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Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex; with Suggestions for its Improvement (London, 1798), pp.57-9 75 Smith, Letters to Married Women, p.107; Buchan, Domestic Medicine, p.5 76 Quoting both T. Mantell. Short Directions for the Management of Infants (London, 1787), p.12 and W. Cadogan. An Essay upon Nursing, and the Management of Children (1748) (London, 5 th edition, 1752). p.6 77 More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, I, pp.59-60 who argued that if parents helped to create constitutionally healthy children, they would thereby lay "a foundation for their being useful and happy in life."78 Others followed Rousseau in claiming that proper fulfilment of maternal duties was critical in creating individuals who could bond with others and promote social affection,79 Such dictums meant that mothers and fathers depicted instructing and caring for their children, the family pictured as centred on its healthful and virtuous progeny, could enjoy a degree of national pride.
The Spectator no.500 (3 October 1712), in The Spectator, IV, p.274 W. Wilkes, A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young lAdy (1744) (Dublin, 3rd edition, 1751), p.14 prosperity. William Buchan referred to contemporary concerns over population when he wrote that the good education and management of children was not only critical for "their health and usefulness in life," but also for "the safety and prosperity of the state to which they belong." A generation that was emasculated in its early years would, in contrast, "prove the ruin" of any country.82 In his critique of the manners and morals of contemporary society, John Brown expressed a similar view in his claim that effeminacy in contemporary society could be traced back "to the unwholesome Warmth of a Nursery."83 Such fears raised a critical problem with the elevation of and emphasis on the importance of the maternal role in the early years of life. As the female character was popularly perceived to be emotional and irrational, it was feared that women would spoil and indulge their sons, thus creating such epicene individuals. Indeed, writers often argued that the lower-class woman, practically and economically unable to spoil her infant, was likely to be a better parent, as the rich child often died "a Victim to the 82 Buchan, Domestic Medicine, p.28 83 J. Brown, An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times 2 Vols. (1757) (London.
th 6 edition, 1757/8) I, p.29 For example. Bernard de Mandeville. The Fable of the Bees (1714), ed. P. Harth (Harmondsworth. 1970). p.l 09 argued that maternal indulgence. if extended beyond the first few years of life. "brought (many) to the Gallows" whilst Hugh Smith, Letters to Married Women, p.64 later criticised "those mothers who by a foolish indulgence spoil their children's tempers and dispositions.
G.J. Barker-Benfield. The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain, (Chicago and London. 1992), pp.xxv-xxvi has argued that this increased concern with the potentially damaging effects of maternal indulgence signified the increased power of women in eighteenth-century childrearing. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p.322 note the tension inherent in the power of adult women over small boys and John Tosh, 'Authority and Nurture in Middle-class Fatherhood: The Case of Early and Mid-Victorian England'. Gender and History 8.1 (April 1996). p.55 contends that the combination of enhanced influence and fear of indulgence led to the increasingly common solution of the boarding school.
mistaken Care and Tenderness of his fond Mother."85 Authors personified the effects of such behaviour. Oliver Goldsmith created the character of Tony Hardcastle, "reared up, and spoiled at his mother's apron string," Richardson's Mr B "cannot bear the least thing that crosses his violent will" thanks to his indulged childhood and when Tristram Shandy's father suggests to his wife that their son be breeched, signifying the end of her reign over the boy, Mrs Shandy is horrified. 86 As a result, many writers advocated an improved educational system that would furnish women with the knowledge and rationality necessary to form a moral and useful younger generation, rejecting mere superficial and fashionable accomplishments. 87 Such concerns were clearly reflected in portraits such as Reynolds's Elizabeth, Countess of Pembroke with her Son, George, Lord Herbert of 1764/5 (fig.5) which emphasise the rational mother.
Lord Herbert reveals no sign of effeminacy in his sober suit and demeanour whilst Lady Pembroke is not only concerned with supervising the education of her child, but is capable of doing so.
85 Cadogan, An Essay upon Nursing. p.8.
O. Goldsmith, 'She Stoops to Conquer, or, The Mistakes of a Night', (1773), in A. Friedman, ed., Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith Vol. V: Plays, Prefaces and Introductions (Oxford, 1966), p.121. Also see pp.153-4, 208; Richardson, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, p.278; Tristram Shandy cited in Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century, p.170 E. Haywood, The Female Spectator (1744-6), ed. G.M. Firmager (London, 1993), p.lOl;
Fordyce, Sermons to Young Women, II, p.22; Steele, The Ladies Library, II, pp.215-7; Wakefield, Reflections on the... Female Sex, p.34. Hannah More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, I, pp.l06-7 even drew an analogy between the role of the mother and masculine professions, arguing that as men received training to fulfil their various roles and functions, so should women. Of all these writers, however, Mary Wollstonecraft explored the issue in most depth in 'A Vindication', passim. especially pp.71, 101, 134, 143-4,218,231-4. She complained that, due to men's desire to hinder the development of feminine minds and bodies and to create "alluring mistresses," women were incapable of being good mothers. She argued that they should rather be encouraged to be rational, independent and strong of character, enabling them to create moral citizens and firm patriots for the future benefit of the nation.
