However comic the figures in "A Chorus of Singers" may be, they certainly are intended by Hogarth to stand as an instructive contrast to the group in "A Midnight Modern Conversation." Conceived in the spirit of Jan Steen's drinking scene As Old Folks Sing, Young Folks Pipe, Hogarth's print is a realistic London version of the genre of paintings which celebrate bacchanalian festivals. Less rigorously didactic and more comic than "Gin Lane" (which treats the drinking problems of the working classes), its purpose is to show the follies of overindulging in liquor, and to that end it exhibits a spectrum of effects produced by different degrees of intoxication.
The drunkest figure in the scene may be the soldier (with the cockade in his hat) who sprawls out on the floor, his hand pointing moralistically to the pile of empty bottles and the lemons beneath a table leg shaped at the top into a grotesque, Bosch-like thing. A stumbling physician attempts to administer aid to him by pouring liquor on his head wounds. His glass balanced perilously on the table's edge, a wigless, snoring figure is about to tumble backward. Beside him two figures, who seem to have quarreled sit back to back.
In the center of the table a stupefied fellow tells a heart-felt tale to an amused, skeptical lawyer. An excited man sings out a toast as he crowns a well-fed clergyman. The practiced clergyman, who stirs the punch solicitously with one hand and holds a pipe and a corkscrew in the other, is the only person still relishing the liquor. In contrast to this capacious parson, the figure next to him, in a vain attempt to reach the large, overflowing chamber pot, vomits at the table unnoticed. In more hazard, the man by his side attempting to relight his pipe (filled with "Freemans Best") has fired his ruffled sleeve. The politically divergent London Journall and The Craftsman, which lie significantly close to his oversized sword (not even the soldier is armed), suggest that he is a politician.
The morning light casts the window's reflection on the bottle the physician tips over. A tranquil Oriental scene decorates the punchbowl in the center of the picture.
[Excerpt from Engravings by Hogarth, edited by Sean Shesgreen (Dover, 1973).]