Feb 172019
 

Ahead of giving a talk on 1st March in London to the English Dance Circle, I looked out a post I did in November 2014, when I discussed the role of the Master of Ceremonies at Bath. It still seems relevant, so here it is again:

Rowlandson print, published in March 1782, entitled “A Master of the Ceremonies Introducing a Partner”

Coming across this Thomas Rowlandson sketch on the fascinating Lewis Walpole site  at Yale University reminded me of the important role played by the Master of Ceremonies at venues such as Bath. If you went to a ball you couldn’t just go and chat up a bird you fancied – you had to be introduced. And that was one of the functions of the Master of Ceremonies – to vet the attendees, decide who they were appropriate to be introduced to, and later, to effect those introductions so that the evening would be a success. I imagine it was sometimes a case of “mix and match” – a title needed money, and vice versa, while on other occasions it was mixing “like with like”.

I am indebted to the Austenonly site here for the explanation of the MoC role, given by Joseph Moser in 1807. It was their function to:
“… introduce regularity into large assemblies, to keep order, to repress the ebullitions of passion, to banish, if possible, that contraction or thrusting out of the lips which Shakespear calls pouting; to prevent violent suffusions or flushings in the female countenance; to keep the ladies from tossing, and their noses from turning up, when precedence, partners, and people that nobody knows, with a hundred other serious circumstances, excite those emotions. He has also annexed to his office something clerical, it being his business to join hands: but he goes still farther, he frequently procures partners, who sometimes under his banners enlist for life.” (See The Sports of Ancient London. The Sporting Magazine. )
The print dates from 1795 and shows Richard Tyson, Master of Ceremonies, effecting an introduction of a gentleman who is clearly no longer in the first flush of youth, to a pair of ladies who definitely should only be seen by dim candlelight!
Richard Tyson had been MoC of the Upper Rooms at Bath for a number of years. Since 1771 there were two separate rooms – in time, the new (Upper) Rooms had a separate MoC from the (original) Lower Rooms – a far cry from when there was but one “King” of Bath, in the form of Beau Nash, who was in sole charge of proceedings from 1704 until around 1760.
According to Wikipedia “He (Nash) would meet new arrivals to Bath and judge whether they were suitable to join the select “Company’ of 500 to 600 people who had pre-booked tables, match ladies with appropriate dancing partners at each ball, pay the musicians at such events, broker marriages, escort unaccompanied wives and regulate gambling (by restraining compulsive gamblers).” Not bad for a days work!

Beau Nash, painted by Nathaniel Hone

It does seem a bit hard therefore, that when he died, the long-serving, long suffering Beau Nash ended up in an unmarked paupers grave. He had been a prodigious gambler, with enormous debts. Because of those debts he was forced to move in to the home of his mistress Juliana Popjoy. The poor girl was so distraught when he died in 1761 that she apparently went to live in a large hollowed-out tree. Which is entirely proper for the 18th Century, because of course that is what one did when feeling bereft and lonely!
Meanwhile, my thanks to Master Rowlandson for a rather lovely piece of observation of the manners, etiquette and style of Bath in its Georgian grandeur. Nice one!

***

For anyone interested, I will be giving a talk in London to the Early Dance Centre at 7.15 on 1st March. You can find details on the EDC website here. For tickets, contact the EDC secretary on:-  secretary@earlydancecircle.co.uk

or by telephone on:- 020 8699 8519

Feb 102019
 

One of the interesting characters I came across doing the research for my forthcoming talk to the Early Dance Centre was one particular Master of Ceremonies at the Upper Rooms in Bath. Captain William Wade had stepped into the breach after a contested election between the Master of the Lower Rooms (William Brereton) and the Master of the assembly rooms in nearby Bristol by the name of Mr Plomer. The original election descended into fisticuffs and the reading of the Riot Act – and at the end of the unseemly squabble Captain Wade was chosen as a consensus candidate acceptable to both sides. He took up his office in 1769.

 

And what a pretty boy he was! Here he is, looking magnificent in all his finery, in a painting by Thomas Gainsborough dating from 1771. I mean, THAT is what I call a waistcoat! Captain Wade quickly earned the nick-name of “the Bath Adonis” – but he was eventually forced to retire from his position after rather publicly misbehaving. It must have been all rather humiliating for Mrs Katherine Wade, who had given birth to five of his children and who was very much still alive when her husband’s eyes started to wander….

John Hooke Campbell (1733-1795); by Francis Cotes, courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland.

He was named in the divorce proceedings of Elizabeth Eustacia, wife of John Hooke Campbell.  Mr Campbell  was a dour Scotsman and when he had married Devon girl Elizabeth in 1762 I don’t think he knew what he was taking on. They had three daughters – Eustacia, Charlotte and Louisa. I suspect that his wife’s world fell apart when both her parents died in the same year – 1764, and although there is an early reference to a boy called Matthew I suspect that he died in infancy and there is nothing to suggest that John Hooke Campbell was ever going to get a male heir. He seemed preoccupied with changing his name – from  John Hooke Campbell to John Campbell-Hooke, no doubt conscious of his  dynastic importance. A double-barrelled name always looks good!

To give him his full title he was The Right Honourable the Lord Lyon King of Arms. As such he was the head of Lyon Court,  the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland. He was the official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in Scotland – issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the Court of the Lord Lyon, the oldest heraldic court in the world. Dare one assume that perhaps he was too busy with his heraldic work to spend much time  and attention on his wife, who was four years younger than him and who clearly liked to party, party?

The Tea Room at the Assembly Rooms, Bath: per Wikimedia

The couple were leading separate existences – and in time Elizabeth fell for the charms of Captain Wade. She would rent premises in Bath – or near Brighton where the good Captain  also held the position of MC – and this gave the Captain plenty of opportunity to pop round for a quick bit of nookie whenever he got the chance. And all of this was to come out into the public arena when  husband John finally woke up and smelled the roses. He sued the Captain for damages in criminal conversation – a sort of precursor to divorce, and this entailed a full trial. This involved just about every servant  in the household being called upon to give evidence. What is clear is that the below-stairs staff were preoccupied with  looking through keyholes and pressing ears against the walls, listening in to amorous conversations and ‘noises off’. Each servant was called in turn, and made depositions about  hearing inter-connecting doors opening and closing, of the young children being moved up to the garret out of the way, of shadowy figures holding candles being observed in corridors and of midnight moaning and squeaking bed-frames. The evidence ran to an impressive seventy pages, starting off with the assertion that Elizabeth ‘was and is a very loose woman of a lustful and wicked disposition’, who had committed ‘the foul crime of adultery’.

And all of this was reported in trial accounts which became best sellers, as prurient readers could  learn about every aspect  of the affair.

The reports of this and numerous other adultery trails were then consolidated and published in seven volumes. A quick look on the web suggests that a set of six of the seven are available for the discerning reader, at a not unreasonable price of $2500.

John won his case in 1777 and subsequently petitioned Parliament for a divorce, leaving his ex-wife free to marry Captain Wade once the original Mrs Wade had died in 1787. Before the year was out,  the ‘Bath Adonis’ had married Elizabeth, on 30 June 1787 at St Marylebone in London. Sure, he was sacked as MC in Bath for bringing his office into disrepute; however he  continued as MC in Brighton, thereby proving that somewhat different standards of propriety existed in the South coast resort compared with what was acceptable in the ever-so-respectable city of Bath. I make no comment about whether there has been much change there then !

For the next twenty years Captain Wade was responsible for arranging  entertainments  at assemblies in Brighton at both the Castle Inn and the Old Ship. He died in Brighton on 16 March 1809

All this scurrilous talk of scandalous behaviour is far too detailed to get more than a passing mention in my forthcoming talk to the Early Dance Circle on 1st March 2019  – but it was great fun doing the research, since I may well be able to use it in my next-book-but-one, on Sex and Sexuality in the Georgian Era. Meanwhile if you are free and in London on the evening of 1st March – do come along. The talk is at Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH and starts at 7.15 Details can be obtained from the  EDC Secretary: secretary@earlydancecircle.co.uk or by ‘phoning on 020 8699 8519

The American colonies: a chance for this particular Georgian Gentleman to go see for himself.

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Feb 062019
 

I am really looking forward to  the next couple of weeks, because it includes a lecture tour to the United States. Starting off with a visit to New York I will be giving a talk to the American Friends of the Georgian Group in Manhattan on February 19 at 7.00 p.m.    I will be talking about my ancestor Richard Hall, and taking some of the diaries with me as I talk about his life and times.

After that I then head to Colonial Williamsburg in  Virginia to take part in a fascinating five-day symposium entitled  ‘Hidden Treasures’. It is actually the 71st Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum and it has a great programme, with various visits to  colonial buildings (historic homes etc) in Maryland and  in Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, and then continuing with  the conference itself. I am down to give the keynote speech on the opening day (February 23) but once I have got that out of the way there are all sorts of interesting talks – about furniture and furnishings, about ceramics and the decorative arts, about flint glass and, on February  26, there is a talk by Prof. Amanda Vickery on ‘The Rise of the West End: London, the Season and Shopping’. There are also various workshops and demonstrations and I suspect the main problem will be deciding what to choose and what to leave out. And yes, I feel extremely honoured, and not a little out of place, in such an august gathering. More about the conference can be found here.

It should be great fun and I am hugely grateful to the organizers for making all this possible – my wife is coming with me and naturally her main concern is about what clothes to take as we gather it may be cold and wet!

I cannot help but think that dear old Richard Hall, my great great great great grandfather, would have had a considerable problem coming to terms with the idea that his private diaries would end up opening up so many doors for his future descendant, throughout the world. Actually I think he might have been tickled pink – as am I !

Waltzing through history – and make 1st March a date in the diary….

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Jan 302019
 

Imagine the scene: deep in the rainforest of Malaysia, head full of facts about monkeys, flying squirrels, sea eagles and giant gekkoes. Not a sensible thought in the world, and I idly check my e-mails and stumble across a blog by the excellent Sarah Murden giving details of a talk to be given by ….ME … on 1st March. Talk about coming back to earth with a bang! In my own mind it is way, way off – because I am doing a small lecture tour to the States first (New York and Colonial Williamsburg) and I am still trying to get my head round those talks, let alone think about March. But in practice when I get back from the USA , I have to rush back to Devon for a change of clothes, and then turn round the same day and head for London to give my talk to the Early Dance Circle.

It should be fun. I confess that when I was asked, I thought: what on earth can I say to a load of dance enthusiasts about dancing that they don’t know already? I am after all, renowned for my two left feet. My Dear Lady Wife didn’t help: falling about with mirth at the idea of her husband addressing an audience of dance enthusiasts for 45 seconds, let alone 45 minutes.

After a few hours of panic, swatting up about the Sun King (Louis XIV of France) and his love of court dancing – and studying obscure texts showing notations for 17th and 18th century dance moves, I relaxed and thought laterally. I won’t be talking about the French, or particular dance steps, or showing ‘how to dance’; I will be talking about the importance of dance, in its social context. I will consider what was involved in a simple sentence such as ‘we went to Bath for the Season’. What did you pack? How many days did it take to get there? Where did you stay? What did the Master of Ceremonies do? How could you meet someone who took your fancy and whirl her on to the dance floor? Why was it vital to attend dance classes in order to learn the latest nuance in hand movements and so on?

I will also look at venues such as the Pantheon and Almacks and consider the role of masquerades and balls. And because I love to see how caricaturists revealed the world on the dance floor there will be lots of Gillrays and Rowlandsons.

And then there was the waltz – that outrageous, morally corrupting, dance craze which swept the country in the first decade of the 19th Century. Good heavens, the dancers embraced each other, and wandering hands could cause untold damage to tender nerves! The newspapers were up in arms, linking the dance to the harlots who took to the dance floor in order to entice their paying clientele. It was saved because the royal family loved the waltz, but for a while it looked as if the world was about to come to an end.

The talk will be at:  Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20 Bloomsbury Way,London WC1A 2TH   at 19.15 on 1st March.

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

A suggested donation on the evening is £5.00

Alternatively, contact the EDC Secretary: secretary@earlydancecircle.co.uk or on 020 8699 8519. That way, you can also enquire about the whole range of activities promoted by the group.

I do hope to see as many of you there as possible – preparing for the talk has been a fascinating learning experience for me and I really look forward to sharing my researches with you. And do look up the Early Dance Circle – they are a UK charity founded in 1984 and they are dedicated to promoting the enjoyment, performance and study of historical dance. Do have a look at their website  here. They have an impressive range of activities including an Early Dance Festival, due to be held this autumn in Edinburgh. They run workshops, study days and host various lectures so, no matter what your  historical period of interest, if dance is your thing, give them a visit.

Meanwhile: thanks Sarah for the reminder – tempting as it is to remain in the depths of the Malaysian jungle!

Upcoming Talk in Bath this Saturday – “Science, Scandal and Society in Georgian Bath”.

