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Restoration Drama


       Chronology / New "Types" of Drama / "Collier Controversy" / Types of Male Characters in Comedies

       Types of Female Characters in Comedies / Sentimentalism

 Social Background

       Attitudes to Marriage / Attitudes to Women / Attitudes to Sex / In Front of the Servants / Makeup



Restoration Drama: London Theater Chronology--1660-1800

1639 Drury Lane Theatre chartered. 
1649  Execution of King Charles I 
1650 The first English coffee house opens--in Oxford, not London. 
1656 Mrs. Edward Coleman appears as Iolanthe in Davenant, The Siege of Rhodes, possibly the first actress on the English stage (semi-private performance at Rutland House). 
1660 May 1--Parliament votes to ask Charles II to return as king. 
  May 25--Charles II lands in England. 
1663 May 7 Drury Lane opens. First production is a revival of The Humorous Lieutenant (originally produced in 1620), by Beaumont and Fletcher (or just Fletcher). 
1664 December--First Reports of plague in London; Debut of Nell Gwyn as actress; Sir Robert Howard and John Dryden, The Indian Queen 
1665 June--Deaths from the Plague begin to become numerous; December--Deaths from plague largely over 
1666 September 2--Great Fire of London 
1667 Dryden, Secret Love; January 24, Gwyn plays Florimel to Pepys' keen delight.
1668 Dryden named poet laureate; Dryden, The Conquest of Granada
1671 Villiers (Buckingham), The Rehearsal; The "Duke's Players" move to Dorset Garden Theater; (February) Nell Gwyn retires from the stage. 
1672 Dryden, Marriage a la Mode; Drury Lane burns. 
1674 March--Reopening of Drury Lane Theater, Beaumont and Fletcher's The Beggar's Bush 
1675 Wycherley, The Country Wife; September--Otway, Alcibiades, Duke's Theatre, Dorset Garden; Debut of Elizabeth Barry in Alcibiades 
1676 Etherege, The Man of Mode; June--Otway, Don Carlos, Dorset Garden: Otway's first hit 
1677  Behn, The Rover 
1678 Dryden, All for Love; Nahum Tate, Brutus of Alba, Dorset Garden
1679 Behn, The Feigned Courtesans. Dedicated to Nell Gwyn.
Plays by Nathaniel Lee banned by Government
1680 February--Otway, The Orphan; Otway, The Soldier's Fortune
1681 Tate and Dryden, adaptation of King Lear, Dorset Garden
1682  Otway, Venice Preserved; Lee, The Princess of Cleves; Dryden, The Duke of Guise
1683  Otway, The Atheist 
1685 Death of Charles II; April 14--Death of Otway 
1686 Behn, The Lucky Chance 
1687 Death of Nell Gwyn 
1688 "Glorious Revolution"--James II deposed, replaced by William III and Mary II Bracegirdle a member of the United Company 
1689 Death of Behn; Behn, The Widow Ranter 
1690 Colley Cibber's first performance as actor; Dryden, Amphytrion
1691-2 Vanbrugh, in the Bastille, begins writing his frist play, The Provok'd Wife (see 1697). 
1692 Southerne, The Wives' Excuse; Lord Mohun and others, trying to abduct Anne Bracegirdle, kill Mountfort, the actor 
1694 Christopher Rich becomes manager of the United Company; Congreve, William, The Double Dealer 
1695 Congreve, Love for Love 
1696  Vanbrugh, The Relapse; Cibber, Love's Last Shift; Pix, Mary, The Spnanish Wives; Collier outlawed for opposition to William III. 
1697  Pix, The Innocent Mistress; April--Vanbrugh, The Provok'd Wife; Collier's A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage 
1698 By this time, more than 2000 coffee houses existed in London, each with its own distinctive characteristics and regular clientele. 
1699 Debut of Anne Oldfield at Drury Lane 
1700  Death of John Dryden; Congreve, The Way of the World; Pix, The Beau Defeated; Anne Oldfield's first major role, Alinda in The Pilgrim 
1702 Centlivre, Susanna, The Beaux' Duel
1703  Vanbrugh designs the Queen's Theater, Haymarket 
1704 Cibber, The Careless Husband
1705  Steele, Richard, The Tender Husband; Blenheim Palace, designed by Vanbrugh, begun.
1706 Farquhar, George, The Recruiting Officer, Drury Lane; Actresses Anne Bracegirdle and Anne Oldfield compete in the same roles and plays. 
1707  Farquhar, The Beaux' Stratgem, Haymarket; Bracegirdle retires. 
Drury Lane Theater managed by Colley Cibber, Tomas Doggett, and Robert Wilks; Elizabeth Barry retires. 
1711 Handel's first English production, Rinaldo, with libertto by Aaron Hill, King's Theater, Haymarket
1712 Button's Coffee House opens.
1714 Christopher Rich opens a new theater one month before his death.
1725 October 11--London debut of Charles Macklin, at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater, as Alcander in Dryden and Lee's Oedipus 
1728 Gay's Beggar's Opera
1730 February 3--Marriage of Charlotte Cibber to Richard Charke; April 8--Stage debut of Charlotte Charke, as "Mademoiselle" in The Provok'd Wife 
1731 June 22--George Lillo's The London Merchant, Drury Lane.
1733 Debut of Charles Macklin at Drury Lane: "Brazen" in The Recruiting Officer
1734  Aaron Hill begins publishing a theatrical paper, The Promper, continued into 1736. 
1735 Macklin kills fellow actor Thomas Hallam in a backstage dispute about a wig. 
1736 Fielding becomes a dramatic producer with Pasquin. 
1737 Licensing Act--not abolished until 1968!
  March 2. Johnson and Garrick set off to try London life together. "Davy Garrick is to be with you early next week and Mr. Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy." (G. Walmsley, letter, in James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D) 
1738  Johnson's poem, "London," is published.
1741  February 11--Macklin's first performance as Shylock 
1746 Macklin's King Henry VII
1747  Drury lane reopens, under Garrick's management. Samuel Johnson provides a Prologue for the occasion.
1748 Fielding opens a puppet theater.
1758 Garrick's adaptation of Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, Florizel and Perdita
1759 Macklin's Marriage a la Mode 
1760 January 2--Goldsmith begins his series of "Citizen of the World" essays, describing contemporary London from the perspective of an (imaginary) Chinese philosopher visiting London. Essay #22 is called, "The Chinese Goes to See a Play." 
1762 Debut of John Palmer, in Foote's The Orator, Haymarket 
1763 F. Sheridan's The Discovery--Drury Lane; Sheridan's The Dupe--Drury Lane
1768  Goldsmith's The Good Natured Man; First appearance of Sarah Siddons, as Ariel in her father's production of The Tempest 
1769 Shakespeare Jubilee celebration at Stratford-on-Avon 
1771  June 26--Samuel Foote's The Maid of Bath, inspired by Elizabeth Linley, (Haymarket)
1772 September 4--Elizabeth Inchbald's debut, as Cordelia to her husband Joseph Inchbald's Lear in King Lear 
1773 Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer 
1774 Sarah Siddons attracts notice in a performance at Cheltenham as Belvidera in Venice Preserv'd.
1775  April 19--War with American colonies begins; R. B. Sheridan's The Rivals--Covent Garden; Sheridan's The Duenna--Covent Garden 
1776 July 4--American Declaration of Independence
  David Garrick retires; Sheridan becomes manager of Drury Lane theater. 
1777  Sheridan's The School for Scandal--Drury Lane 
1779 Sheridan's The Critic
1782  Sarah Siddons' first London success: Isabella in The Fatal Marriage at Drury Lane
1785 Sarah Siddons' first Lady Macbeth 
1789  July 14--Bastille is stormed in Paris, the first stage of the French Revolution.
  May 7--Macklin's last performance, as Shylock (incomplete)


