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MALE ANXIETY AMONG YOUNGER SONS OF THE ENGLISH LANDED GENTRY, 1700–1900

  • HENRY FRENCH (a1) and MARK ROTHERY (a2)
Abstract

Younger sons of the gentry occupied a precarious and unstable position in society. They were born into wealthy and privileged families yet, within the system of primogeniture, were required to make their own way in the world. As elite men, their status rested on independence and patriarchal authority, attaining anything less could be deemed a failure. This article explores the way that these pressures on younger sons emerged, at a crucial point in the process of early adulthood, as anxiety on their part and on the part of their families. Using the correspondence of eleven English gentry families across this period, we explore the emotion of anxiety in this context: the way that it revealed ‘anxious masculinities’; the way anxiety was traded within an emotional economy; the uses to which anxiety was put. We argue that anxiety was an important and formative emotion within the gentry community and that the expression of anxiety persisted among younger sons and their guardians across this period. We therefore argue for continuity in the anxieties experienced within this emotional community.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Department of History, Amory Building, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter, Exeter, ex4 4rjH.French@exeter.ac.uk
Faculty of Education and Humanities, The University of Northampton, Waterside Campus, University Drive, Northampton, nn1 5phMark.rothery@northampton.ac.uk
Footnotes
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Research for this article was funded originally as part of an AHRC Standard Award (AH/E007791/1 ‘Man's estate: masculinity and landed gentility in England c. 1660–1918’).

Footnotes
References
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1 Thomas Huddlestone, Livorno, Italy, to his mother, Mary Huddlestone, Sawston Hall, Cambridge, 23 Feb. 1711, 488/C1/TH11, Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies (CALS).

2 See Jamoussi, Zouheir, Primogeniture and entail in England: a survey of their history and representation in literature (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2011), for a detailed discussion on this.

3 Harris, Amy, Siblinghood and social relations in Georgian England (Manchester, 2012), p. 170.

4 Hainsworth, D. R., ‘From country house to counting house: the gentry younger son in trade in the seventeenth century’, in McGregor, F. and Wright, N., eds., European history and its historians (Adelaide, 1977), p. 69; Pollock, Linda, ‘Younger sons in Tudor and Stuart England’, History Today, 39 (1989), pp. 23–9; Stone, Lawrence and Stone, Jennifer C. Fawtier, An open elite? England, 1540–1880 (Oxford, 1984), pp. 228–38; Thirsk, Joan, ‘Younger sons in the seventeenth century’, History, 54 (1969), pp. 358–77.

5 Thirsk, ‘Younger sons’, p. 361.

6 Pollock, Linda, ‘Anger and the negotiation of relationships in early modern England’, Historical Journal, 47 (2004), pp. 567–90.

7 Broomhall, Susan, ed., Spaces for feeling: emotions and sociabilities in Britain, 1650–1850 (Abingdon, 2015).

8 Daybell, James and Gordon, Andrew, ‘Introduction’, in Daybell, James and Gordon, Andrew, eds., Cultures of correspondence in early modern England (Philadelphia, PA, 2016), p. 10.

10 Schneider, Gary, The culture of epistolarity: vernacular letters and letter writing in early modern England, 1500–1700 (Newark, NJ, 2005), p. 32.

11 Pearsall, Sarah M., Atlantic families: lives and letters in the later eighteenth century (Oxford, 2008), p. 5.

12 Reddy, William, The navigation of feeling: a framework for the history of emotions (Chicago, IL, 2001), p. 22.

13 Hunt, Alan, ‘Anxiety and social explanation: some anxieties about anxiety’, Journal of Social History, 32 (1999), pp. 509–28.

14 Lemmings, David and Brooks, Ann, ‘The emotional turn in humanities and social sciences’, in Lemmings, David and Brooks, Ann, eds., Emotions and social change: historical and sociological perspectives (New York, NY, 2014), pp. 319.

