Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors

AMANDA VICKERY
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkxx9
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  • Book Info
    Behind Closed Doors
    Book Description:

    In this brilliant new work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who lived there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion, bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings, genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper, servants with only a locking box to call their own.

    Vickery makes ingenious use of upholsterer's ledgers, burglary trials, and other unusual sources to reveal the roles of house and home in economic survival, social success, and political representation during the long eighteenth century. Through the spread of formal visiting, the proliferation of affordable ornamental furnishings, the commercial celebration of feminine artistry at home, and the currency of the language of taste, even modest homes turned into arenas of social campaign and exhibition.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18856-1
    Subjects: History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. None)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. None)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
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  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. None)

    On a spring afternoon in England of the 1760s an elderly spinster of decayed gentility dusts her chimney ornaments and sets out her well-polished mahogany tea tray to receive her female neighbours in her two-room lodgings in York. Meanwhile, a Liverpool merchant’s widow throned in her drawing room leafs through an architect’s plans for the refashioning of her town house in correct Palladian. A few streets away, a hard-pressed matron is setting her rented house to rights after a plague of bed bugs and family illness. At the other end of the country, a countess is painting botanical pictures in...

  5. 1 THRESHOLDS AND BOUNDARIES AT HOME
    (pp. None)

    The dusk spreads from the river. Candles are being lit all over London. The clatter of shuttering echoes and answers as every house in the Georgian metropolis fortifies itself against the advancing dark. The November gloom hastens lodgers home; they scurry back with sausages, oysters and a pennyworth of tea. At a house at the corner of Shoe Lane in the City, the landlord, a carpenter, is still away at his workshop, and the landlady is seeing her tenants in, unlocking the street door and the individual rooms for her three newest inmates, a laundress, a fruit-seller and a journeyman...

  6. 2 MEN ALONE: HOW BACHELORS LIVED
    (pp. None)

    Soft-eyed, dark-haired and amiable, Susanna Flinders was reckoned ‘clever in housekeeping and managing children’.¹ Just as well, because she was married to a striving Lincolnshire surgeon, who rode out with his forceps at all hours to establish his midwifery practice in the 1770s and ’80s. Matthew Flinders could be abruptly summoned across the county for two days at a stretch: ‘I had not been in bed or my boots off for 10 hours.’ Annually totting up his life savings, Flinders was fixated on the burdens he hefted – ‘we have nought . . . but my industry to depend on’. When...

  7. 3 SETTING UP HOME
    (pp. None)

    It was a truth universally acknowledged that a Georgian house with a drawing room, French windows and lawn must be in want of a mistress. A man in possession of a comfortable house and a financial competence was a prime target of Cupid’s arrows. Courting men were required to offer a suitable establishment before a couple could embark on married life, so a man’s house and prospects were at issue when a young woman examined the small print of an offer of marriage.

    When Jane Austen’s Catherine Morland is shown around the parsonage of Henry Tilney, the gentleman that everyone...

  8. 4 HIS AND HERS: ACCOUNTING FOR THE HOUSEHOLD
    (pp. None)

    Since Eve yearned for the apple, and so led Adam astray, Western women have been seen as more covetous than men. Classical philosophers and Christian moralists have long associated men with the rational world and women with the material. Western writers inherited Aristotle’s contempt for feminine reasoning, and many saw fit to deride women for their mindless materialism and love of ostentation. Cleopatra, the Queen of Sheba, Pope’s Belinda, Flaubert’s Emma Bovary and George Eliot’s Rosamond Vincy are all vain anti-heroines obsessed with self-adornment and competitive show. The woman who was blinded by the tinsel of the times, hypnotised by...

  9. 5 ROOMS AT THE TOP
    (pp. None)

    Architecture was the most expensive Georgian taste. The history of style offers a chronological sequence of new houses – Baroque extravaganza to Palladian villa to Rococo folly to neo-Gothic cottage – promoting a glamorous narrative of fashion-driven change. An appetite for new buildings, or even substantial rebuilding, however, was far from universal, even among the peerage. Many innovators did not see their monument finished in their lifetime, and there were often changes in fashion, style and design philosophy between the inception and completion of an architectural project. ‘Goodwood is another singular example of what is produced by a Duke being his own...

