Victoria’s Costume Ball, 1842

January 22, 2018 at 8:03 pm (entertainment, fashion, people) (, , , )

May 12, 1842 – and we are in the room with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria at the Plantagenet-inspired Bal Costumé:

Victoria_Ball 1842_2

I had spent the weekend working, reading through letters from 1840 through 1843. This was the opportunity to refining the dating of a few letters, as well as fixing some portions of transcriptions.

One hitherto “undated” letter mentioned what I had read in two other letters: the Queen’s Ball. This helped to definitively date the third.

Playing in the background was the ITV (“Masterpiece”) presentation, Victoria – starring Jenna Coleman. When the TV show began to discuss a costume ball, my one thought was: Is that Maria’s “Queen’s Ball”?

I went back to 1842’s group of letters …

Emma Austen’s youngest sister Maria Smith was writing to middle sister Fanny from London:

“on Thursday Ev:g is the Queen’s ball, so we must return to see Eliza dressed in her old fashioned satin brocade dress – a present from Parsloes, & Mrs Leigh Perrot’s hoop … she has been a little perplexed what to wear on her head – weather a little black velvet hat – or what.”

When I first read this, the *thrill* was to think that Mrs. Leigh Perrot’s court “hoop” had long outlived her (James Edward Austen Leigh’s great aunt had died in 1836). And also a query as to WHY Eliza Le Marchant (Emma’s younger sister) had the use of it.

That the Fanshawes were staying with the Le Marchants explains the comment that Eliza’s dress was “a present from Parsloes,” which was the name of the Fanshawe estate in Dagenham. Mrs. Fanshawe had been born Catherine (or Katherine) Le Marchant.

When Maria next wrote to Emma (as far as extant letters go), she gave a description of Lord Alford (who had married Lady Marianne Compton and was therefore a close relation) costumed as “Caesar Borgia – duke of Valentia … from Raphael’s picture, with one striped black & white leg, & one slashed sleeve”.

Eliza wrote a lengthy letter describing the evening – but that letter is still “missing“.

Victoria_Ball 1842

Eliza and Denis Le Marchant planned to bring young Maria to the upcoming Drawing Room. Maria, who had met Queen Victoria before her marriage, wanted to attend a Drawing Room where Prince Albert was at her side. “In all probability this will be the last time in my life that I do anything so gay,” admitted Maria.

In my very first blog post (June 1, 2008) I described Emma and her sister-in-law Mary as “two ordinary girls”. Thank goodness that ordinary lives back in the 19th century included so many diaries and letters. And Fancy-Dress Balls!

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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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Murray’s Handbooks: Victorian Travel

August 11, 2012 at 11:01 pm (books, europe, history, london's landscape, places, travel) (, , , , , , , , , )

In “email-conversation” with Calista a few weeks ago, we got to discussing travel guides and I mentioned those published by Murray – because I remembered it being used in The Ruskins in Normandy: Tour in 1848 with Murray’s Handbook.

So tonight, when looking around Internet Archive, I thought to see what they had for these travel guides.

They were published too late for the travels undertaken by Mary, Charles, Drummond Smith – but I’m sure other members of the family knew of them, perhaps even used them.

I had to post this title page illustration for Murray’s 1851 handbook to “Modern” London – and I invite you to read about the city by following this link: Modern London, Or London as it is.

Had some laughs over these “Hints to Strangers”:

  • “London should be seen between May and July.”
  • “Saturday is the aristocratic day for sight seeing.”
  • “Monday is generally a workman’s holiday.”
  • “Never listen to those who offer ‘smuggled’ cigars in the street.”
  • “Avoid gambling houses or ‘hells’.”
  • “Beware of drinking the unwholesome water furnished to the tanks of houses from the Thames…”

Akkk! Murray’s writes of Portland Place as “a wide monotonous street” – Mrs Smith and Mr Gosling would not be pleased….

Page 32 describes Regent’s Park, a destination Mary mentions often. They loved the Zoological Gardens, visiting often each season.

Page 264 discusses “Langham-place Church” – which was New Church when Mary and Charles married in 1826.

A listing of Murray’s English and Continental Handbooks are found at the end of the book.

Murray’s Handbooks Series @ Internet Archive

 other titles have been digitized by Google

 

 

 

 

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