Special Sub-Topic: Britain in the Eighteenth Century
|Britain in the eighteenth century was ruled over by three kings called George, beginning with George I in 1714. They were German relatives of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch. From which German state were they?|
Hanover. For much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, British history was dominated by fear of Catholicism (and its penchant for supporting monarchic absolutism) and the threat it posed to the established Protestant order. Anne's father James II had converted to Catholicism and been deposed in favour of Anne's elder sister, Mary, and her husband William of Orange. When they died without children the throne passed to Anne, and when she died without leaving any living children Parliament decided it would be better to invite over a distant German relative who was at least Protestant than allow any of her nearer Catholic relations to take the throne.
|One of the giants of the eighteenth century was Dr Samuel Johnson, who famously wrote the English Dictionary. An enormously witty man, his aphorisms are now to be found in quotation books everywhere. Which of these, however, is not from the mouth of the good doctor?|
The English take their pleasures sadly. "The English take their pleasures sadly" was first said by the French Duc de Sully (1559-1641). Johnson, despite what he said about patriotism, was quite bigoted in his attitude to other nations, especially the Scots. However, he could be self-deprecating too - in his famous dictionary he defined "lexicographer" as "a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge".
|Dr Johnson liked to hold forth to his friends at the Cheshire Cheese pub in London. Many eighteenth-century gentlemen did likewise and clubbed together at convivial meeting houses to discuss issues dear to their hearts. But which of these exotically-named associations was not a real eighteenth-century club?|
The Contrary Club. The real clubs are fairly self-explanatory! Members of the Farting Club of Cripplegate, London, met 'once a week to poison the neighbourhood, and with their noisy crepitations attempt to outfart one another'. The No-nose club was only open to men who had had the misfortune to lose that particular facial feature. More relaxing perhaps was the Humdrum club, 'composed of gentlemen of peaceable dispositions, who were satisfied to meet at a tavern, smoke their pipes and say nothing till midnight' when they went home. The Cheshire Cheese pub still exists.
|One of the most shocking of all eighteenth century clubs was formed by Sir Francis Dashwood. He and some of his friends, known as the 'Mad Monks of Medmenham', met in the grounds of the ruined Medmenham Abbey to indulge in quasi-satanic orgies and general debauchery (so it is alleged). What was the name of Dashwood's association?|
The Hellfire Club. What names to conjure with! Dashwood was a sex addict rather than a serious satanist. Hogarth, Frederick Prince of Wales, Horace Walpole and Benjamin Franklin are all occasionally said to have been members of his club. The Dilettanti were an art appreciation group set up in the 1730s to promote Italian art and culture in Britain (Dashwood was a member). The Illuminati are at the centre of a million and one conspiracy theories, much publicised by the author Dan Brown - they were (if they existed at all) an offshoot of Freemasonry which stressed the scientific advances of the eighteenth century and rationality in general. The Ordo Templi Orientalis was an occult group in which the twentieth-century British satanist, Aleister Crowley, was a major player.
|One of Dashwood's companions was a noted scoundrel and womanizer. He was notorious as the ugliest man in England, with a terrible squint, but he didn't let it stop him seducing women left, right and centre. To avoid imprisonment for scurrilous libels against George III's advisor, Lord Bute, he bribed the electors of Middlesex into making him an MP. (MPs were exempt from prosecution for libel). Name him.|
John Wilkes. Hickey was a noted rake and womanizer, Beau Brummel was the most fashionable man of the era and James Boswell was the biographer of Dr Johnson. John Wilkes was a tremendously interesting figure. As the question says, he was an incorrigible rogue who only sought election as an MP to escape being sued for libel over what he wrote about Lord Bute in his magazine "North Briton" (the paper's name was a reference to Scotland; Wilkes was a violent Scotophobe and this explains a lot of his hatred of Bute, the most high-profile Scotsman in the British government at the time). However, once in Parliament he became a popular hero, expounding the rights of the people and the freedom of the press against the privileges of the few. Attempts by the government to have him arrested or ejected from his seat only annoyed the public further, and he went on to be elected Lord Mayor of London in 1774.
