Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to Breed a Spoiled Young Gentleman: 1678

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Susan reporting:

No matter what the century, there always seems to be a market for books of child-rearing advice. The author of one such 17th c. book, J. Galliard, offered his credentials in the forward as a "gentleman, who hath been a Tutor Abroad to several of the Nobility and Gentry." The lengthy title of his book –  The Compleat Gentleman; or, Directions for the Education of Youth as to their Breeding at Home and Travelling Abroad, in Two Treatises – promised exact directions on how to raise a perfect little gentlemen. This book was published in London in 1678, in the merry old days of Charles II and his Restoration court, and considering all the hard-living, hard-drinking libertine mischief that his courtiers were enjoying, worried parents were probably eager for a bit of common sense regarding their own unformed scions.

While Mr. Galliard's advice is more than three hundred years old and the language a bit convoluted, his words remain apt – both for the child, and the parents who spoil him in the name of "fondness."

"I do not deny how decent it is that Children of men of quality should be brought up in a handsomer way than those of common people: but I speak against the fondness which some have for them, which is so far from deserving to be called care, that I more properly name it want of care.

Let the inconveniences of this manner of Breeding be observed. These young Gentlemen. when they come somewhat to know themselves, will eat no coarse meat, but only the most delicate they can find for money. They scorn to wear cloathes except that they be very rich; they will think it is below them to walk, but if they go out, it must be in a Coach;...and if there be no servant to give them a glass of Wine, they will rather be choked than take it themselves. Sometimes the weather is not good for them to walk out, therefore they will sit at home, and Dice or Card away many a pound, or in a Tavern, and drink away their health till the Gout, or Gravel comes upon them, or a Pleurisie, an Apoplexy, or some other sudden Disease carries them to their Grave....What manner of men...who for years were kept as soft and warm as if they had been in their Mothers womb; who would not so much as suffer workmen in the Town for fear their sleep would have been interrupted with the noise made...who made in bed most of their Exercises, and their most serious Discourses at Table, and...look for excesses in every thing. Now I would fain know: what good can be expected from such a Breeding?"

Above: The Children of Charles I of England by Anthony Van Dyck, 1637


Keith said...

Well done, a worthy and interesting post. Thank you.

francoise_hardy said...

I used to say "I would fain know..." at any opportunity. Convoluted language is superior at any occasion. I'll try to work it into a meeting today...

Hels said...

I think that having been a Tutor Abroad to several of the Nobility and Gentry, J. Galliard probably knew a thing or two about badly brought up, spoiled young men.

I can imagine in the wilds of France or Italy, far from the creature comforts of home, that young gentlemen throwing a hissy fit if things went wrong would have been a disaster. They needed to "make do" and retain their dignity, whatever the circumstances.

nightsmusic said...

Ugh. Please promise me you'll never write a hero like that unless he's completely redeemed at the end. ;o) I have little patience for men like this (and I've known one or two), but you have to ask yourself what merit those who 'created' these spoiled young men found in the results.

As a side note, I think I've finally noticed the one thing that bothers me about this type of painting. Regardless of who it is, the artist tends to make all the small children look like miniature adults rather than small children. Does that make sense? I'm sure it's just me, but it's just...odd.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thank you, Le Loup.

Romney, I would fain use archaic convolutions of prattle and speech as well. Alas, alack, mine own dearling editor suffers me not to follow such whimsey. And a good thing, too. *g*

Hels, I'm sure that being a tutor on the Grand Tour must have been quite a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the (generally) poor tutor would have an all expenses paid trip to a place he was dying to visit. On the other, he'd have to spend much of his time bailing out his worthless young charge, who would be much more interested in opera dancers than ancient temples. At least that's the impression you get from reading many of the surviving first-hand letters and journals!

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Theo, I'm absolutely bowled over by your response to the painting of the royal children! I probably shouldn't have used that to illustrate this particular blog since it's not really appropriate, but because it's one of my all-time fav paintings, I used it anyway. Just goes to show how art is so subjective....! *g*

Pai said...

It probably reflects the attitude at the time that children SHOULD be presented as small adults. They were expected to learn and take on adult roles much sooner back then.

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for fops. Or to be more precise, men who act like fops but have secret depth of character (like in The Scarlet Pimpernel. The 1982 version of the movie is my favorite for exactly that reason).

nightsmusic said...

Oh, I didn't mean it to sound like I don't like the painting. I do! The use of color and composition is great. It just bothers me that most of the artists at the time seemed to think children shouldn't look like children. Again, it's probably just me, but you're right. Art is very subjective. Rather like Figure Skating which my DD2 did for 10 years and which is probably the most subjective thing I've ever been around. But that's another story...

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Theo, I think Pai has the right answer - that all children before about 1750 were dressed like little adults, because that's how their parents (and the rest of the world) thought of them. You were a baby, then a person. The whole concept of the innocence of childhood as a special time is one of the more appealing creations of the Age of Enlightenment (just as there were no teenagers until the 1950s created them.)

In additions, since these are royal children, there's a special emphasis to making them look older, as if they're already aware of the special roles they'll be expected to perform as adults. The little boy in red in the center will become Charles II, and the boy in the orange sleeves (still in a baby gown, so he looks like a girl to modern eyes) will become James II.

Sadly, the other three siblings all died quite young; their father, Charles I, was beheaded as a traitor, and their mother wandered for years in impoverished, widowed exile. All of which makes this portrait esp. poignant -- though those huge red bows on the young Charles's shoes must certainly qualify for foppish footwear!

As for figure-skating daughters: my daughter did that, too, and we did the whole torturous circuit of spangled dresses and competitions. You are right: is there anything more subjective than figure skating judging? Hmmm, was that double lutz two-footed? Deduction! No medal for you!! *g*

nightsmusic said...

I once overheard a conversation in the ladie's room between two judges, one of which was complaining that if she saw just one more ponytail rather than the scraped back bun, she would mark the girl down on principle.

You know, looking at this portrait and hearing the future of the children, it certainly brings into focus how precarious their lives really were, royalty or not.

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