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131 The Morning Post, 13 April 1784; 8 April 1784; 20 April 1784; 7 May 1784; 14 April 1784 132 See, for example, Anon., A Certain Dutchess Kissing Old Swelter-in-Grease the Butcher for his Vote (April 1784, The British Museum, London); T. Rowlandson, The Two Patriotic Duchesses on their Canvass (3 April 1784, The British Museum, London); 'Aitken', The Tipling Duchess Returning from Canvassing (29 April 1784, The British Museum, London); Anon., A New Way to Deside the Scrutany (14 June 1784, The British Museum, London); Anon., The Matter Reversed; or, One Good Tum deserves Another (24 May 1784, The British Museum, London); Anon., The D-ss and the Man of the Peo- in Buff, Tho' not in Blue (1 September 1784, The British Museum, London) Historians have disagreed over why the Duchess's campaigning was so controversial, particularly as aristocratic women had an established (if largely informal) role in politiCS. Amanda Foreman has disagreed with Linda Colley's theory that the tirades were caused by the fact that Fox was not a relation and, therefore, that her actions could not be justified through proper domestic affection and family loyalty. Foreman has instead argued that Georgiana's treatment of the "greasy butchers" as equals was seen as inflammatory and that, in her autonomy, her celebrity status, her independence and her strident public persona, the Duchess clashed with contemporary notions of femininity.
On the left of the engraving, a cat licks the face of a dog and similarly neglects its offspring, a sight implied to be as unnatural as the Duchess's abnormal priorities.
Foreman, Georgiana, pp.157-9; A. Foreman, 'A Politician's Politician: Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and the Whig Party', in H. Barker and E. Chalus, eds., Gender in Eighteenth-Century England, pp.185-7; L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven and London, 1992), p.244 134 Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter, p.292; The Morning Post, 8 April 1784. My italics disregard of such proper tasks in favour of political activity as well as neglect of her husband whose portrait by Reynolds is sketched out on the back wall of the scene.
This painting is not, however, flanked by a pendant of the Duchess, pairing suitable masculine and feminine activities, attributes and settings, but is partnered by one of a second male sitter, suggested to be Fox by the squatness of the figure. 135 An anonymous satire entitled The Devonshire Amusement, published the following month (fig. 149), picked up on the conceit of perverting the pendant portrait tradition as seen in The Matrimonial Magazine's satire on the Duchess of Kingston.
The engraving is divided into two halves. To the left, the Duchess is depicted in the act of campaigning, her hair and skirts flying in the wind. In one hand, she clasps a staff topped by the head of Fox and crossed with the inscription "Liberty" and, in the other, holds a print after the Reynolds portrait of her husband. At her feet lies a second engraving, a copy of The Devonshire, or the Most Approved Method of Securing Votes which was published on 12 April. Her spouse duly occupies the other half of the print but, as his wife is trespassing onto male territory in her posture, demeanour and activities, so he is forced to take up those domestic duties that she has laid aside. Their child is prostrate across his lap as he changes its nappy and bemoans: "Ah William every one must be cursed that like thee takes a Politic Mad Wife." His horns once again suggest that the Duchess's liaison with Fox was more sexual than political. The visual rhetoric employed here recalls the claim made by The Morning Post in April that, "while her Grace is busied in canvassing the constituents, her domestic husband Thus, once again, claims of adultery were levelled at the Duchess. This print was echoed in a
is employed in the nursery, sighing, 'Hey my kitten! my kitten!' and comfortably rocking the Cradle. "136 Some of the Duchess's supporters attempted a pictorial counterattack. On 1 April 1784, The Rambler's Magazine published a print entitled The Duchess of D--- in the Character of a Mother (fig. 150). In this, the Duke and his wife are not divided in separate pictorial spaces but are united in a scene of harmonious domesticity. He has not been abandoned to fulfil the responsibilities of childrearing on his own but assists in the process, proffering a small saucepan as his wife holds their baby to her breast.
References to virtuous parenting abound. A small statuette of the Madonna and Child adorns the mantelpiece, a large picture of a pelican with its offspring hangs on the wall and a Treatise on getting and nursing of Children by the Duke of D lies at the author's feet. The opposing sides of the pamphlet, print and newspaper war over the Duchess's activities thus employed the same devices, whether to criticise the Duchess as a bad wife and mother, or to assert her virtue by representing her in the midst of domestic bliss.