|The eighteenth century could be a turbulent time politically. In 1780 Lord George Gordon incited an infamous prolonged period of rioting. Against which group were the riots directed?|
Catholics. Lord George Gordon was strongly opposed to proposals for Catholic Emancipation. On 2nd July, 1780, he led a crowd of 50,000 people to the House of Commons to demand the repeal of the 1778 Roman Catholic Relief Act, a law which had lifted certain restrictions on Catholics. This demonstration turned into a riot and over the next five days many Catholic chapels and private houses were destroyed. Other buildings attacked and damaged, including the Bank of England and Newgate Prison. It is estimated that over £180,000 worth of property was destroyed in the riots.
|The turbulent political and social developments of the eighteenth century were recorded by the cruel, unblinking eye of a new breed - satirical printmakers. Images from the time which have lived on include "A Voluptuary under the Horrors of Digestion' (a vicious caricature of the Prince Regent) and 'The Bottomless Pitt' (poking fun at the Prime Minister). But who created those two pieces?|
James Gillray. Hogarth was the earliest giant of eighteenth-century visual satire. Works such as the 'Rake's Progress' and 'Gin Lane' highlighted what Hogarth thought were the faults of society. He tended to avoid very personal political caricature - though he made an exception for John Wilkes, whom he despised. Gillray, from later in the century, was indicative of a much more personalised style. His complicated cartoons are often packed full of incident and reflect a very dark and cynical view of politics and life in general. Sayers was a political caricaturist who chiefly attacked Charles James Fox's opposition grouping. Thomas Rowlandson produced slightly gentler, less political pieces, often highlighting the erotic or absurd side of life, especially the problems experienced by old men who took unsuitably young brides.
|Scurrilous satiric images weren't the only art produced during the eighteenth century. Refined paintings were also produced in great numbers. Who painted one of the most popular of these, "Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse"?|
Sir Joshua Reynolds. All great artists are well worth exploring further. George Stubbs is most famous for his studies of horses, Joseph Wright of Derby for his use of light in modern (for the time) scenes of industry and science (such as "Experiment with the Air Pump"). Thomas Gainsborough painted some of the most famous landscapes of the eighteenth century, shaping many people's view of 'England's green and pleasant land'. Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy of arts, created many famous portraits including attempts to portray important eighteenth century figures as figures from the classics - Sarah Siddons as the tragic muse, depicting the renowned actress, is one of the best examples of this.
|There was generally a gulf between 'high' and 'low' art. Satirical printmakers could be very proficient, even inspired, artists, but since they depicted 'low' subjects like whores and rakes they were often looked down upon by contemporaries. The pleasure garden was an example of high and low art intermixed - the 'great and the good' took the air and listened to music in pleasure gardens, but these were also full of thieves and prostitutes. In which district of London was the most famous pleasure garden?|
Vauxhall. Historical thought is now fortunately moving away from the traditional 'high' and 'low' art division and recognizes instead that neither side can exist without the other, that different strands of culture are intertwined and it all adds to life's rich tapestry. Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens saw many performances of important works of classical music, for example, but the prostitute problem was so great that Casanova himself described the place as Europe's largest open-air brothel!
|Here we are at the end of the quiz, so let's go to the end of the century, and let's throw military history into the mix since the later eighteenth century was dominated by wars, first with the rebellious Americans and next with the revolutionary French. In 1798 Horatio Nelson led the British fleet in a great and crucial defeat of the French at Aboukir Bay (the Battle of the Nile). Which ship did he command during this battle?|
HMS Vanguard. Nelson commanded the Agamemnon between 1793 and 1796 (it was on board this ship that he lost his eye, at the siege of Calvi in 1794). The Victory was of course his flagship for the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), and was the ship on which Nelson died having been shot by a French sniper during that battle. He commanded the Elephant in the Battle of Copenhagen (1801). That's it, and I hope you have enjoyed the quiz!
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