The “Ne Plus Ultra” of “Life in London.” – Kate, Sue, Tom, Jerry and Logic; viewing the Throne Room, at Carlton Palace.
Corinthian Tom has taken Corinthian Kate, her companion Sue, and his friends Jerry Hawthorn and Bob Logic to tour Carlton House; this print depicts them with an attendant in the Throne Room. On the left, Tom stands with Kate on one arm and Sue on the other before the attendant, who is speaking and gesturing to them. Jerry stands in the center leaning against an elaborate gilt chair in an elegant contrapposto pose, staring into space as though “quite absorbed in thought by the grandeur with which he was surrounded.” He has taken his glove off of his right hand and holds it in his left, while he holds his top hat in his right. Logic stands on the right side, his hat and cane held in front of him, and leans back to stare up at the ceiling. Behind the figures is a large table draped with green baize cloth, surrounded by gilt chairs. At the back of the table is the throne, swaged behind with red velvet that bears royal insignia. The room is very elaborate, with Corinthian pilasters and other ornate paneling, gold candelabra, a massive crystal and gold chandelier over the table, and opulent draperies “of crimson velvet, ornamented with gold lace, fringe, &c.” To the left, a series of large windows look out onto the street. The floor is covered with a red, green, and gold carpet. In the book’s text, Logic speaks of “this very large handsome carpet,” remarking that it “is all in one piece. It weighs more than a ton, was originally an inch in thickness, and made in Spitalfields.” In response, “the attendant rather animatedly observes, ‘Sir, all the carpets throughout the Palace are of English manufacture. The King will not suffer any thing else to remain, except presents” (Egan 261).
Copyright 2009, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
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This image served as one of George and Robert Cruikshank's illustrations for Pierce Egan's 1821 Life in London, as well as for subsequent editions; the illustration faces page 261.
In this image the characters are taking part in a tour of Carlton House and consequently participating in the wider practice of genteel tourism that arose during the Romantic period. During that time, the residence of any substantial gentleman, nobleman, or, in this case, prince, would be open to the “public,” that is, accessible to ladies and gentlemen who wished to tour it. These tours were generally conducted by a servant in the household, such as the housekeeper (J. Austen 246). In this image a male servant of the house, described in the text as an attendant, is giving the tour; this is presumably his primary duty. The existence of such a professional docent indicates the sophisticated tourism infrastructure instituted at Carlton House, as does the regular structure of the tour itself, which seems to follow a set route through the residence and to take a preset amount of time, mentioned in the text as an hour and a half (Egan 272). The practice of genteel tourism served to reinforce the existence of a gentlemanly class and to confirm and indicate the status of its members. As long as they were part of the same class, ladies and gentlemen could become intimately acquainted with each other’s living arrangements and aesthetic tastes even if they had never met.
Corinthian Tom and Friends
This print portrays the main characters of Egan’s Life in London: Corinthian Tom, Corinthian Kate, Sue, Jerry Hawthorn, and Bob Logic, together with an attendant from Carlton House. Corinthian Tom, the book’s main protagonist, is the ultimate London gentleman about town, with impeccable taste, wealth, and confidence. His cousin Jerry Hawthorn is the son of a wealthy country squire, and is being initiated by Tom into London practices. Bob Logic is a friend of Tom’s from Oxford and is a similarly savoir-faire, wealthy young gentleman. However, Logic is more roguish than Tom and exemplifies the devil-may-care university student who is interested in anything but his studies. Corinthian Kate is Corinthian Tom’s female equivalent and love interest, an accomplished young woman with impeccable taste who is distractingly beautiful. Her companion Sue is characterized as sweet and more down to earth.
This image is set in the Throne Room of Carlton House, a mansion in London that, beginning in 1783, served as the residence of the Prince Regent for several decades. It faced the south side of Pall Mall, and its gardens backed onto St. James Park. After taking up residence there, the Prince of Wales had the house substantially redesigned by the well-known architect Henry Holland, transforming it into opulent lodgings that were sometimes designated (as in this print) as a palace. Carlton House was particularly celebrated for its richly decorated, French style interiors and its magnificent collection of Old Master and contemporary British paintings.
This image depicts the characters of Egan's Life in London—Corinthian Tom, Corinthian Kate, Sue, Jerry Hawthorn, and Bob Logic—touring Carlton House. As evidenced by their distinct physical poses, each character reacts to the beauty of the throne room in a different way; however, all seem to experience the same wonder as would be felt in the presence of the sublime. Consequently, this piece serves to demonstrate the unique nature of genteel tourism as a pastime that simultaneously promoted both class distinction and individuality.
This image is significant in that it represents how the practice of touring elaborate residences intersected with connoisseurship and aesthetic experience. Although the opportunities to view exhibitions devoted to the fine arts grew in number and variety during the Romantic period, this print reminds us that there was also a surviving tradition of viewing fine and decorative arts together in situ under the rubric of genteel tourism. Carlton House offers a “high treat” not only in its “numerous highly finished cabinet pictures, by the old masters” and “portraits of all the Royal Family,” but also in its “chandeliers; library; draperies; time-pieces; furniture; &c. &c.” (Egan 271-72). For Bob Logic and the attendant, touring Carlton House is an opportunity to display one’s expertise of the objects on view and to cast an examining comparative gaze over the space. For Corinthian Kate and Jerry Hawthorn, however, touring Carlton House provokes a more romantic reverie, so that Kate enthuses with delight: “There is such a superior something about these rooms, that they impressively remind one of the interesting fictions we read in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, and seem to partake more of the magical touch of the Talisman than beholding the reality of works." The effect of Carlton House is almost sublime in its overwhelmingness: “I feel much at a loss for adequate expressions to convey my opinion to you of the taste, elegance, dignity, grandeur, richness, beauty, originality, and interest, of this most imposing scene” (Egan 227). It is Carlton House’s ability to satisfy both those desiring unmediated aesthetic experience and “the most fastidious critic” that makes it the "Ne Plus Ultra of Life in London" (Egan 272).
Tourism thus emerged as a practice that enabled one to simultaneously claim membership within a group and to craft individuality within that group. As genteel tourists, the characters depicted in this print form a homogenous, classed unit that is set above the class of the attending servant. Yet each tourist also exhibits a distinct mode of experiencing the artistic space, from connoisseurship to abstract reverie and even Orientalist fantasy. Because tourism contributed to the construction of both group membership and individuality, it could be considered a technology of the self and likened to other practices, such as the production of fashion, that have been theorized by a similar group/individual dialectic (Foucault; Simmel). However, the evidence of a sophisticated tourist infrastructure at Carlton House suggests that this technology of the self was becoming mechanized, commercialized, and perhaps even democratized. Certainly this depiction of touring Carlton House in Egan’s Life in London made the practice visible and, in some sense, accessible to those who may not have had sufficient standing to tour the palace themselves. This mechanization and commercialization of tourism can also be compared to the growth of the fashion industry, as both practices can be seen as part of a broader Romantic movement that put consumerism in the service of forming the individual subject (Breward; Campbell).
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Egan, Pierce, 1772-1849. Life in London: or, The day and night scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq., and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom: Accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their rambles and sprees through the metropolis / By Pierce Egan; Embellished with thirty-six scenes from real life . . . and . . . numerous original designs on wood. London: Printed for Sherwood, Jones, 1823. Special Collections (Memorial Library) CA 8931
1 March 1821