«A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of PhD at the University of Warwick This thesis is made available online and is ...»
Curtin has convincingly demonstrated the rejection of formal modes of behaviour through an examination of conduct literature. Whilst earlier aristocratic courtesy books had united the issues of manners and morals, these concerns became segregated as the eighteenth century progressed. He argues that manners were increasingly dismissed as trivial and that writers began to demonstrate a new Christian emphasis on the inner life, an enhanced pride in the English character as straightforwardly honest in comparison to the contrived and artificial demeanour of the French, a burgeoning Romanticism and a predilection for the countryside over the urban environment. The focus of such texts thus shifted to inner moral virtue whilst manners were relegated to the separate genre of the etiquette book. 108 David Solkin has translated this decline of manners as a means of social 107 D.R. Smith, Masks of Wedlock: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Marital Portraiture (Epping, 1982), p.ll M. Curtin, 'A Question of Manners: Status and Gender in Etiquette and Courtesy', Journal of Modern History 57 (September 1985), pp.395-423 communication and self-identification into pictorial tenns. He describes the early decades of the eighteenth century as a period of straightforward and unambiguous pictorial codes, a period in which the outward display of good breeding and politeness was confidently accepted as signifying social worth.
* * * * * The focus, therefore, should not be on ascertaining a lack of affection in the early conversation piece followed by burgeoning of sentiment from the 1750s onwards, but rather on the development of the expression of that sentiment. What happened in mid eighteenth century was not so much the birth of depicted displays of affection, but changes in the way in which they were displayed and the ideal of wedlock to which they referred, dictated by fashion. That ideal was increasingly sentimental, lauding the companionate marriage as it condemned both materialistic and lustful relationships. However, as this chapter has emphasised, the development D. Solkin, 'Great Pictures or Great Men? Reynolds, Male Portraiture, and the Power of Art', Oxford Art Journal 9,2 (1986), pp.42-3 was not entirely linear and was greatly affected by factors such as class, provincialism and socio-cultural milieu. Thus, Arthur Devis was still depicting sitters ranged in rigid poses across backgrounds of intricately described interiors whilst contemporaries such as William Hogarth in London were representing couples united by narrative conceits and absorbed in one another to the exclusion of the viewer to foster an impression of privacy. However, thanks to the inexorable process of change, Devis was increasingly falling out of fashion and into relative obscurity throughout the 1750s and 1760s, being "content to work in a style which bore increasingly little relation to the artistic currency of the time."IJO Meanwhile, pioneers such as Reynolds came to command previously uncomprehended prices for their portraits. By the time of the third Discourse, delivered in 1770, Reynolds was able to refer to formal gestures and poses as the "ill-understood methods, which have been practised to disguise nature, among our dancing-masters, hair-dressers, and tailors, in their various schools of deformity."JlI Indeed, Reynolds himself was hailed by The Public Advertiser in 1775 for being the one to displace such formalistic language of affection: "It was he who had the courage and ingenuity to step out of that stiff, formal track which our modem painters had got into, of drawing every lady with a rose between her forefinger and her thumb, and every gentleman with his hat under his arm."112 Saumarez Smith. Eighteenth-Century Decoration, p.126 Discourse III. in Sir 1. Reynolds. Discourses on Art (1769-1790). ed. R.R. Wark (1966) III (London. 4th edition. 1969). p.49 The Public Advertiser 25 March 1775
As we have seen, the prescriptive ideal of marriage was founded on mutual liking and compatibility. Whilst writers had long emphasised affection and free choice of spousal partner as critical for the successful union, the eighteenth century witnessed a new sentimental idealisation of the relationship between husband and wife.
Masculine domestic virtues were elevated to such a degree that the capacity to fulfil a public role increasingly became perceived as reliant on virtue in the domestic sphere, on kind and loving treatment of familial dependants. Simultaneously, the role of women as wives, household managers and mothers became venerated in newly cloying terms. Supplanting blatant assertions of female inferiority, the critical nature of women's domestic duties became a subject for much discussion. Writers declared that wives should be seen as their husbands' companions, thus requiring education to render them capable of fulfilling this role.!
This chapter will consider claims that the eighteenth-century companionate marriage was characterised by a new parity. First, it will expand on the historiography outlined in the introduction, surveying the debate between historians who have argued that the relationship between husband and wife became increasingly equal in the 1700s and feminist scholars who have claimed that the sentimental elevation of women constituted a new formulation of an abiding patriarchy.2 Then, marital portraits will be considered in light of such arguments. As in previous periods, eighteenth-century pendant portraits segregated male and female sitters into distinct
pictorial spaces. These became increasingly particularised throughout the period as a specific and often professional masculine identity was paired with a more generic, domestic and sentimental femininity. The chapter will then go on to discuss how such pictorial divisions came to be justified through the inherently compatible and, indeed, mutually dependent nature of these roles. The view that the respective capacities and duties of husband and wife should be matched to create a perfect concordia discors will be found to be evident in the double portrait tradition of the later eighteenth century. Finally, it will be emphasised that such delineation of congenial 'separate spheres' was not directly reflective of reality. Pictorial conventions appealed to popular stereotypes of gendered roles within the home whilst lived enactment of those roles frequently transgressed such boundaries.
* * * * * Lawrence Stone emphasised the principle of equality as fundamental to the newly companionate family of the eighteenth century, accepting contemporaries' assertions of parity between spouses. First, he contended that a new awareness of individual rights effected "a greater autonomy" for wives and children as the rigid control of the patriarchal household head declined in the late seventeenth century.