Restoration Drama: New "Types" of Drama

Reform Comedy - a comedy which uses option 1 above

Sentiment:  False, exaggerated or superficial feeling, where the focus is on the feeling itself or on any object or person supposedly stimulating the feeling, rather than on any object or person supposedly stimulating the feeling.  In literature this often results in formulaic expressions of grief, sympathy or remorse (From Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature)

Jacqueline Pearson adds: "It idealises women to the extent of creating extreme versions of female purity and virtue; but in doing so it concentrates on women characters who are exaggeratedly passive, suffering and isolated, sacrificing themselves with a masochistic relish to flawed husbands, an inflexible sense of honour, or the social order that limits them.  Why, then, were such plays so popular with women?  It may be that they appeal to the fantasy `of triumphant female masochism winning total appreciation' [Patricia Meyer Spacks, Imagining a Self].  Women thus colluded with those writers who sought to control them by such fantasies of female virtue vindicated, if only in death; many eighteenth century writers, it seems, shared the theme of female self-punishment" (From Prostituted Muse).

Sentimental tragedies focused on women who were

1. virtuous but unfortunate; or
2. flawed but redeem themselves through suffering and death

She-Tragedies - a termed coined by Rowe.   A type of pathetic tragedy, related to heroic tragedy, and popular in the last decade of the 17th century and in the early 18th century, focusing on the distress of exalted women characters.  This form exemplified by Banks's Virtue Betrayed (1682), The Island Queens (1684); Mary Pix's Queen Catharine (1698); and Rowe's three famous: The Fair Penitent (1703), Jane Shore (1714), and The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey (1715). (Bloomsbury)

Laura Brown adds: they "illustrate how an economically overdetermined definition of female sexuality--variously represented as passivity and victimization--is ideologically reinscribed as commodification.  The protagonists of these plays are distinctly weak, suffering and helpless; they embody a culturally significant devaluation of women's labor that resulted from the demise of domestic production and the increasing prominence of a consumer economy" (15);  and "Generically, the she-tragedy mediates between an aristocratic and a bourgeois form.  The works of George Lillo exemplify the bourgeois dimensions of this affective drama.  His plays join affect with morality, like Rowe's she-tragedies...." (86)  (From Laura Brown, Ends of Empire: Women and Ideology in Early 18th Century England, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1993).

