«A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of PhD at the University of Warwick This thesis is made available online and is ...»
Thus, eighteenth-century pendants demarcated husbands and wives into portraits that frequently opposed a particular, historical masculine identity with a generic femininity. Meanwhile, in a new development, later eighteenth-century double portraits brought these respective domains into a mutually beneficial relationship through the principle of concordia discors. The wife's moderating and morally exemplary persona, evinced through a visual affiliation with the natural landscape, serves to soften her husband's severity and to provide a source of improving relaxation. In tum, he educates her in the course of depicted conversation, his more rational and knowledgeable character providing a source of intellectual improvement.
However, these narrative devices overlay a variety of disparate realities. Women were involved in their husbands' political lives, they supervised the economics of the household and they undertook programmes of improvement of homes and gardens.
Rather than reflecting reality, such portraits thus represent "people impersonating what they think they might like to be, believe they ought to be, or wish to be taken by... "102 102 Philip Roth quoted in R. Brilliant, Portraiture (London, 1991), p.89
As marital portraiture underwent a clear transition in the mid decades of the eighteenth century, so too did the imagery of mothers and children. In 1749, Arthur Devis painted A Family Group on a Terrace in a Garden (fig.53). The cultivated grounds (indicating wealth, status and gentility) are populated by stiff, doll-like figures, posing for the benefit of the viewer. To the right of the canvas, a mother sits unyieldingly upright with her youngest child on her knee in a similarly rigid position.
The paterfamilias stands to one side, dominating the triangular composition. Another child strains against the restricting grasp of its grandfather, seeking to join the siblings who amuse themselves with a carriage on the other side of the painting. However, whilst this element of play partially demarcates the immature from the mature, the children's clothing and physiognomy provide no points of distinction from the adult world. By the time that Reynolds painted Mrs Hoare and her Son in the 1760s (fig. 54), much had changed. The focus has shifted to the maternal bond and the sitters are no longer stiffly posed for external inspection. Mrs Hoare bends attentively over her child and is seemingly unaware of any outside gaze. The infant is now characterised by distinctly babyish features such as a rounded face, loose garb, transfixed gaze and relaxed posture. The degree of physical and eye contact between the sitters together with their intertwined forms, linked by colour and texture, defines their relationship in terms of emotional intimacy. Finally, the landscape has receded in deference to the importance of that relationship. Rather than embodying wealth and status, it has come to indicate a sentient connection with untrammelled nature.
This chapter will examine the redefinition of motherhood in the mid eighteenth century, a redefinition that is visually manifest in portraiture. It will firstly expand on the relevant historiography, outlined in the introduction.} Whilst some historians have argued that relationships between parents and children were formal, unaffectionate and often harshly disciplinarian until the late seventeenth century, when love and equality blossomed within the family, many have rejected this model.
Similarly, some have contended that the role of motherhood was increasingly elevated, endowing women with a newly important position in both the family and society, whilst others have again promoted fundamental continuity. The chapter will then examine the pictorial transition in depth before going on to describe various parallel developments in the prescriptive and fictional ideal. Whilst the bearing and raising of children had always been seen as important, the maternal role of women was transfigured in a newly sentimental light in the mid decades of the century.
Finally, it will explore the contribution of this mode of female representation to problems of female display. Portraits of mothers often negated the individual, emphasised the type, idealised the sitter beyond specifics and, above all, enhanced a sense of privacy.
* * * * * In 1960, Phillipe Aries's L' Enfant et la vie familiale so us l' ancien regime was published in Paris with an English translation, Centuries of Childhood, appearing two years later. Whilst this survey of childhood over a span of some thousand years had Introduction, pp.3-12 limited impact at first, it came to dominate the field, contributing substantially to "the old master narrative of family history".2 Aries's view of parenthood is, by now, extremely well known. From minimum recognition of the needs and qualities of children in the Middle Ages, a parental urge to 'coddle' offspring developed in the seventeenth century, contributing to an enhanced attentiveness to and a new place for children within the domestic unit. This became increasingly privatised, removed from the wider domains of community and kin, and focussed itself around the younger members of the family.3 Stone's The Family, Sex and Marriage merely reinforced what was, by 1977, an established pattern of change. Children in traditional society were at best ignored, exploited by lower-class parents as a labour resource whilst the upper class viewed them solely in terms of their contribution to the family line. At worst, they were maltreated, subjected to gross physical punishment in order to beat the last vestiges of Original Sin from their souls. Many of the features that were to remain standard elements of such histories for some time appeared in support of this "black legend of childhood".4 High infant mortality rates meant that parents were unable to bond emotionally with their children and unwilling to invest time and money in such risky For an analysis of the initially muted reception of Aries's work and its subsequent success, see R.T. Vann, 'The Youth of Centuries of Childhood', History and Theory 21 (1982), pp.279-97; K.
