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A New Map of the Land of Matrimony

  • Author: BARBAULD, Anna Laetitia
  • Publisher: JOHNSON, Joseph
  • Engraver: ELLIS, Joseph
  • Date: 1772
  • Dimensions: sheet: 36 x 28.5 cms


Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s exceptionally rare late Georgian “Map of the Land of Matrimony” published in London in 1772

About this piece:

A New Map of the Land of Matrimony Drawn from the latest Surveys – Un aveugle fait le choix – J Ellis sculpt

Imprint: Published by J Johnson, 72 St.Paul’s Churchyard, as the Act directs 22d Augt 1772

Copperplate engraving on very fine “Band” paper with superb oval “Britannia” watermark visible to right of sheet. Traces of old folds. Tiny pinhole at central fold juncture. Tiny rust hole in upper margin. Slight creasing to central vertical fold with light verso reinforcement of short clean paper split at lower edge, just intruding into image and dissecting publisher’s imprint. Blank margins lightly toned and browned, most significantly outside plate mark and along sheet edges to left and right sides, nowhere affecting the engraved image. Old colour, recently retouched. Overall a fine example.

Succeeding the map that appeared in the 1765 Neapolitan edition of Eustache le Noble’s book on the Island of Marriage, this “new” map was the larger of two versions seemingly designed by the authoress Anna Laetitia Barbauld and engraved by the London map and writing engraver, Joseph Ellis [c.1734-c1802] for Baptist publisher, Joseph Johnson [1738-1809] who owned a well-known book and print shop at No.72 St.Paul’s Churchyard.

The area was a long-established enclave of London book & map publishing, perhaps best known as the base of the publishers of John Speed’s 1676 Atlases, Thomas Bassett & Richard Chiswell.

The map bears a publication date of August 22nd 1772, as does the second miniature edition of the same map also engraved by Ellis. It was published just two years after Johnson had witnessed the complete destruction of his entire stock in a disastrous fire in January 1770 at his former premises in Paternoster Row, which he had run in partnership with fellow bookseller John Payne.

Johnson was a lively bachelor and his new shop in St. Paul’s Churchyard became a magnet for intellectuals, poets, artists, writers and supporters of the free churches (Dissenters). Johnson himself was renowned as a particularly convivial host, with regular social gatherings and three o’clock suppers taking place in rooms above his shop premises. His circle included a remarkable array of contemporary luminaries such as Scottish radical & publishing partner Thomas Christie [1761-1796]; artists Henry Fuseli [1741-1825] & William Blake [1757-1827], mathematician and astronomer John Bonnycastle [1751-1821]; philosopher, scientist & fellow Unitarian Joseph Priestley [1733-1804]; former slaver & Anglican cleric John Newton [1725-1807] perhaps now best remembered as author of the hymn Amazing Grace; poets William Cowper [1731-1800] & Erasmus Darwin [1731-1802] of the Lunar Society (grandfather of Charles); schoolteacher & cleric Rev. John Hewlett [1762-1844]; the latter’s friend, the struggling young authoress Mary Wollstonecraft [1759-1797]; fellow novelist and authoress Mary Hays [1759-1843]; and journalist and writer William Godwin [1756-1836].

It was in fact at one such Johnson supper that Wollstonecraft and Godwin first met, and from which meeting blossomed their subsequent relationship and marriage, and indeed such suppers provided the foundation stones of many lasting friendships within Johnson’s circle. It was also Johnson who launched Mary Wollstonecraft’s literary career, offering an advance for her first essay, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters [1787] and subsequently encouraging contributions from her for his political and philosophical journal,The Analytical Review (first published 1788). And it was Johnson who also published  her two seminal treatises, A Vindication of the Rights of Men [1790] and A Vindication on the Rights of Women [1792]. Both Godwin and Wollstonecraft described Johnson as almost a father figure to her. Johnson was at the very epicentre of free thinking British intellectual and artistic life during this period and was undoubtedly one of the most important book publishers of the late 18th Century, an encourager and promoter of young writers whose subjects covered a broad spectrum across both Arts and Sciences; an especially keen advocate of independent women authors such as Wollstonecraft, Barbauld and others; the publisher of cheap mass market editions which reached an increasingly literate middle-class readership and greatly popularized those self-same authors; and according to Dr John Aikin, writing Johnson’s obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1809, “for some years past considered as the Father of the Trade”  noting that “many of the most distinguished names in science and literature during the last half century appear in works which he ushered to the world…the confidence and attachment he inspired were entirely the result of his solid judgement, his unaffected sincerity and the friendly benevolence with which he entered into the interests of all who were connected with him….His house and purse were always open to the calls of friendship, kindred or misfortune; and perhaps few men of his means and condition have done more substantive services to persons whose merits and necessities recommended them to his notice.”  