Restoration Drama: "Collier Controversy"

Jeremy Collier, clergyman

A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698)
A total of 288 pp, 6 chapters.


immodesty of speeches
abuse of Scripture
ridicule of clergymen
encouragement of debauchery

Relied on:

close readings
contemporary examples from the stage
survey of ancient condemnations of drama from "Heathen Philosophers" to "Primitive Church"
"the business of plays is to recommend virtue and discountenance vice"


Dryden in 1700 was mild
Congreve and Vanbrugh less so
62 pamphlets in support of Collier
34 pamphlets in support of the stage


3 editions of 1500 copies each sold out in 2 years
Defense of a Short View later in `98

Collier is successful for a number of reasons.  The time was ripe for his attack:

Climate of moral consciousness

1. Proposals for a National Reformation of Manners (1694)
2. Laws against drinking, "whoring" and profaning were starting to be enforced

Outrage at the "abuses" of the 70s-80s
Playwrights were willing to write to accommodate the audience
Also, the changing audience informed tastes.  More bourgeoisie, less aristocracy.

Playwright's choices:

1. Instruct by holding up to ridicule any deviation from accepted behavior
2. Instruct by holding up exemplars of virtue and encourage us to follow


Restoration Drama: Types of Male Characters in Comedies

(1) The male lead, and

(2) His friend. The coupling is deliberate. Dorimant and Young Bellair (Man of Mode), Horner and Harcourt (Country Wife), Valentine and Scandal (Love for Love), Belford jun. and Truman (Squire of Alsatia), Sir George Airy and Charles (Busie Body), Don Henrique and Don Carlos (Adventures of Five Hours), Young Jorden and Cleverwit (Citizen Turn'd Gentleman), Colonels Careless and Blunt (Committee) are all paired in this fashion. Very often both wind up married; sometimes only the lead male does (Valentine), occassionally only the friend (Harcourt).

(3) The would-be friend, occasionally just a rival (Sir Novelty Fashion in Love's Last Shift), who is commonly witwoud butt, fop, or coward. (Sparkish in The Country Wife, Sir Fopling in The Man of Mode, Tattle in Love for Love.)

(4) The heavy father. This character is usually the blocking figure who creates the problem which necessities action in the comedy--opposition to marriage, refusal to give needed money. Jordan (Citizen Turn'd Gentleman), Sir William Belford (Squire of Alsatia), Don Henrique--actually a brother playing a father's role (Adventures), Old Bellair (Man of Mode), Sir Sampson Legend (Love for Love), Sir Jealous Traffick (Busie Body).

(5) The dolt or gull. Abel Day (Committee)), Belford sen. (Squire)

(6) The humour-butt. Generally less purely a "dupe" figure than the preceding type. Obadiah (Committee), Sir Simon Softhead (Citizen), Pinchwife and Sir Jaspar Fidget (Country Wife), Foresight and Ben (Love for Love)--the latter less of a butt than usual.

(7) The trickster. Often a helper to the romantic lead, but not always (cf. Cheatly in Squire). Cureal and Trickmore (Citizen), Jeremy (Love for Love)--this last a "bright servant."

(8) The foolish servant. Teg (Committee) is a lovable bungler. Jacques (Citizen) and La Mar (Squire) are French valets, a popular subtype. Lolpoop (Squire) is a country simpleton. Diego (Committee) becomes a byword and prototype for the cowardly, amorous, amusing servant.

(9) Professional types: lawyer, parson, doctor. Usually a bit part. Quack (Country Wife), Parson (Squire), Trapland and Buckram (Love for Love/font>). Tradesmen and Justices of the Peace occasionally turn up in this sort of role.

(10) The hypocrite. The pious puritan fraud is an especially popular form; the type is often combined with no. 4 (heavy father) or no. 6 (humour-butt). Scrapeall (Squire) is an instance of the former combination, Mr. Day (Committee) is another; Alderman Gripe (Love in a Wood) is an example of the latter combination.

(11) The Hector or Bully. A bit part (Hackum in Squire).

(12) The lapsed or discontented husband. Loveless (Love's Last Shift), Sir John Brute (The Provok'd Wife), Sir Oliver Cockwood (She wou'd).

Hume, Robert D. The Development of English Drama in the Late 17th Century. New York: Oxford, 1976.


