Guess at the Rest: Cracking the Hogarth Code

By Elisabeth Soulier-Détis

An intriguing contribution to the history of 18th-century art, revealing the Masonic symbolism that pervades the work of one of Britain’s greatest painters.

ISBN: 9780718892159


Employing an approach never previously utilised by Hogarth scholars, this engaging study reveals how a half-hidden thread of Masonic symbolism runs through the painter’s work. The classical and Biblical references, whose ambiguity and apparent paradoxical relation with the eighteenth-century situations depicted have often been underlined, gain coherence and unity when they are analysed within the symbolic framework of freemasonry and alchemy that Hogarth was both using and concealing in his prints. This analysis reveals a coded meaning that is often entirely at odds with the surface one, a dissonance frequently suspected but never conclusively demonstrated by previous critics. Beneath the author’s incisive eye, a veritable secret language of imagery emerges to form a coherent whole, offering an entirely new perspective on one of Britain’s most famous painters.

Guess at the Rest is a highly original and titillating book for academic and general audiences alike. Readers will be intrigued by Hogarth’s intricate weave of mythological, biblical and Masonic references and hidden codes that they form. However, even as she unearths this particular reading of the great painter and engraver, Soulier-Détis ultimately reminds us that although we may wish to think that we know Hogarth well, his dictum at the end of the caption to The South Sea Scheme will always hold true – “Guess at the rest you find out more”.

Additional information

Dimensions 254 × 178 mm
Pages 232

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About the Author

Elisabeth Soulier-Détis has just retired from the position of Professor of British Eighteenth-Century at the Paul-Valéry University of Montpellier. She was director for France of a research network on eighteenth-century Europe. Her major academic interests are eighteenth-century British novelists (Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne) and lately eighteenth-century British art. She founded The European Spectator, a bilingual collection published by the presses of Paul-Valéry University.



The Progress of Early British Masonry
A Harlot’s Progress (April 1732)
The Path to Unity between “Ancients” and “Moderns”
A Rake’s Progress (June 1735)
The Union of Mercury and Sulphur
Marriage-à-la-mode (June 1745)
Fake and Genuine Freemasonry
Industry and Idleness (October 1747)

List of Illustrations


Endorsements and Reviews

Elisabeth Soulier-Detis has now boldly set out to show that this sophisticated repertoire is also suffused with a Masonic iconography hitherto unobserved by previous generations of scholars.
Andrew Pink, in Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, Vol 3, No 1