Start by explaining it was a joke, then explain what kind of joke it was not (not tied to any legislation by Mansfield - or public performance by Mansfield (he did preside over d'Eon trial and made the rule about legitimacy of children) - or other marriage legislation proposed).
Then explain what it was about - Vanity, marriage relations, Authenticity, Capitalism - - questioning motives and the distinction between internal and external self
Other examples - foundlings in books, the self-made man, the artist as original genius, copyright legislation, revolutionary war,
Letters to his son
- marriage a common topic for false wit
- marriage not well understood, instanced by separations
- marriage contracts different in France than in England (in England all goes to the husband who then gives wife pin-money, in France there is community property).
Note that Chesterfield and so many others are talking about dissemination and artificiality, at the same time we see the increased desire for originality and authenticity (orphan's whose birthright comes out, the artist as original genius).
ALSO Locke's Tabula Rasa makes it seem anyone can be anything and Chesterfield says - in Letter CXLVII - that a mind must be cultivated. Sometimes there is native genius, like Shakespeare, but imagine how good he would have been with training ... there is a tension here between desire for the freedom to cultivate new knowledge and create a new reality, and the fear of scams and fakery.
& & & & & & & & & & & & & &
Gordon Riots book talks about the tensions caused by imperialism ... English identity is in question - Argus by Gillray, published in May 15,1780, shows the King surrounded by Scottish advisers - Horace Walpole when describing the riots points to "an universal anarchy of opinion" (Gordon Riots, 102)...
John T. Lynch. Deceptions and Detection in 18th C Britain. Ashgate.
Christine Roulston and Louis Regis. Virtue, Gender and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction.
Copyright legislation happens when?
Questions about identity were common - gender, race, nationality
Questions about truth were common -
Questions about authority were common - who is an expert, who can speak?
Questions about marriage, finally, were also common - increasing choice and increasing anxiety about those choices?
Check out info on MEN and their clothing:
ARTIFICIAL AIDS TO ELEGANCE 'The Gentlemen too have their Todectes set
out with washes, per- fumes, and cosmetics; and wffi spend a whole
morning in scenting their linen, dressing their hair, and arching their
eyebrows.' 1754. The Connoisseur, Oct. For the gentleman of leisure
the art of dressing was a laborious business. 'A slovenly fehow might
bustle into his clothes in an hour, but a gentleman could scarcely dress
in less than two.' 26o
MEN Rouge was extensively used by beaux until
the 1790's, applied by means of Spanish wool impregnated with carmine.
'We are indebted to Spanish wool for many of our masculine ruddy
countenances."755. The Connoisseur, Apdl. 'A wealthy young fop ...
always painted up to the eyes with the deepest carmine.' 1786.
Retrospections ofdorothea Herbert. 'A fop ... his lips covered with
the liveliest red.' 1777. Gentleman's and London Magazine, Dec. False
Calves, to improve the shape of the leg, were made witli parchment,
pads, or bandages. 'Fhs stays laced, his ankles rolled ... with six
yards of flannel roller to sweat the small and prop the cal£' 178o.
General John Brrgoyne, The Lord ofthe Manor. 'Your legs are mere
sticks ... when 1 have got my calves 1 shall he quite another creature.'
1782. Town and Country Magazine,June. 'The skill of the ancients
knew nothing of that creative power which extends to ... the parchment
calves.' 178 5. The Lounger, June.