Georgian Britain was openly rude, as the art of Hogarth and Cruikshank and the literature of Pope, Swift, Byron and Sterne shows.
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This programme contains very strong language & some scenes of a sexual nature
Today we think we live in times of great rudeness.
But travel back 250 years and witness a Britain openly, gloriously
and often shockingly rude.
Then we revelled in mocking and ridiculing
the great and the not so good...
rude about our politicians and royal family.
He's just a pig. He's just a greedy, bastard pig and look at him.
We loved to sing rude songs...
the bawdier the better.
# One for population. #
We could be rude malicious and rude downright offensive... in rhyme.
Perhaps you have no better luck in the knack of rhyming than of fucking.
We took pleasure in a rude humour...
of pee and poo.
And some of us had a taste for a lewd rude that went all the way.
You chuckle or sometimes actually could be quite shocked.
During the hundred odd years of the Georgian Age,
all manner of rudeness thrived in opposition to respectable society's
demand for manners and morality.
This 18th century rude culture of pictures, words, song and theatre
crossed boundaries between high and low art.
Then we had a fierce belief in our right to be rude.
Then we were one nation under the Rude...
A History most satirical, bawdy, lewd and offensive.
# Rule Britannia Britannia rule the waves
# Britons never, ever, ever will be slaves. #
In 1707, following an Act of Union with Scotland,
a United Kingdom was created.
The rude heart and lungs of the new nation was London.
Dynamic, exciting, busy, chaotic, noisy and smelly -
where rich and poor collided.
Growing up in London, first in Smithfield,
then working as a young artist in Covent Garden,
was the first chronicler of Georgian Rude,
Hogarth definitely had a taste for the rude.
He was a stroppy individual and he had a scar on his forehead
which he showed in his portraits as if to say,
I can keep up with the best of you.
We know that he loved the taverns
around Covent Garden and Leicester Fields, the Rose Tavern,
and he chatted to the...he knew the girls, he knew the bawds,
he knew the pimps, he knew the sort of hustlers.
Hogarth was just such a bloody good artist.
As an engraver, he could combine his skills
that he had learned as an apprentice engraver
with a kind of satirical piss-taking sensibility.
So, using those skills,
he could then actually observe the world around him.
He used to walk down the street doing literal thumbnail sketches,
he used to draw on his thumbnail cos he'd see somebody
he liked the look of and put them into these tableaux.
Hogarth used the high art of painting
to capture the rude energy to be found on the streets of London.
In 1733 he painted the riotous carnival which took place in
Borough, near St George's Church on the south bank of the Thames.
This was Southwark Fair.
The sheer celebration, really, of the diversity of types
and of people and of incidents and noises and of action,
you can almost hear the bubble of noise,
the banging of drums, of course, at the centre of the picture.
You've got stories being told, consequences being explained.
Details here, there and everywhere. It's a feast.
The wonderful thing about Hogarth
is he works on a visual feast and they are there to be read.
If we look closer, we can see the rude illicit pleasures of the fair.
There's a woman dicing on top of what looks like a crate or a table
and you get the sense that there's this bumpkin
who's just arrived from the sticks who's having a go on the dice
whereas a smaller kid, it looks like, at his elbow,
is tugging on his sleeve as if to say,
"Don't, Dad. Don't start gambling".
There's an extraordinary thing where people are looking in to,
it looks like a dog kennel but it's a peep show.
One does wonder, what exactly are they looking at?
There is a great sense of excitement
and carnival, but also something slightly dangerous.
Everything is on the verge of collapse.
The man is falling from the wire
and there was a case of that very near the time.
The stage on which the Fall of Bajazet is about to be presented
is actually falling and the more you look,
you realise it's falling on to a china shop underneath.
Southwark Fair was first a colour painting
then became a black and white print.
To make a living, Hogarth made engravings of his work.
Print copies were then made from these engraved images.
It was these mass produced pictures that were sold to the public.
So Hogarth made Southwark Fair a portrait of the city
that all Londoners could recognise and share...
and want to own.
Probably each person in it is a particular person.
Is identifiable as a semi-celebrity of the day.
The prize fighter sitting on his horse.
The pantomime actor in his absurd regalia.
These are particular people.
It's the pleasure of identification
which is very much part of what 18th century satire was about.
The delight of seeing people you knew or knew of in them.
Hogarth made sure his prints were rude bawdy and rude lewd,
with a visual wit and attention to detail which heightened the humour.
I think part of the pleasure of looking at Hogarth prints
is finding the extra little story.
These are often sexy little narratives
so that you notice what is going on in the corner.
You chuckle or sometimes you could actually be quite shocked.
BELCHING AND GIGGLING
Yet Hogarth knew he had to be careful with all this rudeness.
In the 1730's he produced a series of prints -
The Harlot's Progress, then the Rakes Progress.
Racy stories with moral conclusions, they revealed in Hogarth
and his public a tension between the Rude and the Prude.
He lives in a world where the Church is still powerful,
where the dominant voices are elite aristocratic gentry.
Where the big City merchants are on the up and up
and have their own forms of puritan respectability.
He's got to sell to these people.
In order to, as it were, launch them properly on the public
he had to say these are moral tales.
But what people really enjoyed, of course,
was actually all the wickedness and the bad things and the rudeness
that happened before they become punished.
In the Rake's Progress,
the orgy in the tavern in Drury Lane where the Rake is having it away
really in a really quite brilliant composition of tavern mayhem
with dancing girls, prostitutes with bare breasts spitting at each other.
These kinds of things are titillating and, in that sense,
he's playing to one's prurient curiosity about low life.
It's slightly News Of The World-y, you know?
It's like, "Let us expose the shocking horrors
"that are going on in the smart brothels of the West End."
"Oh, they're going to get punished"! So there is an ambivalence.
These guys who may be depicted initially as having a jolly time
come to a sticky end.
They have to come to a sticky end.
The harlot dies of syphilis.
The Rake dies of madness.
In the art of Hogarth you not only see Rude London,
you can almost hear the city as well.
Look at his prints, and ballad singers turn up again and again.
Their lewd and bawdy songs the soundtrack of his urban landscape.
# Thy beauty doth so please my eye... #
You could see ballad singers on every major corner battling it out,
one against the other, in part to be more rude than the next.
Every alehouse would have ballad singers coming through,
singing ballads in exchange for a few pence.
# With you to lie
# So if you lie with me one night... #
Visitors who'd come from abroad say,
"You can't go to any corner without finding one."
Any populous place where the ballad singer is likely
to find a market for their products, there are famous places.
Blackfriars, Covent Garden, the Strand.
There are places that they congregated.
Obviously you'd try to find a pitch, usually with your back to a wall
so there was an audio effect, reflection of the sound.
Not too noisy but the early modern city was a noisy place anyway.
Some of the ballads sung on the streets of London are so rude
that I'm, frankly, embarrassed by them.
They are absolutely explicit.
In all ways.
One rude song sung on street corners and in taverns was Put In All.
# I hope my neck and breast Put in all, put in all
# Lie open to your chest Put in all
# The young man was in heat The maid did soundly sweat
# A little further get!
# Put in all, put in all. #
They would not just explicit
in terms of the words that were being expressed.
They were explicit in terms of the actions that went with them.
As female ballad singers lifted their skirts as illustrations
for the kinds of content that many of the ballads contained.
# According to her will Put in all, put in all
# The young man tried his skill Put in all... #
Put In All cheekily teases men about their sexual anxieties.
# For an inch, they'll take an L Put in at all, put in all. #
It's that moment when you find out you're in the secret majority
and you can relax and think,
"Everybody else is worrying about this too.
"We can all relax together and sing our ditty, Put In All,"
you know. Because lots of fellas worry about this.
They worried about it then and they worry about it now.
# You had your freedom... #
To help them make a living,
ballad singers sold printed versions of their songs.
But even here again there was little attempt to disguise their rudeness.
Use of the common four-letter words for body parts were, sometimes
interestingly in the printed version, somewhat avoided.
C - - T would be a nod towards being polite,
but really, I mean, when it rhymes with blunt
you know what they're on about.
All this immorality from ballad singers was
a cause of much dismay and concern to moral guardians and law makers.
You even get books of instructions to servants, where they say,
"When you go on an errand for your mistress, you go straight there,
"straight, you don't go and listen to a ballad singer.
"Not only will that waste your time, it will corrupt your morals."
That sort of thing.
We know from prosecutions for nuisance, for example,
that in 1775 there were five ballad singing women every night
in St Paul's churchyard who committed a nuisance
because they enticed the shop girls and the girls of the town
to come and listen to them and to laugh at their sheer rudeness
and sexual explicitness of their songs.
Rude culture not only thrived on the streets of London.
You could also find it, alive and kicking, by buying
a ticket and stepping inside any of the capital's theatres.
Rude places that Hogarth also knew and drew.
