«A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of PhD at the University of Warwick This thesis is made available online and is ...»
It was not that naturally decreed instinct was thought to be entirely specific to the mother. Writers such as James Nelson in An Essay on the Management of Children (1753) (London, 3rd edition, 1763), p.9 and Blackstone in Commentaries on the Laws of England, I, p.447 did discuss parental affection more generally, but the notion of instinct was more frequently associated with and contemplated in relation to women.
67 Writers such as Steele in The Ladies Library, II, p.159 attempted to embarrass undutiful parents by directing their attention to the "great Care and Tenderness" of "Savage Beasts" towards their offspring. William Buchan similarly pronounced in Domestic Medicine, p.2: "Every other creature is the nurse of its own young, and they thrive accordingly." Also see, 'A Letter from Cleora' in Eliza Haywood, The Female Spectator (1744-6), ed. G.M. Firmager (London, 1993) p.63 which argues thus Finally, the eighteenth century witnessed an increased preoccupation with and discussion of the socialisation of the child. 68 This had a particular resonance for discourses of maternity as most accepted that women cared for children during the earliest and most critical period of development, sons being sent to "more publick Places of Erudition" at about the age of seven. 69 The importance of the role of mothers in the formation of character resonated throughout a wide variety of contemporary writing. The Marquess of Halifax, for example, argued that, "the first Part of the Life of Man is a good deal subjected to the Women in the Nursery, where she reigns without Competition, and by that means has the Advantage of giving the for the naturalness of maternal care: ''This the meerest Savages who live without Precept, and are utterly ignorant of all moral Virtues, may inform us; - nay, for Conviction in this Point, we may descend yet lower, and only observe the tender Care which the Beasts of the Field and the Fowls of the Air take of their young Ones." However, this was not to say that motherhood was not improvable through education and principle. Bishop Fleetwood, Relative Duties of Parents and Children, p.4 argued that parental instinct was heightened, in reasonable creatures, by the hopes of the credit, comfort and advantage that children could bring. Similarly, Sir Thomas Mantell wrote in Short Directions for the Management of Infants (London, 1787), pp.xix-xx: "Our mothers watch our wants with that unbounded tenderness every animal shews its offspring; and superior to that of the brute creation, as much as our sense, reason, and religion, exalt us above them."
Perry, 'Colonizing the Breast', p.l08; Pollock, Forgotten Children, pp.116, 120, 123, 140 Steele, The Ladies Library, II, p.196. This seems to have been the case throughout the century. Fenelon in Fenelon's Treatise on the Education of Daughters, p.188 wrote: "She is charged with the education of her children - of the boys, till a certain age - of the girls will they are married" and Fleetwood in Relative Duties of Parents and Children, pp.47-8 noted that sons were freed from their mothers at a certain age whilst daughters were kept longer in subjection. At the end of the period, Hannah More wrote in Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, with a view of the Principles and Conduct prevalent among Women of Rank and Fortune 2 Vols. (London, 1799), I, p.60: ''To your direction the daughters are almost exclusively committed; and to a certain age, to you also is consigned the mighty privilege of forming the hearts and minds of your infant sons" and Thomas Gisborne assumed in Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex (1797) (London, 9th edition, 1810), p.13; "children of each sex being, in general, under maternal tuition during their childhood, and girls until they become women." See also Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, pp.340-1; Shoemaker, Gender in English Society, p.123; Crawford, 'The Construction and Experience of Maternity', p.12 first Impressions."7o William Buchan continued the theme in his claim that women thus had it in their power to "make men healthy or valetudinary, useful in life, or the pests of society."71 Indeed, female influence was seen to begin even before education in any real terms had commenced. Lord Kames, for one, argued that "infants are susceptible of impressions" even "upon the breast."72 Therefore, Judith Lewis has argued that, in the eighteenth century, "the primary function of motherhood shifted from an emphasis on the biological function of childbearing to an emphasis on the nurturing function of childrearing." Medics increasingly stressed the responsibilities of maternity that succeeded the biological processes of gestation and birth and the more physical aspects of the role, disguised through euphemism, were replaced by a concern with the rationality and morality required to supervise the child's upbringing.73 The Nurse's Guide advised that "the Duty of a Mother does not consist in conceiving, or bringing a Child into the World, but in bringing it up, and giving it all the Advantages of Education that can be imagin'd" and Maria Edgeworth believed that "ladies have become ambitious to superintend the education of their children."74 Women were told to control the acquisition of morality, religion, domestic and social skills along with dress, diet, Halifax, 'The Lady's New Year's Gift', p.178. Repeated verbatim in Steele, The Ladies Library, II, p.l13. Nelson in Essay on the Management of Children, p.163 noted Halifax's view and called it "an undoubted truth" but went on to claim that both parents should be involved in the formation ofthe child's manners.
