Friday, December 27, 2013

JADG - Gout and Decrepitude

The caricature prints of the Regency Era really make a feast of the infirmities of the older generation, particularly if they are rich. Thomas Rowlandson's prints, The Comforts of Bath are full of fat, gouty men being hauled to the Pump Room in sedan chairs or handcarts to take advantage of the supposed health-giving quality of the mineral springs. And then stuff their faces with the rich food and wine that made them fatter and goutier. My dad has had periodic bouts of gout, and it sounds like a very painful condition. I showed him this print, and he said it was pretty spot on. Fortunately,we have medication today that deals with the cause.

Those people who managed to live to a ripe old age, were often much less than "ripe". It was a rare individual who was not plagued by all sorts of infirmities and no medical help available. One's prime was over very quickly in those days. Young women in search of a good husband lived in fear of some aged wreck taking a shine to them. Among the nobility or those who aspired to raise their standing, a proposal from a wealthy and titled old man was a prospect too good to pass up when they had a marriageable daughter.

Poor Evelina is being pursued by the obnoxious Dr. Syntax, a man who is impervious to hints or even blatant refusals. Dr. Syntax was a character created by the artist Thomas Rowlandson and the poet William Combe, a ridiculous elderly curate who set off on his horse to tour the countryside, falling into one absurd situation after another. The poems and prints were shown to Rudolph Ackermann, who was quite enthused and, after removing a few of the more racy pictures, agreed to print them. The Three Tours of Dr. Syntax was extremely popular in the early 1800s.

No comments:

Post a Comment