Friday, 25 December 2015

Wood's Hornpipe

From A Companion to the Ball Room by Wilson, Thomas Published in 1816

From Wilson Companion to Ballroom 1816

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Mrs Elliston a Bath Teacher of Dance and much more

On the 20th of February 1807, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra.

 “Elliston, she [her aunt] tells us has just succeeded to a considerable fortune on the death of an Uncle. I would not have it enough to take him from the Stage; she should quit her business, & live with him in London”

Elliston was Robert William Elliston a leading actor and a great favourite of Austen’s; “she” was Elizabeth Elliston his wife.

The cause of Austen’s censure was the fact that despite Robert’s success on the London stage and their eleven years of marriage Elizabeth continued to work as a dance teacher and dance academy proprietor in Bath.

Robert Elliston met Elizabeth Rundall in Bath where he had come to work at the Theatre Royal and she was working as an assistant to the sisters Anne and Kitty the then proprietors of the famous Fleming family dance academy which had been a prominent Bath institution since the 1740s. Anne, despite being middle-aged, had hopes that Elliston would marry her but he only had eyes for her beautiful and talented young assistant.

Robert and Elizabeth married on the 1st June 1796 in the parish of Peter and Paul and Elizabeth set up her own dance academy in Chapel Row in a partnership with Kitty the younger of the Fleming sisters, though there is evidence that this did not create a permanent breach in the friendship between Elizabeth and Anne.

In 1797 Elizabeth and Kitty expanded their business by opening an academy at 5 Great Pulteney Street for private pupils while retaining the public academy at Chapel Row. In addition, to dance training they also offered Robert’s services to teach the “art of reading and speaking with propriety”.

By 1800, Kitty and Elizabeth Elliston had moved their school to 2 Trim Street and in this year Elizabeth gave birth to her second and most famous child Henry Twiselton Elliston who became a composer, inventor and musician often performing with his brother William. Over the course of their 25-year marriage, she and Robert had ten children. At least two of Elizabeth's daughters seem to have earned a living as dance teachers.

By August 1801 Elizabeth had moved her academy to 39 Milsom Street and from this time started to organise balls at the Lower Rooms to display the accomplishments of her pupils and by 1803 she was putting on balls at the Upper Rooms at least one of which attracted no less a person than Her Grace Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire. Her spring ball in 1804 attracted more than 800 visitors.

Bath Chronicle 1803
In 1802 The Morning Post reported a that the King and Queen and their daughters accompanied by the six year old Princess Charlotte of Wales had attended a performance by Robert at the Theatre in Weymouth at which "his daughter Miss Elliston" who cannot have been older than 5 "whose juvenile efforts were crowned with general approbation on his benefit, appeared in a fancy dance, assisted by the exertions of Mrs Elliston and her sister, Miss Rundall."

In 1804, Richard Sheridan asked Robert to appear at his Drury Lane theatre. Initially, Elliston refused a permanent position in Sheridan’s company but gradually the lure of the London theatre and the riches it could command sucked him in.  On 20 September 1804 Elliston made his first appearance as leading actor at Drury Lane. During this year, Elizabeth’s partnership with Kitty Fleming was dissolved and Elizabeth did not maintain an academy at Bath although she did do some teaching at her sister’s school.

Elizabeth’s sister Mary Ann was at this time the principal of a school for young girls in Bath. She later became obsessed by the ideas of the German scholar Gregor von Feinagle concerning memory. After he visited England in 1811 she published a book entitled "Symbolic Illustrations of the History of England". This book aimed to encapsulate the facts of history into just 39 pages, but the book received a withering review in The Quarterly Review who called it a "most absurd book". They noted that 700 pages of text were required to interpret the 39 pages of symbols!

In 1805, Elizabeth announced that she was giving up all her “country businesses” with the exception of classes at her sister’s school and was relaunching her academy at 39 Milsom Street.

When Drury Lane was destroyed by fire in on the 24th February 1809, Elliston used his fame and his uncle’s money to move into theatre management becoming known as ‘the Great Lessee’ and ‘the Napoleon of the Theatre’ for his energy in acquiring new properties.

By 1809, Elizabeth was living in London at a house in Stratford Place a reasonably high-status address just off Oxford Street. It appears that at least in part Elizabeth was in London to work on choreographing the dances in Elliston’s productions.

In this same year, Elizabeth published “Les Varieties a third set of Dances and Cotillions Reels &c Composed and Arranged for the Piano Forte by Mrs Elliston dedicated to Miss D E Rundall, Milsom Street Bath.”

We know very little about Elizabeth’s sister Miss D E Rundall except that she may also have trained with the Flemings, and that Elizabeth trusted her to run her dance school in Milsom Street while she was in London.

In her book, Elizabeth’s tells us a little about her approach to composition where her aim was to create “melodies graceful to the ear & to give them that accent which is the soul of dancing”.  We also learn that her previous two books were called “Trafalgar” & “The Graces” and that they were published in London.

In 1810 in the first season of Elliston's management of the Surrey one of Elliston's earliest biographers tells us "Some delightful melodies were furnished by Mrs. Elliston" for the theatre's production of the Beau Strategem adapted to be a burletta.

By 1812, Elizabeth had moved her school to 21 Milsom Street. In the same year, the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane re-opened on 10 October with a production of Hamlet featuring Robert Elliston in the title role.

From this time on Elizabeth seems to have remained in London and left her Bath interests entirely in the hands of her sister.

Elizabeth died at the age of 46 in 1821 five years before Roberts bankruptcy and ten years before his death in both of which his chronic alcoholism undoubtedly played a part. In the year of her death, her husband leased the theatre at Coventry and staged a magnificent coronation spectacle at Drury Lane. Elizabeth's death was reported around the nation in the most affectionate terms. A typical example of which is taken from Bell's Weekly Messenger is as follows:

"Testimony to private worth - The late Mrs Elliston - The Bath Herald, copying from the London Papers the account of the death of this much esteemed Lady, adds the following interesting particulars. The above account was received in this city, by the numerous friends of Mrs Elliston, with the deepest sorrow; for it was in Bath that the then lovely Miss Rundall, under the kind care of Miss Fleming. acquired those accomplishments, which have since adorned the most respectable circles in the metropolis; and most poignantly do we condole with that highly respected character on the sudden and untimely loss of one, whose merits she had the best opportunity of appreciating, as the attentive pupil, the valuable assistant, and sincere friend - characteristics which have since naturally expanded into the endearing domestic virtues of the best of wives and most affectionate of mothers - This day (Friday) [6th April] being appointed for the funeral, and Mrs Elliston's brother and sister being present in Bath, a knell in the memory of the deceased was tolled at the Abbey from twelve to one o'clock."

Far from deserving Austen’s censure, Elizabeth Elliston emerges as a truly remarkable woman. A mother, composer, teacher, dancer and choreographer who managed to keep a successful business running in Bath to provide a secure income for herself and her family while at the same time supporting her mercurial risk taking drunk of a husband in his many theatrical enterprises.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Mr Webster Dancing Master

Webster came from Sheffield and was at one time a musical ‘composer’ and a pantomimist; he married Elizabeth Moon of Leeds, joined the army, served in the West Indies, was engaged in Bath in organising volunteer forces, and settled there as a dancing and fencing master. A brother Frederick (d. 1878) became stage manager of the Haymarket theatre.

His son was Benjamin Nottingham Webster (3 September 1797 - 3 July 1882) a famous English actor-manager and dramatist.

Webster was based in Walcot House near St Michael's church from about 1801

His school was still active eight years later but had moved to 1 Orange Grove.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Medical Endorsement for Dancing

In the preface to his book "An Analysis of Country Dancing," published in 1808, the London dancing master Thomas Wilson as part of his panegyric on the merits of dancing says " We have too in modern times the authority of the great Buchan, who particularly recommends Dancing and Riding as highly conducive to preserve a healthy constitution."

The Buchan Wilson refers to was the Scottish physician William Buchan. Since 1769 he had been publishing regular editions of his book "Domestic Medicine," an early example of a medical self-help book. It was a huge best seller and a new edition had been published two years before in 1806.

Buchan placed a great emphasis on exercise as a way of preventing disease.

Wilson somewhat exaggerates Buchan's endorsement of dancing as a means of achieving this. Buchan is clear that he favours exercise taken in the open air and particularly riding which he suggests should be done for three hours a day or a similar amount of walking. He even gives a plug to golf and cricket.

However, Buchan does say that if outdoor exercise is not available then "various methods may be contrived for exercising the body within doors, as the dumbbell, dancing, fencing, &c"

The popularity of Buchan's books and his regime may have had another impact on the crowded assembly rooms of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Buchan saw cleanliness and frequent change of clothing as necessary for good health. As he says "The want of cleanliness is a fault which admits of no excuse."

William Buchan (1729 - 1805)

Thursday, 19 November 2015

People watching in the rooms in the 1770's

Philip Thickness the writer, traveller and fortune hunter in his book "The New Prose Bath Guide: for the year 1778" gives a characteristically sharp account of dancing in the rooms.

Philip Thickness in 1757
Speaking of the then relatively new Upper Rooms he says:

"on a Ball-Night, in a full Season, when all the Benches are filled with Ladies in full Dress, the Rooms magnificently lighted by wax, the Splendour of the Lustres, Girondoles,"

The lighting of the rooms was one of the things which contributed to their reputation for magnificence because of the wonderful cut glass chandeliers (lustres) and many branched candle sticks (girondoles) all of which contained very expensive wax candles rather than the much more common cheaper alternatives such as tallow.

"and the superlative Charms of so many lovely Women, whose natural Beauties being awakened by the Variety of Amusements which, on all Sides, surround them—renders it one of the most pleasing Sights that the Imagination of Man can conceive ; and what, we are convinced, no other Part of Europe can boast of; yet, in spite of all these Advantages, we much doubt, whether it be true that the Upper Rooms shew Female Beauty so advantageously as the Lower. There is a certain Degree of Light to fee Nature, as well as Art, to Advantage; and we know that the Painters give us only a small Proportion, not all the Light they could throw upon their Works. We have examined too, with a Degree of particular Attention, some of the most admired Beauties of the last and present Season, at both the Rooms, and, as far as we could determine, they were either best pleased, or most beautiful, under the lower than the higher Lights."

Robe a l'Anglaise - 1770-75

The Lower Rooms being some 18 feet lower than the Upper Rooms must, on this theory, have shown ladies off to considerable advantage.

"It is always remarked by Foreigners, that the English Nation, of both Sexes, look as grave when they are dancing, as if they were attending the Solemnity of a Funeral. This Charge is in general true ; and as a Minuet, danced gracefully, is the Light, of all others, in which a fine Woman can shew herself to most Advantage, we strongly recommend it to the Ladies to remove this national Charge, and to consider, that the Features and Countenance ought to be in Unison, and as perfectly in Tune with the Body, as the Instruments are which direct its Motions. And that that Sort of bewitching Look, bordering on the Smile, which always accompanies cheerful Conversation, should never be omitted in the Dance. As to the Gentleman, we agree with Mr. Hogarth, that it is more his Business to attend to a proper Manner of conducting the Lady in the Dance, than of shewing himself; but neither one, or the other, should dance in so public an Assembly as Bath, unless they are quite sure they dance with some Degree of Grace and Ease ; and as few People can be Judges of their own Excellence in any Respect, and particularly in Dancing, every Body should consult some faithful, not flattering Friend, on this Business, before they let themselves off in a Minuet. Beside which, we are confident, that there are many Ladies and Gentlemen who can dance very well in private, but who often fail in public. The Truth is, there is a certain Degree of necessary and confidential Boldness, without which, no Person can dance perfectly well. How many fine Women do we see totter with Fear, when they are taken out to dance? And is it possible, that such who cannot walk firmly should be able to dance gracefully?

We are aware that the Ladies think Gravity of Countenance a necessary Attendant on Modesty and Sentiment; but, till they can prove that a cheerful pleasing Smile is incompatible with Virtue, Prudence, or Discretion, we must beg Leave (while we allow them all imaginable Praise, for such ill-placed Precaution) to assure them, that they cannot bestow, on mortal Man, a more pleasing nor a more innocent Mark of their Public Favour, than by shewing their Features, under the Advantage of a Smile. Even Venus herself, were we to paint her surprised going into her Bath, it should be, withdrawing herself from the Eyes of the Beholders with a bashful Smile. Let it be remembered, though, that the loud Laugh, and the giggling Titter, should be always avoided, being neither consistent with good Breeding, nor good Policy."

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Jacob Harbour

Jacob Harbour was a London musical instrument seller and professional violinist of the late eighteenth century. He was active from around 1760 to 1790 and was mainly know as a source of cheaper instruments. He operated from his premises at 25 Duke Street, Lincoln Inn Field and from 1786 from premises in Southampton Buildings, Holborn.

Like many instrument sellers, he also sold and published music and in this role he issued occasional collections of country dances.

The example below is a cotillion from his:

"By subscription, The Second Book for the Year 1784. Eighteen Favorite Cotillions, Allemands, Country Dances, and a Much Admired minuet."

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Mrs De Rossi a Bath teacher of Dance

Lucy Michel was born in 1771 the daughter of Pierre Bernard Michel who was described by no less a figure than the great Italian dancer, dance theoretician and choreographer, Gennaro Magri as "the best Ballerino grotesco that France ever produced". Grotesque dances, as opposed to noble dances, were comic or lighthearted and created for buffoons and commedia dell'arte characters.

Lucy was probably born in Dublin where her father was known to be dancing in the early 1770s. The Michel family seem to have settled in Bath about 1772 and it may well be then that he started to teach dance.

Lucy seems to have appeared on stage dancing alongside her brother at the Haymarket Theatre and in Brighton in 1785.

Lucy and her brother danced at the Bath Theatre Royal on several occasions between 1786 and 1789. They also appear on bills in Bristol between 1778 and 1790.

In 1787, Lucy's father launched a dancing school in Kingsmead Square where he taught both boys and girls, travelling as far afield as Wells, increasingly aided by his daughter. Together they put on a ball for the children of two Wells schools in 1790.

On the 5th December 1790 at Bath Abbey, Lucy married Philip de Rossi a language teacher. A few month after her marriage she started her own dance school in  Margaret Buildings. This seems to have led to a breach with her father.

On 21st July 1791 she placed the following advertisement in the Chronicle:

Her advert appeared just above her father's advert:

The Devonshire Minuet, to which they both refer, had been composed, by Gaetan Vestris in honour of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and first performed by Adelaide Simonet and Gaetan Vestris at the King’s Theatre in London on 22 March 1781. Gaetan Vestris and his son Auguste Vestris were two towering figures of European dance both as performers, choreographers and teachers. At this time they were both living and performing in London having been driven out of France by the revolution.

Gaetan Vestris
Michel's advert appeared again in the next edition of the paper but with a bitter little addition "N.B. Mr Michel is conscious that a liberal publick [sic] will judge candidly".

By 1791, Lucy had moved her school to 17 Milsom Street but by 1792 although she is listed as a dance teacher in the Bath directory she seems to have abandoned teaching in Bath and resumed her stage career using the name Signora Marchesini at Saddlers Wells where it was said that she had last performed on stage at the age of eight. Lucy abandoned her assumed identity in the autumn of 1792 when she appeared at Covent Garden as Mme Rossi.

She continued to have a successful career forming a professional partnership with the dancer James Bryn. However, this collaboration came to a bitter end following the 1793 - 1794 season when Bryn dismissed her from the company. Mr Rossi threatened Bryn with legal action but there is no evidence that he followed this up and Lucy was back at Covent Garden for the next season.

She seems to have taken a break from performance in the autumn and winter of 1795 probably caused by the birth of her son Oscar whose father was James Bryn. On the 11th April 1796, the Oracle alluded to "Mrs Rossi having left her husband to live with Bryn." She was 25 and he was 40 and had been previously married.

By the winter of 1796 Lucy and Bryn were dancing together in America where they remain until 1799 when the returned to Europe via Jamaica. For the remainder of the year and the early month of 1800 the three Bryns were performing in Dublin. However, by April the family were back in London performing at the Royal Circus  and Covent Garden.

By 1801, the Bryn's relationship seems to have taken a dip with Lucy starring at Drury Lane while her husband continued to work at the Royal Circus. She retired from the stage in 1803 he seems to have continued until 1805.

Some time between her retirement and her death in 1845 their relationship may have collapsed altogether as in her will she describes her husband as deceased but professional registers suggested he did not die until some months after her.

In her will, she leaves her very considerable estate mainly to her six children.

Friday, 13 November 2015

How to give hand in the 1820s

"In giving the hand, the lady places her hand upon that of the gentleman, who receives it. These movements should be performed slowly, and corresponding to the music, observing always to turn the head and shoulders towards the same side to which the arm is carried; the head held properly
back, and the looks reciprocally directed towards each other.

In giving both hands, the head and shoulders are held directly to face the person opposite."

From the Elements of the Art of Dancing with a Description of the Principal Figures in the Quadrille by Alexander Strathy - Teacher of Dance 1822

Saturday, 17 October 2015

If possible I shall try to get a few dance lessons

This is a quote from Elizabeth Canning's letter to her mother on the 4th November 1798 when she was visiting Bath. At this time, she was in her early twenties and would have had a choice of teachers, among them[1]:

Anna Fleming proprietor of the long established Fleming family business which she ran with her assistant Miss Le Mercier in John Street.

Mrs Elliston and her partner Kitty Fleming, Anne's sister, who had set up their public establishment in Chapel Row in 1796 but in addition offered private lessons at 5 Pulteney street with the additional inducement of lessons in “art of reading and speaking with propriety” from Elizabeth's glamorous husband Robert rising star of the Bath and London Stage. 

There was also Charles Metralcourt who had returned to Bath in 1795 and who had been a ballet master at the London Opera House and offered his deep knowledge of the steps of the newly fashionable Scottish and Irish dances.

Susan Sibbald, a young boarder at the Belvedere school in Bath at the very end of the eighteenth century has left us a rare account of what a dance class of this period was like. The tall, erect, stoutish Miss Fleming would arrive at the school in her sedan chair to teach them minuets and figure dances while Miss Le Mercier concentrated on the basic steps and positions. A violinist came with them to
play the tunes. From time to time Miss Fleming would call out, 'Now ladies, do credit to Bath', and reward her best pupils with a bonbon from an amber box or a flower from her bouquet.

1. Letters Barnett Elizabeth (Bess nee Canning) - Bath Library Reference Collection

Harlequin and Mother Goose

In 1816, Thomas Wilson the London Dancing Master who had associations with the King's Theatre Opera House published 'The Treasures of Terpsichore; or, A Companion For The Ball-Room Being A Collection Of All The Most Popular English Country Dances, Arranged Alphabetically, with proper Figures to each Dance,"

One of the dances he includes illustrates further the links between theatrical dance and social dance. The dance was called Grimaldi's Dance In Mother Goose with the following figures and instructions:


Single Figure.

Hands across and hack again, down the middle, up again, and rig'ht and left.

Or thus:

Whole figure at top, down the middle, up again, and pousset.

Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837) was an English actor, comedian and dancer, who became the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era. In the early 1800s, he expanded the role of Clown in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden theatres. He became so dominant on the London comic stage that the harlequinade role of Clown became known as "Joey", and both the nickname and Grimaldi's whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns. Grimaldi originated catchphrases such as "Here we are again!", which continue to feature in modern pantomimes.

Born in London to an entertainer father, Grimaldi began to perform as a child, making his stage debut at Drury Lane in 1780. He became successful at the Sadler's Wells Theatre the following year; his first major role was as Little Clown in the pantomime The Triumph of Mirth; or, Harlequin's Wedding in 1781, in which he starred alongside his father. After a brief schooling, he appeared in various low-budget productions and became a sought-after child performer. He took leading parts in Valentine and Orson (1794) and The Talisman; or, Harlequin Made Happy (1796), the latter of which brought him wider recognition.

Towards the end of the 1790s, Grimaldi starred in a pantomime version of Robinson Crusoe, which confirmed his credentials as a key pantomime performer. Many productions followed, but his career at Drury Lane was becoming turbulent, and he left the theatre in 1806.

Grimaldi’s most famous role was as Clown in the pantomime of Harlequin and Mother Goose, first played at Covent Garden in London in 1806. It was set up at short notice, and, therefore, could not feature the elaborate machinery and scenes then typical of pantomimes. Perhaps because of this the performers’ skills, their ‘whim, humour and agility’ were more evident. When it opened on Boxing Day, European Magazine said, " was received with the most deafening shouts of applause, and played for ninety-two nights, being the whole remainder of the season." Despite its success, and despite his role in it, Grimaldi did not hold it in high esteem. In fact, he declared it to be one of the worst pantomimes he had ever played.

Grimaldi's association with Sadler's Wells came to an end in 1820, chiefly as a result of his deteriorating relationship with the theatre's management. After numerous injuries over the years from his energetic clowning, his health was also declining rapidly, and he retired in 1823. He appeared occasionally on stage for a few years thereafter, but his performances were restricted by his worsening physical disabilities. In his last years, Grimaldi lived in relative obscurity and became a depressed, impoverished alcoholic. He outlived both his wife and his actor son, Joseph Samuel, dying at home in Islington in 1837, aged 58

Friday, 16 October 2015

Rules for attending public balls in the first decade of the nineteenth century

In his book “An Analysis of Country Dancing” published in 1808 the London dancing master Thomas Wilson gives the following advice to those attending their first public assembly:

“The regulations of some well known assemblies are already before the public. As the Bath Guide contains the rules and etiquette of their balls, which for public balls are perhaps the genteelest and best conducted of any in England, I have in the following lines given only such general hints as ought to be observed in all assemblies whether public or private.

Every Lady on entering the ball room must be presented by the Master of the Ceremonies with a ticket, on which is inscribe the number of her call (except Ladies of title, who claim their precedence according to their rank or seniority), which she should pin in a conspicuous place, to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding respecting places."

By the 'number of her call' Wilson means her place in the set for the country dances so she would stand below ladies with a lower number but above ladies with a higher number. Gentlemen dancing together would always go the bottom. These rules in part reflect Georgian concern with social rank but were mainly introduce to avoid the disorder that otherwise broke out as people lower down the set fought for spaces or tried to intrude their friends.

"Any Lady or Gentleman wishing to dance a Minuet must, as soon as they enter the room, make known their intentions to the Master of the Ceremonies."

This is because the Master of the Ceremonies played a crucial role in managing the dancing of minuets. The minuet was a couple’s dance where one couple danced at a time before an admiring or more often critical company. After the first couple had danced the man retired and the Master of the Ceremonies would bring the woman a second partner. The minuets continued until all the ladies who had stood up for them had danced with two men. The succession of dancers was governed by strict rules of precedence arbitrated by the Master of the Ceremonies.

"No Gentlemen must enter the ball room with whole or half boots on, or with canes or sticks in their hands; nor are any pantaloons considered a proper dress for the assembly room."

"When Country Dancing has commenced, and the top couple have gone down three couple, the next couple must go off."

Unlike modern practice, the dances were called and danced by the top couple and the rest of the set waited for them to arrive before they started. While modern dancers might find such a way of operating rather tedious with long waits before dancing for contemporary young people it must have afforded a welcome and rare opportunity to talk and flirt. It is possibly also worth pointing out for those used to modern practice that both three and two couple dances were danced in continuous long sets, modern callers break up three couple sets to avoid the 2nd and 3rd couples having to cope with constantly changing their numbering.

"When every couple have gone down the dance, and the couple who called it have regained the top and gone down three couple, the dance is finished; for the next dance they stand at the bottom.
Number 2 calls the second dance, and so regularly on through the company”

Wilson refers to the rules of the Bath assemblies at this time which can be found in the Bath Guide of 1803.

For the Upper Rooms:

"The following are the rules and regulations entered into by the subscribers of the Dress Balls:

That the power of direction and control relative to the public amusements in the rooms, is in the subscribers to the Dress Balls, and them only.

