Aug 312021
 

Vicars were often shown as being mercenary and corrupt – interested only in money and in collecting tithes from their parishioners. First up, a slightly different story, entitled The Old Dog’s Legacy and appearing in 1800:

The writing underneath tells the story:

Vicar: How could you be so profane as to inter your dog in the church yard. You are liable to be punished in the spiritual court.

Farmer: Why, aye doctor, but when you consider what a sensible creature he was, you will not be so severe. The day before he died he made his Will and left you a Legacy.

Vicar: A Legacy?

Farmer: Yes he left you six guineas and I’ve come to give it to you.

Parson: Oho, if that’s the case why did you not mention it before and he might have been laid inside the church.

The original drawing was by Isaac Cruikshank – father to the George Cruikshank who illustrated the earlier novels of Charles Dickens. Isaac lived between 1756 and 1811 and this etching and stippled engraving appears on the Lewis Walpole Library site here.

Another image showing greed on the part of vicars is this one from 1760 and entitled La Dime – the Tythe Pig. (The phrase ‘la dime’ referred to a French land tax, levied in much the same way as the English tithe, and representing a payment to the church of a tenth of the value of the year’s harvest etc). Once more, it is from the excellent Lewis Walpole Library site.

According to the British Museum site, the verse underneath ‘represents a satire on the clergy; a farmer and his wife offering their tithe to a clergyman by the tithe barn at the gate of his rectory; the man holds a sucking pig, the woman holds out an infant, saying that if the clergyman wants the former he must also take the latter; the clergyman turns away looking back over his shoulder in distaste’.

The verse starts off  with the words: ‘In Country village lives a vicar/Fond as all are of tithes and Liquor/ For mirth his ears are seldom shut/He’ll crack a jest and laugh at smut’.

It ends with the words: ‘The Vicar comes – the pig he claims/And the good wife with taunts inflames/But she, quite arch, bow’d low and smil’d/Kept back the pig and held the child/The priest look’d warm, the wife looked big/ Zounds sir! quoth she, No child, no pig’.

The British Museum dates the mezzotint as being slightly earlier (1751) and it appears to be a based on an etching by Louis Philippe Boutard, who was trading from the Golden Pineapple in Durham Yard in London’s Strand around the middle of the century. It was etched by the German-born print-maker Johann Sebastian Müller who operated out of premises at The Golden Head, on the corner of James Street, Long Acre, London.

Third up, another Richard Newton print from 1792 and which appears on the Lewis Walpole site showing a kneeling parson pledging undying love to an aged crone – who just happens to be loaded.

The verse reads: Hear me, angelic object of my love/Whose charms eclipse the brightest saint above!/Tis not your pedigree, nor large rent-roll/Nor funded thousands that enslave my soul./No, tis the magic sweetness of your smile (….  and so on, and so on).

The prints are just three of many from the period showing the avarice of Anglican clergy. And to end with I rather like “A flight of Parsons”, showing the vicars behaving like crows flying home to roost.

The seated man is saying “Zooks, there be a rare flight of parsons. I hope in my heart they wonna [won’t] alight on my farm, they’ve done mischief enough already in these parts.”

Published by S W Fores, I like the wording underneath the engraving – “Folios of Caricatures lent out for the Evening” – you can just imagine  a gathering at a fashionable house being handed around a folio of similar prints lampooning  the great and the good – and the clergy.

Aug 272021
 

The Capability Brown lake

It is a strange experience – moving to a new area (Sherborne in Dorset) and not being able to look around local places of interest because of lock-down, and realizing that after twelve months I had never even seen inside the local castle. Perhaps we get blasé – there are, after all, two structures called ‘castle’ in Sherborne. The first is a proper ruin, having been built in the 12th Century. Mind you, I do a feel a tad responsible for the fact that it is a ruin – in the English Civil War it was a royalist stronghold and troops loyal to Cromwell  twice laid siege.  It was my ancestor Thomas Fairfax who then ordered it to be pulled down. He did a fairly good job of the demolition and what remains has largely been preserved as a sort of folly, to be looked at from the new castle, built on raised ground on the other side of what was then the River Yeo, and which is now a rather splendid lake laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

The ruined old castle, viewed from the lawns of the ‘new’ castle

It was one of Brown’s first commissions, and is a reminder that first and foremost Brown was a superb water engineer. Other ‘ye olde features’ were added to improve the vista of the ruins – crenellated boundary walls, suitably distressed, and a ruined tower were eighteenth century additions. What is so effective is that very little has been doctored since Brown’s visit – the design has not been significantly changed in 250 years. Some of his ‘signature’ cedar trees have not survived but the whole estate is beautifully maintained. Watching the seasons change while walking round the lake has been a joy – but up until now Covid restrictions meant that the new castle, site of Walter Raleigh’s hunting lodge, has been out of bounds.

