Prim and proper? Hardly. But, it was jolly old England. Refreshingly, they were not politically correct. The PC Nazi/Yuppie was in an idyllic, and mythological future. It really began with William Hogarth. Hogarth was the first of these new artists who pierced through the heavy armor of British austerity.In this sense Hogarth’s London,was a tentative beginning still rooted in puritanical past, that with the likes of John Locke was beginning to smell a waft of liberalism. Still, it was a country and a London of the mind, that repressed the senses, and its heavy intellectual overkill postponed the possibility directly pleasurable experiences or their genial celebration. It was allegory and posture but nothing remote to the erogenous zones or carnality. He might study graffiti or signboards “with delight”, as he said, but chiefly because that study offered that “pleasing labour of the mind to unfold mystery allegory and riddles”.( Uglow ) Kind of boring, but after Cromwell, witch burning , public execution and rampant child abuse…
With Hogarth there is a certain lack of warmth and generosity. But, it was a beginning. Hogarth’s street scenes and spatial conventions are later kidnapped and parodied by the ensuing generations.The new artists added a fluidity and informality, and, the introduction of caricature displaced a pseudo-realism which blunted the invasive darkness and imposed a moral ambiguity. It was a new species of artist and painting which could be termed the moral comic. Meaning, thereby, that the instinctive humor of the man’s art is generally ,not, always directed to some moral purpose, some lesson of conduct to be thence derived. Where the moral lesson is either absent or less intrusive—the man’s fancy runs absolutely riot in humorous observation.By the time of Victoria, and Jane Austen putting pen to paper, manners had been domesticated and humor tamed, as an increasingly influential middle class defined itself in opposition to both the laboring classes and the aristocracy. It was Dickens famous “purity of the middle-class” in search of an identity. The Mister Darcy’s were no longer doing cow imitations,belching contests or dandling prostitutes on their knees.
We are not talking here of an aesthetic beauty of form and nobility modeled on the Italian tradition, but rather the humor of life even in its most sordid tragedies.Thus pleasure and consumption were integral components of Georgian politics and social life. It was a world where pleasure and consumption mixed freely with politics and commerce. For politicians,it was not sufficient to win over the populace with political rhetoric. Voters and influential citizens could expect to receive alcohol and female attention.
The humor on display in the prints of James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and George Cruikshank , three of the better known artists, was often coarse, bawdy, scatological and obscene. Private parts were on graphic display. Chamber pots and their contents stood front and center. Prostitutes cavorted with princes. Everything that the readers of Jane Austen regarded as private or shameful was shown in living color, on large, beautifully printed sheets hung in the windows of dealers for all London to see, and to laugh at.
The pen of Swift and the graver of Hogarth in the early eighteenth century found in England conditions not very dissimilar to those which awaited Philipon and Honoré Daumier in Paris of the early nineteenth century—that is, a public which had come through a period of intensely active political existence to a complete and complex self-consciousness, and which enjoyed (just as in Paris La Caricature, when suppressed, found a speedy successor in Le Charivari) sufficient political freedom to render criticism a possibility. And from Hogarth through Sandby and Sayer and Woodward to Henry William Bunbury, and onwards to that giant of political satire, James Gillray, and his vigorous contemporary Thomas Rowlandson, what a feast of material is spread before us; what an insight we may gain, not only into costume, manners, social life, but into the detailed political development of a fertile and fascinating period of history….
…In the earlier age Hogarth is ready to present the very London of his time in the levée and drawing-room, in the vice and extravagance of the rich, in the industrious and thriving citizen, and those lowest haunts where crime hoped to lurk undisturbed. In the century’s close Gillray’s pencil notes every change of the political kaleidoscope. In his prints we seem almost to hear the muffled roar of the Parisian mob, clamorous for more blood in those days of Terror; or we watch the giant forms of Pitt and Buonaparte fronting each other as the strife comes nearer home to Britain. Read More:http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29647/29647-h/29647-h.htm
But Life contains—thanks be—not only coarse, distorted types of humanity, exaggerations of foolish fashion, and political antagonisms, but grace and beauty, even with the changing form of the time-spirit; and it is just here that Rowlandson infinitely surpasses those contemporaries …His female figures have often that rich English beauty which we find in Reynolds, Hoppner, or sometimes in Morland; and his landscape has qualities of very exceptional merit….
He might, we are frequently tempted to think, have been a painter worthy to take a front rank even in that magnificent English eighteenth-century school, which included Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney, Hoppner, among its glories; but as we come to study his life we shall find in the insouciance of his character, in the very facility of his genius, the causes which made him—not, indeed, entirely to our loss—only the greatest caricaturist of his time. Read More:http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29647/29647-h/29647-h.htm
But what stands out in the 1784 Westminster election are the number of prints which denigrate these two figures for partaking in electioneering activities which were actually commonplace in Georgian Britain: plying potential candidates with drink and money. The duchess and her female friends, likewise, were derided for their role in the man’s world of politics, although in reality women regularly partook in electioneering. In addition to these attacks on canvassing methods, satirists attacked the personal vices of Fox and Georgiana: Fox for his love of gambling and the duchess for her presumed sexual promiscuity. The prints ridicule and revile the politicians for their personal excessive consumption as well as for treating voters excessively. At a period where moderation was all-important in politics, the prints contend that the Foxites neglect this principle…. Read More:http://unruly18thcentury.blogspot.com/
Nevertheless, influencing voters by satisfying their carnal desires remained an integral component of politics in the eighteenth century, as Charles Churchill affirmed:
We form our judgement in another way;
And those will best succeed, who best can pay:
Those who would gain the votes of British tribes,
Must add to force of Merit, force of Bribes. Read More:http://unruly18thcentury.blogspot.com/