The torments of marriage in Georgian caricatures

The Georgian era (1714-1837) was the golden age of English satire. Gillray, Rowlandson and the Cruikshank family made themselves famous with their exuberant, brightly-coloured caricatures which lampooned everything from government to the clergy, from fashion to the French. Here are some of their satirical takes on marriage. They point out the problems so often ignored in the contemporary moral literature and novels which portrayed marriage as a companionate and dignified state; adultery, frustrated husbands, scolding wives and seething hatred are all exposed, making simultaneously amusing and uncomfortable viewing.

From ‘Symptoms of matrimony’ (Lewis Walpole Library)

Husband: “Rabbit it, Wife, you’ll make me look like a fool.”
Wife: “Now you are Married you shall look like other people, I insist upon it, and leave off your rustic manners!”


'An old husband and young wife, or, a quarrel about nothing' (Lewis Walpole Library)
‘An old husband and young wife, or, a quarrel about nothing’ (Lewis Walpole Library)

Husband: “What makes you so Sulky this Morning my Dear?”
Wife: “Nothing.”
Husband: “What is the matter with you?”
Wife: “Nothing.”
Husband: “You was in a very good Humor last Night, pray what have I done to offend you?”
Wife:“You have done Nothing. That’s the reason.”


'An anonymous letter' (Lewis Walpole Library)
‘An anonymous letter’ (Lewis Walpole Library)

Wife: “You can’t deny the letter you false man – I shall find out all your Wicked Women – I shall, you abominable Seducer!”
Husband: “Indeed Lovey I know no more who sent the letter than the Man in the Moon.”


'The dinner spoil'd' (Lewis Walpole Library)
‘The dinner spoil’d’ (Lewis Walpole Library)

Husband: “It’s red! Not fit to eat! These are the blessed [?] effects of boiling Mutton in a cloth!!”


'Late hours' (Lewis Walpole Library)
‘Late hours’ (Lewis Walpole Library)

Wife: “Here have I been sitting up for you these four hours, without any thing to Comfort me – Mr Fillpot I will not suffer it.”
Husband: “Don’t be angry – you beauty! I have only been drinking your health with Squire Guzzle, ‘pon honour!”


'Three weeks after marriage' (Lewis Walpole Library)
‘Three weeks after marriage’ (Lewis Walpole Library)


'Matrimony. May the Devil take them that brought you and me together' (Lewis Walpole Library)
‘Matrimony. May the Devil take them that brought you and me together’
(Lewis Walpole Library)

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