View of the ‘new’ castle from the far side of Brown’s lake

Poor Walt: he bought the old castle off the Crown in 1592 and tried to modernise the 400 year-old structure in order to make it homely. It was an impossible task and after a while he gave up and in 1594 turned his attentions to the hunting lodge built in the deer park by the local bishops, and who liked to  spend their recreation time there observing the deer in the episcopal park. Walt put up a slightly austere hunting lodge – rectangular and four storeys high, with large square-headed windows filled with diamond pane glass. When he got carted off to the Tower, the Crown took back the property, and in 1617 gave it to a diplomat called Sir John Digby. Good Sir John  added four wings to Raleigh’s building, giving the house its present H-shape. It means that there are towers and turrets in four corners, linked by corridors at the sides, and providing for two courtyards, front and back, within the ‘H’.

When later members of the Digby family inherited the stately pile they wisely decided not to go overboard with ‘Georgianising’ the structure. Not for them porticos and temple facades and other bits of Palladian nick-knackery. They contented themselves with  putting in sash windows, panelled doors and white marble fireplaces. Other than that they filled the house with fine furniture. The family even invited King George III to come and visit, with three of his daughters in tow. That meant that 1789 was spent with even more shopping for fine furniture, even more decorating with sumptuous fabrics. By then Capability Brown had finished tinkering with his lake – started in 1753, but with the accompanying landscaping not finished until Brown returned, twenty years later.

The Blue Drawing Room (© Sherborne Castle).

I am sure that in the intervening centuries the Digby family – they are now the Wingfield Digby’s – have been assiduous in  tweaking and improving, but the delightful thing about  the castle is that there is very little evidence of any such tinkering. It is still a home. It is still filled with paintings and fine furniture. The park still has deer in it – including at least a couple of white harts if my eyesight serves me correctly, and there are still swans serenely patrolling the lake with their cygnets in tow. Near to the house you can still see the game larder on stilts, where meat would  be hung until suitably ‘gamey’. Next to it, the ice-house serves as a reminder of the  show which the wealthy Georgians loved to put on, impressing their summer visitors with sorbets and other treats, preserved by keeping ice and packed snow in underground vaults throughout the Spring and early summer. The eighteenth century glass house has given way to an orangery, toilet facilities and a Tea Room have been created, but by and large it is all very much as it has been for the past couple of centuries.

The room described as the solarium  © Sherborne Castle

The actual castle opened to the public this summer and is well worth a visit – the website is here. You are asked not to take photographs inside the castle so all interior images shown here are copyright of Sherborne Castle. The exterior shots are my own.

The Library © Sherborne Castle

One of the bedrooms. © Sherborne Castle

 

Aug 242021
 

The Lewis Walpole site has this mezzotint of what is described as “an exact representation of the depositing the body of her late Majesty Queen Caroline in the family vault at Brunswick, Augt. 24, 1821 : with the Revd. J.W.G. Wolff delivering her funeral prayer amidst the tears and sobs of the company’.

The description on the site is as follows:

“The coffin of Queen Caroline on a cloth-covered platform over which pallbearers hold an elaborate black canopy is carried down the aisle of church, followed by a minister who lifts his right arm as if speaking from the text in his left hand. To the right stand young women who throw flowers from their baskets as the procession passes. On the right, with an organ behind, soldiers stand in attention holding torches.”

The mezzotint was published by W B Walker and reflects the public concern for a woman who was treated appallingly by her husband, George IV. He banned her from attending his coronation at Westminster Abbey on 19 July 1821. Despite this snub, she turned up and tried to gain entry but was turned away from the coronation at the point of a bayonet. That night, she fell ill. Rumours circulated that she had been poisoned. More likely, she was suffering from stomach cancer. She lingered for three weeks before dying at Brandenburg House in Hammersmith at 10:25 p.m. on 7 August 1821 at the age of 53. Her body was carried through London to the port of Harwich and from there was shipped to her native Brunswick where she was interred under a gravestone marked “Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England.”

Poor Queen Caroline. Deserted by her husband the King, she had  spent some years travelling in Europe accompanied by a number of male admirers including her servant the swarthy Italian Bartolomeo Pergami. She had been ridiculed endlessly by the English Press, and hounded by her husband, who sought to divorce her on the grounds of her adultery. Talk about ‘kettle’ and ‘pot’!

Bartolomeo Pergami being installed as a Knight Companion of the Bath – a print showing the scandalous suggestion that the Queen was sharing her ablutions with her servant Bartolomeo.

Queen Caroline may have been no oil painting but she didn’t deserve the ridicule and  scorn heaped on her by large sections of the British public. After all, she married the King in good faith. He reportedly got so drunk  when he met her, for the first time, on their wedding day, that he passed out later in the fireplace and failed to perform his marital duties, finding her offensively ugly and exhibiting poor personal hygiene. Forget the fact that he was a serial womaniser, was probably suffering from venereal disease, and was grossly overweight: in the view of many she was ‘beyond the pale’ and she deserved no sympathy.