15 Bailey, Joanne, Parenting in England, 1760–1830: emotion, identity and generation (Oxford, 2012), p. 19; Bailey, Meridee L. and Barclay, Katie, ‘Emotion, ritual and power: from family to nation’, in Bailey, Meridee L. and Barclay, Katie, eds., Emotion, ritual and power in Europe, 1200–1920 (Basingstoke, 2017), pp. 121; Gammerl, Benno, ‘Emotional styles – concepts and challenges’, Rethinking History, 16 (2012), pp. 161–75; Gouk, Penelope and Hills, Helen, ‘Towards histories of emotions’, in Gouk, Penelope and Hills, Helen, eds., Representing emotions: new connections in the histories of art, music, and medicine (Farnham, 2005), pp. 1535; Reddy, Navigation of feeling, pp. 5–8; Rosenwein, Barbara, Generations of feeling: a history of emotions, 600–1700 (Cambridge, 2016), pp. 12.

16 Reddy, Navigation of feeling, p. 15.

17 Plamper, Jan, The history of emotions: an introduction (Oxford, 2017), p. 4.

18 Bourke, Joanna, ‘Fear and anxiety: writing about emotions in modern history’, History Workshop Journal, 55 (2003), pp. 111–33.

19 Reddy, Navigation of feeling, p. 20.

20 Graham Richards, ‘Emotions into words – or words into emotions?’, in Gouk and Hills, eds., Representing emotions, pp. 49–65; Parrot, W. Gerrod, ‘Psychological perspectives on emotions in groups’, in Kerr, Heather, Lemmings, David, and Phiddian, Robert, eds., Passions, sympathy and print culture: public opinion and emotional authenticity in eighteenth-century Britain (Basingstoke, 2016), pp. 2040.

21 Stearns, Peter N. and Stearns, Carol Z., ‘Emotionology: clarifying the history of emotions and emotional standards’, American Historical Review, 90 (1985), pp. 813–36.

22 Rosenwein, Generations of feeling, pp. 5–6; Plamper, History of emotions, p. 120.

23 Hunt, ‘Anxiety and social explanation’, pp. 509–28.

24 Horwitz, Alan V., Anxiety: a short history (Baltimore, MD, 2013), p. 4; Bourke, ‘Fear and anxiety’.

25 Breitenberg, Mark, Anxious masculinity in early modern England (Cambridge, 1996), p. 3.

26 Bourke, Joanna, Fear: a cultural history (London, 2005), pp. 189–95.

27 Reddy, Navigation of feeling, p. 23.

28 French, Henry and Rothery, Mark, Man's estate: landed gentry masculinities, 1660–1900 (Oxford, 2012), pp. 3985; Fletcher, Anthony, Growing up in England: the experience of childhood, 1600–1914 (London, 2008), pp. 196207.

29 Bourke, Joanna, Dismembering the male: male bodies, Britain and the Great War (London, 1996); Fletcher, Anthony, ‘Men's dilemma: the future of patriarchy in England, 1560–1660’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 4 (1994), pp. 6181; Foyster, Elizabeth A., Manhood in early modern England: honour, sex and marriage (Harlow, 1999); Hall, Lesley A., Hidden anxieties: male sexuality, 1900–1950 (Cambridge, 1991); Hammerton, A. J., ‘Pooterism or partnership? Marriage and masculine identity in the lower middle classes, 1870–1920’, Journal of British Studies, 38 (1999), pp. 291321; Harvey, Karen, The little republic: masculinity and domestic authority in eighteenth-century Britain (Oxford, 2012); Hodgkin, Katherine, ‘Thomas Whythorne and the problem of mastery’, History Workshop Journal, 29 (1999), pp. 2041; McCormack, Matthew, The independent man: citizenship, gender and politics in Georgian England (Manchester, 2005), p. 2; Shepard, Alexandra, Meanings of manhood in early modern England (Oxford, 2003), p. 250; Shepard, Alexandra, ‘From anxious patriarchs to refined gentlemen? Manhood in Britain, circa 1500–1700’, Journal of British Studies, 44 (2005), pp. 281–95; Underdown, D. E., ‘The taming of the scold: the enforcement of patriarchal authority in early modern England’, in Fletcher, Anthony and Stevenson, John, eds., Order and disorder in early modern England (Cambridge, 1985).

