What is striking, even ironic, is that just as Hazlitt was criticizing him in print for his unimaginative predictability, with Distraining for Rent at the Academy Wilkie was demonstrating an entirely unexpected transformation.
By one account the Distraining was "a work far surpassing any of his former productions" (Press Cuttings, from English Newspapers 918, April 2, 1815).
Recalling The Rake's Progress, his extended tale of a young man's journey from wealth to debauchery and destitution, it was thought the Distraining might likewise become a scene in an unfolding saga of gullibility, impoverishment and the lessons to be learned from imprudence.
Nevertheless, despite its highly charged reception, for 600 [pounds sterling] the Distraining was purchased directly from the Academy by the British Institution, who displayed it in the next year in their own rooms.
All associations with Hogarth aside, the debacle of the Distraining, its mixed, even perplexing reception and its resultant removal from public sight, even led Raimbach to acknowledge a decline in Wilkie's "extreme popularity.