Friday, August 04, 2006

Sturdy Yeomen - more Hanger

I'm among the many thousand lovers of Jane Austin's novels. I'm probably not alone in curiosity about daily life in rural England of her time. Pride and Prejudice shows Mr. Bennet to be a gentleman. He earns his living from agriculture but is not a farmer. Still, Jane, Elizabeth, and the other daughters have friends among those who are farmers and the novel consequently gives us a few glimpses of farm life. Elsewhere, Robert Martin, a farmer, marries Harriet Smith, after much obstructive meddling, in the novel Emma.

Lately I stumbled upon a book by George Hanger full of advice and anecdotes on hunting and farming in the period during which Austin wrote her novels. Hanger was an eccentric character, a bon-vivant and companion to the Prince Regent, also a respected soldier, and an improvident ne'er-do-well. Taking everyone on own merits, he was the total antithesis of a snob. Here's his complaint about farmers' daughters, showing something of the growing prosperity of England's Yeoman class, showing much of his own status as a Regency Rake, and showing, though in a joke-y way, his belief that women could be as successful as men in professional roles.

From the book, Colonel George Hanger, to all sportsmen, and particularly to farmers, and gamekeepers by George Hanger, 4th baron Coleraine, 1751-1824 (London, printed for the author: sold by J. J. Stockdale, 1814).
What Farmers' Daughters were ,and what they now are.

In my youthful days, farmers' daughters put their read cloaks on, and the milking pails on their shoulders, went out before dawn of day into the field, to milk the cows, and before they had gone a hundred yards, generally split a cow-turd with their feet, -- but now, if one of them look even out at the door, the servant cries out, "Miss, pray do not go out, you will wet your feet, and catch cold." Formerly, when the lasses came home from milking, they had a rasher of bacon, broiled on the coals, for breakfast, and a pint of mild ale, washed their face at the pump, and rubbed it well, to make the blood circulate, with a coarse towel; -- now, miss must wash her face, or rather not wash it at all, with cream, or some other cursed nastiness; and breakfast in the finest tea and sugar, and a delicate, small, thin piece of buttered toast; and not eat heartily, for fear of growing too gross, and spoiling her complection. Formerly the lasses, in fine weather, used to dance on the green, with the lads; but now miss is taught to dance, and to sing, and play on the piano-forte: then she must attend all the county balls : -- the captain gets acquainted with her; mamma remarks, what an attentive, polite, and elegant man, the captain is. The captain dances with miss, frequently, and at last, when the regiment marches, the captain dances off with her, and she is never heard of in the county again.

In former days, farmers' daughters went in a cart to market, to sell butter, eggs, poultry, young pigs, &c.: now they are driving all over the county in elegant taxed carts; visiting, romping, and rioting all over the land. You may as well, now-a-days, ask a farmer's daughter to milk the bull, as to milk a cow. Then, to imitate women of fashion, at the balls, they dress half naked; neck and arms quite bare, and the gown cut down so low in the back, that you absolutely may see their rumps. I remember, many years ago, if a person had walked down St. James's Street, with an umbrella, and strings in his shoes, it would have occasioned much censure; but now all the priests and footmen wear and carry both.

Custom is prevalent, and custom establishes every thing; for the same nurse who looks after little miss, and little master, tells little miss, provided she shews only one inch of her ancle -- "0 fie, miss, for shame, you shew your ancle; that is very indelicate;" and, with the next breath, she tells little master to take up his coats and piss like a man. -- So it is, custom governs and sanctions every thing; or how could the most delicate and decent women permit a man-midwife, six feet high and two feet broad, over the loins, to attend them during their pregnancy; taking liberties, only professionally, to know whether the child lies right, &c., and, after that, to deliver them?

I have often thought that we men have lost a very great benefit and pleasure from women not having studied physic, so as to take out their diplomas as physicians; for, when I was a young man, I must confess that it would have been extremely satisfactory to me, when the complaint was so desperate, as to render it necessary to call in two female physicians, in order that they might attend diligently to my disorder, to rcquest them both to pass the night with me, and partake of my bed; and then, in the morning, for their kind attention to my disorder, dismiss them with a liberal fee.

{Source: This image, from, has the following caption: "'Farmer Giles'; this 1809 caricature by Gillray satirizes a prosperous farmer's family aspiring to female musical "accomplishments" and other middle class refinements: [1809 Gillray Farmer Young Lady Accomplishment Caricature .GIF] Text in oval on wall: "Cheese Farm" Music on Piano: "Blue Bells of Scotland sung by Mrs. Jordan" On back wall: Sampler sewn by "Betty Giles"}

Marg B. has done a web page on Colonel Banastre Tarleton which includes a section on friends, comrades, and enemies. One of the friends is George Hanger.

This page includes interesting biographic details and two nice images, which I've reproduced below. The first renders the anecdote I related in another post and otherwise pretty much explains itself. J.A. Smith wrote the book in which the anecdote appears.

Marg B. describes this one as "A contemporary engraving, taken from an etching by Richard Dighton, done in 1808. Apparently, George's love of natty attire never deserted him. He earned a place as one of the leading 'Beaux of the Regency' in Lewis Melville's study of the arbiters of Regency-era trends and fashions.[note 1] Etching by Richard Dighton. Notice the visual pun in the title of the image. "Lord" + a drawing of a sword, of the type called a hanger. Not entirely kind, given that a hanger is a type of light dress sword, largely dismissed as decorative but useless."

Her footnote:
[1] See Lewis Melville, The Beaux of the Regency, 2 vols. (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1908). Volume 1 includes a brief biography of Hanger.

Addendum: Here's the title page of George Hanger to All Sportsmen:

Another Addendum: Hanger had a realistic view of the ignorance of the medical men of his time. In the following image from George Hanger to All Sportsmen he gives a succinct statement on the benefits to horses and men of staying away from healers.

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