«A Thesis Submitted for the Degree of PhD at the University of Warwick This thesis is made available online and is ...»
Such comparisons insinuate a transition in the ideal conception of the proper relationship between a husband and wife in the mid decades of the eighteenth century.
This chapter will firstly expand on that part of the historiography of marriage which deals with issues of power and motivation, addressing the questions of who primarily instigated a union and what qualities were sought in a suitable partner. It will then analyse pictorial representations of popularly condemned stereotypes of marriages. On the one hand, satirists lampooned unions promoted entirely by parents for material and social advancement. On the other, they condemned hasty and clandestine elopements motivated by masculine lust and feminine romantic dillusion. Finally, it will examine the companionate ideal and its emergence in the 1750s, focussing on William Hogarth's David Garrick and his Wife, Eva Maria of 1757 (fig.ll) as one of the earliest examples of this pictorial type.
* * * * * In 1949, H.J. Habbakuk argued that the eighteenth century witnessed "an increasing subordination of marriage to the increase of landed wealth, at the expense of other motives," reflected by a dramatic rise in dowries. 3 This postulation was See D. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society (London.
Historical Society 32 (1949), pp.15-30. He examined the change in the relation between the amount given in dowry and the amount specified for jointure. Whilst in the early sixteenth century, the contested in the writings of later historians such as Lawrence Stone. He proposed two parallel sliding scales, one quantifying the importance of materialistic concerns in marriage as opposed to affection, and the other, the degree of parental involvement as opposed to that of the children. He concluded that marriages from the fifteenth through to the seventeenth centuries were arranged by parents and kin, principally concerned with the economic, social and political welfare of the family unit. The couple themselves would rarely even be consulted, let alone involved in the selection process. However, by the later seventeenth century, the pendulums of decision-making and motivation had swung in favour of the personal happiness of offspring. Parental involvement was limited to right of veto, leaving children largely at liberty to elect their own spouses. Once given free rein, they sought affection and companionship, considering personal qualities and compatibility to be more valuable than title or wealth. Romantic love and lust, however, were roundly condemned. 4 Randolph Trumbach was Stone's most notable supporter, presenting the 1720generation as the first in which loving marriages "became truly prestigious." He focussed on the upper classes rather than the middling, suggesting that the eventual passing of Lord Hardwicke's 1753 Marriage Act in the Commons, a bill that attempted to restrict the increasing numbers of clandestine unions, was thanks to the support of younger sons of noble families. 5 These young aristocrats, dominating the proportion was £100 of jointure for every £620 of dowry, it had risen to £100 of jointure for every £1000 of dowry in the 1700s.
L. Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (London, 1977), chapter 3, 'The Open Lineage Family 1450-1630'; chapter 4, 'The Restricted Patriarchal Nuclear Family 1550and, for the 'Closed Domesticated Nuclear Family' see chapter 7, 'Mating Arrangements' and chapter 8, 'The Companionate Marriage' For Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, see Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage, p.35 and R.B.
Outhwaite, Clandestine Marriage in England 1500-1850 (London and Rio Grande, 1995), chapter 4 Lower House, were no longer keen to elope with heiresses, thereby rectifying the disadvantages of their position, and were thus prepared to curtail the thriving trade in illicit marriages. Whilst this was partly because their situation had improved and the need for lucre no longer so urgent, it was mainly because it had, by this date, become distasteful to marry for financial gain. Not only was money "no longer a principal object in marriages," but children were allowed virtually free choice to choose or reject prospective partners. 6 This developmental model was, as previously noted, criticised by Alan Macfarlane. He dated freedom of choice in the election of marital partners as far back as Anglo-Saxon law and argued that such principles were inherent within the very words of the marriage service. He did acknowledge that both parents and kin would probably be consulted, often possessing right of veto, and that the degree of their input would vary according to the degree of money and status at stake, together with the age, sex and seniority of the child. However, he denied any fundamental transition in the status quo, claiming the possession of ultimate decision-making authority by the couple to be an historical constant. He similarly proposed continuity in motivation, arguing that, whilst practical considerations had always been crucial, principles of companionship and affection had an almost unlimited historical lineage. He traced these back through writers such as Locke, Milton and Shakespeare to Bartholomaeus Anglicus who wrote in c.1230; "he plighteth his troth to lead his life with his wife without departing, and to pay her his debt, and to keep her and love her afore all R. Trumbach, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations in Eighteenth-Century England (New York, San Francisco and London, 1978), pp.71, 112, others... " Indeed, Macfarlane even suggested that such sentiments could be found in the traditions of the Germanic tribes as they had been described by Tacitus. 7 More recently, scholars such as Keith Wrightson and Amanda Vickery have emphasised the diversity of reality, rejecting "the artificial dichotomy of cold-blooded arrangement versus idyllic freedom" as making "a mockery of the whole wide spectrum of courtship practices."8 Wrightson was more careful than his predecessors in distinguishing between the dictates of advice literature on the one hand and emotions recorded in personal documents on the other, analysing the history of marital relations under the dual headings, 'The Ideal' and 'The Reality.' Thus, whilst parental instigation of courtship may have been the seventeenth-century ideal, the aim in everyday life was more simply the general good will of all those concerned. Similarly, whilst prescriptive writers may have instructed their readers to seek parity of age, rank, wealth, reputation, religious affiliation and personal attractiveness, the weight attached to any of these factors by their readers varied greatly according to their individual circumstances. Whilst love was approved of, it was hoped that one would love prudently.9 A key issue in these debates has concerned the role of marriage in the muchdiscussed fluidity of class relations in eighteenth-century English society. The concept of an upper class that retained its position through flexibility, accepting the most wealthy and successful from the middling orders into its ranks, has considerable A. Macfarlane. Marriage and Love in England 1300-1840 (Oxford, 1986), chapters 7 and 8, quoting p.159 Quoting A. Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England (New Haven and London. 1998), p.40 K. Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680 (London, 1993), pp.71-4, 80. 83, 90, 92 implications for debates over commercial and romantic marriages. 1O Many have considered the possibility that marital unions between the upper and middle classes were essentially 'trade-offs;' that the wealthy bourgeoisie married their daughters to noblemen in order to gain social status whilst the aristocrat thereby gained a considerable sum of money. For example, G.E. Mingay has argued that: "Landowners who through extravagance or mishap were in straitened circumstances were prepared to revive their fortunes by marriage with the daughters or widows of merchants, conferring in return for a substantial dowry the lustre of a title and the envied entree to polite society." 11 Others maintain that it was otherwise. For example, Habakkuk warned that, whilst the desire to attract titled suitors could have contributed to the increase in the dowries of middle-class girls, the limited number of such cross-class unions meant that it could only have been a secondary factor.12 Similarly, Keith Wrightson has emphasised the power of endogamy, arguing that like tended to marry like and, thus, that marriage tended to perpetuate the established social order.13 * * * * * Whilst money and status on the one hand and romantic love and lust on the other certainly played a part in many eighteenth-century marriages, prescriptive and fictional literature warned against such motivations. Conduct writings, novels, poems, See H. Perkin, Origins of Modern English Society (1969), (London and New York, 1991); L.
Stone and J.C. Fawtier Stone, An Open Elite? England 1540-1880 (Oxford, 1984) G.E. Mingay, English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century (London and Toronto, II 1993), p.28 12 Habakkuk, 'Marriage Settlements', p.23 Wrightson, English Society, p.88 plays and sermons alike strongly denounced the materialistic marriage throughout the period. From Bishop Fleetwood in 1705, who declared that parents who married their sons and daughters without the prospect of love made "them of all Creatures the most miserable; and '" irredeemably so," to Thomas Gisborne at the end of the century who asserted that "such marriages, however they may answer the purposes of interest or ambition... terminate in wretchedness," the message was constant. 14 The chief variation lay in the multiplicity of cited consequences. The pseudonymous 'Philogamus' presaged "the Ruin of the best Families, introducing eternal Feuds and Animosities besides Law-Suits, Divorces, bastardising our Posterity, with infinite other Consequences" whilst a writer in 1750 specified "at best a cold, flat, and insipid intercourse" and more normally "contempt and disdain" between the unfortunate spouses. 15 Daniel Defoe had been similarly vitriolic on the subject. Drawing analogies with the acts of prostitution and rape, he strongly and repeatedly condemned those who "join Hands and not Hearts, unite Interests, unite Sexes, unite Families and Relatives, and yet never unite Hearts."16 The message of the conduct writers was 14 W. Fleetwood, The Relative Duties of Parents and Children, Husbands and Wives, Masters and Servants (1705) (London, 3rd edition, 1722), p.35; T. Gisborne, Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex (1797) (London, 9th edition, 1810), p.249 15 '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.30; B. Franklin, Reflections on Courtship and Marriage: in Two Letters to a Friend (1750) (London, 1759), p.9 16 D. Defoe, Conjugal Lewdness; or, Matrimonial Whoredom (London, 1727), pp. 29, 32, 166,
258. However, such writers did not conversely advocate complete freedom of choice based entirely on love and affection. It was commonly believed that parents should possess ultimate right of veto, enabling them to prevent unsuitable matches. Thus, Defoe's censure was mitigated by his tentative claim of parents on such occasions: "The negative, I think, is theirs, especially with a Daughter; but, I think, the Positive is the Childrens" (quoting p.170). Similarly, such writers did not recommend that all practical considerations of wealth and status should be entirely disregarded. For example, Benjamin Reflections on Courtship and Marriage, p.lO tempered statements that it should not Franklin in taken up in other genres. In Tom Jones, Henry Fielding continually reiterated the point through the character of Squire Allworthy who disagrees "with the opinions of those parents, who think it as immaterial to consult the inclinations of their children in the affair of marriage, as to solicit the good pleasure of their servants when they intend to take a journey." The conflict of love and practicalities, of free will and parental control is epitomised in Sophia Western, tom between her father who tries to force her into profitable wedlock with Blifil, and Tom, for whom she has true affection.J7 Samuel Richardson later tackled the topic more sombrely in the story of Clarissa, a heroine who resorts to fleeing into the arms of an aristocratic rake to escape her family who are trying to force her into marriage with the odious Mr Solmes. She bitterly and ironically explains that their "darling view" is that of "raising a family."18 Periodicals added their voice to the general disapprobation. The Tatler condemned the parent who forces his child unwillingly into marriage as 'barbarous'
whilst The Spectator in 1711 outlined the 'insipid' marital state:
Two People of no Genius or Taste for themselves meet together, upon such a Settlement as has been thought reasonable by Parents and Conveyancers from an exact Valuation of the Land and Cash of both Parties... These make up the Crowd or Vulgar of the rich, and fill up the Lumber of humane Race, constitute the main reason for wedlock with qualifiers such as, "it must not be inferred from the foregoing, that prudence and discretion, with regard to fortune, are to be banished from our consideration...
H. Fielding, The History of Tom Jones (1749), ed. R.P.C. Mutter (Harmondsworth, 1985),
without Beneficence towards those below them, or Respect towards those above them; and lead a despicable, independent and useless Life, without Sense of the Laws of Kindness, Good-nature, mutual Offices, and the elegant Satisfactions which flow from Reason and Virtue. 19 Many eighteenth-century dramatic heroes and heroines are threatened with such forced marriages. Bevil Junior and Lucinda in The Conscious Lovers succeed in evading their coerced union, enabling both to wed the true objects of their affections.20 Similarly, in The Clandestine Marriage of 1766, Mr Sterling, a merchant who values money above all else "but the idea of acquiring nobility," seeks to marry his daughter to the nephew of one Lord Ogleby who looks down on "that vulgar fellow Sterling" but sees his wealthy family as one "very well to marry in."21 The preface of The Clandestine Marriage credited a satire by William Hogarth
as the inspiration for its representation of an arranged and commercial marriage: