See the figure just right of center on stilts dressed as Henry III (1491-1547), King of England.
Here the same figure is now William Pitt (1708-1778), Prime Minister of Great Britain.
William Hogarth (1697-1764), The Times, plate 1, 1762. Engraving and etching. Graphic Arts GA113.
In Hogarth’s 1762 engraving, the city on fire is emblematic of the Seven Years War and King George III’s efforts to bring about peace. Note the houses in the center, one with the sign of the two-necked eagle (Germany) and another with the fleur-de-lis (France). England is on the far left and a globe on the building to the right shows the extent of the damage being done.
In the first and second states of The Times, Hogarth disguises William Pitt in a Henry VIII costume but in the final, third state, the costume is removed. Princeton is fortunate to have examples of both the second and third states. The stilts represent Pitt’s crutches he used because he suffered from gout. The millstone around his neck marked 3000 pounds per annum represents the enormous pension he accepted. While others attempt to put out the flames, Pitt has a bellows to encourage the flames.
Five days before The Times was published, another print called John Bull’s House Sett in Flames was issued anonymously. This may have been the inspiration for Hogarth’s work. On the other hand, it might also have been someone copying Hogarth and trying to beat him to the public’s attention, since the second print was certainly completed with less care or iconographic detail.
Hogarth began work on a second, companion plate to The Times but peace was ratified by the Commons on December 9, 1762 and signed in February 1763. This left Hogarth’s print slightly out-of-date and so, he never printed plate two during his lifetime. According to Ronald Paulson, this copper plate was left to his widow, then to Alderman Boydell, who had it finished and published in 1790.
William Hogarth (1697-1764), The Times, plate 2, 1790. Engraving and etching. Graphic Arts GA113