30 See for instance Tosh's, John discussion of the ‘Flight from domesticity’ in A man's place: masculinity and the middle-class home in Victorian England (London, 2007), pp. 145–94.

31 Breitenberg, Anxious masculinity, p. 2.

32 Ibid., p. 3.

33 Connell, R. W. and Messerschmidt, J. W., ‘Hegemonic masculinities: rethinking the concept’, Gender and Society, 19 (2005), p. 832.

34 Breitenberg, Anxious masculinity, p. 5.

35 For an example of another historian of masculinity favouring continuity, see Forth, C., Masculinity and the modern west: gender, civilization and the body (Basingstoke, 2008).

36 Stearns and Stearns, ‘Emotionology’; Reddy, Navigation of feeling; Plamper, History of emotions, pp. 12–24; Dixon, Thomas, From passions to emotions: the creation of a secular psychological category (Cambridge, 2003).

37 Dixon, Thomas, Weeping Britannia: portrait of a nation in tears (Oxford, 2015), pp. 69100;

Heather Kerr, David Lemmings, and Robert Phiddian, ‘Emotional light on eighteenth-century print culture’, in Kerr, Lemmings, and Phiddian, eds., Passions, sympathy and print culture, pp. 3–20.

38 Rosenwein, Generations of feeling, pp. 319–21.

39 Ibid., p. 3.

40 Lisa Toland, ‘Late adolescent English gentry siblings and leave-taking in the early eighteenth century’, in Bailey and Barclay, eds., Emotion, ritual and power, pp. 63–81.

41 On ‘emotional regimes’, see Reddy, Navigation of feeling.

42 Plamper, Jan, ‘The history of emotions: an interview with William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein and Peter Stearns (Barbara Rosenwein)’, History and Theory, 49 (2010), pp. 237–65.

43 Bailey, Parenting in England, p. 37.

44 The classic and highly influential conceptualization of this thesis was sketched by Connell, R. W. in Masculinities (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 186–9.

45 On ‘emotives’, see Reddy, Navigation of feeling, p. 104.

46 Ibid., p. 9.

47 Bailey, Parenting in England, p. 43.

48 Pearsall, Atlantic families, p. 14.

49 Whyman, Susan H., The pen and the people: English letter writers, 1660–1800 (Oxford, 2009), p. 8.

50 See Pollock, ‘Younger sons’, pp. 23–9; Breitenberg, Anxious masculinity, p. 6.

51 Henry Bostock to his sister-in-law, Jane Huddlestone, 2 Nov. 1754, 488/C1/JH4, CALS; Richard Huddlestone to Ferdinand Huddlestone, 2 July 1784, 488/C2/HD155, CALS.

52 Edward Weld to his second son, John Weld, 27 Jan. 1758, D/WLC/C40/8, Dorset Heritage Centre (DHC).

53 James Windham to mother, Katherine Windham, 1 June 1723, WKC 7/26/41, Norfolk Records Office (NRO).

54 Mackley, Alan, ed., John Buxton, Norfolk gentleman and architect: letters to his son, 1719–1729, Norfolk Record Society, 69 (Norwich, 2005), p. 94.

55 John Howle to Robert Buxton, 18 Mar. 1737, Buxton papers, box 34/125, Cambridge University Library (CUL).

56 Elizabeth Parker to her brother, Robert Parker, 17 June 1808, DDB 72 Acc. 6685, box 27, bundle 5, Lancashire Archives (LA).

57 Edward Radcliffe to his father, Edward Radcliffe, 2 Mar. 1712, D/ER/C21/1, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS).

58 John L'Estrange to his elder brother, Sir Nicholas L'Estrange, 4 Feb. 1701, Norfolk Records Office (NRO), LEST/P20/199.

