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As Wetenhall Wilkes recommended: "By taking the trouble of the keys, and part of the Management of her Mother's House, a young Lady may learn how to go through her domestic Offices, when she comes to one of her own."23 As a result of this gendering of parental jurisdiction, pendant portraits in which the father is represented in one pictorial space with his eldest son and the mother is depicted in another with their daughters, younger children, or both, are fairly common.
A particularly interesting case is that of Reynolds's portraits of the Paine family, dating from 1764/5. In one pendant, James Paine gestures with his spectacles to some architectural plans for the benefit of his eldest son who studies them over his shoulder and thus learns his father's profession (fig.91). In the accompanying portrait, Reynolds depicted Paine's daughters seated at a harpsichord, thereby demonstrating their attainment of suitably feminine and genteel accomplishments (fig.92). However, recent restoration has revealed a third figure of an older woman in this latter painting, resting one elbow on the top of the instrument and gazing tenderly towards the two girls (fig.93). Presumably intended to represent Mrs Paine, it would seem more likely that the painting originally represented only the two sisters as both its composition and responsible for forming him into a respectable and stoical man, meliorating the increasingly overbearing influence of the mother.
George Savile, Marquess of Halifax, 'The Lady's New Year's Gift; or, Advice to a Daughter' (1688), in J.P. Kenyon, ed., Halifax: Complete Works (Harmondsworth, 1969), p.291; Gisbome, Enquiry into the Duties o/the Female Sex, p.385 W. Wilkes, A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady (1744) (Dublin, 3rd edition, 1751), p.132 its formal relationship with the pendant are more satisfactory without the additional figure. However, with or without the matriarch, these portraits clearly reveal what was deemed to be the correct pictorial organisation of family members.
* * * * * The persistent concern with lineage, revealed through the close pictorial association between the father and his eldest son and heir, was rendered particularly acute as a result of the high infant mortality rates that dominated eighteenth-century demographics and consciousness. Lawrence Stone proposed that in London in 1764, 49% of all recorded children were dead by the age of two and 60% by the age of fi ve, whilst Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt presented numbers that were even more pessimistic. 24 Whilst Linda Pollock has criticised such statistics as exaggerated, countering that mortality rates rarely exceeded 150 for every 1000 children born, contemporaries were certainly extremely gloomy about the fate of the young. 25 In his Essay upon Nursing, and the Management of Children of 1748, Dr. Cadogan reckoned that almost 50% of children died under the age of five so that "half the People that come into the World, go out of it again before they become of the least Use to it, or themselves."26 Such pessimism clearly affected the representation of
English SOCiety 2 Vols. (Toronto and London, 1969), II, p.300. The latter declared that, according to the London bills of mortality, 526,973 of the 1,178,346 deaths recorded between 1730 and 1779 were of children under the age of five. They also stated that it was claimed in the mid century that 75% of all children christened in London were dead by that age and many before they were one.
Pollock, Forgotten Children, p.51 W. Cadogan. An Essay upon Nursing, and the Management o/Children (1748) (London. 5th edition, 1752). p.6 children. Many have noted the prominent use of vanitas motifs in William Hogarth's The Graham Children of 1742 (fig.94). Cupid stands on a clock bearing the scythe and hourglass of Father Time, fruit and flowers refer to the evanescence of life and the goldfinch watched greedily by the cat anticipates doom.27 Indeed, the baby in the cart died before the picture was complete and it may well be that the positioning of the sculpted Cupid over its head is a naturalisation of the putti who fly over the mother in the artist's earlier portrait of the Cholmondeley family to signify that she had passed away (fig.7).28 Similar if less overt themes have been observed in one of Thomas Gainsborough's portraits of his daughters, dating from c.1756 (fig.95). This shows the girls running through a landscape after a butterfly, the darkening sky enhancing the symbolism of transience. 29 The motif of the butterfly, an insect in the last stages of its life cycle, had earlier been employed by Hogarth in The Mackinen Children of 1742 (fig.96). Once again, it eludes the grasp of a child and its significance is enhanced both by the sunflower, evocative of bloom and decay, and the fragile shells that Elizabeth Mackinen supports in her skirts. 30 27 S. West, 'The Public Nature of Private Life: The Conversation Piece and the Fragmented Family', British Journalfor Eighteenth-Century Studies IS,2 (Autumn 1995), especially pp.157, 163p.85; R. Wendorf, The Elements of Life: Biography and