R.I.P. Caroline, buried two hundred years ago today.

Aug 222021
 

Finding myself on The Wirral with a few hours to spare gave me a chance to explore Port Sunlight, the very distinctive mini-town built by Lord Lever to provide homes for his loyal workers in the soap manufacturing business. The centrepiece is the Lady Lever Gallery and it houses some fascinating pieces, ranging from Victorian furniture to tapestries and from ‘Napoleon-ana’ to Wedgwood pots, and with sculptures ancient and modern. For me the highlight was the Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun portrait of Lady Hamilton in the guise of a Bacchante (ie as a follower of Bacchus). Painted around 1792 this is one of four portraits of Emma known to have been painted by Vigée-Lebrun during her stay in Naples between 1790 and 1792. As such, Emma would just have married the besotted Sir William Hamilton. This pose, typical of her ‘attitudes’, has a lovely flowing quality. I gather that the artist was most impressed by Emma’s mass of flowing chestnut hair – but was not so impressed by the girl’s lack of intelligence and dress sense – or by her Liverpudlian accent. Purists will tell me that Emma was not Liverpudlian – she was born on the Wirral not far from where her portrait is now hanging.

Soap magnate William Hesketh Lever bought the painting in 1903 – and to me it was a star of the show.

 

I was also delighted to see the two paintings by Henry Robert Morland -‘ Laundry’ and ‘Ironing’. Well worth seeing.

 

 

Another ‘old friend’ I was interested in seeing was this Nollekens bust of Charles James Fox – I gather that it is one of a handful churned out either by Nollekens personally, or by craftsmen in his studio.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery houses much else of interest and will definitely merit a return visit when I am next in the area. Mind you, it is a six hour drive, given the state of the traffic on our roads leading up to an August Bank Holiday….

Aug 172021
 

It is easy to think of William Hogarth as an artist and satirist and to forget that he earned his bread and butter doing mundane things like drawing trade cards for local businesses. One example is this one for Mrs Holt’s emporium, which stocked all manner of Italian goodies:

It displays a picture of an Italian scene, showing a ship being loaded with goods in Florence. Mercury turns to a woman (emblem of Florence) with a sampling of the goods of the region at her feet. On the right, workers carry loads of goods onto a ship as the merchant looks on. In the distance there is a view of Rome. The four corners of the frame are images of Naples, Venice, Genoa, and Leghorne.

The description tells us that Mrs. Holts, Italian Ware House is marked by two olive posts in [the] broad part of the Strand almost opposite the Exeter Change. Here were sold ‘all sorts of Italian silks as lustrings, sattins, padesois, velvets, damasks, &c. Fans, Legorne hats, flowers, lute & violin strings, books of essences, Venice treacle, balsomes, &c.’

Intriguingly, ‘in a back warehouse all sorts of Italian wines, Florence cordials, oyl, olives, anchovies, capers, vermicelli, Bolognia sausidges, Parmesan cheese, Naple soap, &c’ were to be had. Who said food miles are new? 300 years ago the finest Italian ingredients were to be found in the shops of London. You can just imagine the place, full to the brim with assorted goodies.

William Hogarth died in 1764, which is the year when this trade card is believed to have been issued. It appears on the Lewis Walpole Library site here. I know nothing about Mrs Holt, but it is interesting that she is shown as being the proprietor of the shop – a reminder that  London was by no means closed to business women.

Aug 122021
 

Thomas Rowlandson always enjoyed showing the realities of life, contrasting the rather mundane pleasures of  life at home with the distinctly more heady pleasures of playing away from home.

Here, a double scene, drawn by Rowlandson in February 1807 and published by Thomas Tegg. It is described on the British Museum site, but without an image, so I have  used the image on the Lewis Walpole Library site.

The description is as follows:

Upper image: A fat woman sits in a nightgown on the edge of a curtained bed while her husband (right) yawns in an armchair, glass and decanter beside him. He has dropped a (broken) pipe and his book: ‘Memoirs of an Amorous Fat Rump’d Old Tabby’. She watches him anxiously, holding out his nightshirt to the fire (left). An elderly maidservant leaves the room with warming-pan and candle, looking over her shoulder much amused. On the chimney-piece by the bed are bottles labelled ‘Restorative Drop’ and ‘Corn Plais[ter]’. A cat and kitten sit by the fire.
Lower image: A young man and a pretty courtesan caress each other on a sofa. Beside them are wine and fruit on a round table. Behind a curtain (right) a degraded-looking woman drinks furtively. 

I love the way that Rowlandson had just a few stock characters he used time and time again – the young couple are typical in being shown as handsome and healthy, whereas older married couples are always shown as being overweight and slothful.