Theatre is one of the only art forms which brings together
everyone in 18th century London.
From apprentices sitting at the top in the gallery,
very squashed in, very dirty, very smelly ...
to the aristocrats sitting in the boxes.
People were allowed to enter in the middle of plays.
In fact, they had an incentive to do so,
because it cost them less if they came in just for the last act.
People would talk and heckle and discuss things
and walk around during the plays.
In the early 18th century audiences were used to barracking
exotic characters on stage, like those found in Italian operas.
Then a play appeared that was a true piece of British theatre.
This was The Beggar's Opera by John Gay.
As the curtain went up on Gay's satirical masterpiece,
audiences were in for a surprise.
Here on stage were rude common people,
just like those found in a Hogarth print.
Well, the first character you see is a beggar.
Because this has been advertised as an opera,
it must've been an extraordinary surprise to the audience
to be sitting in the theatre at Lincoln's Inn Fields,
and to look up and to see a beggar on stage.
This was an event that no-one had seen before.
It was something quite new.
The Beggar's Opera is rude because it's set in a prison,
it's heroes aren't kings and queens,
it's heroes are kind of thieves, highwaymen and pickpockets.
The Beggar's Opera became a smash hit
precisely because it was Rude Theatre.
Rude, because in a space used to high art,
audiences now saw low common characters on stage.
And rude, because they were singing songs that were biting satires
on 18th century life.
# When you sense you're the age Be cautious and say it
# Lest the courtiers offended might be
# If you mention vice or bribe
# 'Tis so pat to all the tribe
# Each cries That was levelled at me! #
Gay had this brilliant idea
which has been duplicated often since and is still duplicated.
Which is to put in to his play
lots of the most popular songs of the day.
I mean, they do it in Shrek, he discovered this art first.
So, I think, literally audiences sang along or hummed along
because often he put rather new words to these tunes.
These new lyrics attacked the double standards of Georgian life
where Gay saw one law for the rich, another for the poor.
# Since laws were made for ev'ry Degree
# To curb Vice in others as well as me
# I wonder we han't better Company Upon Tyburn Tree
# But gold from lock and take out the sting
# And if rich men like us were to swing
# T'would thin the land such numbers to string
# Upon Tyburn Tree. #
This reference to Tyburn Tree
would send a chill down the necks of Gay's audience.
Tyburn, near modern day Marble Arch,
was the notorious place for public hangings in London.
But the Beggars Opera was much more than rude satire
on the wider injustices of Georgian Britain.
Audiences knew that the play was also an attack on specific
politicians, their corruption and many scandals.
It was generally recognised
that the play lampooned the politicians of the day,
that although it was an opera about thieves and highwaymen,
these were really the thieves and highwaymen
who were running the country
and who were often actually sitting in the audience,
Robert Walpole went to one of the first performances of the play.
Walpole, the Prime Minister, was seen in all the key characters -
Peachum the thief taker, Lockit the jailer and Macheath the Highwayman.
What Gay does so brilliantly is to suggest to us
that the world of politics is a world which,
under the appearance of respectability,
is in fact no more than pervasive corruption.
Also in the 1730's, from a theatre on the Haymarket,
came further provocations to the Prime Minister and his cronies.
Plays such as the Historical Register For The Year 1736
were written by Henry Fielding.
His attacks on political sleaze
were even more direct than those of Gay in The Beggar's Opera.
So, faced with this, Walpole ordered that Rude Theatre now be dealt with.
The government essentially decided to to restrict the freedom
that Fielding was enjoying and introduce licensing,
so that you had to submit your plays to a government censor
before they were performed.
Places such as the Haymarket no longer had a licence to perform.
Importantly, it put Rude playwrights out of business,
so it's a tremendously important moment in the history of theatre.
It's a very successful shutting down of the Rude in London.
But just as Rude Theatre was killed off,
so another part of London's cultural life continued in rude health.
East of Theatre land was Grub Street,
a meeting place for writers, of taverns and coffee houses
that became a byword for bookish rudeness.
Literary London was really rude, it was a vicious place.
People beat each other up, poisoned each other,
slandered each other in poems, slagged each other off,
bitched about each other, maligned each other.
It was extraordinarily vicious.
As long as writers avoided treasonous high politics and didn't
doubt the Lord, the law allowed literary bitching to flourish.
Suddenly, by accident as a matter of fact,
the licensing of print disappears.
So, no longer do you have to get the permission
of a government operative in order to print anything.
There is an extraordinary freedom to print whatever you want.
