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«A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of PhD at the University of Warwick This thesis is made available online and is ...»

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* * * * * So far, this chapter has shown that prints played a crucial role in condemning a supposedly debauched and immoral aristocracy. This class, perverting marital and See, for example, Louis Fram;ois Roubiliac, The Tomb of the Duke of Montagu (commissioned 1749, erected 1754, St Edmund's, Warkton, Northamptonshire) and The Tomb of Viscount Shannon (commissioned 1756, erected 1759, St Mary's, Walton-on-Thames, Middlesex) The Trial of Elizabeth, Duchess Dowager of Kingston, pp.139-40 1iO sexual nonns, were accused of causing rot at the head of the nation and of setting a bad example to impressionable social inferiors. However, as discussed above, the individuals accused of such depravity could themselves exploit visual imagery, refuting attacks with counter-claims of moral and domestic probity. As this section will argue, such themes can also been seen in the representation of motherhood.

Whilst widespread delineation of the companionate marriage enabled condemnation of adulterous and bigamous acts, the elevation of ideal maternity entailed the construction of the deficient, negligent and uncaring mother. To proclaim the attentive, nursing matriarch as natural was to define the inattentive mother who resorted to the assistance of wet-nurses and boarding school as unnatural. To elevate the role of motherhood as expressing quintessential femininity was to define the deviant as transgressing the proper boundaries of her sex. And, perhaps most significantly, to assert the role of women as the educators of the young, as responsible for forming the manners and morals of the future generation, was to widen the repercussions of bad mothering far beyond the boundaries of the family unit. As Nancy Chodorow and Susan Contratto have argued; "idealisation and blaming the mother are two side of the same belief in the all-powerful mother."lll N. Chodorow and S. Contratto, 'The Fantasy of the Perfect Mother', in B. Thome and M.

III Yalom, eds., Rethinking the Family: Some Feminist Questions (London and New York, 1982), p.65.

Similarly, to quote E. Badinter, The Myth of Motherhood: An Historical View of the Maternal Instinct (London, 1981), p.159: "If nature was defined as the norm, the unnatural woman was abnormal, that is, sick or a freak. If nature was equated with virtue, the unnatural woman was corrupted or depraved, immoral and a bad mother." B. Kowaleski-Wallace, 'Home Economics: Domestic Ideology in Maria Edgeworth's Belinda', The Eighteenth Century 29, 3 (1988), pp.242-62 focuses on the supposed 'naturalness' of Lady Anne Percival's exemplary maternity in Maria Edgeworth's Belinda and the concealment of its ideological nature. This allows castigation of the antithetically constructed figure of Lady Delacour as an unnatural mother rather than as a woman who has merely chosen an alternative lifestyle.

Once again, the contravention of such domestic nonns was believed to be most prominent amongst the upper classes. It was typically the patrician woman who neglected her child and abandoned it at the hovel of the wet-nurse rather than feed and care for it herself. Richard Steele, in particular, thought that such behaviour was typical of the woman of 'Quality,' likely to see the nursing of her child as beneath her, as a task from which she was exempt due to her elevated status. Such a view, he warned, demonstrated "senseless... Pride, and... want of the Affection and Compassion natural" to women.1l2 George Morland later provided a pictorial equivalent to such condemnation in his A Visit to the Child at Nurse of c.1788 (fig. 144). A well-dressed mother enters the dwelling of the lower-class woman she has hired to feed her infant and is met with apparent reluctance on the part of the baby. The child retreats and places its arms around the neck of its nurse in a pose that recalls those of children such as Masters Hoare and Wilmot. 113 Frequently, if an aristocratic woman claimed to engage in the act of breastfeeding, then it was scorned as a mere concession to fashion. The nursing mother in Gillray's The Fashionable Mamma; or, The Convenience of Modern Dress of 1796 (fig.145) does not even look at (let alone support) her child, and so it has to be held to her breast by a serving maid. 114 This indifference is reinforced both by the painting that hangs on the wall, ironically entitled Maternal Affection, and by the contrast between the icy hauteur of the mother and the demeanour of the maid who is clearly inscribed within contemporary R. Steele, The Ladies Library 3 Vols. (London. 1714), II, pp.157, 187,207

–  –  –

Her outfit probably satirises the modish chemises de couches that were open in front to allow ease of suckling. See E. Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe (London, 1984), p.57 stereotypes of buxom, contented, country wenches. I IS The waiting coach outside the window clearly reveals that this is a hurried duty, fitted in between more frivolous pleasures, whilst the coronets on its door and on the chair emphasise the elite status of the mother.

As suggested by this satire, the most common reason proffered for such maternal neglect was that patrician women were engaging in social pursuits rather than attending to the needs and education of their children, that "the influence of dissipation, and the charms of fashion" were "subverting that instinctive affection which nature implanted in the female breast."116 Such abnormal and deviant prioritisation was feared to begin even before birth. Priscilla Wakefield warned that the constitution, mind and disposition of an infant was largely dictated by that of its mother, especially during pregnancy. Thus, "crowded rooms, late hours, luxurious tables, and slothful inactivity, must contribute to the production of a puny offspring."117 Hugh Smith had earlier been even more alarmist, fearing that "revelling in midnight assemblies" during the time when a woman has "the pleasing prospect of becoming a mother" could result in miscarriage. l1S Most frequently, however, prescriptive writers focussed on the neglect of the child's upbringing and education.





William Buchan was prepared to accept that some women were forced to use a wetThis latter dichotomy recalls William Buchan's discussion in Domestic Medicine; or, A lIS Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines (1769) (Dublin, 3rd edition, 1774), p.419 of the need for healthy mothers. He set off "the fresh and ruddy looks of a milk-maid" against "the pale complexion of those females whose whole business lies within doors."

The Lady's Monthly Museum; or, Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction 1798, p.52 117 Wakefield, Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex, pp.15-16 H. Smith, Letters to Married Women on Nursing and the Management of Children (1767) (London, 61h edition, 1792), p.4S nurse, but refused to believe that there was any excuse for handing over the care of offspring to hirelings. 119 The concern was not only that such women were likely to alienate their children and husbands and thus corrupt the family unit, but that they were behaving in a fashion liable to influence their social inferiors and thereby perpetrate widespread neglect of and disdain towards infants. Thus, once again, issues of emulation were evoked. One author, complaining of mothers who reckoned they had no time to devote to their children, sarcastically explained, "'tis vulgar - My Lady Banton does not do it" and bemoaned "Fatal influence of example."120 Hugh Downman similarly believed that "faults of higher Station still will gain! Followers in humbler Life" and James Nelson expounded this point at great length. He despaired that his injunctions to breastfeed would be adopted by "Persons in high life" as women from such ranks would not be prepared to curb their indulgence of "the vainer Pleasures of Life, in order to stoop to this Part of domestic Care." Through the inexorable process of emulation, such behaviour would become "a national Evil" and "hence it happens, that because a Woman of the first Rank does not deign to suckle her Child, the Neglect descends to almost the lowest Rank."121 119 Buchan, Domestic Medicine, pp.2-3. Similarly, Hannah More 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), II, p.142 argued that "the moral nurture of a tall daughter" could not be undertaken by a woman "whose time is absorbed by crowds abroad" and even argued that mothering was analogous to a male profession. Logically therefore, proper maternal duties should be undertaken "with the same spirit and perseverance at home, which the father thinks it necessary to be exerting abroad in his public duty or professional engagements."

120 B. Lara, An Essay on the Injurious Custom of Mothers not Suckling their Own Children (London, 1791), p.21 121 Infancy, a Poem An Essay on the H. Downman, (London, 1774), p.10; J. Nelson, Management of Children (1753) (London, 3rd edition, 1763), pp. 47-8,49 However, as emphasised above, emulation could be positive and the worthy noblewoman could set a good example, retrieving social inferiors from deviant paths of conduct. 122 Thomas Mantell praised the mother who started and promoted fashions of attentive childcare, noting "several of the first female characters in the kingdom have set an example to the world in nursing their own infants."123 Even James Nelson, who attacked and despaired of upper-class women throughout his essay, dedicated the text to ''The Countess of---," a woman he thought could provide a good example in her rejection of "the Assemblies of the Great," "the Splendor of a Court" and the allurements of the world in favour of "the Office of a tender Mother." Not only was such laudable behaviour pleasurable and charming for his readers, but it would hopefully cause them to "be powerfully animated to pursue the same Measures."124 However, the public figure to whom William Moss dedicated his Essay on the Management and Nursing of Children was a far more commonly lauded emblem of maternity. Queen Charlotte produced no less than thirteen surviving children and her perceived devotion and attention to her offspring received the constant admiration of

writers, both in its own right and as a stimulus to emulation:

Your Majesty's solicitous attention to the maternal duties of your own royal family, has long obtained the grateful acknowledgements of an admiring public; and has been the happy means of inducing general emulation: The Middling Sort: Commerce. Gender and the Family in As noted by Margaret Hunt, England 1680-1780 (Berkley, Los Angeles, London, 1996), p.204 T. Mantell, Short Directions/or the Management 0/ In/ants (London, 1787), pp.1O-12 124 Nelson, Essay on the Management o/Children. dedication duties, that, although fraught with powerful, intrinsic allurements, become yet more captivating under the influence of so bright and example. 125 As well as such literary tributes to Charlotte's "nuptial sanctity, parental affection and domestic joy," numerous portraits emphasised her maternal role. 126 Allan Ramsay portrayed her in close physical contact with her two eldest sons, aided by toys that both indulge their infancy and promote proper gendered characteristics (fig.66).127 Examples such as Johann Zoffany's 1764 portrait of the Queen accompanied by her sons in her dressing room (fig.9) indicate the degree of intimacy that characterises such works. As with the other domestic portraits described above, such images attracted suitably emotional and laudatory responses from reviewers. When Francis Cotes portrayed the Queen with her daughter in 1767 (fig.146), raising one finger towards the viewer to beg for silence in deference to the sleeping form of her child, The London Chronicle hailed: "The tend'rest Mother, and the mildest Queen" and went on to proclaim: "The joy of Britain in her bosom lies,! What inexpressive sweetness in her eyes !I Maternal fondness and maternal grace,! Breathe in her air, and beam upon her face."128 However, attacks on the negligent mother and her pernicious influence were much more common and can be exemplified in the publicity surrounding the Duchess 125 W. Moss, An Essay on the Management and Nursing of Children in the Earlier Periods of Infancy (London, 1781), p.ii 126 J. Fordyce, Sermons to Young Women 2 Vols. (1766) (Dublin, 4th edition, 1766), II, p.173 127 See chapter three, p.141 The London Chronicle. 5-7 May 1767 of Devonshire's involvement in the Westminster Election of 1784. 129 Her support of Charles Fox on the streets and on the hustings attracted an almost unprecedented volume of criticism in both literary and pictorial form.130 The Morning Post headed the campaign against the Duchess, to the extent that a satirist was moved to depict her supported in the clouds by 'Truth' and 'Virtue,' the prostrate and naked male form of 'scandal,' clasping a copy of the paper, crushed beneath her feet (fig.147). The paper related amorous engagements with "greasy butchers," reported profligate and liberal application of the Duke of Devonshire's money to the process of campaigning, claimed that she used bribes to encourage potential voters in the Whig cause and even outlined the quantity and types of alcohol she supposedly devoured in the course of her canvassing. 13l Such allegations were closely echoed in satirical images. She was depicted kissing and bribing tradesmen, drunk, involved in brawls and often in contexts that suggested that her attachment to Fox was adulterous. 132 However, the graphic images on which I wish to concentrate are those that damned her involvement with the campaigners on grounds of inferred neglect of her maternal and domestic duties.

129 For the most recent account of the election and the Duchess's involvement, see A. Foreman, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (London, 1998), chapter 9. Also see B. Masters, Georgiana (1981), (London, 1997), chapter 6 N.K. Robinson in Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature (New Haven and London, 1996), p.194 cites the Duchess as the twelfth most caricatured person between 1778 and 1797.



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