Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Tears as a sign of -- what

I have been thinking back over my story, and realize that there is a lot of manly weeping in it. My understanding is that Englishmen of the 18th century, even the end of it, did not regard tears with shame.

100 years later, by the cusp of WW1, things seem to have been very different. Lots of the upper lip going on. Yet it is my assertion, that guys, and causes for weeping had not changed all that much.

Can anyone who has done more research speak on this?


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
I can. How much detail do you want? You are basically right, though.

Edited at 2012-05-17 05:25 pm (UTC)
May. 17th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
I'm curious to know too.
May. 17th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that was quick. I would like as much detail as you feel inclined to give. If you have a booklist to throw in, I will take it with thanks as well. You are awesome!
May. 17th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, books, um... Probably this is one of the best I've read on the subject so far:

Tosh, John Manliness and Masculinities in nineteenth Century Britain: Essays on Gender, Family and Empire. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2005.

Anyways, the general consensus is that the dominant form of masculinity of the 1750s-early 1800s did allow for men to be more openly emotional, which did on occasion allow for tears of joy/sorrow/relief. However, though more acceptable it was not necessarily encouraged, and cases of excessive tears were noticed as out of the ordinary and somewhat frowned upon - e.g. it was noted by several people that knew him that Nelson was 'given to tear', though being Nelson he wasn't openly criticized for it.

This period is also very interesting for those researching gender constructs, as (certainly in Britain) the more open to 'sensibility' masculinity was beginning to be replaced by the concept of 'manliness' - which is what you referred to 'stiff upper lip'. Though manliness is primarily associated with the Victorians through to 1950s, it was beginning to manifest itself in Napoleonic times. As a case in point, I draw the example of Wellington after the Siege of Badajoz in 1812. Thousands of British troops were slaughtered to achieve that victory and the morning afterwards, seeing the redcoated piles of dead heaped upon the glacis, Wellington could not hold back his tears. However, when General Picton came along:

'I bit my lips, and did everything I could to stop myself for I was ashamed that he should see it, but I could not, and he so little entered into my feelings that he said "Good God, what is the matter?"' [Holmes, p. 162]

Personally I would have thought the sight of near 5,000 of his men lying piled thickly upon each other in their own blood would have given Wellington a damn good reason to weep - but in reply to Picton instead he 'began cursing and swearing at the Government for not giving him enough sappers and miners. It was the best he could do to explain the inexplicable.' [Longford, vol. I, p.339]

Whereas only seven years earlier Nelson could weep heroically, Wellington felt shame that he should be seen as emotional, and Picton unable to understand why he should weep. Granted, Picton was a merciless git, but that Wellington feels he need make up some excuse that his tears are of frustration and not sympathy is, I feel, quite telling.

I could probably lay my hand on some more details or book recommendations, but the above is all I have on me at the moment. Does that help at all?
(no subject) - eglantine_br - May. 17th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - latin_cat - May. 17th, 2012 08:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bauhiniakapok - Sep. 27th, 2016 12:33 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 17th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
And yes, building on what ioanite said - the earlier 'sensibility' masculinity was more marked in France (and later led to the French being deemed markedly more effeminate when compared to the British concept of 'manliness'). But as I said, in Britain the Napoleonic War period was the beginning of the transition period between 'sensibility' and 'manliness'.
May. 17th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
This is a really interesting question. I want to hear as much as anyone happens to know!
May. 17th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Ok, I'm getting these excerpts from a biography of Josephine Bonaparte, but there's no reason to believe it didn't hold true for Englishmen as well;

"In the eighteenth century, weeping was not just an expression of grief but a social skill, a sort of art de vivre. 'Tears were mighty orators' that told a multitude of stories. Encouraged by Rousseau's belief that to cry brings us back 'to the body and nature', the eighteenth-century cult of sensibility demanded that men and women cry when they were happy, when they were sad, when there were in love and when they had fallen out of love...Even in Britain--later so famed for its stiff upper lip--weeping was widespread. During one altercation in the House of Commons the two protagonists, Messrs Fox and Burke, burst into tears...This sensibility was considered to be particularly developed in women...Weeping was not just esteemed but also eroticized."

From "The Rose of Martinique; A Life of Napoleon's Josephine", pages 248-249.

I read that passage in a library once, and was not only persuaded to get my own copy, but immediately had ammunition for all the people who said it was unmanly for my characters to cry.
May. 17th, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
There's an assumption I think by lots of people that because things were a certain way in the Victorian era then they must always have been like that, which is of course nonsense. I do wonder though if the increasing indusrialization of war had any impact, there comes a point where if you don't adopt a stiff upper lip you'd never get out of bed in the morning.
Jun. 12th, 2012 03:45 am (UTC)
Having just finished a uni. course on literature of the modern Western world, I think you're quite right in that conclusion. With WWI being fought in trad. ways against very devastating and unprecedented weapons, the horror forced soldiers to resort to basic instincts, but it also forced them to leave behind any "sentimentality." All Quiet On the Western Front (among other novels) really gets into that idea of having to do away with emotion for your own survival.
May. 17th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
Not much to add to the fascinating and very erudite answers above, however in the many contemporary accounts I've read of life aboard ship in the late 18th early 19th century there are plenty of references of men, both fore and aft of the mast, weeping with sorrow and joy. Such displays of emotion tend to be recorded without comment, suggesting they were nothing out of the ordinary.

If I come across any specific instances while I'm reading I'll let you know.
May. 18th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Certainly Jack Aubrey felt no shame in it.
(no subject) - anteros_lmc - May. 20th, 2012 10:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eglantine_br - May. 20th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anteros_lmc - May. 22nd, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ioanite - May. 23rd, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anteros_lmc - May. 24th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bauhiniakapok - Sep. 27th, 2016 12:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bauhiniakapok - Dec. 9th, 2016 12:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2012 11:03 am (UTC)
I don't have much to add either as so much apt already said.

But to mention our ususal suspects Osler's
Life of Lord Exmouth tells of the meeting of Ned and Captain Bergeret when the latter was captured after losing his frigate the Psyche

The story goes that Beregeret was brought on board as a prisoner to surrender his sword and on sight of one another they flung their arms aorund each other and wept. Osler speaks of the sight being ao affecting that it drew tears to the eyes of others present.

This kind of open readiness to show affections certainly complimented by the letter Ned wrote to Bergeret soon after in an effort to comfort him which is one of the treaures of the recent set of documenst anteros and I unearthed in the Bergeret archive in Bayonne
May. 18th, 2012 12:04 pm (UTC)
That did a lot more kissing and manly embracing than now. ('Oh, see, the Frenchman is kissing our skipper.')
(no subject) - anteros_lmc - May. 20th, 2012 10:08 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 24th, 2012 08:37 pm (UTC)
While we're on the subject of tears... I picked this up in a tumblr feed earlier today. JB describing watching the final episode of BSG:

“I watched the finale of “Battlestar Galactica” at the Television Academy surrounded by cast, crew, friends, and family. Bear was sitting right behind me. When the credits rolled at the end I was desperately trying to bury my streaming face into my wife’s arm to avoid unmanly embarrassment.

May. 24th, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
So sweet. So the emotionally aware modern man, is just a return to what men had been before. There is something good about that, at least.
(no subject) - anteros_lmc - May. 25th, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eglantine_br - May. 25th, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - anteros_lmc - May. 25th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eglantine_br - May. 25th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )