I could easily fill this Tumblr with Hogarth engravings: so many of them are overflowing with narrative and brimming with sarcasm. I find them a great delight! The Company of Undertakers by William Hogarth (1697-1764) was issued in 1736. This early print is likely from the original engraving and is reproduced here courtesy of McMaster University Library. The people portrayed in this image are doctors and “quacks,” labelled “undertakers” based on the too-often result of their ministrations to those people suffering from illness. At the time this satirical illustration was created, the word “undertaker” carried the weight of several meanings (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), all reinforcing the irony of using it as a label for these “physicks” and doctors: “One who aids or assists; a helper.” “One who engages in the serious study of a subject or science.” “One who acts as security or surety for another.” as well as the funeral arranger.
To see more on doctors, the practice of medicine, and funerals, read Eighteenth-Century Fiction journal online via institutional subscription at Project MUSE: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/eighteenth_century_fiction/