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From parsons to academics and the Prince of Wales – men of feeling?

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….


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