagement with urban production and consumption could have the unintended consequence of increasing the speed with which the earth decayed and aged. This gave new currency to Böhme’s admonition that postlapsarian man must exploit every moment of transient lucidity to pierce the veil of the halfblind, and reduce his bodily self in order to absorb the spiritual light of Nature. That is why the fragments of man’s aspirations for unity in the transparency of his artisanal materials are in perpetual decline from the perfect circle of the uppermost cosmos, which remains intact, to the shards on the bottom. This process of descending from the mountaintop of purity and perfection to the infinite variety of error and disorder that suffused the everyday life of the street mirrors the tripartite arrangement of binders on the backward sign. It is an inversion of the fictional unity of the world of polite consumption and the reality of incompleteness and fragmentation it alternately masks and reveals.
Here precisely, Hogarth begins to read the natural philosophy of “De geomantia” through the lens of the subterranean earth of Hog Lane’s pious Huguenot artisans. Fludd inquires how the body prepares to receive the transparent perception of geomantic prophecy; to see all the way through the “multitudinous” impulses that accidentally impact the senses “to the simplicity of nature”? “The body must,” Fludd writes:
be prepared for the operation by some kind of abstinence that will temper and subtiliate it, that will humble the arrogance of the flesh, and will make the dissipated central rays of the soul contract towards their center. The whole man must outwardly and inwardly be reduced to the simplicity of nature. He must neglect and hate all that is composite and multitudinous. Thus, by the virtue of mens humana herself, will he be best prepared for the production of works not accidental, but essential. His intellectual functions will not be impaired by the flesh, and [he] . . . will become as alert, docile, pure and unperturbed as will render him a fit receiver of the prophetic message conveyed by the luminous rays of mens. In a mystical way it will show the objects of truth as in a looking-glass [emphasis added], and it will make the sense and movement function precisely as mens directs. The geomancer should be in good health, his mind unperterbed, his stomach not overburdened with food and wine; he should not be oppressed by poverty, nor under the influence of lust or wrath. Quiet religious contemplation is conducive to the proper state of mind; so is a moderate and temperate way of life, in accordance with nature. The geomancer should abstain from carnal intercourse, but rejoice in spiritual copulation [that is, the union of anima and mens]; instead of wine, the illuminating fluid of mens should inebriate him; he should prosper not in worldly riches, but in the affluence of intellectus divinus [“divine perception”]; he should be replete with spiritual food, not with crapulence.51
Hogarth’s title tells us the Huguenot congregation of the Eglise des Grecs prays at “noon,” consuming only the Word at midday. In a remarkably Palissian gesture, having turned their backs on “Good Eating” and open participation in the world of polite culture, they would seem on the surface to refuse to partake of London’s culture of raw or fashionable consumption. The Huguenots choose another path, which sublimates carnal and material desire into the refugee artisan’s passion for synthesizing religiosity and work into both innovation and production.
As for prophets resisting the sins of the flesh, the Huguenots of Hog Lane—with few exceptions—are already reduced physically by Hogarth’s rendering of their advanced age, their state of physical decrepitude and projection of otherworldly desire. In a very real sense then, these are the last living refugees of 1685, painted a half-century after the Revocation. For them, “noon” is literally the final age of man. “Subtiliate”—taken from St. Augustine’s description of the “invisible, active” bodies of the angels in City of God was a key word for both Fludd and Hogarth. It directed the manner in which Hogarth painted Soho’s Huguenots, how he interpreted their history in London after having survived the crucible of sacred violence. This made them the logical choice for the natural-philosophical artisans of Noon.
The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the word “subtiliate”—defined generally as “To make thin or tenuous; esp[ecially] to rarefy (a fluid); to sublime; to refine; purify”—entered common usage for the first time during the fifteenth century. From the beginning, it was an alchemical term. The process of subtiliation produced “quicksilver,” or philosophical mercury (the key element in the philosopher’s stone) in 1408. By 1579, this mystical process of spiritual refinement was widely known among English natural philosophers, and it was “supposeth [that] the body of Christe might be sub-tiliated, by his Divine power, to passe through the doores.”
In Sir Hugh Platt’s popular book of secrets, The Jewell House of Art and Nature (1594), this English gentleman and natural philosopher, who translated and glossed Bernard Palissy and was the subject of a Howes-Winthrop dialogue in the 1630s, was skeptical of a certain alchemist who claimed to have produced “Sol so subtiliated by often reiteration of Aqua Regis upon it, as that it became almost an impalpable powder [that is, Palissy’s philosophical salt, the potter’s ‘fifth element’].”52 When combined with a secret packet of “medicine” and left in “the crucible in the fire . . . within one halfe hour,” Platt reported, it was said that “the Mercurie were sufficientlie tincted into Sol” that the deceptive alchemist “willed to be taken out of the fire and conveyed into an ingot . . . twoe ounces of perfect Sol [gold].”53 Still, it was only by dint of this fluid and clandestine process of bodily subtilation that Hogarth’s Huguenot refugees could have moved between, inside, and around the parallel worlds of macrocosm and microcosm, which they now occupied simultaneously, and so were able “in a mystical way ... [to] show the objects of truth as in a looking-glass.”
But it also stands to reason that Hog Lane’s Huguenots were just as capable of synthesizing memories of southwestern French history and culture, combining their lived experience of Soho at the same time as their old and new worlds. Internalizing Palissy’s artisanal reinvention of the social, religious, and material processes of Calvinist self-mastery, the refugees alone were shown “outwardly and inwardly . . . reduced to the simplicity of nature.” Neoplatonic “simplicity” or an attitude of plainness could take the social form of refugee hiding and mobility, because simplicity was seemingly imperceptible amid the self-conscious theatricality of Hog Lane. Here, the binary universe mediated by Nature was not made whole (integrae) but rather confused and conflated. “Simple” Palissian artisans had become agents and invisible intermediaries between “all that is composite and multitudinous” in the commercial city. Thus, filtered through the chaos of Hog Lane, Fludd’s prophetic “De geomantia” offers an implicit critique of counting heads (or dots) from the interactive perspective of two early modern philosophers of English natural history. Fludd and then Hogarth devalued the “a posteriori I ab effectu analysis of behavior in everyday life—and of the usefulness of superficial mathematical quantification per se (as opposed to mystical geometry)—to infer social meaning. Here, then, was a philosophical basis for Huguenot stigmatization by native tradesmen, although demographic counts suggest that such fears went beyond mere numbers. Above all, it was necessary to avoid the obfuscations and sensual confusions that would follow, if one began what was essentially an experiential process, with a mechanical, a posteriori count. This Paracelsian critique formed the core of Fludd’s advice to inexperienced operators, who also had to endure the rigorous personal preparation of internal moral cleansing before the geomantic process could properly begin:
Before you proceed to the projection of the dots, I want you to know that the dots, while being made, must not be counted. If you count them, the result of the operation will be useless; for this science has its foundations in the soul and therefore, the number of dots must depend on the will of the soul, and not in any way on the appetite of your senses. He who approaches this work should not begin with anything unless his heart be well disposed, his conscience clear and sound, his spiritus or anima not vexed by any troubles; so much so that he do not wish anything worse to any other man than to himself. When so prepared, let him trust God, the master of the sciences, and pray to Him that by the virtue of this science He may open the truth to him. Immediately after sedulously performing these acts he may proceed to the projection and disposition of the dots.54
In 1562, mortified by the chaos and extreme “esmotions” of mimetic violence in wartorn Saintonge, Palissy was compelled to walk along the serpentine Charente River, where he contemplated the soulish relation between macrocosm and microcosm through his perception and excavation of the hidden elements of subterranean earth. Suddenly, as Fludd prescribed two generations later, the potter experienced harmonic epiphany. He acquired Neoplatonic insight to “approach” his experiments in the kiln with “his heart . . . well disposed, his conscience clear . . . his spiritus not vexed by any troubles; . . . not wish[ing] anything worse to any other man than to himself.” Thus, like Palissy’s potter, who transformed matter from the ruins of a Saintongeais Huguenot culture that was fragmented and “dispersed” by war into translucent glaze, Fludd’s geomancer marries the “Soul of the World” to unify “all that is composite and multitudinous” and achieve the aesthetic of divine perception. Palissy and Fludd staked their political and natural-philosophical programs on their understanding of Neoplatonic materialism. Here a migrating, vital soul makes quantity meaningless by focusing perception on all man-made things as mere fragments of a larger whole dismembered at the onset of postlapsarian time.
Because it was in the nature of this mystical whole to be infinitely greater than the sum of its parts, a few individuals chosen by God to have access to its unifying power could secretly control the motion and production of things in the microcosm. When Palissy made rustic figures and fashioned subterranean grottoes crawling with snails and lizards, he indicated that the sacred power could—perhaps must—be contained in vulnerable bodies like those of their Huguenot makers. Strength was embodied in tiny or nearly invisible things in everyday life. When such things were made by nature in the bowels of the earth and were discovered as marvels or curiosities, they showed workmanship of breathtaking intricacy and almost supernatural beauty hidden inside.
Fascination with the inner workings of fragmented Nature and its replication in art and artisanry endured well into the age of mechanical philosophy. This was why Platt was so popular and one reason for his contemporary English translation and gloss of Palissy’s work. For Platt, Palissy was an honored founder of the books-of-secrets tradition. There was a direct relation between the perception of smallness and truth in these texts. Paracelsian natural philosophers acknowledged that their metaphysical project (like Hogarth’s moral tales) was voyeuristic, but (in a strategy of distancing itself from the wars) nonviolent and benign. Narratives of natural exploration and experimentation, the historian of science William Eamon explains, used language that was a byproduct of the Neoplatonic sexualization of nature:
Natural objects were often described as curious by virtue of their smallness, exquisiteness of workmanship being exhibited more strikingly in miniature. [The natural philosopher and microscopist Robert] Hooke [1635–1703] noted that when examined under a microscope, the most “curious” works of art appear crude, “whereas in natural forms there are some so small, and so curious, and their design’d business so far remov’d beyond the reach of our sight, that the more we magnify the object, the more excellencies and mysteries do appear; And the more we discover the imperfections of our senses, and the Omnipotency and Infinite perfections of the great Creator.” If exquisite workmanship made objects of art worthy of inquiry (and of acquisition), the subtle and intricate secrets of nature were the most curious of all possible objects of interest . . . Hooke openly acknowledged the voyeurism of the new philosophy. Far from condemning it, he extolled it. Hooke contrasted the microscope’s ability to peek at nature without being noticed to the more violent methods of dissection. Instead of “pry[ing] into her secrets by breaking open the doors upon her,” with a microscope the observer can “quietly peep in at the windows, without frightening her out of her usual byas.” To the almost exclusively male company of virtuosi, nature’s secrets were as wonderful and mysterious as those of women. As nature was feminine, natural philosophy was “a Male Virtu” whose “curious sight” followed nature “into the privatest recess of her imperceptible littleness.”55
The famously vaginal imagery of Hogarth’s tiny (1¼-inch diameter) print of his “cottage” (fig. 14.12) had a long history in the natural-philosophical books-of-secrets tradition, and its ultimate intellectual source in the shadows of Plato’s cave. Indeed, consider the image itself as a supplicant’s prospect of the virginal Nature and Soul of the World (in Fludd’s Integrae naturae), as viewed from below across still waters and through a narrow gate by the Nature’s ape. There, rising above Nature’s right breast, “is the true Sun . . . infused in her womb by the mercurial spirit.” “Hogarth’s Cottage”—with its triangular gable end pointing upward to the macrocosm (and to God above Nature’s head)—would thus be located on the dark side of the vaginal moon. As if to punctuate Hogarth’s habitation in the “privatest recess” of Nature, the triangular well handle and chain remind us of the seven nature spirits hidden in figure 8.5 and form another sort of gnomon to cast the cottage itself into the shadows. Hogarth would seem to identify with two ostensibly oppositional characters created for Noon: the sanctified Huguenot artisans of the Eglise des Grecs, who silently replicated the secrets of nature in their clandestine workshops, and, in an unexpected way, the artless African lover, whose simian assault on Nature’s virtue is, in this instance, carnal and premature. The achievement of Hogarth’s Cottage in the countryside is that its author (in Fludd’s words) could “rejoice in spiritual copulation.”
FIGURE 14.12. William Hogarth, Hogarth’s Cottage, March 1, 1786. Posthumously published engraving. 1¼″ diameter. Courtesy Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
For Fludd, it followed that “geomancy must be performed in a kind of rapture or ecstasy.”56 But this prophetic conjunction and moment of sublime soulish excitement is unseen by others and by definition remains internalized and hidden. Geomantic prophesy thus cannot exist in a world governed by mechanical philosophy, because it derives from “immediate” interaction with an engaged God. Fludd’s deity communicated with the geomancer at the very moment of ecstasy: “In prophecy, this rapture or ecstasy is caused by an abstraction, alienation, and illumination of mens humana, proceeding immediately [emphasis added] from God; in geomancy a similar effect is produced by the gathering together of the of the rays of mens into, as it were, a narrow place, namely the human body, so that the soul may by their light see the simple truth more brightly.”57
Gathering mens for projection into “a narrow place, namely the human body,” materialized in Hogarth’s containment and redirection of the animated line of beauty. By virtue of this gathering, Fludd establishes the occult principles of terrestrial astrology, thereby enabling Hogarth to adapt them to his pictorial narrative. Outward sight reflected by sunlight on the elemental earth of Hog Lane is inverted into its mirror image, contracting its “formerly diffuse” force to the “center” of the Huguenot congregation’s now inwardly illuminated body. Hogarth thus privileged the inner metaphysical light of nature, over the multitudinousness of sensual perception:
The rays of mens must, therefore, be made to contract by diverting them from the objects of the external world ... so in this . . . rapture of geomancy those rays of the human soul which are normally sent forth in an outward direction and are dispersed hither and thither are called back towards their center and reflected into mens. Thus an inward illumination may be produced that is comparable to the concentration of formerly diffuse light into the center of the Sun, which took place on the fourth day of Creation. When the rays of the soul are collected in this way, the nature of inward man is reduced to simplicity. He thinks about himself within himself; he is there only by himself and has forgotten matters alien to his real self. In such a rapture or ecstasy, he may to others appear to be without himself, whereas really he is more than ever with himself. There will be little distance between him and the divine.58
Hogarth’s reading of Fludd provided a philosophical language for the pictorial performance of the Huguenots on Hog Lane. After consuming the Word at noon, the refugees “contract”—or absorb—the spirit into themselves, focus their eyes on “inward illumination,” and turn their backs on “the objects of the external world.” They occupy a world of shadow, hidden from the sun’s external governance, which is “diffused” on the complex, chaotic, and “crapulent” modes of consumption depicted in the foreground. In reality, the power of the sun has moved inside of the refugees own pious bodies, where it instills divine “simplicity” (hence clarity) unnoticed by the outside world. This “is the nature of inward man,” to “think about himself within himself.” But such contemplation of the conjunction of macrocosm and microcosm merely reflects off of the self-absorbed narcissism of the polite threesome as in a mirror. Carnality and crapulence centered around the African have the same limited effect. Contemplation is the “experience” of self-knowledge, of “truthful” self-mastery. To love oneself in this way, is to love God. In the moment of ecstatic gratification, “there will be little distance between him [the geomancer] and the divine.” Given what I am arguing is his enormous debt to Fludd, it is unsurprising that this assessment of the geomancer’s bodily metamorphosis parallels the bodily discourse supplied the sitter by John Winthrop Jr.’s physician’s chair. Like Palissy’s withdrawal into his natural laboratory hidden from chaos to build his ceramic material-holiness synthesis in the presence of the holy spirit, it was necessary to have “withdrawn from the multitude.”59 The smaller the “distance” from the divine presence, “the more he may appear to others to be without himself.” Being “without” self describes Hogarth’s darkly ethereal Huguenot artisans, who were “really . . . more than ever with” themselves after experience with the living word in the Eglise des Grecs. In the spectacle of diverse humanity on crowded Hog Lane, the Huguenots alone embody “such simplicity and unity . . . which ignores the multitudinous objects of the external world of the senses . . . and linger[s] in . . . ecstasy to behold, as in a polished mirror, things mundane as well as divine.”60
For some, this begs the question of whether the Huguenots on Hog Lane embody the geomancer or chosen geomantic dots—the observer or the observed? The answer—like everything else in this cosmos of sundials, mirrors, and palindromes—remains ambiguous and fluid, with significant seepage on both sides. Hogarth provides clues, holds his cards close to his vest, and relies on some members of the audience to deconstruct the visual text. Meaning in Hogarth’s universe of “multitudes” is thus revealed slowly, parsed from the confusion and simultaneity of street life, where the “without” and “with[in]” logic of artisanal experience (and Hogarth’s “conceit” of the shell) required that the Huguenot occupy both territories.
Actually, such duality of perspective is also permissible in Fludd, since the anima directing the divine eye of the geomancer would be drawn interactively—like the Paracelsian homeopathic process—to the analogous truth represented by the pairs of dots resonating mystically with his soul. Additionally, two broad themes emerge from fragments of meaning deciphered so far: first, inasmuch as the vast majority of Soho’s Huguenots were artisans of luxury goods, then the pious congregation of the Eglise des Grecs were the producers on Hog Lane; and second, while The Four Times of the Day seems anomalous in the times-of-the-day tradition (instead of the morning/afternoon/evening pattern), it is analogous to the conventional parable of the four ages of man, which, by extension, blends seamlessly with the four elements of nature. Within this context, “Noon,” functioned as a modern history painting. Thus it “documented” the interaction of natural-philosophical and artisanal history at a precise moment of elemental and millennial time, as it passed for the aging and decaying Earth. This was, of course, the essential Palissian project. Reenacted by the most widely observed artist-philosopher in the transatlantic world two centuries after the Recepte veritable appeared in La Rochelle, this link was confirmed by Hogarth when he adopted the public persona of “tradesman.”
Depicting the materiality of the aging earth from perspectives of decayed humanity to which the elements were inextricably linked through the microcosmic body was a millennial project of personal importance to Hogarth. Witness his publication on March 3, 1764, of Tail Piece, or The Bathos, with its caustic farewell to London’s adversarial dealers in “authentic,” “old master” history paintings, competitors of Hogarth’s new, “modern” histories. The old-style pictures were obscured by aging varnish; as Hogarth chided in his sarcastic dedication, “or Manner of Sinking in Sublime Paintings, inscribed to the Dealers in Dark Pictures.” Hogarth could afford to be nasty. He was dying; Tail Piece was the last print marked “design’d and engrav’d” by the artist in his lifetime (fig. 14.13).61 As Paulson has remarked, “for here Time’s darkening means also that the scene is darkening, the sun and moon are failing.”62 Paulson deciphers the “profusion” of Hogarth’s puns on the project he called “the End of all Things”:
some are paralleled, the great with the small, a cracked bell and a broken bottle, the sun going down and a candle guttering out, the world on the tavern sign and the world in The Times print being consumed by fire. A gallows, an unstrung bow, and a broken crown indicate the “end” of a robber, a poet and a king. These examples become increasingly verbal, as Hogarth puns on a scale unprecedented even in his work; Time himself, dying with his scythe and hourglass broken and his pipe snapped, comes to his end uttering “FINIS.” Near him is “The World’s End” tavern, and around him lie the last pages of a play (“Exeunt Omnes”), a rope’s end and a candle end, the butt end of a musket, the worn stump of a broom, and a shoemaker’s “waxed end” twisted around his wooden “last.”63
Hogarth’s punning synthesis of word and image is superimposed as rhetorical ornament on the conclusion of the Paracelsian natural-philosophical dialogue that informed both Noon and Tail Piece. Thus, Hogarth returned at the end of his life to retrieve and open up for further public scrutiny a subject he had introduced as a hidden subtext in the process of gestation twenty-eight years earlier, in Noon. This decision was made doubly complex because the earlier work contained obscure intertextual dialogues with the seventeenth-century Paracelsian Fludd, harnessed to the clandestine history of London’s diasporic Huguenot artisans, in the generation following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had to be accounted for in Tail Piece. That is why the natural-philosophical program that undergirded Hogarth’s final print cannot be fully comprehended without Noon.
Hogarth’s infirmity undoubtedly played a decisive role in his choice of subject, but the historical context of Tail Piece was his witnessing of a natural phenomenon with cosmic and millennial overtones. On April 1, 1764, a total eclipse of the sun, the first to occur in forty-nine years, darkened the sky over London. Two weeks later, Tail Piece was advertised in the St. James’ Chronicle.64 Hogarth’s apocalyptic sun did not end its life in Tail Piece like a clock mechanism winding down. It expired organically, as a body in the midst of its daily transit gloria. An androgynous creature that has lost animating light, the sun is now prone in agony with legs spread. This was a carnal end for Fludd’s figure of “Mater” Nature as well. Deprived of the spirit of fertility, she dies in fruitless labor. The sun begins its catastrophic descent into the microcosm. Without light, it is now falling into stasis. Here it stalled in a chariot riding on Flood’s broken cosmological wheels, drawn behind a powerless team of dead horses. Harnessed together like the inseparable trinity, this threesome have relinquished the spiritual power necessary to pull the sun across the heavens. The darkened sun disables the sundial over Time’s head (extending the subterranean darkness in the Huguenot half of Noon throughout the picture), turning midday into permanent midnight. The mechanical dial can neither illuminate the industrious nor cast a clandestine shadow. Even the inner light of piety seems absent. Indeed, the gnomon—like all the artifacts of human history—has fallen away from its interior moorings on the chapter ring.