  10. 6 WALLPAPER AND TASTE
    (pp. None)

    A preoccupation with taste was not confined to the peerage. In August 1799 a Sussex cleric, Dr Thomas Ferris, visited the architect-designed mansion of a friend and noticed the new wallpapers. He promptly wrote to the London wallpaper and decorating firm Joseph Trollope and Sons for something similar:

    I saw the other Day at our Friend Mr Pigous some very pretty papers your Man was putting up and Mrs Pigou recommended me to your House. I am in want of a paper for a very small Room which must be paper’d immediately . . .Pray . . . send a...

  11. 7 THE TRIALS OF DOMESTIC DEPENDENCE
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    It is dinner time in the house of a prosperous wool merchant in 1720. In the handsome wainscotted dining room, at the head of the table, enthroned in the best chair, the master is saying grace. He is known for his modish interest in natural science, but will not neglect his duty, determined to head his household like another Joshua. Across the polished oak sits his gracious wife on an elegant cane chair. She presides at the other end of the table and will shortly carve the beef. Between them sit the children and the two apprentices on stools, and...

  12. 8 A NEST OF COMFORTS: WOMEN ALONE
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    ‘Cranford is in possession of the Amazons’, begins Elizabeth Gaskell’s comic fantasy derived from the Cheshire town of her youth. Her mothering by maiden aunts in Knutsford in the 1920s and ’30s furnished a host of anecdotes for her requiem for petticoat government. Cranford is a country town where ‘all the holders of houses, above a certain rent are women’. Whether by chance or design, the gentlemen have all evaporated, leaving the spinsters, widows and grass widows in their ‘baby house’ dwellings, to their sedate evening parties of best dresses, ‘wafer bread-and-butter’, cards and tea. Cranford is an insular, judgemental,...

  13. 9 WHAT WOMEN MADE
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    Architecture, fixtures and furniture created only the framework of an interior on which settled a layer of objects crafted by women. Hand-wrought hangings, screens, bed curtains, cot covers, chair seats, stools, pictures, frames and boxes clothed the noble, genteel and middling interior, the very fabric of home. History, however, has been unimpressed by women’s efforts. They are a source of disappointment: neither useful, nor truly art. Even positive discussions have not characterised women’s productions in ways that would commend them to modern sympathies. John Fowler and John Cornforth attribute to fashionable ladies ‘that indefinable thing called the English Style and...

  14. 10 A SEX IN THINGS?
    (pp. None)

    A letter published in the satirical magazineThe Worldin 1753, purportedly from a tradesman, though in fact by a sporadic poet, caricatured the plight of a man overwhelmed and unmanned by female taste in all its appalling variety, and so gave a lurid catalogue of all the Rococo elements that were ever linked to women. Every piece of furniture is twisted into fanciful form, every room covered with Wilton carpet and bizarrely branching Chelsea china. Indeed, porcelain figures weigh down every chimney piece in the house. The upstairs apartments ‘before handsomely wainscoted are now hung with the richest Chinese...

  15. CONCLUSION
    (pp. None)

    ‘Home is the sacred refuge of our life, Secur’d from all approaches but a wife’, declaimed one of John Dryden’s betrayed characters in 1676.¹ In England, as in other parts of north-western Europe, marriage meant the establishment of a separate household. Weddings ideally marked the transition from household dependent or lodger to independent residence in a house, a graduation that was decisive for the prestige of both women and men. ‘Bachelors . . . and Maids when long single, are looked upon as houses long empty, which no-body cares to take’, warned Richardson’s ideal gentleman Sir Charles Grandison in 1754.²...

  16. NOTES
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  17. MANUSCRIPT COLLECTIONS
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  18. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
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