Parents became increasingly willing to allow children freedom in election of marital partners, enabling love and compatibility to supersede money and property as the chief motivations for wedlock. Once husbands and wives were bonded by mutual respect and affection, "equalising relationships between husband and wife" became predominant. 3 This thesis was seconded and elaborated by Randolph Trumbach in his book (significantly) entitled, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family. Trumbach argued that, once all forms of human slavery had been rejected, the way was paved to a new equivalence between the various members of the household. As a result, the possibility was raised "of true and equal friendship between husband and wife."4 Such uncritical acceptance of contemporary assertions of parity between husbands and wives has been strongly criticised. Alan Macfarlane countered that such equivalence was an historical constant. He claimed that the liberty of English women and the loving treatment that they received from their spouses was a source of astonishment to foreign travellers from the sixteenth century, if not before. s Conversely, feminist historians came to argue that promulgations of the domestic woman were reformulations of patriarchal discourse, securing women within the family and household and thereby excluding them from involvement in public and political spheres of action. The concept of 'separate spheres' was most notably defined and developed in Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall's Family Fortunes, published in 1987. The authors argued that the concept, promoted by the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism, was a critical tool in the formation of the selfimage of the middling ranks in the Victorian period. 6 However, since then, many historians have sought the origins of such doctrines in the late seventeenth and L. Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (London, 1977), pp.8, 325 R. Trumbach, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations in Eighteenth-Century England (New York, San Francisco and London, 1978), p.3 A. Macfarlane, 'The Family, Sex and Marriage in England /500-1800 by Lawrence Stone', S History and Theory 18 (1979a), p.l14 L. Davidoff and C. Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 (London, 1987) eighteenth centuries. Some have claimed that the liberalism propounded in the work of political theorists such as Hobbes and Locke, in destroying hierarchical models of humanity and proposing all mankind to be equal, necessitated new rationale for female subjection to be sought in the concept of the sexes as equal but different.? Such theories have been supported by the work of medical historians who have argued that the instability of the traditional theory of sex as a sliding scale necessitated a new doctrine of gender opposites in order to create an unbridgeable divide between men and women. Beginning with works such as Thomas Bartholin's Anatomy of 1668 and Thomas Gibson's The Anatomy of Human Bodies Epitomised of 1682, astrological and humoural formulations of masculinity and femininity were rejected in favour of incommensurable sexes, divided by the tool of nerve theory.8 In particular, Susan Moller Okin has elaborated three characteristic features of the companionate family that reveal its foundation in patriarchal discourse.
Eighteenth-century writers presented the female sphere as more firmly segregated from the male than before, advising that feminine influence should be restricted to the home and family. Simultaneously, they characterised women as creatures of sentiment, as essentially emotional and irrational and thus as lacking the intellectual S.M. Okin, 'Women and the Making of the Sentimental Family', Philosophy and Public Affairs 2, 1 (1982), pp.65-88. See also J.B. Elshtain, Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social and Political Thought (Oxford, 1981), chapter 3, 'Politics Sanctified and Subdued: Patriarchalism and the Liberal Tradition' for an interesting discussion of the development of patriarchal thought through the writings of Filmer, Hobbes and Locke.
Gender, Sex and Subordination in England 1500-1800 A. Fletcher, (New Haven and London, 1995) passim., especially pp.xvi, 33-4, 41, 287, 292, 396. Fletcher's views were developed from those of Thomas Laqueur as elucidated in 'Orgasm, Generation, and the Politics of Reproductive Biology', in C. Gallagher and T. Laqueur, eds., The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1987), pp.l-41. See also the and reasoning capacities necessary to perform roles of civic import. Finally, they presented the interests of the sentimental family as harmonious to the extent that the patriarch could be entrusted to express and safeguard the interests of other family members. Such developments effectively denied women admission to public spheres, claiming that they lacked the intellectual and rational abilities requisite for such access, and rendered the patriarchal head of the household the sole purveyor of power. 9 Thus, as Janet Todd has observed of writers such as Richard Steele and Joseph Addison; "they wanted a sentimental version of the patriarchal order, not its abolition... they urged the gentle feeling lady, entirely familial and entirely subordinate, while domesticity was elevated to the female equivalent of a male profession."10 However, as was indicated in the introduction, the concept of 'separate spheres' has come under increasing attack. 1l Most notably, Amanda Vickery has questioned the idea that it was born and developed in either the eighteenth or the nineteenth centuries and has pointed out that basic segregation of masculine and following essay, L. Schiebinger, 'Skeletons in the Closet: The First Illustrations of the Female Skeleton in Eighteenth-Century Anatomy,' pp.42-82 Okin, 'Women and the Making of the Sentimental Family', p.74. See also S.M. Okin, 'Patriarchy and Married Women's Property in England: Questions on Some Current Views', Eighteenth-Century Studies 2 (Winter 1983/4), pp. 121-38; S.M. Okin, 'Gender, the Public and the Private', in D. Held, ed., Political Theory Today (Cambridge, 1991), pp.67-90 10 1. Todd, Sensibility: An Introduction (London and New York, 1986), p.20. Many writers have accorded with this view of the exultation of women as a tool of oppression. See, for example, T.
Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa: Writing, Sexuality and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson (Oxford, Family Fortunes, p.391; K. Shevelow, Women and Print 1982), pp.15-16; Davidoff and Hall, Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical (London and New York. 1989), pp.lO. 92. 96. The school of thought was summarised by Amanda Vickery in 'Golden Age to Separate Historical Spheres? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women's History'.
Journal 36, 2 (1993), p.384: "In this way. the glorification of domestic womanhood became associated with the deterioration of women's public power.....