Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead

FINIS: Objects of the End of Time, Afterlife Writing and Situation of Graves


  • Jane Wildgoose King's College London



Hogarth, Bathos, grave, afterlife


Focusing on Hogarth’s last graphic work, The Bathos, this essay examines the ways in which the vanitas themes it represents are bound up with events that occurred towards the end of the artist’s life. Drawing on life writing (including elements of Hogarth’s autobiographical notes) that accompanied the cataloguing of his works in the years following his death, it discusses a number of controversies that drew scathing criticism of his work, his character, his politics, his ideas about English art and his standing as an artist, during his final years. Focusing on textual and visual images employed by Hogarth’s detractors to belittle him, it explores how these metaphors may be connected with the iconography he employed in The Bathos, and the extent to which the work may be ‘read’ as a representation of the artist himself, and his view of his reputation at the end of his career. Contrasting the pessimistic image Hogarth presents in his final work with the afterlife writing of his achievements by his contemporaries, it concludes with reflection on the role that his grave continues to play in celebrating his life and his status as one of the most talented and innovative artists of the eighteenth century.

Author Biography

Jane Wildgoose, King's College London

Jane Wildgoose is an artist and researcher and Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London. Her practice centres on collecting, memory and remembrance. She works to commission with museums and has exhibited at Kensington Palace (Historic Royal Palaces), Waddesdon Manor (Rothschild Collections/National Trust) and Sir John Soane’s Museum in the UK and the Yale Center for British Art in the USA. Her recent publications include ‘Post-Specimens and Present Ancestors: Passing Fables & Comparative Readings at The Wildgoose Memorial Library—An Artist’s Response to the “Unique Status” of Postcolonial Human Remains in Museums’, in Post-Specimen: Interobjective Encounters in Art, Science and Museology, Ed Juler and Alistair Robinson, ed. (Intellect Books, forthcoming, 2020). E-mail:





Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead