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gentle Temper; a lowly modest Opinion of themselves, together with a silent, quiet and contented Mind under their Condition. 84 He then moved to the second conventional argument against the over-valuation of the external charms of women, the equally fugitive quality of beauty. Throughout the eighteenth century, the emphasis on the mind over the face, on the beauties of the character over the attractions of the body surpassed the denigration of external ornamentation. Many echoed Fleetwood's views that these attractions would fade, calling "Beauty... an accidental and transient good" and warning that "youth and beauty vanish" as "time runs on."85 Polarisations and antithetical constructions dominated such writing: whilst "external Merit" was thought to attract "Love," "the Merit of the Soul" was able to engender "Esteem"; whilst "beauty" was deemed to catch the "eye," "merit" could 84 Fleetwood, Relative Duties of Parents and Children, pp.160, 170, 181, 184, 194-5. See also C. Cibber, The Careless Husband, A Comedy (London, 1777), p.19 85 Fleetwood, Relative Duties of Parents and Children, pp.207, 210; Richardson, Collection of Moral and Instructive Sentiments, p.233; Kames, Sketches of the History of Man, II, p.91. Writers adopted two main stances on this issue.
catch and secure the "heart".86 Such principles were taken up by novelists. The transformation of Miss Betsy Thoughtless from an irresponsible and flirtatious girl into a sober and virtuous woman, a suitable wife for Mr Trueworth, is the evolution of a character whose charms lie in her external qualities and whose passions lie in the diversions of the town into one who glories in domestic quiet and realises the importance of the cultivation of her mind, "alone entitl(ing) her to the esteem of the virtuous and the wise."87 Particularly extreme was the tale of Victoria in The Gentleman's Magazine in 1751. Although beautiful and fashionably educated, she is unable to secure a husband and rightly suspects, "my mind failed in performing the promises of my face." It takes a dose of smallpox and the loss of her complexion to tum her attention to the improvement of her mind which in tum attracts the attention of a suitable suitor. 88 When creating paragons in their texts, authors ensured that attention would be directed to the qualities that counted: one is apparently drawn to the contemplation of Mrs Villars's mind rather than her face in The Exemplary Mother and when Clarence Hervey first witnesses the pleasing vista of Lady Ann Percival surrounded by her children, he is so taken with the sight that he completely forgets to compare her beauty to that of Lady Delacour.89 This disparagement of female display created difficulties for the female portrait, not least because the condemnation of external show and of exposing oneself 86 R. Steele, 'The Conscious Lovers, A Comedy' (1722), in The Dramatick Works of the Late Sir Richard Steele (London, 1732), p.38; O. Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), ed. S. Coote (Harmondsworth, 1986), p.145 87 Haywood, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, p.499 The Gentleman's Magazine xxi (1751), pp.225-7 89 M.S. Cooper, The Exemplary Mother: or, Letters between Mrs Villars and her Family 2 Vols. (London, 1769), I, p.3; Edgeworth, Belinda, p.89 for public consumption rendered its exhibition at the Royal Academy somewhat problematic. It translated the woman directly into the aesthetic object that contemporary writers deemed she should not be. Indeed, Marcia Pointon has established a clear analogical relationship between the body of a woman and the material object of her representation, both transferable objects that could be purchased, owned, discarded, lent and given away.90 Further, a portrait in the Royal Academy could be gazed at by all with the necessary shilling to gain admittance, exposing the sitter to an even wider spectrum of gazes than that to which the frivolous woman parading herself at balls, promenades or pleasure gardens was susceptible. 91 Finally, the female portrait invited a viewer response that was necessarily predicated on the externals of the individual represented.
Such issues are evident in the case of Reynolds's portrait of Theresa Parker, on display at the Royal Academy in 1773 (Saltram House).92 During the exhibition, she wrote to her brother: "I am sorry you have heard that Sir 10shuas picture of me is not like, most people think it is. some abuse it, and some admire it, which everybody must submit to that suffers themselves to be exhibited."93 By allowing Reynolds to hang her 90 M. Pointon, Strategies for Showing: Women, Possession and Representation in English Visual Culture 1665-1800 (Oxford. 1997). p.197 Michael Rosenthal, The Art of Thomas Gainsborough: 'A Little Business for the Eye' (New Haven and London, 1999) p.277 has argued that staring and parading for the benefit of others was the norm in cultural sites such as Assembly Rooms and the Mall. However, the mark could easily be overstepped and was a source of constant anxiety. See also, J. Brewer, "'The most Polite Age and the most Vicious": Attitudes towards Culture as a Commodity. 1600-1800'. in A. Bermingham and J.
Brewer. eds., The Consumption of Culture 1600-1800: Image, Object, Text (London and New York.