Restoration Drama: Types of Female Characters in Comedies

(1) The romantic lead, and

(2) Her friend and confidante. A solitary female (Angelica in Love for Love) is a rarity. Ruth and Arbella (Committee), Marina and Lucia (Citizen), Isabella and Teresia (Squire), Harriet and Emilia (Man of Mode), Miranda and Isabinda (Busie Body), Portia and Camilla (Adventures). The Country Wife is unusual, but even there Alithea and Margery are closely associated.

(3) The scheming maid. Betty Trickmore (Citizen), Lucy (Country Wife), Patch and Scentwell (Busie Body).

(4) The heavy mother or strict governess. Mrs. Day (Committee), Ruth (Squire), Mrs. Woodvil (Man of Mode)--the last an ineffectual specimen of the type.

(5) The mistress. Lucia (Squire), Bellinda (Man of Mode).

(6) The cast mistress. Mrs. Termagant (Squire), Mrs. Loveit (Man of Mode).

(7) The whore. Mrs. Hackum et al. (Squire), Moll (mentioned in Man of Mode).

(8) The amorous, usually older woman. Lady Fidget et al. (Country Wife), Mrs. Foresight (Love for Love), Lady Cockwood (She wou'd), Lady Laycock (The Amorous Widow). Often this character is ludicrously conceited, almost a female fop, for example Lady Fancyfull in The Provok'd Wife.

(9) The ingenue. Margery Pinchwife (Country Wife), Prue (Love for Love).

(10) The abused wife. Amanda in Love's Last Shift, Lady Brute in The Provok'd Wife, Mrs. Sullen in The Beaux Stratagem, Mrs. Friendall in The Wives Excuse.

Hume, Robert D. The Development of English Drama in the Late 17th Century. New York: Oxford, 1976.


Restoration Drama: Sentimentalism

Loosely, the consciously reformed writing (usually drama) with deliberate didacticism and emotional manipulation. In both sentimental comedy and tragedy, the emphasis falls on feeling, especially feelings of pity and sympathy. Plots are generated by a moral problem, and the differences between the two genres are minimised, for comedy like tragedy deals with suffering, sympathy and tears, and is required to excite a "Joy too exquisite for laughter [quoting Steele ]--Pearson, The Prostituted Muse, 58.

According to Pearson, the form was supposed to appeal to women, "though few female dramatists were dedicated practitioners" (58).  But Pix wrote a number of them, and so did Centlivre and Trotter and there weren't many women around.

Sensibility--The tendency to be easily and strongly affected by emotion.  Grows through the 18th century.

This can lead to:
Sentimentalism--False, exaggerated or superficial feeling, where the focus is on the feeling itself, rather than on the person supposedly stimulating the feeling.  This results in formulaic expressions of grief, sympathy and remorse.  It was also used as a way to reform people.

Sentimental comedy -- a dramatic genre of the 18th century, denoting plays in which middle-class protagonists triumphantly overcome a series of moral trials. Such comedy aimed at producing tears rather than laughter. Sentimental comedies reflected contemporary philosophical conceptions of humans as inherently good but capable of being led astray through bad influences.
Contemporary reputation:

Some women attacked sentimentalism as "respectable pornography."

MMary Wortley Montagu: it would do "more general mischief than the Works of Lord Rochester" by encouraging wallowing in emotion.

Delarivier Manley attacked it as harmful to women's morality in The New Atalantis.

Defoe rejects it, and Sheridan brilliantly attacks it in School for Scandal.

"There is much critical disagreement about whether sentimentalism presented affirmative images of women or not. One historian of feminism [Hilda Smith] argues that the feminism of the late seventeenth century faded when faced with eighteenth-century values which `embraced sentimentality rather than reason.'  Other critics argue that the tendency of sentimental drama was `to idealise women' [Maureen Sullivan], and that because it emphasised `feelings' it respected `the values that were important to . . . women' [Katherine M. Rogers] Pearson 58.

But is it just women's roles which are changed in these plays?  What makes a man "a man"? /font>

Steele calls his play a revolutionary theoretical innovation, and Hume notes: "he is indulging in no more than a little exaggeration."

SSteele also thought that Belvil Junior and Indiana should be admired, and the play should give moral guidance, but he was attacked by his contemporaries with "critics variously pointing to its supposed hypocrisy, its didacticism, and the seriousness of its tone" (Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature/font>).

>One critic in particular was the undistinguished poet/playwright John Dennis (1657-1734), who for all his faults as a creator, was an astute critic. According to Dennis, Steele's attempts to "elicit a Joy too exquisite for words shows that Steele "knows nothing of the Nature of Comedy."

