William Hogarth’s ‘The Sleeping Congregation’ (1736) is a milestone in the cultural history of the sermon. The scene is quite straightforward.2 A myopic clergyman with a blank expression struggles through a sermon, which is written out in full, as was commonly done in those days. The sermon’s text is Matthew 11: 28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. The congregation, it seems, has quite literally taken the message. Practically everyone is fast asleep, despite the complaint written on the door of the pulpit: ‘I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain’ (Galatians 4: 11). The clerk beneath the pulpit is one of the very few churchgoers not utterly dead to the world. However, his attention is drawn not to the homily but to the impressive bosom of a young woman. She, too, is sound asleep, holding in her limp hands a fan and a book of prayer, tellingly opened at the chapter on marriage. The scene conveys a sense of extreme lethargy and boredom on the part of the audience, and complete lack of inspiration on that of the preacher.