Tag Archives: stereotypes

Characters of Nations: Stereotypes in 1794

As Halloween is a day for mastering stereotypes and flaunting them before the world, I thought it appropriate to share some from the late 18th century.  These come from a letter to The Lady’s Magazine from Volume XXV 1794, Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, appropriated solely to their use and amusement.  Do take them as such.

Stereotypes of the French, German, Italian, Spanish and English Characters

In Their Manners

  • The Frenchman is more than civil; he is courtly
  • The German benevolent
  • The Italian civil
  • The Spaniard disdainful and thinks too little of others
  • The Englishman haughty and thinks too much of himself

With Respect to Stature

  • The Frenchman is of a good size
  • The German tall
  • The Italian middling
  • The Spaniard short
  • The Englishman portly

In Apparel

  • The Frenchman is an innovator
  • The German an imitator
  • The Italian stingy
  • The Spaniard thrifty
  • The Englishman sumptuous

In Their Feasts

  • The Frenchman is delicate
  • The German a drunkard
  • The Italian sober
  • The Spaniard penurious
  • The Englishman prodigal
Germans Eating Sour Krout – James Gillray (1803)

In Their Tempers

  • The Frenchman is a sneerer
  • The German affable
  • The Italian complaisant
  • The Spaniard grave
  • The Englishman changeable

With Regard to Beauty

  • The Frenchman is handsome
  • The German not inferior to him
  • The Italian neither handsome nor ugly
  • The Spaniard rather ugly than handsome
  • The Englishman resembling angels

In Council

  • The Frenchman is not slow
  • The German more slow
  • The Italian subtle
  • The Spaniard cautious
  • The Englishman resolute
French Liberty, British Slavery – James Gillray (1792)

In Their Writings

  • The Frenchman speaks well, writes better
  • The German writes much
  • The Italian with solidity
  • The Spaniard little and well
  • The Englishman learnedly

In Their Knowledge

  • The Frenchman knows something of every thing
  • The German is a pedant
  • The Italian is learned
  • The Spaniard is profound
  • The Englishman is a philosopher

In Religion

  • The Frenchman is zealous
  • The German religious
  • The Italian fond of ceremonies
  • The Spaniard tainted with superstition
  • The Englishman with bigotry

In Their Undertakings

  • The Frenchman is like an eagle
  • The German like a bear
  • The Italian like a fox
  • The Spaniard like an elephant
  • The Englishman like a lion
The Times – James Gillray (1783)
Dutch: “Der Donder, take you monsieur.  I think I have paid the Piper.”                                           Spanish:  “See Gibralter!  See Don Langara! by St. Anthony you have made me the Laughing Stock of Europe.”

In the Office of Friendship

  • The Frenchman is faithful
  • The German good company
  • The Italian respectful
  • The Spaniard submissive
  • The Englishman a slave

In Marriage

  • The Frenchman is free
  • The German a patron
  • The Italian a gaoler
  • The Spaniard a tyrant
  • The Englishman a servant and a drudge

Their Women

  • In France they are full of quality and pride
  • In Germany economists and cold
  • In Italy prisoners and wicked
  • In Spain slaves and amorous
  • In England queens and libertines

Their Languages

  • Charles V said that he would speak French to his friend
  • High Dutch to his horse
  • Italian to his mistress
  • Spanish to God
  • English to birds
An Italian Family – Samuel Alken after Thomas Rowlandson (1785) 

Artful Deceit: Italian Picture Dealers

Italian Picture Dealers by Thomas Rowlandson (1812)
Lithograph, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

The stereotype of the Italian picture dealer lasted from before Rowlandson’s time to well after.  Contemporaries warned that those with more beauty than brains had best beware: “The simple fact [is] that every third man in Italy is a picture dealer, and that no picture dealer is supposed to find any impediment to his fortune in his conscience . . . ” The Atheneum, Volume 18 (1826)

Copies were in wide circulation and it wasn’t always an expensive suit that was preyed upon.  Enthusiasm was dangerous as well:

“Instances have been known of English connoisseurs, in their anxiety to secure a genuine picture, paying an enormous sum to the head of a religious community, whose chief treasure it has been considered; and to make assurance doubly sure, they have, at his reverence’s instigation, affixed their seals at the back of the picture. On its coming into their possession, they find the seal untouched, and take no small credit to themselves for having secured to their country another invaluable Rafaelle or Corregio. The fact is, that an admirably executed copy was fitted with great nicety into the back of the original picture, and on this the reverend father got his generous customer carefully to affix his seal. The original picture in front was then removed, and the connoisseur carries the copy into his own country for a genuine production!” New Monthly Magazine, 1841