Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The "other" people - England 1812

Regency authors tend to write about the upper classes of British society--at least the gentry, if not the lesser nobility, and far too often, dukes. But there were many more people inhabiting the Regency world.

In October and November 1812, Ackermann's "Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, etc.", itself a journal for the middle and upper classes, published a quantity of drawings for the following purpose:

As stated, these drawings were 'etched from the life', and so provide us with a fairly accurate portrait of the appearance of country people during the Regency period.

The following were described as 'cottagers':

Then there was a section of 'gleaners':

And finally a selection of 'shepherds':

This commoditization of the rural poor, treating them as no more than 'picturesque' adornments for the landscape drawings of the upper classes, is a shocking depersonalization.

The situations of these country folk are romanticized--their feet are shod and their clothing is not ragged. They were likely not so well off. They were suffering through the job losses caused by industrialization and the repercussions of the Peninsular War and the War of 1812. Work was hard, food was expensive.

 Nevertheless these representations give us a hint of the day-to-day life of many in the Regency era. Despite the somewhat cold-hearted reason for their creation, they are of benefit to us, two hundred years later, in understanding their time.

'Til next time,


No comments: