Friday, 17 July 2015

Thomas Wilson Dancing Master and publisist

This advert appears in the 1820 edition of Thomas Wilson's own book The Complete System of English Country Dancing.

We know very little about Thomas Wilson and much of what we do know is what he tells us himself. From his writings he was clearly not lacking in self belief or self confidence.

He was a prolific author of books about dance and dancing and was often used by publishers to add suggested figures to their published dance music.

Because he was so prolific and so many of his books have survived he has become our primary source for information about social dancing in the early nineteenth century.

How his often very dogmatic views on dance were regarded by his contemporaries  we can only guess.

The reviewers of his works though favorable in tone offer little specific comment, though they often have a gently mocking tone designed to puncture pomposity. The following reviews for instance appear in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1817:

101. A Companion to the Ball Room, containing a Choice Collection of the most original and admired Country Dance, Reel, Hornpipe, and Waltz Tubes‘, with a variety of appropriate figures ,' the Etiquette, and a Dissertation on the State of the Ball Room. By Thomas Wilson, Dancing Master, from the King’s Theatre, Opera House; Button, Whitaker, &Co.pp. 232.

THOUGH our dancing-days are pretty well over, Mr. Wilson recalls to memory that such days have been, and were most dear,- and there was a time when we should have thought such a publication as the present a very high treat. For the sake of the Author, we hope that there are many who still think so; and that the sale of his Work will remunerate his ingenuity and his labour.

 “He has been induced to bring forward the present Work, not only to answer the request of those who have so frequently and for so many years past applied to him, to publish a Pocket Collection of correct and favourite Country Dances, with appropriate Figures, for the use of the Ball Room, but also to answer every purpose of the Dancer and the Musician; and consequently no pains have been spared to render it, what he trusts it will be found to be, the most original, useful, and pleasing Collection ever found in a Work approximating to its kind-It chiefly consists of Airs, adapted to Country Dancing, Reels, Hornpipes, Waltzes, &Co. with their Ages and Nationality attached to them, and a variety of appropriate Figures, to such Tunes as require them, with Directions for their correct Performance and remarks thereon: also will be affixed, a Critical Dissertation on the Present State of the English Ball Room, Ball Room Musicians, and Musical Publications."

The Tunes, which are numerous, are all engraved; a scientific Introduction is prefixed; and the volume closes with “ A Dissertation on the present State of the English Ball Room; Ball Room Musick, and Collection of Country Dances; Ball Room Musicians‘ the Etiquette of the Ball Room, and a National and Characteristic Index.

54. A Description of the correct Method of Waltzing, the truly fashionable Species of Dancing, that, from the graceful and pleasing Beauty of its Movements, has obtained an Ascendancy over every other Department of that polite Branch of Education. Part I containing a correct explanatory Description of the several Movements and Attitudes in German and French Waltzing. By Tho. Wilson, Dancing- Master, (from the King's Theatre, Opera House) Author of "The Analysis of Country Dancing," " The Treasures of Terpsichore," and a Variety of other Works on Music and Dancing. Illustrated by Engravings, from Original Designs and Drawings, by. H. A. Randall. 12mo. pp.113.Sherwood &Co.

HAVING in our last Volume paid proper consideration to Mr. Wilson's "Country Dances," we shall content ourselves with now giving only the ample title of the present work i observing merely, that it is dedicated

"To the Ladies and Gentlemen, of the King's Theatre, Opera House, of the Theatres Royal, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, and of the other Theatres, and to the Teachers of Dancing, and the others who have honoured the Treatise on the correct Method of Waltzing with their patronage and support, as subscribers and otherwise.

" No work on Dancing ever having been so highly patronised as the present, I can only say, that my sense of gratitude, excited by your goodness, is so strong, as to be altogether inexpressible, and such as never can be destroyed, but must be ever held in my remembrance, and cherished with enthusiasm."

The volume is splendidly printed; and will be a curious morsel for some Bibliomaniac of the next Century.

Disapproving in toto of the art of Waltzing, we cannot say more of the mode of teaching it.

55. The celebrated and fashionable Dance La Batteuse, with the various figures correctly explained, as danced at Paris, and at all the fashionable Balls and Assemblies of the Nobility and Gentry, and also at the Author's Balls and Assemblies : clearly illustrated by Diagrams, shewing the various Movements of which it is composed. Arranged for the Pianoforte, or Violin, by Thomas Wilson, Dancing-Master, folio, pp. 111.

THE skillful and indefatigable Mr. Wilson thus introduces La Batteuse :

 "The great celebrity which this Dance has so generally acquired in the first circles of Fashion, and the required frequency of its introduction in all fashionable Balls and Assemblies, has rendered it necessary that every Teacher of Fashionable Dancing should become properly acquainted with it. It has however, since the introduction of it as a fashionable dance, suffered many alterations which have tended to per vert the true nature of its composition as it correctly stands. To obviate as much as possible any further innovation On this pleasing Dance, is the Author's object in laying down the correct method of its performance, by giving the proper music, pointing out where the steps and the beating should be introduced, the quantity of musick required for each, and shewing by diagrams the form of the dance, and the correct manner of performing all the various movements of which it is composed."

As a consequence of this lack of real critique or comment it is unclear how reliable a guide he is to the real world of social dance in the early nineteenth century.

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