The Ladies of the Bon Ton – ‘Scoring sheet’!

One of our lovely readers asked for help in finding a document for some research he was doing. Having found the document I was fascinated by it and thought it was worth sharing with you.

The Morning Post, of 2nd October 1776 contained a ‘scoring sheet’ for twelve ladies of the ‘Bon Ton,’ Britain’s high society ladies of the day. The newspaper described it as ‘ Scale of Bon Ton’, with the ladies being marked out of twenty for each of nine virtues (there’s a copy at the end).

No explanation was offered as to who wrote it and more importantly who decided on the points awarded, but it reads a bit like the scores for a beauty pageant, so I’ll simply present them as per the newspaper and let you make your own decision about this!

The outright, clear winner was the Countess of Barrymore, who scored almost full marks in virtually all categories, but for whom there appears to be no portrait available, which is such a shame given her score.

In second place, we have joint runners-up, Lady Harriott Foley and Lady Anna Maria Stanhope, daughter of William Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Harrington who married Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle

Lady Harriot Foley NPG
Lady Harriot Foley NPG
Radicalism & Incivility, or The Fair Pensioners by John ('HB') Doyle, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, published 24 January 1831 (inscribed 1830). Anna Maria on the left. NPG
Radicalism & Incivility, or The Fair Pensioners by John (‘HB’) Doyle, published by Thomas McLean lithograph, published 24 January 1831 (inscribed 1830). Anna Maria on the left. NPG

Fourth place goes to Mrs Harriet Bouverie.

NPG D42054; Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
NPG D42054; Harriet Bouverie (nee Fawkener, later Lady Robert Spencer); Edward Bouverie sold by James Watson, sold by Butler Clowes, after Sir Joshua Reynolds

Somewhat surprisingly, given that she was always regarded as the most beautiful woman in England, the Duchess of Devonshire only achieved overall fifth place, scoring such a low mark for ‘expression’.

Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough
Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough

Sixth place, just one point behind was Mrs Damer (see image further on).

Seventh place went to the Countess of Sefton, formerly Lady Isabella Stanhope.

Thomas Gainsborough - Isabella,Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton
Thomas Gainsborough – Isabella,Viscountess Molyneux, later Countess of Sefton

Eighth place to the Duchess of Gordon.

Jane, Duchess of Gordon, née Maxwell, standing three-quarter-length, portrayed in a green riding habit, wearing only one glove on her right hand. By Daniel Gardner c.1775.
Jane, Duchess of Gordon, née Maxwell, standing three-quarter-length, portrayed in a green riding habit, wearing only one glove on her right hand. By Daniel Gardner c.1775.

Ninth place went to Mrs Crewe, on the right, who score a zero for ‘grace’.

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.
Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

Tenth place, to Lady Melbourne, whose ‘figure’ scored her a zero.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775NPG
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne – the most famous political hostesses and society beauties of their day – are shown gathered around the witches’ cauldron alongside their friend, the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer. The Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775

In Eleventh place, we have the Countess of Derby whose scores were well below average, to say the least.

Lady Elizabeth Hamilton (1753–1797), Countess of Derby
Lady Elizabeth Hamilton (1753–1797), Countess of Derby

Last, scoring a mere 48 out of 180 was the Countess of Jersey.

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach
Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach

For your perusal is the full chart.

Scale of Bon Ton. Click on image to enlarge
Scale of Bon Ton. Click on image to enlarge

4 thoughts on “The Ladies of the Bon Ton – ‘Scoring sheet’!

  1. pennyhampson2

    Thanks for posting this. It’s very interesting to see how women have been judged in history – and in such a ‘scientific’ (haha) way. I feel sorry for the Countess of Jersey, no sense or principles! By the way, is there any significance to the depiction of the Duchess of Gordon wearing only one glove? Many thanks, Penny.

    Like

    1. Sarah Murden

      You’re very welcome. It certainly makes for interesting reading. I wish there were more clues about who wrote it and why. Duchess of Gordon – I’m not sure about the glove unless it’s simply meant to depict her just having come in from riding.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Priceless. Thank you and to the researcher for sharing. Human nature doesn’t change, though I fear we are more apathetic/opiated nowadays; it’s our our manners which have got worse.

    Liked by 1 person

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