59 Edmund Prideaux to his sister, Anne Coffin, 22 June 1700, Z19/40/8a–b, Devon Heritage Centre (DHC).

60 Harris, Siblinghood and social relations, p. 146.

61 Edward Radcliffe to his brother, Ralph Radcliffe, 5 Aug. 1714, D/ER/C11/19, HALS.

62 Joseph Windham to his mother, Katherine Windham, 25 Feb. 1724, WKC 7/26/52, NRO.

63 Thomas Parker to Edward Parker, 16 June 1830, DDB 72 Acc. 6685, box 181 bundle 1, LA.

64 Edward Parker to Mary Ann Parker, 3 Dec. 1834, DDB/72/437, LA.

65 Edward Parker to Richard Shaw, 30 July 1842, DDB/72/437, LA.

66 A. H. D. Acland diary, 31 July 1897, 1148M Add 23/F31, DHC.

67 Fletcher, Anthony, ‘Courses in politeness: the upbringing and experiences of five teenage diarists, 1671–1860’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 12 (2002), pp. 417–30; Gathorne-Hardy, John, The public school phenomenon, 597–1977 (London, Sydney, Auckland, and Toronto, 1977), pp. 205–6; French and Rothery, Man's estate, pp. 39–84.

68 John Parker to Thomas Parker, 19 Feb. 1806, DDB 72 Acc. 6685, bundle 26, no. 3, LA.

69 Edward Bankes, Bombay, to his brother, John Bankes, Kingston Lacy, 16 Aug. 1726, D/BKL/H/E/3, DHC.

70 Ibid., 31 Jan. 1726, D/BKL/H/E/2, DHC.

71 Ibid., 16 Aug. 1726, D/BKL/H/E/3, DHC.

72 Ibid., 25 Feb. 1729, D/BKL/H/E/5, DHC. Between 1720 and 1729, John Bankes paid legacies worth £1,123 to his brother. Personal accounts of John Bankes, 1719–41, D/BKL/G/A/1, DHC.

73 Edward Money-Kyrle to his mother, Emma Money, 21 Nov. 1826, 1720/832, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre (WSHC).

74 Edward Money-Kyrle to his father, William Money, no date, 1720/832, WSHC.

75 Ibid., no date, 1720/832, WSHC.

76 J. W. R. Parker to his mother, Mary Ann Parker, 4 Nov. 1876, DDB 72 Acc. 6685, box 54, bundle 2, LA.

77 Thomas Huddlestone to his mother, Mary Huddlestone, 4 Apr. 1711, 488/C1/TH17, CALS.

78 John Parker to Thomas Parker, [1784], DDB 72/522/55, LA.

79 John Parker to Thomas Parker, 19 July 1784, DDB 72/522/55, LA.

80 Edward Cotton to his elder brother, Sir Charles Cotton, 5 Aug. 1791, 588/C66, CALS.

81 Richard Coffin, London, to his mother, Anne, Devon, Z19/40/8a-b, undated c. 1698, DHC.

82 Wallis, Patrick and Webb, Cliff, ‘The education and training of gentry sons in early modern England’, Social History, 36 (2011), p. 47.

83 Henry Huddlestone to Richard Huddlestone, 25 Nov. 1796, 488/C3/HD45, CALS.

84 Robert Parker to his father, Thomas Parker, 28 June 1808, DDB 72 Acc. 6685, box 27, bundle 5, LA.

85 Robert Parker to his father, Thomas Parker, 5 Apr. 1809, DDB 72 Acc. 6685, box 27, bundle 2, LA.

86 Edward Parker to his nephew, Richard Parker, 15 July 1846, DDB/72/438, LA.

87 Edward Parker to James Plestow, 28 Aug, 1847, DDB/72/438, LA.

88 A. H. D. Acland to his father, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland Bt., 28 July 1879, 1148M Add 14 Series I/169, DHC.

