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S. Richardson. The History of Sir Charles Grandison 7 Vols. (1753) (London. 1765). VII.
pp.224-5; C. Reeve. The Two Mentors: A Modern Story 2 Vols. (1783) (London. 2 nd edition, 1783). I.
p.277 describes how "the father's eyesj which long had wander'd[,] fix'd in mute surprize" on the family before him.49 Both literary and pictorial vistas of domesticity were designed to provoke a suitable response in the viewer, allying emotive image and stirred reaction in a manner typical of the structures of Sensibility. Both evidenced the sitter-cum-character's virtue for the approbation of her husband (and, through him, the approbation of the wider audience), as well as the husband's character as a man of true domestic and private worth. In pictorial terms, this was often achieved by the inclusion of the pater familias within the picture space, overlooking and superintending his wife's care and education of their children as in the picture of the Ruspinis or in John Singleton Copley's Sir William Pepperrell and his Family of 1777 (fig.67). Pepperrellieans on his wife's chair, casting an approving eye over the baby on her lap and the siblings engaged in a board game. Alternatively, the father's approving gaze was merely implied by his role as patron and likely viewer of the image. Portraits such as Reynolds's depiction of Lady Cockburn were commissioned by the sitter's husband and, indeed, their intimacy is largely acceptable on those terms.
The reaction of the husband as viewer of his wife's maternal virtues was a means of emphasising the companionate nature of the marriage under description.
Children were regarded as essential to the companionate ideal, as the "lasting foundation to... felicity", as the "fruits of...embraces" or as the "pledges of love."50 49 Courtauld Institute Press Cuttings, YoU, 1731-1811, p.24. The newspaper is unidentified but dated to 20 June 1775.
The Town and Country Magazine; or, Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction and Entertainment March 1769, p.128; H. Fielding, 'The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews' (1742), in A. Humphreys, ed., Henry Fielding: Joseph Andrews and Shamela (London, 1993), p.2S3;
H. Fielding, The History of Tom Jones (1749), ed. R.P.C. Mutter (Harmondsworth, 1985), p.92.
Indeed, according to Mary Wollstonecraft, they were the only things that could "gently twist the relaxing cord" of spousal affection when the first flush of love had calmed into friendship.5l However, not only could children unite and bind couples, but many writers regarded them as the raison d'etre of the marital union. John Locke argued at the end of the seventeenth century that rearing children was "the chief, if not the only reason for... marriage" and Daniel Defoe based many of the strictures of Conjugal Lewdness on the principle that any marriage or any activity within marriage that was not aimed at conception was fundamentally immoraI.52 Not only did such scenes indicate the companionate and fulfilled nature of the marital union, but the virtuous realisation of the maternal role was deemed to have an improving and tempering effect on a husband, recalling him from erring ways and dangerous distractions. In Maria Edgeworth's Literary Ladies. Caroline recommends that her friend and correspondent devote herself to the execution of domestic concerns in order to regain the increasingly absent attention and affection of her spouse: "Do you not think, that when your husband sees his children prosper under your care, his family united under your management - whilst he feels your merit at home, and hears Conversely, the marital union founded upon ill-advised principles of wealth and alliance. resulting in indifference and aversion between husband and wife. would corrupt and stunt the development and education of their offspring. To quote John Brown. An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the th Times 2 Vols. (1757) (London, 6 edition. 1757/8). II, pp.56-9: "HERE then we see how fatally this sordid Motive to Marriage affects the rising Generation, and therefore the Duration of the State."
Thanks to Jonathan White for this reference.
M. Wollstonecraft, 'A Vindication of the Rights of Women' (1792), in J. Todd. ed., Mary 5l Wollstonecraft: Political Writings (Oxford, 1994), p.234 Quoted from John Locke's Two Treatises of Government by S.M. akin, 'Women and the Making of the Sentimental Family', Philosophy and Public Affairs 2, 1 (1982), p.69; D. Defoe, Conjugal Lewdness; or, Matrimonial Whoredom (London, 1727), eg: pp.l28, 133-4, 230, 293, 303.