FIGURE 14.13. William Hogarth, Tail Piece, or The Bathos, engraving, London, March 3, 1764. H: 10¼″, W: 12″. Courtesy Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Hogarth’s “dark picture” of “The World’s End,” painted the year he died, showing “Nature bankrupt” as Time’s astral chariot draws near.
The Paracelsian synthesis is in the process of decomposition; spirit separates from matter, which disconnects into aimless atoms, form devolves into formlessness. Noon located structures of Neoplatonic unity behind the multiplicity and fragmentation of everyday life, but here the very matter of elemental earth loses coherence. Like the misconceived crying boy’s earthenware platter disintegrating into sulphuric waste, the world reverts to a state of chaos and entropy without benefit of time for artisanal repair and maintenance. In Tail Piece, as in Noon, momentous events have already occurred or are about to happen. Time has crossed “the Earth” off his last will and testament at the moment of his death. God is receiving Time’s immortal soul, which ascended in his last breath. Instead of returning his body to the vanishing earth, whence it came, Time bequeaths “all and every Atom thereof to Chaos whom I appoint my sole Executor.” In death, Time’s atomistic legacy is literally unraveled into dots of chaos. Just as the Lamb breaks the seven seals of the Apocalypse to reveal the scroll in Revelation 5–8, opening the scroll unravels the harmonic balance maintained by the line of beauty, which connected the macrocosm and microcosm. This appears three-dimensionally in the subtext as “The Conic Form in w[hi]ch the Goddess of Beauty was worshipped by the Ancients.”
Revelation and the discourse of production and consumption on Hog Lane are converged in Hogarth’s image of “A Nature Bankrupt,” a final judgment on Nature’s remaining assets, written matter-of-factly on the side of a probate portfolio tossed in a corner, its notarial seal conspicuously broken. The image on this seal seems to have released the fourth and final horseman of Revelation 6:7–8: “a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death.” Yet the first three horsemen have already been released to complete their grim task, witness the broken weapons of war in the center foreground. These belonged to the first rider (Rev. 6:1–2), who “had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”
Hogarth’s simultaneity reveals fundamental millennial linkages between the history of heaven and earth, as he did in Noon. Here, however, as the things of everyday life collapse into an undifferentiated mass of matter in a state of fragmentation from the unity of spirit and matter, dying artifacts of production and consumption fulfill the potential for complete chaos implied by the shop signs on which fragmented bodies advertised goods and services on Hog Lane. If Noon shows that a precarious balance between the worlds of production and consumption has been achieved at great cost to the resources of Nature, Tail Piece shows that the bill has finally come due. Just when Time expires (FINIS), gives up the ghost, and “sinks” into the “dark” alchemical “sublime,” “The Worlds End” is announced on another shop sign, which topples to the ground. The earth is destroyed by the hidden internal fire of corruption and decline, and like Time, animate forces exit the “body” at the end. To reiterate this point, a hanged man’s dead body is suspended from a gibbet in the deep background. The conflagration itself had been prefigured in 1762, by plate 1 of The Times. In Tail Piece, a copy of this print is set on fire by a fallen candle, reanimating its subject and making its prophesy “real.” The print prophesied a second great fire of London as a harbinger of final things (fig. 14.14), and showed penitence wasted as time has run out. A burning globe similar to the sign in Tail Piece appears as a pediment over a door in The Times, upheld by a pair of serpentine brackets. The Times thus forms a narrative bridge between The Four Times of the Day and Tail Piece; roomlike compositional elements in the enclosed urban landscape are repeated in all three images.
FIGURE 14.14. William Hogarth, The Times, p1. 1, engraving, London, September 7, 1762. H: 8”, W: 11⅝”. Courtesy Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. This apocalyptic scene harkens back to the Great Fire of London of 1666 and also contains references to Britain’s transatlantic imperial wars, in particular, the costly Seven Years’ War in North America, then about to draw to a close. Perhaps the dove, surveying the chaos below in the London streets, heralds peace in America while pondering the catastrophic economic and political damage caused in the metropolis by the war?
Noon and Tail Piece exploit Fludd’s science of pyramids and triangles. If the scene at “The Worlds End” were put right again—that is, if the clock were turned back to the final moment before the collapse of Time and the aging earth—then the signpost would still stand upright. In this vertical position, its brackets formed a downward triangle that aligned perfectly with the upward triangle of the gable end on the collapsed building. At the moment of FINIS, a shop sign announcing “The World’s End,” also announces the dissipation of the “Soul of the World,” and with it the structural security that has held the formal and aesthetic elements of Nature’s material life together since the beginning. All this is exhaled into nothingness as millennial Time—the internal time of God and the soul of men and materials—expires, an event that coincides with the collapse of the Fluddian conduit through Nature between microcosm and macrocosm. Does Hogarth represent himself here, by harnessing Fludd’s geomantic powers, as the last of the old adepts? Will life and art revert to chaos after his death? Was no artist left of “experience” to search for the stone?
The “bathos” of Tail Piece thereby linked postlapsarian man’s ultimate descent into chaos with the catastrophic failure to perceive the monistic relation between his own body and soul and the plain animating essence of the natural world hidden below the fragmented surface of modern material life. Like the philosopher’s stone that lay ignored in the street, hidden from the vulgarity of inexperience under a translucent cloak of naturalness, Hogarth also offers his knowledge—albeit covertly—to his many publics. Having completed a semiotic pilgrimage that traversed a labyrinth of clues, it was finally possible for the newly “experienced” to perceive that their silent “withdrawal from the multitude,” had returned the Huguenots of Hog Lane to a memory theater of primitive origins. The conclusion of Fludd’s geomantic text again served as Hogarth’s street map to the refugees’ secret spiritual and material world:
Deeper still, towards the center [of geomantic interpretation], the spiritus of empyreal heaven lies hidden, which is the revealer of things future and present, namely [in] the rational or intellectual collection of these figures [the formerly hidden sequence of dots] and of the things mundane that are therein contained [emphasis added]. It becomes thus even more apparent how carefully spiritus intellectualis should be protected against the obnoxious influence of the flesh and of crapulence, for the first impulse in the production of the geomantic dots issues therefrom and carries away with it, in an occult manner, the natures of the celestial signs, of the planets, and of the elements, concealing them all under the number and proportion of the dots, as a treasure is concealed in a chest. If we wish to open that chest, so that we may penetrate first to the elements, then to the planets and celestial signs, and finally to the limit whence this motion originally ensued, we shall find under the figures [emphasis added], as it were, hidden in that chest, the will of mens in its sanctuary, in the ointment-store. . . .
