Thursday, 2 April 2015

Lady Archer, make-up and gambling

In the latter part of the eighteenth century a number of aristocratic ladies opened their houses for gambling, one of the best known, probably, being Lady Archer. It is the lady whose toilet regime is immortalised in this 1792 print by Thomas Rowlandson when she was 51. Lady Archer's commitment to "beauty" can also be judged from the following extracts from the Morning Post.

"Jan.  5, 1789. The Lady Archer, whose death was announced in this paper of Saturday, is not the celebrated character whose cosmetic powers  have long been held in public estimation." 

"Jan.  8,1789. It is said that the dealers in  Carmine and dead white,  as well as the  perfumers  in general, have it in contemplation to present an Address to Lady Archer, in gratitude for her not having  DIED  according to a late alarming report."

Lady Archer's gambling business featured the card game faro indeed, she and her "sisters" were satirised as faro's daughters. Faro houses were notorious for bilking their customers indeed the odds of the game are such that the house could only ensure profits by cheating in some form or other.

The sort of money that could be made from this game by Faro house operators can be illustrated by a court case reported the Bath newspapers in 1787.

Gambling was always central to the entertainment that attracted the Ton to Bath and repeated attempts by the law to regulate it failed in the face of the Georgian obsession with gaming and the large amounts of money to be made by catering to this obsession.

As the Bath Chronicle of 12th April 1787 reported:

"Yesterday Mr. John Twycross and Mr Richard Weternall were convicted before the Mayor, on several counts, of keeping a Faro and other Gambling Table and sentenced to pay, Twycross four hundred, and Wettenall fourteen hundred pounds"

The article goes on to say:

"Eighteen hundred pounds [approximately the equivalent £100,000 today] is a seemingly large sum; but when the various arts of seduction to support this Faro Table, and its immense profits, are considered, it will appear a mere trifle. Every allurement of expensive eating and the richest wines are ever speciously ready, to invite the convivial. The hounds are principally, if not solely, supported to take in country gentlemen; and the present culprits are only the ostensible members of a numerous co-partnership, amongst whom the money may be easily raised; and who, like the Syrens of old, are unceasingly employed to draw devoted victims into this dreadful vortex of destruction."

Twycross and Wetenall ran their rooms in Alfred Street which runs alongside the Upper Assembly Rooms and were therefore well placed to exploit the well-healed crowds attracted there in the season.

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