89 Erickson, Amy Louise, ‘Common law versus common practice: the use of marriage settlements in early modern England’, Economic History Review, 43 (1990), pp. 2139; Sir Habakkuk, John, Marriage, debt and the estates system: English landownership 1650–1950 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 97108.

90 Harris, Siblinghood and social relations, p. 12.

91 Toland, ‘Late adolescent English gentry siblings’.

92 Joseph Windham to mother, Katherine Windham, 4 Apr. 1724, WKC 7/26/57, NRO.

93 Edward Money-Kyrle to his father, William Money, 5 Mar. 1827, 1720/832, WSHC.

94 Tosh, A man's place, p. 26.

95 Roper, Michael, ‘Nostalgia as an emotional experience in the Great War’, Historical Journal, 54 (2011), pp. 421–51; Reddy, Navigation of feeling, p. 104.

96 Elizabeth Shackleton diary, 20 Aug. 1778, DDB81/33a, LA; John Parker to Thomas Parker, [1781], DDB 72/522/551, LA; Robert Parker to Thomas Parker, 12 Jan. 1794, DDB 72/508/52, LA.

97 Elizabeth Shackleton diary, 9 Mar. 1778, DDB 81/33b, LA.

98 John Parker to Thomas Parker, 1 Nov. 1773, DDB 72/811/38, LA (capitals as per original).

99 Joseph Windham to his mother, Katherine Windham, 4 Apr. 1724, WKC 7/26/57, NRO; diary of William Stratford Dugdale, 5 Jan. 1853, MI 313/1, Warwickshire County Records Office (WCRO). See also recent research on the hunting activities of aristocratic younger sons in nineteenth-century America: Rico, Monica, Nature's noblemen: transatlantic masculinities and the nineteenth-century American west (New Haven, CT, and London, 2013); Pagnamenta, Peter, Prairie fever: how British aristocrats staked a claim to the American west (London, 2013).

100 Breitenberg, Anxious masculinity, p. 13.

101 Johnson, Christopher H. and Sabean, David Warren, ‘From siblingship to siblinghood: kinship and the shaping of European society (1300–1900)’, in Johnson, Christopher H. and Sabean, David Warren, eds., Sibling relations and the transformation of European kinship (Oxford, 2011), pp. 131.

102 Breitenberg, Anxious masculinity, pp. 3, 13. For another definition that distinguishes between fear and anxiety, see Hunt, ‘Anxiety and social explanation’.

103 Tosh, A man's place, p. 114.

104 Susan Broomhall, ‘Renovating affections: reconstructing the Atholl family in the mid-eighteenth century’, in Broomhall, ed., Spaces for feeling, pp. 52–79. See Shoemaker, Robert B., ‘The taming of the duel: masculinity, honour and ritual violence in London, 1660–1800’, Historical Journal, 45 (2002), pp. 525–45, for an exploration of the declining acceptability of anger.

105 Klein, L., ‘The third earl of Shaftesbury and the progress of politeness’, Eighteenth Century Studies, 18 (1985), pp. 186214.

106 French and Rothery, Man's estate, pp. 61–4. For explorations of self-control in men of other social groups, see Tosh, A man's place, p. 117; Barker, H., ‘Soul, purse and family: middling and lower-class masculinity in eighteenth-century Manchester’, Social History, 33 (2008), pp. 1235.

107 Wallis and Webb, ‘Gentry sons’, pp. 36–53.

108 See above, n. 76.

109 Robert Parker to J. W. R. Parker, 19 Feb. 1919, DDB72 Acc. 6685/168/1, LA.

110 Bourke, ‘Fear and anxiety’.

111 Horwitz, Anxiety, p. 3.

112 Gammerl, ‘Emotional styles’.

113 Reddy, Navigation of feeling, p. 122.

114 Segal, Lynne, ‘Changing men: masculinities in context’, Theory and Society, 22 (1993), pp. 625–41.

Research for this article was funded originally as part of an AHRC Standard Award (AH/E007791/1 ‘Man's estate: masculinity and landed gentility in England c. 1660–1918’).

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