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Mar 222018
 

I am delighted to be giving a talk on Saturday 24 March at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. I have entitled my segment “Quakers, Quacks and Quadrilles”, and I will be one of three speakers covering aspects of life in Bath in the 1780s. In particular it links in with the publication of journals kept by a Quaker visitor to Bath by the name of Edmund Rack. He went on to start an agricultural show, which eventually grew into the Bath and West Show, attracting thousands of visitors every year to its site at Shepton Mallet. Back in the late 1700s it was held on a farm on the outskirts of Bath, and my ancestor Richard Hall used to visit the area and stay at the Bear Inn, next to the farm in question.

I will be looking at what it was like to visit Bath – the roads, the coaching inns and so on – as well as considering the entertainment available – from dancing to gambling, from promenading to eating. I will look at the spats between members of the medical profession, each vying with  the other to attract custom from the wealthy visitors, who were often riddled with gout or suffered from hypochondria.

If you are interested in what life was like in Fun City in the Georgian era and can get to Bath this Saturday, do come along to 16 Queen Square Bath BA1 2HN. The fun starts at 10.30 and the box office can be contacted by telephone on 01225  463362. Other contact details appear at the foot of the advertisement.

To the Eighteenth Century and back … on the MS Braemar.

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May 032015
 

My fortnight of blog and tweet abstinence is over – I have just returned from a stint as cruise lecturer on board the Fred Olsen ship The Braemar. It was great fun and the audiences were wonderfully appreciative! Doing five lectures in two weeks to potentially the same audience is very different to doing a handful of different talks on separate occasions to different people. Making sure that the talks did not overlap, could stand alone, and yet encouraged  guests to return, meant lots of revisions to draft scripts, and getting the timing spot-on was an imperative because … the Captain tended to burst in via the sound system at set times and an over-run would be somewhat awkward! I think I managed one talk with about five seconds to spare, with my closing words of “The Captain will be along in a moment” being followed by his own announcement about five seconds later!

I found it a huge learning experience – I suspect if I do it again I will look at it more from a viewpoint of “what will make these people want to get out of bed at 9.45 in the morning to come and listen?” rather than “What would I like to talk to them about?” So I suspect that “Jane Austen’s World” will get an outing, as well as one on Royal Shenanigans (“From randy Regent to the King of Bling” went down well as an idea with the Cruise Director, who measures everything in terms of  how many people you can get to come to the talks, not on how good the talk is).

I had included a talk on gardening and gardens (Capability Brown et al.) which I may not bother with again – it wasn’t my favourite, not least because gremlins at the Ministry of Inanimate Objects  caused the lectern to collapse, sending my lap-top flying, just as the lights had dimmed and I had made my introductory remarks  (….’Houston, we have a problem’…) but all was soon sorted out. It didn’t half mess up my timings though, as I frantically tried to work out how much of the talk had to get the chop if I wanted to avoid to be drowned out by the Captain. But all turned out O.K.

Food and Drink (Regency banquets, etiquette etc) went down well, as did one on Philip Astley. I wasn’t sure about that, but it turned out to be so obscure –  in the sense that no-one had ever heard of him – that they found his story fascinating. Loads of lovely comments. Obviously you cannot win over everyone – I loved the comment my wife overheard from one lady who walked past the entrance to the lecture theatre as she saw the topic of the day’s talk: “The Eighteenth Century? No, I don’t think so, it was a bit before my time.” She went off happily to her Bingo and her Morning Quiz…

The cruise-line were great – they couldn’t have been more helpful and when I was not speaking, we were treated like ordinary passengers – with a few extra perks I won’t go into! Suffice to say I am now waiting to hear the customer feedback comments to see if I can expect another cruise either on the Braemar (which is a delightfully compact ship) or from one of the larger ones. What was quite obvious is that many of the passengers come back year after year after year, often coming on back-to-back cruises, or cruises in the spring, summer and autumn. So I suspect the more I do it, the more it gets to be like meeting old friends!

My wife and I also had enough spare time to have a go at knocking off another two chapters of  our book “An illustrated introduction to the Regency” – up until now I have done “my” bits on my own, but the bits on fashion, shopping, style and so on are joint ventures, based on Philippa’s research. I will only comment that co-authoring with your spouse is about as conducive to matrimonial harmony as trying to share the task of hanging wallpaper together when home decorating….

My Dear Lady Wife and I have managed to survive for 28 years together without murdering each other by following the simple rule: NEVER try to share wall-papering duties. That way there is no “You’ve cut it too short” or “Not that way up you idiot” or “Why didn’t you order the right number of rolls in the first place?”

