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Archive for the ‘Cartoons, Satirical’ Category

by Brenda S. Cox

“This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.”–Mr. Elton, Emma

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays. In Austen’s novels, Christmas is a time for parties and for family and friend to gather, just like today. It was also a day for attending church (see Emma ch. 16 and Mansfield Park ch. 23), after weeks of Advent when prayers focused on the coming of Christ. For more on the prayers and readings that Austen would have prayed and read for Advent and Christmas, see my post Advent with Jane Austen. You can also find many posts at this site (and others) on Christmas customs in Jane Austen’s England.

I recently gave a presentation on “Satirical Cartoons and Jane Austen’s Church of England” at JASNA’s Annual General Meeting (you can read it in this month’s Persuasions On-Line, or, if you are a JASNA member, you can watch it in the AGM on Demand).  Today I’d like to share a few cartoons about Christmas in Austen’s England. (I didn’t find many; perhaps Christmas was not a popular subject for caricatures.)

Triumphal Procession

Let’s start with this wild one.

The Triumphal Procession of Merry Christmas to Hospitality Hall, Richard Newton, 1794.
© Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In an earlier post about the Clerical Alphabet cartoon, I wrote about Richard Newton, a prolific young artist of the time. Newton drew the above cartoon in 1794, satirizing the general gluttony and drunkenness associated with Christmas. In The Triumphal Procession of Merry Christmas to Hospitality Hall, men on a carriage feast on large pieces of meat while behind them a naked man sits on a barrel, probably of wine or another alcoholic beverage.

Academics at Christmas

Christmas Academicks, Playing a Rubber of Whist, Thomas Rowlandson, 1803.
Public domain via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

University professors have a much more restrained celebration, though still not a devout one. Thomas Rowlandson’s The Christmas Academicks Playing a Rubber of Whist (1803) shows four academics playing cards, while a fifth stands nearby and a servant brings drinks. All are clergymen, probably fellows (professors or tutors) at the University of Oxford or Cambridge, who would be single clergymen. (Jane Austen’s father was a fellow at Oxford until he married.) As in many satirical cartoons of the time, the clergymen are pictured as overweight and self-indulgent. They are gambling and drinking, not in church. 

Farmer Giles’s Establishment, Christmas day, 1800, by William Heath, 1830
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Farmer Giles: Christmas Through the Years

Some years later, in 1830, William Heath drew a series on Christmas as a political satire. It begins with a delightful version of an 1800 country Christmas, such as the Musgroves or Westons might have enjoyed in Austen’s novels.

Farmer Giles was a symbol of the unsophisticated country farmer. Here he feasts with his joyful family at Christmastime. As we see in Austen’s novels, Christmas was a time for parties and feasts. Greenery decorates the fireplace and the wife is slicing plum pudding. Farmer Giles is apparently prosperous and he becomes more so.

Farmer Giles’s Establishment Christmas 1816 by by William Heath, 1830
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

By 1816, the farmer has done well and moved up into fashionable society. This Christmas he and his wife are playing cards (gambling) while guests dance in the ballroom. However, they look much less happy than in the first print. The children are grown now, and looking on. The farmer’s hand appears to be bandaged for the gout, from overeating and excessive drinking.

Farmer Giles’s Establishment!!! Christmas 1829 by by William Heath, 1830
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Their financial prosperity doesn’t last, though. The agricultural economy crashed.

In the third plate, Farmer Giles’ Establishment!!! Christmas 1829, the farmer is in a debtors’ cell. He holds a paper saying his children have been sent to the work house. His wife is doing laundry in a tub.

So this series becomes political satire, criticizing the government for its policies which led to an agricultural depression. A very sad Christmas.

The Merry Musgroves

But let’s return to Austen’s happier times. 

The Musgroves and children at Christmas
C.E. Brock, Persuasion, Volume 2, chapter 2

As Austen describes Christmas at the Musgroves, in Persuasion:

On one side was a table, occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. . . .

Anne, judging from her own temperament, would have deemed such a domestic hurricane a bad restorative of the nerves, which Louisa’s illness must have so greatly shaken; but Mrs. Musgrove, . . . concluded a short recapitulation of what she had suffered herself, by observing, with a happy glance round the room, that after all she had gone through, nothing was so likely to do her good as a little quiet cheerfulness at home. . .

“I hope I shall remember, in future,” said Lady Russell, as soon as they were reseated in the carriage, “not to call at Uppercross in the Christmas holidays.”

Every body has their taste in noises as well as in other matters . . .

I hope this Christmas is just to your taste! Many blessings to you in the New Year.

Brenda S. Cox writes on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. She is currently working on a book entitled Fashionable Goodness: Faith in Jane Austen’s England.

 

For more on satirical cartoons in Jane Austen’s England, see:

Satirical Cartoons and Jane Austen’s Church of England

The Stereotype of the Self-Indulgent Clergyman: Rowlandson’s Parsonage 

The Clerical Alphabet: Problems in Austen’s Church of England 

Keeping Within Compass  Mike Rendell also shows and discusses many other fascinating cartoons from Austen’s era on this blog, but be aware that many are risque. I am indebted to Mike for posting on the Newton Clerical Alphabet cartoon that got me started looking at cartoons and the clergy.
 

For more on Christmas in Austen’s England, see:

Party Like the Musgroves, by Rachel Dodge, to have your own party like the Musgroves did in the passage above!

Christmas Georgian Style 

Archive for Regency Christmas Traditions (various posts on this site)

Christmas Traditions (various posts from various sites)

More Regency Christmas Traditions (and scenes and stories, various posts from Maria Grace’s site) 

Joy to the World: Psalms, Hymns, and Christmas Carols in Austen’s England

Regency Christmas Carols

Handel’s Messiah in Jane Austen’s England 

Advent with Jane Austen: Now, and Not Yet 

Georgian Christmas Pie Recipes

Regency Christmas Songs and Games

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, book by Maria Grace

Christmas in Jane Austen’s Time

Jane Austen’s Christmas

. . . and much more!

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