"Cruelty Has a Human Heart...Terror, the Human Form Divine" (William Blake)

While looking through William Hogarth's drawings, I was startled to find in his "Four Stages of Cruelty" of 1751 what must be the first reference in English to a link between cruelty to animals in childhood and murderous adults. The FBI has included a history of animal abuse in their analyses at least since the 1970s, and one of the first formal studies by Arnold Arluke, Jack Levin and others of 153 criminals found animal abusers much more likely to commit violent crimes against people, and crimes against property, than neighbors with a similar background but without a record of animal cruelty.

"The 'Four Stages of Cruelty'," Hogarth wrote, "were done in the hopes of preventing in some degree that cruel treatment of poor animals which makes the streets of London more disagreeable to the human mind, than anything what ever, the very describing of which gives pain. But it could not be done in too strong a manner, as the most stony hearts were meant to be affected by them."


While various Scenes of sportive Woe
The infant Race employ,
And tortur’d Victims bleeding show
The Tyrant in the Boy.

Behold! a Youth of gentler Heart,
To spare the Creature’s pain
O take, he cries—take all my Tart,
But Tears and Tart are rain.

Learn from this fair Example—You
Whom savage Sports delight,
How Cruelty disgusts the view
While Pity charms the sight.





Hogarth's villain, Tom Nero, is shown graduating from torturing a dog to abusing his horse to abuse and eventual murder of his pregnant mistress, Ann Gill. In the final cartoon, Nero body is taken from the gallows and symbolically drawn and quartered by an anatomy class. His eye is taken out just as the horse's was, and a dog feeds on his heart.

2 comments:

Stewart Sternberg said...

My God these are horrific. I remember reading a book some time back entitled: "Why Do Elephants Cry"...at least I think that was the title. The book dealt with the idea of whether or not animals have any emotion or are all instinct. One passage of the book that haunts me involves the experimentation on dogs, doing horrible things to them while they were living and dismissing the whimpers and cries as a reflexive response and not really an indication of intellect or intelligence.

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

"While various Scenes of sportive Woe
The infant Race employ,
And tortur’d Victims bleeding show
The Tyrant in the Boy."
Most worrying is how to this day, in the rural district where I teach (and the urban district where I started) bullying and childhood violence are still regarded as "boys will be boys". And animal abusers are still quite brazen in bragging over frogs and dogs and cats they've murdered, as though trying to make their audience laugh and become complicent in their crimes. What Hogarth knew still hasn't seeped down into the general populace, and so twenty years later, everyone acts surprised by another Ted Bundy or another Columbine.