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Cunicularii, or The Wise Men of Godliman in Consultation

1726
18th century
19 cm x 25.6 cm (7 1/2 in. x 10 1/16 in.)

William Hogarth (London, 1697 - 1764, London) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: Europe, English
Medium and Support: Etching and engraving
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Karen G. and Dr. Elgin W. Ware, Jr. Collection, 1999
Accession Number: 1999.14

The Weekly Journal of 19 November 1726 read:

From Guilford comes a strange but well-attested Piece of News. That a poor Woman who lives at Godalmin [sic], near that Town, was about a Month past delivered by Mr John Howard, an Eminent Surgeon and Man-Midwife, of a creature resembling a Rabbit but whose Heart and Lungs grew without its Belly, about 14 Days since she was delivered by the same Person, of a perfect Rabbit: and in a few Days after of 4 more; and on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the 4th, 5th, and 6th instant, of one in each day: in all nine, they died all in bringing into the World. The woman hath made Oath, that two months ago, being working in a Field with other Women, they put up a Rabbit, who running from them, they pursued it, but to no Purpose: This created in her such a Longing to it, that she (being with Child) was taken ill and miscarried, and from that Time she hath not been able to avoid thinking of Rabbits.

This print by Hogarth was published on 12 December 1726, a few days after Mary Toft's full confession of fraud. Strangely enough, it is not Mary Toft but rather the doctors who are chastised in this composition, a mock heroic type of a bedside drama. It is said that a group of surgeons commissioned this print in order to expose the failings of the doctors so carefully identified at the bottom. After the circulation of this print, it took some time for the physicians identified here to repair their reputation.

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