* * * * * Thus, certain continuities ran parallel to new developments. The impact of the cult of sensibility on prescriptive and fictional literature certainly invested familial relations with a newly heightened worth and sentimental value, but this did not mean that individualism came to dominate the family. Whilst Aries and those following his model of change have argued that children became increasingly appreciated in their own right, valued for their specific qualities as childhood ceased to be an ante-room to maturity, depictions of infancy were critical in evincing parental morality. The loosely garbed, caressed and playful child indicated a virtuous mother and a properly attentive father. However, the new desire to represent the distinctiveness of infancy was mitigated by continued concern with hoped for or predicted adult roles, whether future maternity, masculine prowess or the capacity to socialise with and show compassion towards fellow humans. As the socialisation of the child became the object of increased attention, so parents wished to show that they were educating their children with a view to creating useful and responsible future adults.
Similarly, the new emphasis on intimacy and privacy did not herald a new equality amongst family members. The structures of later eighteenth-century portraits reveal the continuation of basic organisational principles, merely obfuscated by increased sentimentality. The father may have become more pictorially united with the family group at large, communicating with his wife and children rather than presenting them to the viewer, but his dominant and authoritative role over them remained constant. Often at the pinnacle of a triangular composition, engaged with his eldest son and heir and distanced from his wife, younger children and daughters, the father figure retained the fundamentals of his supervisory and patriarchal role.
Similarly, children were firmly categorised according to age and sex, revealed in their clothing, their toys and games, their depicted relationships, their stances and their displayed behaviour. Thus, the family continued to be underlain by rigid and essentially dichotomous structures, exemplified in the replication of the defining characteristics of marital portraits in those of brothers and sisters.
As previously argued, whilst burgeoning ideals of intimacy, affection and privacy had a great impact on the narrative forms and compositional devices employed in eighteenth-century family portraiture, more 'traditional' concerns remained evident throughout the period. The companionate marriage may have emphasised the reciprocal relationship between husband and wife, but that reciprocity was founded on defined masculine and feminine characteristics and duties that were inherently unequal. Similarly, whilst representations of mothers became increasingly sentimentalised, the role of the father remained supervisory and authoritative and offspring were consistently categorised according to age and sex. Moreover, concerns of family dynasty and lineage continued to dominate the portraits commissioned by gentry and aristocratic families. John Singleton Copley's Sir William Pepperrell and his Family of 1777 (fig.67) may show the father gazing affectionately at the infant on his wife's lap, but that child is significantly a boy and clearly, since all his siblings are female, a welcome addition to the household. The offspring in closest proximity to the patriarch in Johann Zoffany's Lord Willoughby de Broke and his Family of 1766 (fig.73), echoing the slant of his father's body, is once again the heir, the key to the continuation of the family's name, wealth and property.
This chapter will firstly argue that a concern with the production of sons and potential heirs persisted throughout the eighteenth century and that artists continued to emphasise the father's relationship with his intended successor. It will then discuss the demographic crisis of the early eighteenth-century landed elite, a sudden decline in birth rates that threatened the provision of male children and rendered pictorial statements of familial continuity particularly critical. However, it will also show that such statements remained necessary when the crisis had ebbed due to a continued preoccupation with the mortality and fragility of infants. Finally, family portraits will be discussed within the wider context of the domestic environment through close analysis of three case studies; the collections at Belton House in Lincolnshire, at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire and at Wilton House in Wiltshire. Whilst many of the eighteenth-century portraits on display in these houses accord with newly sentimental ideals of prescriptive and fictional literature, contextualisation reveals that the hanging and cross-referencing of images within the ancestral home emphasised lineage. In such locations, portraits came into contact with actual issues of family power and functioned accordingly.
* * * * * Many scholars have suggested that, during the eighteenth century, concern with the relevance of children to genealogy, dynasty and the continuation of the family line ebbed in favour of a new preoccupation with their individual and endearing traits.
Edward Shorter, for example, saw the decline of lineage as inherent in the development of 'The Modem Family' and Judith Lewis has argued that "children came to be desired as more than 'walking-spenn banks"': "The public function of heirs came to be superseded - though by no means obliterated - by the private function of children as their parents' darlings, loved for themselves as much as for the contributions they could make to the family's power and influence."l A central issue in this argument has been the development of strict settlement, the legal device that originated in the seventeenth century and under which, by the 1750s, approximately 50% of landed property was held. It essentially limited the owner's control over his estate to that of a life-tenant, ensuring its descent to his eldest son (or, failing the existence of a direct heir, his nearest male relative) and simultaneously made provision for his wife, daughters and younger sons. 2 Both Lawrence Stone and Lloyd Bonfield argued that this new legal institution revealed the birth of affective individualism within the family. By establishing the rights of the individual, concerning itself with the welfare of female family members and younger sons and by limiting the powers of the patriarch to disinherit his offspring, they hailed strict settlement as paving the way to the Companionate Nuclear Family.3 Art historians have formulated similar developmental patterns. For example, Marcia Pointon has contended that, as children were increasingly depicted as relaxed, engaged in play and as infantile, genealogical preoccupations were supplanted by a new bourgeois, child-centred ideology.4 J.C. Steward expanded on the theme as an E. Shorter, The Making of the Modem Family (London, 1976). p.8; J.S. Lewis. In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860 (New Brunswick. New Jersey. 1986).
p.58 H.J. Habakkuk. 'Marriage Settlements in the Eighteenth Century'. Transactions of the Royal