Alles Waltzer

September 19, 2017 at 3:10 pm (entertainment, history, people) (, , )

With classical music sometimes hard to come by (or really boring stations playing the SAME s**t), I sometimes tune in to KDFC, in San Francisco. Graceful hosts; fine music; nice listening. Find them online at


And when you first “plug in” you can read through offerings like the blog post I want to mention today.


Screamed the headline title.

You _know_ I had to take a look!

Even in the 1810s, my Smiths & Goslings were discussing this dance “craze”. So how wonderful to find someone delving into the history of the dance that we tend to think of as “Viennese” and from a period far later than the Regency.

“Beware the Waltz” (by Alan Chapman) of course speaks to the contact between the dancers, but also the “speed with which the dancers moved around the room” (who knew?!). A couple of useful links are embedded within the article, including the comments of LORD BYRON.

The site CAPERING & KICKERY has more on the subject of dancing, dances, and the depiction of both in drawings and illustrations.

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Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs (BBC)

October 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm (diaries, entertainment, estates, history) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Calista alerted me to a terrific new three-part documentary, Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs.  Our guide through this world is Dr. Pamela Cox (University of Essex), whose great-grandmothers were servants.

Here is Dr Cox talking about the servant portraits at Knole (in Kent). Calista hasn’t forgotten the photographic portraits — and poems! — found at Erddig Hall (near Wrexham) – so I’ll give you what I emailed her (from my Ladies of Llangollen site):

Merlin WATERSON, The Servants’ Hall: A ‘Downstairs’ History of a British Country House (1980) – pictures and text trace the history of Erddig Hall (National Trust property; near Wrexham), the estate belonging to the Yorke family (a distant relative was the General Yorke who purchased, and expanded, Plas Newydd late in the 19th century). 

A favorite section, perhaps because it went back in time to an era during which my Mary and Emma were young brides and mothers, concerned the diary of William Taylor, servant to a widow living in Great Cumberland Street, London.

The diary was kept during the year of 1837 – so at the very beginning of Victoria’s reign. Like the portraits illustrated above, with the servants seemingly in street clothes and certainly not in the “servant uniforms” we all think of when pictures from Upstairs, Downstairs flash into our brains – William’s diary is a rare example of a pre-Victorian household.

Two items I noted, while listening to the discussion, were entries from May. On the 14th  he has written a very thought-provoking statement defending the servant class: “servants form one of the most respectable classes of person that is in existence: they must be healthy, clean, honest, a sober set of people.”

And I had to chuckle over his comments about young ladies at a party being “nearly naked to the waist“. Oh, for more from William Taylor! Has his diary been published? Will it be published? And include William’s delightful drawings.

Yes, a man who draws about life in service, his family, etc etc. He’s as comic and informative as my favorite “naive” artist, Diana Sperling (by the way, another Essex country inhabitant; if you don’t know her work, do look up the book Mrs Hurst Dancing).

This is a self-portrait: William has come home for a visit – to the astonishment of relations. To see those relations portrayed you’ll have to watch the TV show. William is discussed in part 1 of the series, “Knowing Your Place.” A HIGHLY recommended series. I’m going to catch part 3 before heading to bed.

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Imagine all the horses

December 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm (a day in the life, people, places, research) (, , , , )

My father well recalls his early years with horses; theirs was a home where the horse was still a main mode of transportation. We’ve had many a wonderful conversation about his memories, as well as “life with horse”.

But I grew up in a city! And well into the period where “car” was the only transport.

So I post today to see if anyone out there, well versed in the horse culture, especially when horse and carriage was the only means of transportation, can help.

I envision what it must have been like to be living on Portland Place, London, in 1814, when the Goslings readied to journey to Oxford. Mary Gosling writes of the journey itself; where they stopped; what they visited; when they arrived in Oxford. But: How would the household have gotten everything ready for the family to depart? Who would have done what so that when the Master of the house and his family descended, they could just enter the carriage, and be off.

I have my conjectures, of course, but would welcome some first-hand knowledge of what was required, what was done, how long it took.

Diaries are great! but describing the running of a house are not usually  included! (If anyone knows of such a diary or diaries; published books, etc; do let me know.) That would be like writing down getting into one’s car on a wintry December day: dust off snow, scrape ice; if you stop for gas, how you pump gas… etc etc. We all know HOW it’s done, so who would bother to describe it?! Similarly, Mary doesn’t bother with such minutiae overly familiar to her.

How does one harness a horse? Who would have been responsible for what? Was the carriage (and presumably there was more than one to choose from) pulled out and then the horses fitted into the traces? How? by whom? Would the driver have overseen stable lads? Or was his arrival timed to happen just before his passengers came down?

The one thing the diaries and letter DO describe is accidents; so I chose to illustrate this post with a great “action” picture by my favorite, Diana Sperling.

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