Early eighteenth-century England encompassed multiple and competing worlds: the realm of taste, culture, and refinement, with requisite attendance at pleasure gardens, concerts, and museums; the arena of fierce party politics, with scathing battles and sharp divisions; the world of economic poverty, with disenfranchisement and joblessness; the domain of profitable and highly suspect adventure for picaros and explorers; the sphere of new wealth for merchants and tradesmen, with thrilling possibilities for social mobility and intellectual development. The Female Tatler hints at the presence of each of these milieus, if only, in certain cases, to belittle the concerns and practices of a certain segment of the population. A sophisticated analysis of the history of each of these circles in the early eighteenth century, or even the years 1709-10, is naturally beyond the scope of this project. But, a reminder of certain major events and points of reference for the period of the Female Tatler's publication builds the landscape for its presence in British culture.
Queen Anne (1665-1714) ruled Britain as Mrs. Crackenthorpe penned her lively social critiques; her reign spanned from 1702 until 1714. While England enjoyed a period of peace during the rule of William and Mary (which lasted from 1689-1702), the country experienced a more difficult political climate under Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs. During Anne's tenure, the Whigs and Tories sparred for control of Parliament and sway over the queen. Anne was forced to manage conflicts between the two parties, placing her in a relatively new role as a monarch, since clearly defined political parties emerged only during the late seventeenth century. The Tories were conservatives, defenders of the Establishment, often landed gentry who supported the Anglican church and the power of the monarch, while the Whigs were London merchants, religious dissenters, bishops, nobles-a seemingly heterogeneous group united by their opposition to the power of royalty. Queen Anne apparently attempted to refrain from taking sides and frustrated various endeavors by both parties to win her favor.
Queen Anne of England.34
The political opposition that characterized England during this period does present itself in the pages of the Female Tatler. In many ways, the periodical seems to align itself with the conservative defenders of Establishment-individuals with old money and "old" values-and conveys hostility toward newly moneyed merchants and tradesmen who attempt to act as full and legitimate members of society. Alison Adburgham in fact calls the publication "a vehicle for the violently Tory invective" of Delarivier Manley, in concert with Manley's New Atlantis, which had been directed against the Whig Party and satirized many of its prominent members.35 However, M. M. Goldsmith draws attention to the "Whiggish" nature of the Female Tatler in his analysis of the paper and concludes that Manley could not have been the author of the paper because of her Tory allegiances. 36 Scholars' disagreement over the paper's fundamental relationship to national politics highlights the challenges modern readers face in analyzing this historical text-for when Mrs. Crackenthorpe paints a picture of scurrilous rogue, for example, a twenty-first century reader might have difficulty determining whether her tone is sincere or ironic, while an eighteenth-century reader would have likely discerned her intent without perplexity.
While sparks were flying at home, soldiers were busy abroad. England enjoyed victory, with Austria, Bavaria, and Holland, against France and Spain in the War of Spanish Succession (1702-13), supported by the Whigs. This war centered on the question of who would control Spain and its vast empire after the death of Charles II of Spain, who had no heirs. The military also fought the related Queen Anne's War (1702-13) during this period, a conflict between France and Britain for control of North American colonial territories. Britain eventually achieved victory here as well, winning control of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay region. The topic of war does not explicitly surface very often in the Female Tatler, though soldiers and generals people its pages and remind readers of foreign conflicts. Strict definitions of "manly" masculinity and clear anxiety about effeminacy, of the kind that often arise when a nation's hegemony is threatened from without or within, may be related to England's presence in these wars. (See Men's Beauty and Fashionability).
After the populace began the exodus from rural agricultural roles to urban life, but prior to industrialization, the early eighteenth century formed a transitional period in the British economy and the development of social classes. The society remained stratified, with a large group of poor English who struggled with the basic necessities of survival and a small landed aristocracy who had the leisure to enjoy the "finer things" in life. However, the "middling sort" -the tradesmen, skilled artisans, and merchants who receive the brunt of the Female Tatler's censure and class-based snobbery-were now a prominent feature on the horizon during these years as well. (See Taking Airs).
The city of London, where Mrs. Crackenthorpe writes and on which she focuses her attention, served as the center of English culture during the eighteenth century. London grew quickly during this period, becoming the largest city in Europe by mid-century. 37 Writers and artists largely made this bustling, noisy, commercial city of the focus of their work. As John Brewer notes: "Just as artists had once devoted themselves to depicting the court and its values, so London was now repeatedly represented on the stage, in prose and verse, in painting and engraved image. The city had become not only the centre of culture but one of its key subjects."38 In 1709, Handel's Agrippina filled concert halls, and Susanna Centlivre's The Busybody entertained audiences of the stage. Works by Delarivier Manley (The New Atlantis), Jonathan Swift (Baucis and Philemon, Tale of a Tub), Alexander Pope (Pastorals), Matthew Prior, (Poems on Several Occasions), the Earl of Shaftesbury (Moralists), and William Congreve (Collected Works) lined bookstalls and covered bedside tables in varying degrees in 1709 and 1710. Many writers during this period still worked under a patronage system, though as the eighteenth century progressed, the arts would cease "to be the preserve of kings, courtiers, aristocrats and clerics and [would become] the property of a larger public." 39 Wit dominated the literary scene as the reigning ideal, while moral critique and satire were often the modes of choice, forming a milieu appropriate to the production of the Female Tatler.
Portrait of Alexander Pope. 40
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