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in the greater scheme of things and so creating perfect harmony, was exploited:
Men and Women were made as Counterparts to one another, that the Pains and Anxieties of the Husband might be relieved by the Sprightliness and good humour of the Wife. When these are rightly tempered, Care and Many thanks to Derek Adlam and Alison Parente at Wei beck Abbey for this information.
George Savile, Marquess of Halifax, 'The Lady's New Year's Gift; or, Advice to a Daughter' (1688), in J.P. Kenyon, ed., Halifax: Complete Works (Harmondsworth, 1969), pp.277-8 Chearfulness go hand in hand: and the Family, like a Ship that is duly trimmed, wants neither sail nor ballast. 47 This loaded image of the ideal family as balanced between the solidity of the patriarch and the lighter qualities of the matriarch was developed throughout the century. In the Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith imaged the married couple as spies, "furnished with different abilities, adapted for mutual inspection," whilst Lord Kames in the 1770s argued masculine and feminine characteristics to be "different but concordant, so as to produce together delicious harmony."48 The main contribution of the wife to the harmonious marital union was her softening and ameliorating influence, capable of tempering the naturally and necessarily more severe disposition of her husband. Again, it was a repetitively persistent precept. Halifax advised his daughter that men "wanteth your gentleness to soften and to entertain us" and Lord Kames made the same point almost a century later; "the gentle and insinuating manners of the female sex, tend to soften the roughness of the other sex."49 Indeed, according to a male writer in The Matrimonial Magazine, the absence of such feminine "delicacy" and "sweetness" could cause men to "contend, destroy, and triumph over one another; fraud and force would divide the
world between them." He continued:
The Spectator no.128 (27 July 1711), in The Spectator (1711-12, 1714), ed. D.F. Bond, 5 Vols. (Oxford, 1965), II, p.9. For an interesting discussion of Concordia Discors, see D. Solkin, Richard Wilson: The Landscape of Reaction (London, 1982), pp.68-9 48 O. Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), ed. C.
Coote, (Harmondsworth, 1986), p.69:
H. Home, Lord Kames, Sketches of the History of Man 4 Vols. (1778) (Edinburgh and London, 2nd edition, 1788), II, p.2 49 Halifax, 'The Lady's New Year's Gift', pp.277-8; Kames, Sketches of the History of Man, pp.3-4 It is the conversation of women that gives a proper bias to our inclinations, and, by abating the ferocity of our passions, engages us to that gentleness of deportment, which we stile Humanity. The tenderness we have for them softens the ruggedness of our own nature, and the virtues we put on to make the better figure in their eyes, keeps us in humour with ourselves. 50 Possibly the most prominent proponent of the civilising effects of female company was the Reverend James Fordyce. He laid particular emphasis on women's capacity to stimulate masculine civility and courtesy, so that "habits of undissembled courtesy are formed; a certain flowing urbanity is acquired; violent passions, rash oaths, coarse jests, indelicate language of every kind, are precluded and derelished."51 Others, however, attributed more momentous import to the female role. Not only could a wife acculturate an uncultivated husband, but she could watch over his virtue, deemed at risk from the rigours of the world and public life. As a consequence, writers advised that women should create and maintain a domestic haven that would tempt husbands away from the lure of the city and its vices. They focussed on various elements of the companionate ideal that would encourage men to reject homosocial The Matrimonial Magazine; or. Monthly Anecdotes of love and Marriage for the Court. the City and the Country January 1775, p.31 51 Fordyce. Sermons to Young Women. I, pp.16-7. The cleric was more specific on the refining quality of the female character in his later. significantly titled, sermon, The Character and Conduct of the Female Sex, and the Advantages to be Derived by Young Men from the Society of Virtuous Women.
