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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Drawing, c1745


Drawing, Paul Sandby, c1745, British Museum.

Thanks to Adam Hodges-LeClaire for pointing out this piece to me.

This drawing is one of a series done by Sandby in and around Edinburgh in the immediate wake of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Sandby's study shows a few people walking bout two, and a woman with what appears to be a broom. The British Museum's catalog states that she is a beggar woman, but I confess I'm not entirely sure why.

In the foreground, a man with a bob wig and cocked hat with short brim (possibly a sea captain) converses with a common sailor who walks beside.


Our sailor wears a hat or cap with a broad brim. At first I thought this must be a wide brimmed round hat, but Adam argues that it may be a Peter the Great cap, or a high crowned knit cap that was mean to appear like a felt hat. Obviously, a sketch is not enough to tell us whether this is a knit or felt. Atop his head and beneath the cap or hat is a bob wig.  a jacket with scalloped mariners' cuffs buttoned closed, and a pair of flap pockets at the waist. His petticoat trousers run down to just below the knee, so we can see his white stockings and pointed toe shoes.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Man of War's Boat, date unknown


A Man of War's Boat, Paul Sandby, date unknown, British Museum.

This sketch by Paul Sandby is a simple piece. Officers are gathered in the stern of a barge, and the oarsmen (uniform in appearance) pull away.


The officers appear to be dressed in the 1748-1767 pattern uniforms of the Royal Navy, but I wouldn't swear to it. Going by those regulations, the coxswain may be a Lieutenant in an undress uniform. Officers are not my forte, so I will leave this to more capable eyes.


The bargemen are uniformly dressed in shirtsleeves and barge caps.


At least a couple of them, as you can see in this detail, wear bob wigs. The barge caps have pointed brims at the front which are mostly worn upright, but are not fixed to the crown of the cap. They look remarkably like the caps worn by the men of the Pallas as painted by Gabriel Bray.

Seamen relaxing on the Pallas, Gabriel Bray, 1774, National Maritime Museum

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jemmy's Farewell and Jemmy's Return, 1781-1785

Jemmy's Farewell, John Hodges Benwell, 1781-1785, British Museum.

Jemmy's Return, John Hodges Benwell, 1780's, British Museum.

These illustrations were meant to accompany the ballad 'Auld Robin Gray,' which was originally published in 1772. The artist, John Hodges Benwell, died in 1785 at the age of 21. Benwell was first recognized as an unusually gifted artist at 16, so that restricts the dates during which these drawings could have been made to 1781-1785.


Scots are rarely addressed on this blog. This is largely because a glance at a common sailor will tell you little or nothing about their regional identity. Sailor's slop clothes served to merge them into a transatlantic (and, indeed, worldwide) clique. Clothing blurred the boundaries within the British Empire, and made all of its wearers Jack Tar.

This is also true of commanders. Even when it is Scottishness itself that an artist objects to, a sea captain like James Lowry will still look more like a sea captain than a highlander.

The Scotch Triumvirate, artist unknown, 1752, British Museum
Figures of less renown (or notoriety) are also portrayed as indistinguishable from their fellow seafarers.

Etched from the Life on Board a Scotch Ship: Cook, Captain, and Mait, 
artist unknown (John Kay?), c.1750, National Maritime Museum.
I can think of only one other case in which a Scotsman was portrayed wearing regional dress in a primary source image. John Paul Jones, being an American rebel and Scotsman to boot, is portrayed wearing a tam.

Paul Jones shooting a Sailor who had attempted to strike his Colours in an
Engagement
, Carington Bowles from John Collet, 1779, British Museum.

Mara Riley, of The Appin Regiment reenactment organization, pointed me to this runaway advertisement found by Dan Rosenburg. Three runaway highland sailors are mentioned as running away 'from on Board the Ship Donald...in their own Country Garb.'