Also, see W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 4 Vols. (1765) (Oxford, 3rd edition, 1768), I, p.455 your praises abroad, do you not think he will himself learn to respect and love yoU?"53 Similarly, Mary Wollstonecraft advised that a husband must be either singularly "cold" in disposition or "rendered unnatural by early debauchery" if he could not feel a greater sense of delight at the sight of his wife breastfeeding his child than from all "the most artful wanton tricks" that she could possibly perform. 54 Such scenes contained the potential to reclaim wandering husbands, to improve them gently and to unite the family through affection and sympathy.
However, whilst such sentimental concerns dominate these vistas, the opposition that has frequently been formulated between these and more supposedly 'traditional' issues of genealogy and lineage is fallacious. These literary and pictorial scenes not only serve to emphasise the strength of the marital union, to demonstrate its culmination and to reveal the moderating influence of the matriarch, but they also proclaim the successful perpetration of the family line. Smith, for example, in delineating a husband's reaction to his wife engaged in domestic cares, described him as both emotionally stirred and as proud that her suffering in the act of childbirth has
enabled genealogical continuation and the reproduction of the self:
When he beholds the object of his soul cherishing and supporting in her arms the propitious reward of wedlock, and fondly traces his own lineaments in
the darling boy, it recalls a thousand delicate sensations to a generous mind:
perhaps he drops a sympathetic tear in recollecting the painful throes of the mother, which she chearfully bore, to make him such an inestimable present.
His love, tenderness and gratitude being thus engaged - with what raptures 53 M. Edgeworth, Letters/or Literary Ladies (1795), ed. C. Connolly (London, 1993), p.54 54 Wollstonecraft, 'A Vindication', p.223 must he behold her, still carefully intent upon the preservation of his own
This implication was also taken up in Hugh Downman' s poem on Infancy. The relevant passage begins by inviting the reader to picture the suckling mother, describing her health, beauty and happiness, her "Grace ineffable" and her "Comeliness." The poet then asks if he may attend her as she presses the baby to her bosom, kissing it and "in each Feature tracing outJ The fancied Likeness of its muchlov'd Sire."56 Such sentimental descriptions of the virtuous mother engaged in breastfeeding, echoed in the occasional hint at this maternal duty in later eighteenth-century portraiture, relate to another important development in contemporary literature on parenting. A considerable number of writers began to insist that women should suckle their own offspring. As Valerie Fildes has amply demonstrated, assertions that a mother's milk was the best nourishment for a new-born child were frequent long before the eighteenth century.57 Patricia Crawford has similarly identified early texts such as The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie of 1622, in which women are urged to breastfeed their own children, and has pointed out that physicians and preachers throughout the seventeenth century campaigned strenuously against alternatives. 58 55 Smith, Letters to Married Women, p.78 56 H.Downman, Infancy, a Poem (London, 1774), pp.ll-13. This passage is also interesting in anticipating Mary Wollstonecraft's assertion (quoted this chapter, p.148) that such maternal virtue will be more attractive to a husband than sensual services; "the Night! Which gave thee to his Arms, gave not a Joyl To this superior, piercing to the SoulJ Sincere, and home-felt."
57 Fildes, Breasts. Bottles and Babies. especially pp.98, III 58 Crawford, 'The Construction and Experience of Maternity', p.16; Crawford, "The Sucking Child", pp.29-33 However, the concept was popularised and rendered fashionable in the following century. Appeals became more numerous and were rephrased in language that appealed to the cult of sensibility. Also, as Susan Staves has pointed out, discussions of pain became restricted to the evils of failing to breastfeed whilst sensations of great delight and pleasure were promised for women who performed their duty.59 Ruth Perry has illuminated another aspect of the transition in eighteenthcentury literature in arguing that the rakish and promiscuous woman of restoration fiction, her breast an object of sexual allure, was marginalised and increasingly dominated by the repressed and de-sexualised heroine of authors such as Samuel Richardson, whose breast was reformulated into a maternal site. 60 Writers in the seventeenth century had believed that women, governed by an inherent and natural need to bear children, possessed strong sexual desires that should be restricted to and contained within marriage. Indeed, female desire, sexual pleasure and orgasm during intercourse were thought biologically necessary for a woman to conceive. 61 Once such notions had been debunked, the onus shifted from the imperative to contain women's 59 Staves. 'Douglas's Mother', p.64. Some have argued that this transition was due to practice corning into accord with propaganda. whilst others have countered that the gradual rejection of wetnursing was less decisive and that considerable diversity characterised late eighteenth-century feeding practices. Susan Staves. 'Douglas's Mother'. p.63 has identified the second half of the eighteenth century as the time when wet-nursing went out of fashion and Valerie Fildes. Breasts, Bottles and Babies, pp.106. 182 has contended that the climate of favour was turning more towards the prescriptive message by the 1770s. On the other hand. Amanda Vickery. The Gentleman's Daughter, pp.107 -8 has argued for a general decline in wet-nursing but claimed that the trend was not decisive and that no single custom prevailed whilst J.S. Lewis. In the Family Way, p.209 has acknowledged there may well have been more breastfeeding generally by the 1780s. but noted considerable diversity in the feeding practices of her sample of fifty noblewomen.
