Guest post: The Early Dance Circle Annual Lecture

We are delighted to welcome The Early Dance Circle to the blog. On Friday 1st March they have their Annual Lecture, with this year’s guest speaker our good friend and fellow Pen and Sword author, Georgian Gentleman, Mike Rendell. So, to find out more about the event we hand over to Sharon, from the centre, to tell you more:

Join us on the dance floor of history – Learn how to dance Britain’s heritage or come to enjoy watching and help to pass it on.

If you love dance and want to safeguard and pass on its earliest forms in the UK and Europe, join us now. You can help us to secure a thriving future for early dance.

A Ball at Scarborough. Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Centre for British Art
A Ball at Scarborough. Thomas Rowlandson. Yale Centre for British Art

The Early Dance Circle (EDC) is a UK charity that aims to promote the enjoyment, performance and study of historical dance in the UK and beyond.  Formed in 1984, it counts individuals and groups, both amateur and professional, among its members. We believe that a knowledge of earlier forms of dance helps enrich the cultural life of the UK, by accessing a heritage of international importance that belongs to us all, but has been until recently largely forgotten.

Waltzing, c.1810s.
Waltzing, c.1810s. New York Public Library.

Our website, Early Dance Circle, offers information about classes & teachers, all our many events (including an Annual Early Dance Festival) our publications and lots of free resources about the 500 years of dance history in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have sponsored a free annual lecture since 1988.

Our Annual Lecture for 2019 will take place on

Friday 1st March 2019 at 7.15pm

Best foot forward – Georgian Style: Waltzing through History

Speaker: Mike Rendell, Social historian

Venue: Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20 Bloomsbury Way,

London WC1A 2TH

Mike will look at dance in the Georgian era from a social history point of view – its importance, what it was like to go to Bath, to the Pantheon, to Almacks, what people wore, how they travelled, the role of the Master of Ceremonies, the growth of Masquerades – and finally some press reaction to the introduction of that grossly immoral and shocking dance, the waltz.

Her First Dance, William Quiller Orchardson
Her First Dance, William Quiller Orchardson; Tate

Mike is the custodian of a vast array of family papers dating back to the early 1700s. After he retired, he published The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: The Life and Times of Richard Hall 1729-1801 (2011) about his Georgian ancestor. Currently working on no fewer than three books, Mike is known to 18th Century enthusiasts through his highly varied blogs on life in the Georgian period. He speaks regularly in the UK and abroad.

To reserve your free place, please book on Eventbrite (click here).

A suggested donation on the evening is £5.00

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Sketch of a ball at Almack's 1815, from The reminiscences and recollections of Captain Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, court, clubs and society, 1810-1860. Beau Brummell is to the left, deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland.

Sketch of a Ball at Almack’s, 1815

There were a number of establishments known as Almack’s over the years; today we are focusing on the famous Assembly Rooms on King Street, St James.

Opened in 1765 by a Yorkshireman named William Almack (often mistakenly claimed to be a Scot named William MacCall) the assembly rooms consisted of a ballroom (balls were held on a Wednesday evening during the season), supper room (where a rather meager repast was to be found) and game room. From the outset, Almack allowed his rooms to be goverened by a clique of titled and influential Lady Patronesses; entry to the hallowed inner rooms was strictly policed and good breeding rather than wealth was the key to a ticket. Inside was to be found dancing, gossiping and match-making; according to Captain Gronow, an officer in the guards and a friend to many of the elite including the famed Beau Brummell, Almack’s was ‘the seventh heaven of the fashionable world’.

View of the Almack's Ball Room on the south side of King Street, St James's Square, built in 1765. By Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.
View of the Almack’s Ball Room on the south side of King Street, St James’s Square, built in 1765. By Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Today, from one of Captain Gronow’s reminscences, we are going to take a closer look at an account of a Regency ball held at Almack’s during 1815. By this date, the assembly rooms were owned by Almack’s daughter, Elizabeth Pitcairn (her husband, David Pitcairn, physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales, was first cousin to our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott).

Sketch of a ball at Almack's 1815, from The reminiscences and recollections of Captain Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, court, clubs and society, 1810-1860. Beau Brummell is to the left, deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland.
Sketch of a ball at Almack’s 1815, from The reminiscences and recollections of Captain Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, court, clubs and society, 1810-1860.

