Regency Brothers – the Tinker

William Martin (1772 – 1851) was the oldest of these famous brothers of the Regency. More siblings were on the way so he was sent to live with his grandparents at Haydon Bridge on the River Tyne, flowing northward toward the “miry court” of beloved Crichton Castle.  He seemed to follow in his father’s footsteps, trying a variety of occupations beginning with that of tanning hides. This diverse interest perhaps led him to practice what he best became known for.

“Oh, ye seekers after perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you pursued? Go and take your place with the alchemists.” — Leonardo di Vinci

“There are three laws of thermodynamics: you can’t get something for nothing, you can’t win, and you have to lose.” — someone’s high school chemistry teacher

The Regency was a time of increasing strides made in reducing the cost of labor. Why not a machine that produces its own power, without regard to friction or absence of external force? William was entranced by the notion. He was not particularly of a slovenly nature, but he had warmed to the idea of something that would work without being prodded to do so. Art imitating life.

Medal of Isis

Medal of Isis

Anyway, he was unsuccessful. His perpetual motion machine, optimistically named Eureka, was dismissed because it incorporated external force–a big no-no. Concealed in its design was an air tube through which force was applied secretly to power a seemingly effortless machine. No matter, his spring weighing machine brought him a Regency honor in 1814–the Isis medal from the Society of Arts–a recognition that he was a serious inventor.

He soon had reason to habitually wear the thing about his neck. He had become a “stout, portly man, perfectly cracked but harmless.” His well-known diatribes against Newton’s Theory of Gravity completely negated his contributions to science and many thought his proper place was among the British Society of Asses.

Thank goodness for his wife’s earnings. She was a celebrated dressmaker, “inoffensive and respected by rich and poor.”

Regency Painters – Part Two

Young Woman Drawing - Villiers 1801

‘Only–If there did happen to be a gentleman who–who wished to marry me, do you think he would be deterred by that, Freddy?’

‘Be a curst rum touch if he wasn’t,’ replied Freddy unequivocally.

‘Yes, but–If he had a partiality for me, and found I had become engaged to Another,’ said Kitty, drawing on a knowledge of life culled from the pages of such novels as graced Miss Fishguard’s bookshelf, ‘he might be wrought upon by jealousy.’

‘Who?’ demanded Freddy, out of his depth.

‘Anyone!’ said Kitty.

‘But there ain’t anyone!’ argued Freddy.

‘No,’ agreed Kitty, damped.  ‘It was just a passing thought, and not of the least consequence!  I shall seek a situation.’

‘No, you won’t,’ said Freddy, with unexpected firmness.  ‘That’s what you said last night.  Talked a lot of stuff about becoming a chambermaid.  Well, you can’t, that’s all.’

‘Oh, no!’ she assured him.  ‘Upon reflection, of course I perceived that wouldn’t answer.  And also I shouldn’t wonder at it if Hugh was quite at fault, and I might do very well as a governess.  To quite young children, you know, who don’t need instruction in Italian or Water-colour painting.’

‘Can’t do that either,’ said Freddy.

‘Well, really, Freddy!’ cried Miss Charing indignantly.  ‘Pray, what concern is it of yours?’

‘Good God, Kit, of course it’s my concern!’ retorted Freddy, moved to express himself strongly.  ‘You don’t suppose I’m going to have everyone saying you’d rather go for a governess than marry me, do you?  Nice gudgeon I should look!’

Cotillion, Georgette Heyer

No discussion of art during the Regency period can possibly omit the fine landscape painter J. M. W. Turner (1775 – 1851).  I’ve posted an example of his work here on the subject of Crichton Castle in Scotland.  His art, decidedly Romantic, elevated the medium of watercolor.  Without it, one could argue the Impressionist movement would not have been possible.  In any event, he brought about a decided preference for the liberating, poignant strokes of the finely executed watercolor.

It is no wonder that young ladies of the period, already steeped in gothic novels, should try to excel in this aspect of the fine arts. Indeed, in my earlier project, Notorious Vow, the heroine was rather self-conscious that the earl of Northam managed to catch a glimpse of some half-finished examples of her work in the medium.  She could not be certain, but he appeared to be rather amused at the sight of her abandoned canvases stacked neatly in her mother’s conservatory, as if in silent witness to the artist’s lack of focus and direction.  It was not quite the impression Vivien wanted to leave with the handsome earl.

Turner focussed strongly on emotional painting, using weather, fire, shipwrecks and other interactions with nature as primary subjects.  He is often called the painter of light.

Indeed, he was reported to have declared on his deathbed that “the sun is God.”

The Chapter House - Salisbury Cathedral (J. M. W. Turner)