To read, therefore, whatever you want.
The laws governing print are mostly to do with sedition
to matters of politics and religion,
but if you want to be extremely rude about a particular person,
legally there's very little to stop you.
Exploiting this freedom was a master of rude words
who lived in some splendour by the Thames at Twickenham,
far from the noise and confusion of London town.
Poet Alexander Pope deployed rudeness as his weapon of choice
to give the high art of his verse a sharper edge.
His invective, and there is plenty of it,
he does dish it out, is so poised and elegant.
A sense of him being a kind of wind-up merchant.
Pope was deliciously vicious when he used metaphor to shrink
his enemy, Lord John Hervey, down to insect-like size.
"Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings
"This painted child of dirt that stinks and stings
"Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys
"Yet wit ne'er tastes and beauty ne'er enjoys
"So well-bred Spaniels civilly delight
"In mumbling of the game they dare not bite."
Pope's rude masterpiece was The Dunciad.
From the very first lines,
Pope takes aim at the first two King Georges of the Georgian age,
two of the many Dunces to be savaged in this huge mock epic.
"You by whose care in vain decried and cursed
"still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first."
But the rudeness in The Dunciad has a more earthy quality,
a humour revealed in prints of the time
that delighted in the barefaced evacuations of daily life.
With filth and worse filling the streets
and a lack of any real sanitation,
it was natural that rude scatology should be part of the poetic urge.
In Book two of The Dunciad,
two characters get all blokey in a peeing competition.
"First Osborne leant against his lettered post
"It rose and laboured to a curve at most
"So Jove's bright bow displays its watery round
"Sure sign that no spectator shall be drowned
"A second effort brought but new disgrace
"The wild meander washed the artist's face
"Thus the small jett which hasty hands unlock
"Spurts in the gardener's eyes who turns the cock."
Sex and unpleasant smells were at the heart of a celebrated rude feud
in the high society of the 1730's.
In one corner was the Dean of St Pauls, the satirist Jonathan Swift.
In the other was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu,
a celebrated wit and beauty with a sharp tongue of her own.
Swift began a bad tempered exchange of words with a poem
in which the character Strephon spies on Celia
and the contents of her dressing room.
He finds there all the equipment she uses to make herself beautiful.
The vials of puppy piss that she uses and make-up and false bits
and he's horrified at what he finds.
"Hard by a filthy Bason stands
"Fowl'd with the Scouring of her Hands
"The Bason takes whatever comes The scrapings of her Teeth and Gums
"A nasty compound of all Hues
"For here she spits and here she spues."
What Swift's doing in this poem is guiding us
on a very intimate tour of Celia's body,
the way in which it presses into her make-up, her clothes,
the armpits of her dress which are covered in muck,
her stockings which are stinking of her and are stained by her feet.
It's looking at all the traces her body leaves on these
objects in the dressing room. In a way, almost voyeuristic.
We are getting very close to her body without ever seeing her body,
so there is almost a voyeuristic relish in these descriptions.
"But, oh! it turn'd poor Strephon's Bowels
"When he beheld and smelt the Towels
"Begumm'd, bematt'd and beslim'd
"With dirt and sweat and ear-wax grim'd
"No object Strephon's eye escapes Here petticoats in frowzy Heaps
"Nor be the handkerchiefs forgot
"All varnished o'er with snuff and snot
"Thus finishing his grand survey disgusted Strephon stole away
"Repeating in his amorous fits 'Oh, Celia, Celia, Celia shits.'"
Now was Dean Swift here dishing out a rude that was offensive to women,
or was his verse a satire on female beauty and vanity?
Whatever the truth,
when Lady Montagu read his poem she was not best pleased.
She penned her own rude response locating the source of Swift's
disgust to failures of his own in ladies' dressing rooms.
"What if your verses have not sold?
"Must I therefore return your gold?
"Perhaps you have no better lacking The knack of rhyming than of fucking.
"I won't give back one single crown to wash your band or turn your gown.
"I'll be revenged, you saucy Queen, replies the discontented Dean.
"I'll so describe your dressing room.
"She answered short
"I'm glad you'll write
"You'll furnish paper when I shite."
Rude was not only important to 18th century poetry,
it was also to be found in the novel, the newest literary form
to entertain the Georgian reading public.
Bawdy humour was at the heart of the success of Tristram Shandy.
First published in 1760 and written by Lawrence Sterne,
hitherto an obscure parson from Yorkshire.
Tristram Shandy was probably the most successful book
published in the whole of the century.
Dan Brown has nothing on Laurence Sterne
in terms of literary impact.
It was a revelation to everyone.
It was a new form of writing, a new form of satire
that took elements of rudeness, elements of rude culture,
and reinvented them.
Tristram Shandy attracted the attention of William Hogarth
who drew illustrations for its first editions.
Two hundred and fifty years later, cartoonist Martin Rowson
has produced his own graphic-novel take on this rude classic.
I think Tristram Shandy is a wonderful novel,
mostly because it's not a novel.
It's an anti-novel, it's digressive, funny,
a shaggy-dog story and it's filthy.
It is like listening to a stand-up comedian
for page after page after page after page.
Rowson includes all the best rude bits in Tristram Shandy.
Tristram's accidental circumcision with a faulty window.
The nasty incident of the hot chestnut down the breeches.
Uncle Toby's wound in the groin at the Battle of Namur.
And the climax - or perhaps, in true Shandean style, anti-climax -
the wooing by the Widow Wadman of Uncle Toby.
Visually, the thing about the widow
is that we don't know what she looks like
from Sterne's description because the readers are invited
to draw their image of beauty on a blank page.
Toby is this sort of sweet,
He's a bit like Bambi, actually.
One of the great scenes in the novel
is where he offers to show Widow Wadman his wound.
He's been wounded in the groin at the siege of Namur.
Of course, she wants to know if he is still capable of the business
that a husband is expected to perform if she's going to marry him.
How bad is this wound?
"You shall see the very place, madam," said my Uncle Toby.
Mrs Wadman blushed and looked towards the door, turned pale,
blushed slightly again, recovered her natural colour, blushed worse
than ever, which for the sake of the un-learned reader, I translate thus:
"Lord, I cannot look at it.
"What would the world say if I looked at it?
"I should drop down if I looked at it.
"I wish I COULD look at it.
"There can be no sin in looking at it.
"I WILL look at it."
By the time Tristram Shandy became a Georgian best-seller,
another part of rude culture was staking its claim
to be the most vibrant part of later 18th-century life.
This was the colourful world of satirical and humorous prints
that could be enjoyed at print shops in London's West End,
on Piccadilly, Oxford Street and The Strand.
These were places of shared laughter for Londoners of all classes.
The print shop window was probably the most colourful, changing,
theatrical space in urban London.
So, you would go past it every day.
You would look for new prints.
You would constantly expect to see something new.
And it was incredibly democratic.
The beggar boy and the sweep, the porter and the lord
all walked past the print shop.
You mustn't forget that this is a culture which is image-starved
in a way that ours is not now.
They're hungry for images of their own lives.
Of course there are great paintings, but they're hidden away
in the private houses and mansions of the great.
If you want an image of how you live,
or how your governors live, it's to the print shops that you have to go.
Living above the shop of his publisher, Mrs Humphrey,
on St James Street, Piccadilly,
was the dark master of rude print culture, James Gillray.
# I like my town
# With a little drop of poison
# Nobody knows
# They're lining up to go and sin
# I'm all alone... #
I think what you get from Gillray is a kind of sour,
misanthropy, dislike of nearly everything...
...outside the pleasures of art itself.
There's no love in Gillray.
There's no warmth, there's no generosity,
there's no joy, particularly.
# ..And a rat
# Always knows when he's in with weasels
# Here you lose a little every day... #
He also had that essential attribute of a visual satirist,
or of any kind of satirist, which is basically a kind of fuck-you-ism.
He attacked everybody.
Gillray in the 1790s created his greatest works
of malice and ridicule in fertile but dangerous times.
This was a decade of revolution in France that created tension,
unrest and violence in Britain.
With fear of invasion by the French,
Gillray used the popular medium of the print to do his patriotic duty.
Gillray gets the third Georgian King, George III,
to fart his contempt towards the French
and blow their fleet back to France.
And Gillray will visually go way over the top
to demonise this enemy to Britain.
"Un petit souper a la Parisienne.
"A family of sans culottes
"refreshing after the fatigues of the day."
The title is wonderful.
The image is utterly, utterly vile, utterly shocking.
It's totally grotesque.
It's ugly, hideous, horrible,
but by God, it sticks in your mind, and I suppose that says
something for his power.
Here you have the sans culottes eating the severed head.
That would be fine, sort of,
but Gillray will add the gouged-out eye,
or he will add, as he does here, the supine form
beneath the table with the table leg rammed up in his crotch,
but with one foot off
and the blood spurting out.
It's more than a nightmare.
It's about eight nightmares in one print.
But Gillray was just as unforgiving and ruthless
when he turned his withering gaze on British politics.
His work is completely about politics.
He's utterly obsessed with politics, he's involved in it,
he's observing it closely.
He's one of the only people who went into Parliament and drew them.
He had little cards he used to draw their faces on.
That's why his images of Pitt are so accurate.
Gillray used the simplest of images to satirise Pitt,
Prime Minister at the time.
It's just a simple image of a fungus in the form of Pitt' head
coming out of a crown which is, again, rooted in a dung hill.
And the simplicity is breathtaking.
Pitt isn't a mushroom. Why should he be a mushroom?
But you can actually reduce a recognisable human being,
in this case the Prime Minister, down to something which he isn't.
That is something that cartoonists are constantly trying to do.
It's a kind of shape-shifting shamanism
to turn them into something else.
And Gillray didn't hesitate to mock the biggest target of all,
royalty, in the portly shape of the eldest son of George III.
George, Prince of Wales,
was a picture of nobility when painted in official portraits.
Gillray's caricature was something quite different.
# ..To purge us of the seven deadly sins... #
He skewered the heir to the throne
with an accumulation of compromising detail.
There is dice on the floor, he's gambling,
there's his gambling debts written down in books.
There's a chamber pot behind him
over-brimming with either piss or vomit.
There's a sort of pyramid of bottles of pills
which he's taking to cure him of the pox.
The table he's leaning up against
has got these bones on the plate and a half-eaten, huge joint of meat.
But the bones are very "ossireal", to use a nice word I've just made up,
they're very bony. This isn't a nice feast, this isn't a nice meal.
This is actually almost like a cannibal feast.
It's just hammering home the point.
Visual satire is done with a pen or an engraving tool,
but it's actually thought up with a sledgehammer.
Even underneath the Prince of Wales' feathers in the back,
his coat of arms, is a knife and fork crossed over because he's just a pig.
"He's just a greedy bastard pig and look at him!"
Living close to Gillray in the West End of London, but a world apart
in the ambition of HIS rude art, was Thomas Rowlandson.
You wouldn't want to be on a desert island with Gillray,
but you might want to be
with Rowlandson, because he's a man who's deeply life-affirming
and amused by the world.
He never takes himself seriously.
He has warmth, he has humour.
He's the first humorous artist, I think, that we encounter
in the big scheme of things in English art.
In his prints, Rowlandson captured the confusion and chaos
on the streets of London, just as Hogarth had done 60 years earlier.
He's not a political animal.
He comments on manners. He comments on the manners, increasingly,
of ordinary people in the street.
There's a lightness about him and a brilliant capacity to draw.
But Rowlandson, unlike Hogarth, had no desire or need to moralise.
He just wanted to celebrate the rude delights to be had from life.
Rowlandson liked a drink,
so he depicts a scene of drunken debauchery in all its rowdy excess.
Rowlandson was a gambler,
so he vividly captures the drama and excitement of the table.
And Rowlandson celebrates the pleasures of the flesh,
so in "Rural Felicity, Or Love In A Chaise",
he brings to life the joy of al-fresco sex,
and attached a rude ditty.
"The kneeling youth his vigour tries
"While o'er his back she lifts her thighs
"The trotting horse the bliss increases
"And all is shoving love and kisses..."
It's not guilty, it's completely open about sex and sensuality,
that's what I like about it.
And they're having a good time, and the horse is having a good time too!
I love the way the horse is kind of echoing the sensuality
of her thighs and his arse and the rest of it.
It's a splendid blending, I love that kind of visual punning.
"..What couple would not take the air
"To taste such joys beyond compare?"
She really does look quite in control, brandishing her whip,
and it's such a smart little chaise with its red wheels,
that, actually, it's quite an enjoyable picture.
Look at her feet. She just crossed her legs,
it's what she does every day with her wonderful little shoes.
I'm sorry, I expect I should be shocked
but I do think it's quite fun.
In 1811, following the final madness of George III...
..the much-ridiculed Prince of Wales became Prince Regent.
Now the mood of Rude Britannia darkened.
For a decade, the dandy Regent presided over a country in crisis
after victory in the Napoleonic Wars.
The Regency period
is a moment of terrific turbulence.
There's enormous unemployment.
Prices are very high.
There's unrest in many provincial cities.
There's a sense that the war has been won, but that peace is being lost.
In London, away from the West End, further east in the city,
radical publishers were turning rude culture into a protest movement.
They commissioned prints that pushed a defiant agenda of political reform
and social justice that challenged the Regent and his Ministers.
The biggest talent these publishers worked with was George Cruikshank.
He came from a caricaturing family, a family of printmakers.
From a very young man, he was quite clearly in that tradition
of extreme political rudeness, of taking no prisoners,
of racking it up, and racking it up again.
Despite his increased power as Regent, Cruikshank continued
the vilification of George begun by Gillray.
Study the detail of a Cruikshank print from 1812,
"Merry-Making On The Regent's Birthday",
and appreciate its satirical bite, its anger.
On the left is Lord Hertford with two devils with French horns
pointing above his skull, indicating his being cuckolded by his wife,
Lady Hertford, who's dancing - with her bulbous breasts -
with the Prince Regent in the centre of the picture.
Lord Hertford, you notice, is reading a long scroll.
"Two men hanged at Newgate," it says.
The point of the joke is that here these two men are being hanged -
and of course you can see them on the right hand of the picture -
thanks to the Prince's indifference to their fate.
Their fate, however, is something he is fully aware of,
because his dancing foot rests on the petition that's for mercy,
that has come from the wife and children,
the two starving children,
who you can see weeping at the foot of the scaffold
on the right-hand side.
So, there's a lot going on here. There's adultery.
The man's adultery is being registered.
The man's indifference to the plight of the poor.
The absurdity of an aristocracy
that can deal with adultery of this kind,
and their own cuckolding,
and the state of the nation, a nation in which hunger is sweeping
the people and in which, none the less, the law has no mercy.
The last year of the Regency, 1819, was momentous.
Cruikshank drew instant images of outrage
following the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester.
Here, cavalry had charged into protesters
agitating for parliamentary reform, killing 15 and injuring hundreds.
1819 also saw protest from an aristocrat - a radical, too -
who supported political change,
spoke for the oppressed, a poet with the rudest reputation
in Regency Britain - the devilish Lord Byron.
He's famous for his multiple affairs
with men, women, choirboys, sisters...
you name it, he's done it with them.
You know, he was notorious as a libertine in his time.
From exile in Italy, Byron had been writing a long poem, Don Juan,
to rudely, with plain speaking, expose what he saw
as the many lies and hypocrisies of his age.
It's a poem written right at the end
of Byron's career, where this former darling of the London literati
and of London high society,
who's had to leave London because of scandals in his own private life,
looks back at the place he comes from and addresses its moral hypocrisy,
its double standards,
its prudishness, and above all - this word he used a great deal - its cant.
His targets are poets,
politicians, warmongers, women,
the Church, especially the evangelical Church...
The list is almost endless.
It's a poem which is designed to offend almost everyone.
Byron's use of the character Don Juan was deliberate.
The fictional Don, like his creator,
was a legendary rogue and philanderer.
So to have the Don as the protagonist of his satire,
the rude lord was provoking the moralists
from the very first lines of the poem.
"I want a hero: an uncommon want
"When every year and month sends forth a new one
"Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant
"The age discovers he is not the true one... "
In Don Juan, Byron does name names.
He lambasts Wellington, the bloody militarist,
Southey, the turncoat Tory poet laureate.
And he doesn't flinch from the libellous and the blasphemous.
But the tone Bryon adopted for his satire was playful.
He knows that when people look at his writing, they're going
to be looking for rude bits, because of his reputation as a libertine.
In fact, what's so wonderful about the poem is the elegant,
skilful way in which he bypasses ever being explicit.
That he's subtle, that he's... a tease,
and that he forces the reader to come up with the goods themselves.
He doesn't give it to us on a plate.
"But now I'm going to be immoral
"Now I mean to show things really as they are
"Not as they ought to be
"For I avow that till we see what's what in fact
"We're far from much improvement with that virtuous plough
"Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
"Upon the black loam long manured by vice
"Only to keep its corn at the old price."
Publication of Don Juan in the fractious year of Peterloo
was a rude bombshell.
You have to remember that Don Juan when it was published, it was more than a book.
It wasn't a book, it was an event.
It was this kind of force of nature and it had everybody up in arms.
Not to put too fine a point on it, it created a shit-storm,
it really did, in 1819.
The publisher of Don Juan, John Murray,
was fearful of the scandal the poem would create.
So not only his name, but Byron's, were missing from first editions,
and they cost over 30 shillings,
a month's wages for most working people.
The point being that nobody could accuse them of trying to corrupt
the morals of the lower classes.
So it comes out, it hasn't really got a publisher's name on it,
all of that's been fudged, so of course it gets pirated straightaway
and everybody gets to have a peep at it, so it just grows and grows.
The many pirated editions with their rude illustrations made Don Juan
affordable and available to less well-heeled readers,
eager to devour this notorious book.
Much to the dismay of Byron's enemies, the poem now had
an unheard-of readership, thought to be over 500,000.
In 1820, the Prince Regent finally became king.
His coronation in Westminster Abbey
was the most lavish ever seen in London.
Thousands of diamonds adorned his crown.
Faced with this continued excess and the contempt it showed
for the people, Cruikshank just carried on mocking his old enemy.
He depicted the new George IV in drag, receiving his subjects
whilst his latest mistress, the amply-proportioned Lady Coningham,
wisely protected the nation's cash.
Confronted by this ridicule,
George decided to buy off his biggest critic.
Cruikshank, and his brother, both get £100 in June 1820,
and the agreement still survives, and the wording
is not to portray His Majesty in any immoral situation whatsoever.
Which meant that there was to be no more jokes
at the expense of his mistresses, his flirtations, his indulgences.
And that pretty well silenced George Cruikshank.
Which, of course, makes one wonder about just how radical he was,
really, that he could be so easily bought off.
CASH REGISTER RINGS
Meanwhile, between 1820 and 1823,
Byron had been completing further books of Don Juan.
But continued hostile reception to the poem
convinced him that the game was up.
Prudes were gaining the upper hand.
He wrote to a friend.
"I have written about 100 stanzas of a third canto,
"but it is damned modest.
"The outcry has frightened me.
"I had such projects for the Don
"but the cant is so much stronger than the cunt nowadays
"that the benefit of experience in a man who had weighed the worth
"of both syllables must be lost to despairing posterity."
Then, in 1824, Byron died in Greece.
His body was brought back up the Thames for a lying-in-state
at 20 Great George Street, Westminster.
Byron was refused burial in the Abbey across the road,
despite this being the tradition for great writers.
Crowds lined Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road to show respect
for the people's poet as his funeral cortege made its way out of London.
When Byron died he was a great hero for common people, ordinary people.
But he was still reviled by his own, if you like,
the aristocracy from which he came.
So his funeral cortege passed through the streets of London,
and London was packed with ordinary, common people who had gone to mourn
the loss of their hero, Lord Byron.
People at the time saw it as the end of their 1960s, or something.
That was what it was like.
He was a celebrity as well as a great writer, and it was almost as if
that funeral represented to people, almost immediately, some sense that
he was the product of a bygone age.
By the time Byron was dead and buried,
it was clear that Rude Britannia was now under threat.
One satirical print from 1829, "The March Of Morality",
reflected a taming of the rude
that came with greater political stability
and the influence of evangelical Christianity.
Here, bare-breasted and red-faced do-gooders try to prevent passers-by
enjoying the delights of the print shop window.
Across the street is the Religious Tract Society.
And look, that C word again - cant.
Now, with the end of the Georgian age, the very map of London
was changing to physically reflect
the attempt to clean up and sanitise Rude Britannia.
Regent Street has been put up from Piccadilly Circus to Regent's Park
to separate the plebeian culture
from the West End, which was aristocratic and gentry.
It's ordered, more street order has been achieved.
Bridges are being built, streets are being widened and so forth.
So that by the 1830s, London has
what is called a feeling of circulation about it.
It's got the postures and the architectures
and the big streets of the fine city.
The modernised city was a bricks-and-mortar threat
to the old rude culture.
You get a general rebuilding of London
into a great imperial city, certainly, but one without
the spaces for the ballad singers, for the bawdry,
for the print shops, for the chaos of the previous century.
In 1837, Victoria became Queen and the Georgian era ended.
Victorians looked back at the recent past with horror and distaste.
They were not amused by the satirical and bawdy humour
of their rude forebears.
So, next time on Rude Britannia,
could a naughty nation survive Victorian values?
# Come into the garden...
Oh, most certainly it could!
# ..I'm here by the gate alone... #
APPLAUSE AND CHEERS
In the early 18th century, Georgian Britain was a nation openly, gloriously and often shockingly rude. This was found in the graphic art of Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson and George Cruikshank, and the rude theatrical world of John Gay and Henry Fielding. Singer Lucie Skeaping helps show the Georgian taste for lewd and bawdy ballads, and there is a dip into the literary tradition of rude words via the poetry of Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and Lord Byron, and Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy.