“Why did yankee doodle stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni? Back in Pre-Revolutionary America when the song ‘Yankee Doodle’ was first popular, the singer was not referring to the pasta ‘macaroni’ in the line that reads ‘stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.’ ‘Macaroni’ was a fancy (‘dandy’) style of Italian dress widely imitated in England at the time. So by just sticking a feather in his cap and calling himself a ‘Macaroni’ (a ‘dandy’), Yankee Doodle was proudly proclaiming himself to be a country bumpkin, because that was how the English regarded most colonials at that time”
Despite the importance of her work, Mary Darly has remained an obscure and somewhat forgotten figure in the history of British caricature, yet is responsible for its inception as an art form; one that distanced itself from the earlier models of pictorial satire. She fostered enthusiasm for graphic satire and increased sensitivity and awareness of caricature as an artistic convention as popular work appealing across all social classes.
The ascension of George III in 1762, coincided with the publication with the publication of the first English book about caricature by Darly, who self-described herself as a ”fun merchant”. The style mixed elements of the old, DaVinci and the classics, with ”deniere cri” work of George Townshend whom Horace Walpole claimed was the first artist to satirize identifiable people. This was what distinguished the style of a William Hogarth from later popularizers such as Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray. It was the personal character of the satire embodied in the prints of the Georgian era that gave them their edge at the time. That edge also related to a line across which caricaturists seem to have been more willing and able to cross with impunity than writers; a line involving insult, libel and the imputation of outlandish sexual mores.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the hair of the fashionable world in England soared to new heights. There were many prints that focused on hair and wigs, and on the hairdressers and barbers who created and tended them. These images of “preposterous” hairstyles give evidence of the increased economic prosperity. Trade and the exploitation of the colonies had created an affluent merchant class that made possible such extreme fashions as well as the luxury goods necessary to them. At the time of publication, the prints also served to communicate and disseminate the latest styles to a broader public.
English women borrowed fashionable hairstyles from France, particularly Marie Antoinette’s fanciful headdresses, and English men returning from the Grand Tour brought back fashions as well as objets d’art. From the beginning there was ambivalence among the English about extravagant fashion, and the extreme style adopted by the young gentlemen back from their European travels, dubbed “Macaronies,” was usually portrayed as ridiculous and sometimes even as unnatural. In 1764 Horace Walpole mentioned “The Maccaroni Club,which is composed of all the travelled young men who wear long curls and spying-glasses,” and a writer in the Oxford Magazine had this to say in 1770: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up amongst us. It is called Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.”
In addition to reflecting an English distrust of Continental ,specifically French and Italian, excess in dress and manner, some of the prints also point up the confusion and sense of disorder caused by attempts at upward mobility. Satiric images abound of men and women putting on the clothes, and trying for the manners and hairstyles, of the upper classes, succeeding to a greater or lesser degree as this first surge of materialism, fueled by the ”Grand Tour” became embraced as a societal value.