Co-authorship was always going to be a challenging experience. I tried to explain to MDLW that it is an INTRODUCTION to the Regency, and that although it was fascinating for me to learn which were the best shops to go to in Regency London to buy, I don’t know, cosmetics, or carriage dresses, or riding whips, there wasn’t really going to be enough space to list all the emporiums, their opening times, and whether or not they had public toilets at the back…. Apparently I am a bully, and not a nice person to work with…. I know she is only annoyed because I have used up all the available space doing my pet subjects, leaving her with the tail-ends of each chapter, but hey, who said life was fair, least of all married life?

Talk about a minefield! But we survived, and that is another two chapters put to bed. We should be able to submit the manuscript to the publishers (Amberley) on time next month.

My only regret is that the particular cruise took me to the exotic splendour of …. Alicante. Which happens to be my home town in Spain and to me is about as exciting as any other city you by-pass on the motorway if you get half a chance! Talk about coals to Newcastle! But Seville was magnificent, and always worth a repeat visit, and I enjoyed seeing Malaga and Vigo again. But today, having sailed back to Britain from Alicante, I hop on a plane from Gatwick and head straight back out  – to Alicante, ready to give a talk to a local U3A on Thursday! A crazy world, and one which my ancestor Richard Hall would have  found quite incomprehensible!

Jun 172014
 

self portrait June 2014

 

Half way through the year and the Rendell household undergoes a complete upheaval – we pack up in Spain (where it is too darned hot) and head back to the UK (where it is generally wet, dull and anything but hot….). A time to review the year so far, and plan ahead:

 

  • I have finished the manuscript for “An Illustrated Introduction to the Georgians” and will be submitting it to the publishers immediately on my return. I don’t yet have a specific publication date for it, but it will be some time this autumn.

    Sorry about the brown triangles - they won't be in the book!

    Sorry about the brown triangles – they won’t be in the next book!

  • I have decided that my next book will be on sex, scandal and satire in the 18th Century. Publishers seem interested in the synopsis I have submitted, so fingers crossed. It is a huge project but one with great scope for lots and lots of lovely Rowlandson, Gillray, Newton and Cruikshank prints, as well as loads of scurrilous tit-bits from the Georgian gutter press. At this stage all I would say is: thank goodness for the American libraries such as Lewis Walpole, or the Library of Congress, or the Yale Center for British Art – there is no way I could justify a hundred or more colour illustrations if I were having to pay for them at a minimum of £75 each. At least the American institutions I have mentioned are free, and their service is amazing.SSS Dandy sleeping partners lwlpr12349
  • Lots of talks lined up for the summer – about three dozen. Not too bad except that some are morning and evening on the same day! When I do one on the origins of the circus at London’s Guildhall (29th July – link here) I am doing another one that morning in the Cotswolds on “Life in a Cotswold Village 250 years ago” – so it will be a bit of a rush.
  • This week I did a public lecture, here in Spain, on the Abolition Movement in Britain. A bit heavy on a hot day! Not a topic I will choose to repeat, though it was exceptionally well received. Normally you get loads of questions – this time there was a dumbstruck silence before people could recover!
  • Other talks are mostly to WI’s, Probus Groups and Family History Groups, but I am looking forward to the challenge of doing one as a public lecture at the Holburne Museum at Bath (22 September at 15.00) on 18th Century silhouettes and paper-craft! Now, what I know about paper-cutting can fit on the back of the proverbial postage stamp so I may just have to wing it! I just knew that being a bull-sh***ing lawyer would stand me in good stead one day!3
  • While in Bath I will definitely call in at the excellent museum at One Royal Crescent – they have a must-see exhibition on ‘Georgian Tarts’ (O.K., ‘Portrait of a Lady?’) which I am looking forward to, and will blog about.
  • I am also hoping to get to Berrington Hall, a wonderful Palladian house near Leominster belonging to the National Trust, preferably while their exhibition of costumes from The Duchess is still on. I believe it runs until the end of June – and later in the summer there is an exhibition of costumes from the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.
  • IMAGE 4Another possibility is a visit to the National Circus School, linked to my book on Philip Astley. Sales are reasonable rather than spectacular, but it is something of a niche subject! I rather fancy getting the chance to look behind the scenes at how artists learn the tricks of their trade! Just as long as I am not expected to try the high wire……
  • book coverKindle sales of  The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman seem to outnumber printed sales by ten to one. It is a shame really, because the e-format has far fewer illustrations than the printed book, but download speeds were a consideration.

Ah well, enough updates! Time to head for the ferry, then it is off to Canada and the wilds of Alaska ….RTN newspaper clipping 001