The Road to Waterloo Week 12 – Income Tax is Here to Stay, A Famous Dipper Dies and Naploleon Digs In

The Fédéres, the hard-core revolutionary group, had attracted tens of thousands of supporters by the second week in May – but this was out of a nation of thirty million and the level of true support for Napoleon was still unclear, not only abroad but also in France. On Sunday 14th May twelve thousand Fédéres marched past Napoleon in the Tuileries, just before the usual Sunday military parade. They were unarmed and appeared in their working clothes – “labouring dresses and dustmen’s hats” according to one observer. While they waited for the muskets that Napoleon promised them (and his Ministers were very dubious about providing) they continued to work on the barricades. Napoleon would ride out every morning to inspect the works which created vast muddy ramparts from Montmartre to Vincennes. Champ de Mars Since early April work had been going on to create a huge temporary amphitheatre on the Champ de Mars. This was intended to house the Champ de Mai which would include a national congress – or perhaps a celebration of the new constitution or… Plans wavered, were changed, fiddled with… but the work went on, with platforms and flag staffs, a vast throne on top of a pyramid and hordes of eagles. Eventually it was held on June 1st. The Champ de Mars still remains as a public park in Paris, located between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. It was named after the Campus Martius in Rome – the field of Mars, the Roman god of war. The space was intended as a drilling and marching ground for the French army. The print shows the École Militaire end of the Field. In England feelings were unsettled. War had still not been declared, but military encampments were springing up all over the south of England, 6,000 horses had been purchased and sent to the Thames ports and 1.5 million cartridges were shipped out of the Ordnance Wharf at Chatham. To further lower the public mood the weather was atrocious, the price of bread was rising, the King’s health was very poor and the promised abolition of the Income Tax had not occurred – in fact on May 12th a Act had been passed to extend it for another year. Newspapers recorded petitions against the war, but the opinion columns made it clear that a declaration was inevitable. Marth Gunn A notable personality had passed away the week before and on Monday the Morning Chronicle recorded the funeral of Martha Gunn, a famous ‘dipper’ or bathing woman from Brighton. “The whole town was in motion to witness [the funeral]. Her remains were followed to the grave by about forty relatives and friends, chiefly bathers. The ceremony throughout was conducted with the greatest order and solemnity.” The print shows the sturdy figure of Martha – she must have needed that solidity and layer of fat to stand in the sea day in, day out, helping to dunk bathers who had been prescribed regular immersion in the sea by their doctors. Dipping The detail from a coloured print shows two sturdy dippers assisting a completely naked female bather, with another striking out from her bathing machine unaided. This is from Political Sketches of Scarborough (1818) and it is interesting that the bathers are nude and that no-one on shore shows the slightest interest in them.

5 Comments

Filed under Napoleon, Seaside resorts, Women

5 responses to “The Road to Waterloo Week 12 – Income Tax is Here to Stay, A Famous Dipper Dies and Naploleon Digs In

  1. helenajust

    Very interesting detail about the Champs de Mai, and the uncertainty about the support of Napoleon.

    As to the bathing print: surely it doesn’t reflect reality? The bathing machines would have been unnecessary if female bathers swam in this way. I should have thought that the artist was being satirical, possibly protesting against sea bathing?

    • A very early print of the beach at Scarborough – and one that critics definitely do not view as satirical, is “The View of the ancient Town, Castle, Harbour, and Spaw of Scarborough”, painted in 1735 by John Setteringham. This also shows an early bathing machine and naked bathers clearly visible from the shore with both men and women walking, apparently unconcerned, on the beach. There certainly are prints that are definitely intended to titillate and to show voyeurs of course – but that does rather suggest there was something to ogle! Bathing machines were used for changing and also to get the bathers (especially those who couldn’t swim) over any pebbles and through the surf and they were used by both sexes, even though men were swimming naked. Women did wear shapeless “flannel cases” or went in naked & not all resorts used the bathing machines with the umbrella-like modesty hoods that were invented in Margate. (Brighton didn’t, for example) so bathers might well have been glimpsed. I think it is relevant that from about the date of the print the local authorities were segregating beaches, or creating separate ladies’ beaches. Now, that may have been to spare the ladies the sight of the men in all their glory, but reading the regulations for some of them I think it was also to hide the ladies away “by which means public decency, without which civilized society could not exist, is not violated” (1826)

      • helenajust

        Thank you, Louise, for such a detailed response. In a society in which to show an ankle was daring, I’m amazed any lady would go nude bathing! Frankly, I’m amazed at anyone swimming in the sea around England (it’s so cold), even for supposed health benefits.

      • I’ve swum off the N Irish coast at Easter while it was snowing I’m not so sure that showing an ankle was always so daring. Hemlines went up and down, necklines went up and down, privacy was not easily come by, Victorian values had not yet kicked in

  2. I am astonished at the Scarborough print – but love the fact that they are wearing hair-protectors!

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