Johnson’s book publishing ventures had been made possible, in part, through the generous financial support of a group of Baptist backers based at the Warrington Academy in Lancashire, foremost amongst them the Academy’s Minister, John Aikin. It is particularly interesting to note that one of the first works published by Johnson in London in 1773 was a debut collection of writings from the pens of Aikin’s two children, Dr John Aikin [1747-1822] and Anna Laetitia Aikin Barbauld [1743-1825].

Both John and Anna Laetitia were closely connected with the Johnson circle, indeed Anna Laetitia, writing to her brother in 1784, noted “that our evenings, particularly at Johnson’s, were so truly social and lively, that we protracted them sometimes till – but I am not telling tales” (quoted in : G R Tyson Joseph Johnson, A Liberal Publisher [Uni. of Iowa Press, 1979] p.118).

This map of Matrimony would become inextricably linked to Anna Laetitia, when, in May 1774, she published a poem dedicated to her new husband, Rochemont Barbauld, entitled “To Mr Barbauld, with a map of the Land of Matrimony”, clearly a reference to this map (and the miniature version) first engraved just eighteen months earlier, and in fact just a month after the marriage of her own brother John to his cousin Martha Jennings in July 1772.

Examples of the map are occasionally found bound with copies of Anna Laetitia’s poetical works, as this example may well have been, given the evident folds and the old note in pencil to verso: “Drawn by Mrs Barbauld”.

Indeed the 1841 sales catalogue of Covent Garden Bookseller, Henry Georg Bohn lists as item #13753, a combined 3 volume edition of Dr. John Aikin’s Essays on Song Writing, Anna Laetitia Aikin’s Poems (“with the curious map of Matrimony) and Anna Laetitia & Dr. John Aikin’s joint Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose, 1773 : “3 vols in 2, 12mo , very neat in bright old calf, 16 shillings”. Even just seventy years after their publication Bohn described the latter two volumes as “scarce”.

Lucy Aikin, Anna Laetitia’s niece, writing a memoir of her Aunt and her work in 1825, noted that “the map published under this title was a jeu d’esprit of Mrs Barbauld’s”  [The works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld. With a memoir by Lucy Aikin. 2 Vols, [London 1825], Vol 1, pp.137-139]

William McCarthy in his book, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Voice of the Enlightenment [John Hopkins University Press, 2008], further suggests that an example of the map may in fact have been given by Anna Laetitia as a special presentation piece to her husband with her new poem in May 1774, this being around the time of the first anniversary of their wedding.

The map and a second edition of her Poems were in fact first advertised in the General Evening Post on May 4-6 1773, almost exactly a year before Anna Laetitia and Rochemont were married, on May 26th 1774, at St.Elphin’s Church Warrington, by Barbauld’s own father, the Rev Theophilus Lewis Barbauld, M.A., one of his Majesty’s French preachers in the friary of St. James’s Palace in London & rector of St.Vedast’s Church in the City of London.

In the opening lines of the poem, Anna Laetitia compares her husband to a sailor “worn by toil and wet with storms”. She continues: Thus canst thou, Rochemont, view this pictured chart, And trace thy voyage to the promised shore,

The poem ends with the sailor finally dropping anchor in the safe harbour of marriage and then being locked up by his new spouse, eager to prevent the long absences and wide-ranging rovings ever associated with a sailor’s life.

Anna Laetitia’s own experiences in love had begun following the family’s move from Kibworth to Warrington in 1758. There is some suggestion that she may have been courted by the young French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, who is known to have been a French teacher at the school in the 1770’s. She also attracted the attentions of Archibald Howard Rowan, who described her as “possessed of great beauty…her person was slender, her complexion exquisite fair with the bloom of perfect health; her features regular and elegant, and her dark eyes beamed with the light of wit and fancy” (quoted in : Betsy Rodgers : Mrs Barbauld and her Family [Methuen, 1958], pp.51-2). She is in fact pictured in Richard Samuel’s painting Nine Living Muses of Great Britain [1779]. In 1774, however, she married Rochemont Barbauld, the grandson of a French Huguenot and a former pupil at Warrington. Her niece Lucy Aikin was particularly critical of the match :

Her attachment to Mr Barbauld was the illusion of romantic fancy – not a tender heart. Had her true affections been early called forth by a more genial home atmosphere, she would never have allowed herself to be caught by crazy demonstrations of amorous rapture, set off with theatrical French manners or to have conceived of such exaggerated passion as a safe foundation on which to raise the sober structure of domestic happiness…with a kind of desperate generosity she rushed upon her melancholy destiny.

After the wedding, the couple moved to Suffolk, where Barbauld had been offered a position with a congregation and school in the village of Palgrave. By 1785, when the Barbaulds left, the Palgrave Academy had expanded from eight to forty boys and the experience as a school teacher and administrator laid the foundations of Anna Laetitia’s life-long interest in children’s literature and education.

Concerned that they would be unable to have children of their own, Anna Laetitia eventually prevailed upon her brother to permit them to adopt one of his own children, Charles, and it was for him that Barbauld would write Lessons for Children [1778-9] and Hymns in Prose for Children [1781], both once again published by Joseph Johnson. This was the beginning of a new genre of children’s literature characterized by a simplistic conversational style dialogue between parent and child which became increasingly popular.

It was also Johnson who would publish two of Barbauld’s most radical political works. The first, An Appeal to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts [1790], followed the defeat of Charles Fox’s attempts to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts, which excluded all Non-Conformists & Dissenters from full rights of citizenship. The second, published in the following year, An Epistle to William Wilberforce Esq. On the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing Slavery [1791] offered a lament for those sold into slavery and a biting critique of the likely social and cultural consequences of Britain’s continued support for the trade.

Anna Laetitia’s relationship with Rochemont became increasingly fraught, as bouts of mental instability left him unable to continue his duties as a minister and teacher. In 1787 they moved to Hampstead in London, and then again in 1802 to Stoke Newington, where Rochemont took over the pastoral care of the congregation at the Newington Green Chapel. The move was also made so that she could be closer to her brother John, a well-known doctor, for support with her husband’s increasingly fragile state of mind. It was during this period that Rochemont developed a “violent antipathy to his wife and he was liable to fits of insane fury against her. One day he seized a knife and chased her round the table so that she only saved herself by jumping out of the window” (Rogers, p.38). Such events were frequently repeated but Anna Laetitia remained devoted to her husband. Tragedy followed when Rochemont was discovered drowned by suicide in the nearby New River Head in 1808 and Anna Laetitia was left distraught with grief.

Her final years of widowhood were marked by an increasing withdrawal from the literary scene, not least following vicious critical reviews of her radical poem, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven [1812], which depicted England in a ruinous state, but which is now regarded by many present-day scholars as probably her greatest poetic legacy. She died in March 1825 and is buried in the family vault at St.Mary’s Church, Stoke Newington. In 1840/41 a special memorial tablet was erected to her memory within the church, through the efforts of her adopted son & nephew, Charles Aikin, surgeon, with the text of the memorial by another of her nephews, Mr A. Aikin, Secretary to the Society of Arts.

It is indeed sad to reflect on the troubled, turbulent & stormy reality of Anna Laetitia Aitkin’s own experiences in the Land of Matrimony with her husband, Rochemont Barbauld.

The map itself, originally priced at one shilling, shows the Land of Matrimony set in the Ocean of Love. Interestingly it is set exactly on the Meridian of London and dissected by the Tropic of Capricorn. A compass spur upper left shows the principal directions : N (Indifference), S (Love), E (Esteem) and W (Reproach) with NNW (Scorn), SSW (Inconstancy), ESE (Friendship) & NNE (Pity). One dotted route, the north, is the Track of the Galleons, which pass the Coasts of Friesland, through the Frozen Sea, to Settlement Island on the Northern Gold Coast of the Land of Matrimony. Another Track of the Vessels bound to the Land of Matrimony, takes a more southerly route, past the Island of Tierra de Fuego with its Burning Mt, and Languish Island, with its Rainy Seasons 6 months of the Year. Thence between the Summer Islands and Repulse Isle, to arrive off the coasts of the Land of Matrimony. Vessels proceed past Promise Isle and into Bride’s Bay to finally make landfall at the Temple of Hymen (Marriage). The Land of Matrimony boasts an assortment of interesting topographical features and settlements, many of which indicate the perils of a loveless marriage or one based purely on money and status. So we have Henpeck Bay, the Slave Coast inhabited by Savages, the Dead Lake of Indifference, The Land of Nod, L’Amour River, Esteem River, Inclination River, Terra deserta olim Arcadia (Desert lands formerly Arcadia),Tribe of Gad, Coterie Place, Fortress of Virtue (dismantled) and, off Cuckolds Point, its southermost promontory, the lonely Divorce Island. In the southern waters of the Ocean of Love, beyond Prudence Island (with Mt Caution and its lighthouse), privateers lurk amongst the Enchanted Islands, which include Cyprus Isle, Quicksands, Syrens Isle (many ships wrecked here) and the largest  of the archipelago, Calypso Isle, with its features, St.Magdalena (a magdalen, penitent fallen woman or prostitute), Gulf of Reproach & Bay of Repentance.

As William McCarthy has noted in his book, “on the larger scale, the map allegorizes the social understanding of marriage as a happy medium between sexless and prudish solitude [in Friesland in the Frozen Sea in the map’s Northern regions] and dangerous promiscuity [amongst the privateers and freebooters of The Enchanted Islands in the map’s Southernmost waters].

No doubt helped by Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s poem and her growing reputation as an authoress, Johnson’s two maps of matrimony achieved a remarkable popularity and longevity. Though themselves now incredibly rare, they would become the template for innumerable copies and derivatives that were published throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries.  Interestingly, by the late 1780’s, a version of Barbauld’s Matrimony map was being marketed and sold as a female fashion accessory, the printed map of matrimony forming the body of a lady’s folding fan. It was entirely appropriate subject matter to decorate a lady’s fan, given that it was by means of the semaphore-like “language of the fan” that covert messages on marital status, mutual attraction, secret assignation or love might be  conveyed when young women and men gathered together in wider society. An advertisement in the London Morning Post from 14 March 1789 lists it alongside a new Opera map fan and the other exotic goods – French and English gauzes & tiffanies, artificial flowers and fancy feathers – sold at the ladies emporium, Dyde & Scribe, at No.99 Pall Mall.

Barbauld’s map firmly established the model of the voyage through the dangerous waters of young love to landfall in the blissful haven of the land of matrimony.

This is just the second example of this larger edition of Ellis & Johnson’s Map of Matrimony that we have traced  on the market in the last decade, so it must be considered an item of the most considerable scarcity.

It is undoubtedly of great importance & significance in charting the history of allegorical & matrimonial cartography.

Perhaps more interestingly, in a wider context, the map also charts, in parallel to its own allegorical defining & localising of matrimony, the beginning of a growing focus on issues of gender, women’s independent status & rights and the social and legal institution of matrimony in contemporary affairs that evolved during this late 18th Century period. All the more so in the free-thinking dissenting environment which characterized the intellectual and artistic circle of London printer and bookseller Joseph Johnson and which included so many significant independently-minded women authors and writers, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, and not least, Anna Laetitia Barbauld.

Refs: Katherine Harman: You Are Here – Personal Geographies and other Maps of the Imagination [Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2004], illustration p.59; Franz Reitinger: Mapping Relationships: Allegory, Gender and the Cartographical Image in Eighteenth Century France and England, in: Imago Mundi 51 [1999], pp.106-130, esp. Fig 12 & pp.122-124; William McCarthy: Anna Letitia Barbauld, Voice of the Enlightenment [John Hopkins University Press, 2008], esp. Chapter 6, The Land of Matrimony, pp.124-149; Betsy Rodgers: Georgian Chronicle. Mrs Barbauld and her Family [Methuen, 1958]; The works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld. With a memoir by Lucy Aikin. 2 Vols, [London 1825]; A. L. Le Breton: Memoir of Mrs. Barbauld, including letters and notices of her family and friends [London, 1874]; G R Tyson: Joseph Johnson, A Liberal Publisher [Uni. of Iowa Press, 1979]; L Chard : Bookseller to Publisher, Joseph Johnson and the English Book Trade 1760-1810, The Library [5th Series, #32 [1977] pp.159-168; Oxford DNB  [OUP 2004]: Anna Laetitia Barbauld #1324; Joseph Johnson #14904.