The Real Regency Hoyden

“A wild, boisterous girl. A tomboy.”

Originally the term hoyden referred to a boy–a rude, boorish youth noted in sixteenth century school records. Later the word becomes a symbol of a rude, boorish girl in Vanbrugh’s The Relapse, a parody on an earlier play extolling the reformation of the rake. For more on rakes, please see the previous posts on this blog.

An oldie but a goodie. Joan Smith. Joan Wilder. Great romance--Juanita!

Joan Wilder? THE Joan Wilder? No, but someone even better in the 80s.

In The Relapse, the character Hoyden is a country heiress whose romping ways make her impatient for a life in the city. There she imagines wild indulgence in excitement and intrigue. She manages to marry two men on the same day to achieve this ambition.

“…her language is too lewd to be quoted. Here is a compound of ill manners and contradiction! Is this a good resemblance of quality, the description of a great heiress and the effect of a cautious education? By her coarseness you would think her bred upon a common, and by her confidence, in the nursery of a play-house.” –Jeremy Collier, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698)

Not at all flattering.

The distinction of being a hoyden was scarcely more flattering by the nineteenth century. Indeed, its precise meaning remained more or less the same. It was not her occupation, her sins, nor her flamboyance that was censured—but the fact she cared not a whit what others thought.

Well-known examples of hoydenish behavior during the Regency will be examined in future posts. A new series, if you will, of the real Regency hoyden.

“Good gracious, what fun this has been! Who knew I would return home married?” Lydia laughed.

Her insensitivity upset Jane, Elizabeth and their father.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

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Francis Chantrey – Sculptor to the Regency

In 1813, a newly made widow was journeying to Bath, accompanied by her young daughter. Ellen-Jane, for she was named after her mother, was perhaps unused to travelling. It may have even been the unfamiliar surroundings. One night, as she was preparing for bed, the little girl’s nightdress suddenly caught fire. She soon died of the burns she received. Distraught, the widow returned home to seek comfort in the company of her last remaining daughter, Marianne. Alas, a wretched illness overtook the child while they were in London. The widow had lost her entire family in the space of a few years.

Chantrey's Sleeping Children - photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Chantrey’s Sleeping Children – photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Look at those sleeping children; softly tread, Lest thou do mar their dream, and come not nigh
Till their fond mother, with a kiss, shall cry,  ‘Tis morn, awake! awake! Ah! they are dead!

William Lisle Bowles, chaplain to the Prince Regent

Untimely death was so very common in those days. However, this widow was determined her children would not be forgotten. She commissioned their likeness so their memory may live on. In death, their sculpture took the  ton by storm. By the time the Sleeping Children had been moved to the cathedral in Lichfield, the creator had become the new sculptor to the Regency:  Sir Francis Chantrey (1781 – 1841)

“Chantrey was designed by his father for the law; accident made him a carver in wood, poverty a painter, and his own genius a sculptor.” — The Eclectic Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art (vol. II, 1843)

His genius was clearly apparent in the tender simplicity expressed in his work. It is almost as if Chantrey was driven to create an unforgettable impression. Perhaps he had been moved by the widow’s fear her little girls would be forgotten, having been on this earth for such a short time. Indeed, it seems Chantrey was driven all his life to set portraits in stone before death destroyed the sitter’s flesh–and time his memory.

Chantrey’s sculptures of the Georgian era’s greatest figures still remain, even if their legacies are less certain: George III and his son, the Prince Regent. William Pitt the Younger and George Canning. They are also so numerous one can scarcely travel through England without encountering a roundabout circling “a Chantrey.”

The sculptor had a reputation for being blunt, which was somewhat surprising in a man who carved with such delicacy. That candor is perhaps a clue into his genius–a sign that Chantrey himself was suffering from an inordinate fear of being forgotten. It seems he felt that the ones who should remember him won’t. That the ones who he hoped loved him best will forsake his memory all too soon.

The acts of women in this regard seemed to have vexed him most particularly.

Grave of Marie Louise of Austria - Kaisergruft, Vienna

Grave of Marie Louise of Austria – Kaisergruft, Vienna

On several occasions he expressed extreme displeasure when any widow cast off her black weeds. His own mother had remarried after his father died, an act which he never forgave her for. Throughout the rest of her life he called her by her first married name–Mrs. Chantrey–and made certain all his letters to her were addressed in the same way. After he had become famous, his opinion on Napoleon’s widow remarrying made the rounds in Mayfair. His ideal was the famous Duchess of Marlborough, who swore never to remarry. Although her own architect (in a fit of temper) wished a Scottish ensign to have her, Sir Chantrey quite approved of the example she set.

When his own death approached, the sculptor took no chances. He drew up a will cutting off Lady Chantrey’s income if she should remarry. He had less success with the plans for his elaborate tomb. A close friend thought he was mad, not understanding how one should desire to be sealed up “like a toad in a stone for some future geologist to discover.”

But no marble tomb or bust encrusted with pigeon droppings can compare to the legacy Chantrey’s will created. Dutiful to the last, his widow left behind his fortune for the benefit of others. This bequest created and maintained England’s marvelous Tate Museum, an effort which continues to this day.

Thanks for the memories.