4. See also Steward, The New Child, Portrait-Painting in Stuart and Georgian England (Oxford, 1990), p.181; D. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and SOCiety (London, 1990), p.209-11; E.D.H. Johnson, Paintings of the British Social Scene from Hogarth to Sickert (London, 1986), p.52; Pointon, Hanging the Head, p.213; E. Einberg, Hogarth, the Painter (London, 1997), p.41 28 M. Webster, 'An Eighteenth-Century Family: Hogarth's Portrait of the Graham Children', Apollo 130 (September 1989), p.l72 29 Steward, p.20; Wendorf, p.297; M. Levey, The New Child, The Elements of Life, 'Gainsborough: The Painter's Daughters Chasing a Butterfly', Painting in Focus No.4 (London, 1975), p.l 30 Steward, The New Child, p.87; Wendorf, The Elements of Life, p.lS2; Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians, p.208; Johnson, Paintings of the British Social Scene, p.52 High infant mortality rates fed the contemporary fear that the British population was dwindling, that the demographic health of the nation was feeble in comparison to that of the ancient world. Writers were concerned that Britain might lack sufficient manpower to protect her shores in the event of a French invasion and that her booming economic, commercial and industrial power would be adversely
affected by a dearth of labourers. 31 As Jonas Hanway wrote in a tract of 1762:
"Increase alone can make our natural Strength in Men correspond with our artificial Power in Riches, and both with the Grandeur and Extent of the British Empire."32 Indeed, the glorification of motherhood discussed in chapter three, has been interpreted by Ruth Perry as an attempt to encourage women to produce a healthy, strong and numerous progeny, redefining the maternal role as "a colonial form - the domestic, familial counterpart to land enclosure at home and imperialism abroad. "33 This is a valid proposition as medical writers certainly promised that women's See Bouce, 'Some Sexual Beliefs and Myths', pp.29, 37; L. Schiebinger, 'Skeletons in the Closet: The First Illustrations of the Female Skeleton in Eighteenth-Century Anatomy', in C. Gallagher and T. Laqueur, eds., The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1987), p.53; L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707J837 (New Haven and London, 1992), pp.239-40 J. Hanway, 'Serious Considerations on the Salutary Design of the Act of Parliament for a
Regular, Uniform Register of the Parish-Poor' (1762), quoted in R. Perry, 'Colonizing the Breast:
Sexuality and Maternity in Eighteenth-Century England', in J.C. Fout, ed., Forbidden History: The State, Society, and the Regulation of Sexuality in Modern Europe (Chicago and London, 1992), p.ll 0 Perry, 'Colonizing the Breast', p.l09. A. Davin, 'Imperialism and Motherhood', History 5 (Spring 1978), pp.9-65 has suggested a similar preoccupation in the early twentieth Workshop century with a healthy and numerous population as a national resource and with the figure of the mother. She argues; "if the survival of infants and the health of children was in question, it must be the fault of the mothers, and if the nation needed healthy future citizens (and soldiers and workers) then mothers must improve. (p.12)" attention to the needs of children and their virtuous fulfilment of childrearing duties would have "good and great Effects" for the public. 34 Issues of mortality and the belief that the population was failing adequately to reproduce itself were particularly critical for the upper classes. As landed aristocratic and gentry families could not ignore the fact that the transmission of their name, estate and property from generation to generation was dependent on the provision of eldest sons, they equally could not ignore the threat posed by the crisis in birth rates amongst their class, acute between 1650 and 1740.35 Childlessness peaked at a rate of almost 19%, the number of bachelors boomed, marital fertility dwindled and infant mortality was highest amongst male children. Indeed, Lawrence Stone estimated that, whilst property passed through direct inheritance in over 80% of cases in the counties of Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and Northumberland in the years up to 1700, that proportion slid to 60% between 1700 and 1779. 36 Shearer West has related this demographic crisis amongst the landed elite and its effects on inheritance to the early conversation piece, a genre which she presents as preoccupied with asserting familial continuity in the face of such threats. Portraits such as Thomas Hill of Tern and his Family by Charles Phillips (1730, Attingham Park) show sitters clustered together in tightly welded groups in denial of actual Cadogan, Essay upon NurSing, p.3 West, 'The Public Nature of Private Life', p.157
Demography of the British Peerage', supplement to Population Studies 18,2 (1964); L.A. Pollock, 'Embarking on a Rough Passage: The Experience of Pregnancy in Early-Modem Society', in V. Fildes, ed.. Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England: Essays in Memory of Dorothy McLaren (London and New York, 1990). p.39; R.B. Outhwaite, 'Marriage as a Business: Opinions on the Rise of Aristocratic Bridal Portions in Early Modem England', in N. McKendrick and R.B. Outhwaite, eds., Business Life and Public Policy: Essays in Honour of D.C. Coleman (Cambridge, 1986), pp.30-32 fragmentation, whilst others emphasise a large number of healthy offspring to demonstrate the security of the family line. Thus, "the conversation piece... became a form of family tree, denying fractures which are visually unavoidable in true genealogical mapping." Her argument concludes with the claim that, as the crisis in birth rates came to an end and the landed family felt more secure in dynastic succession, portraiture was used less to assert familial continuity than to valorise the relationship of the mother and child for the enjoyment of its spectators. 37 Whilst her position regarding the early eighteenth-century conversation piece is entirely convincing, the developmental proposition is more problematic.
First, the sentimentalisation of the mother as described in the previous chapter did not mean that her role in continuing the family line was any less apparent.
Certainly, Mr B, in Samuel Richardson's Pamela, is concerned to add to the heroine's list of wifely responsibilities, "such an employment, as will give me a view of perpetuating my happy prospects, and my family at the same time; of which I am almost the only one in a direct line."38 However, the Reverend Fordyce later similarly emphasised the role of the mother in securing dynasty, envisaging his female reader's children "spreading from house to house, from family to family, with a rich increase of fruit."39 Portraits from the 1750s onwards maintained such agendas whilst simultaneously revealing the impact of the cult of sensibility. For example, as we have seen, Reynolds's Lady Cockburn and her Three Eldest Sons of 1773 (fig.6) certainly 37 West, 'The Public Nature of Private Life', passim, especially p.166 38 S.Richardson, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (1740), ed. M.A. Doody (Harmondsworth, 1985). p.301. Mr B reveals that he had decided against organising a sham wedding in order to fulfil his lustful desires as he realised that any offspring of their union would be unable to inherit the family estate (p.305).
39 J. Fordyce, Sermons to Young Women 2 Vols. (1766) (Dublin, 4th edition, 1766), I, p.26 reveals a new intimacy between the female sitter and her offspring, but the child towards whom she directs her gaze and who thus receives most emphasis is the eldest of the three, the heir to the family name and estate. Equally, many of the later portraits that focus on the relationship between the affectionate mother and responsive child still define those sitters with reference to the absent patriarch. As a consequence, the woman's evident fertility and the health and vigour of the child demonstrate the continuation of the name and estate of the pater familias. Such an absent masculine, controlling presence is rendered explicit in Philip Reinagle's Mrs Congreve with her Children of 1782 (fig.97). The sitters are grouped in front of a portrait of Mr Congreve with his eldest son and the remnants of his presence are apparent in the empty chair, the hat and the sword. As Marcia Pointon has argued: "The painting is not in any serious sense about her [Mrs Congreve] and her daughters, it is about the continuation of the male line and the maintenance of the estate and property within which she is posed and to which she is a decorative accretion."4o Second, it is wrong to suggest that dynastic anxiety ceased as the crisis in birth rates waned in the later eighteenth century. Not only was such anxiety inevitable when so much depended on the birth of a son but, whilst birth rates did improve considerably and replacement began to exceed unity, infant mortality remained a prominent issue throughout the century.41 In 1767, Hugh Smith echoed the earlier estimate of Dr. Cadogan that half the children born were dead before the age of five and William Buchan gave only a slightly improved picture in 1769, citing the same 40 Pointon, Hanging the Head, chapter VI, quoting p.l72 41 Hollingsworth. 'The Demography of the British Peerage', p.32 argued that from 1660 to 1730 there was almost exact replacement and then a generation of decided decline before rates rose again.