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Whilst both middling and upper-class sitters thus employed such meritocratic 43 Hunt, The Middling Sort. p.212 44 Wahrman, '''Middle-Class'' Domesticity Goes Public,' pp.401-2; D. Wahrman, Imagining the Middle Class: The Political Representation of Class in Britain, c.1780-1840 (Cambridge, 1995), pp.379-80; L. Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (New Haven and London, 1992) concepts to qualify their presence or their asserted status through portraiture, satirical thinkers utilised exactly the same notions to attack members of the regnant class. As private morality and public authority became closely allied in the new discourse, those traditionally qualified to rule by parentage alone could potentially be undermined by accusations of immorality, sexual deviance, profligacy and indolence, recreating "social superiors" as "moral inferiors".45 By emphasising legitimate sexual behaviour and monogamous marriage together with a strong work ethic, honesty and frugality, middling writers could question particular aristocrats' moral and, by association, political authority.46 The public and the private thus became ideologically interdependent and these authors' elevation of the private sphere enabled them to query the right of characters such as Cumberland to the public domain.
However, even this ideological strand should not be perceived as a uniquely middle-class device for assisting in the acquisition of power. Its core was not the eradication of aristocratic dominion, but rather the notion that privilege should be partnered with equable ethical dominion. Social hierarchies should not be undermined, but be brought into line with moral hierarchies. Rather than attempting to negate the aristocracy's influence, they emphasised that that influence should not be abused. Thus, in Pamela, Mr B's elevated position is eventually justified by his electing to follow the path of domestic probity whilst the heroine's virtue is rewarded by attendant status. Pamela is told that the "experienced truth... well-tried virtue... understanding and genteel behaviour" that she brings to the marriage "will do 45 I. Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe. Richardson and Fielding (London, 1987), p.166 As Stella Tillyard noted in Aristocrats. p. 271; "many... were openly hostile both to the idea of aristocratic government and to the idea of aristocratic licence and saw the corruption of one reflected in the corruption of the other". See Hunt, 'Middling Sort', chapter 8 for a detailed analysis of this issue.
credit" to her new "station".47 Later, Priscilla Wakefield, whilst stressing the universality of women's roles, simultaneously recommended that upper-class ladies should improve their minds "to capacitate them for the proper application of that influence, which is conferred on them by their station, for the purpose of promoting the public welfare", and referred to this influence as "the undisputed prerogative of our female nobility."48 Hannah More, the following year, decried "the ill effects" produced by the "mere levity, carelessness, and inattention (to say no worse)" of fashionable ladies. However, rather than demanding the removal of their influence, she asked that these "women of rank" should employ that leverage to "bear their decided testimony against every thing which is notoriously contributing to the public corruption."49 Although negative formulations of the influence of the aristocracy were most common, examples of the virtuous and atypically moral aristocrat, singled out and praised for adherence to the doctrines of domesticity, did appear in public discourse. Most notably, George ill and Queen Charlotte were repeatedly hailed for their parental and marital probity and thus as proper examples for all of society, not excepting the King's brother. 50 In sum, the impact of newly elevated domestic values on constructions of class took various forms. Individuals from all sectors of society were drawn to these behavioural ideals and commissioned portraits that would suggest their adherence to them. The middling classes demonstrated their private virtue and were thus deemed 47 Richardson, Pamela, p.368
worthy of respect despite their lack of more traditional signs of status. Meanwhile, the upper classes demonstrated their private virtue to complement and to bolster their established social position, dependent on birth and inherited property. However, the need for such an equation between moral and social authority simultaneously enabled fervent attacks upon aristocrats seen to neglect the responsibilities of status and thus as undeserving of their position.
* * * * * The pictorial occupies a particular place in historical debate, one that has been largely overlooked, but one that needs careful qualification. Art historians have largely employed history as background for pictures. Historians, meanwhile, have referred to the visual in a cursory fashion, rigorously qualifying the use of various literary and personal sources whilst including illustrations with limited definition of their place in the wider picture. This dissertation has attempted to theorise that place and, rather than using history as a foil or paintings and engravings as illustrative, it has used pictures as a source material in the same way as diaries, letters and other artefacts can be used, each with their own particular problems. It has thereby demonstrated the power of the ascendant cult of sensibility, the resultant sentimentalisation of familial relationships, the ways in which such relationships and their virtuous enactment came to signify moral authority and the elevation of that authority to parallel that attained through status, property and wealth.
British Museum Print Room:
Chatsworth MSS 113-1117: Letters of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Courtauld Institute Press Cuttings, Vol. I (1731-1811)
Heinz Archive, National Portrait Gallery:
Sitters Books of Sir Joshua Reynolds (photocopied)
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire:
Catalogues to the collection from 1769, c.1771, c.1778 and c.1796
Lincolnshire Record Office:
BNLW 2-4: Brownlow Family Documents
National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum:
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