I would argue that the Reynolds portrait of Georgiana with her daughter, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1786 (fig. 10), was meant to drive home her domestic worth and probity as much as this print. Georgiana was clearly highly distressed by the ire she engendered. She wrote to her mother during the election: "I would give the world to be with you, for 1 am unhappy beyond measure here & abus'd for nothing...! am really so vex'd (tho' 1 don't say so) at the abuse in the newspapers that 1 have no heart left" and claimed "I repent as 1 often do the part 1 have taken... "137
Chatsworth MSS 610.1, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire to Lady Spencer, March or April Indeed, she attempted to abdicate from her role and seek solace with Lady Spencer in St.Albans but was persuaded to return by the Duke and Duchess of Portland, promising success in the election and emphasising her critical role in attaining it. 138 By June, however, she was still "cross miserable and unhappy." She lamented: "I should have lead a much quieter life... and...1 should have recovered more dignity and good opinion in the eyes of ye world" and attributed feelings of depression to the events of the election.I 39 It is thus extremely significant that, in July 1784, a few months after the election, the Duchess and her daughter sat to Reynolds for their portrait. 140 It depicts the Duchess turned away from the viewer, attentive to the child seated on her lap whom she humours with a game of ride-a-cock horse. The likelihood that this portrait was devised to reassert her domestic worth, her love for her child and her fulfilment of maternal duties, that it was designed to regain that "dignity and good opinion," is strengthened by the clear compositional reference to Rowlandson's Political Affection. The pose of the child, dressed in 'coats with a sash around its waist, raising its hands in the air and looking up towards its mother, is adopted almost wholesale in the Reynolds portrait. However, the changed context translates the pose from one of attention-seeking and distress to one of playful enjoyment and interaction with the parent. This direct response to the pictorial attacks on the Duchess's maternal Chatsworth MSS 610.4. Duchess of Portland to Georgiana. Duchess of Devonshire. April 1784; Chatsworth MSS 611, Duchess of Portland to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. 13 April 1784;
Chatsworth MSS 612. Duke of Portland to Georgiana. Duchess of Devonshire. 14 April 1784 Chatsworth MSS 620. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire to Lady Spencer. 16-18 June 1784;
Chatsworth MSS 624. Georgiana. Duchess of Devonshire to Lady Spencer. 23-26 June 1784 Reynolds's sitters' book for 1784 records appointments for the Duchess on 3. 5. 6 and 8 July and for her daughter on 8. 13 and 31 July and on 3 August. Copy in the Heinz Archive. The National Portrait Gallery. London.
character was rendered even more direct when the portrait was mezzotinted by George Keating the following year. This allowed it to compete directly with the satirical prints, both in printsellers' windows and in individual collections.
Press reactions to the portrait contrasted favourably with previous comments on her involvement in the election. It was proclaimed: "IN smiling DEVON and her infant Dovel We view fair Virtue and the Cherub Love!", and The London Chronicle claimed that Reynolds had succeeded in uniting all three Graces in the one figure of the Duchess. 141 More than one paper commented on the prominence of the theme of motherhood. The Morning Herald informed its readers that "her Grace is in her
"the maternal affection is charmingly pourtrayed in the Lady: and the attitude of playing with it [her daughter] happily conceived." This latter review then went on to eulogise the portrayal of the child and to argue that its angelical countenance was typical of Reynolds's work.142 Indeed, commissioning Reynolds was a calculated and astute move. Not only did his name convey status by association, he was also known and praised for his prolific representations of adoring maternity and endearing infancy.
He was deemed to be "very successful in representing Children in all their playful Moods," praised for "the simplicity of every dimpled babe that sprung from his hands" and proclaimed as "never more successful than in his children."143 He was thus an ideal artist to paint a sentimental, domestic portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire The Morning Herald, 2 May 1786; The London Chronicle, 2-4 May 1786 The Morning Herald, 19 April 1786; The Morning Post, 3 May 1786 The Public Advertiser, 1 May 1781; The London Courant and the Westminster Chronicle, 3 May 1781; The Ear-Wig; or, An Old Woman's Remarks on the Present Exhibition of Pictures of the RoyalAcademy (London. 1781). p.ll with her daughter, a portrait designed to reaffinn her maternal and domestic virtues in the public eye.
* * * * * This chapter has examined various instances of the breakdown of the domestic and familial ideals so lauded by sentimental literature. The Ladies Worsley and Grosvenor and the Duchess of Kingston were attacked by numerous pamphlets for perverting the companionate ideal. Whilst the prints included in such tracts were exploited by authors to bolster claims of moral and social conscience, they rather assisted in the provision of entertainment and titillation and in fostering an impression of authenticity. These literary and visual attacks accused such women of contributing to the corruption of the nation, both by providing a poor example to the lower orders and by perverting the institution of the family, the base modular component of the community. However, the behaviour of the nobility not only prompted a wave of satirical publications, but also deeply affected the history of their official portraits. In some cases, these were either destroyed or altered by their spouses to reflect changed relations with the depicted.
Some attempted to exploit the power and popUlarity of portraiture to re-present themselves as virtuous characters. The Duke of Cumberland had himself and his wife imaged as traditionally regal in the face of the public mockery prompted by his adultery with Lady Grosvenor, the lewd circumstances surrounding it and his recorded illiteracy. Earl Cowper refuted gossip of illicit affairs by publicising his marriage to a young lady of impeccable character and family in a portrait laden with widely known and appreciated symbols of refuted calumny and marital virtue. Finally, the Duchess of Kingston exploited both the public nature of portraiture and that of funerary sculpture in an attempt to convince society at large of her genuine sense of bereavement at the death of the second husband she had illegally married.
Such themes were also apparent in diatribes against upper-class mothers who were thought neglectful of their domestic duty. Whilst the virtuous noblewoman, able to inspire emulative behaviour in the lower ranks of society, was held up as an exemplar, writer after writer expressed fears that fashionable ladies were spending their time and energies in a round of visiting, entertaining and social amusements.
Such neglect was a central focus of the attacks on the Duchess of Devonshire during the course of the Westminster election of 1784. Satirists depicted her husband as cuckolded, having to take on the domestic tasks that she had abandoned, and her child as distressed and neglected. However, Reynolds glorified her maternal prowess in a portrait begun that summer, directly answering such attacks and attempting to reassert her moral standing. Thus, dominant familial discourses came full circle. The promulgation of domestic ideals through the flattering and public medium of portraiture and the subsequent imaging of the inversion of those ideals for the purposes of public or individual condemnation were transposed. Public self-validation was thereby realised in the face of scandal.