Spread through England
The Society of Gormogons - the alternative spelling to Hogarth's Gormagons - was an active organisation attributed to Wharton as a founder, and which spread through England.
It appears to have survived to the end of the century as a rival organisation to Freemasonry.
There is no exact date of Hogarth's initiation into Freemasonry. He is recorded, however, as one of nine members of the Lodge meeting at the Hand and Apple Tree in Little Great Queen Street, Holborn, when it was consecrated in November 1725.
The Lodge, which took on the number 41, moved to Westminster and returned to Holborn, but was erased in 1737. By then Hogarth had become a joining member, in 1730, of the newly constituted Corner Stone Lodge which amalgamated with St George Lodge in 1843 and is now the St George and Corner Stone Lodge No 5.
There is little doubt that Hogarth's successful career, both as an artist and a Freemason, was influenced, even motivated, by Sir James Thornhill, his father-in-law.
Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) was a well-known and accomplished painter whose frescoes still adorn the interior of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral and the Painted Hall in what is now the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. He was the Governor of the precursor to the Royal Academy and a founder of the Art College in Covent Garden.
Hogarth's relationship with Thornhill did not start in the best of terms, since he eloped with his daughter Jane and clandestinely married her at the Old Paddington Church in 1729.
Nevertheless, they became friends, and Hogarth admired and respected Thornhill and remained loyal to him all his life, even when the latter's fortunes began to decline.
Thornhill was also an active member of the Craft. He was Master of the Lodge meeting at the Swan Tavern in Greenwich in 1725 and gained the very high rank of Senior Grand Warden in 1728.
This was a period when Freemasonry was a fashionable activity. It stood out as an institution because of the quality and the high ranking standing of those who had become members, including members of the Royal family.
Thus, Sir James Thornhill joined the Masonic institution by right, so to speak, by his standing as a member of parliament and of the nobility. Hogarth, on the other hand, was born into an impoverished family and he needed Thornhill's introduction to join a suitable Lodge consisting of men well above his own social standing.
Hogarth's incisive and critical pen did not differentiate between friend and foe, Freemasons and the profane. He depicted what he saw and his subjects were at his mercy.
His father-in-law, in the two portraits that Hogarth painted of him, got away lightly. The more important oil painting is a full portrait of Sir James in his wig and silk waistcoat, wearing a large blue-flapped Masonic apron under his grey cloth coat and holding a glove in his left hand.
Round his neck is a light blue collarette, from which hangs a silver level, the Senior Warden's jewel. Hogarth now enjoyed incorporating Masonic emblems into his paintings. The window frame is an obvious square and the shadows in the foreground and the floor pattern allude to recognisable Masonic symbols.
John Wilkes (1727-97) did not get away so lightly. Hogarth's detailed and accurate 1763 depiction of the controversial champion of liberty became a major issue of contention between the two men. It depicted with pitiless accuracy Wilkes' physical defects, his distinctive squint and cynical grin, which was a recognisable feature of the politician, as well as his arrogance and defiance.
So accurate was this depiction, that in August of that year, the son of a Scottish Jacobite challenged Wilkes to a duel in Paris, having recognised him from Hogarth's print! In 1769, five years after Hogarth's death, John Wilkes was made a Freemason in prison, by special dispensation of Deputy Grand Master Charles Dillon.
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