A Discourse in Three Parts. Delivered in Monkwell-Street Chapel. January 1, 1776 (London, 1776), pp.92-3. Having emphasised the importance of feminine influence, whether exercised for the good or not, he specified that. "the conceit of youth might be taught modesty; the pedantry of the college exchanged for the ease of the entertaining companion. and the urbanity of the accomplished gentleman;
the stiffness and acrimony of the disputant tempered and moulded into a pleasing deference."
culture for family life. Fordyce believed that love would render a man always "glad to shake off the interrupting world" and to return to his loyal spouse "with new delight."52 A young gentleman in The Court Letter Writer emphasised the need for a wife to be amiable, advising that his sister "be not peevish" at her husband "going abroad" as he will then "return with heightened relish for your conversation."53 And Maria Edgeworth promoted the need for female education, creating women who would be able to tempt men away from all-male clubs with intelligent and stimulating companionship. 54 The successful lure of a husband to a pleasing domestic environment is pictorially represented in Arthur Devis's Sir Peter and Lady Leicester of 1743/5 (fig.38). Lady Leicester is depicted running out of Tabley House in Cheshire, arms held out to greet her husband. As she hurries towards him, he raises one hand towards the groom who leads his horses away, turning away from the homosocial sport of 52 Fordyce, Sermons to Young Women, II, p.76 The Court Letter Writer; or, The Complete English Secretary for Town and Country (London, 1773), p.ISI 54 M. Edgeworth, Letters for Literary Ladies (1795), ed. C. Connolly (London, 1993), pp.36-7.
The reformatory influence of women combined with their softening effect upon men resulted in continual recommendations by writers that, in the case of an errant husband, soft persuasion and example should be deployed, rather than harsh recrimination. Halifax in 'The Lady's New Years Gift', pp.279-85 advised women to be blind to their husband's faults, but proceeded to outline the best way to handle a drunken, a choleric, a covetous and a weak husband in tum. Characters such as Lady Bellamont in Henry Fielding, The Modem Husband (London, 1732), Lady Easy in Colley Cibber, The Careless Husband (London, 1777) and the Princess in Daniel Defoe's Roxana (1724), ed. J.
Mullan (Oxford and New York, 1996) personify this ideal, discreet and ultimately emendatory behaviour towards erring and adulterous husbands. However, perhaps the most supreme fictional exemplar of all was that described in The Road to Hymen made Plain, Easy and Delightful; in a New Collection of Familiar Letters, Pleasing Dialogues and Verses (London, 1790), pp.63-5, a character so virtuous that she provides her husband's lower-class mistress with the provisions necessary to entertain her lover in the manner to which he is accustomed. He eventually discovers her actions and is instantly reformed.
hunting to return to his wife who is dutifully within the domestic sphere. Sir Peter's public identity as a landowner (evidenced by the grounds, the house, the horses and the servants) is thereby qualified and reinforced by his private and domestic virtues as a loving and faithful husband. The image reinforces contemporary prescriptive ideals such as that extrapolated by Richardson from Sir Charles Grandison for his Collection of.. Moral and Instructive Sentiments: "It is a transporting thing for an affectionate Wife to receive a worthy Husband returning to her after a long absence, or an escaped danger."55 The emphasis on the country house in Devis's portrait was conventional and is evident in many of the paintings under discussion. Obviously, the estate was a key indicator of wealth, privilege, status and familial continuity.56 However, rural locations were also critical in constructing the wife's role as both softening and morally improving. First, the penchant for all things Roman in the eighteenth century led to a great enthusiasm for the model of virtuous rural retirement as defined by such poets as Virgil and Homer. The concept of beatus ille, connecting the country house, retreat from pernicious urban life and moral rejuvenation, was probably a key source for the eighteenth-century construction of the ideal wifely role. 57 Second, Nature had become symbolic of an uncorrupted world, of an Eden or Arcadia that had existed before man's complex social and urban networks. Fashionable authors such as JeanJacques Rousseau fed into burgeoning Romanticism with statements such as: "God
makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil."58 Thus, to associate the domestic sphere with the countryside was to endow it with connotations of purity, simplicity and virtue. Finally, the cult of sensibility repeatedly emphasised empathy with flora and fauna as characteristic of the sensitive soul in general, and of the feminine soul in particular. 59 However, it was not just that the inherently emotional and empathetic character of woman, together with her exemplary morality, formed an innate connection between femininity and the natural world. That world also prevented corruption by the temptations of urban life, disabling women from "contracting an habit of excessive fondness of amusements" and removing them from the allurements of public entertainments, prolific visiting and political intrigue. 6o As a result, the form of the female sitter and the surrounding landscape were often pictorially affiliated in the later eighteenth century. The best example of this is Gainsborough's The Morning Walk, as elucidated by Desmond Shawe-Taylor. 61 Mr Hallett demonstrates cultural virtues of civility and gentility, striding forward and gesturing with his politely removed hat. The figure of his wife, in contrast, is identified with the natural surroundings. Through various artistic devices such as scumbling and subtle coloration, her physical form is blended into the landscape. Her left side merges into the shadows of the trees whilst her right dissolves into the light that illuminates the other side of the painting. Her white dress echoes both the light 58 J.1. Rousseau, Emile (1762), ed. P.O. Jimack (London and Melbourne, 1974), p.5 59 For sensibility and nature, see Todd, Sensibility, pp.23, 24, 29, 52, 55-7, 59 Gisbome, Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex, pp.215, 327, 329 specified these activities as particularly detrimental.
D. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society (London, 1990), pp.131-3. Also see M. Rosenthal, The Art of Thomas Gainsborough: 'A Little Business/or the Eye' (New Haven and London, 1999), pp.238-9 colouring of the distant sky and the coat of the dog who gazes up at her, the green ribbons recall the tone of the leaves and the blue-grey hue of her hair and lace echo the distant trees. This translucent material on her bodice and cuffs allows the landscape behind to be seen through her garb, a device which further blends figure and surroundings. Fonn as well as hue assist in the integration. The mass of her hair and the plumes that adorn her hat echo both the tail of the dog and the framing foliage.
The softening and morally improving influence of the 'natural' woman is particularly apparent in images such as George Romney's Sir Christopher and Lady Elizabeth Sykes of 1786 (fig.39).62 The nobleman's portrait is painted in severe profile; his glasses and the paper he holds suggesting, as noted by The World, that he has recently been engaged in matters of business: "The whole lengths of SIR FRANCIS AND LADY SYKES are for their new villa at Basildon. Her ladyship is well
- the Baronet looks as if he was paying his builder's bill - and that; says Menage, is the most melancholy moment in a man's life."63 His wife, on the other hand, her form pictorially and ideologically united with the landscape through similar devices to those employed in The Morning Walk, is leading him away from such cares and tribulations to the haven of morally rejuvenating relaxation to be found within the garden, reversing the directory gesture of the husband in her encouragingly outstretched hand. Mrs Dibdin similarly tempts her spouse from such joyless masculine duties in a portrait attributed to John Thomas Seton of c.1790 (fig.40).64 Her husband, the famous musician and composer, is seated at his desk, engaged in the 62 Shawe-Taylor. The Georgians. pp.130-1
64 Attributed to Seton by Charles Saumarez-Smith, Eighteenth-Century Decoration: Design and the Domestic Interior in England (London. 1993). p.341 act of creative endeavour, as his wife and daughter enter from the right. His backward glance towards these figures and his hat (which Mrs Dibdin holds in one hand) suggests that she too is tempting her husband away from public duties to a gentler and essentially feminine world.
The husband's contribution to the concordia discors is implied in the directory gesture so frequently employed. Whilst the wife's softening, tender disposition and inherent connection with sensibility and nature serves to sweeten and to calm her husband, her emotional character means that she, in tum, is in need of manly 'ballast.' As Janet Todd has noted, whilst feminine ability to express emotion sincerely and spontaneously was key in the cult of womanhood, the adverse effect was to render women potentially unbalanced. 65 Some formulated feminine lack of reason, intellectual capacity and knowledge in ancient humoural terms. Nicholas Venette, for example, argued that a woman's mediocre heat meant that she could "only suffer(s) the impressions a man makes upon her. "66 By the mid eighteenth century however, relatively few were explicitly employing such ancient ideas. Most used other arguments, whether secular or religious, to support the popular view of women's irrationality. The Reverend Fordyce claimed that, "nature appears to have formed the faculties of your sex for the most part with less vigour than those of ours," whilst Hannah More later blamed "the defining finger of the Creator" for women's emotionality.67