That the weekly publick [sic] amusements in these Rooms, during the season be as follows:

Monday night ………………………………………..Dress Ball
Tuesday night ………………………………………..Card Assembly
Wednesday night……………………………………..Concert
Thursday night………………………………………. Fancy Ball"

Fancy Balls were, in Georgian terms, much more relaxed occasions Ladies could appear in hats or make any other elegant fashion statement they pleased, short of actual fancy dress costumes. Fancy balls started with a country dance, after which there was one Cotillion only, and then tea – after tea, a country dance, one Cotillion only and the evening ended with more country dances, and the Long Minuet famously illustrated by Henry William Bunbury.

"N.B. The Rooms to be open every day, Sunday excepted, for cards, and every other Sunday evening for a promenade.

The subscription of one guinea to the Dress Ball shall entitle such subscribers to admission every ball night, and also to two tickets transferable to ladies only.

That a subscription of half a guinea to the Dress Balls shall entitle such subscriber to one ticket each night not transferable. Young ladies and gentlemen at their school vacation will be admitted when introduced by a subscriber.

That a subscription of half a guinea to the Fancy Ball shall entitle such subscriber to one ticket every ball night; this ticket not transferable."

It is always difficult to attribute modern day equivalents to historic prices but in this context, a guinea would approximately equate to spending £1300 today.

"That the dress and fancy balls shall begin as soon as possible after seven o’clock, and conclude precisely at eleven, even in, the middle of a dance."

These timings are derived from the contract with the musicians.

"That in future every person, on admission to these rooms on dress and fancy ball nights, shall pay 6d for tea"

6d equates to about £30 today.

"That a reasonable time be allowed between the minuets and the country dances, for Ladies of precedence to take their places; and that those who shall stand up after the dance is begun, must take their place for that dance at the bottom.

That no lady do permit another to come in above her, after she takes her place in the set.
That ladies who intend dancing minuets do wear lappets; and it is requested that the rest of their dress be as conformable as possible to this distinction, regard being had to the prevailing fashion of the times. It is also hoped that the gentlemen will accommodate their dress to the ladies."

By this date, there was increasing resistance to conforming  to a dress code based on the formal court dress of many decades ago in an age of muslin and empire lines,

Ball Gown circa 1805

"That the three front seats, at the upper end of the room, be reserved for ladies of precedence of the rank of Peeresses of Great Britain or Ireland.

That the gentleman’s annual subscription for the use of the coffee and card room be one guinea; for two months half a guinea.

That the ladies subscription for the use of the room every Tuesday evening during the season for a card assembly be 5s.

That no gentleman in boots or half boots be admitted into any of these rooms on ball nights, public card or concert nights.

That no person be admitted into any of these rooms on dress ball nights without a ticket; but no ticket of admission to the card-room be required on fancy ball nights from such persons as subscribe to the walking subscription."

The walking subscription entitled you to promenade inside the rooms where you could be assured that you would only meet other members of fashionable society.

"That non subscribers be admitted to the promenades on Sunday evening: gentlemen paying one shilling and ladies six pence, tea included.

That the renters of these rooms having agreed with the subscribers to furnish twenty six dress balls on the guinea subscription and thirty fancy balls on the half guinea subscription, no annual account of the expenditure be required of them.

That the musical band of these rooms do consist of twelve performers, including an harp, tabor, and pipe; each performer to be allowed a sum not exceeding half a guinea on each ball night for his attendance, which money is to be taken from the subscription of the respective balls.

That the musical band at the Pump Room, in lieu of a former establishment; viz five guineas a week paid by each room taken from the subscription to the dress balls be allowed:

From the corporation ------------------------------------ 50l
From the Upper Rooms---------------------------------- 50l
From the Lower Rooms---------------------------------- 30l

Each party on rotation to let the band have the use of a room for an annual concert, gratis

That no persons be permitted to play with cards left by another party.

That no hazard, or unlawful game of any sort, be allowed in these rooms on any account whatever, nor any cards on Sunday."

Hazard was a dice based gambling game from which the modern casino game craps may have evolved

"That all future orders and regulations agreed to in general meeting be inserted in the subscribers’ book; and signed by the chairman of the meeting for the time being: such orders and rules not to be altered by any authority whatever, but at a general meeting of the subscribers; and that the said book be deposited in trust with the renters of the rooms, to be produced at any time when a meeting of subscribers to the dress balls be assembled, or when three or more subscribers shall desire the same.
That not less than nine subscribers to the dress ball be competent to call a general meeting upon any business relevant to these rooms.; the said nine to leave a summons signed with their names, upon the table for the space of one week previous to such meeting; which summons shall also express the particular purpose for which such meeting is called, and shall be published in the Bath papers.
That the master of ceremonies, on receiving information of persons acting in opposition to these resolutions, do signify to such person, that, as master of ceremonies, it is his duty to see the orders of subscribers properly enforced.

As the late great extension of the city puts it out of the power of the master of ceremonies to be regularly informed of the several persons who arrive here, he hopes they will be so indulgent to him as not to charge him with want of attention, if he should happen to omit visiting them; and that he publicly requests that they will, on their arrival, cause their names, with their places of abode, to be inserted in a book kept at the pump rooms for that purpose, which will afford him such information as will enable him to comply with his own wishes, and the expectations of the public."

The Master of Ceremonies played a vital role in arbitrating matters of precedence and controlled access to assemblies so he needed to know who he was dealing with as can be seen from the next clause.

"And as it is extremely desirable that all improper company may be kept from these rooms, he requests also, that strangers, as well as ladies and gentlemen, will give him an opportunity of being introduced to them, before they hold themselves entitled to that attention and respect, which he is ambitious and ever will be studious to show to ever individual resorting to this place"

For the Lower Rooms:

"The Master of Ceremonies very respectfully submits the following regulations to the company which are considered as the established rules of the rooms.

1st  that the balls shall begin as soon as possible after seven o’clock and conclude precisely at eleven.

2ndly That the seats at the upper end of the rooms be reserved for Peeresses.

3 dly That Ladies who intend dancing minuets do wear lappets and it is requested that the rest of their dress may correspond with this distinction.