"Humane Comedy"

A term coined by Shirley Strum Kenny in her essay "Humane Comedy" in English Dramatic Comedy from Congreve to Sheridan: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed Albert Wertheim and Philip Wikelund. She felt this was a better way to explain the humor, that it was less "pejorative," or didn't carry the pejorative "baggage" of the earlier term.

Humane comedy is a synthesis in forms of comedy. Writers of this form (i.e., Steele and Cibber), "tend to be benevolists, and a strong didactic element frequently produces `reform' plots and even overtly exemplary models."

She calls The Conscious Lovers "the embodiment of Steele's philosophy of comedy."

Some resources:

Ellis, Frank H. Sentimental Comedy: Theory and Practice.

Sentimental comedy became a distinctive dramatic form on the London stage in the eighteenth century, featuring a complex blend of humor and pathos. Frank Ellis' authoritative study of the genre expounds a theory of sentimental comedy derived from detailed knowledge of a comprehensive range of plays in this period. The practice of sentimental comedy is illustrated by detailed analysis of sentimental attitudes in ten popular plays from 1696-1793. An appendix comprises the texts of The School for Lovers by William Whitehead (1762) and Elizabeth Inchbald's Every One Has His Fault (1793).   Cambridge Studies in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Thought 10, 1991, 246 pp. 8 halftones  Hardback 0-521-39431-7 $59.95   (their advertisement)

Loftis, John. "The Genesis of Steele's The Conscious Lovers."   Essays Critical and Historical Dedicated to Lily B. Campbell, Berkeley, CA  1950, 173-82.



 Social Background

Restoration Drama (Social Background): Attitudes to Marriage

By 1697, when The Provok'd Wife was first staged, the licentious age of Charles II was past and the throne was jointly occupied by the sober, Dutch Prince William of Orange and his pious English wife, Mary. During their reign, which began with the bloodless revolution of 1688, a different atmosphere came to imbue the court. Meanwhile, the church led a reaction against what it saw as the profanity of the age.

However, it would be foolish to think that society as a whole changed drastically in the short time between the usurpation of the throne and the production of Vanbrugh's play, which clearly displayed an attitude to life that was recognised, appreciated and no doubt shared by its audience. To be sure, the wheels of change were slowly turning, but it would take the upper- and middle-classes more than nine years to change the habits of a lifetime.

...During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England, there was a wide gap between the ideal and the real process of making a marriage, the gap being especially wide in the upper reaches of society. So far as the propertied laity was concerned, the ideal marriage began with the selection by the parents of the potential spouse, an agreement among both sets of parents upon the financial arrangements, and the acceptance of this choice by both parties, either voluntarily or under pressure...

For over half a century, from the 1680s to the 1740s, the arranged marriage exclusively for interest, as practised by the aristocracy...came under growing assault from the fashionable playwrights and artists of the day...The continued, though declining, obsession with property among the landed classes explains why in 1701 even so ardent a champion of women's rights as Mary Astell was claiming no more for a girl than the right of veto of a clearly imcompatible partner...

Lawrence Stone, from Road to Divorce: England 1530-1987 (by permission of Oxford University Press)

...In an age before the English had properly discovered the rumbustious sport of fox-hunting, heiresses were hunted as though they were animals of prey...Thoughout the seventeenth century a girl might well have been forced into a marriage against her will, by parental pressure, or even outright violence from a stranger, and have found herself thereby robbed of her freedom and her money...

Antonia Fraser, from THE WEAKER VESSEL: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-Century England, (George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd)

For those married women with little or no property, the most obvious method of breaking a marriage was to leave home. Not a few wives were forced to leave in order to escape from repeated and possibly life-threatening cruelty. Most of this cruelty was a product of poverty, brutality, and alcohol; some of it was clearly the product of pure sadism; some of it was caused by the psychological frustration of the husband at being trapped for life in a household with a woman he had come to hate...

Some wives who were battered, mistreated, or merely neglected decided to carve out a new life for themselves and eloped with a lover, sometimes taking with them a considerable quantity of household goods. They were the ones who tended most often to end up in court, but they were probably also the ones with the most promising future ahead of them...

Lawrence Stone: ibid

It is one of the disadvantages belonging to your sex that young women are seldom permitted to make their own choice; their friends' care and experience are thought safer guides to them than their own fancies, and their modesty often forbidden them to refuse when their parents recommend, though their inward consent may not entirely go along with it. In this case there remaineth nothing for them to do but to endeavour to make that easy which fallenth to their lot, and by a wise use of everything they may dislike in a husband, turn that by degrees to be very supportable, which, if neglected, might in time beget an aversion...

Sir George Savile, Marquls of Halifax, from ADVICE TO A DAUGHTER (1688)

...England in the early modern period was neither a separating nor a divorcing society...[T]here were a number of very powerful forces at work to keep together even the most miserable and bitterly quarreling of couples. First there were a set of internalized controls were reinforced by powerful external pressures, thanks to the watchful and persistent supervision of the marriage by parents, kin, "friends," and neighbours.

Lawrence Stone: ibid

For your better direction I will give a hint of the most ordinary causes of dissatisfaction between man and wife...

The world ...is somewhat unequal and our sex seemeth to play the tyrant in distinguishing partially for ourselves, by making that in the utmost degree criminal in the woman which in a man passeth under a much gentler censure. The root and the excuse of this injustice is the preservation of families from any mixure which may bring a blemish to them; and whilst the point of honour continues to be so placed, it seems unavoidable to give your sex the greater share of the penalty.

The root and the excuse of this injustice is the preservation of families from any mixture which may bring a blemish to them; and whilst the point of honour continues to be so placed, it seems unavoidable to give your sex the greater share of the penalty.

But if in this it lieth under any disadvantage, you are more than recompensed by having the honour of families in your keeping...this power the world hath lodged in you can hardly fail to restrain the severity of an ill husband and to improve the kindness and esteem of a good one. This being so, remember that next to the danger of committing the fault yourself the greatest is that of seeing it in your husband. Do not seem to look or hear that way: if he is a man of sense he will reclaim himself, the folly of it is of itself sufficient to cure him; if he is not so, he will be provoked but not reformed. To expostulate in these cases looketh like declaring war, and preparing reprisals, which to a thinking husband would be a dangerous reflection. Besides...such an indecent complaint makes a wife more ridiculous than the injury that provoketh her to it...

You must first lay it down for a foundation in general, that there is inequality in the sexes, and that for the better economy of the world the men, who were to be the lawgivers, had the larger share of reason bestowed upon them; by which means your sex is the better prepared for the compliance that is necessary for the better performance of those duties which seem to be most properly assigned to it. This looks a little uncourtly at the first appearance, but upon examination it will be found that Nature is so far from being unjust to you that she is partial on your side...You have more strength in your looks than we have in our laws, and more power by your tears than we have by our arguments.

Sir George Saville, Marquls of Halifax: ibid

Lord Halifax's Advice to a Daughter...was continually republished throughout the eighteenth century, running to seventeen editions in English before 1791...[His counsels are those] of resignation and despair, and yet they were widely read and approved of in aristocratic circles until nearly the end of the eighteenth century...

1500-1800 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd)

The view that masculine fornication and adultery were but venial sins to be overlooked by the wife was reinforced by the fact that before the eighteenth century, most middle- and upper-class marriages were arranged by parents in the interests of family economic or political strategies. Not only did neither bride nor groom have much opportunity before the wedding to get to know each other, but emotional attachment after marriage was considered inconvenient, indeed almost indecent.

Natalie Zemon Davis and Ariette Farge, from A HISTORY OF WOMEN, Vol III:
Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes (Harvard University Press)

The first [of John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689] attacked Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, which had based the authority of the king in the state on the analogy of the authority of the father in the family, and in the process it redefined the latter as well as the former...The practical need to remodel the political theory of state power in the late seventeenth century thus brought with it a severe modification of theories about patriarchal power within the family and the rights of the individual.

The issue had already been debated on the stage in 1697, when in Vanbrugh's play The Provoked Wife Lady Brute applies Locke's Breakable contract theory of the state to her own situation: "The argument's good between the King and the people, why not between the husband and wife?"...

In 1705 Bishop Fleetwood set out the new doctrine, which in effect undermined the traditional absolute authority of the father and husband...Marriage was now...a contract, with mutual rights and obligations, whose nature could be debated endlessly...

Lawrence Stone: ibid 



Restoration Drama (Social Background): Attitudes to Women

        Epigram VII

    Women, as some men say, inconstant be;
    'Tis like enough, and so no doubt are men:
    Nay, if their scapes we could so plainly see,
    I fear that scarce there will be one for ten.
    Men have but their own lusts that tempt to ill;
    Women have lusts and men's allurements too:
    Alas, if their strengths cannot curb their will,
    What should poor women, that are weaker, do?
    That strive 'gainst lust within and knaves without them.

    George Wither, from EPITHALAMIA (1612)

And it is no small patience which the natural imbecility of the female sex requireth you to prepare. Except it be very few that are patient and manlike, women are commonly of potent fantasies, and tender, passionate, impatient spirits, easily cast into anger, or jealousy, or discontent; and of weak understandings, and therefore unable to reform themselves. They are betwixt a man and a child: some few have more of the man, and many have more of the child; but most are but in a middle state.

Richard Baxer, from A CHRISTIAN DIRECTORY (1673)

Ability, in some women, why extraordinary: although Man, from the dominion given him in Paradise, may style himself superior and boast of his wonderful abilities, looking on those in women much inferior, yet let us mind him that he frequently runs into mistakes...