Aug 052021
 

A lovely caricature from Thomas Tegg’s “Caricature magazine, or Hudibrastic mirror”, drawn by George Woodward and engraved by Thomas Rowlandson. It was entitled ‘The Mother’s Hope’ and appeared on various occasions – this one, from 1808, appears on the Lewis Walpole Library site.

The explanation is as follows:

A little boy (looking more like a girl) in a frock and cross-gartered shoes, with short, untidy hair, stands aggressively, one foot raised to kick, fists clenched. At his feet are a battledore and shuttlecock and a doll; above his head hangs a canary in a cage.

He shouts: ‘I don’t like Dolls! – I don’t like Canary Birds – I hate Battledore and Shuttlecock, I like Drums, and Trumpets –  I won’t go to school  –  I will stay at home –  I will have my own way in every thing!!’

The mother, an ugly middle-aged woman (right), in an old-fashioned dress, with a cap and apron, stoops towards him, saying, ‘Bless the Baby–what an aspiring spirit–if he goes on in this way–he will be a second Buonaparte!’

Behind her (right) stands a pretty nursemaid holding a younger child who screams and waves a rattle.”

It is a useful reminder that  there is nothing new about over-bearing, brattish, behaviour from young children – nothing has changed for several hundred years!

Aug 012021
 

Carrying on the theme of men of the cloth being seen as being more interested in matters carnal than matters theological, and ending with a dig at the sexual proclivities of the Prince of Wales, here are a trio of eighteenth century caricatures under the title of The Man of Feeling.

First up, this one from the Royal Collections site showing what is described as being “a plump Parson standing regarding a young woman as he places his hand on her breast. The young woman looks on demurely with a basket over her left arm. The couple stand in front of a tree and the Parson’s place of employment, the church, stands in the background. In the man’s pocket is a paper entitled Essay on Woman “. It was etched by Thomas Rowlandson and appeared in 1788.

Another Rowlandson, with much the same title, and with the male character fondling  the bottom of a much younger woman, appears  on the Digital Commonwealth Massachusetts Collection site.

The original is in the Boston Public Library and was etched by Rowlandson in 1811, forming part of  the first volume of a publication called  The Caricature Magazine or Hudibrastic Mirror . The site comments on it saying that it ‘represents the college rooms of a Master of Arts and a Fellow of decidedly convivial tendencies, whose predilections appear to be the reverse of ascetic’.

The sign to the side of the fireplace gives the headings ‘Term starts’ ‘Term Ends’ and ‘Long Vacation’ and there is another notice entitled ‘Oxford Almanac’. A copy of the ‘Doomsday Book’ lies open on the floor beneath a table supporting bottles of Gin, Rum, Cognac and what looks like ‘Prescribed Ginger’. As with all Rowlandson’s there is a wealth of trivial detail, and the male character is, as usual, shown as a rather revolting lecherous older man.

Gillray used a similar title in 1800 to have a dig at the porcine Prince of Wales – the full title was ‘A man of feeling in search of Indispensibles’ and below the title it has the lengthy explanation:

“NB. A number of disputes having arisen in the Beau Monde, respecting the Exact Situation of the Ladies Indispensibles (or new Invented Pockets) whether they were placed at the Ancle, or in a more elegible situation, – the above Search took place, in order to determine precisely the Longitude of these inestimable conveniences”. It appears both on the V&A site here and on the British Museum site here.

It shows the Prince ferreting around under a ladies skirt and the British Museum site adds this explanation: “Girls, fashionably dressed, sit sewing round a large table. In the foreground the elephantine Prince of Orange kneels, feeling the leg of two girls on his right and left; they throw up their arms and scream. The others look on, amused or astonished. The mistress of the establishment enters by the door (right), elaborately and indecorously dressed, a feathered bonnet in her hand. On the wall hang cloaks, feathers, a hat, &c, and on a shelf is a bust wearing a feathered hat. A placard: ‘le Magasin de Lancastre pour Embellir les Dames Angloise [sic] – Indispencibles’. One of these pockets is on the ground, a girl works at another.

By way of explanation, the British Museum site goes on to say that the fashionable substitute for a pocket was necessary because of transparent dresses moulding the figure. It was called the reticule or ‘ridicule’, called also in Paris the balantine, and was carried in the hand and dangled to the ankle.

 

(The phrase ‘the man of feeling’ became widespread after the novel of that name was published in 1771.  The book was regarded as being ‘a sentimental novel’ and was written by the Scottish author Henry Mackenzie.Wikipedia tells me that it  apparently ‘presented a series of moral vignettes which the naïve protagonist Harley either observes, is told about, or participates in’).

Needless to say, caricaturists revelled in showing ‘the man of feeling’ as being a man doing rather a lot of feeling….