71 Buchan, Domestic Medicine, p.4 Kames, Sketches of the History of Man II, p. 92. See, for example, The Spectator no.236 (12 December 1711), in The Spectator, II, p.455, concerned with children imbibing "the gross Humours and Qualities" and "the several Passions and depraved Inclinations" of their nurses.
73 Lewis, In the Family Way, pp.58, 62,71-3 74 The Nurse's Guide: or, The Right Method of Bringing up Young Children (London, 1729), p.23; Edgeworth, Letters for Literary Ladies, p.20 exercise and instruction, both through example and through the inculcation of principle. Those who handed over this "great object" of their children's education to servants and nurses were heavily criticised,75 Mothers knew their children better than menials and so were better placed to adapt their education accordingly, they would be more concerned with "permanent value" than with immediate results and "no other person c(ould) feel the same interest in the event."76 Equally, it was feared that the influence of lower-class hirelings could be pernicious as a result of "neglect...the prejudices of ignorance, or... the immoderate officiousness of care."77 As the poem Hymen described of the neglected child: ''The kitchen soon becomes their fav'rite schooll And here their yielding hearts impressions gain,! Sad marks! which through succeeding life remain."78 The increased pictorial emphasis on and isolation of the mother-child relationship gains additional meaning from this onus on the role of the matriarch in the formation of the infant's moral character. The woman shown as attentive to her offspring, clearly controlling its formative influences and devoting her time and energies to its development, would attract popular approbation for fulfilment of her newly defined and refined role. Artists thus sometimes pictured the moral mother in the active process of reading to her child or as assisting its own efforts to glean information from a text. In Reynolds's portrait of Elizabeth. Countess of Pembroke.
with her Son. George. Lord Herbert of 1764/5 (fig.5), Lady Pembroke takes a subordinate role in this process, merely physically supporting her son as he holds his 75 More, Strictures on the Modem System of Female Education, I, p.59 76 Steele, The Ladies Library, II, p.197-9; More, Strictures on the Modem System of Female Education, I, p.92; Wakefield, Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex, p.39 77 Gisbome, Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex, p.379 78 Hymen: A Poem (London, 1794), p.l2 place in a book, whilst Romney's slightly later painting of Mrs Cumberland teaching her Son, Charles (fig.68) reveals a heightened sense of interaction and absorption as the mother bends her head over the text. This difference may reflect the more elevated social status of the Countess and the importance of her son as heir and progenitor of the Pembroke family, a status requiring greater sobriety and decorum, but it also points to Romney's particular artistic niche. The half-length pose of Mrs Cumberland attentively bending over her child, the predominant use of white and pastel shades and the broad, flat brushstrokes are all typical of this artist's domestic portraiture. 79 The material evidence of worthy, modem and attentive motherhood in these paintings recalls the emphasis of historians on the employment of artefacts as source material for analysis of past conceptions of childhood. 8o Such artefacts very possibly functioned, as I.H. Plumb suggested, to emphasise social status and to emulate one's betters through the fruitful dispersion of wealth, but they also conveyed the evidence of abstract attitudes and values in physical form. Attention to contemporary pedagogical ideas, concern with the child's influences, attentiveness to the natural development of the body and awareness of the needs and particularities of infancy could all be demonstrated through the purchase of books, loose dresses, toys and games. And these material traces of praise-worthy parenting could, in tum, be encoded and communicated to the world at large through their inclusion in paintings. Thus, For other examples of portraits of women reading to their offspring, teaching them to write or assisting their own attempts at knOWledge, see Angelica Kauffman, Anne, Countess of Galloway with her daughter, Lady Susan Stewart (date unknown, The Earl of Galloway) and Nathaniel Hone, Mrs Ann Craster and Daughter (date unknown, location unknown: photograph in the collection of the Witt Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London)
family portraits constituted an intersection between moral and material value, between the pictorial display of wealth and taste and the display of private virtues. They not only demonstrated the virtue of the mother represented spending time with her children, aided by toys and educational aids, but they represented her wise dissemination of family wealth.