We...therefore must be apt to think that men, having gotten the upper hand and engrossed the power, will, right or wrong, have women to be no wiser than they will have them to be and then to be sure they will not allow them to be so wise as themselves...We must allow it is in men to endeavour as much as in them lies to keep the fair sex in ignorance that they may reign the more securely without control...

 From a programme  of The Provok'd Wife at the Old Vic in London

Restoration Drama (Social Background): Attitudes to Sex

Not only was the Court of Charles II vulgar in its behaviour, it was also vulgar in its speech. Even the "well bred" King used many vulgar words and Lord Rochester's works mirrored the language and behaviour of his fellow courtiers.

This knowledge was now being spread by the numerous broadsheets, the first gossip publcations...

Normal middle-class behaviour before the nineteenth century is exemplified by Samuel Pepys, who can be taken as the prototype of middle-class behaviour and language. He frequented whore-houses and ale-houses and sang the bawdy songs of his peers--a particular favourite was a ballad which contained the stanza "Shitten-come-Shite the Way to Love is!" His sense of humour was lavatorial and his attitude towards the women who "obliged" him was cavalier--he haggled over payment of the smallest sums...

The new coffee-houses were beginning to be places of assignation, provoking a spate of pamphlets and petitions against coffee. One of the best is that of 1674, The Women's Petition Against Coffee! It complained that, "it eunuched our Husbands' because of the "heathenish abhominable liquor called coffee...crippled our Gallants...men come with nothing Stiff except their Joints..."

A bandstring-seller sold maidenheads--demonstrating that the legal fraternity preferred maidens--what Ivan Bloch later described as "the defloration mania--an English Vice!." Maidenheads were frequently restored--astringents were known from earliest times.

E. J. Burford and Joy Wotton: from PRIVATE VICES--PUBLIC VIRTUES: bawdry in London from
Elizabethan Times to the Regency (published by Hale)

[When, in 1688, Queen Mary returned to her home country after her long sojourn in calm, sedate Holland, she] thought England was full of debauchery and profanity. As regent [in William's absence] she issued proclamations ordering the proper observance of the sabbath and urged magistrates to clamp down on drunkenness and swearing...The moral tone of the Court improved dramatically after the open sexuality of Charles II's time...The 1690s saw a reaction agianst the easy-going obscenity of the Restoration period, which found expression in the numerous societies for the reformation of manners and in tracts like Jeremy Collier's Short View of the Immorality and Prophaneness of the English Stage (1698).

John Miller, from THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WILLIAM AND MARY (George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd)

Prostitutes in an infinite variety of forms were omnipresent in seventeenth-century England, something taken for granted even by a Puritan counsellor like William Gouge, who suggested that a husband might be driven to visit them if a wife did not perform her marital duties. Cases of prostitution and scandalous lewdness, having been in the control of the church, gradually developed into indictable offences under the common law as the century progressed...

Antonia Fraser, from THE WEAKER VESSEL: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-Century England (George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd)

The practice of a prostitue who would stand on her head "with the vulva gaping wide, and allowing the assembled gentleman to chuck in half-crowns...." Burtford points to The Wandering Whore, "a series of broadsheets published in 1660," as the source for this description. He is obviously citing the first pamphlet in the series:"...a Cunny being the deerest piece of flesh in the whole world, witness Priss Fotheringham's Chuck-office, where upon sight thereof, French Dollars, Spanish Pistols, English Half-crowns are as plentifully pour'd in, as the Rhenish wine was into the Dutch wenches two holes till she roar'd again, as she was showing tricks upon her head with naked buttocks and spread legges in a round ring, like those at wrestling neer the Half-crown-chuck-office, call'd Jack-a-newberries-six windmills."


Restoration Drama (Social Background): In Front of the Servants

LAWRENCE STONE: excerpts from ROAD TO DIVORCE: England 1530-1987

Physical cruelty by the husband towards his wife could not be concealed from the servants, for the sounds of blows and screams were inevitably heard in nearby rooms in the house. Nor could the sight of bruises easily be concealed. In such cases all the female servants, and most of the male, nearly always sided with the victim, and there are countless stories of servants intervening actively to protect a wife from gross physical abuse by her husband. Only very occasionally did the servants join in the abuse...

Since the only two causes for judicial separation were adultery or life-threatening cruelty, servants were always the most crucial witnesses: they alone were in a position to testify about what exactly had gone on in the relative privacy of the home...

They knew everything because they were alwys either present or within earshot. Employers were culturally trained to be helpless, and to rely for all their physical needs--even dressing and undressing--upon servants...In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was normal for the valet to sleep in a closet adjoining the bedroom of his master, and the waiting-maid in a closet adjoining that of her mistress...