Thus it becomes evident that, as the prophesy of those touched by [a divine] afflatus [or communication of knowledge] is caused by a union of mens divina and mens humana (whence originates the fullest and greatest vaticination), so also prophecy may sometimes occur in persons not so touched, when, withdrawn from the multitude [emphasis added], anima with her rays is united to her vertex, i.e. to mens humana, which, without any doubt, in conjunction with anima may perform very great actions and may direct them towards a felicitous climax and issue.65
To con firm Hogarth’s performance of Fludd’s conclusions on the power of geomancy to prophesize the aging earth’s historical secrets, it is necessary to revisit Noon for a final look at the Huguenot retreat from Hog Lane. Picturing the refugees’ departure from the Eglise des Grecs is at once his most culturally specific and cosmologically resonant act of mirroring. I would suggest this moment of retreat is, moreover, a metaphorical reenactment of the process of artisanal “dispersion” from Huguenot strongholds such as Saintonge, to which the Eglise des Grecs was harnessed after 1685.66 Their departure from Hog Lane is part of a pictorial dialogue between the natural unity of “primitive” artisanal memory rooted in the Huguenots’ civil war past and the veil of fragmentation from the distortions of fashionable consumption in London’s historical present. Again, a serpentine line of “progress” unites forward and backward motion in space and time and requires congregants to exit the church through the one clearly visible doorway in the painting, only to turn back and enter immediately into another, metaphorical one—a sort of double door—presumably visible only to themselves.
To achieve this effect, Hogarth revived and syncretized two closely related early modern engravings with impeccable credentials as icons of the refugee corpus: Johann Theodore de Bry’s 1620 rendering of Robert Fludd’s Theatrum orbi (“Theater of the World”) (fig. 14.15), and the title page of Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze’s key translation of the Psalms into French poetic vernacular in 1562 (fig. 14.16). Both images (like Hogarth’s profane “cottage” in fig. 14.12) famously focus on liminality and feature mysterious doorways; thresholds to the hidden secrets, pains, and rewards of private, metaphysical space.67
French Protestant families commonly possessed at least one copy of the ubiquitous Marot-de Bèze Psalter, and the iconic image on the title page was the most familiar one in Huguenot culture. As with all Reformation emblemata, text and image were read together. Having opened the book to “Sing to the Lord who lives in Zion, & proclaim his deeds among nations,” the choir scanned down to a two-inch engraving of a walled garden, a mannerist trope for the pilgrim’s entrance to the soul’s fortress and an image of the struggle between good and evil in the seeker’s own corrupt heart.68
FIGURE 14.15. Johann Theodore de Bry, Theatrum orbi (Theater of the World), from Robert Fludd, Utriusque cosmi majoris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa... tomus primus De macrocosmi historia (Oppenheim, 1617; 2d ed., Frankfurt, 1624). Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. The exemplar for refugee memory theaters in the seventeenth-century transatlantic world. The five geometric forms in the foreground represent spaces reserved for columns. Memory is transmuted into material form—architecture and furniture (or interstitial shadow inside them), or ubiquitous consumer goods—in personal “memory places,” located anywhere and available throughout the world, to be recalled by a traveler passing through or a settler.
FIGURE 14.16. François Perrin (for Antoine Vincent), title page from Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze, Les Pseaumes mis en rime Françoise (Paris, 1562). Courtesy Societé de l’histoire du protestantisme français, Paris. This title page device from the crucial Marot Psalter, which was small enough to hide in one’s sleeve and was arguably possessed (in one of its multiple editions) by every French Protestant family, illustrates the admonition from Matthew 7 juxtaposing the choice of the wide or narrow gate to perdition or salvation. Compare the bottom border of the same device with the carving on the New York chairs illustrated in figs. 15.26 and 15.40.
Inside the walls and situated on what may be the top of the world, two abutted arches stand juxtaposed, one narrow, one wide, boxed in by a second boundary: a wall of words. Here the text distills a scriptural admonition about the purifying effect of endurance and suffering taken from Matthew 7:13–14: “Enter by the narrow gate [porte],69 because it is the wide gate and spacious path that leads to perdition.” The narrow gate or, in this instance, arch, is of plain construction, with no discernable ornament or historical style (except the simple brickwork and naturalistic, rough-hewn stone columns). However, to pass through to the other side would be an ordeal. The narrow arch is obscured and guarded by a thorn bush, which reaches out to impale those approaching the threshold. With its roots hidden in the shadows behind a column, the bush grows all the way through the passageway, from back to front, where its branches block the entrance. A metaphor for the steady growth of faith through sacrifice, painful barbs slowly inch their way up the narrow arch. The rustic “capitals” form a sort of crucifix as they traverse the opening (a metaphysical keyhole). This test of love of God provides the raw materials for the construction of Christ’s heroic crown of thorns. The narrow way, in other words, is a painful yet ecstatic memory, recalled by the psalms, of the path taken by Jesus himself.
The wide arch is, by contrast, lavishly ornamented in popish italianate style. It has fluted neoclassical columns framing thornless, sweet-smelling flowers set in the middle of the path behind the cavernous opening. Thus, the devil seduces the unwary into his deathtrap in the hellfire (above the wide arch). The application of this allegory to the enticements of untrammeled, narcissistic desire available on Hog Lane is self-evident, but it is also worth remembering that the original context for this was a message of self-mastery. The psalms promoted stoic endurance and harmonic transcendence to the faithful to overcome the physical and spiritual trials and fragmentation of wartime. Ultimately, they sang of the sanctity of violent martyrdom, while offering the hope of eternal salvation and the transcendence of fallen bodily matter through physical pain and ascetic self-denial. Was this not one source for the narrow, cruciform path taken through its towers by La Rochelle’s martyrs in 1628, as seen through the Germanic lens of the anonymous engravers of In patientia suavitas (fig. 9.1)?
But if this were only a story of pious suffering, what are we to make of Palissy’s transcendence during the first war, from the “pleasure” of the psalms? Again, there are affinities here with Hogarth’s aesthetics of knowledge, and revelation of philosophical truth through close analysis of tiny things of beauty. To quote Matthew in full, recalling Palissy’s application of Neoplatonic principles to the social logic of Saintongeais civil war artisanal discourse: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Not coincidentally, the epiphany Palissy experienced as an individual, isolated from the community of the “many,” occurred during a walk by the banks of the Charente River in 1563, just one year after the Marot-de Bèze Psalter appeared. At that moment, harmonic voices overwhelmed the isolation and carnality of his body and sublimated his senses while calling the vital power of the macrocosm down through the light of nature and into his animated soul.
Fludd also believed the “experienced” could call down the powers of harmonic convergence through the conduit of music, as well as with the science of pyramids. Fludd elaborated this claim in “The Temple of Music.” The temple combined a magicoreligious edifice with a kind of music machine. This marvel was illustrated by de Bry in De naturae simia (1618).70 Is the little book clutched under the right arm of Hogarth’s elderly Huguenot woman who embraces her friend outside the Eglise des Grecs, a copy of the Marot-de Bèze Psalter? (The 1562 edition was similarly small and portable; the title page measured 6 by 3½ inches.) The “narrow” front end points “the way” through her companion’s heart in the wake of the departing congregation, toward the “double door.” This cosmological gesture is noteworthy. Hog Lane is packed with such obscure directional signals.
If Hogarth linked the Marot-de Bèze Psalter with the Huguenot congregation in Noon, he grafted Fludd’s fortresslike Theatrum orbi even more firmly onto its pictorial, natural-philosophical and historical armature. By extension, Theatrum orbi was meant to be read together with its companion image in Ars memoriae (The Art of Memory), the second volume of Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi (fig. 14.17). It is not my task here to elucidate Fludd’s immensely complex and historically learned inquiry into the origins of occult knowledge hidden in the shadowy recesses of human memory. Frances Yates has accomplished this in conjunction with her pathbreaking study of the adaptation of classical memory systems in Renaissance culture. In the process, Yates has also posited a provocative and convincing argument relating the form and function of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and de Bry’s engraving of Fludd’s two-tier Theatrum orbi. A famously visible, material construction was plausibly linked to the process of seventeenth-century memory formation. A stage thus found a central place in the invisible and transatlantic worlds of private religious experience and noetic imagination.71
Taking the universalist, cosmopolitan geography of the Theatrum orbi at its word, I am concerned with Hogarth’s specific use of Fludd’s memory theater as a template for ways of perceiving the unity of the past hidden behind the pluralistic babel of Soho’s internationalism. I shall show that Hogarth elucidated this framework to mediate the clandestine nature of Huguenot artisanal experience and the chaotic consumption of Hog Lane. Read in an interactive way—as a sort of historical dialogue between past and present—Hogarth’s theatrical and densely populated painting fills the empty space made available in Fludd’s vacant, heavily defended, and yet strangely open and passive, Theatrum orbi.
FIGURE 14.17. Johann Theodore de Bry, title page of Ars memoriae (The Art of Memory) in Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi majoris scilicet et minoris metaphysica, physica atque technica historia in duo volumina secundum cosmi differentiam divisa... tomus primus De macrocosmi historia (Oppenheim, 1617; 2d ed., Frankfurt, 1624). Courtesy Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Fludd’s understanding of the eye of the imagination, or third eye, which looks backward in time from the first of three ventricles in man’s brain that structure memory. Memory places collected by man’s bodily eyes are brought forward from shadowy obscurity in the third ventricle at the back of the head up to the eye of the imagination. Divine light from the third eye is refracted backward through universal memory experiences contained in scenes from the Tower of Babel, Tobias and the Angel, a stormtossed ship at sea, and Revelation, all of which are connected by the mediating pyramidal figure of an Egyptian obelisk.
Walls or buildings are removed in the foreground. Space is thus allotted for spectators to look through three-sided boxes, which display abrupt perpendicular backdrops that form shallow theatrical stages. These open boxes are pierced with additional mysterious openings, all darkened by shadow. One depicts an urban setting, the other a sort of fortress, including battlements. One has opposed urban rooflines, the other fortified walls. Both are cropped abruptly at about 45 degrees, compressed beneath the top of the picture plane. These shallow settings seem to offer refuge to occupants (of Noon) and potential occupants (of the Theatrum orbi), as well as the option of entering either a catacomb of secret warrens (backstage / deep shadow) or shallow, utterly exposed public space (center stage / bright sunlight).
Figures might fill openings in the walls away from center stage, but they are secured—as by the obscuring outer layer of Fludd’s geomantic dots—by the boundaries of the spectators’ visual perception. Perimeter walls have already been breached in both instances: “real” Huguenot fortress walls by siege in the early seventeenth-century image; figurative nativist walls that protected “fortress” England from unwanted (but needed) aliens in the early eighteenth-century image. Still, security inside remains available to both sets of furtive refugee artisans who manipulate shadows in the international theater of perception. Even as both experienced and inexperienced spectators engage in the practice of observation, the logic of these images enables shadow actors hidden “offstage” to mirror spectatorship and survey transactions taking place in the light. The spectating public is itself caught in the act; the public observer is observed clandestinely. Neoplatonic and occult dialogues between the hidden and revealed of the macrocosm and microcosm animate Fludd’s “De geomantia,” tacitly implying powerful invisible presences and experiences despite the absence of figures appearing openly on stage in “the world.” Oblique themes of hiding for refuge and security—a sort of natural-philosophical weapon to retrieve memory or obtain other useful knowledge—are ramified by the aggressive display of rough-hewn stones used to build the walls of the Theatrum orbi.
Common in fortress construction since ancient times, such blocks are nevertheless remarkably similar in size and shape to those used to fashion the famous limestone walls of La Rochelle, which had already endured more than one unsuccessful siege by 1620. The visually opaque, impenetrable nature of these stone blocks may be quoted in Noons background in the generic shape of Soho’s densely packed windows, which indicate that Hogarth may have read refugee homes as “blocked” in shadow. As a Paracelsian physician in search of experience, John Winthrop Jr. may well have imagined witnessing the invasion and fall of La Rochelle and the creation of international Protestantism through its destruction, as a variant of Fludd’s Enemies Invading the Fortress of Health (1629–31) (fig. 10.8). Did the refugee de Bry’s seemingly abandoned Theatrum orbi infer that once the walls were breached, the dispersion of refugees into the Atlantic world would ultimately revive the dead and fragmented fortress, transforming it into an international memory theater? If so, the fortress was carried in memory; following Palissy’s “simple artisan,” and ultimately Hogarth’s “tradesman,” this was especially true in the art and mystery of craft memory.
The appearance of the Fludd-de Bry Theatrum orbi in Oppenheim in 1620, and its reappearance on London’s Hog Lane in 1736, suggests that both Flood and Hogarth actively reconsidered Palissy’s pivotal questions about the fate of the Saintongeais reformation without La Rochelle in particular, and of fortress culture in general. How would communal security, lost after Louis XIII’s reduction of the stone walls of the Huguenot fortress, be reconstituted in the refugee artisans’ atomized New World? By what “art and mystery,” practiced in the shadows for display on stage, can the hidden artisan amplify his diminished status in the light?
Begin with Hogarth’s use of the mysterious and idiosyncratic Fludd-de Bry masonry arch. Consider the pair of plain arches floating behind the Theatrum orbi’s crenellated balcony on either side of the overhanging turret. Unlike the walls below the battlements, which are laid in stone, the arches are set into walls above the battlements laid in a Flemish bond similar to the walls of Hogarth’s Huguenot church. These arches are both blocked at bottom by a single battlement and so are only partially visible. Yet they, too, are clearly framed by a brick course laid in alternating Flemish bond, while the two stone arches at stage level are not. Hogarth’s extensive quotation of Fludd’s “De geomantia,” makes it logical that Hogarth should also include the floating, half-visible arch on the Eglise des Grecs, which, like the walls, is laid in Flemish bond. The sturdy narrow arch built of plain brick on the Marot-de Bèze title-page emblem, which identifies individual Huguenot martyrs with the universal memory of Christ’s martyrdom and patient suffering on the cross, merges with the similarly plain brick arches engraved on the fortress of memory. Jesus’ absence and millennial return is fundamentally present in Fludd’s magico-religious Theater, hidden inside the halfseen shadow images in eschatological waiting for the opportune moment to reappear on center stage.
Alternative readings also present themselves. Fludd’s strong association with the early mythology of Rosicrucianism in England was well known to Hogarth. His use of Fludd in Noon harnessed the seventeenth-century natural philosopher to Hogarth’s position in debates over forms of public discourse used by British Freemasonry, a problem that has been discussed thoroughly elsewhere.72 Popular historical narratives contended that there was a formative relationship between the two secret societies, whichshared artisanal symbol systems based on tools and were both connected to ideals of universal learning. Yates, Margaret C. Jacob, and Hillel Schwartz, have, of course, shown the close relationship of individuals and narratives at the center of the Freemason movement with French refugee communities in urban England, Holland, Germany and colonial America.73
Exorbitant displays of the foundational components of the art of masonry—which stand out in the otherwise plain construction of the Fludd-de Bry and Hogarth arches—suggest metaphysical meanings beyond the built architecture of “operative” masonry. Displays of stone and ceramic building blocks of operative masonry here merged seamlessly with the “speculative” architecture of Rosicrucianism, including Fludd’s reading of the art of memory and, by extension, Hogarth’s vision of a street language for Freemasonry. We are also reminded of the subterranean “vault” of Rosicrucianism constructed with walls, a ceiling and floor, and perhaps Elias Neau’s prison “furnace” as well; all of which, we have seen, was adapted to the Saintongeais folkloric tradition.
The mythological narrative of the Rosicrucian arch was also syncretized with the dominant Masonic symbolism of eighteenth-century “Royal Arch” masonry. For Yates, these outsized “royal” arches, each encompassing a secret yet rigidly prescribed language of columns, geometrical figures, and emblems, merged long-standing Christian and occult traditions—as well as the tradition of occult memory—to comprise a synthetic mythology of the mystical arch. The mythology of the arch, shared in common by these two secret societies, bridged the narrative “gap” between the submergence of Rosicrucianism as an active discourse with the end of the civil wars of religion, and Freemasonry’s lodge records and written histories, which first began to appear in the early eighteenth century.74
Hogarth quotes other passages from Fludd’s memory theater in tandem with his reading of “De geomantia.” Both Fludd (charting “terrestrial astrology” with geomantic dots) and Hogarth (mapping a “masonry” ground built with rough-hewn cobblestones resembling the theater’s walls) require scrutiny of obscure street languages located virtually on the ground, where the rules of social grammar are represented in geometrical form. Fludd’s Theatrum orbi complicates the composition of the ground by picturing base marks or sites for the construction of architectural columns of differing profiles. Yet, if taken literally, these, too, are subject to multiple readings as floating two-dimensional forms and could also signify openings to subterranean worlds—or perhaps Fludd’s stage marks. Did Hogarth position his polite threesome underneath the Huguenot sign as a sort of human column between microcosm and macrocosm, deployed around the pattern set by geometric templates? (Indeed, the diamond, stage right—also fronting an arch, as on Hog Lane—seems plausible for this strategy.) Geometric forms mapping the floor include circles, diamonds, and a central hexagon (the latter two reducible to the science of triangles)—all of which also give form to Fludd’s cosmologies. Circles and diamonds are repeated on the balcony; circles alone on the battlements that obscure the arches.
Recall the outsized circular window that hovers above the door of the Eglise des Grecs. The church door itself is squared about a third of the way down from the lintel by a “line” bisected by the head of Minister Herve at center, and bracketed behind each of his shoulders by the heads of two anonymous Huguenot congregants. Taken together, the circular window, in deep shadow, relates less to the door than specifically to its half-seen companion, the equally shadowy Fluddian floating arch. The front façade of the Huguenot church exhibits the three quintessential forms of Fludd’s memory theater: the arch, the circle, and the square, all cloaked in Giordano Bruno’s shadow of memory.
And if the arch had a venerable history as a symbol of refuge ranging from the title page of a civil war Huguenot Psalter to a central place in the elaborate symbolic vocabulary of early modern Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, then the context from which Noon was constructed also attached very specific Fluddian meanings to the Renaissance conjunction of the Vitruvian circle and square, already seen at work in Edward Howes’s pictograph naming John Winthrop Jr. the adept of the New World (fig. 10.1). Given Hogarth’s high status among London’s freemasons, and taking evidence that he performed a close reading and pictorial reimaging of Fludd’s Theater of the World into consideration, these were meanings that Hogarth would have known and manipulated for public consumption and private Masonic ritual.
For example, in volume 2 of Utriusque cosmi. . . historia75 Fludd uses the circle and square to propose a binary structure for “the science of spiritual memorising which is vulgarly called Ars Memoriae!’ He defines two distinctive forms of this spiritual art, which he calls the “round art” (ars rotunda) and the “square art” (ars quadrata). These are the only forms in which the art of memory can be practiced. The “round art,” produced by inspired imagination, is simultaneously magic and “fantasy.” Somewhat like the geomantic mens, round art operates “through ideas, which are forms separated from corporeal things.” However, like mens, these ideas can nevertheless interact with corporeal things. In effect, the round art of memory functions outside the limits of common perception, through the intercession of hidden “things, such as”:
spirits, shadows (umbrae), souls and so on, also angels . . . we . . . use this word “ideas”. . . for anything that is not composed of the four elements, that is to say for things spiritual and simple conceived in the imagination; for example angels, demons, the effigies of stars, the images of gods and goddesses to whom celestial powers are attributed and which partake more of a spiritual than of a corporeal nature; similarly virtues and vices conceived in the imagination and made into shadows, which were also to be held as demons.76
While the shadow discourse originated with Bruno’s writings, Fludd’s “spiritual” and intellectual task was to reintegrate them into reformed Christian natural philosophy by sanitizing the Italian’s memory systems for consumption by international Protestantism.77 Ultimately, the task of reintegration proved more manageable for Fludd than for the Roman authorities. When Rome decided that Bruno’s pre-Christian and ancient Egyptian occult philosophies, and above all his high-profile publications and volubility, were no longer possible to ignore, he was lured back to Italy and executed by the Inquisition.
Of particular concern for our purposes, however, is Bruno’s influential sojourn in Elizabethan England (1583–85). During this period, Bruno produced a gigantic book on magical emblemata, which he called the “seals” of memory.78 Yet the loquacious Bruno found ample time to alienate politically connected English Ramists and scandalize important Calvinist churchmen. Both groups thought his discourses on memory were the centerpiece of a dangerously foreign (read Roman) medieval revival, thought by some alarmed Puritans to infect English natural philosophers like a virus. Bruno’s fiercely polemical university lectures on figuration of magical memory, which privileged the vitalism of nature and the creative force of the personal imagination above abstract logic and written texts (two elements that alienated English listeners), may have received a warmer reception by Saintongeais refugees.79
Stuart rehabilitation of original Christian and Trinitarian forms of the Paracelsian natural-philosophical tradition was nevertheless inspired by Fludd’s universalist response to the wars of religion on the Continent. While Fludd and de Bry readily adapted Bruno’s theory of the shadows into their memory system for displaced survivors of the apocalyptic French wars of religion and the Thirty Years’ War, Fludd’s reading of the Italian’s dangerous “medieval” paganism was domesticated by the work of John Dee. Neoplatonic and Paracelsian explanations of ancient hermetic mysteries informed Dee’s Monas hieroglyphica (Winthrop’s ex libris sign), and the Monas—as well as Fludd’s own reading of Ficino and Paracelsus—influenced his Christian revision of Bruno’s art of memory.80 Hence, Fludd’s discourse of “angels” and “demons,” his belief in the occult power of the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity’s role in the “spiritual” art of memory. Fludd’s Christian revision of Bruno’s hermetic philosophy was continued by Hogarth as well. Signs of Huguenot Protestant worship and specters of Trinitarianism placed on Hog Lane are agents of coherence and geomantic unity behind the appearance of fragmentation and chaos.
Therefore, if the “round art” consisted of magical “ideas” that operated exclusively in the “shadows,” then the “square art” was practiced with “images” of things seen whole. The “square art” was thus concerned with memory images embodied in aspects of the corporeal world. The corporeal included people and animals, but also inanimate objects of all kinds. Fludd intended the “square art” primarily for common folk interested in the ordinary practice of memory. Of the two types of memory, the square was inferior, fit for practitioners with relatively “inexperienced” imaginations. “Square art” was deemed inferior because it used artificial memory places and images that stood out in the man-made environment. The “round art” was superior because it was “natural,” and—like Palissy’s “rustique fugulines”—blended invisibly into the chaos of the microcosm. Infinitely more difficult than ordinary memory, the construction of memory theaters from the “round art” could only be practiced by the “experienced.”
Fludd’s distinctions between artificial and natural memory were clearly drawn from the same Paracelsian framework as was Palissy’s discourse on artificial and natural artisanry. Palissy was living in Paris and probably encountered Bruno in natural-philosophical or court circles after the Italian arrived for a two-year stay beginning in 1581, but the timing of Bruno’s arrival postdates the potter’s last known publication in 1580, so evidence of influence is unavailable. For more direct links to the potter’s knowledge of memory theaters, we must look again to Jacques Gohorry, founder of Paris’s influential medico-magical academy and its near neighbor, Baif’s Academy of Poetry and Music.
Gohorry’s academy disbanded in 1576, five years before Bruno arrived in Paris. However, in De usu &mysteriis notarium liber (Paris, 1550), Gohorry described the great “wooden amphitheater” of memory Guilio Camillo built for François I. Camillo’s influential amphitheater was paradigmatic for Bruno and Fludd, as well as for most early modern practitioners of the art.81 Prints and descriptions of Camillo’s memory theater were widely diffused throughout France and England, and Gohorry’s description of this marvel almost certainly influenced Palissy’s own discourse on the rustic amphitheater of refuge and contemplation for Saintongeais Huguenots. The circular form of Palissy’s amphitheater had both cosmological and elemental overtones (as did the “art of the earth”), but the memory function of the amphitheater may also have been a corollary to the potter’s elaborate ceramic plateaux, which served as naturalistic habitats; “invisible” places where tiny “rustique figulines” could hide and safely endure the ordeal of their alchemical, Christian and Ovidian metamorphoses. Were Palissy’s basins and the cosmic forms made by followers used by patrons who practiced the “square art”?
So far as the “round art” was concerned, Fludd followed Bruno closely in his claim that shadow images were naturally recessive. But corporeal images of people and animals must be overt, lively, and active to transcend inanimate status; obviously. Eyecatching images were remembered best in the “square art.” Thus, Bruno and his international cadre of followers thought the human figure could be useful in a memory system, but only if arrayed hyperbolically in astonishingly beautiful or (its mirror image) utterly ridiculous poses.82 It followed that Hogarth saw the potential to create an inverse dialogue between these two arts of memory in Noon.
Hogarth, as England’s master of the outré, clearly relished creating the two groups of strikingly theatrical consumers, mirrored in the light of Hog Lane’s foreground, to fill Fludd’s corporeal roles. By joining circle and square to form another sort of Huguenot arch out of the doorway of the Eglise des Grecs, Hogarth announces covertly to the experienced spectator that a synthesis of both ars rotunda and ars quadrata was quietly at work in the memories of its congregants.
Etymological questions present themselves here: how did early seventeenth-century readers name the memory theater’s conspicuous and pronounced architectural features? What would audiences call the mysterious cantilevered projection hovering ambiguously at the upper center of the back wall, jutting above the battlements; its pendant drop coming to rest like the nib of a scribe’s pen, above the joint of the double door? Trapezoidal in form when viewed frontally, extending on top into a similarly trapezoidal hipped roof, and supported by a circular gadrooned foundation, this curved and faceted projection—like the window over the door on the Eglise des Grecs—is basically circular and squared simultaneously.83
Arched openings again appear in deep shadow. To punctuate related themes, Fludd puns on geometry in his title, THEATRUM ORBI, written on a placard (another hanging sign), attached to the front. “Theater of the World” (orbis) reads as architecture and astrology; that is to say, as “Theater of the Circle” (or of the “rotation” of the world). Yates suggests a plural reading here as well; hence, a “Theater of the World(s).” This translation implies a space of magical lucidity where microcosm and macrocosm interact in “round” memory. The word theatrum translates literally as “theater,” but also generically any place where action transpires and is observed (standard reference is usually made to the Roman forum). Therefore it is logical to infer Fludd’s cosmological sense of “Action of the Circle” on man in the microcosm, as for Edward Howes, and that “the squaring of the circle lies in the perpetuity of motion” (fig. 10.1).
In Fluddian contexts, circles and squares synthesized opposed geometric and, by extension, philosophical forms. Some trapezoidal architectural forms were therefore meaningful. Trapezoidal meanings were thus dualistic, ambiguous, and contingent on experience and practice. In Fludd’s cosmologies of the microcosmic arts and crafts of man, trapezoids tend to function as geometric signifiers of the potential for a universal monism; that is, for Neoplatonic sexual conjunctio of the dyadic cosmos through Paracelsian natural-philosophical or artisanal practice. This included construction and use of memory theaters.
Medieval builders standardized such trapezoidal projections, adapting them to fit multiple contexts. Is this a theatrical prop seen anchoring Fludd’s Theatrum orbi, part of a forgotten or lost fortification, or a species of pulpit (called a minister’s “desk” and scriptorium in the period)? Clues may again be found in Neoplatonic protections medieval church builders sought in use of the hexagon; for what is the overhang if the hidden part in back is considered only a six-sided form?84 This particular overhang is clearly part of a theater. Fludd tells us so on the placard. On one level then, it functioned in a theatrical mise en scène. But the theater was also a self-contained fortress of memory, part of an internalized arsenal—carried in the form of a book or already memorized as a “system”—newly available in the late sixteenth century for transport along with the mobile New World cultures of international Protestantism. In a fortress, Fludd’s overhang most closely resembled watchtowers or lookouts built into the walls. The French word was échauguette, literally “troop guard,” also a kind of fire watch (for the sentry’s use of a torch to signal other échauguettes down the line), and they were essential to protect vulnerable individual soldiers who operated as warning scouts.
FIGURE 14.18. Léonard de la Reau, architect, Hôtel de Ville, La Rochelle, ca. 1544. The left pavilion of this courtyarded public building, fortified like its city, has the requirements of an ideal memory theater. The stair to the left of the bell tower is part of a nineteenth-century addition.