4 thly That a reasonable time will be allowed between the minuets and country dances for ladies of rank to take their places; those who stand up after the dance is called, must go to the bottom for that dance, after which should they wish to take their precedence, on application to the Master of Ceremonies; he will put them in their place.

5thly That ladies do not permit other couples to stand above them after the set is formed; and they are particularly requested to continue in their places after they have gone down a dance, until the rest of the couples have done the same.

6 thly That gentlemen cannot be admitted to the room on ball nights in boots or half boots; nor are pantaloons considered proper dress for a ball.

7thly That no hazard or unlawful games will on any account be allowed in these rooms ; nor cards on Sunday

8 thly That each lady and gentleman on public nights pay six pence on entering the rooms =, which will entitle them to tea.

8tly The ladies may, if they please wear hats in the public rooms in the evening, except on ball or concert nights: Gentlemen are not to wear boots in the public rooms of an evening, nor spurs to the pump room of a morning

9thly That no Hazard or unlawful games will be allowed in these Rooms on any account whatever, nor cards on Sundays.

Lastly That Ladies or Gentleman coming to town, give orders that their names and places of abode be entered in the Pump Room books; and the Master of the Ceremonies thus publicly requests the favour of such Ladies and Gentlemen to whom he has not the honour of being personally known, to offer him some favourable occasion of being presented to them, that he may be enabled to shew that attention, which it is not more his duty than his inclination to observe."

The state of the quadrille in 1815

The London dancing master Thomas Wilson in his preface to his book The Quadrille Instructor gave the following assessment of the state of quadrille dancing in 1815.

"Quadrilles are of that Species of Dancing that at present claim a high precedence in Fashionable Circles  and from their partaking greatly of the style of Cotillions in their Composition may notwithstanding their more fashionable appellation and their more short and less complex Figures be properly considered as petite or short Cotillions."

It is interesting to see that in Wilson view the quadrille was a shortened and simplified type of cotillion. This fits well with the general trend for the fashionable company to choose simpler shorter dance with less strict dress codes. In Bath, this trend was marked from the late 1790s by the replacement of cotillion balls by the fancy balls with no minuets, fewer cotillions, more country dances and a relaxed dress code.

Interestingly in a letter to her niece in 1816, Jane Austen says " Much obliged for the Quadrilles, which I am grown think pretty enough, though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day"

"The Figures in this set of Quadrilles will be found to differ from those already published and which have been copied (from their being well known and to save the consequent trouble of composing new ones) into almost every collection of recent date. It being the Author's intention to accommodate those persons who wish to dance these Quadrilles as well as the others he has -adapted his Music to suit both; thereby affording the choice of two sets of. Figures instead of one; added to a clear Elucidation of them by proper Diagrams on a principle in point of explanation that he trusts will be found very superior to any others-, as they not only describe the various positions of the dancers but also shew the lines in' which they are to move from one situation to the other."

"The Music may be composed either in triple or common time (the former is preferable) and the tunes adapted to this purpose should be either, of French Origin or composed in the same easy style. The only merit attached to the Music hitherto published as Quadrille. to be found in those parts that are taken from other Composers, for instance a part of the Overture in "The Lady of the Manor" is introduced in “Le Duc de Wellington;” a part of a drinking song in “The Siege of Belgrade” in “Le Cuirassier;” the Minor Part of the same Opera in “La poule Anglaise;” the first strain of an old quick March (which is also a part of the Ballet of “Tamerlane and Bajazet'') in one of the;”Trenise''of which there are several."

"The lady of the manor" was a comic opera performed at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden from about the 1770s. The Siege of Belgrade was a comic opera in three acts it incorporated music by Mozart, Salieri, Paisiello and Martini. It premiered on 1 January 1791 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London with a great success. Tamerlane et Bajazet was a grand heroic ballet performed at the King's Theatre Haymarket in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

"Another favourite Quadrille may be found wholly taken from the Overture in Lodoiska and one of the Finales has for its subject the old song of 'The Arethusa'. Many others are composed in the style of Hornpipes and in other styles either so obsolete or with droning Minors as to be altogether incompatible with modern taste."

Lodoïska was an opera by Luigi Cherubini first performed at the Théâtre Feydeau in Paris on 18 July 1791.The Saucy Arethusa was a nautical song which was part of a "musical entertainment" titled The Lock and Key, performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1796.

"In the Composition of Quadrilles the number of strains are generally three, they may be made to consist of two three or four strains beyond which they seldom extend they are all however considered as Rondos and provided the Music be correct invariably finish with the first strain. It is customary in performing them for the Dancers to wait until the first strain is played and if it be not marked with a repeat the dance commences with the second strain."

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Charles Mercie Master of the Ceremonies

Charles Mercie opened his public dance academy at number 5 Argyle Buildings, now street, in October 1790. He had probably been giving private tuition for some time prior to that.

No 5 Argyle Street

Sometime around 1791/2 he had visited Paris to update his knowledge of the latest French dances, he paid a further visit to Paris in the spring of 1795.

It seems around this period he was appointed Master of the Ceremonies at the Guildhall which the Corporation maintained as an alternative to those provided at the Rooms for the fashionable company and from most of which they and the families were excluded.

A Modern Ball at the Guildhall

In 1798, Mercie had intended relinquishing the post but worried that no one else seemed to be stepping into the breach. He approached the Mayor and arranged terms on which he would conduct the season's balls. Unfortunately, the Mayor left Bath shortly afterwards without letting the other members of the corporation know what he had done. In the meantime, they had approached James Marshall a local bookseller to undertake the role. A compromise was reached and Mercie and Marshall became joint Masters and the first of the City Assemblies was arranged for Monday, December the 31st.

By 1800 Charles had moved his dancing school to 15, Henrietta Street.

Friday, 28 August 2015

A Cotillion of the 1790s and its revolutionary links

In "The Gentleman & Ladies Companion containing the Newest Cotillions and Country Dances" published by the Norwich-based dancing master Trumbull in 1798 we find the following instructions for dancing the cotillion called 

The Ca Ira Cotillion

"Balance all eight, then half round the same back again; 1st and'2d couple (opposite) take your partner with both hands, chasse with her to your side with five steps, back again to your places balance with the opposite couple, then cross hands half round, back again with four hands round, a gentleman with the lady opposite balance in the middle, and set, the other gentleman with the opposite lady do the same, right and left quite round until to your places. The 3d and 4th couples do the same figures."

"Ça ira" which can be translated as - it'll be fine - is a song of the French Revolution, first heard in May 1790. It underwent several changes in wording, all of which used the title words as part of the refrain.

The music is a popular contre danse air called Le Carillon National, composed by Bécourt, a musician of the théâtre Beaujolais. Marie Antoinette is said to have often played the music on her harpsichord.

The title and theme of the refrain were inspired by Benjamin Franklin while in France as a representative of the Continental Congress. Franklin was very popular in France. When asked about the American Revolutionary War, he would reportedly reply, "Ça ira, ça ira" ("It'll be fine, it'll be fine").

The song first became popular as a work song during the preparation for the Fête de la Fédération of 1790 and eventually became recognized as an unofficial anthem of revolutionaries.

At the 1793 Battle of Famars, the 14th Regiment of Foot, The West Yorkshire Regiment, attacked the French to the music of Ça Ira (the colonel commenting that he would "beat the French to their own damned tune"). The regiment was later awarded the tune as a battle honour and regimental quick march. It has since been adopted by the Yorkshire Regiment

Demons in the sky sing "Ça ira" as the blade of the guillotine severs the head of Louis XVI in this British print published just four days after the king's execution on 21 January 1793.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Bath Tailor's shop of the 1820s

Mr Drake claims to have worked for Stultz and Co. this is the company founded by Johann Stultz who in an earlier decade was the preferred tailor of London’s aristocracy including the most famous of dandies, George Brummell and the Prince Regent, who by 1822 was on the throne as George IV.

By habit Drake mean ladies riding clothes in modern values, Mr Drake was offering these at around £400.
Pelisse 1817
A pelisse was originally a short fur-lined or fur-trimmed jacket that was usually worn hanging loosely over the left shoulder of hussar light cavalry soldiers but by this time when military clothing was often used as inspiration for fashionable ladies' garments, the term was applied to a woman's long, fitted coat with set-in sleeves and the fashionable Empire waist. Although initially, these Regency-era pelisses copied the Hussars' fur and braid, they soon lost these initial associations, and in fact were often made entirely of silk and without fur at all. They did, however, tend to retain traces of their military inspiration with frog fastenings and braid trim. 

Super cloth and superfine cloth are grades of pure wool fabric. Saxony was the highest grade woollen and worsted dress fabric and was made from the wool of German merino sheep. Imperial usually implies cloth woven using a mixture of colours or fabrics in the weave.

The frock coat was a form of undress, the clothing worn instead of the dress coat in more informal situations. Morning coats were cut light in the skirts and rather shorter than the evening coats

Kerseymere is a fine woollen cloth with a fancy twill weave.

Russia drilling or drill is a stout twilled fabric usually made with hemp linen.

Nankeen Trousers 1818

Nankeen is a kind of pale yellowish cloth, originally made at Nanjing from a yellow variety of cotton, but subsequently manufactured from ordinary cotton which is then dyed.

Jeans cloth was a cotton fabric.

Valencia was famous for producing high-quality silks and toilenet was a kind of poplin medium weight fabric made of wool or a mixture of wool and cotton or silk and cotton.

Marseilles is a strong cotton fabric with a raised pattern

13 York Street Today

Sunday, 26 July 2015

A dance in celebration of a feat of hydraulic engineering

The suggested figures for Marly Water's Works taken from "The Scholar's Companion - Cotillions and Country Dances – 1796. The scholar’s companion: containing a choice collection of cotillions & country-dances by M.J.C. Fraisier." of 1796.

HALF figure proper with the 2d couple, lead through the bottom and cast up - ''half figure proper with the 3d couple, lead up and cast off one couple, three hands round, double bottom and top, change and continue the round; the 1st. and 2d couple lead. round each other, and conclude with the allemande to your partner once round.

Marly Water's Works is a reference to the Chateau de Marly a relatively small residence of Louise XIV near Versailles and the famous Marly Machine which pumped water to supply the fountains at both Chateau de Marly and Versailles

The Marly Machine 1724

When the king wanted to relax and spend time with his inner circle he would move from Versailles to the Marly gardens where the nearby Seine supplied the site with water via the mechanism of the Marly Machine.

The Château de Marly 1724
Swalem Rennequin, a carpenter who could neither read nor write, designed the Marly machine. Fourteen paddle-wheels drove the 59 suction pumps, propelling water to the top of the Marly gardens more than 150 metres above the river.

Work on the Marly machine lasted from 1680 to 1685 but cost the royal treasury relatively little money. Despite its fragility, it regularly supplied the Marly gardens with water during the first few years but was neglected in the 1690s. Its power steadily declined until a 1730s renovation, when the water was no longer pumped to Marly but to Versailles.

The Wiltshires and the Lower Rooms

The Wiltshire's were a very wealthy and influential Bath family who made their money as carriers, transporting high-value goods between London and Bath, and as bankers.

Thomas Rowlandson A Carrier's Waggon
In addition to these enterprises, they also became proprietors of one of the rooms on the parades. The first Wiltshire to take charge was Anne Wiltshire who ran the rooms from 1744 to 1747. The Bath Journal of 23 September 1745 tells us that the subscription Anne charged to use the Rooms was a guinea and they opened at 11 am.
Wiltshire's Rooms

Anne's son John Wiltshire took over in 1747 and ran them until 1767. He was the brother of Walter Wiltshire. Both brothers were prominent Freemasons and Walter was elected a Councillor in 1746 and went on to be Mayor in 1772, 1780 and 1791. We learn from the Bath City Council Minutes of 1746 that the Council was indebted to Walter Wiltshire to the tune of £7,700 or around £600,000 today.

Shockerville House
Walter Wiltshire's House
The New Bath Guide of 1766 tells us that John decorated his rooms with a "Portrait Picture and Bust of the Late Richard Nash Esq. beside many curious landscapes." The latter is of some interest because the Wiltshire brothers through both their work and Freemasonry were mixing with many important artists including Gainsborough.

Wiltshire's Rooms

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Up With The Orange a dance from 1814

This is taken from "Up with the Orange. A fashionable country dance to which are added two favorite French country dances or cotillions for the year 1814. The proper figures are affixed to each air."

The suggested figures are:
The 1st and 2nd couples advance and foot it in the centre, Then turn into place down the middle and up again - swing corners  - pousette.  

The title probably refers to the Prince of Orange for whom 1814 had been a big year as he had been promoted to lieutenant-general in the British Army and had become engaged to Princess Charlotte only daughter of the Prince Regent.  

William and his wife Anna Pavlovna (1816)

The London dancing master Thomas Wilson tells us in his 1808 publication An Analysis of Country Dance how to swing corners correctly at this period.

The Gentleman at B, turns the Lady at A, with his right hand, who moves to D, while the Gentleman

moves to C.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Barree a Bath Dancing Master of the Regency

Monsieur Barree, "Professor of Dancing and Ballet-Master, Pensioner of the Opera House, Paris, and late Ballet-Master at the Opera House, London" was teaching in Bath before 1814.

He claims in an announcement in the Bath Chronicle that one of his pupils was the famous, and infamous, Mademoiselle Parisot. If this is true this must have been when he was ballet master in London at the King's Theatre then known as the Opera House.

Parisot moved to London and made her stage debut at the King's Theatre on 9 February 1796. The Morning Chronicle spoke of the 19-year-old's performance favorably and described her balance "as positively magical, for her person was almost horizontal while turning as a pivot on her toe." Parisot frequently wore costumes that accentuated her legs as she danced, leading the Monthly Mirror to remark on her degree of flexibility in a 1796 performance as creating "a stir by raising her legs far higher than was customary for dancers", Parisot's salary for the 1795–1796 season was £600 and she earned £577 in 1799–1800 and £840 during the 1803–1804 season.

Mademoiselle Parisot in a 1799 mezzotint
by Charles Turner

In the late 1790s, Parisot often danced with Rose and Charles Didelot, a husband and wife ballet pair that were trained in Paris and were later influential in developing Russian ballet. In 1798, The Bishop of Durham denounced a dress she had worn while dancing at the Opera as "indecent". 

Mademoiselle Parisot in a 1796 caricature
by Robert Newton.
The Bishop of Durham and
the Duke of Queensberry are in the theatre box

The risqué dance moves of Parisot and the Didelots and Parisot's use of sheer, neoclassical costumes that often exposed one breast led the same bishop to denounce the "immoral" antics of the French ballet dancers.

In a production in 1799, Parisot "astounded" British theatre goers when she dressed in menswear. A "shawl dance" performed by Parisot at the King's Theatre as part of the January 1805 production "was received with enthusiastic applause." On 15 June 1805, a riot occurred at the Opera due to the manager Mr. Kelly, following the Bishop of London's orders to end the ballet by midnight, drawing the curtain before a dance by Parisot was completed. The angry theatre patrons "threw all the chairs out of the boxes into the pit tore up the benches, destroyed the chandeliers, jumped into the orchestra, smashed the piano forte and broke all the instruments of the poor unoffending performers."

Mademoiselle Parisot had retired from the stage at the end of the 1807 season.

Whether Monsieur Barree moved to Bath on the retirement of his pupil or early is not clear but before 1814, we know he was living in the city with his wife and son who both assisted in his dance school which may have been located at 6 George Street. In 1814, he moved his family to Twerton. From 1814 to 1817 he seems to have confined himself to giving private lessons. Then in 1817 the following advert appeared:

This is an interesting document as it gives some insight into the how public dancing schools functioned at this time. Note that young people are taught separately with young men only being taught in the morning and young women only in the afternoon. Lessons took place three times a week and one class wholly devoted to the most fashionable dances at this time the Quadrille and the Waltz.

We also learn a little more about Barree. His daughter is now old enough to join him in the family business and it seems he has published a number of books on the art of dancing.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Paynes Seventh Quadrille

Edward Payne was one of the most influential dancing masters of the Regency Era.
He is not to be confused with James Paine of Almacks. Payne seems to have been a significant influence on the dancing master, and author of numerous dancing manuals, Thomas Wilson.

Edward Payne died at the end of 1818 or the beginning of 1819 before he could see the full
success of his dances. Payne was teaching Waltzes in 1815.

Payne's Seventh Set was probably published in 1815 the figures he proposes are:

Le Troubadour

  1. Change sides all 8 and turn hands to the left
  2. Back again and turn hands to the right
  3. The 4 cross over giving the right hands
  4. Back again with the left
  5. Figure to the right and to the sides
  6. The 8 advance and resume your partners
The other 4 dancers do the same

La Pettite Brunette

  1. One Lady advances 8 bars
  2. The opposite Gentleman the same
  3. Balancez [sic] & turn your partners
The other 6 Dancers do the same

La Regence

  1. One Gentleman and the opposite Lady figure to the left turn turn hands three round and back again to their place.
  2. The 4 Ladies chain
  3. Change sides 4 and cross over immediately
  4. Change sides again and cross over to your places
  5. Demie Promenade
  6. Demie chaine anglaise
The other 4 Dancers do the same

La Nouvelle Bisson

  1. One Gentleman and his partner with the Lady on his left, advance twice
  2. Hands 3 round to the left
  3. Back again to the right
  4. The tiriors [sic] 4 times
  5. The 4 back to back and half right and left to your places
  6. The 4 back to back and half right and left to your places
The other 6 Dancers do the same

La Pomme d'Or

  1. Hands round all 8
  2. Balancez [sic] to the left and to your partners
  3. Right and left
  4. Change sides 4 and cross over immediately 
  5. Hands 4 half round to your places
To finish hands round all 8

Les Carillions de Dunkirk

  1. Promenade all 8
  2. Change sides and set
  3. Balencez [sic] and turn hands
  4. Three beats with the hands afterwards with the foot
  5. Allemande, change sides again and continue the same figure till you regain your places
To finish Promenade all 8