* * * * * Nonetheless, there were inherent problems in female portraiture. Whilst the pictorial demonstration of a woman's exemplary maternal and feminine qualities might display her virtue, the essentially aesthetic nature of pictorial representation conflicted with contemporary prescriptive and fictive emphasis on the importance of a woman's interior value, on her moral and spiritual worth as more valuable than her external attributes. This emphasis took one of two forms. First, it was continually recommended that women should concentrate on the cultivation of moral, abstract qualities and on their capacity for such practical tasks as housekeeping, rather than on the adornment of their person with extravagant dress and jewellery. Benjamin Franklin contrasted "the flashy and superficial glare of dress and equipage" with the "solid excellence and substantial worth" of the domestic woman who quietly attends to the duties of the home. S1 Similarly, the very first page of Eliza Haywood's The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless expresses the wish that "some part of that time, (February 1990), p.74; Plumb, 'The New World of Children', pp.64-7, Calvert, Children in the House, passim.
B. Franklin, Reflections on Courtship and Marriage: in Two Letters to a Friend (1750) (London, 1759), p.53 which is wasted at the toilet, in consulting what dress is most becoming to the face (should be) employed in examining the heart, and what actions are most becoming to the character."82 The argument most commonly employed in support of this opinion was that men would not want to marry the woman who, overly concerned with showy dress and accessories, was prepared to spend large sums in order to obtain them and likely to waste large amounts of time in showing them off. 83 The extravagant woman was warned that, as well as risking either spinsterhood or alienating a husband, external display and ornamentation were
ephemeral. Bishop Fleetwood went into great depth on this point:
Gold and Pearls, and costly rich Apparel, are all of them perishable things;
Things that corrupt, consume, and wear away in time... But the Mind, immaterial and immortal, requires and looks for Ornaments suited and proper to it. Amongst which, one considerable one is a meek and quiet, good and 82 E. Haywood, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751), ed. B. Fowkes Tobin (Oxford and New York, 1997), p.9 83 The Reverend Fordyce in Sermons to Young Women, I, pp.78, 101 warned that men would merely be attracted to such women as companions for the hour as none want a dissipated wife and "all of them, to a man, dread a woman of expense." They would thus look for companions for life elsewhere, amongst women, "reasonable in their wishes, moderate in their expenses, and not devoted to external shew." Such warnings were continually fictionalised. Miss Groves in Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote; or, The Adventures of Arabella (1752), ed. M. Dalziel (Oxford, 1989), p.74 cannot get a husband as a result of her extravagance. Miss Milner in Elizabeth Inchbald's A Simple Story (1791), ed. P. Clemit (Harmondsworth, 1996), pp.134-5 very nearly loses her fiance when she tries to test his affections with spendthrift ways. Her behaviour conjures in his appalled mind the horrors of "domestic wrangles - a family without subordination - a house without economy," inevitable with a woman clearly "too frivolous for... substantial happiness."