1995). p.348 A. Laing, In Trust for the Nation: Paintings from National Trust Houses (London. 1995), p.30 BL Add MSS 48218, Morley Papers VoU, ff.133-4, Theresa Parker to Lord Grantham, 13 June 1773. My italics full-length historical portrait for all of London society to see, she had opened herself to being a topic of discussion, to evaluation and, most importantly, to evaluation on the grounds of her physical appearance. Her painting was judged on the accuracy of its reproduction of her physical form, the aspect of her individuality that should properly be of secondary importance. 94 However, it is arguable that Reynolds attempted to negotiate such issues in his portraiture in ways relevant to the increasing pictorial focus upon the mother and child relationship in the later eighteenth century. First, many female portraits were constructed as vistas onto a private world. This was usually either achieved by the seclusion and isolation of the sitter in the landscape, lost in and at one with nature, or by the delineation of a domestic space, identified not merely by the description of a location within the home or its environs, but through the inclusion of either a husband or children, or both. The sense of intimacy and privacy that characterises many of the portraits under discussion was further enhanced by the sitter's absorption in the well This case study is particularly interesting as, after her death on 21 December 1775, it was Reynolds who wrote her obituary, a textual construction of Mrs Parker that is comparable to his pictorial construction of a few years before. BL Add.MSS 28252, Morley Papers Vol.XXXV, f.15, inscribed on verso, 'Advertisement of Mrs Parker's Death' and 'drawn up by Sir Joshua Reynolds.' Published in The Public Advertiser, 29 December 1775 and reprinted in The Gentleman's Magazine, 1 February 1776. Whilst she complained that her painting had opened her to public discussion, Reynolds in his tribute claimed that "she neither sought for, nor expected fame out of her own house as she made no Ostentation of her Virtues, she excited no Envy;" The artist was here elevating the deceased woman through an appeal to contemporary abstract virtues, but these were virtues that his own visual inscription had problematised. The obituary also attempted to remove emphasis from Mrs Parker's physical appearance. It opened with a discussion of her disposition and manners, went on to praise her discreet fulfilment of domestic and private roles and ended with an acknowledgement of her accomplishments. In the midst of this, he briefly wrote: "Her person was eminently beautiful - but the expression of her Countenance, was far above all beauty that proceeds from regUlarity of features only."
Thus, the one reference to her physical appearance is immediately underplayed and attention is quickly being of her offspring and her seeming unawareness of the viewer. Indeed, in many portraits in which the sitter bends over her child, her own features are partially concealed, either through the downward angle of her head or the blocking presence of the figure of the infant. For example, in his portrait of Mrs Cumberland teaching her Son, Charles, Romney minimised the pictorial space devoted to the mother's face by obscuring the upper part with a large mobcap and the lower part with the attentively bowed head of her child. Similarly, in his Mrs Carwardine and Child of c.1775 (fig.69), the mother turns towards the huddled form of the infant in her lap so that a lost profile is presented to the viewer. Thus, the maternal role and the virtuous fulfilment of that role are emphasised at the partial expense of the mimetic function of the portrait.
Second, physiognomy could allow the construction of the face as the window to and expression of the mind. 9s This point is closely connected to the enhanced sense of privacy and enclosure described above as to acknowledge the act of display was to create the possibility that the features were being schooled into a suitable expression and that the pose was being deliberately adopted to stimulate approbation. Through seeming spontaneity and naturalness, physiognomy allowed the redefinition of the external features as a vehicle for the character, belied the nature of the portrait as a mere record of physical appearance and restored the correct emphasis in female representation to the sitter's mind and virtue. Even the physical beauty of the shifted to the expression that reveals her character, recalling the way in which the reader's attention is directed to the characters of Mrs Villars and Lady Percival, away from their external attractions.
See, 1.K. Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy, trans!. T.Ho\croft (London, n.d). For discussions 9S
of physiognomy, see 1. Woodall, 'Introduction: Facing the Subject', in J. Woodall, ed., Portraiture:
(Manchester and New York, 1997), especially pp.9-11. Also R. Brilliant, Facing the Subject Portraiture (London, 1991), p.38.
individual could be reinterpreted as significant in terms of character. As Maria Edgeworth argued, "a set of features, however regular, inspire but little admiration or enthusiasm, unless they be irradiated by that sunshine of the soul which creates beauty."96 Indeed, the art of physiognomy was particularly relevant to women through the emphasis placed by the cult of sensibility on the female nervous system. The tears, sighs, blushes and faints of the eighteenth-century heroine conveniently bridged the gap between her feelings and her external appearance, rendering her emotional susceptibility evident for all to admire. 97 This construction of the female body in the novel bears many parallels to that in portraiture as the downward glances, the heightened spots of colour in each cheek and the pale complexions so prominent in visual imagery similarly reveal such qualities. These bodily signs were necessarily homogeneous and thus interpretable, a coherent system that could be applied to individuals for purposes of evaluation and assessment. F. Price has pointed out that the need for legibility promoted a remarkable similarity between the heroines of eighteenth-century sentimental novels, a collection of females who are, to some degree, interchangeable. 98 The sense of a direct relationship between the mind and body as most applicable to women is also evident in the claim of Francis Douglas in Reflections on Edgeworth, Letters for Literary Ladies, p.35 J. Todd, Sensibility: An Introduction (London and New York, 1986), p.120; Barker-Benfield, The Culture of Sensibility, pp.xvii-xviii and chapter 1. J. Mullan, Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1988), p.16 notes the physicality of sensibility.