An endless succession of servants were constantly entering bedrooms and private apartments. They came in the morning, some to open the shutters and light the fires, others to bring the breakfast or help their master and mistress to dress. Later they would remove the slops from the close-stools and chamber pots, make the feather beds, and clean the rooms. In the afternoon they came back to bring tea and more fuel for the fires. In the evening they came in again to close the shutters, light the candles and replenish the fires. Late at night they brought up warming pans to warm the beds, and returned a little later to help their master and mistress to undress. All through the day they carried messages to and fro. There was thus no moment in the day or night when servants were not coming and going in the private apartments at unpredictable times...

The only occasions when this lack of privacy became irksome, and even dangerous, was when the employer had something to hide. If a pair of adulterous lovers did not lock the doors, they risked being caught in flagrante delicto by a servant coming into the room on a routine chore. If they locked the doors...this would immediately arouse the suspicions of the household...

The internal lay-out and construction of eighteenth century houses also made privacy very difficult, if not impossible. For one thing, corridors were still a rare novelty before the late eighteenth century, and most rooms were built en suite. To enter one room, one had therefore to pass through others. Moreover many of the internal partitions were far from sound-proof, being made of thin lathe and plaster, or simply deal wainscotting. Keys were still very clumsy, and key-holes consequently large, which often provided the inquisitive with a good viewpoint...

Whenever the servants either suspected or knew that the mistress of the house was committing adultery, they were thrown into a state of great moral confusion, since it was not clear where their duty lay. The situation called into question the validity of the traditional ideology of paternalism, loyalty, and fidelity. What was the moral obligation of servants who detected their master's wife in adultery? Should they warn her to stop, and themselves keep silent, thus saving the marraige and preserving the household? Or should they tell their master and bring the whole household down in ruins? Or should they look after their own best interests, and sell the information to the highest bidder: to the mistress to keep their mouths shut, or to their master to reveal the truth?

...If they played their cards well, they might be able to sell their information, or their silence, for a great deal of money and some promotion...But if they played their cards badly, they could easily find themselves dismissed for impertinence, out of a job and without a reference...

Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press

In some Families the Master often sends to the Tavern for a Bottle of Wine, and you are the Messenger: I advise you, therefore, to take the smallest Bottle you can find; but however, make the Drawer give you a full Quart, then you will get a good Sup for yourself, and your Bottle will be filled. As for a Cork to stop it, you need be at no Trouble, for the Thumb will do as well, or a Bit of dirty chewed Paper...

Never wear Socks when you walt at Meals, on the Account of your own Health, as well as of them who sit at Table; becuase as most Ladies like the Smell of young Mens Toes, so it is a sovereign Remedy against Vapours...

When you carry Dishes or other Things out of the Room at Meals, fill both your Hands as full as possible; for although you may sometimes spill, and sometimes let fall, yet you will find at the Year's End, you have made great Dispatch and saved abundance of Time.

If you Master of Mistress happens to walk the Streets, keep on one Side, and as much on the Level with them as you can, which People observing, will either think you do not belong to them, or that you are one of their Companions; but, if either of them happen to turn back and speak to you, so that you are under the Necessity to take off your Hat, use but your Thumb and one Finger, and scratch your Head with the rest.


Restoration Drama (Social Background): Makeup

During the first half of the seventeenth century, the change from deceptive to permissive face painting had taken place; and by the Restoration, obvious make-up was frimly established among women, particularly at court...

Just as there were, in the seventeenth century, some clergymen who set themselves up as moral arbiters of men's fashions, there were others who appeared to derive equal satisfaction from doing the same thing for women. One of these was Robert Codrington, who wrote what was surely intended to be the definitive work on the subject...published in London in 1664... [of which the following is an extract]:

"...The very name of a painted Face doth destroy the Reputation of her that useth it, and doth expose Her to all manner of Reproaches. It ought therefore altogether to be eschewed...There is no Person but may conclude that if God threatens to punish strange Apparrel, he will not spare to punish strange Faces."...

Men were also using cosmetics. From about 1680 to 1710, according to Carrington, men of fashion used makeup openly. In the National Portrait Gallery in London there is a portrait, painted about 1680, of the elegant, painted Judge Jeffreys, Chief Justice of the King's Bench and Lord Chancellor, notorious for his brutality, especially during the Bloody Assizes...

[Meanwhile, Cordrington also warned] his readers of the danger of seeing too many plays and tells of a young woman who went to the theatre every night and as a result (he implies) fell ill, had fits of madness, and died. Young ladies are also warned to be wary of strangers, servants, privacy, vanity, idleness, licentious pamphlets, idle songs and ballads, and being seen too often in public.

Richard Corson, from FASHIONS IN MAKEUP (Peter Owen Ltd)
  • John Vanbrugh (1664-1726)
  • Mary Pix (1666-1709)
  • Colley Cibber (1671-1757)
  • Richard Steele (1672-1729)
  • Susanna Centlivre (ca. 1667-1723)
  • George Farquhar (1678 - 1707)
  • Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)


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