William Mulready was born in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland (1786). When William was about 6-years old, his family brought him to England (1792). The rest of his life and his artuistic career is associated with England. Tghe family settled in London wher he began school. We are not sure about his education and early artistic traioning. He clearly demonstrated a gift at an early age. He was accepted at Royal Academy when he was only 14 years of age. He mairred very young to Elizabeth Varley (1784–1864) before his artistic careet was established (1802). Mulready He first focused on landscapes, but gradualy shited to genre painting. Genre scenes dominated his workn (by 1808). He liked painting everyday scenes from rural life. Children were often included, but were rarely the focus of the scenes. While he painted during the Napoleonic War, hev never addressed the major historical events, but fixated on the charming suntelties of everyday life. He was also a noted book illustrator. He illustrated the first edition of Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare (1807). He also illustrated many well known books such as the Vicar of Wakefiekld which were like genre paintings. His first important painting ws 'Returning from the Ale House'. He became a popular Victorian artist. He creating what is now called Mulready stationery letter sheets, which the Post Office thought would be more popular than postage stamps. His wife was a respected landscape painter. They had three children: Paul Augustus (1805–64), William (1805–78), and Michael (1807–89)--all born early in the marriage. They also pursued painting as adults. Their marital relationship desintegrated iover time and they became very bitter with each other.
His deeply held Catholic beliefs meant that divorce was not an option. They separated and blamed each other (1820s). He charged that she was engaged in 'bad conduct", but refused to provide details. Shc blamed him, accusing him of cruelty, pederastic activities and adultery. Here we see 'The Careless Messenger Detected' which Mulready painted in 1826.
The scene is set in Kensington, London. It is one of best known works and reproduced on his tomb. This is thought to have been incorporated into a larger painting. The storyline is that the young boy was given an errand to do while his mother was occupied with her domestic duties at home. The boy was looking after his baby sister. He must have taken this child with him. He bought the candles. When he was returning home he saw other boys playing marbles. He placed his sister by the wall. she held the purchases. He went playing marbles. He then got lost in the game and time passed.
Mum got worried when her did not return from the errand. She went to find him and caught him playing marbles and neglecting his baby sister. He got a telling off we would expect. This might be a reminder of the never ending work a house wife did day in day out and had to send her children on errands while she worked. The errand going was easily destracted and found time to play before arriving back home.
You can see the marbles the boy was playing with. The scene seems to take place in a park area. Mum was beating a carpet. She is holding the carpet beater. There is a string suggestion that she might just take after the boy with it for not coming home quickly with the baby.
If its a social comment it is a very gental one. Mulready's work is useful, because the early-19th century when he worked was before the invention of photography. Thus his work provides valuable insights into an era for which we have little information. The clothing is interesting. The boy seems to be wearing knee breeches. We had though that by the 1920s that long pants had largely replaced knee pants. We are unsure if this is an accurate depictuiion of contemporary fashion or if he is drawing on his memort of earlier years.
That is one of the problems with artistic images, unlike photography, you can not be sure about the accuracy iof the depictions.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Artists pages:
[Return to Main English Artists page]
[Return to Main Artists M-R page]
[Chronology] [Countries] [Individuals] [Styles]
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]