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The General Evening Post, 25-28 April 1778; The General Advertiser, 27 April 1778 The Public Advertiser, 25 April 1778 The General Evening Post, 25-28 April 1778 St. James's Chronicle, 21-23 April 1778 * * * * * For reasons of time and space, there are many issues inherent in the representation of the family that have been, perforce, neglected. One, which may be dealt with briefly here, is that of class. Indeed, the discussions of marital portraiture, of representations of mothers with their children and of the larger family group have only pas singly mentioned the social status of the sitters depicted. However, this is precisely because, despite the rural gentry being slower in adopting the narratives and compositions of the newly companionate family, there seems to be little, if any, class orientation in that ideal by the later eighteenth century. From the work of scholars such as Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, who argue that the middle rank coalesced and formed a coherent social body from the 1780s onwards through the assertion of their domestic morality, it could be inferred that the desire to project affectionate familial values in art was most characteristic of that class.
However, as noted in chapter two, it is almost impossible to trace a class emphasis in these different conventions. 28 Joseph Wright of Derby, whose portrayal of Mr and Mrs Coftman (fig.3l), members of the provincial bourgeoisie, has been hailed as epitomising the companionate ideal, executed a large number of pendant portraits L. Davidoff and C. Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 (London, 1987) See chapter 2, pp.89, 100 of comparable sitters. 29 For example, he depicted Mr. Abney seated with a letter inscribed: "Ed. wd Abney Esq,rl King Newton! Derby.e" in one canvas whilst portraying his wife in another, engaged in the act of spinning wool (figs.151 and 152).
Similarly, the pendant pastel portraits so characteristic of the work of William Hoare of Bath were sought by members of all ranks who visited the watering-place in the summer months. His depictions of Sir Matthew and Lady Sarah Fetherstonhaugh (1746-9, Uppark) and of the less illustrious Richard Laurence, a watch and clock maker of Bath, and his wife Elizabeth (c.1754, Private Collection) can scarcely be differentiated in tenns of pictorial vocabulary. Equally, the language of the companionate marriage, as epitomised in Gainsborough's The Morning Walk (fig.4), was not restricted to sitters such as Mr Hallett, whose father was a cabinet maker. Of the portraits in which a husband gestures to some point of interest for the benefit of his wife, a large number depict noble sitters. Indeed, Henry Loftus, Earl of Ely utilised the narrative of the companionate gesture in no less than two commissions. In 1771, Angelica Kauffman depicted the Earl with his wife at his side, glancing back towards her fondly and motioning to their niece at the harpsichord (fig. 153). Four years later, his first wife having died, the same Earl commemorated his marriage to Anne Bonfoy in an almost identical pictorial idiom, this time even closer to the ethos of the portrait of the Halletts (fig. 154). On display in the Bearsted Collection in Upton House, he again gestures, this time towards his property as signified by the colonnade, whilst looking back affectionately towards his new bride.
J. Egerton. Wright of Derby (London. 1990). p.71; A. Braham. Wright of Derby: 'Mr and Mrs Coltman' (London. 1986). p.l6; E.D.H. Johnson, Paintings of the British Social Scene from Hogarth to Sickert (London, 1986), p.76 However, whilst any attempts at clear discrimination between the social standing of these sitters would appear to be futile, graphic satires on domestic and sexual issues clearly did mark class distinctions. 3o Thus, whilst the universality of the companionate portrait seems to negate Davidoff and Hall's thesis, their claim that the domestic probity of the middling ranks was rhetorically contrasted with the debauchery of the upper classes is inferred in print culture. The stereotype of aristocratic licentiousness, evident in satires on criminal conversation, divorce and bigamy trials, was often set off against the apparent virtue of the middle class. For example, in 1739, one conduct book writer proudly claimed that, "the middling People are certainly more happy in the Married State, than persons of a more elevated dignity."31 The penchant for such statements was so pronounced by the 1790s that Hannah More was able to refer to "the heretofore common saying 'that most worth and virtue are to be found in the middle station. "'32 Even if the middling classes were not specifically cited as enjoying more virtuous domestic lives, they were often antithetically defined as such. Whilst the aristocracy was frequently attacked for libertinism, marriages amongst the poor were popularly believed to be the last bastions of domestic violence. William Blackstone, in his discussion of the laws of England, informed his readers that, whilst moderate correction could still legally be administered to wives, the policy had become increasingly unpopular in the "politer reign" of Charles ll. However, "the lower rank of people, who were always fond of the
31 'Philogamus,' The Present State of Matrimony: or, The Real Causes of Conjugal Infidelity and Unhappy Marriages in a Letter to a Friend (London, 1739), p.32 H. More, Strictures on the Modem System of Female Education with a View of the Principles and Conduct Prevalent among Women of Rank and Fortune 2 Vols (London, 1799), I, p.70. My italics old common law, still claim and exert their antient privilege."33 Similarly, in Tom Jones, Henry Fielding referred to physical reproof as "a kind of horse-medicine, which requires a very robust constitution to digest, and is therefore only proper for the vulgar."34 This stereotype was reflected in the work of satirists who frequently depicted violent proletarian husbands and harridan wives. 35 These two tendencies, of a companionate portraiture that spanned the wealthier social orders and of a satirical convention that accused the upper classes of sexual libertinism and constructed the bourgeoisie as of greater domestic and moral probity, were, to some extent, in tension. One solution to this paradox would be to suggest that a middling discourse of companionate values possessed sufficient authority to become a universal standard, that it was so successful in achieving ethical supremacy that upper-class sitters eagerly adopted its values in their portraits in denial of their illicit sexual and marital proclivities. This process has already been seen in the case of those elite adulterers and adulteresses who countered satirical attacks with pictorial displays of virtue. Such acts can be argued to reverse the model of emulation, of a middling class acutely aware of the position of those above and intensely preoccupied with the attainment of social position,36 Instead, they posit cultural forms as having radiated W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 Vols. (1765) (Oxford. 3rd edition, 1768), I. p.445 34 H. Fielding. The History of Tom Jones (1749). ed. R.P.C. Mutter (Harmondsworth. 1985), p.179 35 See. for example. James Gillray. Judge Thumb; or, Patent Sticks for Family Correction:
Warranted Lawful! (1782. The British Museum. London); Anon., The Hen Peckt Husband (1768.
