Customs Traditions

Englishness Identified ' Manners and Character 1650-1850 ' by Paul Langford

By Paul Langford

Among 1650 and 1850 perceptions of the English have been reworked, as a country of meant barbarians, lovers, and king-killers developed right into a international strength of political adulthood, imperial grandeur, and business may well. Englishness Identified lines the evolution of the so-called English nationwide personality in the course of the impressions and analyses of overseas observers, and relates it to English goals and anxieties in the course of a interval of fast swap.

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Much of the idiosyncrasy of London fashion as viewed from the Continent derived from this difference of lifestyle. The prevalence of a masculine riding-habit, often worn out of the saddle and even in the home, was much noticed, as was the liking of the English gentlewoman for hats. No less characteristic was the famed English complexion, supposedly 42 ENERGY the consequence of living so much out of doors. The merits of this 'natural' look were vigorously debated. A Parisian journalist in 1801 feared that an Anglophile vogue for rosy complexions, braving the weather and so on, might threaten French ideals of beauty by encouraging colour on the cheeks and fullness in the bosom.

The English were the big spenders of Europe. To travel en milord or even as 'Monsieur Bull' was to travel in the expectation of being overcharged, and foolish expenditure was considered a sure sign of Englishness. It was by definition the wealthy who travelled for the most part. The exceptions, commercial travellers and the debt-ridden Englishmen who fled beyond the reach of their own law, to spend their lives at Boulogne or Calais, wistfully gazing on the misty outline of the South Coast, did little to shake the resulting image.

Englishwomen were celebrated for their modesty, yet their passion for the open air often put it at risk. An instance recorded by male visitors was their readiness to take an outside seat on top of lofty stagecoaches, something that would have been unthinkable on the Continent. The resulting exposure of underwear and undercarriage proved a voyeur's treat. Friedrich von Raumer, Prussian academic and administrator, could not conceal his delight. '77 The recurrence of the theme in satirical literature and art suggests that it was not only foreigners who were charmed by this female hardiness.

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