Perry. 'Colonizing the Breast', passim., especially pp.112-6, 119 Crawford. 'The Construction and Experience of Maternity'. pp.6-7 sexuality to the promulgation of the restrained, chaste and sexually demure woman as natural and normal.
However, the subsumation of the sexual woman into the asexual mother was inherently paradoxical. As Davidoff and Hall have pointed out, "idealized womanhood was asexual and chaste, yet the supreme goal for women was marriage and motherhood, conditions which publicly proclaimed sexuality."62 Thus, when Pamela, excruciatingly modest throughout numerous pregnancies, unwillingly attends a masquerade in London in the demure garb of a Quaker, her advanced gestation "shews some intimacies have passed with somebody."63 Ironically, such a tension may well have contributed to the attraction of eighteenth-century portraits of mothers. For example, the physicality of an image such as Lady Cockburn, the suggestion of breastfeeding and the deliberately sensual painterly techniques (the coloration a clear reference to that of the Venetians) are contained within pictorial devices designed to convey the impression of propriety. The sitter's absorption in her children and seeming ignorance of the viewer's presence, the implication that the external gaze belongs to her approving husband and her apotheosis into an idealised mother belies the sexual nature of the painting.
The shift in eighteenth-century constructions of maternity has been noted in still other aspects of literary culture. Amanda Vickery has argued that the most fundamental element in the new discourse was "the overlaying of secular hosannahs 62 Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes. p.322. Also see S.W. Contratto, 'Maternal Sexuality and Asexual Motherhood', in c.R. Stimpson and E.S. Person, eds., Women: Sex and Sexuality (Chicago and London, 1980), pp.228, 233 63 S. Richardson, Pamela: Volume II (1741), ed. M. Kinkead-Weekes (London and Melbourne, 1984), p.322. See also D. Peters, The Pregnant Pamela: Characterization and Popular Medical Attitudes in the Eighteenth Century', Eighteenth-Century Studies 14 (1980/1), p.446 on the ancient religious solemnizations" and, indeed, whilst the Bible was the basic authority for seventeenth-century edicts on maternity, writers of the eighteenth more frequently appealed to Nature. 64 This is not to say that such associations were not present in earlier writings. Richard Allestree, for example, stated in 1673 that "a mother is a title of so much tenderness... that nature seems to have secured the love of mothers to their children."65 However, this emphasis increased in the following decades and Nature came to supplant the religious as the ultimate authority. Thus, writers continually evoked the presence of maternal instinct as inherent within the female character. Richard Steele argued that: "Nature has sufficiently secur'd the Love of Mothers to their Children, without the aid of any positive Law" and Downman later asked: "Is there a stronger principle infix'd! In Human Nature, than the zealous warmth! a Mother t'ward her Infant feels?"66 Evidence for the existence of such instinctive affection was often adduced from the behaviour of animals and even of women in 'savage' and 'uncivilised' societies. 67 Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter, pp.93, 286; Crawford, 'The Construction and Experience of Maternity', p.8 65 Quoted in Shoemaker, Gender in English Society, p.123. Crawford in 'The Construction and Experience of Maternity', p.ll also shows that the biological bond between mother and child was understood to be natural in the seventeenth century.
66 R. Steele, The Ladies Library 3 Vols. (London, 1714), II, p.l85; Downman, Infancy, p.l6.