The British Museum. London) 36 H. Perkin. Origins of Modem English Society (1969) (London and New York, 1991), chapter 2; P. Langford. A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783 (Oxford. 1989), p.653: "It was united in nothing more than in its members' determination to make themselves gentlemen and ladies, thereby identifying themselves with the upper classes."
through the upper classes from influences socially below, from a 'middle-class consciousness' that was initially formulated in opposition to upper-class mores and principles, but that became so powerful as to be adopted by them. 37 As Michael McKeon has argued with reference to the novel: "Not yet (if ever) embodied within a delimited social class, middle-class ideology slowly suffused different segments of the reigning status groupS".38 However, as Dror Wahrman has pointed out, the notion of 'middle-class values' that "percolated down or up as the case may be" is rather unconvincing and seems an inadequate explanation for the similarity of ideals evident in middle and upper-class portraiture.39 Equally, attacks on the domestic and sexual mores of characters such as Lady Worsley, the Duke of Cumberland and the Duchess of Kingston were not specifically from the middling classes, but were more or less universal. It thus seems unlikely that aristocrats were dissuaded from traditionally patrician habits by an alien but forceful discourse stemming from those below. They remained in a highly influential position throughout the century. Land was still the key to power and, as Margaret Hunt has cautioned, aristocratic patronage was still eagerly sought and politics were ultimately dependent upon birth.40 The answer rather seems to lie in the nature of the widely known and expounded discourse that has been outlined in this thesis; the discourse that based masculine public virtue on domestic morality, that hailed the virtuous woman as a domestic creature of sentiment and 37 M. Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender and the Family in England 1680-1780 (Berkley, Los Angeles, London, 1996), chapter 8 38 M. McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel 1600-1740 (Baltimore, 1987), pp.174-5 D. Wahrman, "'Middle-Class" Domesticity Goes Public: Gender, Class, and Politics from Queen Caroline to Queen Victoria' Journal of British Studies 32 (October 1993), pp.402-3 40 Hunt, The Middling Sort, pp.203-4 rectitude and the child as a loving and nurtured individual. This discourse was not a solid, non-negotiable body of thought indelibly associated with the middle classes. It was rather an empty rhetorical vehicle that could be employed in a number of ways, as will now be explored.
This discourse subtly but critically altered the criteria of social value. Instead of station, wealth and land as the sole prerequisites of authority (the abiding principles of Civic Humanism as expounded by thinkers such as Shaftesbury), new values were promoted. Domestic virtue was seen as equal to or more worthy than title, righteousness was valued along with rank and qualities of mind were elevated together with qualities of status. These meritocratic principles inform novels such as Samuel Richardson's Pamela. This resounds with assertions of personal virtue as more important than the privilege attached to birth and wealth. Pamela repeatedly affirms the superiority of poverty-stricken innocence over guilt with its associated riches. Her dictum that "VIRTUE is the only nobility" is finally accepted by Mr B as an element of his reformation. 41 Conduct writers propounded similar messages.
Richardson elsewhere reiterated that "a young lady should be told, that it is no honour to be better born than servants, if she is not better behaved too" and Wetenhall Wilkes warned that if a high-born lady "is proud of her birth, it is not a blessing of her own purchasing/deserving."42 Such notions were essential for the enfranchisement of the middling sorts into the realms of literary and artistic patronage. Lack of elite status 41 S. Richardson. Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (1740/1). ed. M.A. Doody (Harmondsworth.
1985). pp.67. 83. 204 42 S. Richardson. A Collection of the Moral and Instructive Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflections Contained in the Histories of Pamela, Clarissa. and Sir Charles Grandison (London.
1755). p.28; W. Wilkes. A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice to a Young Lady (1744) (Dublin. 3rd edition. 1751). p.78 and title meant that new virtues had to be displayed that were theoretically accessible to all. However, this is not to suggest that the middle classes were uninterested in more traditional indicators of worth. Mr Hallett, whilst displaying his character as that of a genteel and civilised man, demonstrating proper and loving attention towards his wife, still implies his propertied status by gesturing towards open land.
However, the new emphasis on domestic probity was not a solely middle-class phenomenon. Its pictorial language could be employed, not only by middling families lacking elite status and title, but also by aristocrats to accompany and reinforce their elite status and title. As Margaret Hunt has observed; "the last few decades of work on English family history has shown clearly that the eighteenth-century aristocracy, too, was drawn to the ideal of domesticity."43 Dror Wahrman has seconded this realisation, citing texts such as Linda Colley's Britons as evidencing the presence of values such as "domestic morality", "sobriety", "earnestness" and "serious religiosity" amongst elite groupS.44 Thus, Sir Rowland Winn, whilst inviting our admiration of his possessions and a newly renovated library (designed by one of the most fashionable architects of the day), also reveals his kind and tender nature through solicitous attention to his wife (fig.41). The portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland by Reynolds and Gainsborough not only emphasise their marriage, but also their status through sundry attributes of royalty (figs.132, 133, 134, 135). The result of such images is a yoking of the display of wealth and property with new moral values.