Wrightson, 'The Family in Early Modem England: Continuity and Change,' in R. Connors, C. Jones Hanoverian England and Empire: Essays in Memory of Philip Lawson and S. Taylor eds., (Woodbridge, 1998), p.3 P. Aries, Centuries of Childhood (1960), transl. R. Baldick (Harmondsworth, 1962) L. Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (London, 1977), pp.5-7 and chapter 3, 'The Open Lineage Family 1450-1630'; K. Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680 (London, 1993), p.108 enterprises. S The practice of sending new-born babies away to wet-nurses was a sign of neglect, and swaddling, physically and psychologically painful for the child, prevented contact and play.6 From Edward Shorter's view of an early modem French society in which mothers rated work above their offspring to the extreme pessimism of writers such as Lloyd de Mause, Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt, these factors reappeared again and again.? "Children were at the bottom of the social scale";
"mothers viewed the development and happiness of infants younger than two with indifference"; "Practically all youngsters were thrashed at home, at school, and at work."S By the eighteenth century, however, the family was safely en route to the values of modem domesticity and childhood became a joyous time. The rise of individualism and emotional affect replaced older practices with loose and light clothes for juveniles and with caring mothers who breast-fed, tended and nurtured their children.9
Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family (London, 1976), p.200; I. Pinchbeck and M. Hewitt, 2 Vols. (Toronto and London, 1969), II, p.7. Some historians have Children in English Society reversed this equation and argued that it was because parents failed to bond emotionally with their children and thus to invest care and attention in them that infant mortality rates were so high. See, for example, E. Badinter, The Myth of Motherhood: An Historical View of the Maternal Instinct (London, 1981), pp.58-61 For this view of wet-nursing and swaddling, see Shorter, Making of the Modern Family, pp.181, 196,204; Badinter, Myth of Motherhood, pp.49-52, 67-9, 97,112.
Shorter, Making of the Modern Family, passim.; L. de Mause, ed., The History of Childhood (New York. 1974); Pinchbeck and Hewitt, Children in English Society. II, passim.
M.J. Tucker, 'The Child as Beginning and End: Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century English Childhood', in de Mause, ed., History of Childhood. p.230; Shorter, Making of the Modern Family, p.168; R. Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (Harmondsworth, 1982), p.31 Stone, Family, Sex and Marriage. pp.7-9 and chapter 9, 'Parent-Child Relations'. See also R.
Trumbach, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations in It was once again Alan Macfarlane who instigated the critique of this modernisation theory, claiming that joy at childbirth and parental love were evident throughout the early modem period. IO A revisionist trend quickly established itself.
Some, such as Adrian Wilson, participated by thoroughly dissecting and demolishing the work of Aries. He accused Centuries of Childhood of being based on limited, selective and misinterpreted evidence, of being chronologically vague and as essentially 'present-centred.' II Others set about looking more thoroughly at early modem constructions of childhood. Keith Wrightson, for example, argued that children were wanted and cared for, that their fragility and a sense of parental responsibility over education prompted intense anxiety and that the degree of physical chastisement they endured had been exaggerated. He, like others, broke the causal links that had been postulated between high infant mortality, wet-nursing and swaddling on the one hand and indifference on the other. He pointed out the dangers of drawing conclusions about sentiment from demographic data. Indeed, as more recent scholars such as Amanda Vickery have noted, the extreme vulnerability of offspring to death and disease in past ages was more likely to engender feelings of anxiety, despair and resignation.l 2 Wet-nurses were a lUXUry only affordable by the Eighteenth-Century England (New York, San Francisco and London, 1978) for a similar developmental thesis.
A. Macfarlane, The Family Life of Ralph )osselin, a seventeenth-century clergyman: An Essay in Historical Anthropology (Cambridge, 1970); A. Macfarlane, Marriage and Love in England 1300-1840 (Oxford, 1986) A. Wilson, 'The Infancy of the History of Childhood: An Appraisal of Phillipe Aries', History II and Theory 19 (1980), pp.132-53 Wrightson, English SOCiety, pp.l04-18. See also A. Macfarlane, 'The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone', History and Theory 18 (l979a), pp.106-7; P.
Earle, The Making of the English Middle Class: Business, Society and Family Life in London 1660London, 1989), p.232; Wilson, 'The Infancy of the History of Childhood', p.181; A. Vickery, elite. Time and effort went into their selection and they were often the last resort if the mother was unable to feed her own children. 13 Finally, swaddling could easily be seen as well intentioned, designed to assist in the physical formation of the child and to protect it from cold and from self-inflicted harm. 14 However, Linda Pollock was the most spectacularly rigorous in debunking the myth of a traditional society in which the treatment of children was, or verged on, the abusive. With the aid of nearly 500 diaries and autobiographies, she argued that parental affection, involvement and concern for the well being of offspring were historical constants. Thus, whilst Wrightson was tentative in denying a fundamental shift in the seventeenth century, suggesting general continuity tempered by the caution, "we know too little of family relations in earlier times to judge," Pollock boldly asserted "no significant change in the quality of parental care given to or the amount of parental affection felt for infants in the period 1500-1900."15 Historians have similarly propounded and disputed the existence of a shift in early modern conceptions of motherhood, a debate heavily dominated by the doctrine of 'separate spheres'. The conventional pattern traced in writings such as that of Ruth Bloch on gender or in Davidoff and Hall's Family Fortunes was of an increasing The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England (New Haven and London, 1998), Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox 1740-1832 pp.121-4. Stella Tillyard in (London, 1994), p.236 similarly argued that love and anxiety were not incompatible, but were, conversely, closely linked.
Wrightson, English Society, p.108; Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter, p.108-9; L.A.
Pollock, Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations/rom 1500-1900 (Cambridge, 1983), pp.2l6-36;