The image above accompanied Gronow’s reminiscence, although the outfits worn are clearly later than 1815. Nevertheless, it depicts the dandy, Beau Brummell deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland. In the centre, the Comte de Saint Antonio, later the Duke of Cannizarro, is leading the Princess Esterhazy, who was the youngest Lady Patroness of Almack’s during the Regency, into a waltz. The princess, whose husband was the Austrian Ambassador to England, was described as being, ‘black, animated, and somewhat spiteful’ by Dorothea, Princess Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and an influential figure amongst the corps diplomatique, who nevertheless cheerfully admitted that she got on well with her. Sir George Warrender and the Comte de Sainte-Alegonde stand together on the right. The former was once a great friend of both Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent; a generous host, he gained the nickname, Sir George Provender.

The Regency Dandy, Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell

Almack’s in 1815. — The personages delineated on the cover are well worthy of notice, both from the position they held in the fashionable world, and from their being represented with great truth and accuracy. The great George Brummell, the admirable Crichton of the age, stands in a dégagé attitude, with his fingers in his waistcoat pocket. His neckcloth is inimitable, and must have cost him much time and trouble to arrive at such perfection; as the following anecdote shows. A friend calling on the beau saw the valet with an armful of flowing white cravats, and asked him if his master wanted so many at once. “These, sir, are our failures,” was the reply. “Clean linen, and plenty of it,” was Brummell’s maxim. He is talking earnestly to the charming Duchess of Rutland, who was a Howard, and mother to the present Duke.

Elizabeth (Howard), Duchess of Rutland, 1780 - 1825. Daughter of the 5th Earl of Carlisle; wife of John, 5th Duke of Rutland. By Samuel Cousins; after George Sanders
Elizabeth (Howard), Duchess of Rutland, 1780 – 1825. Daughter of the 5th Earl of Carlisle; wife of John, 5th Duke of Rutland. By Samuel Cousins; after George Sanders; National Galleries of Scotland.

The tall man, in a black coat, who is preparing to waltz with Princess Esterhazy, so long ambassadress of Austria in London, is the Comte de St Antonio, afterwards Duke of Canizzaro. He resided many years in England, was a very handsome man, and a great lady-killer; he married an English heiress, Miss Johnson.

Maria Theresia, née Princess von Thurn und Taxis and wife of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy III
Maria Theresia, née Princess von Thurn und Taxis and wife of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy III (www.esterhazy.at)

The original sketch from which these figures are taken, included also portraits of Charles, Marquis of Queensberry, Baron Neumann, at that time secretary of the Austrian Embassy; the late Sir George Warrender (who was styled by his friends Sir George Provender, being famed for his good dinners); and the handsome Comte St Aldegonde, afterwards a general, and at this period aide-de-camp to Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans.

Camille de Sainte-Aldegonde is one of the two men in the background, in the suite of the Duke of Orleans who is on horseback, in the uniform of colonel-general of the Hussars reviewing the troops and giving orders to Colonel Oudinot. Engraving after a picture by Horace Vernet, 1817.
Camille de Sainte-Aldegonde is one of the two men in the background, in the suite of the Duke of Orleans who is on horseback, in the uniform of colonel-general of the Hussars reviewing the troops and giving orders to Colonel Oudinot. Engraving after a picture by Horace Vernet, 1817. Royal Collection Trust.

The sketch was made in water-colours, from a group of these celebrities at a ball at Almack’s, and was given to Brummell by the artist who executed it; it was highly prized by the king of the dandies, and was purchased at the sale of his effects in Chapel Street by the person who gave it to me.

NB: Gronow talks about an ‘original sketch’ which included other Regency personalities and which had been owned by Brummell and later given to Gronow. For some reason, it would appear that Gronow had the sketch redrawn and possibly from memory? If so, it would be wonderful to rediscover the one which presumably shows those at the ball attired in full Regency fashion.

Sources:

Museum of Painting and Sculpture, Or, Collection of the Principal Pictures, Statues and Bas-reliefs in the Public and Private Galleries of Europe, Volume 6 by Etienne Achille Réveil, 1829.

Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her residence in London, 1812-1834. Edited by Lionel G. Robinson, 1902.

Anecdotes of celebrities of London and Paris: to which are added the last recollections of Captain Gronow, formerly of the First Foot Guards, volume 2, 1870.

Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, formerly of the Grenadier Guards: and M.P. for Stafford: being Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court and the Clubs at the close of the last war with France, Pickle Partners Publishing, 2011