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Hogarth depicts life in St Giles
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Hogarth's engraving 'Gin Lane' is a stylised portrait of the slum district of St Giles in the Fields, where many Irish people live.

The buildings are ruinous; only the pawnbroker's shop looks solid and prosperous. A carpenter is pawning his coat and saw, while a woman is waiting to pawn her pots and pans. They will spend the money on gin.

Apart from the hard-faced pawnbroker, most of the people in the street are in various stages of drunkenness: quarrelsome, stupefied, demented or simply unconscious.

The woman in the centre is taking snuff. Horrifyingly, her child is falling on its head while she grins drunkenly at the snuff-box in her hand.

The ballad seller at the foot of the steps is starving to death. The money he should spend on food is being spent on gin instead.

Below the pawn-broker's shop there is an entrance to one of the cheap lodging houses that Fielding describes. The writing over the door reads:

Drunk for a penny
Dead drunk for two pence
Clean Straw for Nothing.

In the middle distance, we see a pauper's burial. The parish beadle stands nearby, holding his staff of office. It is his job to superintend the poor and keep them from being troublesome to the rich.

The burial reminds us of the high death rate in an area where the unwashed, verminous, underfed poor live in overcrowded, insanitary housing.



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