Brown wrote a sonnet entitled “Work.” Here is an excerpt:
“Work! which beads the brow and tans the flesh
Of lusty manhood, vesting out its devils!
By whose weird art, transmuting poor men’s evils,
Their bed seems down, their one dish ever fresh.
Ah me! For lack of it what ills in leash
Holds us. Its want the pale mechanic levels
To workhouse depths, while Master Spendthrift revels.
For want of work the fiends him soon inmesh!
Ah! Beauteous tripping dame with bell-like skirts,
Intent on they small scarlet-coated hound,
Are ragged wayside babes not lovesome too?
Untrained, their state reflects on thy deserts.
Or they grow noisome beggars to abound,
Or dreaded midnight robbers, breaking through.”
An anonymous reviewer praised Brown’s Work when he saw it Brown’s retrospective exhibition held in London in 1865:
“Now what, we are convinced, will most strike visitors to this Gallery is that the painter not only…grasps contemporary life, but that he grasps it with an intensity which is very rare in any of the fine arts. He strikes home, where we all can measure the blow. And to do this with success implies, not only the man of technical ability, but the man of mind….His Work is simply the most truthfully pathetic, and yet the least sentimental, rendering of the dominant aspect of English life than any of our painters have give us.”
Anonymous review in Saturday Review (25 March 1865), excerpted in Mary Bennett, “Ford Maddox Brown, Work,” in Leslie Parris, ed., The Pre-Raphaelites. Exhibition catalogue (London: Tate Gallery Publications, 1984), p. 165.