- "The South Sea Scheme" by William Hogarth [Selected Works]
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The South Sea Scheme


This early print by Hogarth was an allegorical attack on a wave of disastrous financial speculation that had just swept England. To help eliminate the national debt, the government had sponsored the South Sea company, which put investors' funds into such dubious projects as a gold mine in Spanish-ruled Peru. Corporate corruption was rife, and when the bubble burst it cost many people their savings, estates and honour. The centre of Hogarth's print is a human wheel of fortune topped by a goat and the slogan "Who'l Ride". At left, a winged devil with a scythe throws chunks of Fortune's body to the grasping crowd. A Protestant, Catholic and Jew gamble while Honesty is broken on the wheel of Self-Interest and Villainy whips Honour. In the lower right-hand corner Trade lies dead.
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