Romantic Circles Gallery
Exaltation of Faro’s Daughters
An undefined crowd that disappears into the foreground of the print batter Lady Archer and Lady Buckinghamshire, chained at the Pillory, with battered with eggs and mud. Both women don large feather headpieces, heavy gold earrings, and swell dresses. Buckinghamshire is clearly the shorter and wider of the two. Their red faces, Lady Archer’s drawn and wrinkled and Lady Buckinghamshire’s round with a double-chin, are in right profile and reveal tear drops on the cheeks. A sign posted to the foundation of the wooden Pillory reads “Cure for Gambling Published by Lord Kenyon in the Court of Kings Bench on May 9, 1796.”
Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Copyright, 2009.
Printing ContextExaltation of Faro’s Daughters appeared for sale or free viewing in Hannah Humphrey’s print shop on New Bond Street, May 12, 1796.
Associated EventsIn 1796, the Evangelical sympathizer Lord Chief Justice Kenyon, referring to illegal gambling in a civil case concerning gaming debt declared that “If any prosecutions are fairly brought before me, and the parties are justly convicted, whatever may be their rank or station in the country, though they should be the first ladies in the land, they shall certainly exhibit themselves in the Pillory” (qtd in M. George, Social Change 61-62).
Associated PlacesFaro’s tables: Women and men of fashionable aristocratic circles held faro’s tables at their various residences, despite the illegality of private gaming and banking. The ‘banker’ always won, and the practice could provide income for the ladies, an association at times adressed in terms of women's relative lack of recognized financial independence compared to men; the caricaturists’ satirical prints suggest other motivations as well, namely the satiation of a thirst for power over men, at the demise of younger, more beautiful women (C. McCreery, Satirical Gaze 244; D. Donald, Satirical Prints 106).
The Court of King’s Bench: The King’s Bench (or Queen’s Bench during the reign of Elizabeth I; the Upper Bench during Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate) is the oldest court in the Britain, and was the highest court from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance; in this time it was the court for criminal cases and for monarchy, and it gradually became a civil court like the Court of Common Pleas, also in Westminster, and an appellate court. Today it is part of the High Court of Justice system.
The Pillory: Lady Sarah Archer and Lady Buckinghamshire are subjected to public shame for their socially transgressive behavior: Gillray figures them here because of a statement made by Lord Kenyon shortly before the print's publication in response to a civil court case: "If any prosecutions are fairly brought before me, and the parties are justly convicted, whatever may be their rank or station in the country, though they should be the first ladies in the land, they shall certainly exhibit themselves in the Pillory.” M.D George points out the lack of clarity in Lord Kenyon’s statement: the pillory was not the usual penalty for illegal gaming (M.D. George, Social Change 62).
Associated TextsGaming was a popular vehicle for satirizing the moral transgressiveness of wealthy aristocrats--especially the women notorious for it--throughout the 1790s. Gillray’s The Loss of the Faro-Bank; or –The Rook’s Pigeon’d and Modern-Hospitality, -- or – A Friendly Party in High Life, and Discipline a la Kenyon also satirize Lady Buckinghamshire, Lady Archer & co. for their gambling habit and gaming lifestyle. Faro's Daughters, or The Kenyonian Blow up to Gamblers by Isaac Cruikshank is modeled after and published one week following Exaltation of Faro's Daughters.
SubjectLady Archer and Lady Buckinghamshire, chained at the Pillory, are being battered with eggs and mud by an undefined crowd that disappears into the foreground of the print. Both women don large feather headpieces, heavy gold earrings, and swell-dresses. Buckinghamshire is clearly the shorter and wider of the two. Their red faces, Lady Archer’s drawn and wrinkled and Lady Buckinghamshire’s round with a double-chin, are in right profile and reveal tears. A sign posted to the foundation of the wooden Pillory reads “Cure for Gambling Published by Lord Kenyon in the Court of Kings Bench / May 9, 1796.”
ThemeRed cheeks identify the face painting practiced by old aristocratic women and often satirized in the era's social caricature, especially notoriously by and with Lady Sarah Archer. Her deformed beak-like nose, also a particularity to her caricaturized persona, further exaggerates her age and rapaciousness. The ostentatious gold earrings comprise another part of the older women’s “costume,” which in its exaggerated depiction points to the women's own overdone appearance.
The discrepancy in meaning between the “Exaltation” in the title and in the picture convey a textual-pictorial irony: the pillory physically exalts the two ladies while they are publicly shamed, rather than esteemed and noted for an elevated rank or power. The term also suggests the enraptured, sexually heightened sense of "exaltation," which when aligned against old women's lack of sexual appeal and inappropriate gender-driven appetite for power often caricaturized and admonished by moral reformers, comprises a third dimension of ironic discrepancy.
SignificanceGaming was a fundamental part of late eighteenth-century culture, and was especially practiced by the highest and lowest classes: William Cowper asserted that “Conversation among people of fashion is almost annihilated by universal card-playing” (qtd. in M.D. George, Social Change 61). Women were seen as particularly complicit in supporting this vice, and caricaturists made use of this notoriety to point to a correlated cultural issue: gaming offered older women a means to pursue power over younger men, frustrated as they were in their physically unappealing state and infertility. In this sense, gaming threatened the order of society and family by blurring the public and private spheres, and encouraged the notion of singer older women, such as Lady Archer, as not only unappealing but also dangerous. Moral reformers also felt threatened by the way gambling mixed class distinctions (D. Donald, Satirical Prints 106)—a point made explicitly here by the masses swelling around the Pillory to which aristocracy is bound.
FunctionGillray’s print entertains and engages the public by exposing the vices of the aristocracy and both figuratively (in the print) and literally (at the print shop window) allowing the masses to mock and condemn them. With the ironic discrepancy between “Exaltation” and public shaming, the leveling, jurisdictional function of caricature is made extremely explicit. In the same vein, by “trying” two of the most notorious of “Faro’s daughters," in the print, it exposes the moral reformers, most obviously Lord Kenyon, to the public eye as well: their threat will either prove empty or meaningful, and in either case the public will be able to judge the judges.
BibliographyDonald, Diana. The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
George, M. Dorothy. Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphic Satire. New York: Walker and Company, 1967.
---. Catalogue of political and personal satires preserved in the Dept. of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, vol. 7. London: British Museum Dept. of Prints and Drawings, 1870-1954.
Godfrey, Richard. James Gillray: The Art of Caricature. London: Tate Gallery
Hay, Douglas. “Kenyon, Lloyd (1732-1802).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008. 1 April 2009
Hill, Draper. Fashionable Contrasts: Caricatures by James Gillray. London: Phaidon Press, 1966.
McCreery, Cindy. The Satirical Gaze: Prints of Women in Late Eighteenth-Century England. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2004.
12 May 1796