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), April 15, 1773, page 3
Colonial Williamsburg
Over at the blog Fishy Fashion and Maritime Modes, Adam Hodges-LeClaire mentions the occasional appearance of Scotch bonnets, a finding echoed by Matthew Brenckle. Adam dug up this piece from the early nineteenth century, in which a sailor's dress is a more subtle mix of highland style and sailor's slops.
Detail from Makeing a Compass at Sea or the Use of a Scotch Louse,
Thomas Tegg, date unknown, National Maritime Museum
Benwell is not the first to portray Jemmy in the Sailor's Farewell and Sailor's Return from Auld Robin Gray. The printer Robert Sayer twice portrayed Jemmy, but in neither did he include even a hint to Jemmy's Scottish heritage.


In the Farewell, Jemmy is portrayed wearing a floppy cocked hat with a blue bow. His jacket is a double breasted pale blue with white metal buttons. A black neckcloth is bound tightly, draping over his white shirt and an oddly placed brown leather belt is buckled around his waist. Jemmy sports sideburns and a queue bound in a black bow.


At first, I thought Jemmy was wearing a small kilt (called a fèileadh beag), which hangs down to just above the knee. Bill Johnson, more knowledgeable than I in highland dress, offered this observation:
A closer examination of the backside of the garment suggests Jemmy is in fact wearing slop or petticoat trousers, possibly made of tartan.  There does not appear to be any pleats (hand-thrown or stitched in).  Early small kilts were usually made from 3-4 yards of single-width fabric, with the pleats roughly hand-thrown as it was put on; with a light stitching to hold them in place (usually in a box pleat); or with a drawstring to bring them together.  It is not a garment easily donned in the crowded confines of a ship.
This different cut and lack of fabric suggests that these are plaid petticoat trousers. Bill continues:
Two early 18th century portraits of the Laird of Grant's piper (1714) and Champion (1715) show a colored tape being worn around the border of their respective kilts.  A tapestry on the Isle of Mull show the same type of trim, again being worn by the chief's retainers.  My question on the Benwell paintings is whether this was meant to be trimming, or an easy way for the artist to finish off the hem.
Beneath this puzzling garment is revealed brown breeches held by a knee buckle over white stockings, pointed toe shoes, and large rectangular white metal buckles.

The presence of breeches is exceptional. In the eighteenth century, kilts were never worn over breeches. What were worn over breeches, as we've seen time and time again in this blog, were petticoat trousers. This is where we run into a problem with these drawings. As follower Phil Hosea points out: petticoat trousers are intended to be cheap, easily replaced, and protect the breeches beneath. None of these apply to kilts.

My best guess is that this is a nod to the combination of highland dress and slop clothes. The breeches are worn underneath the kilt-like-petticoat-trousers, and the two garments share a passing similarity in the way they are worn.

Was Benwell basing Jemmy on Scottish sailors he had actually seen or met? Or was this a fanciful imagination of the two worlds colliding? While I'm inclined toward the latter, it's impossible to say for certain without further research on Benwell himself.


On his return, Jemmy wears the same clothes as when he bid adieu to Robin. His jacket is town and tattered, and he now has the sailor's trusty stick, but otherwise his dress is the same. We do get a better look at his ragged queue.


In this image, he still wears breeches beneath his kilt, proving that their inclusion was no fluke on the part of Benwell.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Dissolution of P___t, c1774


The Dissolution of P___t, artist unknown, c1774, American Antiquarian Society.

Members of Parliament are making haste on a special coach designed explicitly to carry them to their 'Corrupted Boroughs' in this satirical piece. Scattered in the street are papers representing their offensive acts against America: the 'Boston Port Bill,' 'General Warrants,' and 'Quebec' (undoubtedly referring to the Quebec Act).

The scattered commoners about the street speak derisively of the failed public servants. Among them is a sailor turned beggar, who tries his hand at a groan inducing pun. 'Ah, rot such Members, my Members are better,' meaning his wooden legs, one of which is broken.


He wears a reversed cocked hat, bob wig, a single breasted jacket, and torn breeches fitted tight to his wooden legs.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Whale Fishery and Killing the Bears, 1744


The Whale Fishery and Killing the Bears, engraving from "Navigantium atque itinirantium bibliotheca," Volume 2, T. Woodward, 1744, John Carter Brown Library.

Whalers are only rarely featured on this blog. I would like to change that. Today's print depicts a number of ships all harpooning whales and killing bears in the Arctic.


The sailors all wear jackets which end about the top of the thigh. Their hats are a mixture of round and cocked, with a couple of caps thrown in for good measure.


These tars attack a bear with harpoons and a comically oversized club. These men wear very small cocked hats, jacket that match the fellows afloat, and a mix of breeches and trousers.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Fortunate Transport, c1770


The Fortunate Transport, Rob Thief, c1770, John Carter Brown Library.

Convict servants, though distinctly different from those suffering slavery, was often equated to slavery within the British imagination. In this print, an unnamed convict woman, pregnant with one of her jailer's child, is sent to Virginia, where she is whipped by a black man at her master's request and to his sadistic pleasure. When a justice witnesses her unjust punishment, he releases her from servitude. In this, at least, the British understood a difference between slavery and convict servitude.

When she is freed, and now named Mrs. Branch, she treats her "Freeborn English Servants...as they do Negroes and Felons in the Plantations," learning nothing from her trials. The name is probably a play on the instrument she uses to beat a prostrate woman before the worried eyes of her slaves and servants.

At the beginning of her journey, chained to fellow transports, she is led to a waiting ship. Ashore and afloat are a pair of sailors waiting to carry her to further suffering.


One wears a single breasted jacket and a pair of petticoat trousers, with what appears to be a very loose cocked hat.Aboard ship, his mate wears a round hat with an upturned brim and a short jacket without vents.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Greenwich Hill or Holyday Gambols, 1770's


Greenwich Hill or Holyday Gambols, William Humphrey, 1770's, British Museum.

The British Museum dates this piece to between 1740-1765. I disagree, because Humphrey wasn't born until 1745, and moved into his shop at 227 Strand (as advertised at the top of the print) around 1777. Elements of this print appear to be copied in C. Sheppard's 1786 print Greenwich Park, and so I would date it between 1777-1786, though leaning toward the 1770's due to the fashions of the men and women depicted.

At the bottom of the print are a few lines of strained prose extolling the unbuttoned fun that Greenwich could provide:
Ye sweetscented Sirs who are sick of the Sport
And the state languid follies of Ballroom or Court,
For a Change leave the Mall & to Greenwich resort,
There heighten'd with Raptures, which never can pall,
You'l own, the Delights of Assembly and Ball,
Are as dull as Yourselves & just nothing at all.


In the foreground on the right, a sailor dances with a pretty lass, to the delight of a gathered crowd and the music of a blind pensioner. The sailor's blue jacket with buttoned mariner's cuffs is piped with tape through the seams, and he is without a waistcoat. He wears the rare striped petticoat trousers and tucks a stick under his arm. Atop his bob wig is a cocked hat tripped with white tape.

Behind the dancing couple are a few more mariners. One wears a suit with a reversed cockated hat, another is in a single breasted waistcoat, jacket, trousers, and cocked hat. Another rests on the ground in his jacket and neckcloth.


Groups of men and women run and tumble down the hill, with sailors interspersed among them. These two wear the same slop clothes: cocked hat, jacket, trousers that end about the top of the calf, and without waistcoats. One carries a stick.


A brave tar leads the way here, waving his cocked hat as his neckcloth flutters from his neck. He wears a jacket, no waistcoat, and petticoat trousers.


This odd looking fellow wears a Canadian cap, a large white neckcloth tied loosely, a single breasted jacket, and petticoat trousers. I'm not sure what to make of his stockings. They might be loose gaiters of some sort. He leans on the eighteenth century sailor's ever trusty companion: a stick.